Doing More with Less: Gift Matching

Gift Matching Dog

This must be what it feels like to have your gift matched (photo via Cristina Palma Moreira)

This whole venture of researching ways to leverage my small money to make a bigger impact is starting slowly, and I wish that weren’t the case. I’m temporarily too broke to pay for subscriptions to the magazines I should be reading, so this post will be a simple venture in my own brain, based on few good sources, but much deep thinking. So here we go…

How does it feel to make a $10 donation? That depends, I would say, on how big the fund is that you are donating to. Let’s say I’m donating to a club bake sale to raise money to send the club to a conference in D.C. I actually would feel pretty good about those $10. But how about when you donate $10 to a large fund, such as the American Red Cross? If those $10 feel rather pathetic, I can’t say I blame you. Truth be told, I sometimes feel worse after donating only a few dollars than the times I donate nothing at all. I know it’s irrational, but I suppose I hate feeling like my donation made little difference.

Here’s my first idea, then, for making those measly $10 get farther: Donate through a gift-matching fundraiser. From what I can tell, lots of major organizations participate in gift-matching grants, so that every time an employee donates, the organization matches that donation. I can’t imagine a much better deal than having your donation literally DOUBLED.

But gift-matching doesn’t only happen through your place of employment. In times of crisis, as has been the case since Hurricane Sandy, often times cities, towns, local businesses, and large corporations such as cell phone companies will match donations of anyone who donates through them.

The ultimate benefit of gift-matching is not that your donation went farther, but you had a hand in raising the donation level of a large organization. Any time I can get big businesses to give back I will be proud, even if it’s only $10.

This post is part of my series on Leveraging Small Dollars for Big Impact

1 comment
  1. At some point, my local public radio station switched me from their regular call list at phonathon time to their call list BEFORE the phonathon time. Functionally, this meant that instead of asking me for $50, they were asking me for $50 which they would use as part of a cumulative challenge to other donors. That is, they wanted not only my $50, but they wanted my permission to use my name as part of a challenge to other donors to meet my donation. This was an interesting proposition to me. On one hand, I LIKED that my contribution might help leverage others. Would my pledge in fact motivate someone who might not otherwise give? Maybe yes. On the other hand, I recognized that there was perhaps some subterfuge going on here. Meaning, I had already promised my support. They were GETTING my $50 – I pledged that. So, is there something perhaps a little notquitestraightforward as characterizing my gift as implicitly conditional on the second donation? Is it disingenuous to advertise that my donation was “matching” the second, when, in fact, it was already on the train into their station and the one now being solicited was the only one in question?

    So, I think the answer to that question is: Yes. Challenge fundraisers are indeed a scam. But maybe only a very little one. They really do encourage people to give (ends justify means! ends justify means!), yes. But there is also no real deception. Pledges to phonathons are just that – pledges. You signal your intent to give, but there is nothing coercive about it. You can’t be forced to give, so that initial challenge donation may indeed be a fiction. It is your honor and integrity which force you to convert your promise into cash (and availability of bills in your wallet, of course). So, the challenge is indeed in place for all parties to follow through.

    Bottom line: challenges are party-starters. They help invite in people who are thinking about what that party is and whether they want to join. They show others that a core community exists to keep that party going, and that it’s in fact a party worth perpetuating, because, hey, those challengers are going too.

    And isn’t that how most anything gets done…?

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