6 Reasons to Play with Matches

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - 12:00 pm EDT
George Stevens

The idea of coordinated giving days is gaining momentum. These social media campaigns provide an image-building opportunity for community foundations as well as opportunities to build the capacity of our grantees to raise money for themselves. Rather than providing technical assistance, project management, and marketing services, the best investment community foundations can make, consistent with their convening role in the community, is to build the incentive pool for the giving day. Here is why:

There is a natural tendency to aim high and dream big about the final number on your giving day. This leads to thoughts of full-page newspaper ads, dunk tanks, polka parties, and dozens of other costly or labor-intensive ideas to boost gift-giving on the day. However, it is better to focus your efforts on gathering the most matching money that you can in the months and weeks before your event. Ask your best donors to front-load their giving.

  1. Matches create momentum: If donors know that their gift is increased, by any amount, they feel like they are getting a bargain.
  2. Matches create buzz: If the community knows that they can direct the match pool this way or that by giving to their favorite charity they will do so.
  3. Matches pay twice: Of course gifts made on the giving day go further with matches. But remember, the donors providing the matching funds get their gifts increased too, by the very donors they are incentivizing.
  4. Matches are not charged a processing fee because they do not go through the giving day website. If the matches are given early, you might even get interest from your interest-bearing bank account.
  5. With a substantial matching pool (say, 10% of the total money raised) it’s easy for participating nonprofits to justify the giving day processing fees because they get all the money they racked up on the giving day leaderboard, plus their matches, minus processing fees (which at 6% are less than their match). The check you send the nonprofit is the leaderboard amount plus a little extra. Nice.
  6. With a really large match pool you can reveal the previously anonymous incentivizing donors (with their permission of course) on the weekend before your giving day to get an early buzz. A big match pool is newsworthy and whets the appetite for giving.

So, putting too much of your time thinking about the big number you hope to raise, rather than matches you cam bank on, can lead you to overstaff, overspend, and generally overthink the giving day itself. Lining up matching funds is the lazy way to create a funding frenzy on your giving day.

With all these benefits to creating incentive funds, what will work best to create a large incentive pool in your community?

George Stevens is the President and CEO of the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina.

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