Nonprofit Leadership Traits

Feature Matching Gifts in Year End and New Year Appeals

You’ve got a long to-do list that never ends, and promoting matching gifts is an easy task to push aside. However, it’s a necessary job.

The specifics vary by company, but donors have a limited window of when they can apply for matching gifts. If you’re not getting the word out about matching gifts then you’ll lose eligible donors and receive fewer requests. The goal of any great matching gift program is to maximize its dollars donated for the public good.jan

Don’t make people wait. Just like you, your donors live busy lives and likely don’t ruminate on the intricacies of charitable donations. A healthy dose of matching gift motivation in the form of necessary information can go a long way. Many donors simply need to know that matching gift programs exist.

Standard Matching Gift Submission Deadlines

Calendar specifics vary by company, but the following three dates are the general standards for matching gift submission deadlines:

  1. End of the calendar year.
  2. A set number of months after the date of the donation. The standard is one year, but anywhere from one to twelve months is normal.
  3. End of January, February, or March in the year subsequent to when the donation was made. Companies with a January or February deadline include Verizon, Home Depot, and Caterpillar.

These dates mean that you can engage in both start and end of year appeals. Let’s start with end of year appeals.

End of Year Appeals

Here’s an end of year appeal from Adrian College:

Holiday Appeal Promoting Matching Gifts

Email templates vary, but it never hurts to embrace the time of year with festive, emotionally engaging graphics. This matching gift appeal utilizes a basic font against a clean background. Nothing fancy, and, to access matching gift programs, there is both a blue link to click as well as a conspicuous green button. Priority number one is getting the information out there, and any aesthetic enhancements will follow according to what you can manage.

A great appeal will conjure urgent emotion out of its reader. The goal is both to remind donors about matching gift programs and to foster a feeling that a matching gift will provide necessary good for both the donor and the nonprofit. End of year appeals are, at their essence, urgent calls for donations to be matched, but appeals don’t need to come across as desperate. People understand the time of year. Donors can decide for themselves whether or not it’s worthwhile to match their gifts.

Here’s a sample end of year appeal from Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends on Twitter:

AARF Tweet Matching Gift End of Year Appeal

Here’s a sample Facebook appeal from Camp Kudzu:

End of Year Matching Gift Post on Facebook

And here’s an appeal from the DRI Foundation that nicely incorporates a graphic:

Reminder: There's still time to submit a matching gift request


Start of Year Appeals

If you missed the end of year deadlines, don’t worry. Many companies offer grace periods both for donations made at the end of the year and donations that were forgotten. This means that, even once the calendar turns to the new year, you have time to capitalize on matching gifts from donations made during the previous year.

A lot of people make their donations at the end of the year and fail to match gifts either due to missing out on end of year appeals, overlooking them, or due to the general frenetic pace of the holiday season. Start of the year appeals are the solution to this problem.

While these dates are not set in stone, company deadlines for grace periods tend to fall into one of three categories:

  1. Companies will match gifts if applications are submitted by Jan. 31, Feb. 28, or Mar. 31 of the following year.
  2. Companies will match gifts made at any time during the previous three, six, or twelve months.
  3. Companies will match all gifts made during the current calendar year.

For instance, Monsanto has a policy that donors must register matching gift requests by February 15th of the year following the donation date.

Monsanto Fund’s February, 2015 Matching Gift Submission Deadline
Matching Gift Deadline for Monsanto

As with end of year appeals, don’t sound desperate. Thank donors for their donations and put the information in front of them. No flashy colors or bright lights required, although well-implemented graphics can help. You want people to understand your appeal and to participate in your call to action. The above email from Adrian College is a good template to follow for any appeal (although, obviously, adjust the seasonal template for the time of year).

Matching Gift Acknowledgement

Feature Matching Gifts in Your Nonprofit’s Newsletters

How many times have you been scrolling through a website, minding your own business, and then BAM! A popup urges you to sign up for a newsletter. Like, um, no. I’m trying to read here.

Inevitably, you’ve signed up for at least a scattering of newsletters. Most companies and nonprofits release newsletters, and for good reason. Nothing tops a newsletter in terms of conveying a bulk of information through a single email.

To get an idea of what a newsletter should look like, here’s part of a sample email from the New York Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation:

Matching Gift Newsletter Example

When the donor clicks on either the matching gift graphic or the words “click here” they’re taken to the National Kidney Foundation’s matching gift page.

See, nothing intimidating, right? The top half is a short, meaningful story that creates emotional engagement with the nonprofit, and the bottom half is a creative and informative reminder about matching gifts. The great success of this newsletter is that it opens with a story, as opposed to the marketing portion, so that when the reader gets to the part about matching gifts it reads more as a nice opportunity to give to a good cause than an ask that fails to humanize what it seeks to benefit.

Here is a another sample electronic newsletter from Anne Arundel County CASA:

CASA Example of an email focused on matching gifts

In this case, the email took a singular focus on promoting matching gifts to recent donors.

Matching Gift Newsletter Advice:

Newsletters are versatile and can include links to blog posts, donation pages, social media profiles, and more. Newsletters provide both information and the opportunity to add layers to your connections with donors. Added layers include people choosing to follow your social media profiles, engaging with your online content, and donating to your nonprofit.

To learn more, let’s review a newsletter from Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association (CMTA):

CMTA Matching Gift Newsletter

When the donor clicks on either the matching gift graphic or the words “click here” they’re taken to CMTA’s matching gift page, which is hosted on Double the Donation’s servers.

This email newsletter is entirely dedicated to matching gifts and is a superb example to follow. While newsletters might provide links to a variety of your nonprofit’s services and content, it’s best to provide a singular focus to the actual written content of the newsletter. Donors might be able to understand simultaneous ideas, but it’s hard for them to take action when you’re asking them to do multiple things at once, such as to volunteer at an event or to check out a new blog post on top of the ask for them to seek out a matching gift.

This is the danger of cramming too much into too little space. How much can and will a reader take in at once?

You can go with an all-at-once approach, but you can also focus on different aspects of marketing in successive newsletters. For example, one month you focus on promoting your social media accounts, the next month on increasing the readership of your blog articles, and, in a subsequent message, you promote volunteer grant programs and matching gifts, as opposed to including all of these parts of your nonprofit in one newsletter.

By giving each marketing avenue its own time and space, donors will engage better with the content you provide. When the time comes to promote matching gifts, that program will be the focus of the newsletter and will grab the reader’s attention, as opposed to one of any number of other topics distracting the donor.

Select one, two, or a few newsletters a year to focus exclusively on matching gifts in order to maximize your readers’ attentions and haul in more donations.