I don’t throw around terms like “magic” lightly, because there’s no such thing.
But matching funds come close to magic.
A match offer can cut through the clutter and encourage more donors to give. In fact, in my experience, a well-built match offer can bring in 10% to 50% more revenue than a similar message without a match.
And it does so by increasing response rates without depressing average gift. In fact, average gifts sometimes increase with match offers.
See why I’m almost willing to call it magic?
What is a match offer?
It’s a simple promise made to donors: Send us a donation, and we’ll double it. (Or more — a bit on that shortly!)
That doubling money can come from many different sources:
- Your board (it’s a great way to get the board involved in fundraising).
- A major donor (or several major donors pooled into a single fund).
- Foundation, corporate, or government sources.
All the matcher has to do is agree to have you say their gift will “match” the donations of other donors. Sometimes that depends on some total amount being raised like Your gift will be matched if we raise a total of at least $25,000. More often there’s no minimum to raise, but instead a maximum: Your gift will be matched until we raise a total of $25,000. Both ways add urgency to the message. The donor either needs to act quickly to help raise enough or to make sure their gift gets matched.
Matches also often have a time deadline connected to them: Your gift will be matched if you give by December 31.
The most important element of a match offer is the multiplier. That is the ratio that the donors’ contributions will be matched. Most often, it’s 1:1, meaning the gift is doubled. But it can be more than that — the gift can be tripled, quadrupled, even multiplied by 10, 20, 50 times, or more. And here’s the surprising thing: the greater the multiplier, the stronger the response. So if you can swing a 2:1 match (“Your gift will be tripled by matching funds!”) do so!
If you can’t make that work, don’t let that discourage you. Do a match anyway.
The only multiplier that doesn’t work so well is when the donor’s gift is less than doubled: Every $1 you give will become $1.25. That doesn’t have the magic!
How to Execute Your Match Fundraising
There are a few best-practice approaches that really make the most of a match offer.
Outer envelope (or subject line)
Trumpet the match. That’s all you need to do. Use language like this:
- Matching Funds will double your donation
- Every $1 will become $2 (or, Every $50 will become $100)
- Your Gift DOUBLED by matching funds
- $1 = $2
Most of the time, “giving away” your fundraising offer on an outer envelope or subject line is a bad tactic that suppresses response. Not in this case!
Reply device (or landing page)
It’s important that you use this real estate to demonstrate the multiplying power of the match and how it increases the donor’s giving. Here’s how a typical gift array on a match reply might look:
- [ ] $25 to become $50 with matching funds
- [ ] $50 to become $100 with matching funds
- [ ] $75 to become $150 with matching funds
Do that math for the donor. Even when it’s super-easy math!
Clarity, simplicity, repetition, and urgency are the keys, as they are in all fundraising. But with a match, your messaging should be almost entirely about the match.
Of course, you’re still raising the money to do something specific. Your call to action should be something like this:
- Feed twice as many hungry children!
- Double my gift to feed the children!
- Match my hunger-fighting gift!
Here are some more phrases you can use in match fundraising:
- Every dollar you give — up to a total of $100,000 — will be matched.
- Your gift will be doubled by matching funds until March 15!
- Your gift will help twice as many children!
- Every dollar you give will become $2 worth of lifesaving help!
An easy (and common) mistake to make is using language that seems not to say the donor’s gift will be doubled, but that you’re asking the donor to give twice as much. Like: Double your gift today.
That obsessive focus on the match might strike you as simplistic and uninteresting. Let me assure you — it works.
Here’s the other thing about match fundraising: You make the match the story. Instead of the standard story about a problem or opportunity you want the donor’s help to solve when the offer is a match, you tell the exciting story about how the donor’s gift will make a bigger difference solving the problem or seizing the opportunity. It’s the story of a smart, compassionate donor who takes action at the right time and the right way to have maximum impact.
I’ve seen two easy-to-make errors that can make a match offer far less effective:
- Fail to make it 100% clear that the donor’s gift is multiplied.
This sometimes happens when a fundraiser overthinks the match. From the fundraiser’s point of view, you aren’t getting twice the revenue, so you may feel there’s something bogus about the “doubling” language. But to the donor, the match means twice as much good happens. Smart fundraisers always speak into their donors’ reality. Not their own.
- Offer a multiplier that’s less than two.
If you have a match ratio of less than one-to-one (doubling the donor’s gift) — such as 1:0.5, or “Every dollar you give will become $1.50” — you will not get the full power of a match.
We know from commercial marketing the power of a “good deal.” Everyone loves a bargain. A match is a bargain for donors.
That’s why it’s such a powerful tool in fundraising.
PS: Ready for more on-the-ground advice like this to help you raise more money through the mail? Take my online course, 7 Steps To Creating Record-Smashing Direct Mail (Without spending more time or money!) You can access this and more inside The Fundraisingology Lab.