As a nonprofit professional, you probably already know the basics arounds matching gifts. But ask yourself this question:
Do I know how to implement matching gifts effectively as part of our team’s fundraising strategy?
You might have some sort of idea of how you can do this. But when you really think about it, do you have a set action plan or understand the best practices surrounding matching gifts?
That’s why here at Getting Attention, we’ve put together this guide to help you set your plans into motion. We’ll start with the basics, and then jump into some essential best practices you can leverage to make matching gifts work for you.
1. How Matching Gifts Work
There are a few different types of matching gifts, but the most common ones are corporate matching gift programs and matching gift campaigns. Matching gift campaigns involve getting a business, benefactor, board member, major donor, or foundation to match donations made during a campaign up to a specific amount. This is a common practice among many organizations and donors are usually excited to participate.
However, what many donors don’t know is that their own employer might match their personal donations to many nonprofits. That’s where corporate matching gift programs come in—and they’re the focus of this article!
Many companies match employee donations at a certain ratio, usually 1:1, to most eligible nonprofits. And corporate matching gifts are one of the most commonly used forms of corporate philanthropy.
Here’s a basic rundown of how the corporate matching gift process works:
- An individual donates to a nonprofit.
- The individual submits a matching gift request to their employer.
- The employer reviews the request and verifies the donation with the nonprofit.
- The employer matches the donation.
Beyond this, there are other important rules and guidelines to be aware of when it comes to this type of corporate giving program.
Corporate Matching Gift Rules
As amazing as corporate matching gifts are, there are a few important guidelines to take note of. That means, as a best practice, following and meeting these guidelines will ensure your nonprofit reaps the benefits of matching gift programs.
Guidelines usually include:
- Minimum and maximum match requirements. In order to qualify for a matching gift, the donation amount must usually meet specific thresholds. Minimum amounts are typically around $25, but these vary, as do maximum amounts, which can be anywhere from $1,000 and beyond.
- Match ratio. Another important guideline to look out for is a matching gift ratio. They’re typically set at 1:1, but ratios range anywhere from .5:1 to 4:1.
- Nonprofit eligibility. One of the biggest specifications to look out for is whether your nonprofit is eligible to receive matching donations. Usually, most nonprofits are eligible, including educational institutions, arts and cultural organizations, and health and human services. However, the most common type of ineligible nonprofit is religious organizations, though there are exceptions to this as well, especially if the donation is being used for a non-religious purpose.
- Employee eligibility. It’s also a best practice to understand your donors’ eligibility for matching gift programs. Companies often specify whether full-time, part-time, or retired employees are eligible for matched donations.
- Nonprofit verification. Once a donor has submitted their matching gift request to their employer, it’s your nonprofit’s responsibility to verify the donation with the company. You’ll usually receive an email or letter with instructions on how to verify the gift, and this will either be done online through a corporate giving vendor or via mail. This is incredibly important. If you don’t follow the instructions and confirm the donation and your nonprofit’s eligibility, you will lose out on the match.
Understanding the basic guidelines from companies is one of the most important matching gift best practices. Without meeting these requirements, it’s simple: you won’t get the matching funds you need and deserve.
2. Promoting Matching Gifts
Did you know that approximately $4-7 billion in matching gift funding goes unclaimed every year? That’s because too many donors are unaware that they’re eligible for matching gift programs. And even if they knew they were eligible, they wouldn’t know how to start their match request.
That’s why one of the most impactful matching gift best practices is promotion.
If you don’t promote this awesome opportunity to your donors, they won’t take the next step toward matching their donation. Luckily, we’ve identified some of the top ways you can effectively promote matching gifts to your supporters.
Online Donation Forms
Donors are at the height of their engagement when they arrive on your donation form. They’re serious about making a donation to your organization, which means this is the perfect time to promote matching gifts.
At the very least, ask donors in a prominent spot on your form if they are looking to get a matching donation from their employer. From there, link to an informational page on your website that explains what matching gifts are.
To drive even more results, though, consider inserting a matching gift search tool on your donation page. Tools like these capture employer information on the donation form, then display that company’s matching gift information immediately following the donation.
These tools then track the donors who take the next step and click on their company’s matching gift form. Some of these tools will even autocomplete a company’s name in the search field as a donor types it in:
Adding matching gift information to your donation process, whether that’s on the actual donation page or confirmation page, can significantly impact the number of matching gift funds you ultimately receive.
According to these statistics, mentioning matching gifts in fundraising appeals results in a 71% increase in the response rate and a 51% increase in the average donation amount.
That’s why using email outreach to make your matching gift appeals is so important.
Mention matching gifts in your emails, whether you’re sending out a regular newsletter or specifically thanking a supporter for their donation. Briefly explain what a matching gift is, how they can submit a matching gift request to their employer, and how they can let your nonprofit know that they’re doing so.
Like in the example above, provide links in your email that donors can click to:
- Indicate that they’ve submitted a matching gift request.
- Indicate that their donation is not match eligible.
By doing this, your organization will be able to keep track of who is engaging with your matching gift appeals, as well as the status of each active matching gift request.
Contrary to popular belief, direct mail is not dead! Many of your supporters still prefer traditional mail to other methods of communication. Whenever you send out printed marketing materials or thank-you letters, include an insert or other mention of matching gifts.
Just as with email outreach, the insert should briefly explain what matching gifts are and offer ways for the supporter to learn more. You might even include a scannable QR code that directs the reader to a dedicated matching gifts page on your website!
To simplify the process of designing, printing, stuffing, and sending your mailings, consider reaching out to a direct mail fundraising platform like GivingMail. This can save your team time and money that can be reinvested into your mission and putting efforts toward your highest value match opportunities.
Social media is already an excellent way to promote giving opportunities. So why not promote matching gifts through this channel, too?
Spread the word across social media platforms, whether you’re running a specific campaign or simply looking to bring in more corporate donations. Include information about matching gifts, such as how they work and how donors can learn about their employer’s programs, and then link to a dedicated matching gift page on your website.
There are many ways you can promote matching gifts. From mentioning them at the height of a supporter’s engagement, to sending out matching gift appeals on a regular basis, following these best practices will keep your strategy in line and help you raise more.
3. Acknowledging Matching Gifts
While promotion can certainly get you a long way, you still want to sustain the new relationships you’ve created with your supporters. That means acknowledging both the donations and the matches you’ve received.
After you’ve sent out matching gift appeals via a variety of channels and those matches start coming in, you should always keep up a solid communication strategy to retain those donors and cultivate your relationships with them.
Here are a few best practices you can follow:
- Thank donors for their original gift. This goes without saying, but always remember to thank your donors for their original gift right after they’ve submitted it. If and when a corporate match comes in, be sure to acknowledge the original gift then, as well.
- Thank donors for applying for a match. This is why it’s crucial that you keep track of the donors who have submitted a match request. That way, you can reach out to them and thank them for taking this extra step!
- Notify donors when the match comes in. This is often an overlooked step, but one of the best things you can do to show your appreciation and acknowledge your donors is notify them when your organization receives the match. Thank them again and let them know how much of a difference they made.
Even though the match was initiated by the donor, it’s the matching gift company that made the second gift. Typically, there’s no need to send a separate thank-you letter to the company—especially if it’s a large one. However, smaller companies might have a different preference, and if any company requests an acknowledgment letter, you should send one.
When it comes to acknowledging matching gifts, one of the best things you can do is be transparent. Openly demonstrate the impact matching gifts have had on your organization, and let donors know what that money accomplished.
Donors want to know that their support is making a difference. If you’re open and transparent and show what those matching gift funds are going toward, you’ll encourage donors to continue supporting your organization and cultivate meaningful relationships that will benefit you in the future.
4. Matching Gift Software
Of course, all of these matching gift best practices make sense on paper. But how can you actually implement them?
There are tools out there designed with nonprofits and their needs in mind. Specifically, matching gift software helps you incorporate all of these best practices into your fundraising strategy with ease.
Whether you’re promoting matching gifts or acknowledging their impact and thanking donors, matching gift software streamlines the entire process.
Our favorite solution for matching gifts is Double the Donation, which offers two options:
- The Premium Plan: Remember that matching gift search tool we mentioned earlier? Double the Donation’s Premium Plan gives your nonprofit access to a database of more than 20,000 companies and their matching gift programs. All you have to do is embed their search tool anywhere on your website. That means donors who visit your website will get an opportunity to look up their employer’s program with ease.
- 360MatchPro by Double the Donation: 360MatchPro by Double the Donation is a matching gifts automation platform that follows up with donors on your behalf. The platform sends out customizable emails depending on users’ eligibility that include links donors can click to update you on their matching gift status.
For donors, finding their matching gift eligibility and understanding how to submit a matching gift request can be a real challenge. Using Double the Donation’s matching gift database, they’ll be directed to their company’s matching gift forms, rules, and guidelines, which will make submitting their request a breeze.
Consider matching gift software as an effective way to incorporate all of the matching gift best practices we’ve talked about. From there, you’ll be well on your way to raising the funds you need for your organization and doing more good!
5. Additional Resources
Looking for more information about matching gifts? We’ve handpicked some excellent resources from Getting Attention to help you out:
- 14 Important Questions to Ask About Matching Gifts. Here’s our basic guide that explains the nuts and bolts of matching gift programs.
- How to Use Matching Gift Forms 101: A Nonprofit Guide. Searching for more information about how matching gift forms work? Check out this article!
- 17 Matching Gift Companies with Impactful Programs. Finding the top matching gift companies can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve listed some for you here!