Matching Gifts

I’ve spoken about matching gifts before, but I recently saw the power of matching and thought I’d share. I’ve often been skeptical about matching gifts because many nonprofits often have the funding already wrapped up by the time the match starts. I often wonder how much of my gift is really going to make a difference with matching, so it has not been a motivator for me personally.

We recently ran an employee campaign with a match from a community member and I was shocked at how well it worked. Everyone loved the idea that their gift would be matched dollar for dollar and that they could double their impact. One of our contributing factors to success was that we set a deadline with the match. We ran an event and told everyone that if they made a pledge that day it would be matched. As a result we were flooded with gifts. Everyone wanted to get their gift in before the timeline was up, and everyone wanted to double their support.

We asked employees who were not a part of the development team to make announcements about the match and the status of everyone’s giving. The response was overwhelming. In fact we had staff coming up to us just so they could make announcements of how much money we had raised without us even asking.

Have you used a matching gifts challenge? How successful was it? The challenge above went out to the employee community where I work but I have also run challenges with other stakeholder groups with less success. Have you found some groups to be more motivated by a match than others?


7 Responses to Matching Gifts

  1. Hi Jason!

    We (Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective- recently received a $10,000 matching grant. This gift came from a company in New Orleans familiar with our work who wanted to help us expand to Haiti! We had 6 weeks to raise funds, ending this coming Friday. We met the goal last Thursday!

    We were very excited to get this gift, yet overwhelmed. This was the very first monetary grant our organization had every received! Challenges included: the short time-frame and the fact that we had to raise $10,000, an amount we’d never attempted before!

    The results were astounding and inspiring. Our staff is super-psyched to get moving on their work. I’m actually hoping we get another matching grant or two, because it brought the best results we’ve ever had. Although perhaps the fact that it was for Haiti helped as well.

    I do think this grant inspired new givers, rather than those already involved. While we had a few donors give a bit more, most of the amount was made up of new donors. Also, interestingly, special events did not seem to help. Perhaps it was the end-of-the-school-year/beginning-of-summer timing, but planned events were poorly attended. Most of this money came in the mail or via online donations! Actually, our over-the-top gift was made via Razoo after seeing a Tweet stating we were just $125 short!

    Thanks for your blog!

  2. Jayson Ursulak says:

    Hey Jason,

    Thanks for the post. We try to leverage matching grants whenever possible, and in fact have one on right now for Fresno, CA gifts.

    I don’t think we have had any of the matches ‘wrapped up’ prior to the deadline. Yes, we have been aware of capacity and set a target (in all but one case, which was a learning experience), but weren’t assured of the sum unless the target was met.

    In regards to target, we have exceeded the target with most matching grants we have run. Due to the fact that people love the idea of having the contribution matched dollar for dollar. Their impact is doubled. Couple that with a deadline, which is a must, and it encourages people to stretch a bit, to give out of more than just their excess.

  3. Jason Dick says:

    Great comments. I become a bigger and bigger fan of matching gifts the more I am a part of them. It is amazing how they really seem to work in terms of motivating people to give whether they are new or renewing donors, of any age, and with any size organization. Jayson & Nicole great stories on matching giving. Jayson has it been a challenge to do a matching gift for your organization in a city so far from your office? Has it been limited to just CA? Nicole I’d love to hear a little more about your campaign and how you used twitter and Razoo. Would you be willing to share a few words about tips that worked and did not work here:

  4. My organization (International House) is in the third of a four year 2:1 challenge grant that is encouraging increased support of our Annual Fund with the matching funds supporting the renovation of our largest public space (which is named for the challenge grant donor and her late husband) and small endowment funds for specific programs. This challenge has helped us weather the economic storm by encouraging donors to take advantage of this opportunity to support the annual operations of the House, while also getting their gifts double-matched to improve and update Davis Hall. Very surprising to me, we have been able to meet each year’s financial goals without making major changes to our solicitation strategies.

    I’d love to hear more about what others are doing to use these opportunities to leverage increased support. Thanks for leading the conversation, Jason!

  5. Hi Jason,
    Thanks for posting on this. There’s an excellent body of research on this that draws from the fields of psychology and behavioral economics. The bottom line is matches nearly always increase giving, but the size of the match doesn’t seem to matter very much – it’s the presence of the match that matters. Matches are a great way to lend urgency to an appeal and provide social proof at the same time.

  6. Roger Carr says:

    Hi Jason,
    It is surprising how well matching funds encourage people to donate. I wrote about a couple of the times that I offered matching funds (hoping others would do the same). You can read the blog post at In one case a large amount was offered. But in one case a $25 match was given, but the idea caught on and donations grew beyond my expectations. Thanks for the reminder to use matching funds as a great method to raise funds.

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