Companies give to nonprofits in many ways, and one of the most popular methods is through matching gifts. While matching gifts are generally given when an employee donates to a nonprofit, companies are finding new ways to support the causes that employees care about.
Companies and employees have political interests that can be funded by Political Action Committees (PAC). The problem for companies is that the Federal Election Committee (FEC) does not allow businesses to fund their own PACs. Employees can donate to company PACs, but employers cannot force them to give.
In an effort to increase political donations, companies have incentivized employee giving to PACs. Companies will match employee donations to company PACs, and the matching gifts will go to the nonprofit of the employee’s choice.
For example, Bilbo works for Boeing and makes a $500 donation to Boeing’s PAC. Since the company runs a matching gift program for PAC donations that matches 0.5:1, Boeing writes a $250 check of its own and gives it to the nonprofit of Bilbo’s choosing. The Boeing PAC receives $500, and Bilbo’s favorite nonprofit gets a gift, too.
Donations to nonprofits that are the result of matching gifts from PAC donations are not eligible for tax exemptions for the company or the employee. Federal law limits annual PAC donations to $5,000 per employee.
Plenty of companies match Political Action Committee donations from employees:
In 2011, Coca-Cola’s PAC gave $148,000 to charities. In 2012, that number increased to $217,000 and $263,000 in 2013, the last year data is publicly available. As more employees learn about the PAC program and donate, more nonprofits receive financial benefits. PACs are a way for Coca-Cola to help employees to support both the political initiatives they care about and their favorite nonprofits all at the same time.
Coke matches PAC donations dollar-for-dollar, and their PAC match program aims to help nonprofits that focus on:
- Community involvement
Like many companies that operate PACs, Coca-Cola willingly discloses its annual PAC matching program finances, although the FEC does not require this information in reports that companies submit.
PAC matching gift programs have been around since the 1980’s, but Hewlett-Packard joined the game in 2010.
Hewlett-Packard’s Political Action Committee (HP PAC) matches donations as follows:
- Dollar-for-dollar matches
- Gives matching donations to charities or educational institutions
- Employees must give at least $2,500 to receive a matching gift
American Express believes that active engagement in public policy is an important piece of corporate citizenship. They seek to support policy issues that affect:
- Consumer financial laws and regulations
- Merchant pricing
- Privacy/data security
- Other issues
American Express does not contribute to presidential campaigns. Political goals and the types of campaigns that PACs donate to vary by company. Every company has its own criteria for determining what political endeavors to support.
American Express gives political contributions according to:
- Views of a candidate about topics important to American Express
- Position of a candidate within a committee with jurisdiction over policies important to American Express
- How a candidate represents an area where American Express has an employee presence
- Leadership position of an elected candidate
PACs are designed to support company political ambitions. They’re supported by employees, but companies ultimately decide where the money goes.
Politicians can soar to new heights thanks to donations from the Boeing Political Action Committee (BPAC).
BPAC eligible employees:
- Receive 0.5:1 matches for PAC donations.
- Receive matching donations from Boeing up to $5,000 (a maximum $2,500 matching gift).
- Employees may request funds to the following types of U.S. based 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations:
- Arts & Culture
- Educational Institutions
- Environmental Organizations
- Health & Human Services
- Religious organizations that have a 501(c)(3) in their own name
Boeing employees must give at least $100 in order for a PAC gift to be matched. Eligible employees may select up to four nonprofits and designate what percentage of the matching gift that each receives.
Many company PACs state that the money that employees donate goes to support political initiatives that support both the business and the employees, and Pfizer is no different. The Pfizer PAC controls what the donated money goes towards, which means that donors relinquish the right to specify what candidates or causes their money benefits. Giving to the PAC is an employee helping Pfizer to forward its own political ambitions, so donors want to make sure that those goals are in line with their own interests.
Pfizer has a policy for how employees may participate in politics, both in terms of money and service, during working hours. Many companies have such outlines, as donations of time and service to political organizations may be viewed as types of political contributions directly from the company, which are not allowed. The specifics of how employees may engage political organizations varies by company.
There are companies that provide employee benefits in return for PAC contributions, and then there’s Walmart. Not only does Walmart match PAC donations with generous 2:1 matches, but those matching gifts go to the company’s Associates in Critical Need Trust (ACNT). The ACNT helps employees in times of need.
Walmart’s PAC donation program is only for company executives. Low-level Walmart employees are not expected or permitted to donate to the PAC. In this way, higher-level Walmart employees support Walmart’s political ambitions while giving money to ACNT, and thus they help out their Walmart peers.
Most company PACs only accept donations from certain employees, and those employees are generally higher up in the companies. It’s important for many companies to get as much of their upper management to donate as possible, as full support for the PAC demonstrates a belief in what companies such as Walmart do and their integrity as businesses with a better world in mind.
For nonprofits seeking to raise more money from PAC matches during the busier political seasons, Double the Donation’s matching gift marketing guide is a comprehensive outline of how to promote corporate giving that can easily be adapted for PAC programs.
While matching gifts and other giving methods are more well-known, PAC donations are another of the many ways for employees and companies to give to the causes they care about.
If you’d like to learn more about matching gifts and other corporate giving methods then we invite you to sign up for our free five day email course. You’ll learn how to raise more money for your organization thanks to the bevy of corporate giving programs.