The title of the post overlaid on a photo of a man holding a gift box.

When it comes to developing alumni giving opportunities, quality is even more important than quantity. It’s tempting to bombard your college or university’s alumni with request after request for donations, but this strategy can make your donors feel overwhelmed and burnt out. 

Instead, look for fundraising methods that will allow you to boost your revenue totals without asking too much of your donors. One of the best ways to do this is by leveraging matching gifts, a form of corporate philanthropy in which companies match their employees’ donations to nonprofits and higher education institutions. Most businesses match at a 1:1 ratio, meaning matching gifts allow you to double many of the donations you already receive!

In this guide, we’ll cover four tips to make the most of matching gifts in your alumni fundraising efforts. Let’s dive in!

1. Choose the Right Matching Gift Software

Before you can integrate matching gifts into your fundraising strategy, you first need to invest in the right tools. Dedicated matching gift software allows your university’s donors to check their eligibility and submit match requests to their employers with ease.

Make sure your matching gift tool includes the following features:

  • A user-friendly interface. The solution should be easy for your team to set up and for your donors to navigate. However, you should still check that the software vendor provides technical support in case issues arise.
  • Comprehensive company records. Ensure the solution’s database of matching gift companies is updated regularly and includes information on each employer’s unique matching gift policies, such as minimum and maximum match amounts per employee.
  • Auto-submission capabilities. Auto-submission allows alumni to submit match requests to their employers simply by entering their work email address, speeding up the process and leading to more completed matches.
  • Integrations with popular CSR platforms. These are the solutions companies leverage to manage their matching gift programs. Using a higher-ed matching gift tool that integrates with these tools streamlines the match request review process, meaning you can receive companies’ contributions more quickly.

Once you’ve chosen a matching gift tool, embed it directly into your university’s online donation page so alumni donors can easily check their eligibility and submit match requests.

2. Market Matching Gifts Through Multiple Channels

According to 360MatchPro’s matching gift statistics, more than 26 million individuals work for companies with matching gift programs, so a sizable percentage of your university’s alumni are likely among that number. However, 78% of donors don’t know if their employers offer matching gifts, leading to $4-$7 billion in matching funds going unclaimed each year.

To help solve this problem among your alumni donor base, promote matching gifts across all of your university’s marketing channels, including:

  • Your website. In addition to adding matching gift information to your donation page, create a dedicated page explaining the donation-matching process and answering frequently asked questions.
  • Social media. Post matching gift appeals on all of the platforms your alumni regularly leverage (such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and TikTok), then direct them to your website to learn more and donate.
  • Email marketing. The 360MatchPro report cited above also states that the average matching gift email has a 52% open rate—more than double the typical open rate for fundraising emails—so dedicated emails should definitely be part of your marketing plan!
  • Text messaging. Whenever someone donates through your university’s text-to-give number, send an automated follow-up message reminding them to check their matching gift eligibility post-donation if they haven’t already.
  • Direct mail. This traditional marketing method is still effective for supplementing digital communications and reaching certain audiences. There are matching gift letter templates available online to help you get started—such as these from Fundraising Letters—but make sure to customize them with your university’s branding and personalize the greeting for each recipient.

As alumni begin to respond to your communications, track conversion rates from each channel so you know which messages are driving the most results and where there is room for improvement in your matching gift marketing strategy.

3. Segment Alumni Intentionally

To make your matching gift communications even more effective, target them to specific groups of alumni. You might be familiar with donor segmentation—the process of grouping your university’s supporters based on shared characteristics. Segmenting your alumni can help you tailor your matching gift appeals for better results.

Try segmenting your alumni based on the following data points:

  • Employer. The first thing to figure out is which of your alumni work for companies that match donations to ensure they’re on your mailing list for matching gift communications. Considering the number of matching gift programs out there, this segment will probably be quite large!
  • Preferred communication method. Multi-channel marketing takes a lot of effort, and some methods are more expensive than others (especially direct mail). Determine which channels each donor is most likely to respond to so you can use your team’s time and resources wisely.
  • Graduation year. This piece of information can help you decide on the right wording and cadence for targeted matching gift messages. The more recently a donor graduated, the more likely they are to have your university on their minds, while donors who graduated a long time ago may have higher giving capacities due to their longer employment histories.
  • Involvement in campus activities. Evoke specific memories and fondness for your alumni’s time at your university based on their experiences. For example, if a significant group of alumni donors participated in student government, highlight some of their newest initiatives and how a donation will contribute to current students’ success.

In your university’s donor database, make note of which alumni belong to which donor segments. This way, any member of your team who works on your matching gift marketing campaigns can easily reference that information.

4. Thank Matching Gift Donors

Your university likely already has donor recognition procedures in place for when you receive various types and sizes of alumni contributions. When you open up the new fundraising opportunity of matching gifts, you should also add a new type of thank-you message to these procedures.

Here are some tips to make your matching gift thank-you notes effective:

  • Follow up within 48 hours of receiving the matching funds. Doing this allows the message to serve as a prompt confirmation that the donor’s gift was matched as well as a show of appreciation.
  • Personalize each message. Similarly to direct mail fundraising communications, addressing each recipient by name and including the specific amount they gave (and had matched) demonstrates that their individual support matters to your university.
  • Emphasize the impact of the match. Tell the donor how the fact that they had their gift matched will multiply the difference they made, especially if they designated their original gift for a specific purpose. For example, if they donated to your performing arts program, you might let them know that the matching funds put you an additional step closer to getting a new piano for a student practice room.

Sending an additional “thank you” message for matching gifts reinforces their importance in your alumni donors’ minds, making them more likely to request matches for future donations.

Every college and university is different, so the way you apply the above tips will depend on your unique situation and alumni donor base. But no matter how you go about the process, matching gifts are an effective way to engage alumni in giving and make even more progress toward your fundraising goals.

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Double the Donation's robust solution, 360MatchPro, provides nonprofits with automated tools to identify match-eligible donors, drive matches to completion, and gain actionable insights. 360MatchPro integrates directly into donation forms, CRMs, social fundraising software, and other nonprofit technology solutions to capture employment information and follow up appropriately with donors about matching gifts.