8 Matching Gift Best Practices for Nonprofits

Volunteer packing tin cans into cardboard box
••• Hero Images​/​Hero Images/Getty Images

What’s better than one brownie? Two brownies.

What’s better than two brownies? Two expertly baked brownies.

What’s better than two expertly baked brownies? Two expertly baked brownies served with affection.

While brownies may sound more enticing to your tongue, matching gifts represent the chance to double donations that nonprofits crave.

However, a matching gift by itself is not enough. The matching gift request needs to be submitted and then followed up on by your nonprofit. Thank you notes need to be sent, donations tracked, and marketing materials created to raise matching gift awareness among new donors.

Baking up an excellent matching gift program is a multistep process. Execution matters, and we’ve got the expert tips to get you started.

Idea #1 – Become a Matching Gift Expert.

A popular opinion is that it takes 10,000 hours of doing any single task to become an expert. That’s about 417 days of your life, and that does not account for sleep. How will you ever become a matching gift guru?

Start with reading. There are great matching gift resources that can cut that 10,000 number down to far less. Moreover, matching gifts are not as complicated as open-heart surgery or constructing a crossword puzzle, so finding great resources can make you a whiz in almost no time at all.

You’ll want to learn how programs vary among employers to raise the most money for your nonprofit. Corporate giving programs can change from year to year, as new programs appear, old ones fold, and companies alter the parameters surrounding their giving policies.

Idea #2 – Identify a Matching Gift Coordinator.

Matching gift fundraising is a ship, and a matching gift coordinator is the captain. She’s the person who answers donor questions when they call and makes sure that fundraisers and the entire fundraising team ask donors to seek matching gifts.

Internal awareness is key. Not only will a matching gift coordinator define staff roles for handling matching gifts, but she can educate your entire fundraising team about corporate giving to create a culture of matching gifts within your nonprofit.

When your fundraisers and telefund callers know to request matching gifts, more donors are made aware of this form of corporate giving, and your organization will likely receive more doubled donations.

It’s best to arm fundraisers with a script, so they know how to ask for matching gifts. Also, track whether or not a prospect works for a matching gift company. Matching gift eligible donors might be prioritized, as they have the potential to give larger gifts.

Idea #3 – Raise Awareness.

With a dedicated matching gift team in place, it’s time to raise awareness. Accepting matching gifts means little if you are not reminding donors to seek out doubled donations.

Promotion comes in many flavors. For instance, you might:

  • Discuss matching gifts in an email newsletter
  • Add matching gift information to your email signature
  • Create a dedicated matching gift webpage
  • Add matching gifts to your ways to give page
  • And more

It is a good idea to create packets to share with donors when you meet them in person. While email and sharing information online seems like all the rage, many donors still appreciate either direct mail or tangible materials when they meet you in-person.

Promotion can be hard work, but it’s hard work that pays off in an easily recognizable way. Reach out to your most loyal donors to tell them about matching gifts. The extra phone call or letter could be well worth your while.

Idea #4 – Make Information Easy to Access.

Submitting a matching gift might seem intimidating to a donor. Where do they find the forms? How do they submit the forms? Is this going to take a considerable amount of time?

By making matching gift information as easy to access as possible, donors can learn everything they need to know in almost no time at all. When submitting requests is easy, you’ll likely receive more matching gifts.

Ways to make information accessible to donors:

  • Add a matching gift widget to your website that lets donors search a database of matching gift companies and access relevant forms and information.
  • Share information on a dedicated page, such as matching gift statistics and submission guidelines.
  • Mail materials that educate donors about matching gifts.

While a matching gift widget might be the best way to share matching gift information, there are other ways to improve the matching gift experience for nonprofits on a budget.

Determine which matching gift companies are most common among donors and volunteers. Share matching gift information for those companies on a dedicated matching gift page, so donors know where to get the necessary forms and to submit their requests.

Idea #5 – Follow Up with Matching Gift Forms.

A donor submits her matching gift forms, but no staff member steps forward to process the request. Does the nonprofit receive any money?

Just because a matching gift request is submitted does not mean that it is clear sailing for your nonprofit. Someone usually has to sign off or approve of a matching gift request in some way before a company will give the matching funds.

Companies also have to send you the money. Your nonprofit should track what matching requests have been made, processed, and fulfilled, so you don’t leave easy money on the table.

If you do need to follow up with an unfulfilled request, it’s best to do so with the employer, and not the donor. Donors have already given their time to submit requests, and bothering them to do more might predispose them not to give again.

Idea #6 – Say Thank You.

Donations make your mission possible, so never forget to thank donors. Gratefulness goes a long way towards building meaningful relationships that encourage donors to give again and again.

Matching gifts do more than regular donations, so your nonprofit wants to do a little more with its thank you notes. A special note for matching gift donors is a start, but you can also say thank you twice.

Thank donors for their original donations, and separately for the matching gift. You want donors to know that their matching contributions were received, as they’ll be more likely to give again when they know that their extra efforts paid off.

Saying thank you is all about making donors feel special. Another best practice is to invite matching gift donors to an event, where you thank them for their generous contributions.

It’s obvious that you need to thank donors for their matching gifts, but you also need to thank the people who keep your nonprofit up to date on all things matching gifts.

Company policies change, and it’s hard to keep track of all the alterations. When donors reach out and inform you of a change in an employer’s corporate giving policy, send the donor a thank you. These updates help your fundraisers to focus their efforts better, so they are not wasting time and resources on prospects who will give the same amounts, but without matching gifts.

Idea #7 – Keep Records up to Date.

There’s nothing worse than identifying major gift prospects and then realizing that their contact information is out of date or that they switched employers and now are not eligible to give matching gifts. Either way, an outdated or poorly organized database can cause a lot of unnecessary problems.

Updating donor information or finding donors with large capacities to give could be as simple as mailing out employer update cards or performing a quick prospect screening. A screening can help your nonprofit gather both contact and employer information on large groups of donors, so your fundraisers don’t have to call and email everyone for updates. Screenings are also relatively fast and affordable.

While updated info matters, the data needs to be organized and accessible, too. It is one thing to have a correct phone number on file, and another for a fundraiser to be able to find that phone number in a timely manner.

You want to reach out to the right people, and you need to be ready to do so whenever the proper moment strikes. Powerful CRM software could be your solution for organizing your matching gift donors, as could just using better record-keeping habits.

Idea #8 – Measure Your Performance.

How do you know that matching gifts are worth all this time and energy? Data, of course.

Categories to track matching gift program performance:

  • How much money did you raise from matching gifts last year?
  • What is your matching gift goal for this year?
  • What percent of your total revenue do matching gifts account for?
  • How much in matching gifts have you received from any single employer?
  • What resources and costs go into acquiring matching gifts?

Too many nonprofits don’t do enough to track matching gifts, and that is a shame. To improve matching gift outreach and promotion, nonprofits need hard data to tell them what’s working and what’s not. Tracking matching gifts is all about striving to be as efficient and economical about your fundraising as possible.

About one in ten donors works for a matching gift company, and more companies are offering corporate giving programs each year. Apple, one of the world’s largest tech companies, didn’t start offering matching gifts until 2011. We live in a rapidly changing world and an increasingly more philanthropic world.

Implement matching gift best practices, improve your matching gift program and reap the benefits of corporate giving like never before.

How does your nonprofit handle matching gifts?