Posted by on Feb 16, 2017 Views: 6058

Matching Gifts 101: What Donors Should Know

Did you know there’s a way to quickly, easily double a contribution you make to your favorite nonprofit organization?

Yes, seriously!

Thanks to the magic of matching gift programs, you can exponentially increase your personal donation power by partnering with the company you work for.

Both small and large nonprofits can participate in matching gift programs, a valuable way that companies encourage employee charitable giving.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through a crash course on gift-matching and show you how you can take advantage of these programs today.

Here’s an overview of our topics:

  1. Matching gifts basics
  2. Benefits of matching gifts
  3. Submission deadlines to keep in mind
  4. Top gift-matching companies

If you’re interested in maximizing your giving potential, read on!

1. Matching gifts basics


Matching gifts certainly sound good (who wouldn’t love free extra money for your favorite cause?) but we know you’ve got some questions.

We’ll go over the basics of matching gift programs. Specifically:

  • What is a matching gift program?
  • What kinds of organizations are eligible?
  • How does the donation process work?

Now, let’s get started!

What is a matching gift program?

Matching gift programs are set up by companies as a method of inspiring charitable giving amongst their employees.

Essentially, these programs allow an employer to double or even triple an employee’s initial donation to any eligible organization.

By and large, most companies match at a 1:1 or dollar-per-dollar ratio.

Although that’s the standard, it’s not the only ratio you might see. Some companies match at .5:1 or as much as 4:1.

As well as following a preset matching ratio, companies also set minimum and maximum limits on donations.

A minimum limit generally falls between $1 and $100, but the average minimum is $25. Keep this in mind if you’re only able to donate a small amount, as your company may not match a donation below a certain amount.

Similarly, companies also set a maximum donation amount. Although these are less likely to be an issue, do keep these thresholds in mind as you plan your donation. Some caps are as low as $100, but most are closer to $1,000 or even $25,000.

If you’re looking to make a substantial gift (one that might contribute to your favorite organization’s capital campaign, for example), be aware that your company might not be able to match it.

These programs are great for you as a donor because it allows you to give more than you might normally be able to, and it’s even better for the nonprofits, since they get to see even more donation dollars toward their mission.

And yes, it really is as simple as it sounds!

What kinds of organizations are eligible?

While a large number of nonprofits are eligible for matching gift contributions, there are some limitations to keep in mind.

Most corporate giving programs will match gifts to a variety of organizations and institutions, including:

  • Educational institutions
  • Arts and cultural organizations
  • Environmental organizations
  • Community-based social services
  • Healthcare-based organizations

However, there are some organizations that are generally not eligible, such as political organizations, certain types of religious groups (usually those not attached to a social service or community organization), and sports teams.

These restrictions will vary by company, and there’s no way to know which organizations are universally eligible. The best way to make sure your company will match your gift is to check your employer’s specific guidelines.

How does the donation process work?

The exact methods might differ a bit from one company to the next, but generally speaking, there are a few steps you’ll probably be taking as you move through the gift-matching process.

Let’s take a look at what this looks like from your perspective.

  1. The first step is to make a donation. You can give directly to the organization, usually with a variety of payment methods.
  2. After your donation is complete, log on to your company’s matching gift portal, if they have one, or access a printable version of their matching gifts form online. (Hint: many nonprofits have a matching gift page on their website where you can easily search to see if your company has a program.)
  3. On the online portal, search for the organization you donated to and select them from the search results. If your organization cannot be found, you can usually add a new organization by providing some information about them. (Remember, not all organizations are eligible for every company’s program!)
  4. Next, you’ll need to enter some basic information about your donation. Generally this includes your payment type (i.e., credit, check, or cash), the date of the donation, and the amount. You may also be able to see the ratio at which your company can match the gift on this screen.
  5. Finally, submit your request! Verify your information and click “confirm.” Or, if you’re submitting a PDF of your form via email, send it to the designated address.

We told you it was easy! Now that you know how donation matching works, we can move on to discussing why matching gift programs are so great for everyone involved.

Takeaway: Gift-matching programs are set up by employers to promote employee giving. Most nonprofits are eligible, and the process for submitting your donation can be completed in less than five minutes.

2. Benefits of matching gifts


Clearly, matching your donation is an easy process. But that’s not the only reason to take advantage of such a program!

There are a number of benefits to matching gift programs, both for companies and for donors (that’s you!)—we’ll talk through some of the most important advantages.

For Employers

Your company likely participates in a matching gift program for a combination of reasons.

Most evidently, these programs encourage employees to donate to charitable causes and do so often.

If your company organizes or takes part in nonprofit fundraising campaigns that challenge team members to fundraise independently (like a race or bikeathon), matching gifts make reaching those goals much easier.

Plus, it incentivizes employee donors to stretch their fundraising goals even more.

In addition, these programs enable companies to expand their own corporate donation power. With your help, companies will be able to donate significantly more funds, and diversify their giving across a wide variety of charitable causes.

This leads to a strong charitable reputation for companies and a larger social impact in general.

For Employees

First and foremost, matching gift programs allow you as a donor to give more fearlessly than ever.

When your donation is doubled, your impact is doubled! Matching gift programs empower you to make even greater contributions toward causes you care about. They allow you to give more than you might normally be able to, and encourage you to give more often too.

In addition, knowing this feature is in place with your company can jump-start a long-term relationship between you and a nonprofit (or multiple nonprofits).

If you’ve never considered giving, a program like this can open your eyes to a world of giving opportunities and all the benefits therein.

A matching gift program can be a great incentive for giving again and becoming more involved with local (or global!) fundraising and community service opportunities.

Speaking of community service, matching gift programs might lead to other areas of corporate giving, including volunteer grants. These are additional programs also set up by your employer to encourage employee volunteerism in your communities.

Through these programs, companies provide monetary grants to organizations where employees regularly volunteer. They’re a great way to expand your efforts from giving to actively serving and giving.

Thanks to programs like these, you get to have a say in your company’s philanthropic footprint! With your help, your company can begin making an impact on causes you really care about.

Takeaway: Both donors and companies benefit greatly from matching gift programs. Ultimately, the greatest advantage of these programs is that they empower more donations for nonprofits everywhere.

3. Submission deadlines to keep in mind


If you’re worried that gifts you’ve already given might no longer be eligible to be matched, don’t fret!

Here, we’ll explain some general deadlines that go hand-in-hand with gift matching.

Although you should make a practice of submitting your donation match requests as soon as you’ve given, you’re not required to make those requests immediately.

Like almost every other facet of gift matching, you can count on some variations among companies.

But, more often than not, your employer’s submission deadline will fall within one of these standards:

  • Within a set amount of time. Many times, your submission deadline will occur 30 days, 3 months, or 1 year following the initial donation. (Hint: if you can’t remember when you donated, check your records! You’ll need to know the date when you submit your match request anyway.)
  • By the end of the calendar year. Some companies give you the rest of the calendar year to submit your requests. However, even if you make your gift in January, don’t put off submitting until December! Not only will you be more likely to forget to complete your submission, you’re also delaying those extra funds from making it to your chosen organization.
  • By the end of the year (plus a grace period). Your company may give you until the end of January, February, or even March of the next calendar year to complete your submission. That way, you have a little more time to tie up loose ends following the hectic holidays.

Takeaway: Don’t let your submission deadline slip by before you complete your request! Stay on top of things by being familiar with your company’s deadline, whether that be within a month, a year, or a longer period of time after the initial donation.

4. Top gift-matching companies


After learning about all the benefits of matching gifts, you might be wondering what amazing impact large corporations are able to have on charities worldwide.

In fact, an impressive 65% of Fortune 500 companies make use of a matching gift program. That’s a lot of donations—and a lot of money toward charitable causes!

For a full rundown of the top-giving corporations, check out Double the Donation’s thorough analysis right here.

Here are some highlights:

  • General Electric (the first company to employ a matching gift program!) annually matches more than $35 million to registered nonprofits and accredited educational institutions.
  • BP offers a 1:1 matching ratio on all donations and guarantees a 100% match on any funds employees raise for charity runs, walks, or other active team fundraisers.
  • CarMax not only doubles employees’ donations, they also offer gift-matching for employees’ dependents until they turn 26. Talk about family fundraising!
  • Microsoft has definitely changed the gift-matching game. Since they’ve launched their matching program, the company has raised an astonishing $1 billion and counting.

With this in mind, imagine what your gift might be able to do when it’s matched by your company!

Takeaway: There are a number of sizable companies taking full advantage of matching gift programs and making a serious impression on the nonprofit world. One gift might not seem like a lot on its own, but thanks to these programs, donations add up—fast!

In Short

Matching gift programs encourage employees like you to give to nonprofits around the world.

Everyone benefits: the companies, the nonprofit organizations, and the donor.

Look to see if your employer has a matching gift program in place. By partnering with your company, you might be able to double your philanthropic impact.

Now that’s a two-for-one deal!

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. Connect with Adam via email or on LinkedIn.