How to Make Your Fundraising Strategy More Equitable

• sustainable fundraising • donor relations • donor research
Ellen Bristol

Concerns about equity in your nonprofit shouldn't stop at mission. Today, Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation, writes about equitable fundraising and being sure not to miss out on ways to engage with smaller donors. We're especially grateful for Adam's article because the notion of equitable access is getting more and more important to us here at Bristol Strategy.

As your nonprofit staff defines its fundraising strategy, what is the focus? Attracting major donors? Bringing in enough revenue to fund an event? Securing a sponsorship?

As you sift through the goals your organization has created, your fundraising strategy should theoretically reflect those goals. But while wanting to reach milestones like securing major gifts and sponsorships is valid, your team might be missing out on an entirely separate revenue source.

Poor handsome young man in checkered shirt and jeans showing empty pockets over grey backgroundThe truth is, not everyone earns enough to become a major donor. There’s an entire pool of diverse donors that you should also be focusing on—people starting out at the beginning of their careers, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color and women facing various glass ceilings, and other similar donor demographics who might not have as much giving power as major donors.

So how can you tap into this source of revenue and still make a big impact? Consider matching gift programs.

Corporate matching gift programs allow people who can’t donate large amounts to still support nonprofits like yours. By focusing much of your staff’s efforts on doubling donors’ donations, they’ll be able to give more than they would have otherwise, and your nonprofit will find itself with previously untapped revenue.

With this in mind, here are our top ways to use matching gifts to make your fundraising strategy more equitable:

  1. Educate your staff about matching gift programs.
  2. Pay attention to small and recurring gift donors.
  3. Make sure your staff effectively promotes matching gifts.

In order to effectively fundraise and make your strategy for doing this more equitable, take a look at how matching gifts can have a huge impact. Let’s dive in.

1. Educate your staff about matching gift programs.

If your aim is to use your staff’s time wisely, it’s essential that you start by educating them about matching gifts.

This can be done through:

  • Staff onboarding and training
  • Routine staff meetings and related sessions
  • Regular staff communications

Getting staff onboard with matching gifts from the start will help ensure they regularly keep matching gifts at the forefront of their fundraising efforts.

As you start educating your staff about matching gift programs, be sure to provide basic information so they can easily answer questions they might get from donors down the road.

Basics of Matching Gifts

According to Double the Donation’s guide to corporate matching gifts, matching gift programs are a form of corporate philanthropy in which companies financially match donations their employees make to nonprofits.

Matching gifts essentially give eligible donors (those company employees) the ability to make their donations go twice as far. Match ratios range anywhere from .5:1 to 4:1, though the most common ratio is 1:1 (a dollar for dollar match).

At this point, it might be getting clearer why your staff should focus on encouraging matching gifts from donors. To further illustrate the reasons why, check out some key points from these statistics:

  • 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if a match is offered.
  • Only 1.31% of individual contributions are matched at the average nonprofit organization. 

That’s right—a majority of donors would donate to a nonprofit if they knew their donation would be matched. And yet only a small percentage of contributions are actually matched. This is due to a general lack of awareness among nonprofit teams and the donors themselves.

This is why you should focus your staff’s efforts on making donors aware of the fact that they might be eligible for a matching gift through their employer. Make it clear to your staff that the above data points are important and that a lot more donors may give if they know their gift will go even further.

2. Pay attention to small and recurring gift donors.

In order to get your staff to effectively act on the data points we’ve discussed, they need to shift their focus and use their time and energy in a different way than they may be used to.

Essentially, your staff should focus on a wide variety of donors, not just major donors.

More specifically, pay attention to small and recurring gift donors and create an ideal donor profile for your staff to think about.

The benefits of focusing on small and recurring gift donors include:

  • Even smaller recurring gifts add up over time. When paired with a matching gift from the donor’s employer, that also doubles the total contribution.
  • Many smaller donors work for companies that match donations and don’t even know it. If your staff encourages donors to check their eligibility with their employers, they’ll be more likely to begin the process. 
  • Even if they’re smaller donors now, small donors often turn into major donors down the road.

By not prioritizing these types of donors, your nonprofit could be missing out on the ability to be more inclusive and equitable and raise more money. Of course, major gifts are still a big deal—especially when paired with a matching gift—but you don’t want to alienate an entire pool of diverse donors who might be able to give to your organization and make a big difference, too.

Be sure a lot of your staff members focus their efforts on reaching out to these donors, educating them about matching gifts, and cultivating relationships with them—especially as their gifts begin to grow.

3. Make sure your staff effectively promotes matching gifts.

As your staff prioritizes smaller donors, their efforts should also be focused on how to get the word out about matching gifts to those donors. Part of making your strategy more equitable means diversifying the ways you promote matching gifts. After all, promoting matching gifts can help retain those donors as well.

There are many ways you can market matching gifts. Here are some of the top methods to consider:

    • Your website: One of the first places donors go to learn about your organization and/or make a donation is your website. Include clear calls-to-action (CTAs) that direct them to matching gift information across your site. This can include a dedicated matching gift page, or even a section on your donation form (or both!).
    • Email: Email is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of outreach when it comes to marketing matching gifts. You already send out thank-you emails and confirmations when supporters donate to your cause. Why not feature matching gifts in this outreach? (Check out these templates from Fundraising Letters for some ideas!) Include a link that directs them to more information on your website. 
    • Direct mail: The same idea as above should apply to your staff’s direct mail strategy. Make sure staff includes matching gift information in your direct mail outreach. Include an easy-to-type link or QR code recipients can scan to take them to your website, where they can access more information.
  • Social media: Especially for smaller donors, social media is an excellent tool your staff should utilize when promoting matching gifts. Make sure you have dedicated staff members who spend time crafting social media posts for all of your platforms. They can even schedule posts throughout the year to promote matching gifts and educate your audience about them.
  • Matching gift database: One of the most effective ways to promote matching gifts is through the use of a matching gift database. Nonprofits can embed a company search tool on their website, which gives donors access to the database of thousands of matching gift companies. From there, donors can immediately learn whether their employer offers a matching gift program and find all the forms and guidelines they need to submit a match request.

Using technology as a marketing tool for matching gifts is a great way to be more inclusive of donors. You’ll bring in more donor support, educate smaller supporters who might not have donated at all, and boost your overall revenue.

Your staff should absolutely focus its time and efforts on promoting matching gifts to all of your donors—but especially those who might otherwise fall under the radar. Consider all of these channels as a way to reach out and build on the relationships you already have.

When your fundraising strategy is more inclusive of all types of donors, you’ll put your nonprofit in a better place to raise more funds and continue serving your mission. Keep these tips in mind as you build out your fundraising strategy. Best of luck!

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