Leaders for religious organizations such as churches, synagogues, ministries, and other religious groups often wonder if they’re eligible for matching gift programs. As with any nonprofit, donations are a huge part of any religious organizations’ financial stability, so doubling donors’ contributions can make a significant difference.
To better understand your faith-based organization’s standing with corporate philanthropy, familiarize yourself with:
- Typical wording from companies with matching gift programs.
- Eligibility for faith-based organizations that provide social services.
- Double the Donation’s matching gift database.
When an organization is eligible, matching gifts are an effective component of overall church fundraising strategy, so hopefully, this article provides the clarification that your religious organization needs. In fact, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you were directed to the article by Double the Donation’s customer service team or from a search engine where you were looking for this exact information.
1. Typical Wording from Companies with Matching Gift Programs
While every company’s matching gift guidelines are different, companies typically address the matching gift eligibility of religious-based organizations. Take these large corporations for example:
American Express matches donations to most 501(c)(3) organizations. In fact, the company will even match select donations at a 2:1 ratio if an employee also serves on the nonprofit’s board or volunteers for over 50 hours in a year. That means your donors who work for American Express can potentially triple their donations.
Here’s what American Express says about houses of worship in their matching gift guidelines:
Question: Are houses of worship eligible organizations?
Answer: No, gifts to houses of worship (churches, synagogues, etc.) will not be matched. However, the program will match a gift to an ongoing and independently-run program affiliated with a religious organization, if the gift is restricted to a nonsectarian project that provides needed social services to the community at large on a nondiscriminatory basis without any religious teaching, directive or requirements to receive services (e.g. a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter, a food bank, etc.).
In 1954, GE became the first company to offer an employee matching gift program. At the time, GE only matched to higher education but has since expanded its matching to encompass most schools and nonprofits.
Here’s what GE’s guidelines have to say about whether churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship are eligible for matching gift funds:
Ineligible recipient organizations include religious organizations (churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship), or other organizations primarily promoting religious purposes. Other faith-based community service organizations or schools may be considered eligible if their programs:
- Are open to all individuals in the community regardless of religious belief;
- Serve a secular purpose, such as food pantry, homeless shelter, or education;
- Do not require participation in prayer, worship, or other religious activities as a condition of receiving service(s) offered; and
- Do not use the individual donation or resulting match for religious purposes.
DIRECTV offers a highly-generous employee giving program. The company matches employee donations up to $20,000 annually and provides a grant of $250 after an employee volunteers for 25 hours in a year. Like most companies, DIRECTV provides a detailed match policy.
Here’s what DIRECTV says about matches to religious organizations:
DIRECTV will match gifts to qualified institutions affiliated with religious organizations but will not match gifts made directly to religious organizations.
DIRECTV will not contribute matching funds to churches and religious organizations which fulfill tithes, pledges, or other church‐related financial commitments.
DIRECTV will not contribute matching funds to institutions that restrict admission or aid due to race or religious beliefs.
The Pew Charitable Trusts
The Pew Charitable Trusts program provides a 2:1 match on employee donations up to $10,000 annually (meaning a $20,000 match). In other words, eligible donors can triple their gifts!
Here’s what The Pew Charitable Trusts says about matches to religious organizations:
Yes, Pew will match contributions made to religious organizations, such as houses of worship, schools, hospitals, shelters, etc., just as it would to any other qualifying organization.
Chevron matches donations from full-time employees and retirees, and the company offers volunteer grants. When their employees or retirees volunteer 20 hours or more and request a grant, your organization (if eligible) will receive a check!
Here’s what Chevron says about matching to faith-based organizations:
Chevron Humankind will provide matching funds and grants to programs operated by faith-based organizations if those programs: (a) are open to all individuals in the community regardless of religious belief; (b) serve a secular purpose, such as a food pantry or a homeless shelter; and (c) do not require participants to join in religious worship as a condition of receiving the services that the nonprofit offers.
2. Eligibility for Religious Organizations that Provide Social Services
In general, either companies match donations made to all 501(c)(3) nonprofits and schools, or they place certain restrictions on the types of organizations eligible.
Oftentimes, companies don’t match donations to churches, synagogues, temples, and other religious or faith-based organizations unless the organization provides social services to the greater community or is a K-12 school.
Common examples of social services provided by faith-based organizations that make them match-eligible are:
- Food banks.
- Homeless shelters.
- Disaster relief efforts.
If you come across a donor’s company that doesn’t match contributions to religious or faith-based organizations, chances are, they may make exceptions for those that provide social services. Make sure to read all the requirements instead of glancing over them. Otherwise, you may miss out on important revenue opportunities!
3. Matching Gifts: Double the Donation’s Search Tool
While we love to grow our business, we only want to accept customers who can benefit from our service. When you incorporate a tool like our matching gift database, you’ll be able to instantly determine your organization’s eligibility and maximize your revenue.
Donors might double (or even triple!) their contributions with the help of their employers. The key is to determine your organization’s eligibility with employers in your area and to make donors aware of their opportunities.
So how do you know if your organization can benefit from Double the Donation’s service? It’s important to remember many companies exclude religious organizations unless the match goes to support services in the broader community (ex. food banks, homeless shelters, schools, etc.).
The easiest way to determine whether our matching gift service would be beneficial is to look over your donation records. If you’ve received matching gifts from companies in the past, there’s a good chance your organization meets the general eligibility requirements.
How the Database Works
The number one reason donors don’t submit matches is that they simply don’t know about them, let alone how to check their eligibility and submit a request. In fact, the matching gifts application process is straightforward:
With Double the Donation’s tool, this process is simplified even more! Supporters will be able to:
- Search their employer in the database.
- See any requirements, restrictions, and important deadlines.
- Access necessary documents and forms.
- View up-to-date, accurate information.
If you’ve determined that your religious organization typically qualifies for matching gifts, Double the Donation’s tool might be a useful fundraising tool for you. It’s easy to incorporate into your existing fundraising strategy and can help you pinpoint match-eligible donors instead of waiting for them to come to you. Plus, you won’t miss out on any major revenue opportunities.
Religious and faith-based organizations aren’t excluded from matching gifts programs as often as you might think! Becoming more aware of what corporations match gifts to religious organizations like yours will help you understand if promoting matching gifts would be beneficial to your organization.
Remember, check all eligibility requirements, because if there’s a restriction against religious organizations in a company’s matching gift guidelines, chances are, they might make exceptions for those that provide services to their communities. Now that you know the typical eligibility requirements and restrictions, get out there and maximize your matching gift potential!
Discover more matching gift and fundraising advice with our additional resources:
- Church Fundraising Ideas. Even if your church isn’t eligible for matching gifts, that’s okay! There are plenty of other fundraising ideas available, and we have a list that covers many events, activities, and strategies you can use to raise money.
- Corporate Matching Gift Programs. Need a refresher on the basics? Our comprehensive guide will give you the rundown on corporate matching gifts.
- Top Matching Gift Companies. For a list of companies that offer fantastic matching gift programs, check out our list of top matching gift companies.
- Matching Gift Eligibility. Still have questions about your match eligibility? Check out this guide that breaks down each type of organization to help you figure out typical restrictions.