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How to Use Matching Gifts to Boost Donor Retention

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Looking for more in-depth matching gift expertise? Join us for our webinar with Double the Donation on August 30th.

At first glance, the relationship between matching gifts and donor retention might not be immediately evident, right?

Donor retention is exactly what it sounds like and should be a major priority for any organization looking to have a sustainable and successful future. Matching gifts are an often overlooked aspect of corporate philanthropy programs in which donors’ employers award additional funds to eligible nonprofits.

To most, they’re just two concepts in the nonprofit sphere, but that’s not the case. In fact, matching gifts can be a major asset for nonprofits looking to improve donor retention!

Boosting donor retention rates, that is, building lasting relationships with repeat donors, is a common challenge shared by nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. Strategically leveraging matching gifts can be part of the solution.

There are several key matching gift strategies for cultivating deeper engagement with your donors through matching gifts. Here are two of the easiest ways to get started:

  1. Use matching gifts to boost your donors’ impact and make a great impression.
  2. Use your matching gift communications as an extra touch point.

Let’s dive in!

1. Use matching gifts to boost your donors’ impact and make a great impression.

This strategy is particularly effective if your nonprofit has any number of major donors. One major gift is impactful; one matched major gift can improve your entire fundraising year.

Repeat matched major gifts can be game changers for your nonprofit indefinitely.

Major donors already hope to see their support making a sizable impact on your organization’s operations and projects. Imagine how they’ll feel knowing that they’ve doubled their impact at no extra effort or cost!

Plus, most of those donors come from high-level corporate backgrounds and expect their favorite nonprofits to be run efficiently. Proficiently managing every aspect of their matching gift process can make a strong impression on your major donor and help influence them to keep coming back. After all, you clearly know how to properly steward their gifts and responsibly make the most of them, too!

The matching gift process starts as soon as your supporters make a donation (of any size). One of the most damaging mistakes a nonprofit can make is thanking too late. In terms of following up with a matching gift ask, it will fall on deaf ears if you haven’t led with a sincere acknowledgement.

Once your acknowledgements have been appropriately addressed, it’s time to raise awareness of matching gifts.

Remember that your donors are busy people and likely won’t be motivated to submit a request if the process seems too complicated or time-consuming. This means it’s up to your stewardship team to get the ball rolling! Screen your donor list and analyze their employment information. Take the time to do a little extra matching gift research in one or more ways:

  • With a prospect screening service
  • Through personal communications with donors
  • With donor surveys
  • Online, via Google or LinkedIn

With an employer list in hand, next find the donors who work for companies with matching gift programs and target your asks to them.

It’s important that you fully customize and personalize these correspondences. Matching gift solicitations can’t be one-size-fits-all. Show the donors that you’ve taken the initiative to do the research for them and that the impact of their generous gifts might be doubled.

Next, explain to each donor how their employer’s matching gift program works, its matching rate, deadlines for request submission, etc. Then provide instructions for the next steps. If the employer has an online matching gift portal, include the link.

A strong matching gift ask that strikes the right tone and includes helpful information will make a strong impression of professionalism, gratitude, and eagerness. This is one key to building long-term partnerships with your major donors!

Plus, your major donors already believe in the value of your mission. Helping them double the impact of their gifts is an easy way to help them feel even better about supporting your work!

2. Use your matching gift communications as an extra touch point.

Donor acknowledgement is standard practice, but a follow-up thank you after a donor’s company submits a matching gift will be an perfect surprise for your donors who took the time to submit requests. This is an excellent opportunity to express appreciation without making any extra asks.

After all, donors respond to varied communication. No one wants to constantly be contacted for money alone. They’re a part of your nonprofit’s community, not its bankrollers. Simply taking advantage of the chance to acknowledge their support will make a strong positive impression and set the stage for continued engagement.

There are plenty of effective methods for acknowledging matching gifts. Let’s look through some examples.

Example 1 — A Thank-You Email from NC State


Here, NC State does a great job of thanking the donor for the gift, and the letter specifically acknowledges the additional time that the donor put into securing that donation for the university.

Also note that the email is coming from a matching gifts manager. You could appoint a staff member or volunteer to lead your matching gifts efforts as an alternative to hiring full-time help. Either way, dedicating an individual to matching gift stewardship makes a great impression on donors.

Example 2 — A Thank-You Post on Facebook from Halos of Hope


Halos of Hope got creative with this acknowledgment and it reflects positively on the organization. The donor probably doesn’t want the amount that she gave announced on a public profile. The number of hats demonstrates Shari’s very real impact without revealing her gift amount.

A thank-you to a matching gift donor on social media goes a long way. It shows that your organization is grateful and wants to shout it from virtual rooftops.

You’ll also notice that the second part of the post is a short matching gift promotion. It doesn’t ask anything more of Shari, instead simply reminding others to ask about their eligibility. Shari gets to lead by example, which is certain to affirm her relationship with the organization and keep her engaged.

Example 3 — A Thank You Postcard from the University of Michigan


This final example shows that matching gift acknowledgment comes in many forms; what is most important is that you simply express gratitude.

In our increasingly digital age, donors really appreciate something they can actually hold, maybe even put on their fridge. The postcard is put together well and conveys a genuine sense of appreciation for the donor’s effort.

Improving donor retention is a challenge shared by all nonprofits, but studies have shown that most organizations spend less than $5,000 a year on developing and cultivating retention strategies. If you want to see growth, you’ll need to put in the work.

That’s what makes matching gifts such an effective donor retention tool! By taking the extra steps to promote matching gifts, study your donors’ employment information, and target your communication you’ll see the double benefit of boosted revenue and boosted retention.

Any nonprofit can become an expert in matching gifts! To learn more, be sure to join us for our webinar with Double the Donation on August 30th.

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