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Drive Campaign Success: How to Leverage a Matching Donation Challenge

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Published May 4, 2023 Reading Time: 10 minutes

Matching donation challenges are a highly effective strategy that can make a substantial difference for mission-focused fundraising organizations. When executed correctly, these challenges can be a game changer for time-based campaigns, providing a surge of donations to help nonprofits reach and exceed goals.

Typically, matching donation challenges produce the highest-grossing days of a campaign. These inspire donors and fundraisers to act quickly, doubling their donations’ impact on the cause.

If you want to get started with a matching donation challenge in your organization’s upcoming campaign, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll cover everything you need to know about the topic, including the following points:

  • What is a matching donation challenge?
  • Top benefits of matching donation challenges
  • How to locate a matching donor
  • Best practices for a successful matching donation challenge
  • How one campaign saw standout matching challenge results

Find out how to maximize a matching donation challenge as we walk through our top tips, tricks, and tools. Let’s get started.

What Is a Matching Donation Challenge?

A matching donation challenge is a type of fundraiser (or a specific initiative within a larger campaign) where a donor pledges to match gifts up to a certain amount for a specific organization, typically at a dollar-for-dollar rate.

These commitments are often for a specific time or a predetermined amount, generating a sense of urgency essential for the challenge’s success. For example, a donor may pledge to match every dollar donated up to $10,000 or every dollar contributed in a 24-hour window, doubling the impact of every donation.

Top Benefits of Matching Donation Challenges

The advantages of a matching donation challenge extend far and wide. Considerable benefits of this type of initiative include:

  • Incentivizing contributions when each dollar produces a more significant impact
  • Establishing urgency of participation if you reach a lull in your campaign
  • Inspiring action among on-the-fence supporters
  • Providing a last-minute boost to get your fundraiser across the finish line
  • Increasing gift conversion rates and average donation sizes
  • Offering additional funding for your cause in the form of the provided match

By amplifying the value of donations to your cause, a matching challenge might be exactly what you need to bring your fundraising strategy to the next level. Knowing that their gifts will go even further for a cause they care about can motivate donors to give⁠—and to give more than they might have otherwise⁠—thus, boosting the overall fundraising total.

Research from Double the Donation indicates that 84% of donors are more likely to donate if offered a match, leading to a 71% increase in fundraising appeal response rate when mentioning a match. Meanwhile, the research also states that 1 in 3 donors would give a larger gift if there’s a match applied, resulting in a 51% increase in the average gift amount.

These are certainly advantages that you don’t want your organization to miss out on.

4 Ways to Locate a Matching Donor

A matching donation challenge encourages a donor(s) to pledge a significant amount of money to your fundraising campaign. From there, you use that individual or group’s contribution to match other incoming gifts dollar for dollar. In doing so, the donor doubles the impact of their gift and motivates others to support the cause as well.

Identifying your matching donor is a crucial prerequisite for a successful donation-matching campaign. Here are a few critical practices that your team can consider as you explore the possibilities.

1. Reach Out to a Major Donor

Finding an individual matching donor to fund your match will likely require personalized engagement from your organization’s major gifts team or other development staff. It’s essential to let the potential large-gift donor know how you’ll use the money. They may even be more interested when you let them know you’ll use it to encourage additional donations⁠—and thus, impact⁠—for the cause.

If you don’t have a matching challenge donor, look back at your largest donors from last year’s event or campaign and give them a call. You can even pool several mid-level gifts together to create a substantial matching fund.

2. Crowdfund a Match

Speaking of pooling donations to create your match, nonprofit crowdfunding can come in handy.  Crowdsource a matching donation from a wide range of low and mid-level donors instead of hunting for one major contribution.

One powerful example of this idea is Charity Navigator’s $75,000 match campaign.

Example of a crowdfunding match campaign page

The organization told donors the campaign established a matching fund for the organization and ensured that they’d receive ongoing updates concerning how it would use their dollars. And it saw substantial success, providing the organization with the ability to match donations in an upcoming initiative.

3. Get a Corporation or Foundation on Board

Securing donation matches doesn’t just mean individuals. Much like a major donor putting up a matching gift for an organization’s campaign efforts, many companies or foundations will do the same. The key difference here is that instead of a single donor, it’s a group offering the gift.

If you know where your donors work, a company that employs a significant segment of your supporter base can be an excellent place to start. See if they’d be willing to offer up a major gift to match donations made to your organization within a specific period.

For example, if you know that 400 of your donors work for The Walt Disney Company, you may contact the company directly to explore a partnership, saying something like this:

“Our organization has received 500 donations and identified $4,000 match-eligible dollars from your company in the past year. We see your dedication to charitable giving, and we seem to have much in common already! Are you interested in sponsoring our upcoming campaign with a matching donation grant?”

Remember that this type of corporate match would differ from a typical employee match program that you may benefit from already (more on that below). Still, your existing matching gift software can also help you locate this type of corporate sponsorship potential.

4. Explore Individual Corporate Matching

Matching gifts from individuals tend to differ from a major corporate donation match in that employers ultimately match each eligible donor’s contributions—rather than a single company agreeing to match all donations to your cause. Instead of getting your match contributor to agree to a lump-sum donation upfront, supporters request individual corporate matches after they make their donations.

One of the key benefits of individual matching is that you can typically apply it on top of an existing matching challenge grant. This allows you and your supporters to triple (or even quadruple!) the value of an individual’s initial gift.

After each donor gives to your organization, provide company-specific matching gift guidelines with detailed next steps to simplify the process. Even better, leverage a matching gift database tool to identify match-eligible gifts and activate automated and personalized outreach. When you provide direct links to donors’ employers’ match submission forms this way, you make it quick and easy for donors to participate, encouraging more individuals to complete their matches on your behalf.

Best Practices for a Successful Matching Donation Challenge

Running an impactful matching challenge requires careful planning and execution. Here, we’ll provide a few tried-and-true tips that organizations like yours should follow to ensure maximal success.

1. Consider Multiple Types of Donation Matches

We previously mentioned a few key options to explore when seeking a matching challenge grant provider. And there’s (typically) nothing to say that you can’t combine the various methods to further amplify your fundraising results.

One of our favorite recommendations involves reminding donors about employee matching gift opportunities even after applying a challenge grant to their initial contribution.

For example, let’s say one donor works for a company with a matching gift program⁠—such as Coca-Cola⁠—and gives to your campaign during a 24-hour matching challenge. This donor contributes $100, which is then automatically doubled by the matching grant. Plus, Coca-Cola employees qualify for a 2:1 match from their employer.

The result? An initial $100 donation + a $100 challenge match + a $200 employer match = $400 total funding for your organization.

2. Use Fundraising Software to Manage Your Matching Challenge

Once you secure a matching donation, Classy makes it easy to get everything set up within the donation platform. Under the Advanced tab of a Classy campaign, your team can set start and end dates and a matching limit. From there, you have access to a fundraising thermometer that updates in real time as donors contribute.

You can also upload a sponsor or individual’s photo so your match provider receives the recognition they deserve.

Example of a fundraising thermometer

Not to mention, Classy integrates with the leading corporate matching gift software provider, Double the Donation. By leveraging this technology, organizations can simplify identifying and following up with corporate match-eligible donors, thereby making it easier to incorporate employee matching gift opportunities into matching challenges.

This automation enables teams to take their matching challenges to the next level while increasing donor engagement.

3. Emphasize Increased Donation Impact

Those giving to charitable causes likely do so because they feel connected to the organization and want to make a difference.

Thus, from a donor’s perspective, one of the most significant benefits of a matching gift opportunity is making their contributions stretch even further. This allows them to produce a more significant impact on a cause they care about without having to reach back into their wallets.

Be sure to communicate this idea throughout your campaign. You can even put it in terms of tangible outcomes. For example, if your team can typically provide one meal for a family of four for every $10 they receive, let your donors know the matching challenge helps them feed two families for that same amount.

4. Promote the Matching Challenge Thoroughly

If your donors are unaware of a matching donation challenge, your team likely won’t benefit from the full extent of the initiative’s benefits. Thus, you must take the time to inform your audience about the generous match opportunity⁠—and how they can get involved.

Depending on your current nonprofit marketing mix, this might include the following:

  • Leveraging social media to introduce and share updates regarding your matching donation challenge
  • Sending dedicated email or SMS blasts to existing and prospective donors, highlighting the opportunity for donation matching
  • Mentioning your donation match availability in all fundraising appeals going out within the challenge time frame
  • Encouraging fundraisers to promote your match challenge within a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign

In addition to promotions highlighting your primary donation match challengeintegrate employee matching gifts into the giving process. This should include a request for employment data within the donation page, personalized follow-ups with company-specific program details, and more.

After all, millions of donors work for companies with matching gift programs, but most remain unaware of the opportunities. Incorporating matching gift information throughout the donor experience works to increase awareness and involvement with the initiatives.

Top 5 Matching Gift Programs to Fuel Your Fundraising

5. Know That Proper Timing Is Key

The other trick to executing successful matching challenges has to do with timing. Launching your match in the final push of a campaign ensures that your communications with fundraisers are frequent but purposeful.

For example, you might begin in the last week, several days, or even the final 24 hours of the campaign. A limited window to take advantage of the dollar-for-dollar match will inspire urgency and encourage supporters to act quickly, driving momentum through the end of your campaign.

Another opportune time to initiate a matching challenge might be if you start to see a lull in giving during your campaign.

6. Share Updates Throughout the Challenge

Like any time-based fundraising campaign, you must keep donors informed and engaged throughout your matching donation challenge. Providing regular updates is crucial. After all, this allows you to keep your donors in the loop, building excitement, anticipation, and urgency.

When possible, provide specific details, such as the number of donors participating in the matching challenge, how many dollars you’ve matched thus far, and the remaining balance available from the matching grant.

Pro Tip
This is where resources like your fundraising challenge thermometer provided by Classy can come in handy!

With your matching challenge fulfilled, congratulate donors and encourage them to finish the campaign strongly. Or if you have another major donor willing to put up a second matching gift before the campaign ends, consider extending the matching challenge.

And remember to thank your donors for their involvement. This should include those who funded the match and those who got their gifts doubled.

How One Campaign Saw Standout Matching Challenge Results

Want to see all of the above tips and tricks in action? Here’s an excellent example from the Selamta Family Project.

This fundraising organization aims to create stable, long-term families for Ethiopian orphaned children and women impacted by child marriage, abuse, and poverty-related diseases. To elevate its annual Lead the Way 5K fundraising event, the Selamta Family Project team leveraged a matching challenge to inspire donor giving.

How It Worked

The Selamta Family Project partnered with the Argyros Family Foundation, which provided a $5,000 donation match to bring the campaign to its finish line.

Three days before the Lead the Way 5K, the Selamta Family Project shared the following graphic with fundraisers and posted on the nonprofit’s social media pages. The organization encouraged peer-to-peer fundraisers to share it on their social channels as well.

Example of a donation matching campaign

Then, with just two days left in the matching challenge, the organization followed up with another graphic to update supporters on the progress of the matching challenge.

Example of a matching campaign that uses a fundraising thermometer

And with just 24 hours to go, the Selamta Family Project emailed and posted one final update for fundraisers, donors, and participants.

Example of a matching campaign with a fundraising thermometer

All in all, this matching challenge helped Selamta raise nearly $15,000 in three days. This increased the total funds raised at the Lead the Way 5K by 61.3% year over year.

Next Steps to Double Success

Make the most of your fundraising with matching opportunities⁠. Whether offering a match through a major donor, a crowdsourced match fund, or a corporate matching gifts drive, the possibilities are endless. Regardless of which approach(es) you take, offering matching gifts to donors can prove invaluable to your efforts⁠.

Explore the following key takeaways to get started:

  • Use a matching challenge to propel you to the highest donation days of your campaign.
  • Reach out to corporate sponsors or large-dollar donors to solicit a matching challenge donation.
  • Consider pooling the donations of several donors if you don’t have one major donation to fund the matching challenge.
  • Don’t overlook individual corporate matching gift programs to supplement your matching donation challenge.
  • Limit the matching challenge to a select number of days and time it toward the end of your campaign to finish strong.
  • Keep your supporters updated throughout the progress of the matching challenge.

The right software solutions will simplify the process of hosting a matching donation challenge⁠—making it easy for your team to maximize their fundraising potential.

Double the Donation’s robust solution 360MatchPro provides nonprofits with automated tools to identify match-eligible donors, drive matches to completion, and gain actionable insights. With Classy’s integration to 360MatchPro, you can capture employment information from your donors directly through the checkout process, allowing you to follow up with donors about matching gift opportunities.

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