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4 most common matching gifts questions from beginners

March 24, 2022
Two employees at a nonprofit work together to answer each other's questions about matching gifts.

Your nonprofit organization’s fundraising team works hard to acquire new donors, and you can double some of their donations with almost no additional effort through matching gifts.

Matching gift programs are fairly straightforward. However, few nonprofits take full advantage of the annually available funds from corporate matching gift programs. This is often because nonprofits don’t know about matching gifts or if it’s worthwhile to star a program. 

To explain the matching process, we'll answer the four most commonly asked questions by matching gift beginners.

Question #1: What are corporate matching gift programs?

Matching gift programs are a tool companies use to support the philanthropic endeavors of employees

Companies with gift matching programs will match the donations their employees make to eligible nonprofits. Thousands of companies offer these programs under their corporate giving umbrellas. 

However, many supporters aren’t aware if they qualify for a matching gift. You can fix this by promoting matching gifts before, during, and after the donation process. Make the steps to submit a matching gift as simple as possible for your generous donors. 

Question #2: How do matching gift programs work?

Each company that offers matching gifts will have their own guidelines for their program. These include what types of nonprofits the employee will match donations for, how much will be matched, and the deadline for matching gift application forms. 

Typically, a corporation promises to match on a dollar to dollar, or 1:1, ratio. So if an employee donates $500 dollars to your nonprofit, a company with a 1:1 ratio would also donate $500, doubling that donation. Some matching gift programs will even offer gifts at 2:1 or 3:1 ratios, tripling or quadrupling the donation respectively. 

The restrictions of matching gift donations vary from company to company. Some allow all employees—including part-timers and retirees—to apply for a matching gift. Others require that the employee be full time. 

Each program will have a maximum and a minimum match amount. The minimum is usually around $25, whereas the maximum ranges drastically, with an average of $1,000-$15,000 annually per employee. 

Sometimes programs will specify that different level employees have different maximums. For example, Gap Corporation allots $1,000 annually for part-time employees and as much as $15,000 annually for full time employees. 

Question #3: How is the matching gift process structured?

The matching gift process is simple for both donors and your nonprofit. As long as a donor knows their employer matches gifts, the steps to complete the paperwork or electronic form submission are pretty standard.

On the donor’s side, the process would go as follows: 

  1. Donate to a nonprofit.
  2. See if either your employer or your spouse's employer has a matching gift program.
  3. Find the correct paperwork or the URL to submit a matching gift application to the company.

For nonprofits, there are three steps as well:

  1. Let donors know about matching gifts.
  2. Receive a matching gift form that a donor has filed with his company.
  3. Confirm the employee donated and submitted the form to the company.
  4. Thank the donor for going the extra mile and applying for a matching gift.

Keep in mind is that companies have time limits on how long after a donation an employee can request a matching gift. Expiration dates can be anything from a set number of months since the donation date (3, 6, 9, 12) to the end of the calendar year. Some even have extended deadlines, such as to the end of January, February, or March of the year following when the donation occurred. 

These are typically generous deadlines, although it is important to keep two things in mind:

  1. You want to have donors apply for matching gifts as soon as possible after a donation. They will be much more likely to complete the process if you follow up with them quickly. So, even a matching period expiration as short as three months will be plenty of time in most cases.
  2. Being aware of common program deadlines can actually help your nonprofit make a big fundraising push. Do lots of your donors’ companies have year-end deadlines? Let them know! Emphasize matching gifts and the most common deadlines in your fundraising materials at year’s end, especially as you kick off any year-end fundraising for your annual fund.

Benefiting from matching gifts is all about knowing the system, being aware of the programs out there, and seizing ample opportunities when they present themselves. 

Question #4: What kinds of nonprofits can benefit from matching gift programs?

In a perfect world, all companies would match their employees' charitable donations! But as it is, about two-thirds of year-round matching gift programs consider only the following 501(c)(3) organizations eligible: 

  • Social service
  • Healthcare
  • Environmental
  • Educational
  • Cultural 

Political organizations and houses of worship without a community-centered service initiative are commonly excluded from matching gift programs.

Companies like Microsoft, Home Depot, and Verizon match donations to a wide range of 501(c)(3) organizations. For the remaining one-third of year-round matching gift programs, they usually match to organizations which fall into one or multiple of the above organization types.

For instance, ExxonMobil focuses its donation matching on arts/cultural and educational organizations. But the corporation also offers a volunteer grant programs where the company provides $500 grants to a much wide range of nonprofits when employees volunteer for 20 hours.

The best way to determine if your nonprofit is eligible for a particular matching gift program is simply to check! You can always go directly to a company's website, but using a matching gift database can make checking much quicker.

And remember: matching gifts aren't just useful for more donations, though they certainly do help in that regard. Look beyond the funds and identify corporations you may be able to start future relationships with.

Your donors' employment information can open a lot of doors, particularly if you're going to engage in prospect research or reach out to corporations for donations. Make sure you're housing employment information in your CRM.

Start your matching gift program

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to go out and learn about the leading matching gift companies and how you can market these programs to your donors. 

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