Suggesting Matching Gifts: A Responsive Fundraising Approach

Suggesting Matching Gifts: A Responsive Fundraising Approach

Did you know that an estimated $4-7 billion in unmatched funds goes unclaimed annually? What would it mean for your nonprofit if you could generate an extra 15% or 20% of revenue annually purely through matching gifts?

Suggesting matching gifts to your supporters can be an important step in cultivating a deeper relationship. It allows you to engage with your supporters and empower them to uncover untapped potential generosity for your organization.

But it’s not a matter of snapping your fingers and voila, matching gifts appear! In order to generate that increase in generosity, your supporters need to first be made aware of matching gifts. In order to do that, you need to educate your supporters about their company’s possible matching gift programs and suggest that they get involved.

In this helpful guide, we’ll dive into how Virtuous’ responsive fundraising framework enables your organization to build meaningful and personal relationships with your donors. Plus, increase their generosity to help you achieve mission-critical goals.

What is Responsive Fundraising?

Responsive fundraising puts the donor at the center of your fundraising strategy and enables you to grow giving through optimized donor journeys that respond to the unique needs of each individual. Through the four phases — listen, connect, suggest, and learn —the responsive approach enables nonprofits to build trust and loyalty through personalized engagement and provide the most value to their supporters.

Responsive fundraising framework overview

In a hyper-connected world, donors want to feel like members of a community. They want to understand their role in the impact your organization is making. Perhaps most important of all, they want to be thanked sincerely and personally for their contributions.

Responsive fundraisers look to create deep connections that serve donors in the right way. Let’s dig in more to each part of the Responsive Framework to understand it better.

  • Listen

In order to successfully build a relationship with your supporters you need to learn more about them. Listening is crucial for learning and understanding who your supporters are and why they want to engage with you. Listening to your supporters can happen directly through conversations or indirectly via social listening, website activity, and email tracking. The more you listen, the more you begin to understand your supporters!

  • Connect

Giving is deeply personal, and you should connect with your donors in a way that acknowledges and respects that. Regardless of the channel (website, email, mail, or phone) or medium (in-person or digitally) you want to connect with donors in a way that is one-to-one, contextual, and collaborative.

Responsive fundraising ensures you connect with the right supporter at the right time with the right message. With the responsive framework, nonprofits should personalize the experience every time they connect with every donor. When a supporter visits your website, attends an event, receives an email, or gets a phone call, they should feel like they are part of an ongoing conversation with your organization — enabling you to build lasting connections and increase trust.

  • Suggest

Below we will dig into the “Suggest” step on a much deeper level. However, at a birds-eye view, once you’ve established trust with your donors by listening and connecting in personal ways, you have an opportunity to suggest next steps that are the best fit for each individual.

Responsive fundraising acknowledges that everyone has unique value and something to give, instead of generic, unresponsive asks that push everyone to do or give the same thing.

  • Learn

Experienced fundraisers know that, while there are best practices and great ideas out there about fundraising, nothing is “one size fits all.” The only way to know for sure what works with your unique supporters is to test and experiment. The results you get will help inform what you do next and how you do it.

By continually learning as you go, your organization will become more and more responsive. Responsive fundraising is a continually improving cycle. When you take a responsive approach, you’ll adapt and experiment. With clear visibility into your data and a complete, holistic view of your supporters, you’ll be able to see what’s working and what isn’t, then adjust accordingly.

The Importance of Suggesting

Suggesting a next step to your supporters is important because this is where you get to prove how well you know them. If you suggest something that is aligned with your supporter’s interests and abilities, you are more likely to get a “yes” from them. If you suggest a misaligned next step, on the other hand, you put that relationship at risk.

The good news is that the responsive framework sets you up for suggesting the right thing. If you have truly listened and connected with your supporters, you should have some clarity around the suggestion step. Just make sure you are suggesting action items that are based on who your supporters are and what makes sense for them, rather than solely what your organization wants to see happen.

Why “Suggest” and Not “Ask”

It is worth noting the language of “suggest” as an intentional decision here, as “ask” is more commonly used in the fundraising community. However, we believe that the real power lies in suggesting something to your supporters, not in asking something of them.

“Ask” is a more passive way to approach requesting a donation. Because of the history of the “fundraising ask,” this word implies a financial contribution. It also implies that giving is a financial hardship, and it can feel quite transactional in nature. While financial contributions are important, using the language of “ask” can be limiting.

To open up the possibilities, responsive fundraising focuses instead on “suggesting” next steps to your supporters. It’s a two-way street where you suggest an action, but your supporters are more than welcome to respond with their own thoughts and opinions. It’s conversational in nature. And perhaps most importantly, suggesting includes a variety of impactful behaviors beyond financial giving.

Think of it this way: An “ask” would be telling a supporter what financial contribution you want from them. A “suggestion” would be connecting with your supporter and having a conversation where you provide ideas and inspiration for how they can be more involved with your organization in a targeted and personalized way.

Why Suggesting Matching Gifts Makes Sense

When you suggest a next step to a supporter, the goal is to make the right suggestion at the right time. Often, this means not asking for more financial support, especially if they just made a donation.

You want to suggest something that further deepens the relationship but is contextual and personal. It’s also important that you suggest a next step that provides value to your organization as well. If financial generosity is a top goal for your organization, suggesting a matching gift is the perfect way to meet both your organizational needs and remain relevant and contextualized in your suggestion to your supporter. 

A good suggestion should be strengthen your relationship with the supporter. Suggesting matching gifts in the right way naturally cultivates a deeper relationship with your supporters. In order to successfully initiate the matching gift process, you’ll need to educate and empower your donors. That process of education and empowerment will naturally bring your supporters closer to your organization. It’s not enough to just suggest the right thing; how you suggest matching gifts matters as well.

4 Ideas for Suggesting a Matching Gift

To effectively suggest a matching gift, your organization needs to start with education. Your team and your donors need to be aware that matching gifts exist and understand what they need to do to initiate the process.

Implementing a new method for suggesting matching gifts into your donation and cultivation strategy doesn’t have to be difficult. Below are four ways to suggest matching gifts to your donors.

Regardless of how you integrate matching gifts into your donation and cultivation processes, it’s important that you craft a strategy regarding the funding source! Ignoring matching gifts altogether is leaving money on the table. It also means you are missing out on an incredibly easy opportunity to take another step in building a long-lasting relationship with your donors.

Option 1: Suggesting Matching Gifts in the Donation Process

You can make suggesting matching gifts as easy as possible by adding it right on your giving forms. This can be accomplished by integrating your online donation tools with a matching gift solution like Double the Donation. This allows you to suggest a next step for your donors right as they wrap up their initial engagement with your organization!

You can design a giving experience that prompts donors to continue supporting and engaging with your nonprofit. Building suggestions into your process makes it easier for your team to manage while still providing clear next steps for your supporters.

When creating your online form, it is also important to consider what additional information you may need for matching gift campaigns in the future. Basic profile information such as e-mail is pretty straightforward, but you may also want to consider including a “Employer” field. When donors tell you who they work for, you have all the information you need for future communications and campaigns around matching gifts.

Option 2: Build the Suggestion Into Your Thank You Cadence

Similar to suggesting matching gifts directly on the giving form, building the suggestion into your thank you cadence helps make this an automated process. In order to implement this, first take stock of your existing thank you cadences. Every organization approaches this slightly differently, so here are some suggestions that you can build into your process wherever it makes sense.

  • Thank You Phone Calls

When calling donors to thank them, make sure you’re prepared to suggest a matching gift. When your nonprofit database contains helpful employer information, your staff can even prepare before the call by researching whether that employer matches employee donations. That level of personalization and thoughtfulness is truly impactful! With the Virtuous – Double the Donation integration, this step can easily be conducted within the CRM, saving your team valuable administrative time.

  • Thank You Emails

Add in a simple call to action in your thank you emails that prompts donors to look into whether their company has a matching gift. This can be standard language you include that links out to helpful resources (such as your dedicated matching gift page and embedded company database search tool) or suggests that they call your organization’s HR department directly for more information.

  • Thank You Texts 

Nowadays, an increasing number of organizations are reaching out to donors via SMS. Texts are unique because of their short and sweet nature. Though you’ll want most of the text to focus on thanking the donor for their contribution, consider incorporating a quick blurb with a link to to learn more about matching gifts.

Suggesting matching gifts with automated outreach through your CRM

Option 3: Email Your Donors Suggesting a Matching Gift

Another way to suggest matching gifts to your supporters is via a marketing campaign designed and delivered from your nonprofit CRM. This option allows you to conduct personalized outreach to your supporters that is based on donor signals.

For this campaign, the donor signal you want to look for is employer information (which you’ll want to have a dedicated field in your CRM to track). Remember, you’ll want to include this field on your online giving forms so that you can more easily gather the information. That way, if you know a supporter works for a company with a matching gift program, you’ll know to include that individual in your next matching gift email campaign.

To implement this campaign, consider sending an email to everyone who donated recently (e.g., last 30 to 60 days) and did not initiate a matching gift already. Alternatively, you might set this up as a re-engagement campaign, where you reach out to lapsed donors, encouraging them to donate again and look into matching gifts.

When suggesting matching gifts in any context, but particularly via an email campaign, offer to help your supporter in this process. Encourage donors to connect with a member of your staff to further the conversation. Include links that can help your supporters navigate matching gifts. Responsive fundraising is all about building meaningful connections with your supporters. Providing context and resources is a great way to make this suggestion meaningful and actionable.

Option 4: Suggesting Matching Gifts in Ongoing Cultivation Efforts

Anyone who is cultivating relationships with supporters should be prepared to have a conversation about matching gifts. The greatest obstacle to suggesting matching gifts is the education gap. Fundraisers and (some) donors understand that matching gifts exist, but they are not equipped enough to feel empowered to act on matching gifts.

Educating your supporters starts with educating your own internal team. Take advantage of the resources available. Partner with organizations like Double the Donation who provide both an integration with your online giving form and educational support for your team. Anyone who is talking to donors or prospects on a regular basis should be able to have an educated conversation if the opportunity for suggesting matching gifts arises in their cultivation efforts.

Pursuing matching gifts is a great suggestion when cultivating a relationship with someone who wants to give but is showing hesitancy about their financial ability to contribute more. If they are passionate about your mission but indicate they are not in a place to make a large donation, suggesting that they look into matching gifts is a great way to keep the conversation alive. They may not be able to donate a significant amount themselves, but if they can give a little and their company matches, they immediately double⁠—and sometimes even triple⁠—their impact. While we all know that any donation is better than none, the appeal of a matching gift may be enough to inspire a donor to action!

Other Suggestions to Make

Matching gifts are not the only engagement opportunities you can suggest to supporters. Depending on where they are in their donor journey, additional suggestions might include:

  • Sharing your organization on their social media profiles to spread awareness;
  • Inviting them to an event or a tour of your facilities;
  • Sharing upcoming volunteer opportunities;
  • Fundraising on behalf of your organization.

Make a list of all the ways a supporter can get involved with your organization, and use that as the basis for suggesting next steps to your supporters in the future.


Responsive fundraising is all about meeting your supporters where they are and building the relationship from there. Matching gifts are a great way to continue a conversation with your donors⁠—or even to inspire someone to donate in the first place.

Regardless of the suggestion you make, always personalize your donor outreach. When you listen and connect with your supporters, you will be fully equipped to make the next best suggestion that works for everyone – resulting in more generosity and better relationships!