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Matching Gifts for Gala Tickets and Special Fundraising Events

Does your organization host a fundraising gala or special event? If so have you ever wondered whether the tickets and donations made during that event are eligible for matching gift programs?

We recently received an email from a woman named Sheila wondering whether individuals can apply for matching gifts from their employers for money donated through special fundraising events. Her question was as follows:

One of my organization’s fundraising events involves selling tiles and allowing parents and their children to decorate the tiles. We then affix the tiles to a wall as a way to display the artwork and recognize our donors. Is the purchase price of the tile eligible for corporate matching gift programs?

While this specific question may appear unique, many organizations raise funds in similar ways.

Donations at Annual Fundraising Galas and Special Events:

  • The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association gives individuals an opportunity to name a Zoo resident. For donations of between $1,000-$50,000, you can name an animal, receive recognition in the zoo publication, receive a photo of you with the animal, and get a VIP tour.
  • The Atlanta Botanical Garden has its Garden of Eden Gala, the Garden’s largest annual fund-raiser. Tickets range in price from a few hundred dollars to $25,000 to be the presenting sponsor. Benefits include tickets to the Ball, a Patron Party, and much more.
  • New York Collaborates for Autism hosts its annual “Night of Too Many Stars”. Celebrities such as Jon Stewart, Katie Perry, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Seth Rogan, and many others auction off once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to hang out with a celebrity. For instance, becoming “best friends with Amy Poehler & Tina Fey” for an evening was auctioned for thousands of dollars.

Looking to host your own charity auction? Check out these great platforms.

Are these Donations Match Eligible?

It may surprise you, but many companies with matching gift programs will match these donations!

Why there’s confusion: If you or your donors look at many matching gift forms you may notice a sentence along the lines of “the Corporation will not match tickets or subscriptions.” So if your organization is a symphony selling a concert ticket or a science museum selling an IMAX ticket, companies won’t match the ticket price.

The reason for this is that donors are receiving a tangible benefit that would be charged by other for-profit organizations. For instance, an IMAX movie could be compared to a regular movie ticket and the symphony could be compared to a sporting ticket.

But why are gala tickets and special event tickets often eligible?

If you look at the fine print on many nonprofits’ special event tickets you’ll notice that it mentions a tax deductible amount for each ticket. For example a ticket to the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Garden of Eden Gala was $475 but amounts exceeding $200.00 per Ball ticket and $50 per Patron Party were eligible for a charitable income tax deduction.

We wrote an entire article on calculating the tax deductible matching gift value but in general at galas you must subtract the cost of a similar meal and any gifts that guests may receive.

Bottom Line on Getting Gala Tickets Matched: A significant percentage of a gala ticket’s purchase price is tax deductible and is often eligible to be matched by an employee’s company but corporate guidelines do vary by company.

Promoting Matching Gift Programs at Galas:

Unfortunately for organizations it’s less common to receive employee matching gifts for galas and special events than regular donations or annual fund contributions. As with all donations, you have to raise awareness and make it easy for donors to submit matching gift requests, but there’s an extra component when it comes to galas and special events.

Even if an individual knows about his or her company’s matching gift program, they rarely realize a portion of the ticket is tax deductible and often match eligible. Thus you need to promote this fact.

Matching Gifts for Fundraising Events:

One big fundraising opportunity is to take advantage of corporate match programs where companies match the fundraising efforts of its employees. Yes you heard that right — some companies have programs in place where if their employees go out and fundraise for your cause then the company will match the entire amount up to a certain limit.

These companies include:

  1. Intuit
  2. McAfee
  3. British Petroleum
  4. State Street

Learn more about fundraising match programs.

Five Easy Ways a Nonprofit can Promote Matching Gifts to Special Event Attendees:

  1. Include the tax deductible amount on the ticket with a line such as “Did you know $XXXX of your ticket is tax deductible? If your employer offers a matching gift program it may be eligible to be matched.”
  2. If you subscribe to Double the Donation’s matching gift service, consider setting up a computer with your organization’s matching gift webpage up and easily accessible by donors.
  3. Does your organization manage a payment station at the Gala where donors go and pay for auction items? Make sure your staff ask if the individual or his or her spouse works for a company with a matching gift program.
  4. Do you provide donors with an acknowledgement letter after they buy a ticket or make an additional donation? If so, this is a great time to encourage donors to see if their employer or their spouse’s employer offers a matching gift program.

And of course make sure to review our list of top ways to promote employee matching gifts year-round.