Have You Met Your Match?
Employee matching-gift and volunteer-grant programs are two underutilized sources of fundraising for many nonprofit organizations. Due to the complexity of various programs, organizations typically take a passive approach to fundraising through these sources by leaving it up to individual donors or volunteers to initiate the matching-gift or volunteer-grant process.
Yet for organizations willing to take the time to crack the code, these fundraising sources can contribute significantly to their annual budgets. For instance, in just three years, the American Cancer Society was able to quadruple employee matching gifts to more than $10 million annually. In 2011, the University of Texas at Austin received a matching-gift check for $1.19 million from ExxonMobil.
Employee-giving programs have been around since 1954, when the GE Foundation created the Corporate Alumni Program, the first employer gift-matching program. Today, the GE Foundation matches more than $35 million annually to 501(c)(3) organizations and accredited educational institutions (including K-12). Since then, thousands of companies have created similar employee-giving programs where they either match donations made by their employees to eligible nonprofit organizations or provide volunteer grants to nonprofits where employees volunteer.
Although the specific program details vary by company, employee-giving programs are widely offered among corporations. In fact, more than 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies and countless smaller employers offer matching-gift or volunteer-grant programs. Some even match funds raised for fundraising walks and go as far as providing each employee with a yearly unrestricted grant to allocate to a nonprofit of the employee's choice:
- Verizon provides $750 grants for 50 volunteer hours and matches up to $5,000 annually to nearly all nonprofits or schools.
- IBM provides $1,000 grants for 40 volunteer hours and matches up to $5,000 annually from current employees or retirees to schools and up to $1,000 annually to all other nonprofits.
- BP, in addition to similarly generous matching-gift and volunteer-grant programs, allows every employee to allocate a $300 grant annually to any organization, as well as matches funds raised for nonprofit walks, runs, etc.
But what are they?