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Corporate philanthropy: How to start an employee matching gift program


Seventy-four percent of employees say their jobs are more fulfilling when they have opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues, according to a Cone Communications 2016 study.

A matching gift program is an admirable way to increase employee engagement and donations while multiplying the positive impact on your community and elevating your company’s reputation. As employees donate to their favorite charities, your company can match their contributions creating a win-win-win.

Here are the answers to eight common questions about how to get a successful matching gifts program off the ground.

1. Should you manage the program internally or use a third-party vendor?

Just because a person has a passion for leading your company’s community involvement efforts, doesn’t mean they should run a matching gift program. They could put your business at risk if they don’t follow certain government guidelines.

A third party vendor can help you set up your matching gift program so that it complies with applicable laws and regulations. In general, they can also provide program design, reporting, customer support and other related services.

You will also need an entity that can vet the nonprofits your business chooses to support to make sure they’re complying with applicable laws and regulations as well as provide the services you desire.

2. What is your match equation?

Not every match program is the same. Your match equation could be dollar-for-dollar or a different structure of your choosing.

Additionally, you’ll want to take into account the frequency by which you will match a gift. For example, matching on a monthly or quarterly basis are options.

You may also want to set parameters for matching eligibility, such as a minimum and/or maximum donation level. For example, you may choose not to match any contribution under $20, or only match up to $1,000 per employee per year.

3. What is your annual budget for this program?

Having a budget in mind will help ensure you can cover all the associated costs.

Here are just a few line items to keep in mind:

  • Matching gifts
  • Disaster relief funds
  • Vendor selection costs
  • Ongoing vendor costs

Monitoring these items over time will help give you a holistic look at the cost of the program and make sure it’s making an impact without breaking the bank.

4. Which organizations will you consider eligible or ineligible for matching contributions?

When you give a charitable donation, you want to make sure the receiving organization will be a good steward of those funds.

You may decide that you want to choose which organizations or types of organizations qualify for matching funds and supply that list to employees. Doing so can help you select organizations that align with your company mission.

Look to watchdog groups like GuideStar and Charity Navigator that evaluate nonprofits to make sure the organizations of your choosing are reputable.

5. Which categories will you match?

You could simply match contributions to any qualified charitable organization. This means giving according to your community’s needs and employees’ interest areas – whether or not they align with your overall business strategy. The upside to this is that when employees are passionate about a cause, it can help your efforts succeed.

But you may also want to consider categories that reflect the purpose of your business or industry with a strategic social investment. For example, if you’re a restaurant you might choose to give to a nonprofit that delivers food to home-bound seniors.

Both options can provide a meaningful return, so choose according to what best fits your business.

6. Which employees are eligible to participate in this program?

You could make the program available to everyone including full- and part-time employees, retirees and spouses. Or alternatively, you may only want to make the program available to full-time employees.

And, as with other benefits, you may want to make this program available immediately to employees or consider a waiting period.

7. How will you communicate the launch of your program to employees?

Consider a town hall meeting or other special event. If your workforce is spread out and unable to gather, email also works.

8. How will you know if you are successful?

You can look at your company’s employee participation rate on a regular basis as well as look at the increase in community awareness of your company.

Benchmark results from year to year to watch progress and measure whether employees are remaining engaged and interested in the program.

To learn more about building a community involvement program that helps both your business and your employees thrive, download our free magazine, The Insperity Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility.