Budgeting for Your Company’s Matching Gifts Program

September 26, 2018 Sally Ehrenfried


At Blackbaud, we take a unique approach to our employee matching gift program, one that is popular amongst other corporate giving programs. With our matching program, Blackbaud empowers employee philanthropy through individual choice. Through this approach, Blackbaud achieves much higher than the average participation rates of 9% for year-round matching programs – in fact, in 2017 22.7% of employees took advantage of their matching benefit. The benefits we’ve seen as a result of this philosophy include increased employee engagement and easier budgeting.

If you’re looking to start a matching program at your organization, there are a few items you should consider when planning and budgeting for the year.

  • First, what kind of match do you want to offer? When starting Blackbaud’s program from scratch, we decided to stick with a 1:1 match up to the maximum amount per employee. This made budgeting for the program pretty straightforward: I set my participation rate goal for the year and multiply the number of employees that goal reflects by the program maximum.
  • Second, how “open” will your program be? Will you match donations to a wide range of organizations or will you only match to certain focus areas?  At Blackbaud, we match donations to organizations across the social good sector.

Obviously, not all employees participate or donate the maximum. However, planning your matching gift program based on your participation rate goal can have other benefits. For example, I highlight our matching gift program when disasters, both natural and man-made, strike.  This gentle nudge reminds  that we want to amplify their giving through our matching gift program. Since these cycles of giving can be unpredictable, budgeting based on participation rates helps smooth out fluctuations in employee giving.  We’re upfront with our employees that once the budget allocation for the year is met, we will  pause the program until our next fiscal year.

Once you reach the maximum spend for your fiscal year, it becomes easier to make the case for additional investment in the program for the next budget year. Knowing your current participation rate and your plans to grow it in subsequent years bolsters your case. It’s an easy win for the company to amplify employee giving by matching their gifts, but no one likes to go over budget.

As your program matures, you can think of other ways to engage your employees and boost participation rates. Once you have a few months’ worth of data, you can use a reporting system to support the growth of your program. I often use monthly and year-over-year comparisons, which helps me identify more active times of the year (like hurricane season, #GivingTuesday, or the holidays). We use this type of data to track our participation rates and determine if additional funding is needed for the next year.

No matter if your program is a straight 1:1 match, or 3:1, the fundamentals of setting up a budgeting process for a successful matching program remain the same:

  • Do your research to get an idea of how many employees may participate at the onset of the program.
  • Research participation data for your industry and organization size (CECP’s Giving in Numbers is a great resource), and network with other companies offering a matching gift program and learn from their experiences.
  • Based on the prior two metrics, set a participation goal and a maximum budget allocation for the year.

From there it will be an exciting ride as you amplify your employees’ giving to causes and organizations they care about, gain more understanding of employee giving behaviors and preferences, and adjust the program as needed. Good luck!


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