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How to Leverage Matching Gifts in Capital Campaigns

Imagine your fundraising team is discussing a capital campaign to raise money for much-needed facility renovations. Matching gifts are mentioned, but you’re not entirely sure how this type of corporate funding source fits into a traditional capital campaign. 

While you may not know much about them, this isn’t an opportunity you want to miss. Matching gift fundraising has the potential to elevate any capital campaign. In this guide, we’ll explain how they do just that and give you five easy ways to incorporate matching gifts into your capital campaign:

  1. Consider matching gifts during the planning phase.
  2. Reach out to match-eligible major gift prospects.
  3. Provide clear instructions on how to submit matching gifts.
  4. Encourage lower-level donors to do more with matching gifts.
  5. Follow up with donors after receiving their gifts.

Let’s explore the basics and how to make the most of corporate gift matching during each stage of your capital campaign.

What are matching gifts for capital campaigns?

Matching gifts are a type of corporate giving that involves companies matching their employees’ donations to eligible nonprofits, often at a 1:1 ratio. This means that a donor’s $200 donation to your capital campaign could be matched by an additional $200 gift from their employer, totaling $400 for your building renovations.

In short, matching gifts allow your team to double incoming donations for the cost of soliciting only the first. 

And the best part? Thousands of businesses offer these programs, so it’s more than likely that many of your organization’s donors are eligible to have their gifts matched by their employers. However, many donors don’t know that their employers offer these programs, so it’s up to your organization to weave matching gifts into your campaign strategy to get the word out.

With a capital campaign, however, you should be extra conscious about the eligibility guidelines of your donors’ matching gift programs. These rules and restrictions determine which gifts can be matched:

  • Minimum and maximum donation sizes: Most companies will only match donations up to a certain amount, such as $1,000. For capital campaigns, this means that most of your mid-level and major donors won’t be eligible for matching gifts, but the lower-level donors who give during the public phase of your campaign will.
  • Eligible organizations: Companies may restrict the kinds of nonprofits or causes that they’ll donate to. For example, a business focused on sustainability may only match gifts to environmental-related nonprofits.
  • Eligible employees: Typically, all full-time employees are eligible to participate in their employer’s matching gift program, but what about part-time and retired employees? If a significant portion of your donor base is retired, this will be a key guideline to pay attention to.

With these stipulations in mind, you can start creating a strategy to solicit more matching gifts for your capital campaign and reach your fundraising goal faster. These five tips will help you do so.

1. Consider matching gifts during the planning phase.

During the planning phase of your campaign, more than likely, you have conducted or will conduct a feasibility study⁠—whether in-house or by working with an external consultant. This study essentially determines if your organization has the support in place to pull off your plan successfully. It can also help you to adjust your goals and expectations to help craft practical and realistic campaign plans.

As you go through the planning process, we suggest that you maintain a focus on the power of matching gift fundraising. Consider the following questions during your campaign feasibility study:

  • As you determine your estimated revenue, how do corporate matches play into that total?
  • What percentage of current donations are being matched through corporate giving programs?
  • How can you expect that figure to vary as you incorporate additional matching gift strategies?

While matching gift programs are growing in popularity, they are often underutilized. By proactively seeking out the opportunities available to you, you can reverse this trend and bring your campaign revenue to the next level. And incorporating their value into the planning process can ensure you have the most accurate estimates possible.

2. Reach out to match-eligible major gift prospects.

A significant portion of revenue from any fundraising strategy comes from reaching out to top fundraising prospects⁠—especially when it comes to capital campaigns and major gifts. If your major donor prospects are eligible for corporate matches, you can essentially double your most prominent donations.

To get started, consider cross-referencing major donors against some of the most popular and generous employer matching gift programs. For example, imagine you have a top campaign prospect who we’ll call Amir. From your research, you know that Amir works for the Walt Disney Corporation, which offers an extremely charitable match for gifts up to $25,000. That means if Amir were to make an already significant donation of $25,000, along with securing a corporate match, his overall contribution value would total $50,000. That’s a huge jump⁠—think of how far it will go toward your capital campaign goals! 

3. Provide clear instructions on how to submit matching gifts.

To facilitate the process of donors submitting matching gifts, it’s important to explain the impact that matching gift revenue can have on your organization and provide clear instructions on how to get involved.

Here’s how these instructions might look:

  • Check eligibility. Before initiating the matching gift process, donors should confirm that they meet their employer’s eligibility criteria. They can either navigate to their company’s CSR software portal to find this information or, if your nonprofit uses matching gift software, they can use the built-in search tool on your donation page to check their status.
  • Initiate the match. Once their eligibility is confirmed, donors can fill out a matching gift request form through the CSR platform. This will prompt them to provide relevant information, such as the donation amount, the date of the donation, and the name of the nonprofit they supported. In some cases, they may also need to upload a copy of their donation receipt.
  • Submit and monitor progress. After providing the necessary information, donors should review their submission and click the “Submit” or equivalent button. They should then receive an email confirmation acknowledging their request and be able to check whether the request is approved, denied, or pending.

Keep in mind that these instructions will vary depending on the matching gift software that your nonprofit uses and the company that the donor works for. For example, if the company’s CSR platform integrates with matching gift auto-submission tools, employees will be able to check their eligibility and make requests all at once.

4. Encourage lower-level donors to do more with matching gifts.

Once you open your capital campaign up during the public phase, you’re likely to receive a ton of lower and mid-level gifts from supporters. Many of these contributions will be online donations, for which it’s quick and easy to incorporate matching gifts into the donation process⁠—which is great because targeting online donors for matching gifts is critical.

After all, studies by Double the Donation show that 84% of survey respondents indicated a higher likelihood of giving if a match was applied. At the same time, 1 in 3 stated that they’d make a larger gift if they knew their employer would match their donation.

Not only do gift-matching opportunities allow your team to receive doubled donations, but they can also be the perfect motivator to drive donations from donors who were previously on the fence about giving.

Picture this: another supporter, Maria, is interested in contributing to your capital campaign. However, her capacity to give is limited to around $100, which can seem like just a drop in the bucket of a million-dollar-plus campaign. When she finds out that her employer will match her gift at a 2:1 ratio, she realizes that her potential gift is now worth $300. Suddenly, that seems entirely worth it for Maria to complete her donation!

When you consider that you might have hundreds of “Marias” in your network of support, those smaller gifts (plus their matches) can add up quickly.

5. Follow up with donors after receiving their gifts.

Don’t lose touch with your capital campaign donors once they make their gifts⁠, regardless of the type of donor and the size of their gift. Next up along the donor journey are your stewardship practices⁠—and luckily, matching gifts can play a significant role here as well. 

Consider sending matching gift communications (such as emails and texts) following each donation. This can be a simple message reminding the recipient about the power of matching gifts and encouraging them to follow up with their employer to request a match.

For your highest-value match-eligible donors, you might want to take a more individualized approach that incorporates direct mail, personal phone calls and more. Regardless of the communication channel you choose, it’s important that you provide individuals with company-specific program guidelines for their employers.

Luckily, your matching gift software can drastically reduce the effort required at this step, both for your team behind the scenes and for the donors requesting their matches. If you provide donors with an easy-to-use matching gift widget during the donation process, you can easily share the most relevant details, such as donation match-eligibility requirements, submission deadlines and online forms. This cuts down the amount of individual research a donor must conduct to request a match and can be completely automated to save your team time and effort.

We suggest incorporating matching gifts into your existing campaign follow-up efforts, such as donor acknowledgments and thank-yous. Generally, a good time for this communication occurs just a few days after the initial donation is made. Then, consider reaching back out to match-eligible donors who have yet to request a match towards the conclusion of your capital campaign as an added reminder for those who might have forgotten to complete the process.

Pulling off a successful capital campaign is a big undertaking that requires juggling a lot of moving pieces while ensuring nothing falls through the cracks. Luckily, matching gifts have the potential to bring your campaign strategies to the next level⁠—as long as you have the tools and the knowledge to do so.

As you go through the capital campaign process, be sure to incorporate the power of matching gifts at every stage: including the planning, quiet, public and wrap-up. Good luck and happy fundraising!

Author: Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

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. 360MatchPro integrates directly into donation forms, CRMs, social fundraising software, and other nonprofit technology solutions to capture employment information and follow up appropriately with donors about matching gifts.

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