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[ASK AN EXPERT] What Are Best Practices To Acquire More Corporate Matching Gifts?

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Our Ask An Expert series features real questions answered by Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, our very own Fundraising Coach, also known as Charity Clairity. Today’s question comes from a nonprofit employee who wants advice on how to attract corporate matching gifts: 

Dear Charity Clairity,

I have a question about how to attract corporate matching gifts. We receive very few, and I wonder why more donors don’t take advantage. I have a hunch many qualify for this employee benefit, but they don’t submit requests to their employers. I know all companies have different requirements, but we’re a small shop and don’t have the time to research this for everyone. Is there something I could do to help more donors access this matching money?

— Missing the BOGO

Dear Missing the BOGO,

I love the way you’ve signed your query, as this shows you definitely understand the benefit you’re missing out on. Matching gifts are truly the social benefit sector BOGO. Raise one gift, get the second gift free!

But you do need a plan. Just sitting by the phone waiting for your donor to figure it out—and do all the work—is simply not going to cut it.

So, let’s review matching gift programs, why it behooves you to invest front-end resources to leverage big wins on the back end, and what you can do to overcome participation roadblocks.

Everyone wins with corporate matching gifts

Businesses put aside matching gift money at the beginning of their fiscal year, just waiting for it to be claimed. Alas, billions of dollars are left on the table because (1) employees don’t know about this money and (2) nonprofits don’t inform their donors of the opportunity to claim these funds. Taking advantage of these  programs takes planning and commitment on your part. But at the end of the day, there’s no downside to promoting matching gifts.

Matching gifts are a win-win-win.

1. Your organization

Matching gifts lift average donation size, improve retention and donor lifetime value, and open the door to other giving. Donors prompted to envision their gift being multiplied are often inspired to give more. In fact, 1 in 3 donors will give a larger gift if a match is applied. Sometimes, this is to meet the minimum required by their employer, or sometimes even the maximum! Donors don’t like leaving money on the table any more than you do. Other times this is to reach a giving level set by you, perhaps to join a particular Giving Society. In other words, while they might never consider a $1,000 gift to join your “Angel’s Circle,” they might consider lifting their $250 gift to $500, taking advantage of the matching gift from their employer, and thereby qualifying as a $1,000 supporter. Once they’ve basked in the glow of increasing their gift, they’re more inclined to repeat their behavior. Not only does this increase personal giving, but also inclines them to advocate on your behalf for other types of corporate philanthropy, such as foundation grants, in-kind donations, or marketing support.

71% more donors respond to appeals mentioning matching gifts! Such an appeal creates a sense of urgency or FOMO, so donors feel more compelled to act. This helps you acquire new donors as well as retain and upgrade ongoing ones. Also, the corporate giving you leverage acts as a form of social proof, providing testimonials as to your worth in addressing some of the community’s most pressing problems. The more you grow corporate support, the more others in your community trust that you’re a worthwhile beneficiary of their philanthropy.

2. Corporations

Matching gifts improve employee recruitment, retention, and productivity. Employees value this benefit and what it says about their company’s commitment to social responsibility. This enhances their satisfaction, providing a sense of purpose in their work. They like having a say in where company money is donated, and these donations are tax-deductible by the company.

Matching gifts enhance brand image, improving consumer loyalty. Customers are more likely to patronize businesses they view as socially responsible.

3. Individual donors (i.e. employees)

Donors feel good when they’re able to easily amplify their giving. It’s easy for them; all they need to do is spend a few minutes completing matching gift paperwork. This extends the dopamine rush from giving, bringing greater joy. They then attribute this good feeling both to their employer and to your organization.

Employees feel good when they believe their work is supported. Because they feel satisfied with their giving and with their employer, they become more loyal to both their company and the nonprofits they support.

Matching gift challenges and finding solutions

When they know about them and they’re easy to do, donors love matching gift programs. But they need your support and guidance. Let’s review typical roadblocks and what you can do to remove them.

1. Overcome Roadblocks to Donors

Donors often don’t know that their company has a program, let alone the ins and outs. It can be cumbersome for donors to track this down, so whatever you can do to help them along the way will yield beneficial results. Here are some strategies to employ to shine a light on this opportunity and illuminate the next steps.

  1. Create awareness using something as simple as “Did you know many employers will match employee donations?
  2. Note matching gift companies currently giving to you. Include links to these organizations matching gift portals, as available.
  3. Provide concrete examples</ of approved matches to your organization.
  4. Suggest donors reach out to their company’s human resources program to ascertain eligibility.
  5. Note companies that commonly match gifts, especially if they’re located in your geographic area.
  6. Consider using a searchable matching gifts database. Double the Donation 360 Match Pro is the leader; there are a few other options. You make an upfront investment in the software and reap the rewards of more donations matched, more than offsetting the cost of entry.
  7. Provide donors with the information they’ll need to complete paperwork. Having a centralized matching gift landing page with your organization’s name, mailing address, contact person, email, phone number, and Employer Identification Number (EIN) will make it easy for donors.You can locate this under a “Ways to Give” dropdown menu.

NOTE: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) vendors are becoming more common. They help companies administer their programs. So to make it easier for employees and employers to direct their match to you, it’s smart to register with as many of these searchable platforms as possible (biggies are Benevity, Cyber Grants, and Your Cause).

2. Overcome roadblocks to you

When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Put a matching gift fundraising plan in writing. Designate one person to coordinate matching gifts.They need not be full time, but by centralizing this, you’ll be more likely to (1) make acquiring these gifts a priority and (2) follow through as necessary and appropriate. For example, if a business sends you a letter or email asking you to verify an employee’s donation, you’ll want to have a process in place to take action quickly and efficiently. Otherwise, you risk letting internal employer deadlines expire and losing the gift.

The biggest roadblocks are (1) not having up-to-date employment information for your donors and (2) not having access to each employer’s matching gift program details. Here are ways to access this information so you can share it with your supporters.

  1. Collect employment information early and often. Ask everywhere: on paper remits, donation confirmation, and thank you pages. On these pages, extoll the virtues of these programs, clarifying how they typically work and suggesting how much money and leverage may be available.
  2. Contact major employers in your geographic area and ask them for their details. This has the added benefit of building awareness about your mission among local businesses.
  3. Identify major players in global industries related to your mission and research their matching gift programs.
  4. Again, use a searchable matching gifts database. This eliminates manual research, makes it easy to track changes over time, and makes communicating eligibility automatic and simple. You can automate messages so you deliver multiple reminders to folks as they progress along their philanthropic journey with you.

How roadblocks lead to revenue gaps

The truth is billions of matching dollars go unclaimed every year. Billions!

You can help donors easily access the information they need to receive their benefit. Either guide them in how to connect with their company and what questions to ask or connect them directly from your website to theirs using matching gift software. If you know what company a donor works for, you can send a link directly to their company’s matching gift page. You can also provide them with personal reminders and repeat instructions as eligibility deadlines approach.

Many more of your donors than you might think work at businesses that match donations. In fact, 65% of Fortune 500 companies match donations—that’s 26 million people. Yet without automation, only 8% of donors know their company has a program, know they’re eligible, and know how to submit their matching gift request. Lack of knowledge and confusion leads to inaction on the donor’s part, meaning the gift for which you’re eligible flies out the window.

Your job is to do something to drive eligible matching gifts to completion. Rather than sitting at your desk, wondering why your donor who works at a major financial institution never submitted a form to get their gift matched, take a more proactive stance.

  • Automate emails to your donors, making them aware of the opportunity.
  • Include links to your matching gift landing page to reiterate the benefits.
  • Include links to a searchable matching gift database.
  • After a gift is made, send emails—preferably automated—to remind donors of this potential benefit. Include “next steps” instructions.

Hopefully, missing the BOGO will now be a thing of the past!

What’s your experience with corporate matching gifts? Please let us know in the comments below.

Please use a pseudonym, like “Missing the BOGO” did, if you prefer to be anonymous.

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