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How to raise more funds with a matching gift program

Every year, nonprofits miss out on billions in potential matching gift revenue. Discover how to close that gap with donation matching programs.

Anna Bean
February 12, 2024
February 24, 2021
Nerd Mr Butter

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What if, just by asking, you could double the amount of money your nonprofit brings in from donations each year?

This isn’t a trick, but rather a fundraising technique that not enough organizations take advantage of: matching gift programs. Matching donations are an untapped source of income that’s just waiting there, ready to be given. In fact, an estimated $4–$7 billion (yes, with a b!) in matching gift funds goes unclaimed every year.

In this guide, we’ll look at the different kinds of corporate matching to help you find the right fit for your organization, explain how to set up a matching gift program, and share top tips for promoting matching gifts to your supporters. Plus, we've got four free matching gift letter templates so you can start building your matching gift program right away.

What is a matching gift program?

A matching gift program is a kind of corporate philanthropy in which a company's charitable contribution "matches" that of its employees. An employee donates to an organization they want to support, submits a matching gift request, that request is approved, and the money goes straight from the company to the nonprofit.

Corporate gift matching usually happens on a 1-to-1 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 an even more generous 2-to-1, 3-to-1, or even 4-to-1 gift ratio. That initial $100 becomes $200, $300, or $400 toward your fundraising goal.

Matching gift program graphic

Nonprofits can benefit greatly from joining this kind of corporate giving program, and companies enjoy benefits as well. Donation matching programs appeal to many companies as a way to make a positive impact and hit those corporate social responsibility checkboxes. Employer matches are also a great way to attract and retain the kind of reliable employees that care about supporting others. It’s a win-win.

So why do so many matching gift funds go unclaimed? The answer is donor awareness.

Donor awareness continues to be the major roadblock that nonprofits face when trying to raise more from matching gifts. Many people aren’t aware that their company has a program or how to claim a match from their employer.

Nonprofits need to get savvy about educating their donors and utilizing matching gift software that makes it easier than ever to get those donations matched.

Your easy guide to donation matching programs

When we think of matching gifts, we often think of companies matching their employees’ donations, but that’s just one type of donation matching. Let’s explore three different donation matching programs and how they work in more detail.

1. Employee donation matching 🙋

An employee matching gift program is one of the most popular workplace giving strategies. This kind of corporate matching gift program offers employees the chance to have their charitable donations matched by their employer, resulting in a bigger donation for the nonprofit recipient.

Employee donation matching programs often have eligibility rules. They might be open to all employees, but matching gift guidelines may note different requirements or match ratios for part-time employees, retirees, or contractors.

Each company sets their own minimum donation amount (say, $25) and maximum amount ($10K) that they’ll match per employee. So, if your donors send $10 from their Venmo balance, or write a generous $12K check, their employer may not match it. On the other hand, this limit resets each year, so donors can max out their contributions.

💪 See it in action: The GE Foundation claims to have created the concept of corporate matching gift programs in 1954, and their employees used it to raise $6.2M through matching gifts in 2021. GE offers 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 🏢

Another way to make every donation go further is to ask a business to match your funds. This strategy is different from an employee matching gift program because you and your donors may not have any direct connection to the business. Instead, you personally ask the company to contribute to your donation matching campaign.

Changemakers often assume it’ll be hard to find corporate sponsorships, but that isn’t the case. Many companies already have corporate philanthropy programs in place and welcome sponsorship proposals. It’s a partnership that works for you both—you receive extra funds, and they enhance their brand reputation.

Many companies will be flexible with the match ratio, but they will want to set a maximum match amount. For instance, they’ll commit to a 2:1 match up to $10,000. This makes it easy for them to budget and gives you reassurance over what they’re happy to commit to.

💪 See it in action: The North Bay Children’s Center, a childcare nonprofit providing education and safety net services for disadvantaged children and their families, raised over $214K 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. Matching gift challenges ⏰

A matching gift challenge is like asking a business to match your funds, but with a twist—if you don’t raise enough money, you don’t receive the matching funds. With a matching gift challenge, it’s a race against time to motivate your supporters to raise funds for your major donor to match.

This situation might sound intimidating, but it can actually work in your favor. The sense of urgency can motivate supporters to give before the clock runs out and their doubled donations disappear. They’ll want to jump on board while they can, so their dollars go even further for your cause.

A major donor can be any individual, business, or organization that’s willing to provide a substantial donation if the right conditions are met. Typically, these donors offer a 1:1 match ratio up to a certain amount. For instance, you set a fundraising goal of $25K by August 1. If you reach it, they’ll also donate $25K.

This kind of high-risk, high-reward strategy can motivate your supporters in a big way.

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

Download free matching gift letter templates

Save time with free matching donation letter templates that are ready to download, customize, and send via email or direct mail. This pack also includes a matching gift thank you letter and email template so you can build corporate sponsor connections that last.

How to set up a matching gift program for your nonprofit

Matching gift programs can generate massive results for nonprofits if they’re organized and promoted in the right way. Follow these four steps to set your nonprofit up for success and make donation matching a core part of your fundraising strategy.

Step 1: Get the right tools in place 🛠️

It’s never been easier to encourage your donors to check for gift matching options from their employers.

Givebutter's seamless integration with Double the Donation offers donation matching during the payment flow, right from your fundraising pages and donation forms. The 360MatchPro search tool streamlines the process, allowing donors to determine if they’re eligible for corporate matches against a matching gift database, access their employer's request form, and apply—all without leaving your donation screen.

Think about how your supporters experience the donation process. Catching your donors while they’re in the giving mindset means they’re more likely to submit a matching request, and might even make a larger donation.

Step 2: Showcase matching gifts on your campaigns 💥

In addition to offering a smoother matching process for individual supporters through their workplace, you can take advantage of donation matching on a much larger scale by launching a match as part of a bigger fundraising campaign.

With Givebutter's free, built-in donation matching feature, you can highlight a company or individual that has offered to match donations right on your donation form or fundraising page. When enabled, the match is applied to every donation you receive, boosting your campaign progress bar in real time and popping up on your public supporter feed to keep that matching momentum moving toward your goal.

Make gift matching easy with Givebutter

Step 3: Educate and inspire donors 🤓

Matching gifts can bring any nonprofit's fundraising plan to the next level. But if nobody knows about these invaluable opportunities, you can’t expect your donors to take part. Once your donors learn about matching gifts, they'll be even more excited to contribute.

In fact, 84% of donors are more likely to donate if a match is offered, and 1 in 3 donors say they’d give a larger gift if it was matched.

These strategies can help raise awareness about your ongoing donation matching program and get your supporters pumped to participate:

  • Website: Highlight donation matching as an option on your "Ways to support" page. You may even want to create a dedicated matching gifts page that explains how it works.
  • Donation pages: Highlight matching gifts on your donation forms, confirmation screens, and gift acknowledgments.
  • Email: Run specific email campaigns promoting matching gifts. And remember to highlight donation matching during your seasonal campaigns.
  • Social media: Announce matching gift campaigns and time-based challenges on your social media platforms. Tag popular companies that offer matching gifts to increase donor awareness and your reach.
  • Direct donor engagement: Nothing beats one-to-one conversations with your supporters! Bring up matching gift opportunities whenever you can.

Step 4: Cast a wide net  🎣

To successfully integrate donation matching into your larger fundraising strategy, you must be active. Appoint a staffer or board member as your resident “matching gifts expert” and challenge them to grow your matching gift revenue through donor research and engagement.

And remember, donation matching programs aren't only about individual donors. Track trends and look for opportunities to develop partnerships with companies in your community. Have a big fundraising event coming up? Secure a corporate sponsorship match, or work a matching gift challenge into your event planning.

Step 5: Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up 👋

Always follow up with your donors, sponsors, and potential supporters. Not only does it give you a valuable way to build that all-important donor relationship, but it’s another opportunity to remind them about matching donations.

After they donate, display a thank you message with a reminder to check for gift matching programs. Follow up with a personalized email that mentions the benefits of matching donations. Give your supporters every possible chance to make their money go further with corporate giving programs.

Pro tip: Let automation do the heavy lifting. Givebutter’s Double the Donation integration includes automatic, personalized email outreach designed to capture any potentially lost matches from eligible donors, which you can customize to reflect your nonprofit's voice and personality.

Raise more with matching gift programs

There are matching funds out there ready and waiting—you just need to encourage your supporters to help you unlock them. You have everything you need to build a strategic matching gift program that inspires companies to get involved and motivates donors to submit those valuable matching gift requests.

Remember, setting up a matching gift program doesn’t need to be complicated. Lean on technology to make the matching gift process as smooth as possible.

Sign up for your free Givebutter account to start maximizing your donations by matching gifts seamlessly from your fundraising pages and donation forms.

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