Matching Gifts: 10 Quick Essentials for the Smart Nonprofit

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Whether you’re a large organization or a fledgling nonprofit, successful charities are always on the lookout for easy ways to maximize their fundraising strategies.

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to make the most of your donors’ gifts is to take advantage of corporate giving programs that instantly turn one donation into two. You guessed it—we’re talking about the magic of matching gifts!

You’ve probably heard of matching gift programs before, but if you’ve yet to implement them at your nonprofit, this is the guide for you. Here, we’ll lay out straightforward answers to all of the most common matching gift questions, such as:

  1. What is a matching gift program?
  2. What does the matching gift process entail?
  3. Do all companies have the same matching gift criteria?
  4. Are all nonprofits eligible for matched gifts?
  5. Is there a deadline for submitting a matching gift request?
  6. What is matching gift software?
  7. What matching gift metrics should your nonprofit track?
  8. What are the most common matching gift challenges?
  9. How do you market matching gifts to your donors?
  10. Are matching gifts the only type of corporate philanthropy?

Stick with us to learn the fundamentals of matching gifts and kickstart your most effective fundraising efforts yet.

 

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A subset of corporate philanthropy, matching gift programs are put in place by businesses looking to increase employee charitable giving and boost their sense of corporate social responsibility.

Matching gift programs encourage employees to donate to eligible nonprofits by providing the incentive of a matched gift. The employee submits their donation to a charity of their choice, and their employer follows up with a matching donation to the same organization.

Not only do these programs allow your nonprofit to reap the benefits of more donations, but they also allow employers to engage with their employees and foster a community of generosity within their business. Truly a win-win scenario!

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Luckily for you and your donors, the matching gift process couldn’t be simpler. Essentially, the submission process consists of 5 steps:

  1. The donor completes their donation to a nonprofit of their choice.
  2. The donor submits a matching gift request to their employer online or in-person.
  3. The donor’s employer reviews the request to determine eligibility.
  4. The employer verifies the initial donation with the nonprofit.
  5. The employer then matches the request by writing a check to the nonprofit.

From a high level, matching gifts are straightforward as long as the donor, employer, and nonprofit are all on the same page and willing to complete their end of the process.

Of course, because your nonprofit will be dealing with a variety of companies, each with their own take on corporate giving, you might encounter variations on this process from time to time. Which brings us to our next question…

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The short answer: no. Specific matching gift criteria will certainly vary from business to business, so it’s important that your organization pay attention to the fine print during the matching gift process.

Let’s take a look at a few variations in the matching gift submission process:

  • Match ratio. While a 1:1 match ratio is standard, some companies will match donations at higher or lower ratios. These ratios also might vary by employee type (e.g., a full-time employee receives a 1:1 ratio, but a part-time employee receives .5:1).
  • Minimum and maximum donation amounts. Employers typically set limits on how much (and how little) they’ll match. Minimums might be as low as $25, while maximums might be set anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000.
  • Employee restrictions. As we mentioned, matching gift benefits may vary based on employee type. Some companies only match donations for full-time employees, while others might match gifts from part-time or retired staff (or even their spouses).

It’s up to your nonprofit to be aware of the limitations each company places on their corporate giving programs so that you can most effectively educate and communicate to your supporters.

Need a starting point for familiarizing yourself with different matching gift companies? Check out this list of the nation’s best corporate giving programs from 360MatchPro!

 

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Now that we’ve got you hooked on the concept of corporate giving, let’s take a step back and make sure your organization is actually able to tap into this fundraising strategy.

The good news? Most 501(c)(3) nonprofits are eligible to receive matching gifts!

There are some common exclusions to matching gift programs. Political organizations and religious centers without an associated community project are typically not eligible to participate. If that sounds like your organization, you might seek out an alternative fundraising strategy.

Additionally, companies can decide on an individual level where they’d like to lend their philanthropic support. For example, some companies might only match gifts to charities that align with specific interests, such as sustainability or education.

The best way to find out if your organization is eligible for a specific company’s corporate giving program is to search a matching gift database, which can provide detailed information on different corporations’ criteria.

 

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There’s no universal deadline for all matching gift submissions; instead, companies set their own time frames for submission.

Some common submission deadlines include:

  • End of the current calendar year.
  • 3, 6, or 12 months from the initial donation.
  • One year and 1-2 months following the initial donation.

While it’s important to be aware of individual deadlines (especially for companies that employ a large number of your donors), a better strategy is to encourage donors to submit their matching gift request as soon as they complete the donation.

The more time lapses after the initial donation, the more likely your supporters are to forget to submit their match request. To keep matching gifts at the front of your donors’ minds, strike while the iron is hot by placing matching gift information on your donation confirmation screen and in acknowledgement emails.

 

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There’s technology to support nearly every aspect of your nonprofit’s operations and fundraising efforts, and matching gifts are no exception.

There are essentially two types of matching gift software you should be familiar with:

  • Matching gift search tools are embeddable widgets you can attach to your website. Donors input the name of their company to see important details for their matching gift program, including deadlines, eligibility information, and submission requirements.
  • Matching gift automation software is a comprehensive solution for large organizations who want to streamline the entire matching gift process. You can use this nonprofit software to scan your database for email domains that align with employers, automate matching gift communications, and track match requests and eligible donations.

What type of software you need depends on how large your nonprofit is and how integral matching gifts are to your fundraising efforts.

If you’re just starting out with matching gifts, we recommend looking into a database search tool and scaling up once you’ve developed a long-term matching gift strategy.

Discover more nonprofit software by checking out Double the Donation’s top picks!

 

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To develop the most effective corporate fundraising strategy, your organization should stay on top of relevant matching gift data and use it to inform your tactics.

Here’s a sampling of the metrics you might use to better plan your matching gift efforts:

  • Total number of annual donations can serve as a starting point for your organization’s matching gift strategy. That way, you can gauge if you’re improving overall as you focus on corporate giving initiatives.
  • Number of match-eligible donations can give your team a goal to work toward. You likely won’t secure a matched gift for every eligible donation, but knowing your matched gift potential can help you understand what you might achieve.
  • Number of received matched gifts. Measuring how many matched gifts your nonprofit actually ends up with versus match-eligible donations can help you assess any breakdowns in the process. Are there complications on the part of the donor, the employer, or your nonprofit?

As with most fundraising methods, the first step to raising more money through matching gifts is developing a smart strategy. Your matching gift data is the key!

 

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Matching gifts really are easy money for nonprofits. But like any nonprofit strategy, there are challenges that your team may encounter when utilizing this method of fundraising.

The primary challenge nonprofits face is a general lack of awareness donors have toward matching gifts. When most supporters don’t know what the term “corporate giving” means, it’s hard to catch their attention and encourage them to take part.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can quickly solve this problem:

  • Explain what corporate giving is, why it matters, and how donors can get started. Be clear, concise, and convincing when you share why matching gifts are such a simple way to impact the cause they care about.
  • Diversify your communications. If you’re only spreading the word via email, you’ll miss out on supporters who’ve opted out from your mailing list. Use direct mail, online channels, and in-person communications as much as possible.
  • Answer (and anticipate) questions that your donors will have. Include an FAQ on your website’s Corporate Giving page or post a how-to video demonstrating the submission process.

The more your donors know, the more likely they are to complete the matching gift submission process with no headaches along the way.

 

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Since we’ve established that effective matching gift promotion is so vital, let’s get into some specifics about how, where, and when you should spread the good word about corporate giving:

  • Capitalize on engagement during the donation process by placing matching gift information (and a database search tool) on your donation page and in follow-up emails.
  • Post visual content on social media to capture donors’ attention and educate them about the matching gift process.
  • Make the most of your fundraising campaigns by incorporating matching gift information in your promotions and even onstage at events.

Remember: you’ll need to implement a matching gift marketing strategy that meets donors where they already are.

Look to your database to see what marketing and communication channels donors are most responsive to. If you don’t have this information on file yet, you can always send out a survey to ask supporters directly.

 

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Can’t get enough of corporate giving as a fundraising strategy? Lucky for you, matching gifts aren’t the only corporate connection your nonprofit can leverage.

Try looking into the following types of corporate philanthropy for even more fundraising opportunities:

  • Volunteer grant programs allow you to receive a financial grant when employees volunteer a set number of hours at your nonprofit.
  • Corporate sponsorships let your nonprofit partner with businesses to receive monetary or in-kind donations in exchange for advertising at your events.
  • Community grants provide your organization with financial support from local companies as a way to enrich your shared community.

While these additional fundraising avenues are a great place to start, trust us when we say that there’s no end to the potential of corporate philanthropy.

By developing relationships with local or national companies who share a vested interest in your mission, your organization can strengthen your community presence and reach a new audience of generous employees.

 


We hope our guide has helped clear up any confusion you had about matching gifts and other impactful forms of corporate giving.

Now that you’re well-versed in these powerful programs, it’s time to try out matching gifts for yourself. Good luck!

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Adam Weinger
Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on LinkedIn.