Matching Gifts: The Nonprofit's Guide to Raising More Money

Read the ultimate guide to matching gifts

Are you a member of America's Charities? Check out these matching gift discounts from Double the Donation, offered exclusively to our nonprofit members. Click here for details

Who doesn’t love a good "buy one, get one free" sale? And how great is it when a vending machine gives you two candy bars instead of one?

Matching gifts are the fundraising equivalent of both of those experiences.

This guide will take you through the basics of matching gifts, explain how to market these opportunities to your supporters, and then breakdown the best tools for boosting your organization’s matching gift program.

Specifically, we'll be answering the following questions:

  1. What are matching gifts?
  2. How do matching gift programs work?
  3. What are the most effective ways of marketing matching gifts?
  4. What are the best matching gift software solutions available?

Let’s get started!

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1. What are matching gifts?

Matching gifts are corporate philanthropy programs that reward employees’ charitable donations. Basically, when an employee makes a donation to an eligible nonprofit, the employer will also donate to that organization. 

Though each company sets its own specifications, most matching gift programs will include the following components:

  • Minimums and maximums: This refers to the actual donation amount. If the minimum is $25, a $15 donation will not be matched. If the maximum is $500, but a donor gives $1,000, the company will match up to the maximum. This results in $1,500 for the organization, which is great news!
  • Match ratio: The match ratio defines how much a company will donate in relation to the original donation. If the ratio is 1:1, the company will give the exact same amount as their employee. If it's 2:1, the company will give twice as much. 
  • Employee eligibility: Sometimes, the specifications of a match change based on the employee's eligibility. A part-time employee may be eligible for a 1:1 match, while a CEO is eligible for 2:1, and a retiree is eligible for .5:1.
  • Nonprofit eligibility: Companies will occasionally clarify what types of nonprofits they will match donations to. For example, airlines commonly focus their corporate philanthropy efforts toward education-based organizations. 
  • Deadlines: It is crucial that your donors know when their matching gift requests are due. Deadlines are commonly scheduled around the end of the year and Tax Day in April. It is also common to see a deadline based on the initial donation date. For example, a donor might have three months after the initial donation is made to submit that matching gift request to their employer. 

Here’s the point: 65% of large companies in the U.S. match employee donations. Matching gifts can mean more money for your nonprofit without having to ask your supporters for more donations. 

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2. How do matching gift programs work?

The process for matching gifts is simple and standardized. It can be broken down into four steps:

  1. Employee makes initial donation
  2. Employee submits matching gift request to employer
  3. Employer confirms eligibility of donor, donation, and the nonprofit organization
  4. Nonprofit receives a check!

The most common breakdown in this process, by far, is seen at step number two. Unfortunately, the nonprofit can not make the matching gift request; the donor has to do it.

 The most effective action for an organization to take is communicating with every potential donor aout matching gifts. 

Here’s the point: Marketing should be the top priority for a nonprofit organization when it comes to matching gifts. It is so important to make sure that donors know exactly what matching gifts are and how to request them!

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3. What are the most effective ways of marketing matching gifts?

As you plan your matching gift strategy, it's important to consider the mindset of your donor. You want to mention matching gifts when it's most relevant, actionable, and easy for the donor.

We're going to walk through the most effective places to provide information about matching gifts to your donors.

A. Include matching gifts on your donation form

Donor engagement is at its highest during the donation process. When they are already donating, you know that your supporters are fully committed to helping your nonprofit reach its goals. What better time to educate donors about matching gift programs?

Check out this example from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society:

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Note that the matching gift information is at the top of the donation form, right underneath the "Gift Amount" field. This placement ensures that donors will see the matching gift tool and use it to look up their employers'  matching gift programs. They they'll get all the information they need on the confirmation page...

Here's the point: Matching gifts should be an integral part of the donation process. This way, donors who are eager to support your organization will be presented with the information they need to double their donations. 

B. Include matching gifts on your confirmation page

Capturing the donor's attention as soon as they make a contribution significantly increases the chance that they will submit that matching gift request, so it is crucial to present them with the information that they need in a compelling way. 

Take a look below at the donation confirmation screen presented by the American Cancer Fund. They thank the donor for their support, inform them that a receipt is available, and then — in large letters — direct their donors to “See if your company will match your donation”:

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With the search tool embedded right on the confirmation page, donors are able to check their match-eligibility without leaving the American Cancer Fund's website. Plus, when they do search for their employers, the employers' matching gift information is presented immediately on the same page. Check it out:

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When all the information is in front of them, complete with a link to the actual matching gift request forms, the donors have no reason not to take the few moments necessary to complete that match request.

Here’s the point: Donors are most likely to take the time to get their gifts matched while they are still riding whatever force brought them to your donation form in the first place. All you have to do is make sure they have the opportunity.

C. Include matching gifts in your year-end fundraising

The end of the year is a lucrative time for nonprofits. In fact, according to this article

“35 percent to 42 percent of online giving happens in November and December alone, with more than 20% of all giving for the entire year occurring in the last 48 hours of the calendar year!”

With so many year-end donations coming in through online channels, it’s imperative that nonprofits take the opportunity to market matching gift programs to their donors.

The end of the year also happens to be the deadline for many matching gift programs, making it a doubly important time to get the word out about matching gifts.

See how AARF Atlanta stressed the importance of meeting those deadlines in this end-of-year tweet:

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Here’s the point: With #GivingTuesday, the generosity of the holiday season, and many matching gift deadlines all happening in the same few weeks, you can't ignore opportunities that they end of the year presents. Think strategically about when you want to push matching gifts and watch as the extra fundraising dollars come in. 

D. Spread information about matching gifts on social media

Social media is a powerful tool for nonprofits. Whether you're on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, or another site, social media can be a great way to reach out to your donors. 

Let's look at an example from the National Kidney Foundation's Facebook page: 

The National Kidney Foundation posted a matching gift promotion on Facebook that garnered quite a bit of attention (8 comments, 465 likes, and 181 shares). How’d they do it?

  1. The post is short and to the point. People don’t like to see a ton of text filling up their newsfeeds. Keep your matching gift promotions short and sweet.
  2. They linked out to more info. Give your followers a way to read more specific information about matching gift programs and how they can submit their requests. Once donors know the possibilities, they are much more likely to submit a matching gift request. 
  3. They included a graphic. The National Kidney Foundation’s graphic matches their organization’s colors and includes a fact about matching gifts. This creates visual interest and draws your followers’ eyes to your post.

If your nonprofit can regularly promote matching gifts across these social media platforms, you can potentially double the donations of everyone in those audiences. 

Here’s the point: Everyone is on social media these days, so it's a great way for your nonprofit to meet your donors where they are. 

E. Inform your donors about matching gifts in your emails 

Most people have one or two email addresses that they check on a regular basis.

The pervasion of email makes this communication channel a no-brainer for matching gift promotion.

Let’s take a look at an example:

The Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association (CMTA) has used their eNews email to let donors know about matching gifts.

This email works for a couple of reasons:

  1. There are multiple links. They’ve included a link in the copy, and the button on the right side also links out to more information. Always give donors at least two ways to get to more information.
  2. They give detailed, yet brief, instructions. The email gives donor specific instructions on how to submit their match request. 

You can include matching gift information in your newsletters, as a line in your email signature, or you can dedicate an entire email just to matching gifts!

Here’s the point: Email is a nearly universal way for people to stay in touch with each other. Your nonprofit should be part of that conversation and use your emails to advertise matching gift programs.

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4. What are the best matching gift software solutions available?

Now that you know all there is to know about matching gifts, let's talk about how to start raking in that extra revenue!

Here at America's Charities, we love Double the Donation.

They offer various matching gift software solutions that help organizations of any size enhance their matching gift efforts.

The basis of every Double the Donation software solution is the extensive database that they've built and continue to update daily. This database includes 20,000 companies, subsidiaries, and even spelling variations, which almost completely removes the risk of user error.

This database includes more than 99% of existing matching gift programs, which ensures that every single matching gift opportunity can be seized.

Double the Donation offers three product plans:

  • Basic
  • Premium
  • 360MatchPro

Let's talk a bit about each plan and break down exactly who each plan is best suited for. 

1. Basic Plan

With the basic plan, your organization is given a hosted page on Double the Donation's website where your donors can search for their employers' matching gift guidelines. This page is branded to match your main website, and you can link to this site as often as you want. 

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With this plan, your donors will have access to Double the Donation's extensive database of matching gift programs, thus increasing your annual matching gift revenue. This plan is perfect for organizations collecting between $3,000 and $15,000 in matching gifts. 

2. Premium Plan

This option allows an organization to embed Double the Donation's matching gift search tool directly onto their website, which encourages donors to search for their employers right then and there. Plus, an organization can embed the tool directly onto their confirmation page, which we know is a very effective marketing strategy.

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This plan is best for organizations raising between $10,000 and $25,000 annually in matching gifts. Embedding a search tool on the organization's website is a perfect next step in boosting that matching gift revenue even more.

Plus, if your organization is a member of America's Charities, you are eligible to receive the Premium Plan for free!

3. 360MatchPro

Double the Donation's most robust tool, 360MatchPro is a fully customizable, automated, matching gift super-platform! With 360MatchPro, an organization sheds the need to employ a matching gift manager. 

When a donation is made, donor information flows automatically into 360MatchPro. Employment information is collected for each donor through both email domain screening and self-reporting. You can see what this looks like here:

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Emails are triggered out automatically based on that employment information. If a donor is match-eligible, they will get an email encouraging them to submit a matching gift request and presenting all the necessary paperwork to do so. These emails can be customized and branded, so it looks like these communications come straight from the organization's headquarters. Check out the example below!

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360MatchPro also provides actionable insights to help shape and enhance an organization's existing matching gift strategy. This platform is revolutionary for organizations collecting over $25,000 in matching gift revenue.

Again, America's Charities members are eligible for a special discount on 360MatchPro. New Double the Donation clients are eligible for a one-time discount of $499, and existing Double the Donation clients are eligible for a one-time discount of $999 off!

Here's the point: No matter the size of your organization, there is a matching gift tool out there that's right for you. The money is out there waiting to be claimed, all you have to do is present your donors with the opportunity. So take these tools and start getting those gifts matched!

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Matching gifts are an excellent way for nonprofits to potentially double their fundraising revenue without asking supporters for more donations.

You can learn even more about matching gifts here and here.

And check out the partnership between America’s Charities and Double the Donation where America's Charities members get special pricing and discounts on Double the Donation's services.