Employee Matching Gift Programs a No-Brainer for Nonprofits

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The matching gift page at the Audubon Society.
••• Audubon Society

Each year, corporations donate more than $18 billion to nonprofits in the United States, with much of that coming from matching gift programs for their employees.

Only one of seven types of corporate giving programs, matching gift programs are the most popular.

What are Employee Matching Gift Programs?

Matching gift programs give employees a voice about where their employer spends its corporate giving dollars.

Most firms match employee charitable contributions at a 1:1 ratio, with some giving triple or quadruple donations.

Employees love matching programs. Moreover, for those nonprofits that market this option to donors, it is an easy way to boost their annual fundraising.

Promoting matching gifts encourages this vastly underused form of giving, and helps retain donors.

There is no shortage of companies with matching gift programs so make sure your organization is not leaving this easy money on the table.

How do Matching Gift Programs Work?

Donors can easily use matching gifts from their employers if they know about the program and if they know how to use it.

While matching gift forms may vary by company, the process for donors and nonprofits is very similar.

Donors go through three steps to submit matching gifts:

  1. Make a donation to a nonprofit.
  2. Determine if their employer or their spouse’s employer offers a matching gift program.
  1. Locate and submit the appropriate matching gift form.

Nonprofits should take these three steps:

  1. Communicate matching gift information to donors.
  2. Receive the matching gift form which a donor fills out using a paper form or electronically.
  3. Verify that the individual made the donation and submitted the form to the company.

    How Nonprofits Can Benefit

    Matching gifts are free money. Because so many donors work at companies with these programs, your nonprofit is probably already eligible for matching contributions.

    Matching gift donations from companies have very few strings. If anything, they may require the funds go into your organization’s general fund, but that should not be a problem.

    With unrestricted money this easily available, it does not make sense to ignore matching gifts from companies and donors.

    Companies That Match

    Many nonprofits are not aware of the range of businesses that give generous matching gifts for their employees. Here are just a few.

    Alaska Airlines

    Goldman Sachs

    Harley Davidson

    Kraft Foods

    New York Life Insurance Company

    Yum! Brands

    How to Promote Employee Matching Gifts to Your Donors

    A matching gift program is useless unless nonprofits promote them to their donors.

    Many people are not aware that their companies offer these programs, or they simply don’t think of them when making a donation. For some, it may seem like too much trouble.

    That is why charities need to improve their marketing and not just expect companies to promote matching gifts to their employees.

    Here are five strategies your nonprofit should use to increase fundraising from matching gift programs.

    1. Change Your Donation Pages

    When was the last time you looked at your organization's online donation process? If it has been a while, you should go straight to your website to get a feel for the donor experience.

    For most nonprofits, making an online donation involves going through three screens:

    • Ways to give pages
    • Donation processing pages
    • Confirmation page

    Is your organization prompting a donor to submit a matching gift on one or all of these locations? If not, you are missing the boat.

    Online donors have already taken the time to donate, so while they are on your website, remind them about matching gifts.

    2. Use Social Media

    Have you ever wondered what makes for a strong social media post? Often it can be boiled down to shareability.

    If you post something valuable, that message will be re-tweeted, shared, and reposted so that many more people outside of your immediate audience see it.

    While posts on matching gifts may not be as breathtaking as an image showing off all the great work your nonprofit does, there's still hope. Show what that additional funding could have.


    "Last year we raised $XXXX from matching gifts! Help us double it this year…"

    "Funding from employer matching gifts helped get an additional XX animals adopted. Will your company double your donation?"

    "Matching gifts enabled us to provide free admission to XXXX school children. Check to see if your company will match your donation!"

    The key is to draw attention and demonstrate the impact that employee giving programs can have on your mission.

    Social media can reach digitally savvy donors. Moreover, social media is an easy and cheap way to speak to donors. So schedule monthly matching gift posts today.

    3. Use Your Content

    Does your nonprofit send out a weekly or monthly email newsletter? Do you send out a quarterly paper newsletter?

    What about an online blog? If you do, you've probably wondered, What do we write about?

    If you produce content in any form, you are in great shape to write an article on matching gifts.

    Regardless of where your content goes, make sure your story:

    • Provides an overview of matching gifts
    • Shares examples of a few companies that have previously matched for your organization
    • Explains the positive result (how much did you raise last year?)
    • Encourages submission of match forms

    You've already spent time and energy capturing donor email and mailing addresses. Use them to showcase matching gifts.

    4. Give Donors Company-Specific Information

    The most significant barriers for donors is ignorance about the submission process.

    While asking donors to "check with HR to see if your company will match your donation" is a good place to start, giving donors company specific guidelines and forms can make a huge difference.

    If your donors live in a single city, try compiling information on the five largest matching gift companies in the area. If your donors live in a large city or the entire country, consider subscribing to a matching gift database service.

    Giving donors the information they need to submit match requests can create more matching gift revenue.

    5. Thank Donors Who Do Get Matches 

    Have you reviewed the process for thanking donors? We regularly hear that nonprofits only send a matching gift acknowledgment to the company.  

    You should thank both the company and the employee. Not only do donors love being praised, but they are more likely to donate again and ask their employer to make another matching gift.

    The bottom line is that matching gift programs can add tremendously to your fundraising.

    Check out your marketing strategy for matching gifts and how you help donors submit them. The payoff will make the effort ever so worthwhile.

    An expert on corporate giving programs, Adam Weinger is President of Double the Donation, a service that helps nonprofits maximize their fundraising from corporate giving programs.