Would you like two scoops of ice cream for the price of one? How would you like it if your favorite sports team won back-to-back titles by only winning one game? Imagine how much you could accomplish with an exact clone of yourself.
Turns out, most ice cream shops aren’t going to go for your two-for-one offer, and cloning technology isn’t quite there yet. But when it comes to fundraising, there is a way to get more for less. They’re called matching gifts, and there is no easier way to increase donations to your nonprofit.
What is a Matching Gift?
Matching gifts are charitable corporate donations that match employee gifts to eligible nonprofits. About 91% of companies match their employee’s exact donation amount $1:$1, while about 5% of companies match at a higher rate. Thousands of companies worldwide and 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gift programs, so there are plenty of opportunities for your nonprofit to take advantage of!
Matching gifts are submitted through company-specific online portals, for about 80% of companies, or via paper forms, for the remaining 20% of companies. Human Resources departments typically handle these programs.
To see matching gifts in action, imagine Tanya, who works for Boeing. She donates $3,000 to her local museum and applies for a matching gift. Boeing processes her request and writes the museum an additional check for $3,000, because Boeing matches 1:1. This doubles the impact of Tanya’s donation to $6,000 at no additional cost to her. The $3,000 check that Boeing writes is the matching gift.
Matching Gift Benefits
Our own research has demonstrated that $4-7 billion goes unclaimed because employees fail to take full advantage of corporate giving programs. Often, this occurs because donors are not aware that their employer offers matching gifts. If donors aren’t aware of their eligibility in these programs, they can’t submit their matching gift requests — and since nonprofits can’t submit requests on behalf of their donors, this lack of awareness causes a real bottleneck in the matching gift process.
Focusing on matching gift awareness can benefit nonprofits beyond just the incremental revenue. It turns out that 84% of donors are more likely to donate if their gifts are eligible to be matched, and mentioning matching in fundraising appeals results in 71% more donations and 51% higher donation amounts.
Companies love matching gifts because they both increase employee engagement with the company and boost goodwill by supporting the causes that employees care about. They also allow businesses to give charitably to a variety of nonprofits and also operate as a bridge between corporations and nonprofits, fostering beneficial partnerships.
How to Market Matching Gifts
Increasing awareness for corporate giving should be a priority, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some basic best practices for informing donors that their donations can go twice as far:
- Incorporate matching gifts into your donation process (Did you know DonorPerfect and Double the Donation offer an easy integration option?)
- Include a blurb about matching gifts in your next newsletter.
- Insert a link to a dedicated matching gift page in your website’s navigation bar.
- Mention matching gifts in your email signature.
- Remind donors of matching gifts through social media.
You don’t have to spend a great deal of time or money to increase awareness, but the benefits can be significant. For instance, if just one $2,500 donation gets doubled then the benefits are clear.
Important Matching Gift Information/p>
Matching gift programs vary by company, but certain terms are constant. The information you want to be aware of when talking to donors about matching gifts include:
- Minimum Matched – The general minimum donation to be eligible for a matching gift is either $25 or $50.
- Maximum Matched – Eligible donations typically top out at $1,000-$15,000 but can go as high as $50,000-$100,000.
- Matching Ratio – Most companies match 1:1, but other match ratios include 2:1, 3:1, and even 4:1. Some companies have varying match ratios depending on the donor’s employment status or relationship with the company.
- Who Can Apply? – Full-time employees can almost always apply, and it varies by company whether part-time employees, board members, spouses, and retirees are eligible.
- What Nonprofits are Eligible? – Companies establish their own guidelines, so there’s no set standard for nonprofit eligibility. In general, most companies will match employee donations to educational institutions, such as K-12 schools and higher education institutions. Many companies will match to a broader range of 501(c)(3) organizations, including:
Typical donation exemptions include:
- Political organizations
- Sports teams
- Religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, that aren’t providing services to the greater community. Typically, food banks, homeless shelters, and other public services can be eligible even if they’re religiously based.
Sometimes, examples are more helpful than statistics. To gain a better idea of how matching gift programs work, take a look below at the highlights from a few companies with top corporate giving programs:
Did you know that General Electric created the world’s first matching gift program? It’s true — the Corporate Alumni Program was founded in 1954! The GE Foundation is now one of the largest providers of employee matching gifts. GE matches gifts of as little as $25 and as large as $5,000 at a 1:1 ratio to most nonprofits. GE matches donations from employees and retirees (including surviving spouses of eligible GE retirees) to most US and UK based nonprofits.
BP has a wide range of employee giving programs including a matching gift program, volunteer grant program, and a unique program called Fabric of America.
Through Fabric of America, employees can request that BP America make a contribution to a nonprofit organization of the employee’s choice. The donation will be made on the employee’s behalf and does not require a contribution from the employee.
Additionally BP matches personal contributions to most educational organizations and 501(c)(3) organizations of between $25 and $5,000 at a 1:1 ratio.
Johnson & Johnson:
J&J has a very generous matching gift program where the company matches gifts of between $25 and $20,000 at a 2:1 ratio for employees (max $20,000 company contribution) and a 1:1 ratio for retirees (max $10,000 annual company contribution). J&J matches donations to a wide range of nonprofits including:
- Higher educational institutions (K-12 excluded)
- Health and human services
- Arts and cultural organizations
- Civic and community organizations
- Environmental organizations
- And select other nonprofits
Boeing matches employee donations of as low as $25 and as high as $6,000 at a 1:1 ratio. The company also matches donations from retirees at a 50% rate (max $3,000 company contribution per retiree).
The company also offers volunteer grant programs for individual employees as well as teams of employees volunteering together. A single employee can earn up to $10,000 for the nonprofit of their choice, while groups of employees can earn more for each individual that joins the team.
With generous limits and about 65% of Microsoft’s employees participating in the company’s giving campaign, it is no surprise the company’s employees have donated more than $1 billion through corporate philanthropy programs throughout the company’s history.
Microsoft matches gifts between $1 and $15,000 at a 1:1 ratio to a wide range of nonprofits including:
- Educational institutions (K-12 included)
- Environmental organizations
- Health and human services organizations
- Arts / cultural organizations
- Civic and community groups
Microsoft also offers a Dollars for Doers program where the company provides grants of $25 per every hour an employee volunteers with an organization. Plus new hires are welcomed with a $50 Microsoft donation they can direct to a qualifying nonprofit.
Most corporate giving programs have deadlines for submitting matching gift requests. The most common dates are:
- End of the Calendar Year – When the page turns to January, a donation loses matching gift eligibility.
- A Certain Number of Months After the Date of the Donation – Anything between three and twelve months is normal.
- End of January or February in the Year After the Donation was Made – Verizon, The Home Depot, Caterpillar, and many others offer such deadlines.
It takes about five minutes for donors to fill out and submit matching gift forms which makes it an easy way for donors to give more to the causes they care about and for nonprofits to raise additional funds.
Make sure you’re promoting matching gifts across your nonprofit’s fundraising.
Learn more about Double the Donation’s integration with DonorPerfect.
Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of employee matching gift and volunteer grant tools and services to nonprofits. You can connect with Adam via LinkedIn if you have any questions about Double the Donation or matching gifts in general.
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