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Matching works. That’s the short summary from Jeff Brooks in his recent post on  the fundraising magic of matching funds. In it he references an Avalon post titled Yes, You Need That Matching Gift where they saw a 37% higher response rate, 63% increase in average gift size and 54% more revenue overall when matching funds were present (compared to the control appeal which had no matching funds).

Jeff confirmed these results from his personal (and vast) experience, which I will second (although with less experience). It also reaffirmed Dean Karlan’s research in 2007 that saw a 22% increase in response rate and 19% increase in average gift size and the recent overhead aversion study where matching increased average gift (15%), response rate (31%) and total revenue (51%). Although it must be said, again, that the ‘overhead’ matching appeal outperformed even matching.

That’s some pretty good evidence, objective and subjective, but I wanted to see how fundraising campaigns on Chimp would stack up (as we have an automated matching component to our product and encourage matching donations). In comparing over 160 campaigns (45% of which had matching funds) here’s what I found:

That’s an increase in

  • Average donation (41%)
  • Number of donations (110%)
  • Total revenue (120%)

Hopefully that’s enough evidence to convince you to at least give matching funds a try (if you haven’t already). And when/if you do look at matching funds, here’s some tips to keep in mind.

Keep it about the impact.

As Allison Porter in the Avalon points out “the match is not the message”. A match won’t suddenly make someone who doesn’t care about your organization give. It helps convert the people on the fence to give. And those that give to maybe give a bit more. But it’s still about your story and appeal.

Think of matching funds as gasoline to your fire. It is useful and adds heat but it can’t create fire (Hat Tip to Jay Baer for the metaphor). The match allows your donors to double their impact. If they can normally help x people with y donation, for this campaign, with this offer they can now help 2x people with y donation. Highlight that fact but don’t make that all you’re highlighting.

Be transparent about the match and its ‘rules’.

One of the reasons we wanted to automate and bring the matching process online is that they are often executed after the fact, with varying degrees of accuracy and transparency. Increasingly, that just won’t fly.

Allison suggests that you “must” have an actual donor or donors as it has not just the benefit of adding legitimacy to your matching campaign but it also is a form of social proof. Someone else is basically vouching for your organization and believes enough in it, not just give but give publicly and offer to match other people who contribute. That’s powerful. Use it.

In addition to having a real and identifiable matcher, here’s some common questions that I’ve run in to for matching campaigns that you should either proactively address or be ready to address:

  • When does the match end?
  • Will you extend the campaign if you are short?
  • If not, what happens to the unmatched funds (if unused)?
  • How much of their donations will be matched? Is it up to a maximum? Per donor? Per donation?

My preference and opinion is that challenge matches (you don’t get it if you don’t raise it) with a definite end date (you can extend the campaign but not the matching offer) are best. The match adds some urgency to campaigns and the hard end date and challenge style match makes your campaign its most urgent and accountable.

Focus on loyal donors to get matching funds, new/fringe donors to use them.

Loyal or regular donors are most likely your best source of possible matching funds. They should trust you enough and understand enough of your vision and mission to offer up their funds to strategically help secure new funding and new donors. Think of circles that start small with those closest to you and your organization and get bigger and bigger the further out you go. That first circle is where you should start to look for and secure those matching funds.

On the flip side, think about those people in that circle furthest away from you. Those are the people who your matching campaign can best help convert, acquire and reacquire. Campaign principles still apply here, where you should build momentum early before launching out (even with matching nobody wants to give to an empty bucket). And with a focus on that outer circle,adding in some peer fundraising or more social strategies might make sense as well.


There aren’t too many universal truths in fundraising and, while I wouldn’t quite put matching campaigns in that category, the more I research, read and am around them, the closer they get. They may be as close to magic as we have in the fundraising world, but be sure to remember to build your fire before focusing on the gasoline. Good luck.


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