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Multiple hands piece together a heart shaped puzzle
By
Lauren Rutledge

Earlier this week I received my first official holiday promotion. You read that right, not even into October and we already have the holiday decorations being pushed on us! While it may seem crazy to think about buying winter décor before Halloween has even passed, this does serve as a great reminder that the end of the year is just around the corner. No, this is not my endorsement to pull out the twinkle lights, but it is time to begin making your year-end fundraising plans! 

As you begin to think about your year-end strategies, don’t leave dollars on the table by forgetting to include matching gifts as part of your plan. The end of the year is a great time to remind donors of the opportunity to multiply their donations. Many donors don’t complete their giving until this time of year and those who have already given still have time to have their donations matched by their employer.  

Whether you are unfamiliar with matching gifts or just don’t know where to start, Global Impact is here to help you make the most of this opportunity.  

Overview of Matching Gifts 

More and more we are seeing companies of all types and sizes offering matching gift programs. Matching gifts are a type of corporate giving program that increase an employee’s donation to an eligible nonprofit through corporate funds. Although matching gift programs can look different from company to company, there are a few basics that each program follows: 

  • Process: All matching gift programs follow the same basic process. An employee contributes to their favorite nonprofit(s). This contribution can be made directly on their company’s workplace platform or by submitting their matching gift request to their employer. The employer will confirm that the gift meets their eligibility, and once approved, will send the matched dollars to the receiving charity. 
  • Matching Gift Ratio: This refers to the amount a company will donate in relation to their employee’s donations. The most common matching gift ratio you see is 1:1, which is doubling their gift (yay!), but you can see them starting at 0.5:1 or even going as high as 4:1! 
  • Minimums/Maximums: Each matching gift program will have a set minimum and maximum donation limit to qualify what is an eligible matching gift in their program. This means if an employee donates less than the minimum, there’s no match, or if they donate more than the maximum, their gift will only be matched up to the maximum qualifying amount. 
  • Matching Gift Submission Deadline: The most common deadlines you will see in matching gift programs include a set number of months from the date the donation was made (typically one year), the end of the calendar year, or January or February the following year – which is why end-of-year solicitations are the perfect time to incorporate matching gift programs into your plans! 

For companies, matching gift programs offer them a chance to give back to charities (Bonus: They are giving to organizations that their employees care about!), encourage employee philanthropy and improve employee engagement. For employees, it allows them to increase support of their favorite organizations without requiring them to dip back into their own wallets. And for charities, matching gifts provide increased revenue to help them boost their bottom line and reach revenue goals.  

Sounds like a no brainer, right? Well you may be surprised to hear that an estimated $4-7 billion in matching gift funds go unclaimed each year and only 1.31% of donor’s contributions are matched at the average nonprofit.*  

Don’t let your organization be left out of this increased funding opportunity! Use our easy-to-follow checklist to ensure your donors have the information and tools they need to complete the matching gift process. Download our printable checklist.

Matching Gift Checklist 

  • Segment your donors: If you have the capability and/or data, spending time on prospect research can help you identify eligible matching gift donors. Maybe you track their workplace in your donor database, or their company is in their email address. Knowing which of your donors are eligible for matching gifts or what company they work for can allow you to identify donors who have already given and haven’t applied for a match yet. From there, you can send targeted, more effective messaging specific to their workplace’s program.   
  • Confirm your eligibility: Companies often place restrictions on which charities are eligible to receive matching gifts to ensure their dollars are going to organizations that align with their CSR values. While each company’s criteria can look different, the most common conditions typically require that recipient organizations must hold 501(c)(3) status and cannot be political, sports or religious in nature. This usually excludes faith-based organizations with a community outreach or human service component. If you aren’t sure of your eligibility, do your research to confirm your target companies’ criteria, and see if there may be an exception before writing them off.
  • Get your organization on board: We all know that for true success, we need our organization on board with our efforts. Many on your team may be unfamiliar with matching gifts or may not understand their value. Be prepared with the stats and information to prove their worth. Gather data around the amount of eligible donations your organization may have for match eligibility or the number of eligible match donors you currently have. Build a matching gift plan including a budget, a clear strategy and a communication plan. Outline roles for staff needed from all departments to support the process (such as finance and marketing). Finally, be sure to keep the conversation going and your team members up to date on your progress. 
  • Promote! Promote! Promote!: The number one reason donors aren’t taking advantage of matching gift opportunities is simply that they aren’t aware of it. In fact, 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if they know their donation will be matched, and 1 in 3 donors say they would give a larger gift if their donation were matched.* In other words, your donors will be more motivated to give, and potentially give more, if they knew they could maximize their impact and increase their donation. And, your organization can help! Use your own communication channels to educate donors on matching gifts, share how they can maximize their impact and provide them with the tools they need to start the process.  
    • Donor Communications: Catch your donors when your organization is already on their mind - while they are donating! You can place matching information on your donation form, online donation confirmation pages or acknowledgement letters. 
    • Website: Your website offers the opportunity to share all about matching gifts and get the information in front of everyone who visits your site. Whether you want to create a page dedicated solely to matching gifts or add it to your “Ways to Give” page, use your website to educate potential donors about matching gifts, how they work and what the process is. If you have a matching gift search tool, include it here.
    • Other Communication Channels: Think outside your immediate donor communications to reach current and potential donors. Write a blog post on matching gifts, highlight them in your newsletter, or feature it in your social media and link it to your matching gifts webpage. Consider alternate ways to target this audience as well, such as advertising through LinkedIn or niche publications. 
  • Build your donor’s journey: Too often we lose donors due to a confusing or bulky process. While we unfortunately can’t apply for matching gifts on their behalf, we can try and make the process as clear and simple as possible for our donors. Think through your donor’s journey, starting with their original donation and through all of the steps they will take to apply for their matching gift. Make your matching gift information easy to find – provide them with helpful information, clear instruction and useful tools – and if you have the budget, consider investing in a matching gift database to include an eligibility search engine directly on your website. 
  • Next Steps: Just like a normal donation, when you receive a matching gift you will want to send your donors some sort of recognition letter thanking them for putting in the effort to secure these additional funds for your organization. Recognizing your matching gift donors is also a great way to cultivate them. Encourage them to continue applying for match requests in the future or elevate your relationship by inviting them to become employee champions!  
  • *BONUS* Dollars for Doers: If your organization provides volunteer opportunities, be sure to include volunteer grant programs as part of your promotions. Volunteer grant programs are a matching program where employers will match a certain number of volunteered hours with a set donation amount to the nonprofit organization.  

Don’t let the end of the year sneak up on you, lest you get stuck trying to piece together your year-end strategy in December! Starting now will give you the time you need to plan an effective and well-thought plan to make the most of this time of year. Securing matching gifts is an effective way to increase your revenue for the year. When drafting your year-end communications around the giving and holiday season, also be sure to include the impact of matching gifts and a reminder of the year-end deadline.   

For more information on how matching gifts and employee giving can help support your year-end efforts or for help achieving your fundraising goals reach out to Global Impact’s team of experts.  

*Statistics from Double the Donation: https://doublethedonation.com/tips/matching-grant-resources/matching-gift-statistics/ 


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Lauren Rutledge

Lauren Rutledge

Lauren Rutledge leads corporate, institutional and charity partnership efforts in the Western region, with a specific focus on Seattle and the Bay area. She manages a portfolio of Global Impact clients which promote fundraising efforts for public and private sector organizations through employee giving, volunteerism and corporate philanthropy. Before joining Global Impact, Lauren worked in fundraising for arts organizations focusing on special events, membership and major gifts.

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