Guide to donation matching: Options, examples, and how to get started

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Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

Guide to donation matching: Options, examples, and how to get started

A donation matching campaign is a powerful, proven way to energize your entire donor base and maximize your fundraising potential. 

According to Double the Donation, 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if their gift is matched. Not only that, but one in three donors say they’ll make a larger donation if the fundraiser offers gift matching. 

In other words, donation matching is a fundraising strategy that’s too good to ignore — and you don’t have to! In this article, we’ll go over three matching gift opportunities at your fingertips and give you tips and resources to secure a match. 

The 3 different types of matching gifts

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If you’ve been fundraising for a while, you’ve probably heard about employee matching gift programs. They’re a kind of donation match in which an employee donates to a nonprofit organization or other cause, and their employer matches (or doubles, triples, or quadruples) the amount of money they donated. They’re popular because there’s little to no work for your fundraising team, but this isn’t the only donation matching opportunity in town! 

Explore the three different types of gift matches — and examples of campaigns that used them successfully — to figure out which one is best for your cause. 

1. Employee donation matching 🙋

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An employee matching gift program is essentially a corporate social responsibility tool. Businesses use these programs to make a positive impact on their community and create a rewarding work environment for their employees at the same time. It’s also called a corporate matching gift program, or simply a matching gift program. 

As we discussed earlier, companies match their employees’ donations, allowing fundraisers to see twice the donations — without having to search for more donors or request larger gifts. 

Generally, companies offer a 1:1 match ratio.

For example, if a salesperson donates $100 to a global literacy nonprofit, their company will also donate $100. However, some companies go above and beyond, offering a 2:1, 3:1, or even 4:1 gift ratio. That initial $100 becomes $200, $300, or $400 toward your fundraising goal! 

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Most employee matching programs are open to all full-time employees, and then have different requirements or match ratios for part-time employees, retirees, and so on. 

Each company sets their own minimum donation amount (like $25) and maximum donation amount ($10,000) that they’ll match per employee. So, if your donors send $10 of their leftover Venmo money — or write a generous $8,000 check — their employer may not match it. On the bright side, donors can max out their donation because this limit resets each year. 

The biggest challenge with using employee matching gift programs for fundraising is that many of your donors don’t know that their employer offers it. Even if they do know, they may not understand how to submit a matching gift request for the first time. 

These problems add up: $4 to $7 billion in matching gift contributions go unclaimed each year.

It’s up to you to make the donating process fast and easy for donors. The simplest way is to use matching gift automation software, such as 360MatchPro by Double the Donation. It tells donors if they’re eligible for corporate matches and provides the link to their employer’s request form. 

Here’s how it works: 

  • Sign up for a free fundraising platform (like Givebutter) and create your fundraising page or online donation page. 
  • Activate the 360MatchPro search tool so your donors can look up matching gift information, like eligibility and how to apply, from your pages. 
  • Raise awareness through marketing and outreach, like adding the info to your fundraising pages and website, posting social media updates, and including it in your welcome emails. 

Example: General Electric

The GE Foundation claims to have created the concept of corporate matching gift programs in 1954, and their employees used it ro raise nearly $18 million in 2019. They offer a 1:1 match up to $5,000 per year for their full-time, part-time, and retired employees. Eligible nonprofits include arts and cultural centers, educational institutions, health services, civic groups, and more. 

2. Corporate donation matching 🏢

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Another way to make every donation go twice as far is to ask a business to match your funds. This is different from an employee matching gift program because you and your donors may not have any direct connection to the business. 

Instead, you’ll have to round up a list of potential companies, make a case for why they should support your cause, and then agree on the gift ratio and dollar amount that they’ll match. Many companies will be flexible with the match ratio, but set a maximum match  amount. For instance, they’ll commit to a 2:1 match up to $10,000.  

Finding a willing company and forging a connection isn’t as hard as you may think! For one, many companies already have corporate philanthropy programs in place. This is most common with medium and large corporations, and it’s on the rise. 

In this case, they commit to grant a certain amount of funds each year and usually have an application form on their website, ready to go. To see what we mean, check out this list of 53 companies that donate to nonprofits. While it’s easy to see if you’re match-eligible and apply online, you’ll likely have beat out many other fundraisers because they’re well-known programs. 

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Alternatively, you can reach out to businesses in your area. Local companies and small businesses have a direct interest in making their community a better place. After all, their suppliers, employees, and customers may live right down the street. 

You may be able to leverage an inside connection through your network of friends, family, former co-workers, or board members. You can also reach out to your state’s branch of the National Council of Nonprofits for leads on local matching gift companies.

Committing to a matching donation lets companies put their money where their “mouth” is, earning a positive brand reputation. They can also attract new employees and gain press attention — all factors you should highlight in your request letter

Example: NBCC's 32nd Annual Fall Benefit

The North Bay Children’s Center, a childcare nonprofit providing education and safety net services for disadvantaged children and their families, raised over $214,000 during their fall benefit with the help of a company match. Two of their corporate sponsors matched $70,000 in funds from their passionate donors. 

3. Donation matching challenges ⏰

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A matching gift challenge, the final type of donation match, is a great tool if you want to up the stakes and ultimately raise more money. Essentially, a major donor agrees to match your funds if — and only if — you raise a certain amount of money by a specific deadline. 

An all-or-nothing match may seem intimidating, but it can actually work to your advantage. First, every donor wants their dollar to work harder for your mission. A match offers an effortless way for their $50 gift to become a $100 gift. Second, the sense of urgency motivates your supporters to give before the clock runs out and their doubled donations disappear. They’ll want to jump on board while they can. 

The major donor for a matching gift challenge can be an individual, business, or other organization. Typically, these donors offer a 1:1 match ratio up to a certain amount. For instance, you’ll set a fundraising goal of $25,000 by February 1. If you reach it, they’ll also donate $25,000. 

If you’re crowdfunding or peer fundraising, having a generous donor on board can also signal that there’s significant support for your mission. And the challenge doesn’t just motivate your donors. It can light a fire under your fundraising team as well! Many match donors will increase their gift if you hit your goal before the deadline. For instance, they’ll offer an additional $15,000 in matched funds if your supporters reach that number, too. 

Example: SC Day of Giving 2021

Not only did the Skutt Catholic community raise $25,000 and secure a match of the same amount — they did it in just 24 hours during their SC Day of Giving 2021. To create some friendly competition, they split their supporters into two groups: alumni and non-alumni. Alumni were assigned teams based on the decade they graduated, complete with prizes and bragging rights. 

Doing more, dollar for dollar 💸

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There are pros and cons to adding the three different types of donation matching to your fundraising strategy. But one thing is clear: If you’ve only tried one option (or none) you could be missing out on funds! We hope these tips and resources have helped you decide which option to try, so you can start supercharging your campaigns.

One final tip? Money isn’t the only way an individual or organization can match your efforts! You can also request resources like in-kind donations (like food and drink, equipment, merchandise, and prizes), free services, volunteer hours, volunteer grants, marketing support, and more. You never know until you ask.

Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.