Big Corporations, Nonprofit Organizations, and 8-Year-Olds Can Leverage the Power of Matching Donations

Today’s guest blog post is written by Erin Madden Ramirez, Client Project Manager, PatronManager. 

You see it all the time. Big Corporation, Inc. will match every donation dollar for dollar up to $100,000 for [insert important cause here]. Matching donations in this manner is popular because it works — corporations and donors feel like their money is going further. Here’s one such example: USA Today: Tech firms raise millions within hours to aid Hurricane Harvey victims. Luckily, you don’t have to be Big Corporation, Inc. to launch a similar type of fundraiser. You can be Small Nonprofit Organization. You can even be an 8-year-old raising money for the community.

Our local school system recently partnered with the city to raise money for an all-inclusive playground for children, teens, and adults of all abilities. The three schools in the district that raise the most money per student will have a bench with their school logo installed at the new playground.

My highly competitive 8-year-old really wants her school to win one of the benches. During dinner one night she asked us to give “lots and lots of money.” Of course we were happy to contribute a reasonable amount, but something in the back of my mind said it shouldn’t be that easy for her. What would she learn in the process?

Then I had a light bulb moment. I told her that Mommy and Daddy would match whatever amount of money she contributed from the allowance and Tooth Fairy money she’d been saving. She took the challenge to heart and scraped together $21 and we happily matched the amount. But that’s not the end of the story. We FaceTimed with Grandma and asked her to match the $21 donation since her granddaughter gave up her own hard-earned money. Grandma contributed $21. Grandma told two of her friends about the call, and each of them contributed $21. The plumber happened to see a flyer for the fundraiser when he was here to fix the leak under our kitchen sink. He asked about it, and I told him of my daughter’s efforts. Later, when I offered him a tip, he asked that instead, I add it to my daughter’s donations. All in all, she was able to turn in $126. Not too shabby for an 8-year-old! (No word yet on who the top three schools are.)

Matching donation challenges for nonprofit organizations can take many forms. In my experience, the most effective challenge takes the assistance of a major donor. Let’s say Mrs. Smith gives an annual gift of $25,000. Why not ask her if you can use her name and her contribution amount to spur other donations? Yes, she was going to give the money regardless, but why not put her good will to good use and make that gift go further? Work with her to craft a message such as the following:

Our longtime friend and champion, Mrs. Smith, is offering to match any donations dollar for dollar made now through the end of the calendar year up to $25,000! Please consider giving $100 (or $250 or $500) to make the most of Mrs. Smith’s generosity.

Yes, I recommend specifying a donation amount. In fact, I recommend segmenting your list to suggest different amounts for different donors based on their history with your organization. While you can ask your long-time, major donors to give a larger amount, you don’t want to suggest a $500 gift to someone who’s subscribed but never made a donation. You’ll scare them away! For those folks, suggest a nice, entry-level donation of $25 or $50.

To plan and execute your campaign, harness your CRM’s reporting capabilities to segment your lists and track responses. (PatronManager users can utilize Reports, CRM Snapshots, and Campaigns.) Not only do you want to know your progress, Mrs. Smith should receive updates as well. You can even use your progress to generate a sense of urgency in social media posts or a direct follow-up message to the folks who’ve not responded to your appeal. For example:

With only 2 weeks left in December, we need $2,165 in contributions to reach Mrs. Smith’s challenge of $25,000. Won’t you consider a gift of $25 (or $50 or $100) to help us reach our goal?

This is just one approach. However you decide to structure your appeal, make sure your message to potential donors is clear and concise and you meticulously plan the criteria you use to suggest donation amounts. Additionally, if you decide to discuss how the money will be spent, phrase your letter or email thoughtfully, preferably referencing how the funds will support your mission statement. Saying you need the funds to pay the monthly lease on your office space is not sexy. Instead, let potential donors know the funds you raise will help you inspire artists and filmmakers, educate children, or entertain the community. After all, “Donors don’t give to institutions. They invest in ideas and people in whom they believe.” (G.T. Smith)

Do you have any matching donation success stories? Share them in the comments!

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