Matching Donation Challenges: How to Double Donors’ Impact

This article explores how matching donation challenges work and provides tips to nonprofit fundraisers who want to launch one.

Picture this: every donation you receive turns into two. It’s not some incredible magic trick, but rather, it’s a very real fundraising strategy that allows nonprofits to unlock the full potential of their supporters’ generosity.

In the world of nonprofit fundraising, matching donation challenges have been capturing hearts, inspiring generosity, and multiplying contributions. These challenges double the impact of every dollar you raise, all thanks to a corporate sponsor or a generous major donor.

Matching gift challenges have the remarkable ability to draw in corporate partners, motivate donors, and catapult fundraising efforts to new heights. While they do take a lot of preparation, collaboration with your sponsor, and persistence to drive donations, they are worth the investment. To equip you with everything you need to know, we’ll explore the following:

If you’re aiming to transform your fundraising campaigns from ordinary to extraordinary, you’re in the right place. Matching donations have the potential to multiply donors’ impact and raise more for your cause, and we’ll tell you how!

Employer matches can increase the impact of your matching donation challenge. Get a demo to learn how to leverage corporate matching gift software.

What Are Matching Donation Challenges?

A matching donation challenge is a fundraising initiative in which a nonprofit partners with a corporate sponsor or another philanthropic entity to encourage donations from individual donors. During a matching donation challenge, the sponsor pledges to match a portion or all of the donations made to the nonprofit.

This illustration depicts how matching donation challenges work: an individual donates and a sponsor matches that contribution.

The sponsor will set a specific time frame or promise to match up to a predetermined fundraising goal. For example, the donor may pledge to match every dollar donated up to $5,000 or every dollar contributed during a 48-hour window. Either way, they’re promising to double the impact of every contribution.

To launch this type of campaign, you’ll need to find a company, individual donor, or entity that agrees to contribute funds to match donations made by individuals. Often, nonprofits rely on corporate philanthropy connections to back their matching gift challenges and drive up support. From here, you’ll work with your sponsor to set the challenge’s parameters, such as a match ratio and maximum amount they’ll agree to match. We’ll explore these parameters in-depth later.

The Impact of Matching Donation Challenges

In essence, matching donation challenges are intended to motivate donors by promising to increase impact. Since there’s often a dollar or time limit, these campaigns create a sense of urgency, encourage larger contributions, and amplify the impact of individual donations, ultimately benefiting the nonprofit’s mission or fundraising campaign.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the benefits of donation matching:

  • Amplified Fundraising Impact: This is the most obvious benefit. Because they multiply the contributions your nonprofit receives, matching donation challenges can significantly boost campaign results.
  • Increased Conversions and Higher Donation Amounts: Matching gift challenges inspire donors to give more. Knowing that each dollar will have a more significant impact can inspire on-the-fence supporters to act. In fact, our matching gift research indicates that 84% of donors are more likely to donate if a match is offered, while 1 in 3 donors will actually give more.
  • Enhanced Donor Engagement: Challenges foster a sense of community and shared goals among supporters. What’s more, Getting Attention’s donor engagement guide explains that custom matching gift programs and challenges are an excellent way to engage donors who might be ineligible for their employers’ year-round match programs.
  • Attraction of Corporate Partners: Each day, more companies realize their duty to give back to their communities, so they’re hopping on the corporate giving train to capitalize on philanthropic trends. These challenges attract corporate sponsors interested in philanthropic initiatives, because they’re a fairly quick and straightforward way to support causes that align with their values.

You can also experience these same benefits by engaging in regular corporate matching gift programs. With these initiatives, employers promise to match employees’ donations to any nonprofit that meets their guidelines. There’s no need to set up a special challenge to be eligible. Either way, your nonprofit stands to gain a lot from matching gifts.

How to Launch A Matching Gift Challenge

Before setting up a matching donation challenge, make sure you know the proper steps, so you can maximize your results. Let’s walk through the process step-by-step.

These are the 5 steps for launching a matching donation challenge.

1. Identify Potential Matching Donors.

You obviously need someone to match the donations you receive! Start by locating a generous sponsor, whether that’s a corporation or one very generous donor.

GivingTuesday’s guide to organizing matching donations shares several potential options, including:

  • Corporate Sponsors: Companies are among your best bets for funding a matching donation challenge. After all, CSR research indicates that 93% of modern employees believe companies must lead with purpose by positively contributing to society. Reach out to your corporate partners to see who wants to get in on the action in exchange for public recognition. Pay special attention to those that share your values or offer CSR programs. It doesn’t matter if they’re a small business or major corporation; any reputable company is a great option!
  • Major Donors: Look at your constituent relationship management (CRM) system to identify your largest donors from the past year and give them a call. You can pitch the idea of doubling the impact of other donors’ contributions, possibly in place of the major gift they were already planning to give.
  • Board Members: Challenge your board to pool a match fund from their regular donations. To increase the fund, they could reach out to their networks.
  • Foundations: Some foundations may offer grants or contributions specifically for matching gift challenges. Carefully research foundations and be able to demonstrate how the challenge aligns with the foundation’s priorities.
  • Influencers or Local Celebrities: Reach out to local celebrities or micro-influencers who are passionate about your cause. Finding someone who has an audience will give your cause extra exposure.

If none of these options work, you can always crowdfund a match from a wide range of low and mid-level donors. However you go about it, make sure you partner with someone who has a solid reputation and will follow through on their promises.

2. Define The Challenge’s Terms.

Once you’ve found a sponsor, work with them to outline the parameters of the matching donation challenge. Common terms you’ll want to define include:

This graphic illustrates the guidelines you'll want to set for your matching donation challenge, written out below.

  • Match Ratio: This defines how much the corporate sponsor will contribute for each dollar individual donors give. For example, a 1:1 match means that the sponsor will match donations dollar for dollar, doubling each contribution.
  • Fundraising Goal: Matching donation challenges may have a predefined fundraising goal that the nonprofit aims to achieve within a specific time period. The goal may be a set dollar amount or a target number of donors. This is to ensure that the sponsor is generous while staying within their budget.
  • Time Frame: Challenges typically have a specific start and end date during which individual donations are eligible for matching. This limited time frame adds urgency.

Having solid goals and guidelines will help you maximize impact while sticking to your sponsor’s predefined budget.

3. Promote the Donation Matching Challenge.

You can’t expect anyone to donate if you don’t tell them about the challenge! Leading up to the campaign’s kickoff, gear your donors up by telling them about the challenge, its timeline, and your fundraising goal. Throughout the campaign itself, provide updates to inspire continued giving.

Here are some easy ways to let donors know about the challenge:

  • Send email or SMS blasts to existing and prospective donors, letting them know the potential impact of their gifts.
  • Feature the challenge on your nonprofit’s website, including a detailed landing page.
  • Ask supporters to promote the donation matching challenge by launching a peer-to-peer campaign.
  • Share regular social media updates, using engaging visuals and compelling stories.
  • Collaborate with corporate sponsors to promote donation matching to their employees.

Don’t let up on your communication throughout the campaign. Keep donors engaged by regularly updating them on progress, sharing stories of impact, and explaining how contributions are making a difference. That way, you’ll foster transparency and keep donors connected until the challenge’s conclusion.

Overall, being proactive in your promotion will maximize your matching gift challenge’s visibility and boost fundraising results.

4. Track Progress For Your Challenge.

Monitoring progress helps motivate donors and make informed decisions during your matching donation challenge. You want to make sure you’re on track to reach the maximum match by the deadline. If you’re not, that can inspire donors to give more to help you get there.

Implement tracking tools or matching gift software to monitor real-time progress. You also might create visual aids to visually represent progress to your nonprofit’s team, sponsor, and donors. For example, add a fundraising thermometer to your campaign page, so it will automatically update as gifts are made.

However you go about it, knowing where you stand in relation to your goal will help determine if you need to step your efforts up.

Matching gift software will make it easy to track matching donations. Click here to get a demo and learn more.

5. Follow Up With Results.

At the end of the challenge, conduct a comprehensive analysis to measure the impact, ROI, and lessons learned. Use this analysis to inform future fundraising initiatives and follow up with everyone.

Your sponsor and anyone who contributed will want to hear about your campaign’s results! When your matching donation challenge ends, recognize success or be transparent if you came up short. While this tells your sponsor how much they need to match, it also lets supporters know if you met your goal.

Don’t forget to thank donors and your sponsor for their contributions. You might:

  • Craft thoughtful thank-you letters to your sponsor and top donors.
  • Email a thank-you card to all donors.
  • Create a video to showcase appreciation and the challenge’s impact.
  • Post about your generous sponsor on social media.

Acknowledging efforts strengthens relationships and will show you genuinely appreciate their generosity. The next time a big campaign rolls around, they’ll be even more willing to participate!

Best Practices for Matching Donation Challenges

Matching donation challenges have been around for a while. That means nonprofits have had plenty of time to determine what drives results.

Let’s explore tips to elevate your matching gift challenge, so you can raise as much as possible for your mission.

Choose the Right Corporate Partners.

Partnering with the right corporate sponsor is crucial for the success of your matching donation challenge. Seek out companies that align with your nonprofit’s mission and values. Look for sponsors who are genuinely interested in supporting your cause and willing to commit to the challenge.

Companies will be one of your best bets. The right corporate partner not only provides financial support but also lends credibility to your campaign. When you partner with a business, you associate their brand with your cause, so their reputation matters.

You’re not limited to big corporations either. According to research on recent corporate giving trends, small and mid-sized businesses are getting in on the action, too. These are some of the most reliable supporters since they’re motivated to prove themselves in the competitive CSR landscape. So, look to local businesses for help.

Set Clear Goals and Metrics.

Defining the key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that align with your challenge’s goals is essential. Clear goals provide direction and motivation for both your team and donors. They create a sense of purpose and help track progress throughout the challenge.

Common metrics include:

Use these metrics to monitor the success of your matching gift challenge.

  • Total Funds Raised: Set a goal for and monitor the total amount of donations received during the matching donation challenge period.
  • Number of Donors: Count the total number of individual donors participating in the challenge. This metric reflects donor engagement.
  • Average Donation Amount: Calculate the average contribution made by individual donors during the matching gift challenge. This metric can provide insight into donor behavior and generosity.
  • New Donor Acquisition: Determine how many first-time donors participated in the matching gift challenge. This can help gauge the effectiveness of this type of campaign in reaching new supporters.

Knowing your ultimate goals will allow you to measure success along the way and drive motivation throughout your matching gift challenge.

Get The Timing Right.

You want to offer donors plenty of time to give while still keeping a tight deadline to drive urgency. Many organizations see incredible results from 24-hour campaigns, but the length of your campaign can be longer (such as a week or month) depending on your organization and sponsor’s preferences.

What’s more, you’ll want to get the time of year right for your matching donation challenge, too. Avoid conflicting with other major fundraising campaigns. Consider the season, holidays, or other special occasions that may align with your cause. For example, an organization that provides mental health services might host their challenge in May, Mental Health Awareness Month.

Year-end is a great time to host your campaign, too. After all, 30% of annual giving happens in December, while about 10% of all annual donations are made during the last three days of the year.

A popular option is to line up a matching gift challenge for GivingTuesday, a global generosity movement that happens on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving every year. As the most charitable giving day of the year, it generated an incredible $3.1 billion last year for nonprofits, shattering the previous year’s results by 15%. Many nonprofits use this ultimate giving day as an opportunity to do more for their cause. Why not take people’s generosity even further with a matching donation challenge?

Build Donor Excitement For Matching Donations.

You’ll need to develop a plan for engaging donors in the challenge. Generate enthusiasm by promoting the matching donation challenge and testing out strategies such as:

  • Countdowns and Teasers: Build anticipation by launching a countdown to the challenge start date. Tease the challenge with sneak peeks and hints about what’s to come.
  • Launch Event or Kickoff: Organize a launch event or virtual kickoff party to introduce the challenge. Use the event to explain the details, goals, and impact of the challenge.
  • Storytelling: Share impactful stories and testimonials from beneficiaries that illustrate how donations will make a difference. Aim to connect donors emotionally to the cause.
  • Gamification: Gamify the challenge with leaderboards and badges that inspire donors to give to receive. A live fundraising thermometer on your website is a great option, too!

Excited donors are more likely to participate and share the challenge with their networks, so proactively drive enthusiasm.

Leverage Technology To Simplify Your Matching Donation Challenge.

Technology simplifies the donor experience, making it easy for them to participate in your matching gift challenge. It also aids in tracking progress, automating communications, and simplifying the donation process.

Here’s a rundown of the technology you can use to drive results:

To make donation matching easy, make sure your nonprofit has the right software in place.

  • Fundraising platforms: Fundraising tools enable you to collect donations securely, and you likely already use this type of software. Use your fundraising platform to create a special donation form for your matching donation challenge.
  • Matching gift software: Many individual donors work for employers who offer corporate matching gifts of their own. That means you can get those donations matched by the donor’s employer and your challenge partner. With matching gift software, you can pinpoint all eligible donors and triple the impact of a single donation.
  • Marketing tools: Educate your donors and grow matching gift awareness with dedicated marketing tools. You might leverage email marketing software, social media management tools, or SMS tools to get your challenge in front of the right supporters.
  • CRM software: Throughout your campaign, you’ll collect plenty of donor data on both new and existing supporters. Make sure your CRM is prepared to store that information, so you can stay in contact with anyone who gave during your challenge.

Your technology will power your campaign, so embrace tools that streamline the management of your matching donation challenge. For example, matching gift software that enables auto-submission will make it easy for match-eligible donors to submit requests to their employers. That way, they can effortlessly triple their donations!

Auto-submission can make it easy to secure corporate matches during your matching donation challenge and beyond. Read our blog post to learn more.

Real-World Examples of Matching Gift Challenges

To inspire your campaign, let’s look at some actual matching donation challenges. Know that your goals and results will look different from other organizations, but these can give you a sense of where to start:

  • The Oscar Hammerstein Museum and Theatre Education Center (OHMTEC): This nonprofit’s mission is to honor Oscar Hammerstein, a Broadway legend. Its executive committee rallied together to provide a $500,000 matching gift challenge. The ultimate goal was to be able to purchase the Highland Farm, Hammerstein’s family home and creative epicenter. The organization surpassed that goal and raised over $550,000, resulting in over $1 million.
  • The Nature Conservancy: A group of generous donors recently agreed to match every dollar the organization raises up to $5,000. While this may seem like a small goal, it can make a big difference in the organization’s ability to ramp up conservation efforts.
  • Demopolis City Schools Foundation: This organization asked a local car wash company to provide a $5,000 match for GivingTuesday 2019. The business owner is well-known in the community, so they named the campaign “Make Joe Pay.” This small town raised $7,700. With the match, that totaled $12,700.

These are just a few examples to get your imagination going. There are plenty of other matching donation challenges out there, but know that yours will be unique based on who your donors are, what your cause is, and who sponsors your campaign.

Final Thoughts: Start Doubling Success

Matching donation challenges are changing the fundraising game. Any nonprofit stands to gain a lot from this type of fundraiser. It doesn’t matter if you work at an enterprise-level nonprofit with a $500,000 goal or a startup looking for an extra $1,000.

Remember, your marketing, technology, goals, and the right sponsor will be the foundation of your challenge. Carefully plan your challenge, and ensure your matching gift technology is ready to drive corporate matches to boost your campaign’s impact even further.

As you ramp up planning, continue exploring these nonprofit fundraising resources:

Corporate matches can increase the impact of your matching donation challenge. Get a demo of 360MatchPro to learn more.