Learn about the basic components of corporate matching gift programs, like ratios, maximums, and minimums.

Matching Gift Programs: Ratios, Maximums, and Minimums

After introductory research, you now understand the basic concept of matching gifts. You know that through a matching gift program, a company will match donations made by employees to a range of nonprofits.

A general understanding of corporate giving is a great foundation for maximizing nonprofit revenue. However, in order to succeed in acquiring matching gifts, you’ll need to understand the nitty-gritty elements of program stipulations.

The amount that a company will match is based on a combination of the matching gift ratios, maximums, and minimums. From there, companies decide their specific guidelines for employee eligibility, nonprofit eligibility, forms, and deadlines.

Let’s break down those components based on what we typically see in matching gift programs:

  1. Match Ratio
  2. Maximum Match Amount
  3. Minimum Match Amount
  4. Employee Eligibility
  5. Nonprofit Eligibility
  6. Forms and Deadlines

If you need a quick refresher before getting into the specific components of matching gift programs, visit this comprehensive guide on matching gifts. Also, stick around to read about how a matching gift database can help donors and nonprofits learn more about specific companies’ match programs.

Otherwise, let’s dive into the different components of matching gift programs!The match ratio is an important component of corporate matching gift programs.

1. Match Ratio

Companies determine how much to match employee donations based on a preset ratio. Each company carefully crafts its own ratio. However, in most cases, the majority of companies match donations at a dollar-for-dollar rate (i.e. a 1:1 ratio).

When a program offers a 1:1 ratio, an employee will donate to an eligible nonprofit, submit their matching gift request to their employer, and then their company will match that gift. For instance, when an employee donates $100 to a nonprofit that’s eligible for the company’s match program, the employer will donate an additional $100. In other words, the nonprofit receives a $200 donation, which is double the original contribution!

Although you can expect to see a lot of 1:1 ratios, ratios can range from .5:1 all the way up to 4:1. If a donation receives a 4:1 match, that’s 5 times the original amount! Consider these companies for example:

  • Puget Sound Energy matches employee donations at a .5:1 rate.
  • Apple matches employee donations at a 1:1 rate.
  • Coca-Cola matches employee donations at a 2:1 rate.

Ratios are typically standardized across all employee types, but sometimes a company will vary depending on employee position. For example, part-time employees and retirees may have a lower match rate than corporate executives who work for the same company. Take the following companies for example:

  • Soros Fund Management matches donations from partners at a 2:1 rate and employees at a 3:1 rate.
  • Johnson & Johnson matches donations from current employees at a 2:1 ratio and retirees at a 1:1 ratio.

Takeaway: Matching gift ratios vary from company to company. Also, the ratio may change based on employee position. These stipulations are entirely up to the company, and nonprofits and employees should stay up-to-date on their match opportunities.Learn about maximum match amounts, which are an important element of matching gift programs.

2. Maximum Match Amount

To ensure there’s enough in the giving budget for each employee to participate, companies put caps on match amounts. In other words, if an employee donates more than the maximum match amount, the company will not contribute the extra money, only the defined maximum.

While this may sound restrictive, maximum matches have quite the range. Often, you’ll come across upper limits of $1,000 to $15,000 on average, but there are plenty of matches that are way above that scope. For instance, take a look at these companies:

Occasionally, you may even see maximum match amounts of $100,000 and higher. Regardless, each philanthropic program—no matter how small its maximum match amount is—is generous and has the power to make a major difference in the nonprofit world.

Takeaway: Each company has a different maximum amount it will match. Typically, these are around $1,000 to $15,000, but it’s not uncommon to see caps that are higher or lower than this.Minimum match amounts are common elements of corporate matching gift programs.

3. Minimum Match Amount

Companies also put restrictions on the minimum donation amount they will match. In other words, if a donor’s contribution falls below that set amount, the company will not match the gift.

This isn’t intended to restrict employees’ philanthropic efforts. Rather, it’s to ensure that employees are requesting matches for causes they truly care about. Plus, for companies with smaller giving budgets, minimum amounts make sure that employees who give multiple small donations don’t take away the chance for larger donations to be matched.

Nonetheless, some companies will match donations that are as little as $1. However, the most common minimum requirement is $25. Minimums often range from $1 to $100, so nonprofits and donors should stay up-to-date on these numbers. Take these companies for instance:

Takeaway: Companies apply minimum matches to ensure that the giving budget goes to nonprofits that employees actually care about. Most often, set minimums are $25, but they range from $1 to $100+.In order to submit a request, employees must be eligible, and the eligibility component is defined by the corporate matching gift program.

4. Employee Eligibility

More often than not, companies create eligibility requirements for employees. This may be dependent on position or some other factor. These requirements are typically out of employees’ control.

With most programs, retired employees are ineligible to participate. Sometimes, part-time employees are excluded, too. However, many programs do match donations made by any employee, regardless of position or retirement status. To get a real-world idea of this concept, take these companies for example:

As previously mentioned, different positions often mean different match ratio amounts, but unfortunately, it can also mean different match maximums, too. For instance, some companies may allow current employees to donate up to a higher amount than retired employees.

Another common case is programs that offer executive employees higher maximums than other employees. On the other hand, sometimes dependents (such as a spouse or child) of employees can even be eligible.

Also, some companies reward employees who go the extra mile. For example, take a look at these companies:

  • American Express offers a 1:1 match ratio for employee donations. However, if the donor serves on a nonprofit board or volunteers more than 50 hours in a year, the first $1,000 of their donations will be matched at a 2:1 ratio.
  • RealNetworks offers a standard matching gift program, but if an employee works at the company for 5 years, they receive a $500 grant for a nonprofit of their choosing.

Takeaway: In most cases, there aren’t too many requirements employees have to meet to be eligible for matching gifts. However, sometimes, companies change eligibility status based on employees’ positions.Nonprofit eligibility is a vital component of corporate matching gift programs.

5. Nonprofit Eligibility

Just like there are standards employees have to meet, there are requirements for nonprofits, too. While companies typically match donations to most 501(c)(3) organizations, other companies place restrictions on the types of organizations that are eligible. In other words, if a company deems a nonprofit ineligible, employee donations made to that organization are not eligible to be matched.

Like all other components of corporate giving programs, the eligibility requirements for nonprofits differ from company-to-company. These restrictions are put in place because companies want to support their views that align with employees’ views.

For instance, churches and other religious organizations are often excluded from match programs. However, there are still several major businesses that will match donations to religious nonprofits.

Schools often fall under the ineligible category, too. However, some companies match donations only to educational institutions, or they offer higher maximums or match ratios just for higher education. Take these companies for example:

  • Air Products and Chemicals matches donations made to colleges and universities at a 1:1 ratio up to $5,000, arts and cultural organizations at a 2:1 ratio up to $2,000, and environmental and conservation organizations at a 1:1 ratio up to $1,000.
  • ExxonMobil has a maximum match amount of $22,500 for donations made to educational institutions, while it has a maximum match amount of $2,000 for donations made to cultural organizations.

Takeaway: Companies sometimes place restrictions on which organizations can receive matching gifts. It’s up to donors and nonprofits to be on the lookout for these eligibility requirements.
The final major components of corporate matching gift programs are forms and deadlines.

6. Forms and Submission Deadlines

Creating forms and designating deadlines are a significant part of a program’s guidelines. As a quick refresher, here’s how the typical process works:

The matching gift process is straightforward once all eligibility requirements have been met.

Once all requirements to receive a matching gift have been met, forms and deadlines come into play. Forms can either be electronic or paper. While companies typically choose one or the other (often e-forms), it’s not uncommon for them to offer both. The point is, there needs to be a way for employees to submit match requests.

Forms include fields about the employee who made the donation and about the nonprofit that received the donation. To learn more and see examples, view this post about all the typical components of forms.

Companies also have to define a specific deadline to submit the match request. For instance, an employee can’t donate to a nonprofit and submit a match request two years later.

In their guidelines, companies might select a specific date, accept requests for a full year after the donation, or specify another time period like 6 months.

For example, here are request deadlines for a few major companies:

  • Boeing accepts matching gift requests from employees until January 31 of the following year after the donation.
  • Microsoft accepts matching gift requests for donations up to 12 months later.
  • CarMax accepts matching gift requests within 180 days from the date of the donation.

Takeaway: Companies must create accessible forms and define deadlines before putting a match program in place. Employees and nonprofits need to be aware of these. Otherwise, they may miss out on matching gifts.

Identifying the key guidelines and elements of corporate matching gift programs is easier with a matching gift database.

Matching Gift Database: Identifying Companies’ Guidelines

Nonprofits need to stay up-to-date on companies’ guidelines, such as donation maximums, minimums, ratios, eligibility, and so on. Unfortunately, gathering companies’ guidelines can be an arduous process. However, with a matching gift database, the research process is simplified!

A matching gift database (like Double the Donation) ensures that your nonprofit is staying updated on each donor’s matching gift opportunities. Once you embed it across your online fundraising channels (i.e. your website, donation page, etc.), here’s what the tool does:

  • Allows donors to search for 20,000+ companies.
  • Shows available information (e.g. forms and requirements) on companies’ programs.
  • Allows nonprofits and donors to determine match eligibility.
  • And more!

With 360MatchPro by Double the Donation, larger nonprofits can automate the entire process. From automatically determining eligibility to emailing those donors to even creating a matching gift plan for your nonprofit, no match opportunities will be overlooked.

Think your nonprofit can benefit from a matching gift database?

Matching gift programs have several guidelines, all defined by the companies that offer them. As you’ve learned, the most common defined elements are match ratio, maximum match, minimum match, employee eligibility, and nonprofit eligibility.

Once these requirements are met, all donors have to do is submit the proper forms by the designated deadlines. Remember, gathering each company’s guidelines is simplified with a matching gift database.

Take all of these factors into account, and you’ll be able to predict what your nonprofit will rake in from those lucrative matching gifts. Now, get out there and boost your matching gift potential!

Additional Resources

Interested in learning more about matching gifts? Check out these additional resources for more corporate giving tips and tricks:

Nonprofit Leadership Traits

Matching Gift Participation Rates

Has your organization ever taken a look at which companies are consistently providing matching gift donations to your organization?

If you have, you may notice that a disproportionate number of matching gifts come from a select few companies.

Survey Results | Participation Varies Widely by Company:

The Chronicle of Philanthropy released a report entitled “How America’s Biggest Companies Give” which was compiled from their Corporate Giving Survey.

Employee Matching Gift Participation Rates

Key Insights on Matching Gift Participation Rates:

Insight #1: 65% of Microsoft employees request a match from the company compared to less than 15% for Xerox, Dell, and Verizon. This is a direct result of Microsoft being one of the best at communicating matching gift information to employees.

Insight #2: Pfizer leads companies in the pharmaceutical industry with over 30% of employees participating in the company’s matching gift program.

Insight #3: Matching gift programs are widely utilized by employees in the financial services sector. American Express leads the pack with 70% of employees requesting the company match at least one charitable donation.

Insight #4: Based on this sample of companies, the consumer goods sector has the lowest employee participation rates. Of the companies that provided data, Johnson & Johnson leads the sector with 25% of employees having one or more donations matched by the company.


Impact on your Organization’s Matching Gift Revenue: Home Depot vs. Coca-Cola:

For instance, both Home Depot (~13K Atlanta employees) and Coca-Cola (~5K Atlanta employees) are headquartered in Atlanta and offer similar matching gift programs.

One would expect Atlanta based nonprofit organizations to receive a significant number of matching gift donations from each of these companies. Unfortunately that doesn’t appear to be the case. The majority of nonprofits we’ve spoken to self-report far more matching donations from Coca-Cola compared to Home Depot each year. **


So what causes this discrepancy?

Organizations typically explain this phenomenon by talking about the number of employees each company has in the area. While it’s true that a company with a major presence in a city is more likely to provide a larger number of matching gifts, there’s an even more important factor.

How well a company internally promotes matching gifts dictates how likely an employee is to know about the program and submit matching gift requests.

We know it doesn’t take a genius to come up with the above statement, but it’s true. So many employees at companies with matching gift programs have no idea their employer offers a program. If an employee / donor lacks knowledge of their company program, there’s no way they’ll submit a matching gift request.


Closing the Gap:

Although your organization can’t change how widely companies promote matching gifts to their entire employee base, you can greatly influence the percentage of your donors who submit matching gift requests.

If you raise awareness and make it easy for your donors / their spouses to submit matching gifts, you can increase matching revenue.

We recommend nonprofits promote matching gifts in three locations:

  1. In the donation process
  2. Across your website
  3. In your communications

If you effectively promote employee matching gifts to your donors, you can overcome low participation rates.

Data Sources:
*Based upon a publicly available survey of companies which was conducted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
**Based on our conversations with membership and development managers at select Atlanta organizations.