How To Make The Most Of Corporate Matching Gift Programs At Year-End

Grace Green Corporate Matching Gifts

Are you marketing corporate matching programs to your supporters?

Each year, approximately $4-7 billion in corporate matching funds go unclaimed. At least some of your supporters have access to a match through their employer. How do you make sure they take advantage of these programs? This week on The Responsive Weekly, Grace Green of Double the Donation showed us how to get started promoting matching gifts.

Watch the Full Recording Here

Top Takeaways

  • Corporate matching programs match employees’ donations to nonprofit organizations, allowing employees to effectively double their donations.
  • The donor awareness gap about these programs is the real hurdle. Before supporters can take advantage of these programs, they have to know they exist.
  • Year-end is a particularly good time to promote matching gifts because many people haven’t used all of their available matching funds, which often expire at the end of the year.
  • Matching gift software can help you identify donors who may qualify for a match automatically.
  • Remember, monthly donors can also match their gifts, either one gift at a time, or a lump annual sum.
  • Talk about corporate matches in email, on your website, and anywhere you talk about ways to give.

Transcript: How To Make The Most Of Matching Gifts At Year-End

Megan Donahue:

Hello everybody. Welcome to the Responsive Weekly. I’m Megan Donahue from Virtuous and I’m so glad you’re here. 

Allow me to introduce Grace Green from Double the Donation. Hey, Grace.

Grace Green:

Hey Megan, thanks so much for having me. 

Megan:

So glad to have you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Double the Donation before we jump in?

Grace:

Yes, so my name is Grace as Megan mentioned, and I am a partnership success specialist at Double the Donation. If you’re not familiar with Double the Donation, we are the leading provider of tools to nonprofits and educational institutions everywhere to take advantage of matching gifts and volunteer grants.

Megan:

Wonderful. So we’re going to jump in, in just a second. We’re going to talk about what we need to know about matching gifts, how we can educate our supporters about these gifts at year-end, and as always drop your questions and comments in the chat. But before we kick off, one point of clarification that’s important I think, a little jargon check is in the nonprofit sector sometimes we say matching gifts and mean different things. I saw some examples in the chat where we think about board members offering to match a gift, which is another great fundraising strategy. But Grace we’re talking about a different kind of matching gift, right? We’re talking about corporate matching.

Grace:

Yes. So I think that if you have the opportunity to take advantage of different types of matching gifts and different versions of matching gifts, you definitely should. 

But for kind of our quick Responsive Weekly session today we’re talking about corporate matching gifts, which are the type of corporate philanthropy where companies financially match donations of their employees to nonprofits, educational institutions, and just generally fundraising institutions in general. 

So what we are talking about specifically is when you’re thinking of Home Depot or Coca-Cola, big corporations like that, matching the financial contributions of their employees.

Megan:

Okay, great. So I always found those kinds of gifts a little mysterious. Frankly, I feel like I know they’re out there, I know there are companies that have these programs, but I didn’t know really how to identify them or how to get the most out of them. So where should we start with corporate matching gifts?

Grace:

I think that the kind of mystery there is you and everyone else. That’s kind of why matching gifts continue to be this lucrative but untapped fundraising strategy. On average we see about $4 to 7 billion every year going unclaimed. So that’s money that’s already being allocated by these companies, but with lack of donor awareness or lack of donor know-how, we end up seeing that money left on the table. 

So in terms of getting started, I think the biggest takeaway is going to be closing that donor awareness gap and making sure that donors are aware of this possibility and then taking it one step further and being able to kind of connect them to the process whenever it makes sense. 

This can be done with matching gift automation, but if you’re thinking of “How can I start today?”, it’s a matter of first figuring out where do your donors work. And so that can be as simple as asking, building in an optional field into you into your donation form, or partnering with a matching gift software to have that search tool embedded into your form. And that opportunity allows you to figure out that donor information and then move forward to give them the next best steps, the next call to action, whatever makes sense that is personalized to them.

Megan:

Yeah, that makes sense. So once you’ve determined there’s probably–we know that there are many, many corporations with these programs, so the chances that some of your donors work at places where they could have a match is pretty good, I think. Is that accurate?

Grace:

Yes. We have in our database at Double the Donation, we have I think 24,000, almost 25,000 company records of companies with matching gift programs, which is translating to about 26 million employees.

Megan:

Wonderful. So definitely worth investigating for most of us. I think.

Grace:

I would say that most of these employees are already philanthropic. It’s just a matter of whether or not they know the next steps to take if they know these programs are available to them. 

I think that’s something we often see with matching gifts is that it’s not something that’s always talked about outside of the HR office or maybe it’s on page 32 of your benefits package and you just never got there. So it’s something that a lot of donors would be really interested in and take advantage of if they just knew that was kind of an option that was available to them.

Megan:

Yeah, it’s interesting because I was just thinking of you and Double the Donation about a month ago. My husband’s very philanthropic in his own small ways and is very deliberate about his charitable giving. Although I’ve joked on this show before that he also gives in this very– the data cannot be traced. I’m pretty sure he is a mystery in a lot of people’s databases, “What is this guy doing? He’s here, he’s gone, he’s giving.” But he has a plan, he does it. But he’s a prime candidate for gift matching and his company had a match program, it just wasn’t communicated in a way where it was really obvious. So he did have to go digging and figure it out and it’s now he’s matching gifts and knows how to do it.

But I thought, he’s a very motivated giver but the information just wasn’t there. So how do we bridge that gap for people?

Grace:

I think one of the best ways is to mention it early and often. So like I mentioned with that, ask on your donation form, if you’re putting in a “Where do you work?” field, a lot of donation forms have that already built in. But if you add kind of some additional context, whether it’s “Where do you work? Let’s see if your donation can be matched!” or if after, you’ve put in your employer on the confirmation screen, giving some kind of additional call to action, “Thank you so much for your donation. Let’s go ahead and check if your company has a matching gift program.” If they don’t already know or if we do know that they have a matching gift program, how can we connect the dots for them? This is something that again, you can do with matching gift automation, but even if you’re not using automation, sending follow-up emails that say “Thank you so much for your donation again, you told us you work for Home Depot, would you consider getting your gift matched through Home Depot?” And kind of demystifying that process and making it as easy and accessible as possible I think really is going to be the kicker there, because we see just based on donor trends that people really do like these programs and who wouldn’t? You get to essentially double your donation at no extra cost to you minus the five or ten minutes it takes you to fill out that form and submit it back to your company.

Megan:

Absolutely. It is really a win for everybody.

Grace:

Definitely. And that’s part of the reason that we’re seeing these programs continue to have an uptick. I think a lot of people have realized in the last couple of years the importance and prevalence of CSR corporate social responsibility programs in general and we’re really just seeing them become more and more widespread. It’s becoming more important to employees and then it’s also becoming more important to consumers. So if you’re thinking about the ways that a donor connects to their company, which connects to a local nonprofit, let’s say all of these things are in a web that are all interconnected. And so it only makes sense that these programs would continue to be on the rise. 

Something that I’ve personally seen a lot is this kind of expansion of the new triple bottom line of: people, planet, profit. And so you’re seeing this idea that it’s more about giving back in ways that you can prove as a company that you are philanthropic and that you are engaging in these programs, and it’s a great employee retention strategy, which in recent years we know is becoming just more and more important to everyone.

Megan: 

Absolutely. So it’s interesting because I think like there’s an inclination, or maybe it’s just me, to think about corporate gift matching as corporate fundraising. Like if we’re putting it in our three buckets, if we have foundations, we have individuals, we have corporations, but really this is individual fundraising.

Grace:

I would definitely say so because so much of it is truly coming from the corporation, but the kind of relationship-building you’re going to get out of it is donor-centric. The kind of solicitation that you’re going to have to do in order to get these gifts is donor-centric. So it really is more in the realm of individual contributions than it would be like your corporate fundraising.

I think there are opportunities where it can really dip into both buckets where if you say you have a lot of donors who are working at a local company that opens the door for maybe a corporate sponsorship, but when it really comes down to it, these are individual contributions that you are empowering someone to go ahead and take advantage of all of their resources and all of the things that are available to them in order to give back to your organization.

Megan:

Wonderful. So how does this fit into year-end?

Grace:

So I think year-end is the perfect time to really amp up or invigorate your matching gift strategy if you already have one but you’re not sure where else to go. And the reason being is there’s a couple of different parameters that every company builds their guidelines around. There’s no kind of universal standard to matching gift programs, which again can be why they’re a little bit mysterious, because this company matches one-to-one, but this company matches two-to-one. And so that’s where I think a lot of the mystery comes in.

But something that we see that applies to the majority of program guidelines is that deadlines are timed around the end of the year. So your ability to submit a matching gift request is usually around that December 31st mark. Some companies have a little bit more of a grace period where you’re seeing maybe January 15th, maybe you’re seeing end of February, but typically we’re seeing around that end of the year.

And so we all already know that end-of-year giving season is some of the most philanthropic times of the year. I think it’s what 33% of giving happens in the last three months of the year. So with that, it’s kind of the perfect opportunity to say to new donors that are coming in in October, November, December, “You might be eligible for a matching gift, would you consider getting your gift match?” But also at the same time, using it as an engagement and follow-up strategy for donors who have come in January through September because there’s a pretty good chance that all of those donors are likely still eligible for a matching gift. It’s just a matter of them going in and submitting it. So I think that’s why this is so pressing at end-of-year is because one, it may be kind of this last chance opportunity to pursue matching gifts. And I know I saw someone mention in the chat, I think it was Jessie mentioned, that kind of timing things and creating the sense of urgency. You can use matching gift deadlines to create that same sense of urgency. So if you’re thinking your December push, “Thank you so much to all of your Giving Tuesday donors, you have until December 31st please submit your matching gift request.” So you get to add that other underlying theme of urgency that can be a really great motivator for donors.

Megan:

And I really like that as an engagement point too, because sometimes I think it’s tricky to figure out what do we do with Giving Tuesday donors? What is the next solicitation? How do we not overwhelm it? So something that doesn’t cost you any more money but also doubles your impact is a pretty good ask, I think.

Grace:

I think so too. And it really gives you that opportunity to connect, further down the line like you mentioned, of saying, because I know that with giving Tuesday donors, you have that awkward kind of period of “What do we do with them in December? How do we kind of have this engagement strategy? What does this look like to try and retain them going into next year?” And so that engagement strategy of just sending helpful information, not necessarily a solicitation, but “Would you consider getting your gift matched?” And then that kind of trickles down into future follow-up strategies where you can say, “Thank you so much for getting your gift matched! Because of your double donation with your now $200, we were able to do X, Y, Z.”  And so whether a food bank who is able to feed three extra families or an animal shelter who is able to find homes for four extra kittens, something like that, you’re able to allow that to carry you through with all of those engagement strategies and really make it personable, personable and relatable to this person who when that extra mile for your organization.

Megan:

Yeah, that’s great. And once they made a matching gift, then they know how to do it.

Grace:

Exactly.

Megan:

I think that’s a barrier a lot of times, or at least it was in the example with my husband, is that it wasn’t that it was complicated or terribly difficult, it was just that he didn’t know what the process was and now he does. So now it’s he’s much more inclined to try to get gifts matched because it’s easier.

Grace:

Exactly. And it’s just kind of that fun additional incentive that you have of knowing that “Okay, I’m going to be able to donate $50 to my favorite nonprofit organization and then I’m going to be able to turn that donation into a hundred dollars” and that can kind of spread out. 

And I think something to also keep in mind is that a lot of these companies have maximums, so they have a set maximum of how much they’re willing to match on behalf of a donor or an employee, and some of those maximums are set at tens of thousands of dollars.

So if you’re thinking of someone who is really giving financially, maybe across multiple organizations or they’re making kind of larger, more significant gifts at the end of the year, those gifts are still eligible to be matched. And that may be another great engagement strategy of thinking of your larger to mid-size donors where you’re calling them up and saying, “Hey, we really appreciate this gift and we really want to invite you to consider a matching gift for this.” And that’s something that again, not a lot of people know about, but can be a great driving factor to continue that kind of giving momentum.

Megan:

All right, I see we have a question. What is the language we can provide to donors to give them direction for how they can get the matching gift from their employer? Who do they consult? Do they ask HR? What’s the process?

Grace:

Yes. So great question. I think the easiest, most straightforward answer is going to be to rely on a matching gift database. And so if you’re using a matching gift database, like 360 Match Pro, that’s what Double the Donation offers. I think that’s the easiest route to go. But essentially what you want to do is try and connect a donor to their employee portal. This can look different. There’s a couple of different management systems for these programs. I’m sure many of you are familiar withsome of the bigger ones, Cyber Grants, Your Cause, Benevity, those are some of the big matching gift vendor portals. And so it’s essentially just a matter of getting a donor connected to their specific portal. It’s usually going to be some kind of employee login. Then once they’re there, it’s just a matter of filling out the form.

I think something that can be particularly helpful as a nonprofit is to have some of the frequently asked questions like, “What’s your EIN number?” Go ahead and have that available so your donor doesn’t have to go searching on your website to figure out “How am I going to fill out this form?” Maybe if you have a PO box, a mailing address, whatever that’s going to look like as well. 

Who do they ask to learn which portal they use at specific businesses? So this is going to be really dependent company to company. Ideally they’ll know just because it’s their employee portal already, they’re likely doing a lot more than just matching gifts in there. So hopefully you have a lot of people aware already, but if not, it’s just a matter of like you mentioned, going to HR saying, “Hey, I want to get this gift matched, how do I do that?” 

And that’s another thing too, if you really have eager, excited donors that maybe don’t have a matching gift program, encourage them to reach out to HR and say, “I want to go ahead and pursue this opportunity,” and allow them to build up that momentum. Like I mentioned, these programs are really gaining steam and so I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a company that would say, “No, we don’t want to do matching gifts.”

Megan:

Great. So during the end of the year, this is another good opportunity for boosting those gifts. But how do you recommend stewarding matching donors after end of year, who match their gifts, they made it in before the end of the year deadline to get their benefits? Are there any particular ways we should follow up with them in the year to come to continue that?

Grace:

I think first and foremost, which I’m sure this is obvious to many of you, so I’m not in inventing anything new here, but just being really and truly thankful, and acknowledging the extra steps they took. I know we’re all kind of constantly thanking our donors and appreciating them for their contributions to your organization, but also recognizing that while it’s not a daunting task and it probably doesn’t take very much of their time, it is showing and recognizing their devotion to your organization. 

And so honoring that in appropriate thank yous, appropriate mission updates, and then also encouraging them to do it again because it really is again, that fulfilling opportunity to say, “I made my $50 a hundred dollars, or I made my a thousand dollars $2,000.” And so recognizing the value that comes from that and then allowing them ways to continue to plug into your organization.

I also think that people who are consistently pursuing matching gifts on behalf of your organization are typically going to be really involved, tuned in donors. And so making sure that you’re sending them  messaging and follow-ups that just have to do with your organization in general and what you were able to accomplish in year-end, to reinforce this kind of relationship building and using that engagement strategy to say, “Thank you and here’s what else we’re going to do now that you are able to get connected with our organization.”

Megan:

Yeah, that makes sense. This is good. This is great. As far as we think about responsive fundraising, as we always are thinking about here at Virtuous, listening and connecting in meaningful ways and making a relevant suggestion is the framework we operate on there. And this is, as someone, as Kathleen just said, matching gift donors are great opportunities to build relationships and expand individual and corporate giving, and giving donors more opportunities to engage in the way they want to. This is a benefit to the donor too, as far as well as a benefit, I’ll play on words, because these are benefits that go unclaimed. As you pointed out, it’s part of the compensation package, it’s a resource they have access to. And so by helping them actually get the most out of that, instead of having it be, “Well, it’s a thing my company does, I guess, but I never really did it,” that’s adding more value to their lives. It’s adding value to their benefits, it’s helping them do more of what they want to do. So this really is a good opportunity for everyone, I think.

Grace:

And I think something that if, especially when you’re thinking about your smaller donors who every dollar counts, we all know that, that every dollar is going to mean a lot for your organization and your mission. But something for a donor who’s thinking, “Well, I’m only going to be able to give $20, what is my $20 going to do?” And then you couple that with a company match and now you have $40. And while that may seem like, oh, well that’s still not much, that still reinvigorates this idea of how far a donation is able to go and it can really make a donor feel especially valuable and able to contribute even more. 

And we see that donors are often more likely to give more when they know a donation is going to be matched. I think it’s one in three donors are more likely to give a larger gift if they’re aware of a matching gift opportunity, which makes sense if you’re giving $25, but you know, if you give 50 it could turn into a hundred. That is something that can be really motivating for people and also really exciting to say, “Not only was I able to give, I was able to stretch this even further and make a really big difference with my donation.”

Megan:

Absolutely. So speaking of smaller gift donors, what about our monthly folks or the recurring givers? The $20 a month people?

Grace:

Yes. So recurring donors can often get overlooked when it comes to matching gifts, but like I mentioned previously with those maximums that can be upwards of $10,000, $15,000, recurring donations are still eligible for a match. It’s just a matter of making sure that donors are aware. And then there’s a couple of different routes that you can go here.

So you can individually match every gift. So you can, let’s say your card gets charged on the 15th and so every month on the 16th you’re going in and you’re submitting that matching request. That’s totally possible. 

Or you can do a lump sum donation because again, we’re seeing that deadline timed around the end of the year. So let’s say you make all 12 of your donations throughout the year and then you come in at the end and say, “Okay, now this total donation was $350, now I want to get that total matched as opposed to those individual $20 donations.” And so I think recurring donors are a really great opportunity for matching gifts because again, they’re already very plugged into your organization, they’re really passionate about what you’re doing. And so if you can connect them to the right steps, whether that’s their employee login portal or getting connected with HR and they’re able to pursue that opportunity, then they’re going to have a really great chance to double all of those donations over the course of the last 12 months. 

Megan:

That’s really a huge opportunity. Fantastic. All right. So as we’re approaching year-end, it is still October, what are some steps, people can take right now to lay the groundwork for pursuing matches during December? 

Grace:

So I think the first step would be to go ahead and start incorporating a matching gifts call to action in a lot of your existing marketing collateral, a lot of your existing email blasts that you have planned. It doesn’t have to be like a huge call-out. You don’t have to dedicate paragraphs and paragraphs to matching gifts. But I think like we mentioned at the very beginning, the biggest barrier here is going to be that donor awareness gap. And so the more you can reinforce this idea and the more you can normalize that a donor’s first thought after making a donation should be, “Okay, how do I get my gift matched?” is that’s going to be I think the first most important step. And so maybe it’s adding a tagline at the bottom of your emails that says, “Check here to see if your donation can be matched.”And then that opens to your matching gift database or something like that. Or maybe it just opens to a matching gift-centric Ways to Give page. 

I think especially around Giving Tuesday, it can be really helpful to differentiate between your board member matches and your corporate matching gifts because again, that can be an opportunity to triple match. If you have someone who’s donating, who receives a match from a member of your board and then also goes and pursues a company match, you’re really just taking advantage of all of the matches that are available.

So I think first and foremost, go ahead and start introducing that into your regular messaging and maybe have a social media post about matching gifts leading up to Giving Tuesday. You’ll probably have a lot of engagement strategies planned as you’re trying to cut through the noise and make sure that you’re able to resonate with your supporters on Giving Tuesday and year-end giving in general. So I would really just encourage to subtly mention matching gifts all throughout those communications.

Megan:

Absolutely. Great. We have a few more minutes left for questions if anyone wants to drop them in the chat, questions for Grace about matching gifts or year-end fundraising, but as we wait for those to come in, I’m always so excited to have you on Grace because this is– so many things in fundraising are difficult and I feel like the secret with matching gifts is that it’s– not that you don’t do anything– but for the amount of revenue that is available, the amount of investment you have to do to get it seems lower. So I love being able to tell someone “Here’s a thing you can do that is not that hard and is not going to take over your life, and can really bring in double the donations.

Grace:

Absolutely. And it’s something that can, like we’ve talked about, be more than just an additional donation. It can be an engagement strategy, it can be a retention strategy, and that’s kind of all of those options there.

Megan:

Great. I see we have some questions about how matching gifts work in Virtuous. We do partner with 360 Match Pro from Double the Donation. As far as what that costs and how to do it, those are questions for your account manager, we’re happy to talk about it. Grace, how can people get ahold of you or Double the Donation if they have more questions?

Grace:

Yes. So if you would like to reach me after the fact or you want to talk more about setting this up in Virtuous, like Megan mentioned, you can reach me at partnersatdoublethedonation.com. I can actually send that in the chat too just so it’s easier for you all to click through. If you would like to get connected, talk more about matching gifts, also if you’re thinking about just ways to improve your matching gift strategy in general, www.doublethedonation.com has a lot of really helpful general resources about what it can look like to market matching gifts at the end of the year. I’d really encourage you to check those out. And of course, if you have any in-depth follow-up questions or anything like that, do not hesitate to reach out. I’d love to get you connected to the right person on my team to learn more.

Megan:

Wonderful. So our closing generosity moment report today, is a quote from Maya Angelou. It says, “We’ve been told it’s often more blessed to give than to receive. And it might sound very strange, but the truth is the person who receives gets the thing, but the person who gives gets the bigger blessing, Your heart expands.” I liked that a lot. Coming up next week, Otis Fulton from Turnkey will be joining us to talk about copywriting tips for year-end and beyond. So if you’re working on appeals and emails and web copy, don’t miss that one. And now we’ll bid farewell to Grace. Bye Grace, thank you so much.

Grace Green:

Good luck with your end-of-year fundraising!

3 Essential Emails To Send For Giving Tuesday

3 Essential Emails To Send For Giving Tuesday

For most nonprofits, email is a major part of Giving Tuesday. If your inbox gets as crowded as mine does this time of year, you may think that the global…
The Psychology of Giving

The Psychology of Giving

Why do donors give? When you invite your supporters to engage with your organization by speaking to their deep motivations and emotional needs, you provide a meaningful experience with lasting…

Grow generosity with Virtuous.

Virtuous is the responsive fundraising software platform proven to help nonprofit organizations increase generosity by serving all donors personally, no matter their gift size.

“Virtuous truly understands nonprofits and the importance of our mission. And their open access to data and built-in custom reports gave us access to the data we need.”
Todd Shinabarger
Chief Information Officer