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Friday, October 4, 2019

Ask A Fundraiser: Deeper Dive into Match Campaigns

In my last post, I gave a brief overview of what match campaigns are and what donors should know about them. Now, I’ll be answering some of the questions our readers had, as well as explain these increasingly popular fundraising campaigns at an even deeper level. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments! Your question or comment may be featured in a follow-up post.

What about those groups that claim that the donations already received from other donors are the match to new donations? 

To accurately answer this question, I think it’s important to first address how matches are funded. Matches can be funded by one donor, a corporation, or a foundation (i.e. the grantor), or they can be funded by many different donors (i.e. a “crowd-funded match”). The mechanics of this crowdfunded match work a little differently than a traditional match campaign, but they operate on the same principles. With a traditional match, the grantor pledges to match all donations within a given time period, up to a certain amount. 

For a crowd-funded match campaign, a charity may send you a letter or email asking you to make a leadership gift along with your peers to establish a match fund that will inspire other donors in a future traditional match campaign. When you choose to donate to these appeals, you’re telling the charity to earmark your donation to a match fund. You and other donors function as the collective grantor in a future match campaign.

Behind the scenes, these donations will be put into a match fund, which can only be used for future matches. The charity should provide donors who gave to the match fund a timeframe for when their donations will be used in an appeal, as well as some follow-up communication to let them know the success of the campaign. Essentially, the charity should treat donors who donate to the match fund just like they would a grantor in a traditional match campaign. The only difference is that the grantor signs a pledge agreement, and, when you donate to the match fund, you’re indicating that you’d like your donation to be used for a match fund. It’s also important to note that, once you donate to a match fund, you shouldn’t be asked to contribute to the match campaign your donation is inspiring.

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)?

I always recommend reaching out to a charity if you have questions or concerns about anything they are doing. Your voice as a donor is so important, and we truly do take it into account when crafting our initiatives. Like I mentioned in my previous post, a grantor that gives a large gift to the charity will typically ask to remain anonymous, so the charity won’t be able to disclose this information. Grantors like to be anonymous for their own reasons, but I’d suspect that they may not want an overwhelming amount of charitable solicitations when others catch wind that they are being so generous. I’m sure those reading this can sympathize with not wanting to receive a deluge of mailings, trinkets, or requests for funds.

As a donor myself, when I see a campaign or other business practice that a charity is partaking in that I have feedback or questions about, I love reaching out to their support team. I find myself using our Questions to Ask Charities Before Donating article to guide my conversation. Speaking with a charity helps me establish trust before donating. 

If I wanted to find out more about a match campaign a charity is running, here are some questions that I’d ask:

  • What is the match goal amount? 
  • When do you need to raise the funds by?
  • Did you receive a pledge agreement from the grantor?
  • What is the progress of the campaign towards the goal?
  • What do you plan on doing with the funds received after the match deadline or limit?
  • Why do you say that you’re matching 10x (or 2,3,4 times) my donation amount? How does that work?

In these questions, you’ll notice what I typically look for in match campaigns: transparency. I look for the goal amount, timeframe, and the progress towards that goal. If I see these in the email (or letter) I receive, I’m more likely to donate. 

For example, when we at Charity Navigator ask our supporters to come together for a match through email, we make sure that at the bottom of each email we send, we add the information about the timeframe and donation amount. On our donation page, which is linked in the email, there is a progress bar telling exactly how much we’ve raised toward our goal in real-time.

Comment: 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.

Some match campaigns are connected to a matching grant the charity is applying for. A foundation, through their grantmaking process, will ask that a charity applying for a grant fundraise from their individual donors to raise a matching amount to what the foundation will be providing. For example, a foundation may want to provide $15,000 for a grant supporting the development of a technology platform, but requires that a charity raise $15,000 of their own funding in order to receive the grant. This shows the foundation a few things: 1. The effectiveness of the charity’s fundraising, 2. The charity’s donor engagement, and 3. Strength of the project’s value proposition for the charity’s constituents. A grant agreement with a foundation typically, but not always, requires a charity to submit reports about how the grant was used over time.

Won’t the charity receive the amount regardless of what is raised in the match campaign?

Typically, the grantor will want to make a substantial financial contribution to a charity, but some grantors may only be interested in funding a match campaign. Per the pledge agreement, which is a legally binding document between the charity and the grantor, the grantor agrees to match up to a certain amount of money before a deadline. The agreement may also state that if the match amount is not reached, the grantor has the option to reduce their final contribution amount. 

[A pledge agreement is a document that is often the follow-up of a conversation between the charity and the grantor about expectations on both sides, so these documents can naturally vary in content.]

Without the help of individual donations, the charity may not receive all funds in the pledge agreement, since the agreement will state a given financial amount as well as a deadline for the funds to be raised. If the charity cannot raise these funds within the time frame, the grantor has the ability to modify the amount the charity receives.

Sometimes, a fundraising team will do so well with the messaging around their match campaign and that they actually raise more than the match amount. Unless otherwise stated, this will become an unmatched “regular” contribution to the charity. This is when a progress bar is extremely helpful on a donation page - each donor who comes to the page can immediately see that the charity has met their goal in a visual way and can then choose whether to donate or not.

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? Should I change the focus of my giving?

Some donors only want to donate to a match campaign and will wait for them throughout the year. Many donors have a schedule for their giving that they like to stick to. Everyone has their own personal preferences around donating. I always recommend contacting your favorite charities directly to start a conversation to see where your giving preferences and the charity’s needs may align.

If you are interested in participating in a match campaign for a charity, you can reach out to them to ask if this is typically something that they do. They may even be able to give you an indication when they hope to have their next match campaign. Believe it or not, fundraisers are typically operating 3-12 months in the future, so they may have an idea about when they hope to be running their next match campaign. While these campaigns are dependant on grantors, we, as fundraisers, know that careful cultivation and targeted asks to potential grantors with a yearly plan in mind can typically provide a general timeline. Again, this all starts with a conversation with our donors. And, you don’t need to be a major donor or grantor to a charity to have a conversation about your giving preferences with them.

Thank you for your passion and excitement about the nonprofit sector.  We understand that some people love match campaigns and others are skeptical.  We hope this series shed some light on the topic.  One thing that we hopefully all can agree on is that people being philanthropic, regardless of what inspired their giving, is a good thing.

Written by Megan Ritter, Development Manager at Charity Navigator.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

I always prefer a) creating a match fund over b) giving to a match campaign over c) giving a routine donation, in that order. In fact, I call charities and ask them if they have a matching campaign that I can help fund. (Some even ran a match campaign for the first time, using my donation to start the match fund, in response to my question!) If not, I ask when/whether a match campaign will be available soon so my donation can be matched. They usually have a helpful answer.

So I have helped fund, contributed to, and helped develop match campaigns at various times. Yet, having had experience from all sides of the match experience, I cannot understand 2 things:

1) why all the suspicion around match campaigns?! Presumably, a donor wants to contribute to a charity regardless of whether the match is available (or legit) or not, and would simply *prefer* having their contribution matched if possible. Whether it actually is matched, or whether the matching funds are given regardless of whether the campaign goal is met seems immaterial if you care about (and trust) the cause in general. If you don't, you shouldn't be making a donation at all! The bottom line is that these are tools to excite and mobilize donors (on BOTH sides of a match campaign), and that is always a good thing.

2) When a charity mails you information about a match, they often provide a specific website where you can participate in the match; however, if you go to the donation page on their main website, the match is not listed where the general public can see it. Why???