Building a Successful Matching Gift Campaign from Start to Finish

The first question you may be asking is “Do Matches Work?” The answer to that is a resounding yes. Matching gifts are a mainstay in charitable fundraising for a reason. They may lift response or average gift – or, if you get your offer just right, both! And if executed correctly you should always see a lift in revenue. We have seen this first-hand when one of our clients introduced a match in acquisition and saw a resounding 72% lift in response and 55% lift in gift.  

The other great thing about matching gifts is that they are a way to engage donors at all levels, from the donor who contribute to matching gift appeals to the mid-level, major donors and foundations who can be solicited to put up matching funds. 

If you find yourself with a matching gift opportunity, you can make it a multi-level success by ensuring that both those donors that fund the match and those that respond to it truly feel engaged and understand the power of their giving and how it multiplies toward funding the mission of the organization.

Your First Step: Securing a Match

There are many ways to secure a match and some groups use hybrid methods when they need to secure a higher match amount.

  1. Engage Major Donors, Board Members, or Foundations: Many times these donors want to be more involved and really appreciate knowing their gift will be used to generate additional giving.  It is best if the ask comes from someone they know – the Executive Director, Major Gifts Officer, and Board President are all good sources of contacts. Always make sure to follow-up with a short impact report so they can see the multiplied value of their gift and when you share the report is also a great time to ask if they will do the same next year.
  2. Build Out a Challenge Grant: Ask a group of your mid-level donors to band together to raise funds for a match to the rest of the file.  Make sure you are clear on the ask and how the challenge works.  You will also need a dedicated landing page for online gifts.  It is important to keep track of exactly what is coming in for the match and who donated.
  3. Create a Hybrid: sometimes you cannot generate enough for a match from one source or the other, we have some clients that combine a large single gift, with challenge grant money to create an overall larger match. Don’t forget: a match doesn’t have to be huge to be effective. We have seen lifts in response and revenue from using even $5,000 matching gifts. It will depend on the overall size of your audience.

Tailoring Your Matching Gift Offer to Your Audience

Not all matching gift campaigns are created equal. Get creative with how you use matching gift funds to solicit the best response.

  1. Acquisition or Renewal Campaigns: Stick to a straight-forward multiple. One-to-one (or 2X) matches are always good place to start, but experiment with multiplies or 3X, 5X, etc. Test to find the optimal multiplier for your audience and maximize results. Consider this example: for one of our clients, moving from a 2X to a 5X match gave a 11% lift in revenue.
  2. Monthly Giving: A great offer is to match the first full year of giving for new or upgraded monthly donors. This encourages donors to continue with their gifts for the entire 12 months. And after a year of giving monthly donors have amazing retention rates.
  3. Planned Giving: Legacy giving often requires an increased incentive level. If you can secure a match of $5000-$10,000 per intention it could uncover existing legacies you were unaware of as well as incent new ones. Once you know who your planned givers are, it is important to stay in regular contact and let donors know how thankful you are for their commitment to you.

Maximize Your Match Campaign

After you get your messaging and audience in line the next step is to use to some tried and true techniques to maximize the impact of your match.

  1. Match Deadline: It is important to have a set deadline for when your match ends to add urgency to your ask. You may have to tailor the deadline depending on channels used, and if you are planning on using an extension.
  2. Match Extension: This is a great way to bring in stragglers, of course this only works if you have not hit your match by the original deadline, some groups also hold out a small portion of the match money to use only in the extension. Since most of us are procrastinators the extension is a great way to add even more urgency than the original deadline. 
  3. Integrate Your Offer: The match should be highlighted in all channels: mail, email, social, display.  This is both a way to get the messaging out to the broadest audience possible and have consistent messaging anytime you are in contact with your donor.
  4. Be Upfront with Match Language: Donors should know the match is happening the second they look at your materials. Some ideas for different channels include:
    1. Highlighting the match on your outer envelope in the mail. We had one client made this simple change to an acquisition package and saw a 15% lift in response.
    1. Use in a call out box on a letter or email. 
    1. Use matching gift language in the headline for ads.
  5. Thank Your Donors:  It is important to let your donors know they were successful in helping you hit your match. This is sometimes the missing piece of matching gift campaigns and can make all the difference.
    1. For your funders this means letting them know the match was a success and sharing how much additional money they helped raise.
    1. For your donors this can be incorporated in a simple thank you that goes out at the campaigns end.  If  you do this in a digital sphere and send to everyone who received the initial offer, not just those that donated, this thank you also tends to generate additional gifts from those that missed the deadline but still want to support you and be part of your success.  For some groups the additional income accounts for around 10% of the total raised for the campaign.

Have a matching gift campaign coming up? Want to know how to build out a campaign from start to finish, across multiple channels? We would be happy to help. Reach out to Faircom New York’s Vice President of Integrated Marketing at barbra@faircomny.com.


Barbra Schulman


About the author

Barbra Schulman — Vice-President of Integrated Marketing at Faircom NY

Barbra is a marketing professional with over 20 years of experience in multi-channel campaign strategy and management. She has a successful track record of increasing revenues through introduction of new program opportunities and improved data interpretation. Barbra spent 10 years at the March of Dimes, where she helped double revenue for the direct response department. Her other work experience includes time at companies in both the nonprofit and for profit sector including Citibank and MasterCard. She is a strong believer in continuing education in the industry and has been actively involved with both the DMFA and DMA. She currently works with TechnoServe, Learning Ally, the National Urban League, and IPPF/WHR, among others.

Barbra received her MBA from Columbia University and her BA in economics from Tufts University. In her free time Barbra loves to travel and hike. Her favorite trip was to see Mt. Everest in Nepal. In her less adventurous time she can also be seen working diligently on the NYT crossword puzzle.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Nurturing Donor Relationships

Nurturing Donor Relationships Through COVID-19 and Beyond

Through the pandemic response, an incredible shift has taken hold: rising public trust in nonprofits. Charities of all missions and sizes are stepping up to fill urgent gaps in the community and take additional steps for authentic relationship building. Central to this is stewardship! Learn more about these promising trends and how you can implement strong stewardship in your fundraising program to build long-term value and lasting donor relationships.