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5 Essential Steps to Designing an Effective Matching Gifts Program

By August 26, 2021

Matching gift programs are a powerful method for companies and their employees to align philanthropic efforts to maximize impact on the causes they care about. More than just an employee benefit or engagement program, organizations that match employees’ donations to nonprofits or that give grants to nonprofits to “match” employee volunteer hours increase impact, create community, and find shared purpose — both within the organization and in the community. Some programs are more effective than others, however, at achieving the level of employee engagement and social impact a company envisions. These five essential steps can help.

Man and woman sitting at desk and bumping fists Philanthropy Cloud now enables your Matching Gifts program, making it easy for employees to request matches while making a donation.

1. Define Clear Objectives and Set Measurable Goals

Your company runs a matching gifts program for a reason. What is it? Setting clear objectives enables you to tailor your program to address them and measure whether you’re achieving what you set out to do. Measure how many employees use the program and how fully, so you can evolve your engagement strategy or program design along the way. Many programs exist because that’s how the company has always done it or because corporate matching has become a baseline expectation from employees. The programs that stand out have been designed carefully and thoughtfully to delight employees and engage them in a shared mission to make a difference.

2. Align Incentives With Your Program Goals

Whatever your philanthropy goals, aligning the incentives of your program is critical to driving sustained and increased impact from your employees. If service is a core tenet of your philanthropic strategy, including a form of volunteer grants (sometimes called Dollars for Doers) to reward employees for volunteer hours is an excellent way to align your incentives and encourage employee engagement with your philanthropic priorities. Perhaps your organization believes deeply in education initiatives to develop and empower future generations. By providing a higher match ratio for donations to educational institutions and nonprofit organizations focused on educational initiatives, employees will be encouraged to join you on your mission.

3. Empower Your Employees, Don’t Restrict Them

Your organization has philanthropic priorities, and so do your employees. When your program incentives are well aligned with your objectives, employees will support your campaigns, but they expect you to support their priorities as well. Imagine an employee who shares a personal story on Slack about her daughter, who was born with a painful genetic condition, and asks the team to consider a donation to a specific foundation dedicated to researching that condition. In a program that matches donations to nearly any of the millions of verified, registered charities around the world, you didn’t need to know about this cause in advance, and your team could come together to support their colleague’s cause and make the contribution go so much further with a company match. Employee-inspired programs generate more engagement within your workforce and help you connect more deeply with who they are and the causes they care about.

4. Evolve Your Program to Keep up With Company Values

Your core company values probably don’t change much over time, but the way you and your employees express those values in the world is ever-evolving. Your program needs to evolve to match. Twenty years ago, your priority may have been ocean conservation; ten years ago it may have been waste reduction and recycling; today it may be environmental justice and climate change. The programs of the past may have served you well, but may not serve the company and the workforce you have today nor the one you plan to build for the future. Technologies that enable matching gifts, giving and volunteering, employee wellbeing, and grants management, combined with advances in analytics and visualization, offer powerful new ways to understand the impact of your program and the changing priorities of your employees. They allow you to design a more effective, scalable, and highly-automated program that reflects your values and brings purpose to your employees.

Man and woman sitting at desk and bumping fists

5. Repeat

We described these as essential steps to designing and running an effective program, but it’s better to think of them as a virtuous cycle where thoughtful program design becomes impactful execution leading to deeper connection with your employees and causes in an ongoing, evolving relationship. When you do this well, you, your employees, and your community partners (i.e., nonprofits, schools, or others) learn from one another and find ever-increasing ways to make a meaningful, lasting impact on the world. A matching gift program is one critical tool in your toolkit for engaging employees in your mission, and it’s made more powerful by combining it with a platform that engages them in both giving and volunteering, all the while giving you better insight into the passions that drive and inspire them. Philanthropy Cloud now enables your Matching Gifts program. Employees can easily request matches while making a donation. Matching programs increase donations, potentially creating triple the impact (or more) by generating more and larger donations — plus a match. And with automated approvals and disbursements, administrative overhead is drastically reduced, increasing the speed at which funds are disbursed and further encouraging employees to give back.

With Matching Gifts, HR and CSR leaders can enrich the culture of values in their company, especially in an increasingly distributed and hybrid work environment, by creating greater inclusivity and engagement for all their employees, wherever they are.

To learn more about how Philanthropy Cloud’s integrated workplace giving, volunteering, and matching can boost your employee engagement in the community, contact us directly.

About the Author

Micah Krabill, director of product management for Philanthropy Cloud at
Micah Krabill
Director of Product Management for Philanthropy Cloud at
Micah Krabill is a director of product management for Philanthropy Cloud at After spending 13 years in digital content, international expansion, and enterprise software for a global retailer, he joined the mission to make philanthropy more scalable, accessible, engaging, and impactful for all.