Matching Gifts: An Underutilized Fundraising Idea for Nonprofits

There is a way to raise more money from donors without asking them to give more of their own money. It’s a fundraising method that raises billions of dollars for nonprofits every year. The reason that your donors might not give you this extra money is because there is an unfortunate lack of awareness for these programs.

We’re talking about matching gifts, which are a type of corporate giving program that can be one of many strategies to boost all of your fundraising campaigns.

matching-giftsWhat is a matching gift?

When employees donate to nonprofits, many companies will match these donations if the nonprofit is registered as an eligible 501(c)(3) or similar charitable organization with the IRS. Not all companies offer charitable giving programs, so employees need to check either with their HR departments or with the help of a matching gift service.


As an example, imagine Cleaver, who works for Texas Instruments:

  1. Cleaver makes a $500 donation to his favorite nonprofit.
  2. The nonprofit thanks Cleaver and kindly asks him to see if he’s eligible to give a matching gift.
  3. Cleaver contacts Texas Instruments’ HR department and discovers that they’ll match his donation at a 1:1 (dollar-for-dollar) ratio.
  4. Cleaver submits a matching gift request through the Texas Instruments online portal.
  5. Texas Instruments approves of Cleaver’s request and writes the designated nonprofit a check for $500.
  6. The nonprofit receives both Cleaver’s $500 gift and the donation from Texas Instruments, doubling a $500 donation into a $1,000 donation.

While a calculator from Texas Instruments can solve calculus problems, matching gifts are much simpler. From fundraising for museums to fundraising for summer camps, matching gifts can provide easy, extra money that nonprofits can accrue simply by asking donors to check if their employers offer corporate giving programs.

What are important facts to know about matching gifts?

If you’re going to ask donors for matching gifts, then it’s important to know the lingo of the land:

  • Matching gift ratio – Most companies match/double donations by giving an amount equal to what the employee gave. Other companies might triple (2:1 ratio) or quadruple (3:1 ratio) donations.
  • Minimum matched – Most companies institute minimum donations. The typical minimum is either $25 or $50.
  • Maximum matched – Companies employ maximum amounts so that there’s enough money to go around to all employees who want to provide additional help to the causes they care about. Maximums vary greatly by company and can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
  • Who can apply? – Full-time employees, spouses, board members, part-time employees, and retirees all may be eligible for matching gifts. The specific eligible employees vary by company, and some employees may be able to apply for more matching gifts than others. For example, State Street permits employees to match higher donations depending on their level of employment status with the company. Other companies allow certain employees to apply for 1:1 matches, while permitting higher-level employees to request bigger matches, such as 2:1.
  • How do people submit matching gift requests? – Most employers make it easy for employees by offering online portals through which matching requests may be submitted. Other companies require that requests be submitted to the human resources department using a paper form, and some companies offer the convenience of both options.

Ever showed up to a party and people were using words you couldn’t understand? Now that won’t happen, so long as you’re attending matching gift parties (which, of course, are awesome, and far too rare…).

How can you promote matching gifts?

Knowing that the bakery down the street makes the most delicious cupcakes doesn’t do anything but whet your appetite. In order to satiate your grumbling stomach, you need to actually go to the bakery, buy a cupcake, and eat that dessert like it’s your mouth’s perfect match.

Marketing matching gifts doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Some simple promotional techniques, especially those geared toward the growing presence of online fundraising, can help to spread the word to eligible donors, so they don’t just think about submitting matching requests, but actually do.


Whether you’re running a homeless shelter or a  grateful patient program, one of the easiest promotional techniques is implementing matching gift messaging in your email signature. Email signatures can do a surprising amount of work, as you likely send emails to donors, your staff, and prospects.

Donors who are eligible might see the matching gift appeal and finally decide to submit a request. Staff could see the message and decide to incorporate matching gift asks into their own talks with donors. When prospects are made aware of matching gifts, your nonprofit really stands to benefit.

A test revealed that donation appeals featuring matching gifts earned a 37% higher response rate and raised 54% more revenue. The average gift was also 63% higher. Something about knowing that their money can do more encourages donors not only to give, but to be a little more generous with their gifts.

The text for an email signature can be as simple as one of the following examples:

  • Are you eligible for a matching gift? Find out now if you can double your donation: [insert url to a dedicated matching gift page].
  • Did you know that many employers will match employee donations? Find out if you’re eligible for a matching gift: [insert url to a dedicated matching gift page].
  • Matching gifts help [insert name of nonprofit] to do so much more for the community. Please take a few minutes to see if you’re eligible to double your donation: (insert url to a dedicated matching gift page].

Email signatures take mere minutes to set up and can help to inform many donors about the possibility of a matching gift. 93% of employers with corporate giving programs allow their staff to choose the nonprofits to which they donate. Make sure that as many matching gift eligible donors as possible choose your nonprofit by letting them know how the additional funds help your organization.

Matching gift promotion can be done in a variety of ways, most of which are not time intensive or expensive. Think about how your nonprofit promotes other initiatives and how matching gifts could be incorporated into those marketing schemes or promoted with similar efforts.

What companies offer matching gifts?

Plenty of companies offer matching gifts. You want to know who these companies are, because you likely have volunteers who work for these companies, and the additional funds that corporate giving provides can be a big boost for any fundraising campaign. Matching gifts can be incorporated into seasonal fundraising campaigns, annual campaigns, and are one of the top Giving Tuesday campaign ideas to increase fundraising from some of your devoted supporters.

Companies offer matching gifts for a variety of reasons:

  • Support their employees
  • Support the causes that their employees care about
  • Use the matching gift submission process as a chance to screen nonprofits to ensure that their money is being donated to reputable, reliable organizations
  • Promote the company as philanthropic and dedicated to helping the world

Companies large and small offer matching gift programs. General Electric started the first matching gift program in 1954, Microsoft has the biggest corporate giving program, and Soros Fund Management offers one of the most generous matching gift programs. Online crowdfunding might be the new kid on the block in fundraising, but matching gifts can still be an effective way to raise more money, and even from the people who donate to your crowdfunding campaigns.

The heart of successful fundraising entails a dedication to several important factors, but all successful fundraising results in more money raised to support your cause. Matching gifts are an easy, effective way to boost campaigns through money that companies want to give to nonprofits. You just have to ask for it.


Guest Post provided by DoubletheDonation – Matching Gifts Made Easy!

Global Community Fundraising with Walk to Africa

Lighthouse Medical Missions, through their global fundraising event on May 16, has a goal of reaching 1,000 walkers to partner with them in reaching 25,000 people in the next two years in Africa. “Through Walk To Africa we raise money to send doctors and volunteers on short-term medical relief trips, build schools, clean water projects, establish vocational schools and restore thousands of lives.”


 “For six years Santa Monica pediatrician Bob Hamilton refused to consider Pastor Ralph Bowen’s plea to visit Africa. He was busy with his practice and raising 6 children with his wife. Luckily for everyone involved, Bowen kept nagging.”

Dr. Hamilton and his team of volunteers with Light House Medical Missions have made 21 trips to Africa throughout 8 countries, treating 60,00 people with acute medical care. Pastors help in finding buildings to set up clinics and treat the sick. The volunteers include doctors, nurses and teenagers who want to help. Walk to Africa through online pledges helps them to return, maintaining their commitment to global fundraising. Song lyrics by Audio Adrenaline describes a volunteer’s (Dr. Albert Phillips) experience in saving a 3 month old baby:

I want to be your hands
I want to be your feet
I’ll go where you send me
I’ll go where you send me
And I try, yeah I try
To touch the world like
You touched my life
And I find my way
To be your hands

Their crowdfunding event participants include Rosey Grier and former LA Mayer Richard Riordan. Actress Patricia Heaton and her husband donated enough funds to start a 400 student elementary school. Through their successful fundraising efforts Lighthouse Medical Missions purchases medication, supplies, waterworks and wells.

“Teaming up and fundraising together lets you take an active role in the global community and fosters stronger relationships, and comradery among co-workers, friends and family. Your personal webpage is the key.”  Children 12 and under, along with their parents, are invited to participate in the Children’s Walk To Africa, walking on the first leg of the 4 & 8 mile course. “With your support we can save the lives of children in western Africa, build schools and change the face of their village forever!”

When their beloved African people were fighting Ebola, Light House Medical Missions raised $125,00 through a special campaign to send an ocean going container with food, supplies and protective equipment for the medical workers. “In 1998 the first Lighthouse team went to The Gambia, Western Africa. The needs of the people were clear immediately, but their warmth and appreciation were evident as well. This made an impact on our hearts and our relationships with the African people has kept us coming back.”

You can easily create a crowdfunding website to support your global fundraising community. Free resources are available online to plan a virtual event, walk-a-thon or bike-a-thon. Whether this is your first time planning an event or you already have an established peer-to-peer event you’ll find helpful resources online.

Community Fundraising through Crowdfunding

Leading by example, Boys to Men takes fundraising beyond raising funds for a specific cause. They provide an opportunity to improve an entire community through their efforts and crowdfunding. Craig McClain, Executive Director, had this to say about Boys to Men, a 501c3 mentoring program for at risk boys; “We bring a community of boys and men together to support each other, and by doing so we are able to build a better community. Community, which we are going away from, is so important to our program. Just that one word, community, has so much power.”



On September 19 Boys to Men (BTM) is holding their annual crowdfunding event, 100 Wave Challenge, during which they’ll take inner city kids out surfing. With 175 participants last year and 30,000 emails sent to spread the word about the organization, their supporters are nearly doubling each year. They expect 300 participants this September to join in the fun, each gaining new supporters. The staff appear on television each year to define the mission of Boys to Men to their community, telling about their event, and the specifics as to what BTM does, asking for support. Last year alone their efforts brought them $330,000.

In the San Diego community BTM holds regular in-school meetings at 33 schools during school hours, working closely with school administrators to help at risk boys, 90% of whom are fatherless. They expect they’ll be serving 50 schools within the next year due to their community outreach efforts – in 2009 they were engaged with just one school. Additionally, after- school meetings and evening groups are held weekly and open to all San Diego boys on a voluntary basis. They have created many strong partnerships by this, which alone presents a model for community fundraising for other organizations – schools and nonprofits working together.

Every week Boys to Men mentors show up at middle and high schools to offer boys:

• A community of mentors and role models who listen, encourage and believe in them.
• A community of men who model integrity, accountability, compassion and respect
• A community where boys are empowered to speak their truth, and encouraged to take responsibility for their choices
• A community where boys feel supported, listened to and valued
• A community where boys see their peers are facing similar challenges, and they are NOT ALONE in their struggles.

Joe, 17, came to BTM at the age of 12 in 7th grade. Within a month of joining the program his teachers all noticed an incredible change in him – he had become respectful. He had been seeking negative attention because he felt alone, and instantly had a support group to talk to about his homework, personal struggles, and problems with family and friends. “They don’t tell you what to do, but they lay out options and say they’ll be there to support your choices.”

Joe is graduating from high school early this year and received a scholarship due to his community service efforts. He has helped in the restoration efforts of Lake Helix, and worked on the event setup of The 100 Wave Challenge. “If I had to pick one word about Boys to Men it would be grateful. I don’t know where I’d be without them…for sure I would have dropped out of school.”

During the 2014 100 Wave Challenge Joe raised $4700. He believes that his efforts were so successful because people could tell he was speaking the truth about the program, and that he was genuine in his conversations and what shared on his personal fundraising page. “They saw a living result of the program right there in front of them. I showed them that my heart is in it.”

it-works1The profound impact Boys to Men has on their community is evident, and their successful community fundraising efforts allow them to grow each year. The University of San Diego found through a case study that BTM kids have improved self-esteem, a more positive outlook on life and engage in less risk taking behavior. By walking examples of their program and their crowdfunding event they continually spread the word through community fundraising.

Online Fundraising for Nonprofits: Best Practices

It’s clear that in this day and age, pretty much every fundraising campaign has some kind of Internet presence.  Yet, it’s not as easy as linking to a donation page from your website. In order for your nonprofit organization to be effective with your online fundraising efforts, we recommend following these best practices:

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 1.45.37 PMBrand Your Fundraising Website

Rather than sending people to a 3rd party website (such as PayPal) embed a “Donate” option right from your nonprofit website that gives people an option to make a donation on a branded fundraising website. 7X more money is raised through custom-branded donate pages vs. those hosted by third parties. Branded websites can be easy to create using a service like DoJiggy’s fundraising software that provides a template where you can upload company logos, photos, videos and select colors and design to match your corporate branding.

photodune-217367-woman-text-messaging-xsMake Sure Your Site is Mobile Optimized

2014 was the year that mobile usage exceeded that of desktop usage. With more than 80% of internet users owning a smart-phone today, you’ll also want to be sure your fundraising website is mobile optimized allowing for an user-friendly experience for supporters who wish to browse your site or make donations directly through their phone. Make sure your mobile fundraising website performs, or people will get frustrated and leave. Include easy navigation, large text boxes to enter donations, or varying donate values so people can easily push a button, integrating with payment services such as PayPal or Google Wallets, and more.

Use Fundraising Widgetsdonate_arrowflash_notagline_red_263x76

Don’t just include a link to your fundraising website on your home page, but add fundraising widgets throughout all the pages on your company website. A simple “donate now” or “make a pledge” button can make it very easy for supporters browsing your site to click-through to your fundraising website. Be sure to make your fundraising widget stand out by using a bold color and clear call-to-action. You’ll also want to add a fundraising widget to your blog articles, company newsletters and social profile pages. If you have sponsors supporting the event, invite them to use the widgets to help promote the fundraiser through their channels.

Use Impactful Graphics for Easy Sharingharvesting dirty water

When posting announcements on your social channels, followers are much more likely to take notice if you use impactful graphics and videos. Not only will this help capture their attention, but may also give them more reason to “share” your post – especially if it is something emotional that people resonate with.  You’ll also want to make sharing easy by incorporating sharing widgets so supporters can help spread your message through their network of family and friends.

Encourage ReCurring & Tribute Giving

Use donation software that allows supporters to set up a profile so they can make regular donations (i.e. scheduled amounts per month/year/etc) – This helps keep your donors engaged consistently and doesn’t require you reaching out to them over and over to collect one-time donations. Allowing for people to make donations in honor of (or memory of) another person is another great way to encourage more-frequent giving from donors.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 11.35.20 AM

Seamless Payment Processing

With an online fundraising campaign, chances are you are processing a number of financial transaction on your fundraising website. This can include: participant registration fees, sponsorship payments, product sales, and of course online donations.  You need to make sure to use a credit card processing partner that is credible, safe and secure. If the payment processor integrates seamlessly into your fundraising website, even better! (again, people don’t like to be taken to an external site to make payments).



Keys to the Heart of Successful Fundraising

Our hearts hold the keys to success, yet how does this pertain to effective online fundraising events? Creating relationships whether through community partnerships or with each donor has a lasting impact on annual fundraising campaigns. Mission statements, photos and event themes driven with emotion have the ability to reach across oceans and befriend your audience to give.

Pearls of wisdom in fundraising are expressed by specific examples of successful events:

Reaching constituents emotionally was done with a great degree of effectiveness by Julia during a bike-a-thon to support education in California. Julia is one of the top fundraisers, and from her personal fundraising page, it is easy to see why. Even the scrolling comments from her supporters reflects her commitment to education given the emotional investment shown by each supporter — “Besides the donation, sending a million blessings!”….. Literacy lives! Love, Mom”. Julia has included some touching photos of the kids she teaches and their artwork as opposed to pictures of herself, speaking volumes of her mission. juliashouse

  •  Create an Emotional Connection with your Donors

The importance of building strong relationships with donors is shown by the Sharks Foundation’s Sampling with the Sharks wine tasting fundraiser, with their top donors being at the heart of this exclusive and exciting event. The event provides a casual atmosphere in which fans and donors interact with San Jose Sharks players, coaches, alumni and broadcasters – sharing stories of the game and their personal experiences. The collective shared excitement and passion for the game of hockey and life in the San Francisco Bay Area connect them in this unique and personal atmosphere – giving fans a truly once in a lifetime, up close and personal experience. The two hour wine tasting event includes 14 of Northern California’s most exclusive wineries, light appetizers, Live, Premier and Silent Auctions with proceeds benefiting the Sharks Foundation’s grant process and numerous programs dedicated to enhancing the lives of youth and families in need in the Bay Area.

  • Create Value in Society

While environmental nonprofit organizations are collectively hosting successful events, this special event holds activities for kids focused on learning about birds and bird conservation. They teach children how to properly use binoculars and involve them in learning how to make glass windows friendlier to birds, the importance of clean feeders, and more. A short hike introduces participants to birds and the day culminates with a raptor flight. The event is free, but Boulder’s Migratory Bird Day raises funds for conversation. Every donor contributes to habitat restoration, and are motivated by a sense of commitment to Planet Earth in teaching our children the importance of our environment. boulder

  • Form Community Partnerships

The 7th Annual WINK News Feeds Families Hunger Walk this year raised $330,000.00 for children, families and individuals in need. Overall their fundraising walk-a-thon has raised $1,000,000.00 to fight hunger. One of the most important factors of their success lies in the outreach they have done within their community. They have formed partnerships with their local CBS affiliate as the title sponsor of the walk. This partnership offers them local TV coverage and special interviews; they produce commercials and videos for them. They also have a great partnership with their local newspapers who create and run ads in their publications for this exciting walk of over 1000 participants.

Online fundraising software is important in helping these successful events, yet people making connections and organizations driving from the heart is the common essence of each of their stories of success.