In this webinar, Hannah Silvers gives a crash course in corporate matching gifts that will include breakdowns of the matching gift process, an overview of popular corporate matching gift programs, and techniques for marketing matching gifts to donors, all with real examples from nonprofits.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Hannah. My watch just struck 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick us off here officially?

Hannah: Let’s get started.

Steven: All right. Cool. Well, welcome, everyone. Good afternoon if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Corporate Matching Gifts: The Beginner’s Essential Skills.” My name is Steven Shattuck, and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always.

Just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here officially. I just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation, and we’ll be sending out that recording later on this afternoon, as well as the slides, in case you didn’t already get those. So if you have to leave early or maybe you want to review the content or there’s just some glowing piece of information that you didn’t quite get to jot down, don’t worry. We will get you all that good stuff here today. The recording and slides will go out to you today. I promise I’ll get that to your inbox.

As you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A, just as much time as you can before the 2:00 Eastern hour. So don’t be afraid. Don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. We’ve got an expert in matching gifts here with you today, eager to answer your questions. So send them as you listen today. We’re going to try to save just as much time as we can to get to those. You can also tweet us @BloomerangTech or use the hashtag #Bloomerang. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed there as well.

And if you have any trouble with the audio through your computer speakers, we find that the audio by phone is usually a little bit better than the computer audio. So if you have a phone nearby, if you don’t mind dialing in, if it won’t disturb any coworkers around you or be too uncomfortable, try to dial in by phone rather than giving up on us completely. That way, you can listen along for the full hour. There’s a phone number you can dial into in the email from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour ago, 12:00 Eastern today. So check that out if you have any technical issues with the audio.

If this is your first webinar with us, I just want to say an extra special welcome to all of you folks who are joining us for the first time on the Thursday webinars. It’s one of our favorite things we do here at Bloomerang. We bring on expert guests every week to talk about a topic they are passionate about. But in addition to that, we offer donor management software. That’s what Bloomerang is really all about. If you are interested in our offering or learning more about what our software can do for you, check that out. Check out our website. You can watch a quick video demo and see the software in action.

But don’t do that now. Wait until this presentation is over. We’ve got a really good one in store for you all. We have an expert on matching gifts and matching gift programs from a corporation. We’ve got Hannah Silvers joining us from Double the Donation. Hey, Hannah. How’s it going?

Hannah: Hey, it’s going great. It’s a beautiful day in Atlanta, and I’m really excited to be here with you guys.

Steven: Yes, I’m jealous because I love Atlanta and the weather here in Indy is not very good. And I’m very excited to have you. If you guys don’t know, Hannah or Double the Donation, they are my go-to for all things matching gifts. They are a leader in the sector, in my opinion, definitely know what they’re talking about. Hannah’s going to give you the lowdown on matching gifts in general. She’s going to be here to answer your questions at the end as well.

I would definitely encourage you to check out Double the Donation, not just to maybe make them a vendor of yours, but they put out really good free resources, webinars, blog posts, great fundraising advice in general on their website. I would definitely invite you to check them out after this presentation. But I am not too familiar with matching gifts, so I’m going to be listing very closely to this one.

So I’m going to hand it over to Hannah. Hannah, take it away, my friend. Tell us all about corporate matching gifts.

Hannah: Excellent. Yes. There will be a pop quiz at the end, but only for you, Steven. So you better pay attention.

Steven: Okay. I’m ready.

Hannah: So, first of all, thank you so much to the entire Bloomerang team but especially to Steven for having me here. It’s really a pleasure to present and share this incredible information with all of you. Really, our goal for the day is for everyone to walk away feeling like the new expert in your organization on matching gifts. Even if right now you don’t consider yourself much of an expert, we’re going to break it all down.

We’ve got plenty of time. We’re going to start from the beginning with the basics, all the way from an overview of corporate philanthropy programs to the actual nitty-gritty mechanics of how they work. We’re going to get a little bit specific, and we’re going to bring it back out and talk about how you can take what you’ve learned today and really go back today, after this webinar, and implement some incredible tips and tricks in your own organization. Really, at the end, you should feel confident that you can go back with the information you need to boost your matching gifts to everyone.

So, that’s the plan. Before we jump into that, though, the obligatory about me and about us slide—so Double the Donation is the leading provider of corporate matching gifts and volunteer grant software to nonprofits, which can sound a bit complicated, but really, all it means is that we do two things. First, we build and maintain a database of companies that offer corporate matching gift programs. Then we develop tools and we work with partners to ensure that nonprofits can access that information, can present it to their donors in accessible and actionable ways.

So, our matching gift database tool plugs into like your webpages or your donation forms, where a donor can type into the name of their employer into a search box and get all the information they need to start that matching gift process and get that revenue back to your organization. We also offer an enterprise platform that integrates directly into your donation forms and can automate some of that outreach that you might be doing automatically.

If you want to hear more about the software, I’m not going to talk about it right now during our webinar unless you have specific questions because today, our goal is to get everybody familiar with the programs that our tools kind of build off of and help you take advantage of. But if you want to learn more, by all means, reach out to us and I’ll give you plenty of ways to do that towards the end of the presentation or even just hannah@doublethedonation.com.

A tiny bit about me—my name is Hannah Silvers, as I was introduced. I’m the Partnership Manager for Double the Donation, which means that I work with our technical integration partners, but I also get to lead webinars like this one and other partnerships and educational outreach programs. So this is the treat of my day for me, and I hope you can tell.

What we’re going to do today, we’re going to split it up into three parts. We’re going to start with the basics of matching gifts. So the different types of corporate philanthropy, how matching gifts fit into that bigger picture, and then some specifications so that you really feel like the expert.

Then once we’ve got everyone on the same page, we’ve learned a little bit about the technology or the terminology, then we’re going to get into some essential skills to master matching gifts. We’re really going to focus on marketing. We’ll explain why and how when we get there. Then at the end, once we’ve added all these tools to your toolbox, we’re going to break for Q&A with whatever time we have left.

So, please, I know Steven said this, but take advantage of that Q&A section on the side of your screen. Send us tons of questions and we’ll get to all of them either at the end or if we don’t have time to get through them all, we’ll reach back out after the webinar and make sure that we get those questions answered for you. All right. Here we go. Everybody ready to dive in? Let’s do it.

So it would be an understatement to say that there are a lot of different types of corporate philanthropy programs, but luckily, you really don’t need to know about all of them, just the most popular ones. So what we’re going to do now is get some terminology and distinctions between how these programs work under our belt.

First, by far, the most popular of all corporate philanthropy programs are matching gift programs, especially when you factor in companies that match those automatic payroll deductions, which is about two-thirds of employers in the U.S. at this point. So more than half of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gift programs, plus a litany of smaller companies, and a minimum of $2 billion actually passes through them every year.

So we’re going to deal with matching gifts in particular in a lot more depth later. So, from here, we’re just going to move on and get you familiar with these other types. In case you get questions, there are opportunities to take advantage of those.

Volunteer grants is the next biggest form. When companies offer volunteer grants, what they’re doing is rewarding employee volunteer hours with financial contributions to the same nonprofit that the employees were volunteering for. Usually, these work on what we kind of call threshold model instead of kind of an hours to dollars direct correlation. So, for example, an employee at a company might volunteer for 20 hours or 40 hours with the same nonprofit in a year. That might earn that nonprofit a $500 or $1,000 donation from the company.

So volunteer grants are the second most popular form of corporate philanthropy program. We find about 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer them. Especially lately, we’ve seen team volunteering take off. So a number of associates, a certain number of associates or employees from the same location or branch might go and volunteer together and they might earn more money than they would have all individually. We’ve seen this become more popular. Even today, about 70%-ish of volunteer grant programs have this kind of stipulation for team volunteering.

So these are kind of your two most popular and most widespread forms of corporate philanthropy programs today. We also have some of these other ones which are a little bit less common, but are incredibly valuable if you get a chance to take advantage of them.

So, first, we’ve got employee grant stipends. They are less common, but they’re excellent to take advantage of. Some companies award grants outright to employees who then pass along the grants to the nonprofit of their choice. I take it that most of you all are familiar with the way that grants work. This is just maybe one step removed. It goes through the employee, instead of straight from a foundation to the nonprofit.

So these first three programs are all employee-initiated, meaning that the company sets the infrastructure and the employees choose to participate in the programs, but that’s not always how it works. For instance, with community grants, nonprofits are the ones that initiate these by completing the application set up by companies. It’s a pretty traditional grant process in the same way that you might apply for a grant from a foundation except you’re applying for it from a company.

Then of course, you have volunteer support initiatives. So these are kind of like volunteer grants in that programs partner employees of companies directly with nonprofits to provide specialized volunteer support. What that usually means is some kind of skilled consulting or skilled service, for instance maybe accounting services or special items, especially on technology, so computers, infrastructure.

These programs are becoming more and more popular every single year, especially in the past decade, I would say. Skills-based volunteering at this point accounts for a greater percentage of employee volunteer programs than unskilled. That was the case for the first time in 2015. Also, by the way, the statistics in this slide are all coming from our own analysis at Double the Donation through all of our partnerships with companies and with managers of these programs as well as sources like America’s Charities and GuideStar.

So let’s dive into matching gifts. Here is your very quick overview. Matching gifts are a kind of corporate philanthropy program, in which companies pledge to donate the same amount of money to the same nonprofit that their employees do. Hence, they are matching their gifts. Companies set aside portions of their budget specifically for this purpose and all the employees have to do is fill out the necessary paperwork after making a donation to their favorite nonprofit.

Speaking of paperwork, matching gift programs always come with specifications that you need to be aware of if you’re looking to expand your own matching gift efforts. This is important to remember because there’s no standard setup for a matching gift program. Every company gets to set their own specifications.

So these are kind of the five top specifications that a company might think about when they’re creating their program. Some of them are really important to understand as you’re looking to make the donors aware of the programs and seeing which companies you might want to be reaching out to specifically. You’ll understand why.

Let’s go through them. First, not all companies will actually match donations to all nonprofits. In particular, we find often that religious and political organizations can be ineligible to receive corporate funds for a variety of reasons. Some companies, though, will specifically match donations at higher ratios or for more employees to particular nonprofits that they have closer connection with. In particular, we see this a lot with educational nonprofits. Especially airlines tend to match at higher rates to educational-themed nonprofits or institutions.

Most often, though, if we’re speaking generally, most corporate programs will match donations to educational institutions like K-12 schools, school foundations, or even universities. Also, healthcare institutions, whether that’s a hospital, a hospice care center, or a specialty care center, or environmental organizations of all types.

Second, not all matching gift programs will offer exact matches, although many companies match donations at a one-to-one ratio, essentially about 91% of companies will directly match an exact donation at this exact amount. About 5% of companies match at higher rates. So maybe they’ll double the donation, while about 4% will match at a lower rate. So they might match about half. It gets even more complicated because the match ratios can vary depending on the donor’s employment status or the kind of nonprofit that is receiving the fund.

So, third, some companies will only match gifts from full-time employees, but it’s actually becoming more rare as these programs get better over time. Most companies now days will also match part-time employee donations as well as donations from full-time employees. Some of the top programs from these bigger companies will also match for retirees or even spouses or spouses or dependents of current or retired employees. So it just depends usually on the size or even the industry of the company that’s sponsoring the program.

Fourth, this is very important, especially when you’re thinking about communicating this information to your donors and when you’re going to do it. Every program sets a maximum and minimum donation amount that they will match. These parameters really vary widely depending on the program, depending on the size of the company, depending on the industry the company is in. Although, if we’re going to generalize, most companies will set the minimums between $1 and $100. We find a very common minimum donation amount is $25. But about 93% of companies will set their minimums at $50 or below.

Maximums for 80% of companies fall anywhere in the range between $500 and $10,000. But if we’re looking at the biggest programs of these multi-national corporations, Fortune 500 companies will come in at the higher end of that spectrum. We do see the $10,000 a lot in our research.

And fifth, this is very important. If you take away nothing else from this slide, please take this one—there is always some sort of expiration date or deadline for matching gift requests to be submitted to companies. Many companies will give their employees a certain amount of time after that initial donation was made to request their gift be matched. That can be anything from a quarter to an entire year to a specific number of days, even.

But some companies will set specific dates every single year that all requests have to be submitted. It doesn’t have anything to do with when the initial donation was made. So we often kind of see the times either around the end of the calendar year or the end of tax season.

We talked a bit about requests and submitting requests and requirements. So let’s break down the mechanics of the process. Your donor first makes a contribution to your nonprofit. That donation has to be made before the process can begin. Then if we meet all of these eligibility requirements that we were talking about on the previous slide, then the donor will submit a matching gift request to their companies.

Most often, nowadays, about 80% of the time, the necessary forms are actually an electronic submission process. So it used to be that you would go to HR or the donor would go to HR and get some printed out forms, fill them out, and return then, but now, most times, companies aren’t even taking electronically filled out PDFs anymore. It’s an online portal.

Third, once the company receives that request, what they’re going to do is check all those eligibility requirements again and then reach out to your nonprofit to verify that that original donation was made. And then, if it all checks out, number four, the company sends a check to your nonprofit.

We find most often the most common breakdown in this process by far is at this second step because everything else at this point is pretty automated. If donors don’t know about the paperwork or don’t know where to find it or don’t know how to fill it out or don’t even know if they’re eligible or if their company offers a program, they can’t fill it out, and they can’t get this process started.

The trick is that nonprofits cannot submit paperwork to companies on behalf of the donors. The donors are the ones that need to do so. That’s why it’s so important for you as a nonprofit to take the agency and make sure that you’re communicating to your donors not only that these programs exist, but how they can check if their company offers one and if the donor and their donation are eligible to participate and have the gift actually matched.

So it becomes really important to know what kind of programs are out there just to be aware for your own sake about who offers them and kind of how they work. Luckily, we find about 65% of Fortune 500 companies have these programs in place, and they’re really just getting more popular by the year. These are just some of the companies that match employees’ donations, and the list really goes on and on.

Chances are, you have donors in your database that work for these companies. So what I’ve done here is I’ve pulled out five of the top programs for a few different reasons because they touch on different elements of the matching gifts process and kind of the scope of the industry and where we’re at at the moment. I’m going to go through these pretty quickly, just to give you a sense of how a lot of these programs work and what the requirements are like.

But if you want to know more about them—and I would highly encourage you to save this—we have a URL on our website where we have collected more than 50 of the most popular matching gift programs in the country and link to all of the requirements.

This is a really great way to get started if you really are a true beginner at matching gifts just to get a feel for how the programs work because the statistics can mean a lot and they’re really helpful when you’re getting started, but it is really helpful to actually see how the programs themselves are structured and these are the top programs in the company. I’ll have this URL up again later. So feel free if you don’t get it now, you’ll get it at the end of the presentation as well.

Right now, let’s talk a little bit about these programs. So here’s a fun bit of trivia. General Electric created the first ever corporate matching gift program, and it was in 1954. It was the GE Foundation’s corporate alumni program. What it did was it matched employee donations one to one to support a culture of charitable giving. That program is still ongoing today. It’s the longest-running charitable giving program in the country. It has raised more than $1.3 billion to date.

In 2017, GE donated more than $36 million to all kinds of nonprofits through matching gifts alone. Full-time, part-time, and retired employees get their donations matched one to one, as long as the donations fall over $25, that common minimum, and under $5,000, that lower end of the maximum spectrum.

BP offers an incredibly wide range of employee giving programs, especially when it comes to volunteer grants. They offer those employee grants that we were talking about earlier. But really, what shines about BP’s program is their matching gifts. They match minimum donation amounts of that common $25 and maximum donation amounts of $5,000 on a one-to-one ratio. But those donations don’t have to come straight from the employee themselves to qualify for matching.

If a BP employee participates in some kind of peer-to-peer campaign in which they’re raising money from their families and friends, BP will match those donations as well. That’s a great thing to know if you have employees in your database who work for BP, especially if your nonprofit engages in social fundraising.

Now let’s move to Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, the entire parent corporation—those employees are eligible to have their gifts matched one to one if they work full-time, part-time, or retired, but what’s interesting about this program is that the maximum gift amount changes depending upon the employee’s position within the company. So part-time employees will be sort of towards the low end of the spectrum at a $1,000 maximum donation that can be met, while a senior vice president can match up to $10,000.

The Gap also offers those individual and team volunteer grants, which are really important. So individuals may earn $150 for every 15 hours of volunteering, while teams of three or more from the same store can earn $250 with that 25 hours of collective volunteering. Even better, nonprofits with a Gap employee on the board can earn between $1,000 and $10,000 in outright grants. So definitely, definitely go check out the Gap program and learn more about it at that URL because there are a lot of interesting elements there that a lot of other smaller companies are looking to emulate.

IBM specifies a few specific types of nonprofits that it will match donations to. That’s educational institutions, hospitals and other healthcare, and cultural and environmental organizations. So it’s one of those that won’t match to the entire broad spectrum of 501(c)(3) organizations.

Current employees will have their donations matched one to one, while retired employees are eligible for a half-to-one match. That’s where we see the employment status affecting the matching. And with many of these other companies that we’ve talked about, they have their minimums and maximums set from $25 to $5,000.

IBM also has a volunteer grant program for individuals and teams. Teams can earn up to $7,500 in IBM equipment grants for organizations where they collectively volunteer for a certain amount of hours. So it’s a combination of team volunteering as well as those volunteer support programs we were speaking about earlier.

Last one for this slide—American Express matches active employee donations between $25 and $8,000 and their standard match ratio may be one to one, but they can bump that to two to one, a double match, for the first $1,000 of their donation if they sit on the nonprofit board and volunteer for more than 50 hours in a year. It seems like those may be some specific circumstances, but really, any employee at American Express can take advantage of that two-to-one match ratio if they volunteer for 25 hours.

Is your head spinning yet? There are a lot of qualifications here that we’ve talked about, but that’s why it’s so important to know where you can get this information. This free resource on our website is one really great place to start. Of course, you can also use our matching gift search tool as well because that gives you access to our entire base of 20,000 companies that match donations, including parent companies, major subsidiaries and selling variations.

So this statistic may be a bit surprising given what we’ve just seen about how corporate philanthropy programs are becoming popular and better and more widespread, but according to our analysis, really, anywhere from $4 billion to $7 billion in matching gift revenue is left on the table every year. It’s not because corporations don’t want to support philanthropy. We’ve seen how many programs that are set up already. It’s not because donors don’t want to make their gifts count for more. You all know that’s not true. Simply, donors don’t know that this is an option.

So, really, the best and quickest way to address the gap in matching gifts is to address the gap in knowledge. As it turns out, what’s really important is making sure that your donors not only have a resource to check if their eligible or if they have program requirements set, but also to have the next steps directly in front of them so that it’s easy for them.

Also, as it turns out, we’ve got some additional benefits to matching gift marketing besides just the increased revenue that you can collect through the program. These are some really fun statistics that I like to share because it shows how impactful the idea of matching gifts can be. It turns out that 84% of donors are more likely to donate in the first place if their gifts are eligible to be matched.

And if you mention corporate matching in your fundraising appeals, you’ll receive on average 71% more donors responding with a donation and a 51% increase in the amount of those donations. These last two statistics in particular I think are very impactful because they don’t really have anything to do with eligibility. Even just mentioning matching gifts can have an incredible impact on your donations.

So, now, let’s talk about a few of the best ways that you can get that matching gift information in front of your donors. We’re going to talk about how to grow your program, keep yourself on track and we’re going to see some examples from real Double the Donation clients and why they work and how you can go back and implement them.

First, of course, the most obvious and effective place to house matching gift information is on your donation forms. If donors are already there, it means they already want to support your cause and they’d be willing to take the next step to take a little bit of time—it usually takes about five minutes on average—to fill out those online forms and submit them to their company.

So the example we have here is from Second Harvest Heartland. They’re using our 360MatchPro enterprise platform, which is why you see in the screenshot of the phone screen on the left, we have an integrated search field within the donation form. So what’s important to note is that the matching gift information presented is clear and simple. We’re using direct instructions that tell the donor exactly what to do, search for your company below, and then exactly what will happen and what to expect next. You will get what you need on the confirmation page.

The reason why we recommend this very simple, very direct clean pared down language on the donation form is because we don’t want to create friction within the donation process. So we’re encouraging them. Maybe they want to bump up the amount of their gifts. Maybe that’s what they want. Maybe they were just thinking about donating but weren’t sure.

We want to take advantage of the effect that matching gift information can have, but we also want them to complete their donation and do what it is they came to the form to do. So by keeping things simple and direct and clean, we’re not creating that friction. Also, on that bigger screen you see behind the phone screen, they’ve included this matching gift information elsewhere on their website. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in the next few slides.

Of course, after you have made a donation, you also want to make sure that your donors know they can now take the next step because it does take the next step after a donation to get the whole process started. This is the best way you can share putting matching gift information on that confirmation screen is the best way to make sure you capture donors when they’re also thinking about their donation and the reason they donated in the first place because it could have been anything.

It could’ve been inspired by a news story or by a friend, but the memory and the impact won’t last forever. So if you wait too long to ask them to match their gift, you don’t get to tag on to that emotional reason.

A few things that the Piedmont Foundation, which is a historical client of ours—they’ve been a client of ours for a long time and have done incredible work with Double the Donation—they’re doing some things really well here. First, they’re using very common terminology instead of specialized terms. So they’re saying, “Make your donation go twice as far,” instead of, “Participate in your employer’s corporate philanthropy program.”

That’s because donors who have never even heard of corporate philanthropy might just click off if they see unfamiliar terminology. Instead, we’re using something that everyone can understand and everyone wants to do. I want to make my donation go twice as far. I may not have heard of matching gifts, but now, I’m going to be shown how to actually do that, which is pretty incredible.

Also, because we have more room on the confirmation screen than we do on the donation form, we can include a concise explanation of what these matching gift programs are and we can allude to the actual process. So, “Did you know companies will match donations? Do see if they’ll match yours and to get to the forms you need to fill out, check your company below.” So we’re telling them a little bit about what they can expect once they start this process.

Also, we’re providing them with a way to get more information without sending them back to their company. Instead of saying go check with HR or go check with your employer to see if they will match your donation, which they may or may not do, we’re giving them a way to check right now really quickly by using the database search tool plug-in directly on the screen.

Following the Piedmont Foundation, let’s go into confirmation emails. So donors are already looking for a receipt to land in their inbox, which they’re going to keep. Since they’ll be looking for them, it’s a good place to include a little bit of information about matching gifts because they’ll save them.

Something that’s important to remember when sending matching gift emails is that you’re asking donors to complete more steps than they initially intended to do. So they think once they hit donate their job is done. They supported your organization. So they’re not expecting to then have to go to their company’s internet, log in, and submit a form even though it only takes, again, on average, about five minutes to do.

So to increase your chances of success, you need to follow some of those basic practices of donor stewardship, show them that you appreciate their support, emphasize the impact that this one extra small step can have. So we’re addressing them by name. We’re using that common terminology we were talking about earlier and we’re making a direct, quick ask to them.

Something also to think about when we’re talking about emails is that sometimes, because donors are used to online shopping and they may get a lot of receipts from different maybe webinars they’ve attended or resources they’ve signed up to receive, sometimes emails that look like automatic confirmation emails have a higher archive or deletion rate because they think, “If I need that later for my tax records, I can go find it.” So, instead, sometimes it helps instead of automatically sending the email directly after, we’re going to wait a little bit and send a separate email that is specifically asking them to take matching gift sets instead of incorporating them with the receipt of the actual donation.

So if you want to take advantage of that, you can definitely do it manually. Our enterprise platform, 360MatchPro, will automate that entire process for you. If you want to hear more about that, I’m more than happy to talk about it during the question phase. So that’s just something to keep in mind when it comes to email because if you’re asking them to take the next step, you want to make sure you’re presenting it somewhere where they’ll see it and where it’s actionable.

Of course, all of these examples so far have put the matching gift information in the path of donors who are already in the donation process. But you can’t just focus on them, especially if you’re looking to take advantage of some of those statistics from earlier on about encouraging higher donation rates and amounts. So you have to aim a little bit higher up the funnel. The way that we recommend doing this is by dedicating a page on your website to matching gifts. That gives you a chance to share information to interested parties about the pressure of the donation process.

Here’s an example from the University of Pikeville. They’ve dedicated an entire page to matching gifts on their website, and they’ve linked to it on the side of their giving page, which is where people will go or where donors will go to hear about ways to give. This is really useful because it gives them one URL to link directly to matching gift information. Because we want to keep our emails short and our donation forms really clean and streamlined, having one branded webpage with all the essential information in one place is really, really helpful to have and to link out to.

I don’t know if you can see this. It’s a little small, but I’ll read it to you. There’s a phrase that reads you may be able to double or even triple the impact of your gift. Then they go on to specifically explain the impact that a gift can have. That’s really important to do when you have a little bit more room like you do on a completely separate webpage, where you’re not worried about the streamlined donation form. It’s to really closely tie the impact of that additional incremental matching gift revenue with the direct outcome that they were looking for when they decided to donate in the first place.

Plus, this website makes things seem really, really easy. The line is, “By simply completing the matching gift form online or paper.” And then they’ve got, again, a way to get additional information. So, again, we are asking the donors to take an extra step than they initially intended. By making it sound really easy and simple and something they can do all online without even going to their HR department, that makes it seem like something they want to do as well.

Let’s talk a little bit about timing because as we know, inundating donors’ inboxes or webpages with matching gift information, just like any other kind of information, doesn’t pay off. You really have to choose your timing well. We’re going to focus here about delivering information, whether it’s directly actionable.

Automated emails that are going to go out right after a donation serve two main purposes. First, there’s this emotional response that we talked about earlier. You’re asking your donors to take further action, even if they thought they were done. You need to make sure you’re asking when they’re still thinking about the reason that drove them to that donation form in the first place. It’s being considerate of their understanding of their putting in more time.

Second, though, automatic emails give your donors time to submit their matching gift requests to their employer before any of those employers set deadlines. It’s really important to think about that and to emphasize that like in this example that we see here, emphasize the timing so they understand why it is that they’re reaching out—that you’re reaching out to them about matching gifts in this exact moment. That’s going to be a lot more impactful than just a monthly automated email that says, “By the way, have you donated in the past however long? You should totally get your gift matched,” but emphasizing why the actual timing of right now is very important.

Also, again, it is important to think about how you’re delivering that information after a donation is made because if you’re going to send matching gift information in automated emails directly after the donation, they have a much higher chance of being archived or deleted. So, again, think about waiting for a little bit of time and dedicating an entirely separate email specifically to matching gifts, so it doesn’t look like a receipt or something that should be archived and only pulled out later when they need to double-check it to submit their taxes or do their accounting.

Let’s talk about the second bullet point. Especially if you find that a significant portion of your donor base is employed by the same company, you should focus your matching gift marketing efforts around that company’s deadline. And if you’re using a sophisticated home donor management software, like Bloomerang, you can definitely track these things and run searches and find out where your donors are working. It’s incredibly important information to have, and I would highly recommend that you at least start gathering it if you haven’t yet. That’s definitely a takeaway from this presentation.

And then, of course, third, many companies and individuals are thinking about their charitable donations around the end of the calendar year or fiscal year when they’re looking at their budgets and also at the beginning of tax season when they’re focused on those deductions around budgeting for the next year.

So if you’re going to plan your matching gift marketing around a particular time of year, I would recommend November, December, January, even though a lot of emails are going out at those times. It is actionable. As we see here, you can actually use that timing to your advantage and encourage the donors to see the timing as a reason why they should go and take that five minutes to submit that form. But also, focusing on April is a great time to send information when you’re emphasizing the timeliness of taxes or accounting or budgeting as well.

So that is all I have. Thank you so much for joining us. I’ve been seeing so many questions come in. I really hope I can get to as many of them as possible. I really hope you learned a lot, and I’m more than happy to speak individually, go back to any of the slides that you saw that you want to learn more about or to speak a little bit more about something, maybe the software or things we didn’t get to in the presentation.

Also, this link in the middle, this URL, is the site that I was talking about earlier, so as we’re answering questions, please feel free to navigate to that website and just double check, get a feel for how these programs typically work and an idea of the 50 or so most popular companies out there that offer the program.

So, Steven, I see we’ve got a ton of questions. Which ones are standing out?

Steven: Yeah. We’ve got some good ones. First, I just want to say thanks for giving us the low down. I definitely learned a lot. It was really interesting to hear about those companies, GE, Gap, and all the history of matching gifts that they’ve done. That was pretty cool. I told you all it was going to be a good one. Yeah, we’ve got a lot of questions. I’m going to combine some similar questions here.

A lot of people are asking, Hannah, and it probably won’t surprise you but people are wondering about acknowledging the corporation. Is that something that you recommend people should do? Writing a thank you note to somebody at GE for matching their donor’s gifts? Is that a common practice? If so, how do you go about doing that?

Hannah: I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all. Maybe it’s my southern Atlanta self coming out, but I think a show of appreciation and a handwritten letter or an email is never going to go to waste. But I think because a lot of times, these programs are automated or they might be managed by a third-party, such as CyberGrants or Benevity or software programs or platforms out there that manage matching gift programs for companies.

So even though the companies themselves might be setting up the program, they might be contracting out the work of sending the donations back and forth and going through approval process through someone else.

Yes. But you should definitely send a gentle thank you, but because the program is automated most of the time and because the program requirements are set, I don’t see it affecting your chances of getting a donation matched, if that’s kind of what people are getting at, but it does definitely build a bit of goodwill between your organization and that company, especially if it might be a slightly smaller company, because they might be looking at their budget for next year and thinking, “How many matching gifts do we actually send out? Do our employees actually use this benefit?”

That’s how it’s seen, as an employee benefit. Then I think maybe we don’t need this program. So the more that they can hear from the employees themselves and from the organizations that benefit from it how amazing the programs are, you might be able to encourage them maybe expand their program next year or develop an even closer relationship. Maybe they might sponsor your next run walk ride or something like that.

So I don’t think a bit of thanks and acknowledgement and consideration will ever go to waste. So, yes, hand write those letters. That’s your homework, everyone. Go home and write a thank you letter to everyone who has matched a gift to you in the past year.

Steven: That’s great advice. I never considered looking at the size of the company. It might be hard to thank someone at GE, but it may not be hard to thank someone at the corner pizza shop or the mid-size insurance company or whoever it is. So that makes a lot of sense.

Hannah: And you can also—I would also add very quickly that you can also publicly acknowledge companies that match because an individual private note is something very special and very impactful, especially when it’s directed to a Director of Giving or someone in HR or someone on the CSR team at a corporation.

But one of the main reasons by corporate philanthropy programs like matching gift and volunteer grant programs are so popular now is because companies have really seen the value in corporate social responsibility and the publicity value and the outward image that being acknowledged as a charitable company can have for them.

So they do tie it to revenue. More customers or clients will respond to companies that they think take care of their communities. So acknowledge them publicly as well and then they’ll see that it’s an investment in their own future too.

Steven: That makes sense. As someone who works for a for profit, I can attest to the fact that we love it when people acknowledge us publicly on social media or some other online thing, especially if it’s a nonprofit. So don’t be afraid to do that. They’ll really be overjoyed.

Okay. Along the same lines, Hannah, what should you do if anything differently for the donor—they go through all this trouble, they search for their employer, they submit all that matching gift info. It seems like maybe that person should be given special attention for doing so versus someone who just makes a one-off gift and doesn’t go through all that trouble. I’m thinking from my donor management background here. That seems like a pretty high-engagement signal. Is that fair thing to say?

Hannah: Absolutely. There are, I think, examples of this on our website, which we’ve just redesigned, doublethedonation.com. But we definitely encourage sending a message to donors when the matching gift revenue comes back in. So it’s nice for them to see the full circle because they don’t want to just send off a form and then forget about it. That’s not good for them or for you.

So when you get the match funds back from the corporation, which they often send out on—some companies send it out on a rolling basis, maybe every time one comes in, they’ll fulfill it, but most companies will do it quarterly or bi-annually or semi-annually. But whenever that matching fund comes back in and it will be tied to the donation, then reach back out.

Let the donor know that it has come in, thank them for their support and tell them to look for their receipt or look for a special ribbon they can wear at your next in-person event or look for a special badge on their online profile, whatever it may be, those little acknowledgements encourage them to go through the same process the next time and to share the information with others.

We’ve also seen—I didn’t talk about social media marketing during this particular presentation, but we do talk about that with a lot of our clients. That’s something that a lot of organizations will do that we work with is whenever we get a matched donation back from the company, they’ll announce it on the Twitter or on the Facebook page and they even tag the donors if that’s how their own strategy works.

But just saying, “Thank you so much to Hannah who donated and GE who was able to match it,” it’s a good way to let them know that not only did everything go as planned, but also, you really appreciate it. I love these questions. Usually, I get much more technical questions. I’m loving this. Everyone is so considerate.

Steven: We’ve got a smart tribe here.

Hannah: It speaks to the Bloomerang audience that they’re so thoughtful. I love it.

Steven: They’re on it. We’ve got some cool comments here. One listener is saying, “We also acknowledge the companies that do employee matching gifts on our honor roll of giving in a special section. I assume that’s maybe like an annual report-type thing.” Cindy here is saying, “I’ve often heard that the corporations like photos, like a walk photo of the group to where their matches go.” So, yeah, definitely, we’ve got some people who have done some of these, like you’ve said, Hannah, and gotten some good results.

Hannah: You all are experts already.

Steven: Yeah. More questions here—companies that provide grants and matching gifts, do you find that maybe one follows the other? So the listener is saying they’ve received the grant, but it looks like we also have a connection to the employees. Do you think the company would do both? I guess the question is, is it common that if a corporation gives out grants that they would also do matching gifts or maybe vice-versa? Have you seen that? Does the data bear that out in any way?

Hannah: Yes, actually. I think especially for larger corporations, that’s often the case. Once they’ve invested in corporate social responsibility as a philosophy and they’ve started a corporate philanthropy program, then it’s like, well, why not add something else onto it. We do see there is a velocity or a bit of a momentum that comes along with these programs.

Often, the easiest programs often for a company to set up will be matching gift programs because they kind of have to set the application and the eligibility requirements and then it’s the employee that does the work. They’re the ones that submit the application and then all the company has to do is approve it and write the check.

So those often come first, or grants because there are a lot of models out there for building grant applications and for processing them and accepting them, so those do tend to be more common. Matching gift programs and volunteer grant programs have really taken off. But if we’re talking about where companies start, most often it’s those two just because of the simplicity of setting them up.

Then we move into those kind of skills-based team volunteering things that we were talking about before because that gives a bit more coordination from the company themselves to organize a group of employees to go work somewhere, skills they have to work into their project management. So it does get a bit more complicated. But yes, it is incredibly common for companies to have more than one type of corporate philanthropy program that they offer.

Steven: So your comments about the smaller businesses being maybe easier to thank or the people you should thank, speaking of kind of businesses as local nonprofit, maybe in the same city or the same area, would you recommend that the fundraisers spend time and effort reaching out to the businesses and their community and encouraging them to start matching gift programs, or would you rather say, “Well, the ones that are going to do it are going to do it and that’s not necessarily a good use of our time.” What do you think about that? Should the nonprofits maybe be encouraging to the corporations around that?

Hannah: I love this question. Absolutely. That’s how a lot of smaller companies get started with matching is they realize their employees want it. It is an investment in time. Even though they see the benefits of it, they see benefits to a lot of different things they can be doing to improve their company.

So knowing that it’s something their employees want and that it’s something that will benefit a local organization, whatever it may be, that’s an incredibly valuable place to start and to show them that it is wanted. We see that all the time. That’s how a lot of smaller organizations get started.

I don’t know who asked the question, but if you have a local company in mind, definitely reach out to them, anyone within their company, but also, if you have a lot of donors who already work for a local company, send specialized messages out to them or acknowledge them at a future fundraising event or whatever it may be because hearing from the organization itself does mean a lot because it’s an individual outreach to the company saying, “Hey, maybe you should start doing this. We would love to get matched donations.

“But coming from the actual employees who work there, that carries so much weight, especially if there’s more than one of them and they’re all saying, “This is something we really want,” and this particular nonprofit, like be sure they are eligible to receive your funds when you start it. I can’t overstate how impactful that is and how much impact it has on a company looking to make your employees happy and make them stick around. So, yes, absolutely reach out to your local companies and encourage them to start programs.

Steven: It seems like maybe you can start with the companies you already have a relationship with, like maybe current sponsors.

Hannah: Exactly.

Steven: Yeah. That makes sense. Okay. Cool. So, let’s say—I’ve got another donor database type question for you because that’s kind of my thing, as you know. Say you’ve got a donor, they’ve given to you annually over the last five years like clockwork. Every time they’ve given, they’ve also submitted the matching gift and then suddenly, maybe in the fifth year, they give but the matching gift doesn’t come.

Do you think you should bring that up to the donor, or is that maybe a little taboo to say, “Hey, you’ve been getting a matching gift. We didn’t notice it this year.” Do you think that’s an iffy thing to do to bring that up to a long-term loyal matching gift-type person?

Hannah: As you understand, those relationships with donors are so important. Often, [inaudible 00:52:15] if it’s someone that you have a relationship with, you might be able to say, “Hey, we noticed—we’ve appreciated your support through all these years. We were just wondering did something within your company’s program change?” It doesn’t have to be something that you ask them, “Hey, did you not take the extra five minutes to help me out here, man?” It doesn’t have to be a thing like that at all.

But sometimes it could be that they have moved on to a different company or the company’s program has changed or maybe they gave a little bit less this year and don’t meet requirements anymore or whatever it may be. That’s also important information for you to know. That would be my recommendation for going about something like that. I think it’s absolutely reasonable to reach out and try to figure out what’s going on.

If that’s something that you’ve been relying on, which matching gifts can totally be something that you rely on for revenue. They don’t have to be extra bonus money that sometimes show up. That’s perfectly within your rights to ask and make sure everything is okay and then you might have other donors that work for that company that are about to find out that they might be ineligible if they didn’t increase their gift by $5 or if they didn’t submit their request earlier this year, they might miss a deadline.

So knowing that information is never going to hurt. I don’t think that a donor who has been donating for six years and loyally submitting their matching gift request would be offended if you just simply asked them, “Hey, is something outside of your control keeping you from doing the thing that we really appreciate you doing?” So I don’t think so at all.

Steven: Yeah. Cool. Just tread lightly, right? As with all things.

Hannah: Be gentle, of course, but it’s probably not their fault.

Steven: Probably not. I know you touched on this a little bit, Hannah, but we’ve got a couple of questions about seasonality, best time of year. You talked about the automated thing from an online form. Let’s say you want to be proactive about sending a letter or some print material in the mail. Is there a good time of year? Is the year end the best time of year? It seems like some people—that’s when most of the donations come in, obviously, but it’s also when people are really thinking about it. Maybe in that November, December appeal when you should be talking about matching gifts the most or what do you think?

Hannah: Yes, but of course, you’re going to hear that from everyone in every sector of fundraising, which means that donors are inundated in November and December. But it’s when they’re thinking about it, and it’s when they’re planning, and it’s when they’re budgeting and importantly, it’s when a lot of companies are setting their deadlines.

That’s a really impactful way to begin a conversation about matching gifts when they’re thinking, “I have plenty of time. I’ll be fine, I can submit it tomorrow,” but if you say, “Hey, a bunch of corporate deadlines are coming up. Have you submitted?” That sense of timeliness and urgency can encourage donors to really go in and not miss the deadline. So, yes, although you’re probably focusing on a million things at the end of the year.

So I would not stress too much about it, of course. But because of those corporate deadlines, there is a good reason why you would be reaching out at the end of the year. Also, I would really encourage that ongoing outreach that’s timed around when they make the donation because more companies than not will give a certain amount of time after the donation and not timed around the end of the year, but that is a marginal difference. So, hedge your bets, I suppose, but yes, the end of the year is when most companies that set deadlines are going to set it, either that or April.

Steven: Okay.

Hannah: If that answered the question.

Steven: We’ve got a lot of questions. I think so, yeah. We’re probably not going to be able to get to all the questions here, but definitely reach out to Hannah. She’s a wealth of knowledge, obviously, but a couple more in here—what percentage of people do you think are eligible—a typical donor database, you’ve got 1,000 people—is it 5% of those people could probably be doing a matching gift through their employer? Is it 50%? What’s the average, if that data even exists, if you know about it?

Hannah: Yes, it does. So we talked about the number of big corporations that offer matching gift programs, so I won’t touch on that again. But between 15 million and 19 million individuals in the U.S. workforce are eligible for corporate matching gift programs.

Steven: Wow, okay.

Hannah: Not corporate philanthropy programs broadly, but specifically. That brings us to about 10% of the U.S. workforce. But it does sort of depend on the area of the country, perhaps, depending on what companies are where. So a major city will have a much higher density of eligible donors just simply because of the corporations that are there are bigger and tend to have more robust programs. So it does slightly depend on the area that you’re in if you’re a more geographic local nonprofit. But overall, we find about 10%.

Then when we look through all those eligibility requirements that we were talking about earlier, maximums and minimums—so not every single donation, even if the donor works for a company that offers a program, which is what that 15 million to 19 million is—not all of those donations themselves will actually be eligible. We find that once you kind of—again, it’s very difficult to generalize because there are so many different programs, but really, on average, about 8% of online donations around will be eligible for the programs that they’re eligible for.

Steven: Okay.

Hannah: Not 8% of the 10%, but 8% overall-ish. You hesitate to give exact numbers, but that’s where we find the averages tend to lie, just because every single program is different, so it’s kind of hard. But what we’ve seen through our own analysis and then pulling from a bunch of other trusted sources is what we tend to find, and working of course with our business partners and corporate partners and software provider partners. We try to get as exact as we can for you all, but there’s only so much you can do.

Steven: Yeah. Those are pretty good numbers. That’s not nothing if you’ve got a large percentage of your gifts coming online, especially 8% of a big number is still a pretty big number. I love it.

Hannah: Exactly.

Steven: Well, wow, this is cool. This is free money. Definitely get started. Any last piece of advice for folks, Hannah, before we close things out?

Hannah: I would say you all asked amazing questions and such kind questions as well. I love this audience. You all are amazing. But definitely reach out if I can answer any other questions that you may have. If we didn’t get to some of the questions that were submitted, then I’ll definitely or a member of my team will be reaching out to answer those for you. So don’t worry about that at all. We are always here to help.

There are a ton of free resources on our website as well. If you want to learn more about anything that we do, just head on over there. We also do daily demos of our software tools. So if you’re thinking you might want to implement some of the tools, give your donors a way to check their eligibility really quickly or even automate some of those processes, you don’t have to do it manually, definitely sign up for one of those demos and we’d be more than happy to talk you through it and see what plan might be right for your organization.

But also, thank you. Thank you for attending. Thank you for your attention and thank you to the Bloomerang team for having me.

Steven: Yeah. It was fun. Definitely check out that website. Lots of good stuff there. I can vouch for everything Hannah just said. They’re my go-to for sure for all this matching gift stuff. Thanks for being here, all of you folks for listening today. I think we had almost 300 people listen live. We always appreciate when you take time out of your day.

I know it’s a busy time of year. You’re probably getting ready for that year end or maybe your fall events. So thanks for being here. It was a lot of fun to have you. We will get you the slides and the recording today in case you want to revisit any of the content or maybe share it with a colleague or a boss or whatever. Be on the look out for an email from me.

We’ve got a great webinar coming up one week from today. We’ve got Brady Josephson from NextAfter. He has been spending the last year doing research on recurring gifts, monthly gifts. He’s got some really cool data to unveil in this webinar. If you have a monthly gift program, if you don’t have a monthly gift program, either way, check this one out. You’re going to learn a lot, for sure. I’ve seen the data. It’s some juicy stuff. So be here one week from today. That’s Thursday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, totally free, just like this one.

If you’re not interested in recurring giving, although I don’t know why you wouldn’t be, but if you’re not, that’s okay. There are lots of other webinars you can check out on our schedule. We’ve got some great ones through the end of the year. We’d love to see you again some other Thursday. We will call it a day there. Like I said, look for an email from me with all those great resources and hopefully we’ll see that next week. Have a good rest of your Thursday, have a good weekend, have a safe weekend and we will talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.
Kristen Hay