Boost Your Fundraising Results With a Match From a Major Donor

Everyone Wins With Matching Gifts

Save the Children raises funds with a matching gift appeal.
An example of a matching gift campaign for Save the Children. Screenshot from Save the Children Email

Allison Porter, of Avalon Consulting, says that one of the most effective fundraising strategies is the matching gift.

These are not the matching gifts that companies often provide to their employees, but the offer on the part of a major donor to match the donations made to your fundraising campaign.

You see this type of match everywhere and for good reason. It pays off.

For instance, when Avalon tested an online year-end matching gift for one of its clients, the matching gift got a “37% higher response rate, 54% more revenue, and a 63% higher average gift” than the appeal that did not include a matching gift.

That match came from a major donor.

Allison points out that not only does the charity benefit from the matching gift, which more or less raises all boats, but the major donor benefits as well. In fact, creating that match is a wonderful way to keep major donors involved and engaged.

Allison does warn that the match is not the story, however. You still have to make a strong case for the donor.

Other research has also found that matching gifts work. For instance, in a Freakonomics podcast, John List, the notable U of Chicago economist who does considerable research on charitable giving, said that matching gifts are an excellent way to increase donations.

List did have a couple of caveats though. For example, he said that a 1:1 match works well, but increasing the match made little difference. Also, a matching gift works best when the donor already has a strong connection with the charity, but does not really help with lapsed donors or those with weak connections.

Add Spice to the Match With a Timed Challenge

Is NPR on your radio this morning with its annual, monthly, or semi-annual fundraising campaign? Don't turn it off!  Listen for the "challenge." It's a bit irritating for sure, but that tactic works. The challenge is when another donor has offered to match your donation.

The challenge is often given a short time frame, adding an overlay of urgency. Give by noon today and your donation will be equaled, or doubled. Ok, you say to yourself. I was going to donate anyway, so I'll do it now. Challenges within a time frame are great ways to turn fence sitters and procrastinators into do-it-now donors.

Such challenges work with email appeals too, or social media. Adjust the time frame to your medium. Radio works for short times, while you'll need longer ones if you're communicating by email or using multi-channels, or the challenge/match is part of your annual campaign.

Of course donors who can afford a match are probably not lined up outside your door, You need to identify the most likely ones, approach them about this fantastic opportunity, settle on the specifics such an ultimate amount of money they are willing to spend, draw up an agreement, and then set everything into motion.

When looking for a good match donor, cast a wide net. Besides a major donor, consider a corporate partner, look at your board members for possibilities, or even consider setting up a "match pool" to which small and mid-size donors could donate throughout the year.

All of this means a good amount of planning, strategizing, and negotiating.

But, even if you have only one donor who is willing and able to provide a match, it could well be worth the trouble.

There is a hall of fame for best fundraising methods, and getting a donor to match and thus boost your fundraising results is one of the tactics found there.  Others include monthly giving, employee matching gift programs, raffles and seed money.

One road to success in just about everything is finding what works and then doing more of it. Even if working with a major donor to provide a matching gift takes a bit more time than just creating a campaign quickly to get it out the door, that hard work will likely pay off better than you even hoped.