Don’t Let These 13 Donation Matching Myths Hold You Back
What if the only thing that stops you from reaching your fundraising goals this year is a donation-matching myth? Our list of myths and truths about matching gifts will make sure that’s not the case.
Donation matching may seem like a no-brainer to many nonprofit organizations. In fact, matching programs result in more than $2 to $3 billion in donations a year, and 84% of donors contributed an online donation because they received a donation match of their gift.¹
Match revenue enables organizations to amplify their fundraising efforts to achieve maximum amounts of monetary support. Plus, promoting matching gifts empowers donors to stretch their dollars further to produce a greater impact for a cause that matters to them.
Given those statistics, it’s hard to believe that just over 1% of individual contributions from donors get matched. It leaves us to wonder how many overlooked opportunities there are among cultural organizations, religious organizations, and more because of common myths that limit a nonprofit’s full fundraising potential.
Debunking Matching Myths to Help You Raise More
In this guide, we’ll walk through some of the most common myths about match donations and corporate philanthropy and expel these incorrect assumptions with powerful facts. These include the following beliefs:
- A donation match is the same as an employee match
- Offering a donation match requires a corporate sponsor
- Few companies provide donation-matching programs
- Corporate match-eligible donors are aware of the opportunities
- A donation match must be from a major donor
- You can only host one donation match per campaign
- Donation matching is seasonal
- If you create a matching campaign, donors will come
- A donation match is limited to a specific campaign type
- Event donations don’t qualify for matching gifts
- Recurring gifts aren’t eligible to be matched
- Donors are fatigued by repeat matches
- Corporate matching gift programs are complicated for supporters
Dive into the truth behind these 13 common donation-match myths to remove unnecessary friction between your organization and a successful matching-gift campaign.
Myth 1: A Donation Match Is the Same as an Employee Match
To understand where the other 12 myths come into play, let’s first debunk the biggest myth of them all. When we refer to donation matching, we’re talking about more than just corporate matches for employee gifts.
Although essential for an optimized strategy, employer matching, workplace giving, and corporate sponsorships all comprise one subsection of donation-match activities available to nonprofits.
Employer matches help maximize revenue, but unfortunately, not all donors qualify for the programs. And even those that are eligible for corporate donation matching might not be aware of the opportunity until after the giving experience.
That’s why pairing a separate donation match (such as a challenge grant) can produce even greater results—allowing your team to promote a universal opportunity for growing individual donor impact proactively.
The donors you reach through separate donation matches or challenge grant opportunities will come to your cause with the intention to give more from the start, regardless of their working status or employer. When they do, you can highlight employer-match opportunities to elevate your campaign impact further.
“Donation matching is a key part of our continued grassroots fundraising success. Our community is always excited to see their dollars go further. We strategically plan each campaign to include at least one match.
You’ll find plenty of inspiration on how to broaden your donation-match strategy in the sections to follow, and our Nonprofit‘s Guide to Pitching Corporate Sponsors will keep your employer-match program strong while you plan.
Myth 2: Offering a Donation Match Requires a Corporate Sponsor
Matching gifts are a tangible way to amplify your fundraising campaign but shouldn’t hold you back if you can’t find the right partnership. Expand your available donation-match funds by tapping into your existing network of support.
It’s all about knowing where to look. Here’s where to start:
- Consider a match from someone influential in your circle of supporters. Look for individual donors with name recognition that could motivate others to give. You could find a celebrity supporter, an athlete, or a well-known personality within your local community. Remember, it’s less about the size of an individual’s following and more about their ability to influence donations.
- Locate a match from a major donor who gave to your cause in the last year. Let’s say you have a donor who made a $10,000 gift every spring for the past two years. It’s worth asking if you could publicize this year’s contribution as a match, even if the donor wishes to remain anonymous.
- Explore possibilities within your local community to offer a match. Look for a small business or group of local organizations to provide a match that you can use for a “power hour” or “flash match day” when campaigns hit a lull. Small businesses are increasingly looking for new ways to build brand reputations and strengthen corporate social responsibility programs.
- Look at individual employer matching. Remember that many donors likely remain eligible for individual matches through their employing companies if you can’t find a major corporate sponsor. These employee-activated programs can be a great alternative (or addition) to a comprehensive match campaign. All you need to do is encourage donors to look into their own corporate match programs or collect employment data to help your team identify and communicate eligibility information yourself.
“We believe in finding partners that want to create force-multiplying opportunities for a greater good and support the program services of the organization. By working directly with partners that provide matching sponsorship dollars towards fundraising campaigns, we are able to promote and encourage donors and participants to engage their communities since donated dollars will be doubled.
Pro Tip: Approach potential partners with the benefit of promoting their brand alongside your cause. Your existing donor base can help fuel impactful opportunities and even help grow the customer base for your partner.
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations for Nonprofits to get your cause in front of influential donors for a potential match.
Myth 3: Few Companies Provide Donation Matching Programs
Employer donation matching is one of the most significant (and widely accessible) forms of fundraising matches. However, many nonprofits have been hesitant to pursue employer donation matches due to the belief that the companies offering such programs rarely exist.
And that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In fact, donation matching research indicates that tens of thousands of companies offer matching-gift initiatives for employees.² This includes over 65% of Fortune 500 companies and more than 51% of Russell 1000 Index companies. In total, nearly 27 million individuals work for companies with such programs.
Lists of top matching gift companies with generous match ratios often include well-known businesses such as General Electric, The Walt Disney Company, Microsoft, The Coca-Cola Company, State Street Corporation, and many more.
Pro Tip: Invest in a comprehensive matching gift database tool that can compile information about thousands of companies’ donation matching programs for you. This makes it quick and easy for nonprofits and donors to identify match-program availability, eligibility guidelines, and submission processes.
Myth 4: Corporate Match-Eligible Donors Are Aware of the Opportunities
Another common myth has to do with the idea that all (or even most) corporate match-eligible donors are already aware of the opportunity. We mentioned in the previous myth-debunking section that nearly 27 million individuals work for companies with matching gift programs. But the sad truth is that most of this group has never learned of the programs’ availability.
In fact, more than 78% of eligible donors are unaware of whether their company matches employee donations—let alone the program specifics.³ From there, an additional 16% of individuals know their employer offers a donation matching program but are unsure if they qualify or how they would go about requesting a match.
Currently, only an estimated 8% of donors who know their employer matches gifts are aware they qualify for the program and understand the process for getting involved. These are the donors most inclined to take the steps to request a corporate match. The previous groups, on the other hand, are more likely to leave eligible matches unclaimed due to a lack of awareness.
Pro Tip: Take a proactive approach to marketing corporate matching-gift opportunities at your nonprofit to fuel employee engagement. This can help close the knowledge gap and ensure more eligible donors, whether part-time or full-time employees of their respective companies, know how to get their gifts matched on your organization’s behalf.
Myth 5: A Donation Match Must Be From a Major Donor
A donation match is appealing because a donor’s gift will have double the impact on your mission. However, it’s far less about the size of your overall matching pool. You can have the same success with smaller donations, especially if you combine them.
In other words, consider pooling the donations of several donors to create a single, major matching gift.
One in three donors increases the size of their initial donation if they know an employer will match and double it. Plus, labeling the match as anonymous can bring just as much impact as a dedicated corporate sponsorship or well-known celebrity.
A donation match with a larger impact could also help persuade potential major donors to contribute to a match in the future. Make that impact even greater by hosting a matching challenge that calls on local organizations to match large gifts made for a specific campaign.
“We reach out regularly to board members and trusted major donors when we’re in need of securing a campaign match. Our fundraising always goes further when we tell people their impact is doubled.
Pro Tip: Keep a list of your large-gift donors to nurture regularly to stay one step ahead when you want to host a match for new campaigns throughout the year.
Myth 6: You Can Only Host One Donation Match Per Campaign
Hosting several time-sensitive match days can spring new life into donors just in time to meet your fundraising goals—so don’t limit yourself to a single donation match during a campaign. There are a few ways to go about dividing up your donation matches.
You might organize donation matching days reactively when you notice donation volume is lower—or between big email appeals. Alternatively, you can plan to include several donation matches in your campaign strategy by dividing up your donation match pool into smaller increments for short-term matches.
Not to mention, you can even incorporate individual employer matches throughout your campaign, complete with personalized follow-ups every time you receive a match-eligible donation.
Pro Tip: Advertise your first match at the beginning of a campaign, followed by your second or third when donation volume drops. Then, consider a final match in the last few hours before a fundraising deadline to surprise anyone who missed the first and encourage supporters to end the campaign strongly.
Myth 7: Donation Matching Is Seasonal
Giving Tuesday and the year-end giving season are great opportunities to prompt donations through a match. These aren’t the only opportunities, though. Proper communication can make your donation match successful any day of the year.
During the holiday season, many nonprofit causes expect increased donor traffic and conversion rates. That can be a great time to highlight ongoing match opportunities, such as employer-matching gifts.
On the other hand, dedicated donation matches can be the perfect way to boost donation volume during those slower months like the summer slump. And don’t forget about your spring appeals, cause awareness days, or other significant events to introduce a timely donation match.
Pro Tip: Lean on a strong communication strategy to explain what your fundraising goal is, why timely donations matter, and what a doubled impact looks like to get donors excited to give outside big donation days.
Dig into timely donor trends to help shape your donation-match outreach strategy in our annual report, The State of Modern Philanthropy.
Myth 8: If You Create a Match Campaign, Donors Will Come
A donation match isn’t necessarily effective just because it’s available. If donors don’t know to take action within your match window, they’re not likely to get involved.
That said, it’s critical to look at your match as you would any other campaign and promote it to as many donors as possible for the biggest return. It’s a great opportunity to get creative to entice action.
Think about where donors are likely to act urgently and promote your match there.
This might include:
- Subject lines or headers of an email blast
- SMS text campaigns
- Announcement bars on your website
- Social media stories and in-feed ads
- Pop-ups on your donation pages
- First blocks of a donor newsletter
- Donation checkout pages
Pro Tip: Prioritize promotion for each donation-match opportunity despite the donation-match time frame or dollar amount. The donors you attract with a donation-match promotion won’t suddenly leave your donation page if the match ends before they can donate, which is what you want. The right promotions keep donations flowing and ensure donation matches when possible.
Myth 9: A Donation Match Is Limited to a Specific Campaign Type
If you’re only promoting matches for direct giving, you could miss out on additional contributions for the campaigns you’ve already invested energy and time. Your main donation site is a great place to insert a donation match, but you have other options to explore. And while many other campaign strategies are often not considered eligible for matching gifts, that’s simply not true.
To drive matches in all campaign types, take a look at your crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives to see where a donation match can build more incentives.
For example, consider the following opportunities:
- Build a crowdfunding campaign to engage supporters who can donate to a matching fund used in the future. You can attract donors by letting them know their $10 donation now will eventually provide the value of a $20 contribution.
- Include a matching gift option on your peer-to-peer fundraising pages to empower your donors to make a larger impact. Plus, each peer-to-peer fundraising page may reach new donors passionate about seeing their friend or family member succeed in their fundraising efforts. This is particularly easy to do when your peer-giving software integrates with matching gift software, like Classy and Double the Donation.
“During our 5 Borough Challenge peer-to-peer campaign, we encouraged friendly competition among our supporters to see which borough could raise the most money. While New York pride certainly fueled motivation, we were also fortunate to receive a $100,000 match from one of our corporate partners, which certainly helped jumpstart the challenge.
Pro Tip: Try one match at a time in various campaigns already underway to see how the match performs. Then, see where your unique donor base will respond best to the addition. From there, determine where to incorporate donation matches into your strategy to optimize results.
Myth 10: Event Donations Don’t Qualify for Matching Gifts
Another common question regarding eligible donation types has to do with whether nonprofit donations made through fundraising events can qualify for donation matching. Luckily, the answer is generally yes.
Despite the myth that event donations don’t qualify for matching, many event-related gifts do. A donation match can be a great addition to your auctions, raffles, benefit concerts, galas, and runs/walks/rides already sponsored by a corporation or local business. By matching gifts that come through your offline and online fundraising events, your organization can maximize the effort with a broad and highly engaged audience.
However, keep in mind that corporate matching might get tricky if the entirety of an event ticket isn’t tax deductible. Still, many companies agree to match the tax-deductible portion of the event contribution.
Regarding challenge grants or separate donation matches, you’ll want to confirm event donation eligibility with the donor putting up the match beforehand, then communicate those guidelines to your supporters for the best results.
Pro Tip: Provide tax receipts for event donations and ticket sales that specify the exact donation amount of the transaction that qualifies for tax deductions if you don’t already. Doing so will simplify the matching gift process for donors.
Myth 11: Recurring Gifts Aren’t Eligible to Be Matched
Speaking of match-eligible gift types, another common yet typically false idea is that monthly or recurring donations don’t qualify for donation matches. By overlooking these gifts, which often comprise a substantial amount of an organization’s revenue, you’ll likely leave many potential matches on the table.
In fact, recurring gifts can typically qualify for many donation-matching initiatives, including employee matches, challenge grants, and more.
For the best results, corporate-matching gift experts typically recommend batching donations annually to simplify the process rather than submitting a separate match request monthly (or another given period).
The good news is that many companies allow employees to batch recurring donations for a single match request—even if an individual contribution doesn’t reach the company’s minimum threshold.
Regarding challenge grants, however, only recurring gifts made within the period specified by the donation match typically qualify for a match.
Pro Tip: Encourage all donors to look into matching gift program guidelines and submit their matching gift requests as needed. This should include one-time, repeat, and recurring supporters.
Myth 12: Donors Are Fatigued by Repeat Matches
If you’ve already tried a matching campaign and want to know if it’s worth repeating with the same donors year after year (or even multiple times within the year), the answer is a resounding yes.
In fact, the more matching-gift opportunities, the better.
Build excitement around an annual donation match the same way you would a yearly recurring event. You can make it a community effort to exceed a prior year’s match with a challenge to increase the donation pool through large donations, corporate partnerships, and more.
However, the best way to keep donors engaged with repeat matches is to nurture them. Use the impact of past donation matches—and the positive impact of your cause on beneficiaries—to encourage participation.
Pro Tip: Help donors understand the value of donation matching because when they do, they’ll be eager to get involved time and time again. Consider doing so by utilizing visuals and testimonials to tell your story. When you show the growth of your organization’s support and how each donor plays a role in that, you can turn donor fatigue into ongoing motivation.
Myth 13: Corporate Matching Gift Programs Are Complicated for Supporters
Our final myth is one often believed by nonprofits and donors—and can be one of the leading causes of unclaimed matches among known match-eligible donors. It’s the idea that the corporate matching gift request process is complicated for the supporters in question.
However, the truth is that requesting a match is typically a quick and easy experience for qualifying donors. Although the process itself can vary from company to company, most corporate programs simply ask donors to complete a brief online submission form. This matching application most often requests basic information about the employee, their recent donation, and the organization they supported.
In fact, one of the most complicated aspects of the process has to do with locating the correct forms to begin with—and that’s something that donation matching tools can alleviate.
A matching gift database and automation solution can provide donors with direct links to their companies’ online request forms. Not to mention, innovative auto submission capabilities made available through Double the Donation’s standard request form and corporate social responsibility platform partnerships can automate the request process for select donors altogether.
“Double the Donation [and Classy donation forms] provide the tools for us to increase our matching gift revenue in ways that we would never be able to without it. Once we got up to speed, we saw an increase in both engagement and overall matching gifts.
Pro Tip: Equip your organization with best-in-class matching gift technology. Get a demo of Double the Donation’s 360MatchPro to learn more, and be sure to mention you use Classy in the request form!
Create Your Dynamic Matching Strategy
You now have the insights to bring your donation-match strategy to the next level and elevate your overall donation process for everyone involved.
Here are the actionable takeaways to apply:
- Expand donation matching beyond employee match programs
- Make an effort to inform supporters about the prevalence of corporate-matching opportunities
- Incorporate more significant gifts from individual donors
- Don’t be afraid to combine individual gifts for a matching fund
- Use multiple matches throughout your campaign during lulls
- Introduce matches outside of the end-of-year giving season
- Market your matches strategically to maximize the results
- Use direct giving in addition to events, peer-to-peer, and crowdfunding campaign matches
- Pursue matching gifts for one-time and recurring individual donations
- Change the narrative around annual donation matches to counteract message fatigue
- Simplify the matching-gift process and communicate how donors can get involved easily
And remember, empowering your team with the right technology can go a long way.
That’s why we recommend getting started with Classy and Double the Donation, a seamless partnership that enables nonprofit fundraisers to maximize donation matching and bring your overall strategy to the next level.
- “Corporate Giving and Matching Gift Statistics ,” Double the Donation, last accessed March 7, 2023, https://doublethedonation.com/matching-gift-statistics/.
- “Corporate Giving and Matching Gift Statistics ,” Double the Donation, last accessed March 7, 2023, https://doublethedonation.com/matching-gift-statistics/.
- “19 Matching Gift Statistics Every Nonprofit Should Know [Updated 2023],” Top Resources, 360 Match Pro, last modified January 3, 2023, https://360matchpro.com/matching-gift-statistics/.
Checklists for Crowdfunding, Peer-to-Peer, and Event Fundraising Campaigns
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