14 Important Questions to Ask About Matching Gifts
When you hear matching gifts, what do you think of?
Maybe it’s a major donor who matches contributions made during a big campaign. As a nonprofit professional, you might’ve even participated in one of those. But have corporate matching gifts ever occurred to you?
Yep, you heard right: corporate matching gifts.
Many donors, including those who give to your organization, are eligible for matching gifts through their employer. But this is a fundraising strategy that’s underutilized by nonprofits way too many times.
That’s why we’ve put together some super important questions you should be asking about matching gifts so you can harness this major fundraising power. Let’s jump right in!
1. What the heck are corporate matching gifts?
Definition: Corporate matching gifts are a form of corporate philanthropy in which companies match donations their employees make to nonprofits.
That’s the simple version.
Matching gifts are basically free money. They let donors to maximize the impact of their gift without reaching back into their own pockets. Can you think of anything better?
But how do organizations even get matching gift funds? Read on to find out.
2. How do matching gifts even work?
Matching gift programs vary by company, but here is the process in a nutshell:
- An individual donates to a nonprofit.
- The individual submits a request for a match through their employer.
- The employer verifies the donation with the nonprofit.
- The employer matches the individual’s donation.
Again, that’s the simple version.
Many companies also have a policy around match ratios, minimum and maximum amounts, and employee/nonprofit eligibility.
Most companies match at a 1:1 ratio, which means a dollar for a dollar match. But match ratios can span anywhere from .5:1 to 4:1. For example, a 1:1 match on a $50 donation means $100 total, while a 2:1 match on the same $50 gets you $150 total.
Minimum and Maximum Amounts
Companies also have minimum and maximum donation amounts that they’ll match. The most common minimum amount is $25, but these amounts range from $1 to $100. The maximum amounts have an even wider range. These amounts are often between $1,000 and $15,000, though amounts will still vary below and above that range.
You should also know that companies have restrictions on the types of nonprofits and employees that are eligible to receive or request a matched donation.
For nonprofits, most 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for matching gift programs, including educational institutions, arts and cultural organizations, environmental organizations, health and human services, and more. The most common restriction is usually religious organizations, but it’s still up to the company.
For employees, their eligibility also depends on the company’s guidelines. This can include full-time, part-time, and retired employees.
Tip: Looking for a way to stay up-to-date about employee matching gift guidelines? Check out Double the Donation.
3. What deadline??
Yep, there’s more than just eligibility, match ratios, and minimum/maximum amounts when it comes to matching gifts. You absolutely, without a doubt, have to meet the deadline.
The deadline to submit a matching gift request will vary based on your donor’s employer, but here are three main types of deadlines:
- Within a set number of months. A company will match a gift up to a certain number of months after the donation is made. As an example, this could be three months after the date of the donation.
- By the end of the calendar year. A company will match a gift within the calendar year of when the donation is made.
- By the end of the calendar year, plus a grace period. A company will match donations made through the end of the calendar year, and then add on additional months for employees to submit a request. These grace periods usually go through the end of January, February, or March.
Chop, chop! While these deadlines may be longer and apply to more of your donors, the farther from a donation your supporter gets, the less likely they will be to submit a match request. That’s why you’ve got to promote matching gift opportunities to them ASAP.
4. Why aren’t more nonprofits using matching gifts?
That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Turns out, much of the time, both nonprofits and donors don’t know about matching gifts.
For nonprofits, reasons include a lack of staff, resources, and time needed to zero in on matching gift revenue. Many times, organizations don’t know who a donor’s employer is or what their matching gift policy is.
For donors, most don’t even know that their company offers a matching gift program. And sometimes the process of getting their donation matched seems way too complicated or unclear.
This means (drumroll) that approximately $4-$7 billion in matching gift funds goes unclaimed every year. This is a huge amount of money that nonprofits are missing out on.
5. So…why should I care about matching gifts?
Glad you asked!
Matching gifts can do more than just double donations. Beyond boosting your fundraising revenue, matching gifts can also help improve donor retention, keep your donors engaged with your organization, and more.
Here’s some handy evidence: Did you know that 1 in 3 donors say they would give a larger gift if a match was applied to their donation?
Just knowing that their donation will go twice as far encourages donors to give a larger gift at the outset. Similarly, 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if a match is offered at all. This means if you have a potential donor who’s on the fence about giving to your organization, promoting corporate matching gifts can give them the extra push they need to make their decision.
Here are some other eye-opening matching gift statistics to help put things in perspective:
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits that come with matching gifts. They encourage donors to give to your organization, while also boosting the initial gift amounts.
6. So who’s throwing around all this cash?
Another great question!
We’ve talked a lot about matching gifts and how they work, but who actually offers matching gifts?
Good news: There are more companies that match donations than you may think. In fact, as you can see from the stats above, 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gift programs.
Some of the top matching gift companies include, Microsoft, Apple, Google, The Home Depot, and Disney. Many of these companies offer high maximum match limits and match donations to most types of nonprofits. For example:
- Microsoft matches up to $15,000 in donations to most nonprofits at a 1:1 ratio for full- and part-time employees.
- Disney matches up to $25,000 in donations to most nonprofits at a 1:1 ratio for full- and part-time employees.
- Apple matches up to $10,000 in donations to most nonprofits at a 1:1 ratio for full- and part-time employees.
This is only a snapshot of the many matching gift companies out there. And it’s not just large corporations handing out money. These companies range in size and guidelines, which is why it’s essential that you understand where your donors work to get in on this funding source!
7. How do I get in on matching gifts?
We’ve made it clear that a lack of awareness is a big issue when it comes to matching gifts. So how can your organization market matching gifts to your donors?
Lucky for you, there are many ways your nonprofit can promote matching gifts. We’ll cover some of the top marketing methods below!
Email outreach takes a few different forms: confirmation emails, newsletters, thank-you letters, and more. When you send out these types of messages, it’s important to mention matching gifts.
To give you an idea, here’s some text you can include in your thank-you email after a donor has given to your cause:
Thank you for supporting our organization! Did you know that many companies match their employees’ donations to our nonprofit? Check your eligibility and access the appropriate forms and instructions to submit a match today!
You can even include a link to learn more about matching gifts within your email.
Take to social media! Your organization’s social media platform is a great way to raise awareness around matching gifts. If your nonprofit has a strong social media presence (or is building one), take advantage of those scheduling tools to post about matching gifts throughout the year.
Social media impacts donors—in fact, 18% of donors who give online say that social media is the channel that most inspires them to give.
Whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other platforms, be sure to include links that direct supporters to the information they’ll need to submit a match request to their employer.
When supporters are already on your donation page, that means they’re serious about donating to your cause. Very serious. Since donors are most engaged at this step, this is the perfect time to promote matching gifts.
Prompt your donors to figure out their eligibility for a matching donation through their employer. This can be done by including a brief piece of information about matching gifts, or even by embedding a matching gift search tool on your form.
Donors are most receptive during the actual donation process. Raise awareness at that point so they don’t forget to check their eligibility.
Dedicated Matching Gift Page
There are also other areas of your website besides your donation page that you can use to promote matching gifts. One of these is a dedicated matching gift page. A dedicated matching gift page provides donors with general educational information about matching gifts, as well as company-specific matching gift forms, guidelines, and instructions.
A matching gift page is an awesome piece of content to link to as you promote matching gifts. You can send donors there from social media posts, emails, and other types of communication. Having a specific page that houses all of the information donors need will make it easier for supporters to submit a match request.
Matching Gift Search Tool
We mentioned embedding a matching gift search tool onto your website earlier. But how can you find one?
By investing in matching gift software that offers access to a matching gift database, you’ll hand-deliver donors updated and comprehensive information about their employer’s matching gift guidelines and forms.
Interested in learning more about matching gift databases? Jump to that section now!
8. What about my staff members?
Let’s be frank: It’s obvious that raising awareness around matching gifts, especially to donors, is important. But sometimes that lack of awareness extends to your team members too.
Many nonprofits don’t spend time educating their staff about matching gift programs. This is especially true for organizations that don’t realize the impact matching gifts can have on their revenue.
That’s why we’ve rounded up some effective steps, as outlined by Double the Donation, that you can take:
- Target the right staff members. This includes staff members who are in charge of campaigns and events, finances, and marketing. To give you an example, campaign and event organizers can advertise matching gifts in their communications with attendees, while finance staff can track and report on matching gift revenue. Your marketing team can then promote matching gifts across all communications.
- Provide educational resources. Offer resources to educate your team about matching gifts so they’re more receptive to the information. This way, they’ll know what there is to know about matching gifts and can answer questions from donors.
- Make matching gifts part of onboarding. Train new team members on the matching gift process so they know about them from the outset. You can also give out one-pagers, set up calls or meetings, and attend webinars to help educate all current staff.
Educating your new staff members and giving those refreshers to your entire team will help make matching gifts more effective across your organization. Be sure to offer helpful resources that they can access and provide training so they’re ready to handle anything matching gift-related that comes across their desk.
9. But…what about getting leadership onboard?
Yeah, we know that can be concerning. But you’ve got to do it!
Educating your staff isn’t the only task you’ll need to tackle when it comes to matching gifts at your organization. In addition to rallying your team around matching gifts, you’ll also need to focus attention on getting that leadership support. Because if you don’t, it may be more challenging to get your staff onboard in the first place.
So how can you get that leadership support?
First and foremost, you need to help leadership see the value in matching gifts. This momentum will then trickle down to the rest of your staff.
Double the Donation outlines effective ways to get your leadership onboard with matching gifts:
- Using internal data. Rather than talking about the value of matching gifts, show the impact they can have on your organization through data. Highlight information about your number of match-eligible donations versus actual submitted matches, total revenue raised from matching gifts, and the number of donors who work for matching gift companies.
- Spending time developing a strategy. Take a few hours a month to develop your matching gift strategy, and then encourage your leadership to do the same. This way, you’ll make your strategies even more effective.
- Holding short meetings with leadership. Respect their time! Schedule short, 15-minute meetings that still allow you to demonstrate the value of matching gifts. Explain the basics of matching gifts, their impact, and the benefits. Schedule future meetings to report back on your progress and growth.
When your leadership is onboard with your matching gift plan, your entire team will be more willing to work toward your matching gift goals. And when leadership is enthusiastic about matching gifts, that enthusiasm can be contagious!
10. What on earth is a matching gift database?
Even after you’ve gotten support for matching gifts across your organization, there’s still more that can be done to build up your matching gift revenue.
Making the investment in matching gift software can provide just the boost you need to drive those match-eligible donations to completion. More specifically, a matching gift database can give you access to information about thousands of company matching gift programs.
How does a matching gift database work?
A matching gift database is easily accessible via a search pool plugin. This plugin can go anywhere on your website, including donation forms and dedicated matching gift pages, and allows donors to search for their eligibility in seconds.
Here’s how it works:
- The donor accesses the search tool on your website.
- The donor types their employer’s name into the search tool.
- The search tool then populates with information about their employer’s matching gift program.
If you’re looking for effective matching gift software, check out Double the Donation, the leading provider of matching gift tools (and our favorite choice!).
Double the Donation offers a powerful matching gift automation tool called 360MatchPro. This allows organizations to embed a matching gift search tool anywhere on their website. From there, donors can access their comprehensive matching gift database, which houses information on more than 20,000 companies and subsidiaries and their matching gift programs.
360MatchPro by Double the Donation also scans information donors provide during the donation process, determines their matching gift eligibility, and triggers automated emails that outline the next steps specific to the donor.
Plus, 360MatchPro integrates with more than 50 of the leading nonprofit CRMs, peer-to-peer fundraising software, and donation software, so it’s an excellent choice if you’re already using one or more of those tools.
Using these tools from Double the Donation can help you zero in on more match-eligible donations, see those matches through to completion, and boost your overall revenue.
Learn more about Double the Donation!
11. What about the donor’s experience during all of this?
As you collect donations from your supporters, their experience throughout the process is so important for donor retention and engagement.
That’s why it’s important to streamline your entire donation process, including your matching gift efforts.
First, you should make sure you understand the matching gift lifecycle:
- A donor makes a gift to a nonprofit.
- The nonprofit follows up with the donor about matching gifts and the donor submits a request to their company.
- The nonprofit verifies the donation with the matching gift company.
- The nonprofit follows up and cultivates a relationship with the donor.
After you’ve successfully identified each stage of the matching gift lifecycle, you can then focus on improving each of these steps to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible for your donors:
Evaluating Your Current Donation Process
As donors give to your organization, do they see helpful resources about matching gifts? If not, the time of the donation is a prime opportunity to educate them.
This is where that embeddable matching gift search tool comes in handy. Allow donors to use the search tool during the donation stage so they can immediately take action.
Following Up About Matching Gifts
Once donors have submitted their donation, follow up and let them know that their gift can go twice as far! If they haven’t submitted a match request to their employer, now is a perfect time to send a follow-up email to get the ball rolling.
Again, if you choose to use a tool like 360MatchPro by Double the Donation, you can automate this process. This matching gift platform will automatically email donors on your behalf with the information they need to figure out their eligibility.
But there’s even more you can do than email outreach. What about good, old-fashioned phone calls?
Make phone calls to a narrowed-down list of high-value matching gift donors. Basically, it should be those who are more likely to submit a match request. Phone calls take more of your staff’s time, but being selective about who you call can add a meaningful human touch to your matching gift outreach.
Streamlining Your Verification Process
While the verification process might seem straightforward enough, many organizations might run into issues with understanding the process. Verifying the original donation with a matching gift company means familiarizing your team with the corporate giving platforms that companies are using.
Some of these top corporate giving platforms include Benevity, YourCause, and CyberGrants. Understanding the guidelines for each of these major vendors will help you respond to verification requests quickly and avoid missing out on any matching dollars. Be sure to educate your staff so they understand how the verification process works.
Thanking Your Donors
Thanking your donors should go without saying, but it’s still something we have to emphasize. Be sure to use your automation tools to thank your donors not only following their donation, but also after you’ve received the match from their employer. This will help you cultivate the relationships you need to continue growing and serving your mission as a nonprofit.
For high-value donors, think about even more personalized approaches to give your thanks. Handwritten letters, postcards, and phone calls from senior leadership staff are just a sampling of the channels you can use.
Looking at how your nonprofit handles the matching gift lifecycle can help you streamline the matching gift process for donors. Make it as easy as possible for donors to submit their matching gift requests, and then follow up (and follow up again!) to make sure they understand what the next steps are and are properly thanked.
12. Sure, but my organization has multiple chapters or affiliates. Now what do I do?
For many organizations, going after matching gifts means keeping track of your donors’ employers and having a set process in place for outreach.
But what about even larger organizations that have multiple chapters or affiliates? How can nonprofits of that size incorporate matching gifts into their strategies?
You can do this by consolidating your matching gift process.
According to Double the Donation, consolidation means that each chapter or affiliate will follow a central process to secure matching gifts. Here are some top tips on how you can do this:
- Choose how you’ll consolidate. Whether this is on a national level, a regional level, or independent by chapters, you’ll want to base this decision on how consistent you want your donor experience to be and how you want reporting to take place.
- Develop an action plan. Your action plan should include understanding your current process, putting together a matching gift team, optimizing the verification process, and determining your revenue goals.
- Standardize the follow-up process. Set clear guidelines to ensure individual chapters are identifying and following up with match-eligible donors. This way, you can continue the conversation around matching gifts and create a more consistent donor experience.
- Standardize the overall process. Beyond following up, select someone who can keep your organization on track to help standardize the process across chapters or affiliates. And don’t forget to make it positive! Help each section of your organization see the benefits of consistency.
These strategies can make a huge difference if your organization runs in multiple locations. A consistent process will help your teams avoid missing out on matching gift opportunities and create specific guidelines each unit should follow.
13. Are matching gifts the only type of corporate giving?
Nope! There are many other types of corporate philanthropy.
From monetary grants for volunteer hours to programs that take place on the corporate side, here are some of the top corporate giving programs:
Also known as Dollars for Doers programs, volunteer grants are a type of corporate philanthropy in which companies provide monetary grants to organizations where their employees regularly volunteer.
Here’s how volunteer grants work:
- An individual volunteers with a nonprofit.
- The individual tracks their hours and submits a request for a volunteer grant with their company.
- The company verifies the hours with the nonprofit.
- The company provides a check to the nonprofit.
If you already have a dedicated group of volunteers, encourage them to check their eligibility for a volunteer grant. You might be able to get some extra corporate dollars this way!
Tip: Did you know that matching gift software can also provide information about volunteer grants? Check out Double the Donation to learn more.
Fundraising matches are similar to matching gifts in that donations are matched by a company.
Fundraising matches apply to fundraising events, like walkathons or 5Ks. The event participant’s employer will then match the money the participant raises through sponsorships or other donations.
Automatic Payroll Deductions
One of the simplest forms of corporate giving is automatic payroll deductions. Through this corporate giving program, employees have a portion of their paycheck donated to a nonprofit on a regular basis.
But hold on! Specific companies may have guidelines on which organizations they’ll donate to.
Typically, the organization has to share similar values with the company, like environmental causes or other issues. Once your organization has been approved, this is a great source of recurring donations.
Many companies donate more than just money to nonprofits. Some also provide in-kind donations, which means goods or services. To give you an example, a company might donate computers, consulting services, or even food to organizations.
In-kind donations are an awesome way to benefit nonprofits and give companies a sense of pride in helping a worthy cause.
Looking for more types of corporate giving programs? Check out this guide.
14. This is great to know! Where can I learn more?
If you’re looking for additional information about matching gifts, we’ve handpicked some helpful resources below:
- Corporate Matching Gift Programs: Understanding the Basics. Learn the ins and outs of matching gift programs with this guide from Double the Donation.
- Corporate Giving and Matching Gift Statistics. Understanding the impact matching gifts can have on your organization means understanding the numbers. Explore some top matching gift statistics here.
- Matching Gifts: A Q&A Guide for Nonprofit Organizations. If you’re interested in learning even more about matching gift programs, check out this guide from re:Charity.