Don’t Let These 8 Donation Match Myths Hold You Back

6 min
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Jess Woloszyn

What if the only thing that stops you from crushing your fundraising goals this year is a donation match myth? Our list of myths and truths about matching gifts will make sure that’s not the case.

Donation matching seems like a no-brainer to many nonprofits. Matching programs result in $2 billion to $3 billion in donations a year, and 84% of donors donated because their gift was matched.

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 opportunities are overlooked because of common myths that limit a nonprofits’ full fundraising potential.

Dive into the truth behind eight common donation match myths below to remove unnecessary friction between your organization and a successful matching gift campaign.

 8 Donation Match Myths and Truths

Myth 1: A Donation Match Is the Same as an Employee Match

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To understand where the other seven myths come into play, let’s bust the biggest myth of all. When we refer to a donation match, we’re talking about more than just corporate matches for employee gifts. 

Employer matching, workplace giving, and corporate sponsorships are only a small subsection of donation match activities to take advantage of. Employer matches maximize revenue but are often one of the last options presented to donors in their giving experience. On the other hand, a donation match allows you to proactively promote a more significant impact to donors. 

The donors you reach will come to your cause with the intention to give more from the start, regardless of their working status or employer. If an employer match does work well for your organization, don’t dump it aside. Instead, explore which additional donation matching strategies you can add to your campaign. 

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. It’s certainly not just about employer matching”.

- Beyond Celiac

You’ll find plenty of inspiration on how to broaden your donation match strategy in the sections to follow, and our Guide to Pitching Corporate Sponsors will keep your employer match program strong while you’re planning.

Download Yours Now: Guide to Pitching Corporate Sponsors

Myth 2: A Donation Match Requires a Corporate Sponsor

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Corporate matching gifts are a tangible way to financially support a donation match during your fundraising campaign, but they shouldn’t hold you back if you can’t find the right partnership. Expand your available donation match funds by tapping into your existing donor base. 

It’s all about knowing where to look. Here’s where to start:

  • Look for 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 just 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.
  • Look for 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 previous two years. It’s worth asking if this year’s contribution could be publicized as a match, even if the donor wishes to remain anonymous. 
  • Look within your local community to offer a match with a specific dollar amount to reach. See if you can get 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. Especially over the last year or so, more small businesses are getting their time in the spotlight and looking at new ways to build a brand reputation.

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.”.

- High Fives Foundation

Pro Tip: Approach potential partners with the benefit of promoting their brand alongside your cause to gain their partnership.

Check out the Ultimate Guide to PR for Nonprofits to get your cause in front of influential donors for a potential match.

Download Yours Now: The Ultimate Guide to PR for Your Nonprofit

Myth 3: A Donation Match Has to Be a Big Match

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A donation match is appealing because a donor’s gift will have double the impact. 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.

Consider pooling the donations of several donors if you don’t have one large gift. 

One in three donors give a more significant donation if they know it will be matched and doubled. Label the match as anonymous to bring just as much impact as an employer or big celebrity would drive.

A donation match with larger impact could help persuade potential major donors to contribute to a match in the future. Make that impact even larger 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.

- Beyond Celiac

Pro Tip: Keep a list of your large-gift donors to nurture regularly and stay one step ahead when you want to host a match for new campaigns throughout the year.

Myth 4: You Can Only Do One Donation Match Per Campaign

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Don’t limit yourself to one donation match during a campaign. Doing several match days can spring new life into donors just in time to meet your fundraising goals. There are a few ways you can go about breaking down your donation matches.

You can host donation match days reactively when donation volume is lower or between big email appeals. You can also plan ahead to include several donation matches in your campaign strategy by breaking your donation match pool into smaller increments for short-term matches.

Pro Tip: Advertise your first match at the beginning of a campaign, followed by your second or third when donation volume drops or you’re in the final hours to surprise anyone who missed the first.

Myth 5: Donation Matching Is Seasonal

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Giving Tuesday and the end of the year are great opportunities to prompt donations through a match. They aren’t the only opportunities though. Proper communication can make your donation match successful any day of the year.

During the holiday season, our data shows increased donor traffic and conversion rates. That means a donation match might be the perfect way to boost donation volume during those slower months like the summer slump. Think about your spring appeals, significant events, cause awareness days, or other creative ways to introduce a timely donation match. 

Pro Tip: Lean on a strong communication strategy to explain your fundraising goal, why timely donations matter, and what a doubled impact looks like to get donors excited to give outside of big donation days.

See donor trends for every month of the year, down to the time of day donations are more likely in our annual report, The State of Modern Philanthropy.

Download Your Full Report on Donor Trends

Myth 6: If You Create a Match Campaign, Donors Will Come

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A donation match isn’t effective if donors don’t know to take action within your match window. Look at your match just like you would any other campaign and promote it to as many donors as possible for the biggest return. It’s a great way to bring creativity and entice action.

Think about where donors are likely to act right away and promote your match there: 

  • The subject line or header of an email blast
  • The announcement bar on your website
  • Social media stories and in-feed ads
  • Pop-ups on your donation pages
  • The first block of a donor newsletter
  • Your donation checkout page
Pro Tip: Don’t let your donation match timeframe or dollar amount stop you from putting a lot of promotion behind it. The donors you attract with a donation match promotion won’t suddenly leave your donation page if the match ends before they can donate. The right promotions keep donations flowing.

Myth 7: A Donation Match Is Limited to a Specific Campaign Type

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If you’re only promoting matches for direct giving, you could miss out on additional contributions for the campaigns you’re already putting time and energy into. Your main donation page is a great place to insert a donation match, but you have other options to explore too.

Look at your events, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer campaigns to see where a donation match can build more incentive:
  • 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 contribution now will eventually be a $20 contribution. Charity Navigator did this through a campaign page to raise $75,000 that was put up as a self-generated match for upcoming campaigns to drive donations. 
  • Include a matching gift option on your peer-to-peer fundraising pages to empower your donors with the ability to build more impact. Each peer-to-peer fundraising page may reach new donors passionate about seeing their friend or family member succeed in their fundraising efforts by matching donations.
  • Match gifts that come through your fundraising events to maximize the effort with a broad and highly engaged audience. A donation match can be a great addition to your auctions, raffles, benefit concerts, and galas that are already sponsored by a corporation or local business.

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.”

- Food Bank for NYC

Pro Tip: Try out one match at a time in various campaigns already underway to see how the match performs and where your unique donor base will respond best to the addition. From there, make decisions about where to incorporate donation matches into your strategy.

Myth 8: Donors Are Fatigued by Repeat Matches 

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If you’ve already tried a matching campaign and want to know if it’s worth repeating with the same donors year after year, the answer is yes.

Build excitement around an annual donation match the same way you would an event that happens every year. You can make it a community effort to exceed a prior year’s match with a challenge to increase the matching pool through large donations and partnerships.

The best way to keep donors engaged about your repeat matches is to nurture them. Use the impact of past donation matches and how beneficiaries of your cause were impacted to encourage participation. 

Pro Tip: Demonstrate the impact of your donation match and the reason you’re bringing it back year after year with visuals and testimonials. When you show the growth of your organization’s support and how each donor plays a role in that, you can turn any donor fatigue into motivation.

Create Your Dynamic Matching Strategy

You now have the insights to bring your donation match strategy to the next level. Here are the actionable takeaways to apply:

  • Expand donation matching beyond just employee match programs
  • 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 just the end-of-year giving season
  • Strategically market your matches to maximize the results
  • Use direct giving in addition to events, peer-to-peer, and crowdfunding campaign matches
  • Change the narrative around annual donation matches to counteract message fatigue

At our completely free 2021 virtual nonprofit conference, we’re hosting an array of speakers to share their expertise on where the social sector is going to inspire your next great idea. We’d love for you to join us.

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Until then, here’s a set of checklists to review before launching your next campaign.

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