Strike a Match(ing Gift)!
Mary J. Fundraiser, a devoted reader of FundRaising Success, has some questions about matching gifts. So, of course, she turned to her favorite source for fundraising strategy!
FundRaising Succcess: Hi, Mary, what did you need to know about matching gifts?
Mary J. Fundraiser: Well, everything ... really.
FS: Well, you know, it really is like manna from heaven when a donor is so in love with your organization or campaign that he, or she or it (because matching gifts often come from corporations) agrees to let your organization use his, her or its donation to challenge other people to give. As a matter of fact, a match in a direct-response vehicle can boost revenue by 30 percent over not having one. But if you have a matching gift and don't promote it in the right way, you'll wind up leaving thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table.
MJF: Can you explain the concept of matching gifts for me ... right from the start? Not the ones where employers match their employees' donations — though those are important. But more like matching-gift campaigns where a donor makes a generous gift and we, as fundraisers, use it to challenge others to donate.
FS: Sure, Mary! It starts when a donor — usually someone who knows your organization, who has been giving for a while and who trusts you, makes a substantial donation. Someone in your fundraising department or development office who is really on the ball ...
MJF: That would be me.
FS: Of course, that's what I meant. Someone realizes that this is a terrific opportunity to encourage giving by others. You chat with the donor, then if he or she agrees, you launch a matching — or challenge — gift campaign, following the guidelines that you and the donor work out and sign off on.
MJF: So, how do we do that?
FS: Well, that's as good a place to start as any. And actually the scenario I just mentioned is a little misleading. Organizations are best advised to be proactive in getting gifts that can be used as a challenge gift.
MJF: So most major donors probably wouldn't think to come to us with the idea of using their donations for a matching-gift challenge?
FS: Probably not. Kimberly Seville is a creative consultant and freelance copywriter for nonprofits. She also writes FS' DM Diagnosis column, which makes her one of our resident experts. She says that in her experience, the big issue with matching gifts is that nonprofits have trouble securing them. Here are a few ways she suggests pursuing them:
- Hit up the board. If they're making big gifts (and they should be), have them stipulate it's for a match.
- Go to a major donor with a proposal. Spell out what the matching gift will do to help raise more money from smaller gift donors — show the major donor how a typical appeal performs versus what a match should do to lift response. Use the same pitch to the board. It's all about leveraging the money.
- Send an appeal to the top donors in your file asking them to contribute to create a matching-gift fund that can then be used to leverage giving with small-gift donors.
MJF: Great ideas! But how do you know what's a good goal to set for a challenge gift?
FS: That's a tough one — and one that might be a bit of a controversial topic among fundraisers. If you don't meet the match, the original donor might still give the original gift, but she might NOT and she's certainly under no obligation to do so. Would the increased number of smaller gifts make up for that shortfall? That's something you need to weigh when you're trying to determine who to approach for a major gift for a challenge campaign and how high to set the goal.
Another question is timing. Given that a challenge campaign can increase giving by 30 percent, do you use it to pump up donations in a slower part of the year, or do you capitalize on your best giving season, say end-of-year? It's YOUR call, of course, but most signs point to the second option as your best bet.
MJF: Wow, good points that I bet a lot of organizations overlook when they first start looking for matching-gift options.
FS: True, Mary. There's a whole lot to think about when planning, executing and promoting a matching-gift campaign. And, as you know, we have the answers ... right ... here ...
To hear the rest of our conversation with Mary J. Fundraiser and learn important strategies for making the most of your matching-gift challenges, sign up to view our free Fast 15 podcast, "Strike A Match(ing Gift)!"