Corporate matching gift programs: Understanding the essentials

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Claudia cares so much about a nonprofit that she donates $500 to the organization. The donation is well received, but Claudia discovers that the nonprofit needs another $500 to cover the expenses for upcoming programs. Claudia wants to help more, but she’s got three kids in college. Is there a way for Claudia to give twice as much without sacrificing more of her own money?

Yes, and the answer, in some cases, is a matching gift.


What is a matching gift?

When Claudia received her thank you message from the nonprofit, it reminded her to check if her company offers a matching gift program and, if so, to submit a matching gift request.

In Claudia’s case, her company matches donations from employees. Claudia submits her request and her employer sends the nonprofit an additional $500. This turns Claudia’s $500 donation into a $1,000 donation, allowing the nonprofit to pay for its programs.

The donation from the company is what is called a matching gift, and it is a benefit that many corporations offer to their staff. Corporations may double, triple, or even quadruple charitable gifts on behalf of both US and Canadian employees.

While each company sets its own matching gift guidelines, eligible organizations often include:

  • K-12 schools, universities, and other educational institutions
  • Healthcare organizations, such as hospitals and substance abuse programs
  • Arts and cultural organizations, which include aquariums, museums, and public broadcasting stations
  • Environmental and animal rescue organizations
  • Community-based social services, such as homeless shelters

How do these programs work?

Many donors work for companies with matching gift programs. Successful matching gift fundraising hinges on identifying eligible donors.

Once you find eligible donors, you can assure them that the process of submitting matching gift requests is relatively simple:

  1. Someone, such as Claudia, makes a donation to a nonprofit.
  2. The donor contacts her HR department or looks up her company’s matching gift information on a nonprofit’s website to learn how to submit a matching gift request either online or via paper forms.
  3. The employer makes a donation according to its matching ratio (1:1, 2:1, 3:1, etc.).
  4. The nonprofit receives additional funds on top of the original donation.

Who offers matching gifts?

Sixty-five percent of Fortune 500 companies match employee donations, as do many other companies in both the US and Canada.

In 2015, the top global companies with matching gift programs included:

  • Boeing
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Microsoft
  • BP
  • State Street

While these are large global companies, there are also many Canadian-based companies (or companies with a large number of Canadian employees) that match donations. A few examples include:

  • Bank of Montreal
  • Bell Canada Enterprises
  • Gildan Activewear
  • Intuit
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Sun Life Financial
  • Thomson Reuters

However, it isn't only industry leaders who offer matching gift programs. Millions of Canadians work for companies that want to support the community and will match donations. A nonprofit’s goal is to remind donors to find out if their company is one that offers a matching gift program.

How should Canadian organizations promote matching gifts?

There are a number of ways for eligible nonprofits to market matching gifts:

1. Email. Use a variety of messages, including acknowledgement (thank you) notes, year-end appeals, and newsletters to promote matching gifts. You might even mention it in your email signature.

2. Social media. Facebook and Twitter are great places to let your donors and stakeholders know about how easy it is to double a donation.

3. Website. Promote matching gifts on your homepage, donation and confirmation forms, blog, ways to give page, and don't forget to teach donors all about matching gifts through a dedicated matching gift page.

4. Internal promotion. Choose a matching gift leader and form a team to create a culture of promoting matching gifts that reaches from your staff to donors to prospects.

5. Direct mail. Letters, postcards, paper inserts, newsletters, and return envelopes can all be used to inform donors about how easy it is to double a donation.

Because matching gifts are the closest your nonprofit can get to a free donation, and are an important part of workplace giving programs, it’s worth your while to promote them. Realistically, if you aren't creating awareness about these programs among your donors, then you are leaving money on the table.

Inexpensive strategies exist for Canadian nonprofits to market matching gifts. These cost-effective strategies shouldn’t take too much time to set up and can help more donors to see how far their money can go.

Example #1: Newsletters

Most of your donors use email, and you likely send out daily, weekly, or monthly newsletters. Your donors are passionate about your nonprofit and want to receive updates. They also want to learn how to help out more, such as through the quick, simple submission of an online matching gift request.

The best practice is to dedicate an entire newsletter, something like one or two a year, to matching gifts, such as the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association does:

The newsletter is able to dive into specific details about matching gift programs, and provides a blatant link, the blue button, as an obvious way for donors to navigate to a page with more information. Moreover, since the newsletter is all about matching gifts, there is only one call to action, which is to submit a matching gift request, meaning that donors’ attentions are not torn in various directions.

If your nonprofit has so much going on that you can’t dedicate an entire email to matching gifts then the next best option is to incorporate matching gifts into a split newsletter, such as this one from the National Kidney Foundation:

This newsletter announces the success from an event and then also has a call to action encouraging donors to see if their company will match their gift. This remains a great split newsletter, but, if possible, an email focused solely on matching gifts provides more focus and should result in more corporate giving participation.

Example #2: Dedicated matching gift page

When donors click the link in your newsletters, where are they directed? It should be to a page that provides more information about matching gifts.

A good dedicated matching gift page might include the following:

  • How matching gifts benefit your organization
  • Which companies donated to your nonprofit last year
  • Matching gift statistics
  • A list of companies who offer matching gifts
  • Tips on how to submit matching gifts
  • A widget for people to instantly search and find out if their companies offer matching gift programs (from a matching gift service)
  • Links to relevant websites

The ASPCA provides a nice example of a dedicated matching gift page:

Many nonprofits can’t afford a matching gift service, and that’s okay. Incorporating other elements from the above bulleted list will help to properly educate donors and encourage them to submit gift requests. The perk of the ASPCA’s widget from Double the Donation is that it allows donors to easily search for their companies and to access matching gift guidelines and submission forms. However, links, lists, and well-written instructions can achieve strong results for nonprofits on a budget.

Writing up a good dedicated matching gift page shouldn’t take too much time, and here is some great writing advice to help you out.

Example #3: Facebook

While many businesses complain that social media doesn’t have the reach it used to, social media is still a great place for nonprofits to spread their messages. People love to connect with the causes they care about, and there’s almost no easier way than through a social network like Facebook. Nonprofits can share their stories and interact with donors through videos, pictures, and text posts.

The Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association shares a stellar Facebook post:

The text explains how matching gifts help the organization and provides a call to action for donors to check if their companies offer matching gifts. Also, the picture encourages people to look at the post in the first place. The conspicuous blue text and inviting ice cream is attention grabbing and will encourage users to read on for more information.

Try incorporating a matching gift appeal into the occasional Facebook post. Keep the posts focused and make them fun, if you can, because these are more likely to be shared, liked and commented on, which ultimately boosts the reach of your post.

Matching gifts are an easy, inexpensive way to boost fundraising, but many eligible donors don’t submit matching gifts due to a lack of awareness about such corporate giving programs. Spread the word, educate your donors, and improve your fundraising campaigns today.

At the end of the day, as a nonprofit in Canada, you need every penny you can get, and matching gifts are a simple, smart way to increase fundraising.

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation. Double the Donation is the leading provider of matching gift and volunteer grant tools for nonprofits all designed to help organizations raise more money from employee giving programs. If you'd like to connect with Adam you can do so via email, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

Photos (from top) via and Adam Weinger. All photos used with permission.

Please note: While we ensure that all links and email addresses are accurate at their publishing date, the quick-changing nature of the web means that some links to other web sites and email addresses may no longer be accurate.

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