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How to start a corporate matching gift program (+ why you should)

It’s a regular old Tuesday at the office when you find out that one of your top executives placed their notice to go work for another company: your competitor. When asked why, they simply stated that they’re looking to work for a more purpose-driven business that will provide them with a better sense of fulfillment overall.

On the same day, you’re informed that your sales for the year are down significantly, while a rival company across town seems to be thriving thanks to their recently-rolled-out cause marketing campaign.

It doesn’t seem like a good day for your team⁠. That is, until you’re presented with an opportunity that ties back to each of the above issues. You need to get involved with corporate philanthropy! And more specifically, matching gifts.

Benefits of matching employee gifts

Corporate matching gifts—also known as company matching, employer matching, or regular old matching gift programs⁠—are a favorite form of corporate philanthropy in which companies agree to match donations made by their employees to eligible nonprofit causes.

Now, that obviously sounds like a sweet deal for nonprofit organizations. But why would businesses choose to participate (i.e., why should I give away my company’s hard-earned dollars)? See these top reasons:

  1. Social good: As one of the most obvious benefits of corporate philanthropy, supporting nonprofit causes allows for-profit businesses to provide tangible benefits to society. Sometimes when you do something good, its value is just that—doing something good!
  1. Employee engagement: Keeping employees engaged over time is one of the best ways to increase staff retention rates and team-wide proficiency. Matching employees’ charitable donations communicates your dedication to supporting the causes that they care about and allows them to feel a sense of pride about the company they work for.
  1. Improved reputation: Just like employees like working for companies that make the world a better place, consumers like shopping from them. Building your reputation as a charitable-minded company can help you better appeal to your audience and establish strengthened customer relationships.
  1. Tax deductions: Though you’re not likely matching gifts solely for the tax benefits, you can’t ignore that it’s a fantastic added bonus for your business financially. Companies matching donations are able to deduct those totals from their reported annual income, even beyond the typical 10% stipulation of corporate giving deductions.

Surely one (if not all) of these gift-matching advantages has caught your eye. But to reap these benefits and more, you have to roll out a corporate match program in the first place. Read on to learn how!

Launching a corporate matching gift program in 5 steps

Starting to match gifts for the first time? Never fear—these five simple steps will guide you through the process of program planning and implementation.

  1. Select matching gift guidelines. Your matching gift guidelines or eligibility criteria are one of the most critical components of your giving program. These should answer questions like: What kind of employees can request matches? What size donation are we willing to match? At what ratio should we match gifts? Which types of nonprofits are eligible to receive company funding?

For example, perhaps you’d like to match donations made to any registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit⁠—that’s great! On the other hand, you might choose to narrow down your qualifying matching grant recipients to a more narrow group of causes, such as those doing work in your local community. Either way, it’s important to communicate your guidelines to employees so that they can easily determine whether their nonprofit gift qualifies for a match.

  1. Choose how employees request matches. While many companies enlist an online CSR platform to help manage the match request process, others opt for downloadable PDFs or paper forms. While any of these options will work, keep in mind that online match applications tend to be the easiest to manage from all ends. The simpler your request process, the more likely your employees are to follow through⁠—meaning more of the previously mentioned benefits for you.

Then, once you’ve determined how participants will request their company match (and submit details from their nonprofit donation), be sure to communicate that to all employees⁠. And don’t forget to provide step-by-step instructions on how to access any portals or forms required. 

  1. Determine how matches get approved. There are two main options here: you can designate a member of your staff (or yourself) to be in charge of manually screening submitted donations to ensure they meet the previously identified criteria (spoiler alert⁠—this can take up a lot of time and effort). Or, you can leverage giving program management software which automatically scans donation information and approves or denies a match accordingly. 
  1. Promote the opportunity to current employees. Studies on workplace giving show that although 26+ million individuals work for companies that match gifts, more than 78% of them are completely unaware. Make sure your employees are not among that number by highlighting your new matching gift opportunities throughout multiple internal communication channels.
  1. Incorporate gift matching in onboarding going forward. Now, your whole staff should know about your gift-matching initiatives. But what happens when new team members are brought on board? Make sure they’re introduced to matching gifts at multiple touchpoints throughout their start at the job. Include information on your matching gift program within employee benefits materials, during onboarding meetings, and with payroll details!

Even if you have an existing matching gift program offered at your company, it may still be a good idea to take a closer look at steps #4 and #5. See what a bigger impact you can make on your community when your staff is encouraged to do the same!

Via John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Leveraging matching gift software

Perhaps your company already offers a matching gift program that you’re looking to revamp with more efficient practices. Or maybe you’ve followed the steps outlined above, and you’re about to launch your newest giving initiative.

Regardless, if you’re asking yourself what’s the best way to streamline the process from beginning to end, the answer is matching gift software. Take a peek at the two overarching types of solutions:

  • For nonprofits: Since so many companies don’t make their matching gift initiatives (well) known to employees, the responsibility of educating donors about these opportunities often lands on the nonprofit. Luckily, this process can be fully streamlined with a matching gift database that allows supporters to quickly and easily determine their eligibility for a match. Then, they’re able to follow the provided next steps to request a match from their employer.
  • For companies: Once the donor has submitted their match request, it’s up to the company (which means you) to manage the rest of the process. And⁠—you guessed it⁠—there’s software to help on this side of the equation as well. Matching gift tools for businesses allow those in charge to drastically reduce the amount of time and effort required to manage this type of program. You can set parameters within the program that align with your aforementioned eligibility guidelines, then allow the software to automatically approve qualifying matching gifts.

There’s no use investing in a workplace giving program in the first place if none of your employees know how to partake. Simplifying the matching gift process is one of the best ways to boost team-wide participation, which is what you need to see results. And, of course, having the right tools is at the forefront of all of it.

There are tons of opportunities for businesses like yours to get involved with corporate philanthropy. Team-wide volunteerism, employee volunteer grants, nonprofit event sponsorships, and the list goes on. Of these choices, corporate matching gift programs offer some of the most impactful benefits for the businesses, nonprofits, and employee donors involved.

Don’t wait until your whole team and customer base leave to pursue more socially responsible alternatives⁠—take steps to begin matching employee gifts today. You definitely won’t be sorry.

Photo Stephanie Page
Stephanie Page
Head of Outreach

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.