Corporate Matching Gift Programs, Part III

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

This is part three of a three part series on challenge gift drives.

Part one, “Three Steps to Launch Your Challenge Gift Drive”, can be found here.

Part two, “Best Practices in Challenge Gift Drives”, can be found here.

There is another important type of matching gift that happens outside of a challenge drive. Corporate matching, as it is known, was begun back in 1954 by General Electric Company. Through its Corporate Alumni Program, the GE Foundation began making matching gifts to colleges and universities, eventually expanding to other areas of charitable giving. Today, countless companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Union Pacific Railroad match employee contributions, sometimes at a ratio as high as 4:1. Naturally, some companies have overall and/or per-employee limits to their matching programs, but the leveraging power of these programs is nonetheless formidable. A 2012 survey by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy found that 83 percent of surveyed companies offered at least one matching gift program.

Though some agencies, such as political organizations, sports teams, and religious organizations, are restricted from applying for corporate matching programs, your own agency is quite likely eligible. If your church, synagogue, mosque, or meetinghouse focuses on community outreach, you will probably qualify as well.

Increasing your fundraising through corporate matching doesn’t cost more, though it takes some extra dedication from your fundraising team. To begin with, most individuals outside of the nonprofit sector have never heard of, and have never used, employee matching gift programs, so you’ll have a lot of promotion and explaining to do. You may also worry about how to manage this work owing to staff or volunteer time constraints. Worse, if yours is like most development efforts, you probably have very little information on where your donors or their spouses work, and even when you have that information, you must still keep track of employee-giving programs at all of the companies where your donors or members work.

Finally, assuming you can manage those areas of focus, there’s still the challenge of letting your donors know the appropriate process, guidelines, and steps so that they can complete the matching gift requests on their own. Is it any wonder that much of the available money goes untapped?

Thankfully, there are tactics in your fundraiser’s toolbox that will help you ford this procedural and bureaucratic stream. If you lack sufficient staff, you can ask a volunteer to study and learn about this unique area of giving. Another option is to use a free searchable web page on corporate matching, such as those offered on the websites of most major universities (Stanford, Penn, American University, for instance). These services allow donors to instantly determine their eligibility and access company-specific program requirements and forms. You can provide donors with a list of corporations that offer these programs (also available for free online at Double The Donation and many other sites) and ask them to check with their own employer.

As you begin unearthing corporate matches, try to walk in the shoes of your donors and think through all the ways they might get stuck in getting their employer’s match. Address their issues in advance. Make it easy for them and guide their charitable actions. Instead of simply asking them to check with HR on corporate matching programs, provide them with the necessary guidelines and forms.

Whether you help your donors find a corporate match or take the time to organize and implement a challenge drive, your potential benefits will easily outweigh the costs of your extra fundraising efforts. Your impetus is clear: By going the extra mile, you could be receiving the double, triple, or even quadruple the donations you might obtain otherwise.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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