Double the fun(d)s: A guide to employee matching gift programs!


Did you know that thousands of companies match donations made by their employees to a wide range of nonprofits? It’s true. Through employee matching gift programs, many companies support the nonprofits that their employees are passionate about.

matching employee donations

What is a matching gift?

Corporations organize charitable giving programs to match employee donations to eligible nonprofits. The matching donations are called matching gifts. Some companies match dollar for dollar, while others triple and even quadruple donations for certain employees or board members.

Basically, you can have a double-decker burger instead of a single burger at no added cost to either you or your donor. The ancient proverb must go something like, “A bit of matching gifts follow the hand that donates.”

The process is simpler than tying your shoes. For instance, take Walinda, who is the full-time soda taster for the Coca-Cola Company (and the envy of millions). Walinda donates $1,000 to your local museum, because museums are awesome. Your nonprofit receives Walinda’s donation and, like a horse bursting free from the starting gate, because you want to grab Walinda’s attention while the donation is fresh in her mind, you shoot her an email informing her to check with her HR department to see if she’s eligible to submit a matching gift request. And she is! And she submits the request! And Coke writes your nonprofit a $2,000 check, because they match 2:1, so Walinda’s original $1,000 donation has been tripled to $3,000. That could afford you either a lot of carbonated happiness or something more useful to your nonprofit.

Coke’s $2,000 donation is the matching gift. It’s generous corporate giving programs, such as Coke’s, that provide necessary funding to nonprofits. 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gift programs, and in 2014 the top ten corporations donated over $2 billion in cash to nonprofits, and much of that through employee matching gift programs. The corporate philanthropy statistics further estimate that some $6-$10 billion in matching gifts go unclaimed each year.

Yeah, I’m picking up my jaw, too.

Are you eligible for matching gifts?

Right, so it’s only worth your time to promote matching gifts if your nonprofit is eligible to receive them.

The key is to make sure your organization is a registered 501(c)(3) organization as most 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for matching gifts, including:

• Education organizations, such as K-12 schools or higher education institutions.
• Healthcare organizations, such as hospitals, substance abuse programs, and medical researchers.
• Arts and cultural organizations, like your friendly neighborhood aquarium, the art museum, and the symphony.
• Environmental organizations, because wildlife preservation and air quality matter.
• Social services, such as homeless shelters and child welfare organizations.

About 2/3 of companies with matching gift programs will match donations to nonprofits which fall into a wide range of categories while the remaining companies restrict donations to nonprofits which fall into one or more of the above categories.

Not all 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for matching gifts, and common exceptions include:

• Political campaigns
• Sports teams
• Religious organizations (i.e. churches, synagogues, etc.)

If you’re eligible then let those donors know how they can give twice as much at no added cost to themselves. Although, some types of employees may not be eligible for matching gifts per their company’s corporate giving guidelines.

Who can submit matching gift requests?

It varies by company, but the people who may be eligible to have their donation matched include:

• Full-time employees
• Part-time employees
• Board members
• Spouses
• Retirees

Almost all companies with matching gift programs will match donations by full-time employees and then the guidelines vary by company for the other employee categories.

The matching gift ratio can vary according to the person’s standing with the company. For example, Johnson and Johnson donates $2 for every $1 current employees donate (max $20,000 company contribution) and donates $1 for every $1 retirees donate (max $10,000 company contribution).

Why and how should you promote matching gifts?

Most of the time, all you have to do is ask and donors will submit the proper matching gift paperwork, especially if you provide them with a copy of the forms and guidelines.

A lack of awareness, whether about matching gifts in general or that their company offers such a program, as well a lack of knowledge around the submission processes are the biggest reason why donors fail to take advantage of corporate philanthropy. Some famous guy once said, “Ask and you shall receive,” and you don’t want a lack of matching gift awareness to be why your fundraising campaign falls short.

Now, you don’t want to pursue exclusively major donors or only employees who work for large companies in your pursuit of matching gifts. Thomas the Tank Engine taught us that little engines can do big things, and doubled donations from your smaller donors can add up. Likewise, it’s not just major companies like Coke and General Electric that donate to nonprofits.

Companies both large and small offer corporate giving programs, so either have a staff member take responsibility for promoting matching gifts to donors and providing them with the necessary forms, subscribe to a service like Double the Donation, or at the very least encourage donors to seek out their HR departments to ask about matching gifts.

Additional funds can come from any donor, and it doesn’t have to be hard to raise awareness. There are many ways to promote matching gifts:

• Email – From acknowledgement emails that thank donors to lively newsletters sent out at regular intervals, email is a quick, easy way to remind donors to seek out matching gifts.
• Social Media – These days, people almost live on Facebook and Twitter. Use these channels to reach out to your technologically-savvy donors to spread the good word about matching gifts.
• Prospect Research Discover major gift donors, and then double those massive contributions. Remember Walinda’s gift? It doesn’t take a college graduate to understand the difference between $10,000 and $30,000.
• And more! It’s exciting how many ways you can promote matching gifts, so get creative and get started today.


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