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Friday, September 20, 2019

Ask a Fundraiser: What is a Match Campaign?


Your donation will be tripled!
Your donation will be matched!
Your donation is doubled!
1=2, 1:1, 1:2

Have you ever received an email or piece of mail from a charity that referenced a matching challenge like the one above and wondered what it really meant or how it actually worked? Charity Navigator is here to answer all your questions about these special campaigns.
What is a matching campaign?


A matching campaign is one where a donor (which can be an individual, group, or foundation) has pledged to give a significant financial contribution to the charity to “match” all donations from other supporters within a certain timeframe, up to their pledged amount. We'll refer to the donor who is matching the gifts as the grantor moving forward.

Let’s take a look at what happens behind the scenes:

Your favorite charity will secure a financial pledge from a grantor, who will sign a pledge agreement that states that they agree to match a certain amount (say, $20,000) received between a date range to the organization. Through this pledge agreement, the organization is challenged to raise $20,000 from other donors to “unlock” the grantor's matching gift.

Are you from a charity and want to know how to set up matching campaigns for your nonprofit? Check out our blog post The Do's and Don'ts of Matching Gifts and Challenge Grants for more information.

How will my gift be matched?

When the grantor signs the pledge agreement, they agree to match donations received by the charity within a certain timeframe. So, in the case of a double match, if you give $100 to a charity during their matching challenge, your gift unlocks a match of $100 from the grantor, which doubles the value of your donation for the charity.

When the charity raises the full $20,000 from their constituents within the timeframe, they are ensuring that the full pledge amount will be matched by the grantor. The organization will report back to them with the results of their campaign, and then the grantor will send their pledge amount of $20,000, which will give the charity a total of $40,000.

How does one know if there is a matching donor?

A major donor that elects to fund a matching campaign is typically not someone who wants their name broadcast to the public. If you have any doubts about a campaign a charity is running, my advice is simple: start a dialogue with the charity.

At Charity Navigator, we believe in accountability and transparency (these are part of our ratings, after all!), and your favorite charity will be happy to answer any of your questions. While you shouldn’t expect the charity to reveal the identity of the donor, you should always feel comfortable asking questions before donating.

Should I donate to matching campaigns or wait for another time?

These campaigns are very powerful tools in the nonprofit sector. You can equate them to a "buy one get one free sale" in the for-profit world. If you want to increase the impact of your donation, contributing to a match campaign can be a great way to do that without increasing your donation amount.

As a fundraiser, we know matching gift campaigns are very successful at getting donors excited about giving. Remember, the choice to donate is ultimately up to you. You should always give when you feel most comfortable and most inspired.

Written by Megan Ritter, Development Manager at Charity Navigator.


As a 501 (c) (3) organization itself, Charity Navigator depends on public support to help donors make informed choices. Please consider investing in the future of Charity Navigator by making a donation today.   Donate now >> 

39 comments:

Weorc said...

What about those groups that claim that the donations already received from other donors are the match to new donations? That seems to be deceptive. The language in many of these promotions seems so vague as to be meaningless.

jeantoo said...

This did not tell me anything I did not already know. It did not say how to ascertain whether any given "match" is legitimate. If I trust the charity using the match I assume it is a real match.

Unknown said...

Hmmm, color me skeptical. I agree the idea, of course, sounds appealing and that's the hook. I do believe that offering matching funds is a way for large donors such as governmental bodies and foundations to leverage or scale their contributions to the capacity of the charity to whom they plan to donate. However, while this approach does provide leverage for large donors I see the way the scheme is employed today as charities gaming the process. Charities will go out and recruit donors like you and me who were going to give anyway to designate their donation as a matching donation to allow the charity to promote their next fund drive as a "matching drive". This approach is not directly addressed and seems different from the rosy "free money" picture painted in this piece. Would you please update the piece to address the trend of charities aggregating otherwise ordinary donors to create the perception of donation matching?

Unknown said...

It seems to me that some charities are asking for funds and then are using these funds to put on a matching drive. Also they probably raise many times more than the amount stated as being matched. I am beginning to think it is another scam!

Unknown said...

I suspect that the temptation to create a ghost donor leads an unknown number of charities touse this trick, given the immediate monetary reward and human nature being what it is.

Unknown said...

Regardless, I wait for giving Thursday in November. They should align such pledges with that, AND they should stop wasting money with so many mailings: they go directly to trash without being opened. When will they learn?

DonorReader said...

I always wonder if these matching campaigns are a scam, because I cannot imagine the match donor refusing to give the allotted amount if there aren't enough matching. In other words they would give it anyway. If I'm prepared to give (say) $25K to match donations within a certain time period, why would I then say I'm not going to give it because the charity couldn't raise that amount? In other words, the charity will receive the matching grant regardless of how much is raised.

David Morris said...

What would be a reasonable question to ask a charity in order for them to validate their claim that there is a real grantor (given, as you say, they are unlikely to identify the grantor)?

Unknown said...

So if the goal is reached, and your contribution is received after that, it becomes an unmatched contribution? Are all matched contribution campaigns legitimate? Or are some merely fundraisers that don't have a matching creator? Is there a limit to the match that may be offered? For example, a solicitation for, say, a 5x match, with no mention of time or limit? Believable? Does CN assess these on its site?

Unknown said...

OK - You don't really answer the question (the tease) in the email linking to this: to wit: "Matching Gifts: Fact or Fiction"? I'm not so skeptical as to believe there is no match donor behind the claim, but it does occur to me to winder whather, in many cases, the donor plans to give a specific amount whether or not there are additional donors responding.

Jane said...

I was looking forward to reading this article as I have been a little skeptical lately about these "matching" campaigns. However, the article didn't address my skepticism. How does one know if it's truly a match or whether the charity is just using this as a gimmick to get people to donate?

God bless,
Jane

Unknown said...

I still am left wondering if the grantor usually just donates the total amount regardless of the donations made by individuals who sign up for the match. Does it really serve the organization for me to wait and donate when there is a match?

Unknown said...

Very helpful information! Any suggestions about what questions to ask when contacting the organization, as you suggested?

Unknown said...

I have never doubted the veracity of the matching donation tack, but I was astounded at the speed at which the idea raced from one charity to the next. The last one I got was a match of 5 for 1. I also noted that when I upped my donation to a few charities that I regularly support, in the next mailing I got, the suggested amount to donate had started at that new higher amount and went up from there. I will add that I will not be inclined to donate because someone sends a trinket, sticker, scratch pad, calendar or some other "incentive". Information about how the donations are truly being used is welcome and more persuasive.

Unknown said...

I am not persuaded by this technique. To me, a donar that plans to donate, say that $20,000., is simply using the $20,000 that he already plans to donate and uses this marketing technique to try to get others to donate or donate more than they might have. Frankly, I feel manipulated and never participate. Great that some folks donate large amounts, but the rest of us should donate as much, whenever and to whatever causes we like.

Wayco said...

There isn’t a day that I don’t receive several “matching” solicitations, often one right after another from the same charities. It seems to me that they must have pre-arranged with major donors to stagger their gifts so that there can always be a “hurry to double/triple your gift” pitch. As a result, I ignore them all and make my donations at year end with or without a supposed match. I don’t understand why you have ignored that likelihood in your article.

POPS said...

Bottom line: the "match" DOES double the amount the charity gets from your donation...every buck helps!

Unknown said...

Re. grantor funds, I have contributed a small amount to a charity's "grantor fund", for a "contribution match" campaign. At the time of contribution, I was asked if the charity could have the money, even if the match goal was not met; otherwise the charity would return the money. (I agreed to let them keep the money, but I liked that they asked vice assume.) As others have written, if you have any questions, ask; if you don't get satisfactory answers - pass.

Nancy said...

Ditto commnts about this not clearing anything up.
Did you notice the Charity Navigator itself is doing a matching campaign?

Unknown said...

why would these donors want to remain anonymous? I would think that at least some would want credit. Yet I have never seen one which publishes their name.

Karen said...

I find it hysterical that the email Charity Navigator sent out linking to this article had a pitch at the end about a Matching Grant campaign for Charity Navigator! "Only Days Left to Double Your Donation" -- without any mention of what the actual deadline date was or how much the matching grant was for. Obviously we need to call Charity Navigator and ask them about THEIR matching grant campaign.

jeantoo said...

Amen to this comment from Wayco!

Unknown said...

I think I have a solution of sorts: Over the years I decided to support organizations rated or better by CN (what a blessing this organization is)! I went over my prior year's donations, made a rude spreadsheet with headings for Name of charity: Date donation sent; Number of pleas received; Check number; Amount. I alphabetized the chart, created it in my computer and use it every year. WITH MY DONATION I include a little slip saying "I donate once per year. If you are receiving this now, additional pleas will result in a smaller donation--if any--next year because you wasted your postage and my time." I do not penalize for proper letters of thanks/receipts. It has varying success but at tax time I have an easy record of donations, and a reference for the following year's giving.

I will discard this procedure only if I win the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes! ~~Jillie, Sept. 24, 2019

Unknown said...

Last year I was asked by a charity "May we apply this to our end-of-year match? We’re asking as many of our donors who give over (a certain amount) as possible to contribute towards a match we’ll deploy at the end of the year to inspire lower-dollar donors to give." So, clearly in this case they were using money already given to encourage others to donate. Still, if I am going to give to a charity anyway, I sometimes take advantage of a match, figuring that the worst case is they don't end up with more money in the end. I do think that this is article from CN is flawed and lacking in detail. Which means that I don't plan to give to their current match campaign.

JFT said...

This is just another reason why charity Navigator needs to identify and rate fundraising groups. As noted they are a major source of pollution in their over mailings. i have a three strike policy, the third time I receive a mailing form charity it's off my list no matter what it's CN rating. I think honest fundraising should be a major criteria for CN rankings. Jim T

tag said...

Matching contributions SOUND great, but can be confusing and distracting. For example, let's say I want to donate $200 to my fave goodworks. 1) Should I wait for the 'matching campaign? What if it never happens? What if I already donated when the matching campaign is announced? Should I be tempted to donate more?
2) What if the matching campaign never appears for my fave goodworks, but 'my next fave goodworks' does have a matching campaign? Should I change the focus of my giving?
To sum it up, I try to not let matching campaigns be a crucial factor in my community giving. It's more about year-end and fiscal year-end; keeping track of what's going on.

What gets me is these charities that make it hard to distinguish between a one-time or a monthly gift. I have very few charities I give to monthly and for charities to make 'monthly giving' the default setting...borders for me, on....confusing
And then there are the ones that call me on the phone, urgency in their voice. that may be well-intended, but it borders on invasion of privacy.

Jenny said...

I view these matching gift campaigns as disingenuous. The large donor is going to make their sizable donation to their selected charity no matter what. If the matching campaign doesn't "unlock" the full amount available, the large donor will just give the remainder they have budgeted at a later time. So you, the small donor, are not having your donation matched/doubled. In reality you are matching/doubling the large donor's gift. The ploy motivates the small donor (who might not give at all) to get up out of their chair and double the large donor's (who is going to give regardless) gift. It's a matter of who is matching whom. It is reasonable to question the integrity of charities using this fundraising method. And Charity Navigator uses it themselves!

Unknown said...

I was a board member of a watershed council. We often, in order to receive a grant for a project, had to acquire contributions equal to or even more than the amount of the grant. What we were doing was proving that we could convince other agencies to support what we planned to do and that it was a valuable project. We then had to follow through and do a good job (and be audited). That was good. These "matching contributions" are not the same thing, and there is reason to be suspect and check them out.

chaosmanor said...

Wow, do I see a lot of... not "hate", but strong dislike for charities, period, in some of the comments already posted. While some of it is justified, a lot of it is (IMHO) completely out of line with reality.

I *do* get mailings that tout a match campaign where the grantor *is* identified. Private individuals generally do not want to be identified at the time of the match, although I've certainly seen acknowledgements after the fact. Companies, OTOH, are generally quite willing to be identified, and the larger they are, the more willing they are. Those who say that they've never seen an ID either are not paying attention, or just are not getting as much charity mail as I do, I guess.

As for aligning matching campaigns with Giving Thanksgiving, think about it a little. How idiotic it would be if 14,379 legitimate charities all did a matching campaign at exactly the same time!! The return would likely be microscopic. Spreading the things out across the year makes a whole lot more sense.

And while I like the idea of writing to charities to say that tons of mailings will result in smaller donations going forward, the majority of them, big and small and in-between, use processing firms to handle the mail, and notes like that will never be seen by the charity's board or donations manager or whoever. Send that note, without a donation, to the main address for the charity. And while you are at it, if they send out unsolicited calendars, notepads, address labels, etc. etc. ad nauseum, COMPLAIN!! Tell them, in no uncertain terms, that you will not donate another penny unless they stop sending out stuff that you don't want. I've gotten several charities, including the local chapter of the American Red Cross, to stop sending out any such junk, AND I get four solicitations per year, which I judge to be reasonable.

Bottom line: this article merely did what it said it would do: answered the question with a "Yes, most of the time, matching campaigns are legit." But it left the bulk of the work up to us, which is always as it should be. I and my wife own lots of tools, of all sorts, but we don't expect them to do our work for us. It's up to us to do the job, with the correct tools.

shari.windsofchange said...

I agree with the comment that the mailings I receive from charities, and I get a lot, go into the shredder. I give to the causes I believe in, and calendars, note pads, and pens will not influence my choices. I have received at least a dozen 2020 calendars already, and have no use for them. I give them to friends and neighbors. But it is a waste of the charity's resources.
Pepper's mom

Jim said...

I have run telethons which featured matching grants with the terms such as you explained.
In fact, however, the donors honored the full pledged amount whether it was matched or not.

LoisAnne said...

I am usually not influenced by matching offers but will donate to the cause if I like it and have not already donated recently. I have so many complaints about these solicitations, for one I hate to be sent coins! I will not respond to an appeal that includes a nickel or a dime! I call that a waste of my funds. I do always remove the coin, however, before depositing the appeal into the recycle bin. I asked the mailman about returning these to sender but he said they just get thrown away at the post office. I also never respond to ultra cheap gimmicks like calculators and nail kits! I do send money to charities that send note cards, note pads and labels IF they are a charity that I would support anyway. And calendars......I get a gazillion and will buy my own calendar because I need a large one! I give away or throw away the free ones. I wish these charities would realize that people will donate to causes they support and believe in without all the gimmicks. And....those charities that send multiple solicitations a month drive me crazy. I have to keep a little notebook to remind myself when I donate because the same charity will be begging before my check has time to clear. I have just decided to NEVER respond to phone call appeals but I wish there was a way to refuse the mail appeals. I hate to think of all the trees that have been cut down to produce all that wasted paper! And, a shout out to Charity Navigator because I do my research on their site frequently!

Unknown said...

Two years ago I made a donation to a public radio station. One month later they called me and asked if my donation which was already in their bank could be used as a matching grant and announced on the air as such. They were going to lie to the listening public and make them think their donation would be doubled with new money.

I think that most matching grants fall into this category and I immediately delete any requests that claim there is a match.

I am not surprised that wonderful and otherwise ethical organizations loose their integrity when it comes to raising their own money. Money just seems to do that to people and organizations. It is just a shame when you expect honesty and integrity from these groups.

Unknown said...

I agree with Jenny. Those that make up the matching gift are the ones who would have given anyway. I have been asked to be one of these donors but turned it down as disingenuous .Bob

Unknown said...

I believe that the use of mailers has gone away as a practical approach to fundraising. Currently, we are seeing a significant change in our efforts with the use of various social networking sites. This has allowed us to express our mission by including everyone who follows our organizational platforms.

duanewilliams said...

The article is not helpful, because it just reiterates what the charities running the matching campaigns already tell potential donors. It doesn't answer the crucial question of whether the matching donation is typically received in full by the charity regardless of how much is donated by others.

Unknown said...

It seems to me that some charities I support have too many of these matching donor events. It's probably not that often, but it seems sometime the same charity is offering a match program every other week. After reading some of these comments, I now have other questions about this type of fundraising. I realize that with the new tax laws and the inability to declare some donations on tax returns. that funds for legitimate charities are probably lagging, but I hope this fact does not encourage a charity to sacrifice a four-star rating and cheapen its reputation to garner more funds.

Linda said...

One time when I carefully looked into one of these matching offers, in reality the 'match' wasn't much more than 3% and they would only include those gifts made via credit card. I couldn't mail a check and have it count. It looked very legitimate on the surface, but I began to suspect it was more of a scheme by the merchant services group handling the donations.

milad said...

Thanks for your post. seems to be useful for me.