Receiving donations is good. Receiving more than you anticipated is even better. That’s what makes receiving matching gifts so awesome! When your donors make a gift to your nonprofit, are their gifts eligible for a match from their employer or a matching gift campaign? If so, are you letting them know that, or are you leaving money on the table? Make the most of matching gifts by employing these best practices for asking for and receiving matching gifts.
What are matching gifts?
There are basically two types of matching gifts.
Corporate and personal matching gifts match a donation up to a specific amount of money. These gifts can come from a donor’s employer and require completion of matching gift paperwork, or they could come from individuals who agree to match donations they receive.
The second type of gift matching comes from matching gift campaigns. Typically, your organization recruits a business, benefactor, board member, or foundation to promise to match gifts made up to a certain dollar amount. Then, you send appeals letting donors know about the match and encourage them to give. Your organization then reports the amount of money in donations it received to the match provider, who matches up to the promised amount. You can acquire match sponsors through personal asks or, in the case of some foundations, via a formal grant application.
How to promote matching gifts
The number one way for your nonprofit to encourage donors to seek a match for their donations is to communicate with them about what a matching donation is and how they work. Many donors who are eligible for matching gifts aren’t applying for them simply because they don’t know the option’s available to them. In fact, mentioning matching gifts in appeals can lead to a 71% increase in response rate and a 51% increase in the average donation amount according to a statistic shared in Double the Donation’s Marketing Matching Gifts: The Complete Guide.
Promote matching gifts on your online donation form
Promote matching gifts at your nonprofit by asking donors if they’re seeking a matching gift for their donation on the donation confirmation page of your online donation form. Include a link to a blog post or article that answers “What is a matching gift?” to provide them with information on what a matching gift is.
Qgiv users who have a HEPData eMatch Portal or Double the Donation 360MatchPro account have access to a service integration that places a search bar on their donation forms. Above the search bar is text asking donors to search for their employer to determine if they have a matching gift program. Donors can find this information and apply for the matching gift within seconds of completing their donation!
Promote matching gifts in your appeals
You can also proactively seek out matching gifts by adding an insert or mention of matching gifts in mailed and emailed appeal letters. The insert should mention what a matching gift is, how donors should ask their employer to match their gift, and offer a way to communicate to the nonprofit that they’re seeking a matching gift.
Promote matching gift campaigns in apeals and on social
If your organization is running a matching gift campaign in which all donations up to a certain dollar amount are being matched by a foundation, board member, or other matching gift sponsor, promote that giving campaign with your appeals and on social media. Be sure to share with donors that their gifts to the campaign will be matched and their gifts will go even farther.
Rules for matching gifts
There is no core rulebook to follow when addressing matching gifts, but corporate matching gift programs typically share many of the same rules. Ultimately, when determining whether your organization is eligible for a matching gift the decision is made based on criteria set by the matching gift company. Each company that matches gifts will make their decisions based on different criteria.
Minimum and maximum gift amounts
The first thing corporate matching gift programs assess is whether the donor’s donation amount is eligible for a match. The minimum and maximum gift amounts vary from company to company but most have a clear maximum dollar amount they’ll match up to. Donations below the donation minimum are ineligible.
Is the nonprofit eligible to receive the matching gift?
The next thing corporate matching gift programs look for is confirmation that your nonprofit is eligible to receive the gift match. Eligibility varies from program to program.
Typically, nonprofits with a 501 (c) (3) designation are eligible so long as they don’t discriminate when providing services.
On the other hand, religious organizations are typically ineligible to receive matching gifts from corporate matching gift programs. There are, however, exceptions to every rule. Religious organizations may qualify for the gift match if they affirm the donation is being used for a non-religious purpose offered to the community regardless of religous beliefs.
Can the nonprofit verify the donor made the gift?
The last consideration corporate matching gift programs typically make is whether or not the nonprofit organization received the donation.
In most cases, your organization will receive an email or letter containing paperwork the matching gift program will use to determine whether the donor’s gift will be matched.
This paperwork typically asks your organization if a donation was received, how the donation and matched gift will be used, if your organization is a registered nonprofit, and will ask for confirmation of the donor’s original gift amount.
You must complete and submit the paperwork
It’s important to note that receiving a matching gift from a corporate matching gift program is contingent upon completing this paperwork. Be sure to complete and return paperwork from matching gift companies quickly to avoid missing out on matched gifts.
It may help to keep a spreadsheet or run a report of anticipated matching gifts. This way, you know which businesses to look for correspondence from. Track the status of the matched gift and update it in the spreadsheet. This way, everyone on the team knows the status of the matched gift.
Special rules for foundations matching gifts
If your nonprofit is matching gifts with the help of a foundation, they will have special rules. Those foundations’ rules vary from organization to organization.
The limitations corporate matching gift programs have may not apply in this case. Be sure to read and understand a foundation’s rules before applying for them to match gifts for a campaign.
How to acknowledge matching gifts
Always thank your donors and acknowledge their original gift. You should also thank them for applying for a matching gift. Keep your donor in the loop. Let them know when the matched gift comes in.
Who gets credit for the matching gift?
While your donor applied for the match, the matching gift company made the gift. Therefore, the company should receive the credit for the matching amount. Your donor should only receive credit for the original amount they donated.
Do I send a thank you letter to the matching gift company?
The short answer is usually no.
Typically, when corporations match donations they’ll send a notice asking not to be acknowledged. This notice arrives with their payment. This is because they make thousands of matching gifts in a year. Receiving that many gift acknowledgments back could easily overwhelm their matching gifts department.
These companies can easily track their overall annual giving for tax purposes. They will not need the acknowledgment letter for tax purposes.
There are exceptions to the rule
Most companies will request no acnowledgments. However, smaller companies making an effort to match gifts may not include a notice not to acknowledge the gift. If you recognize the name of a smaller, local company matching an employee’s gift, you can send an acknowledgment.
As always, corporate matching gift programs vary. If you receive a matching gift and the company requests an acknowledgment letter, be sure to send one.
Show the impact of matching gifts
Much like you want to communicate the overall amount raised toward a specific fundraising goal, you want to communicate about matched gifts. When donors make matched gifts to your organization, they want to see the impact of their gift.
Be transparent and let them know what that matched gift was able to accomplish.
In the case of a major matching gift campaign this is even more important! Donors give to a matching gift campaign because their donation goes twice as far and make twice the difference. Share the overall amount raised and break that figure down. How much did invidual donors raise? How much was matched? What did reaching that fundraising goal accomplish? These are all questions you’ll need to answer to show the impact of matching gifts during a matching gift campaign.
Your organization may also want to consider making matching gifts a more common bit of vocabulary in your donor communications. Ask donors to regularly seek matching gifts for their donations. Then, prepare an annual matching gifts report. In the report, share how much matching gift donations amounted to. Knowing their gifts can go twice as far is a huge motivator for donors. Thus, sharing the impact of matching gifts is key.
Matching gifts can be a great way to support your nonprofit’s programs. Start a matching program at your organization to ensure you’re asking for matches. Have a process in place for tracking the status of matching gift paperwork. Consider hosting a matching gift campaign. With the help of a matching sponsor or asking donors to request matches from their employers, your nonprofit can see a huge increase in the value of individual donations.