FYI Blog

Yes, You Need That Matching Gift

Allison-PorterLike everyone in the industry, Avalon is in the process of analyzing year-end returns and assessing tests. One clear winner: the matching gift strategy.

We were surprised to get pushback from development directors last year—some wondered if the match is more trouble than it’s worth? Is it overused? Is it too gimmicky? The answer to these questions is a resounding NO. And here’s why:

AP JAN FYI LTTR-blackboard-with-1-1-2-written-on-it

Including a matching gift offer amplifies your year-end giving. We’ve proven this time and again, but here are some of our most recent successes using a matching gift in year-end appeals: For one advocacy client, we mailed a test panel with no matching gift offer. The control with the match garnered a 37% higher response rate, 54% more revenue, and a 63% higher average gift. Online, this client’s matching gift email was the highest-grossing email—with the highest response rate—of its eight-email year-end series. The same results held for another client that received a last-minute match and used it successfully in a year-end email series.

One client had a slightly larger match to work with this year, which allowed us to set an earlier deadline with a portion of the match, and then extend it after the initial deadline. This strategy resulted in 39% more revenue than the previous year, raising 138% of budget. They’re starting work now on soliciting an even larger match amount for 2015.

A matching gift is a highly effective vehicle for engaging your major donors. Asking higher-level donors to pitch in to fund a matching gift challenge sends them a positive message about capacity building. It’s an opportunity for them to make a tangible difference and see exactly how their gifts impact your program. (Be sure to report back to your major donors with the rippling effects of their gifts on lower-dollar donors and the corresponding revenue.)

Other important points to remember for matching gift campaigns:

The match is not the message. I agree with Tom Belford’s recent rant in the Agitator—the matching gift is not your message; it’s a technique for leveraging the gift and encouraging donors to give today. So always make a compelling, authentic case for support as the focus of your appeal, with the match as icing on the cake. We’ve also found that the match works as an effective teaser (see example below) to get the donor into the envelope, but then you’ve still got to make the strong case for giving.

Follow the rules. Be sure to comply with all regulations for matching gifts. There are legal considerations, like providing the capped dollar amount and deadline in your email body copy, direct mail letter, and telemarketing script. And matching gifts must have an actual donor backing up the match—in other words, your representation of a donor matching the gifts must be truthful. It’s important to get legal advice before constructing a matching gift campaign to ensure that you’re in full compliance with all regulations.

Long story short, now is the time to get your major donors thinking about matching gifts and how they can tremendously boost your low-dollar revenue. It’s a win-win proposition, with higher-dollar donors making a real impact, and lower-dollar donors knowing that their more modest gifts will go further to help your cause.

No excuses this year!