A number of resources provide listings of companies having gift programs that match contributions made by their employees to non-profit organizations. According to the grantor’s guidelines, such matching funds could be general in nature for support of almost any type of accredited non-profit favored by an employee, or a company might limit its matching funds, say, to education. Often, a company has a maximum limit to funds it donates in this way to a given nonprofit organization during a single year. Through your research from libraries and on the Internet, such commercially available lists and those harvested by nonprofit associations, such as CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education), can be reviewed for possible value to your organization.

Look Only or at least Mainly to Companies
Operating in Your Area of Service

You will need to be selective and temper your expectations when consulting listings of companies matching the gifts of their employees. These general and geographically-wide lists of companies with matching gifts programs may be of very limited use to community organizations. What counts most is that any companies that match gifts of employees who make contributions to non-profit organizations must have some facility or operation in the geographic area served by the non-profit. Thus, it would do no good to present to your donors a list of companies that have no business interests or employees in your area. No business in the area—no employees—no matching gifts.

So, let’s narrow the search for those companies which have matching programs, and which operate in your area.

  1. How do you identify the companies in your area with matching programs?
  2. How do you determine which of your donors work for those companies?
  3. How do you obtain those matching gifts?
  4. How do you win new gifts from other, currently non-donor, employees?

The Best Ways to Attract Corporate Matching Funds

Let’s review a typical checklist of activity when it comes to working a matching gifts program. Which of these tactics have you followed? Which could you initiate?:

__ Ask each board member if she or he is a Director of a commercial business. Directors invariably are given the opportunity to have their gifts to non-profits matched. (I’m not referring to board members who are trustees of other non-profits, as that is not relevant.) Those who are Directors of commercial businesses should obtain the paperwork necessary to process the matching funds programs of the companies they serve. Hopefully, they will be contributing to your organization at a level that will ensure the maximum matching money allowed by their respective companies.

__ Ask board members who are Directors of commercial businesses with no matching gift programs to request that a program be instituted. Because Directors enjoy prominent and influential positions with the companies they serve, chances are good that their requests for matching of their contributions to your organization will be heeded.

__ Gather as many Annual Reports as possible of other non-profits operating in your area. Our Annual Report always listed the companies that matched employees’ gifts made to our organization, and I’m sure that you can find the same kind of information in other such publications.

__ Ask your board members about the types of solicitations they routinely receive from the other non-profits they support, and about other requests they receive for matching gifts. Ask them to give you any requests in which the non-profits have provided a listing of matching companies as they know them.

__ Identify the largest employers from your area’s Chamber of Commerce listing of businesses, your newspaper’s business section, public library, and from people in the know. Make telephone contact with the company’s contributions officials and PR or Community Affairs departments and ask if they have an employee matching gifts program. If possible, obtain their guidelines or other publications pertaining to the program. While you are at it, you might find that some of the people you talk to will be able to tell you of other companies having such programs, since corporate contributions officials are often in contact with their colleagues, and they do share such information.

__ Learn directly from the individuals already giving money to you. Through separate mailings, communications in solicitations, or a note on the return gift envelope you enclose with your solicitation, ask them to check with their employers to determine if a gift matching program is in effect, because your organization could be eligible to receive matching funds. If so, request that your donors let you know, obtain their companies’ gift matching forms, fill them out, and send them to your organization.

Other Essentials – Handling Pledges

Naturally, you will need to have cash gifts in hand to prove to the companies that the gifts were paid. Pledges will not count until they are paid. Then, the companies will process their matching gifts and send checks to your organization.

All gift return envelopes mailed to donors for renewed gifts and those mailed to new prospects should ask the receiver to check with his or her employer in the way described above. In time, as you learn of matching companies which have employees in your service area making gifts to you, print those corporations’ names on the back side of your gift return envelope (the underside of a long sealing flap) to urge that the receiver see if his or her company is listed.

How to Recognize the Employer’s and the
Employee’s Gifts to Your Organization

Here is what I believe to be an important practice regarding how to handle and recognize the gifts companies give to non-profits to match their employees’ gifts. If the cash match is indeed what a corporation matches to an employee’s gift to a charity as cited below, we suggest the procedure which follows.

M/M John Smith donated (and paid) $500 to our organization. With our acknowledgment of that gift in hand, they submitted the proper matching form to Mrs. Smith’s employer, who in turn, sent us another $500.

  • We sincerely and enthusiastically thanked the Smiths in writing for their $500 gift, as proper and in keeping with the IRS’ regulations for the money they gave. We paid special tribute to them for their thoughtful and generous use of their company’s matching plan to favor our organization.
  • We thanked the employer in writing for its generous and thoughtful $500 matching gift.
  • We listed M/M Smith in our Annual Report, under the $1,000 gift heading to recognize publicly what they personally gave and what they were responsible for achieving for us by their favor of our organization. No quibbling here about the exact amount coming from the Smith’s checkbook, because, after all, we would not have gotten the additional corporate $500 if not for the thoughtfulness of the Smiths.

We simply believed that this gesture (partial “paper credit”) was appropriate and thoughtful, and you can be sure it was always appreciated by our donors during the twenty years I followed this procedure at my organization, and when I still enthusiastically recommend the practice to other non-profit organizations and consultants.

The corporation’s $500 gift was publicly recognized as well in the Annual Report. Additionally, if the company gave a separate gift to our annual fund, gave money to a sponsorship, or gave to a special fund-raising event, we simply combined all of that money with any matching funds for the total we listed for public credit. Again, the public “paper credit” was simply a good donor relations exercise. The “double booking” here as paper credit was of no consequence to our finance department’s audit. The actual transactions, of course, were handled as required by accounting standards in our in-house financial operation and with the Auditor.