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The Ultimate Guide to Matching Gifts

Receiving a matching gift is like getting a free upgrade to first class on a flight to Hawaii. Questioning my sanity? Stay with me.

As a fundraiser, securing donations is the main goal of the job.  It is always good news when funds come in.  Think of a new donation as the trip to Hawaii.  Going to Hawaii, or getting the money, is plenty.  You’d be happy with stopping there, but good fortune is on your side.  Through little work of your own, mostly just asking, you now have a plush seat in first class.  

Matching gifts are the upgrade. With minimal cost and work your nonprofit can take a hard-earned donation and double it! 

Intrigued? Let’s discuss this beautiful fundraising bounty by first answering a rather pertinent question.

What are Matching Gifts? 

 

Matching gifts fall within corporate giving.  They are a way for companies to support the charitable causes that their employees are involved in.

Under a matching gift program, when an employee donates to a nonprofit and submits documentation to the employer, the company then matches the efforts of the employee by donating to the cause as well. 

Program guidelines are going to vary company to company but usually participating employers will match gifts at 1:1 ratio, or dollar for dollar.  Some corporations will even match at 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, meaning your nonprofit is walking away with triple or quadruple the initial funds. With the standard 1:1 ratio, a $300 donation becomes a $600 donation.  

A majority of employers are also fairly flexible when it comes to what organizations they’ll match gifts for. About two-thirds of companies with matching gift programs will do so for most 501(c)(3) organizations including:

  • Community based social services like homeless shelters
  • Cultural organizations like libraries
  • Educational institutions like colleges or k-12 schools
  • Environmental organizations like conservation causes
  • Healthcare organizations like hospitals

If a program doesn’t fall into those two-thirds, they usually will honor gifts for one or a few of the organization types from those categories.  

Pretty amazing, right?  

Why Aren’t More Nonprofits Taking Advantage of the Opportunity?

Raising adequate funds is a constant struggle for organizations of all sizes.  Zeroing in on matching gift programs provides a great opportunity for nonprofits.  They are essentially free money. 

Nonprofits struggle with seizing the potential of matching gifts for three main reasons:

  1. Limited to no knowledge of corporate giving programs
  2. Incomplete employer information on donors (and spouses of donors)
  3. Issues regarding communications about the match process that help donors complete matching gift requests on their own

These are certainly challenges, but not insurmountable ones.  The best thing a nonprofit can do to increase matched gifts is raise awareness of them. Ensure that your donors know the funds are out there waiting for them and do your best to make it easy for them to submit matching gifts.

Learn more by reading our rundown of the matching gift basics.

Matching gifts are great for employees and nonprofits, but what about the employers themselves?

What Do Companies Gain from Matching Gift Programs?

The sunny and optimistic answer to this question is that companies match donations because they’re invested in aiding the communities around them.  There is definitely some truth to this view!

Companies are looking to make a difference and help in the ways that they can, but that alone is not enough to generate the sheer number of matching gift programs out there. 

A tax exemption is one driving force behind corporate giving programs.  Fortunately for nonprofits, donating to charity is beneficial for business—the incentive is built right in. 

Even more importantly than tax exemptions, with matching gift programs, companies are also garnering good will with employees thereby improving engagement and retention as staff will be grateful for the support in their philanthropic efforts. 

Beyond their employee base, the programs are beneficial for branding and establishing positive reputations.  Whether trying to impress clients, customers, or consumers a strong history of corporate philanthropy to organizations which employees care about will make a difference.

Plus, gift matching is a relatively easy way to be philanthropic.  The employee does all the legwork of finding a cause and all the employer has to do is follow through with its promise.

What Companies Match Donations?

The short answer is that many, many companies will match donations.  Based on Double the Donation’s research, 65% of Fortune 500 companies match donations and many small companies have programs as well.  Matching gift programs span industries and geographic locations. The companies aren’t even limited to the U.S.  

To give you a sense of the variety of businesses involved and the range of guidelines, here are outlines of 3 great programs.  

#1 General Electric (GE)

A discussion of top-tier matching gift programs would be incomplete without mentioning GE. In 1954 the whole concept of corporate gift matching began with GE.  Since its inception, GE’s program has raised more than $1 billion for nonprofits. 

General Electric matches at the standard dollar for dollar ratio for gifts ranging from $25 up to $50,000.

#2 Johnson and Johnson

Johnson and Johnson’s program is very inclusive.  Current employee’s donations to eligible charities will be matched at a 2:1 ratio and retirees are also qualified for a 1:1 ratio. 

For Johnson and Johnson employees, matching gifts are long-term opportunities.

Retiree allocations, like Johnson and Johnson’s, are more common than one might think. Make sure retirees aren’t left off the list for matching gift consideration.

#3 Microsoft

Microsoft currently has one of the leading matching gift programs.  The corporation has donated over $1 billion through its match program and raised more than $47 million just last year. 

Microsoft will match dollar for dollar up to $15,000 for donations to most 501(c)(3) organizations.

Curious about more leading matching gift programs? 

Check out our list of 8 Companies with Top-Notch Matching Gift Programs.

Once you know about matching gifts, it is hard to disagree that seeking them is a crucial fundraising method.

The first step in bringing in matched gifts is getting the word out about them.  

How Do You Promote Matching Gifts?

If a donor is unfamiliar with the programs, he might be hesitant to try it for fear of mountains of paperwork and an extensive process. Yet studies show that promoting matching gifts in fundraising appeals can increase response rates and average donation amounts by over 50%.

Securing a matched fund is actually not very difficult at all.  So, when you tell supporters about the donation potential, be sure to emphasize that it won’t be a bunch of added work for them as it only takes a few minutes.

There are numerous ways to keep donors in the loop about matching gifts, many online and some not:

  • During the donation process
  • On a dedicated web page
  • On social media
  • In your emails
  • In direct mail
  • As part of acknowledgment letters
  • As a post on your blog

Learn more about promoting matching gifts online.

Let’s look at some examples.

The ASPCA has a clear and easy to use dedicated page on its website:

The National Kidney Foundation wrote a Facebook post about matching gifts in the past:

CMTA used a brief, yet informative, email newsletter to call attention to matching gifts with a link to the CMTA matching gift page:

 

Takeaway: Strike a balance with your methods and watch the donations multiply!

Topics: Strategy Fundraising