The idea behind a donation matching program is relatively straightforward. When employees make a charitable donation, the company they work for matches that donation, doubling their impact. But this simplicity doesn’t capture the full truth. In reality, not all donation matching programs are created equally.
The difference between a successful and unsuccessful donation matching program comes down to the mechanics—how you engage employees and keep them engaged. As simple as the idea sounds, it requires nuance and intention.
Getting it right from the start is important. If employees’ initial experience with the program isn’t great, they’ll disengage. And it will be hard to get them back on board. Like they say, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
An employee’s first impression of your program needs to be positive. They should feel empowered and inspired. Which means, to do donation matching right, build your program around the employee experience right from the start.
A donation matching program is now table stakes
These days, employees are looking for companies that show up for their communities. And they want real, tangible actions, not vague gestures of goodwill.
In a donation matching program, an employer matches the donations made by employees to nonprofits through payroll deductions. This means that company resources go straight to community organizations. It’s exactly the type of commitment to social good that employees want to see. Many companies are taking note. According to the CECP Giving in Numbers Report, 85% of companies offered matching programs year-round in 2022, which is up from 78% the previous year.
The best part about a donation matching program is that employees are in the driver’s seat. When a company matches a donation, they’re letting employees choose how the company spends its philanthropic dollars. Employees can select the causes that matter most to them. And they don’t feel like the burden to give falls solely on their shoulders–they see the company pitching in.
Integrate your donation matching program with other CSR initiatives
Donation matching supercharges your employee giving program and can be a pillar of your larger corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. A CSR strategy is typically three-pronged, consisting of volunteer, donation, and community investment initiatives. When companies offer donation matching, participation in employee giving programs increases.
Knowing that every gift unlocks additional funds makes it much more appealing for employees to opt in. Most donors (84%) are more likely to give if their employer matches their donation, and 33% of them would give a larger gift if matching was applied.
For employees, a donation matching program can be a great entry point into other CSR initiatives. It’s an easy way to get involved and a great way to test the waters before diving in deeper.
But again, because it’s an easy entry point, that’s why it’s very important to get your donation matching program right. If you don’t build it around the employee experience, they’ll have a poor first impression. And you’ll likely struggle to get them involved in other programs such as employee volunteering.
As you build your CSR programs, make an effort to connect initiatives. Think about how donation matching can fold into your broader CSR and employee engagement strategy. Connecting efforts can look like:
Offering volunteer grants
Where donation matching means matching employee monetary contributions, volunteer grants match employee volunteer hours. For every hour or day an employee volunteers with a nonprofit, the company donates a certain amount of money to that organization.
Building relationships with nonprofits
To build a strong community investment program, companies need to form partnerships with community organizations. A donation matching program is a great start to a relationship. Companies can choose a few of the nonprofits that employees donate to and make an effort to build a partnership with them around a common cause.
Empowering employees to create volunteer events
If the giving program is a positive experience, many employees will be inspired to increase their involvement with CSR initiatives. Volunteering is a great next step. But you don’t want them to lose that sense of agency. Give employees the opportunity to create volunteer events with the organizations they donated to and encourage them to invite their coworkers to join in.
The common denominators of successful donation matching programs
For CSR and HR leaders running donation matching programs, defining success is essential. Without that clarity on the front end, you’ll struggle to understand whether the programs you run are having the impact you want.
Many leaders focus on participation. While important, participation is not the only measure that matters. A successful donation program should also:
- Increase employees’ engagement over time
- Foster a strong sense of collaboration and community
- Funnel people into other CSR and employee engagement programs
- Give employees a clear picture of their impact
- Align with brand values and other company initiatives
- Cut across all levels of a company
- Gain momentum through official channels and word of mouth
- Make a meaningful impact for community organizations
These are all difficult to track in a quantitative way, hence the reliance on a clear, clean number like participation rate. Though programs vary from company to company, the most successful versions share certain commonalities to understand and evaluate these “fuzzier” definitions of success. Typically, successful donation matching programs are:
Widely known and understood
For your donation matching program to have any chance of success, employees must know about the program and know how to participate. They should be able to articulate the mission and goals of the program, not just how to sign up.
When designing the program, keep the employee experience at the forefront. The program must be easily accessible and convenient for employees. It should be simple to “set it and forget it” for employees who want to take part with minimal effort. But it should also be engaging for employees looking to get more involved.
Invite all eligible employees to participate. Include employees who work in every office and facility, in the field and at home, and in any level and type of position.
Regularly review program data and employee feedback. This information can help program administrators better understand employees’ motivation for participating and identify effective communication channels, program trends, and opportunities for growth.
Connected to impact
Share the program’s impact with all employees. Close the loop so they understand how their hard-earned money is making a difference. Let everyone know how much employees have given and how much the company has contributed in matching funds. Even better if you can give them a glimpse into the organizations and programs their donations support.
How to implement a donation matching program
Donation matching programs are much easier to manage now thanks to CSR software with built-in giving platforms designed around the employee experience. But technology is just a tool. You and your team will have to do work on the front end to articulate your vision and set up parameters.
1. Clarify program goals
The people making program decisions—whether executives, CSR team members, employee advisory council, or program administrators—must agree on objectives for the matching program and decide how you’ll measure success.
Quantitative stats like the amount of money raised by the program—your matches combined with employee contributions—and the number or percentage of employees participating in the program are a good place to start. Also, include qualitative info such as how employees felt about the program and how the program connects to wider efforts to make change.
2. Allocate a budget
When setting up your charitable gift matching program, know how much money you’re working with, so matches don’t bust the budget. It’s best to project high to ensure you have enough matching funds if employee participation exceeds your expectation.
Allow room in the budget in case you want to offer a larger match during special campaigns, such as a participant recruitment campaign, an end-of-year giving season campaign, or a special cause campaign related to your company’s mission.
3. Establish matching criteria
Keeping your budget in mind, determine the annual minimum and maximum employee donation size you’ll match. As a reference, 93% of companies have a minimum annual match requirement of $50 or less, with an average of $34. The maximum annual match requirement per employee for 80% of companies is between $500 and $10,000, with an average of $3,728. Also, choose a matching gift ratio. Most companies (91%) match employee donations at a 1:1 ratio.
4. Set employee eligibility criteria
Decide which type of employees are eligible for the gift matching program. For example, are part-time employees eligible? Clarify any other restrictions, keeping in mind that the more inclusive your program, the better the participation.
5. Select giving platform software
The biggest challenge for matching programs is bridging the gap between an employee’s good intentions and their actions. If you establish one central place for giving, volunteering, and other CSR initiatives, donating becomes super easy and convenient, especially when each employee has a personal dashboard to track donations and impact.
Give from Submittable is part of our suite of CSR software, along with our employee volunteering and grant management software. On their dashboard, employees can review and choose causes, enroll in the giving program, adjust their contributions, and get receipts.
Program managers also love Give because it takes care of administrative tasks automatically, like vetting nonprofits, complying with laws and regulations, tracking data, and producing reports.
6. Develop a communication plan
Never assume employees know about your donation matching program. Considering “78% of donors are unaware if their company offers a matching gift program and the program specifics,” you should develop a communications plan for the program launch and forever after.
During the launch, focus messaging on why employees would want to participate and how the program works. Be sure to include a feedback loop that allows employees to share their thoughts.
Throughout the year, keep the program on their radar. Share stories about how their donations make a difference, special campaigns, whom to contact for more information, and what they can find on their dashboard.
Use a mix of communication channels to spread your message:
- Intranet, Slack, or Teams
- Employee handbook and updates
- All-staff emails and meetings
- Kitchen posters
During onboarding, show new employees their dashboard and walk them through the steps for choosing a nonprofit and enrolling in the program. Send a follow-up message a few months after their start date if they haven’t enrolled yet.
7. Recruit program champions
People are more likely to listen to and follow the lead of their peers. Recruit a team of program champions who encourage employees to sign up for the program and serve as program guides. Keep these champions up to date on CSR and program news, program trends, and upcoming campaigns and events.
With a donation matching program, your company, alongside your employees, can make a real impact in your community.
Get your donation matching program on the right track
Designating part of a company budget for donation matching is noble, but the commitment can’t stop there. You need to build the right infrastructure and support to make the program work.
Take the time on the front end to get clear about what you’re trying to achieve and how you plan to do it. Loop employees into the conversation early to understand what they want. And then put the pieces in place that will meet everyone’s needs—employees and administrators alike.
The right CSR software is key. It can be the difference maker, transforming clunky and cumbersome processes to create an empowering and rewarding experience for employees. Find a platform that makes giving personal and gives you room to grow and evolve over time.
Ready to jumpstart your giving program?
Submittable helps you build a donation matching program that puts employees in the driver’s seat.