Matching gift challenges are a frequently used technique that should absolutely be part of your fundraising strategy.  Here’s how it goes:  Mr. John Q. Donor contributes $x, and someone (something) else will also contribute $x.  Matching gift challenges are inspiring to donors and often motivate gifts two to three times larger than the donor’s typical contribution. The bottom line is: a matching gift challenge campaign makes the bottom line better. 

Why Do Matches Work?

First, it is helpful to take a step back, and understand why matching gift challenges can be such a big win for nonprofits. Here are 4 reasons why matches are successful: 

  1. Matches present the donor with a very specific and appealing offer. The offer is concrete and easy for donors to understand–you are giving the donor a chance to multiply the impact of their gift to do even more good. Donors love the idea that they’re giving you more money without giving you more of their money. 
  2. Matches have a deadline. Match offers have a real and believable deadline. This creates urgency and compels donors to give now! 
  3. Matches have a fundraising goal. The total match amount gives donors a specific goal and creates purpose. 
  4. Matches make donors feel part of a community. Meeting the match is something donors do together toward a common goal. Donors love the sense of community they feel and appreciate being part of something bigger than themselves. 

Channels to Use

You want to create a matching gift challenge campaign that is communicated to donors across all channels–direct mail, online, telemarketing, social media, and any other channels you can utilize. Matching gift challenges can boost results in all of these mediums. It is important that your efforts are coordinated across all channels so that it makes sense from the donor’s point of view. 


You want to have consistent messaging across all channels and take the time to think through the strongest messaging around your match. Here are some things to think through as you build out the concept for your matching gift challenge: 

  • What is the deadline and what is the total amount of the match?
  • What is the matching gift ratio (1:1, 2:1, 3:1)?
  • Will the money be used for general funds or a specific project or campaign?
  • Is the match open to all donors or are there any specific match rules? (For example, just new donors)
  • Do you want to give the match a name?
  • Will you tell the name of the donor or donors who are putting forward the match? If so, is there a story about that person or people you could share that could inspire more gifts?

How to Find a Matching Gift Benefactor

Who’s going to put-up that big lump sum to fund “the match”?  It’s not always easy finding that someone…or “someones”.  Be sure to start the process early and give your gift officers the heads up that you will need their assistance with this. Gift officers are usually happy to help, since this ask can often inspire a larger gift from the matching donor. 

The best donors to approach are usually those who really know and trust your organization and have been giving for several years. You can also pool several donors’ gifts together to create one larger matching challenge. Or some organizations create a Board of Trustees challenge. 

Regardless of who it is, you want to thoroughly explain to the donor the goal of the campaign, the timing, and the expected results. Donors will appreciate hearing how much higher these results are than typical campaigns, and most will be excited to see their giving leveraged in this way. 

Ethical Matches

You will want to work with the donor who is putting up the match to create and sign off on written guidelines for the match. This might include the audience for the challenge, when the donor gives you the money (before the campaign or after?) and how you will promote the challenge. 

You also want to make sure you are ethically presenting the match to donors within your copy. Don’t say anything that isn’t true. For example, don’t say you won’t get the match unless you raise the full amount (unless that truly is the case.)

Reporting Back

You will want to report back to the donor or donors who are putting forward the match. These donors will appreciate seeing a detailed summary of the campaign results before sending in their contribution.

You will also want to report back to all of the donors, regardless of gift size, who contributed to the campaign. Let the donors know the total amount raised, and how it will be used. Donors appreciate hearing the final results and seeing the role they played in a team effort like a matching gift challenge. 

Matching gift challenges are a popular fundraising technique because they are motivating for donors of all levels. Donors feel like they are doing double the good (or triple, quadruple…) when they participate.  You’re offering them the chance to contribute more without giving more.  Who wouldn’t love that?