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Matching Gift Appeals: How Many Is Too Many?


Be not afraid. That’s generally good advice, and it’s very good advice when it comes to matching gift offers.

Matching gift appeals are maybe the easiest and most dependable way to increase response to your fundraising.

It works any time of year, and in any medium.  Add a match to any offer, and you can expect increased revenue — mostly from higher response, but often also from higher average gifts.  And, if you push all the right match buttons, your increase can be anywhere from decent (10% lift) to dramatic (50% or more).

For more on how to use a matched gift in your fundraising, check out this related blog: How to Bulk Up Response to Any Fundraising Ask with Matching Funds

Once you experience that kind of fundraising power, you’ll want to do it again. And again.

And here’s where fear often kicks in: I frequently get asked at what point do match offers “turn bad” and become counterproductive. When do you stop?  Will your match appeals “wear out” and stop working, leaving you worse off than you were before you tried a match offer in the first place?

Short answer:  No. You can’t do too many match offers.

Let me be clear: There is no situation I’ve ever seen where a non-match offer works better than a match offer. So go ahead and keep adding match offers to your fundraising lineup. The only limitation is how much match money you can get in the first place.

Now let me give you the longer, more complicated answer to the question of too many matches …

The more match offers you have in your schedule, the less “special” they become. Instead of doing 50% better than a non-match appeal, numerous match appeals become just better than average. You’re still better off with them than without them.

And here’s the important thing: While adding more matches makes them less special, they don’t get weaker than non-match appeals — unless you do them wrong!

I’ve found that as match appeals proliferate, you want to do things to make them distinct from one another:

  • Give the match campaign a name.
  • Take different approaches for the reply device, like have several of them, each for a single amount; use a jumbo-sized reply device; add involvement devices, like stickers that donors use to dramatize the match.
  • And this one is a big winner: Use check-style reply devices (they work in places where people still write paper checks).
  • Use different matching ratios — sometimes offer to triple the donor’s gift. (But avoid matches that less than double it.)

I’ve worked with several organizations that kept adding more and more match offers to their line-up, turning non-match appeals into match appeals until all of the appeals had match offers. It’s a strong strategy that maximizes revenue … because donors love having their donations matched!

And that’s the important thing to keep in mind. When you discover something donors love to respond to, that is a good thing. And doing it more is usually more of a good thing.

Don’t be afraid to add match offers to your fundraising line-up!

Join the Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic to learn more about how to put powerful offers to work for your fundraising.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • This is interesting – I always felt that consistently relying on matches year-round affected the long term value of your file…and that it would be more meaningful to lean into the mission and reserve matches for critical times of year…is that not the case? What about when an org starts to experience a scarcity of match funds available? Feels like in a post-covid world, we are operating with new scenarios and I’m curious if you have thoughts around this!

    • Jeff Brooks
      June 2, 2021 8:24 am

      Hi Natania,

      I’ve never seen any evidence that using a lot of matches does anything but improve file health — because it so strongly improves response and average gift. It really doesn’t do any damage. Scarcity of available matching funds is a real issue (at least for some), and it is the only reason I can think of for not using matching offers.

      Also, leaning in on the mission is something you should ALWAYS do, match or no match. A match does not replace an offer; it strengthens an offer.


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