Are you looking for the ultimate guide to matching gifts?

You’re in the right place!

Matching gift programs are one of the best channels to tap into when you want to take advantage of corporate philanthropy.

Don’t believe us?

Check out this statistic: an estimated $2-3 billion is donated through matching gift programs each year.

That’s a lot of money, but an even bigger stat to note is that about $4-7 billion in matching gift funds goes unclaimed every year.

So the question you should be asking is: what can I do to tap into matching gift programs, and how will they benefit my nonprofit?

Lucky for you, we’re going to cover all of that and more in this guide. 

Matching gifts can significantly boost your fundraising revenue, which means your team will have more funds available for programs, events, and everything else you do to serve your mission. Let’s get started on the basics so you can begin tapping into this channel ASAP.

What matching gifts are…

In a nutshell? A matching gift is a donation a company makes to match an employee’s initial donation to a nonprofit. So when an individual makes a gift of $50 to an organization, their employer will make an additional gift of $50, for a total of $100.

A matching gift is a donation a company makes to match an employee’s initial donation to a nonprofit.

Now, that’s assuming the employer offers a 1:1 match ratio (a dollar for dollar match). A match ratio can range anywhere from .5:1 to 4:1.

So, let’s say that $50 was matched at a 2:1 ratio instead. That means that initial $50 donation turns into $150 ($50 from the donor plus $100 from their employer)!

Now that our math lesson is over, let’s talk about how matching gifts actually work.

The overall process is pretty simple and tends to be the same across the board:

  1. An individual donates to a nonprofit.
  2. The individual checks their eligibility for matching gifts with their employer.
  3. The individual submits a request for a match to their employer.
  4. The employer reviews the request and verifies the donation with the nonprofit.
  5. The employer matches the gift.

The thing is, most companies have their own policies and guidelines when it comes to their employees submitting matching gift requests. 

These can include:

  • Minimum and maximum match amounts
  • Match ratios
  • Nonprofit eligibility
  • Employee eligibility

Not being able to figure out their employer’s guidelines can turn donors away from the process altogether, which brings us to our next point.

What your nonprofit could be missing out on…

Matching gifts seem like a pretty good deal, don’t they? Turning one donation into two? Well, as we’ve already indicated, not every donor knows how to go through the process of submitting a match request. Remember that number we mentioned earlier? Billions of dollars in matching gift funds go unclaimed every year.

Far too many organizations and donors overlook matching gift programs because there are too many company guidelines to keep track of, and nonprofits can’t easily track the companies their donors work for. Likewise, donors don’t always know whether their companies even offer matching gift programs.

So, it’s simple: matching gifts get overlooked.

But there are more reasons to pursue matching gifts than not.

For example:

Matching gifts have a huge impact on donations.

Did you know that 84% of donors say they’d be more likely to donate if a match was offered? That means if a donor is on the fence about giving to your nonprofit, notifying them that they might be eligible for a match through their company could be the extra push they need to make their donation.

But it doesn’t stop there.

In addition to the donors who would give if a match were applied, 1 in 3 donors say they’d give a larger amount if a match was available.

So not only would you get a donation in the first place, but the amount could be even bigger than it would have been otherwise!

We’ve talked a lot about company matching gift programs and how they can differ from each other. But a common theme is that many of these programs are pretty generous. To give you an idea of what your organization could be missing out on, here are some incredible matching gift programs:

The Coca-Cola Company matches donations made by full-time employees or retirees up to $10,000. As if that’s not enough, they offer a 2:1 match, which means the total maximum cap is $20,000!

Soros Fund Management matches donations made by full-time employees to most nonprofits at up to a 2:1 ratio, with a maximum cap of $100,000.

Merck & Co. matches donations made by active employees at a 1:1 ratio up to $30,000. Most nonprofits are eligible for these matching gifts.

This is just a taste of how generous a lot of these matching gift programs can be. Many companies’ maximum match amounts are in the thousands, and their minimum match amount can be as low as $25, if there’s even a minimum at all.

It should be pretty clear by now that there are a lot of benefits to tapping into matching gift programs. That’s why we’re going to dive deeper into those benefits next.

Who benefits from matching gifts…

As we get into the benefits of matching gift programs, we should also note that it’s not just nonprofits that can benefit from them.

In fact, matching gift programs benefit nonprofits, donors, and companies. Here’s how:

Benefits for NonprofitsThese are the benefits of matching gifts for nonprofits.

Let’s start with you. Matching gifts benefit many types of nonprofit organizations. While some companies are specific about what type of organization they’ll match donations to, a majority of 501(c)(3) organizations are usually eligible. And as a nonprofit, every donation dollar counts. Beyond just doubling donations, matching gifts offer nonprofits a way to build long-term relationships with companies and donors. The more support you have, the more you’ll be able to accomplish.

Benefits for DonorsThese are the benefits of matching gifts for donors.

Matching gifts benefit donors, too. When a donor gives to your organization and then successfully requests a match from their employer, they’re essentially doubling the impact of their gift. This gives donors a greater sense of pride knowing that their donation went twice as far.

Benefits for CompaniesThese are the benefits of matching gifts for companies.

There are many benefits for companies, too. By taking part in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs like matching gifts, companies maintain a positive public image, keeping their employees and consumers happy. In terms of tax benefits, companies can also deduct the amount they matched from the original donation.

In short, matching gift programs benefit everyone involved. Nonprofits get extra support, donors feel proud for making their contributions go even further, and companies look great for supporting nonprofits.

Top 3 benefits of matching gift programs…

As a nonprofit specifically, there are even more benefits of matching gift programs you should be aware of. For that reason, we’ve compiled the top three perks you should keep in mind when deciding whether you want to pursue this type of corporate giving program: 

1. A second donation for the cost of soliciting one.

The most obvious benefit? Matching gifts are cost-effective—you get a second donation for the cost of soliciting one. Basically, this means you’ll get more revenue from one donation without asking donors to reach back into their own pockets. You’ll also save the time you would’ve spent soliciting a separate donation from another donor. It’s a win-win!

2. A deepened relationship with supporters.

Beyond just the monetary aspect, matching gifts allow your nonprofit to develop a deepened relationship with supporters. Matching gifts can actually help with donor retention, which means the more you mention matching gifts and keep your donors in the loop, the higher your retention rate will be. Donors will also feel more engaged with your organization when they know they’re making a bigger impact with their gifts. 

3. Increased fundraising revenue to put toward your programs.

When your organization actively pursues matching gifts, you can significantly increase your fundraising revenue. That means you’ll be able to put on more programs and events that benefit your constituents. 

Matching gifts can also aid in prospect research and finding major gift donors. Imagine if a major donor was eligible for matching gifts through their company—that would be a huge boost for your nonprofit!

Just thinking about these top benefits of matching gifts should get your team excited. There’s so much untapped potential out there that you can explore.

How to raise even more from matching gifts…

You might be thinking that making matching gifts part of your fundraising strategy is easier said than done. 

But there are ways you can benefit from matching gifts without requiring too much extra effort from your team.

We’ve written about promoting matching gifts before, and one of the best ways you can leverage matching gift programs is to meet donors at the point where they’re most engaged: the donation process.

Once a supporter lands on your donation page, that means they’re serious about donating to your cause. Remember how donors are more likely to give if a match is applied? That means if you actively promote matching gifts during your donation process, your donor will be more likely to give and check out the matching gift opportunity.

So, what’s the best way to promote matching gifts during the donation process?

In a nutshell: make it easy for the donor to find out about their company’s matching gift program.

Investing in a matching gift search tool, for example, is a great way to do this. All you have to do is embed the tool into your donation page (or anywhere on your site, really!), and donors can type in the name of their employer. If that employer offers a matching gift program, all of the info about their program (match ratios, eligibility, etc.) will pull up right away.

Here’s what that kind of search tool looks like:

Here's a matching gift search tool that is embedded into a website.

The great thing about matching gift search tools like the above is that they can be customized to match your organization’s branding. And when the tool is embedded directly into your donation process, more donors will see the matching gift opportunity and search for their employer.

If you want to take this process several steps further, you can invest in a matching gift automation platform. An automation platform takes the info donors provide as they give to your nonprofit (such as email domain or employer name) and runs it against a database of thousands of matching gift programs. If it turns out your donor works for a matching gift company, the platform will automatically send out a customizable email to that donor that explains how they can submit a match request.

Here’s what that email could look like:

This email is sent from an automated matching gifts platform.

Notice how the email identifies the donor’s employer and offers actionable steps to complete the matching gift process. A customizable experience will make the donor even more likely to be responsive.

When you drop matching gift solutions like these into the mix, you have a chance to skyrocket your matching gift revenue. If you really want to benefit from matching gifts, consider adding these to your team’s toolkit.

Sample matching gift letters…

If you’re looking for some guidance as you start to reach out about matching gifts, here are some basic matching gift letters you can use to tell donors about the opportunity. You probably already send out thank-you emails once a donor has contributed to your cause. Why not include these templates, too?

Sample Matching Gift Letter for Small Nonprofits:

Dear [donor’s name],

[nonprofit’s name] could not do what we do without you. Our mission needs all the support and help we can get, and your donation of [donation amount] has brought us further than we ever have been before. We are so close to our goal of [fundraising goal] and making [your mission] happen.

There’s a good chance your employer offers a matching gift program to help double your impact. The process is simple, and we would love to do most of the work for you. In a few simple steps, you can increase your donation and continue to change lives:

Step 1: Contact your employer’s HR head to see if they offer a matching gift program to increase your donation.

Step 2: Your HR head will point you in the right direction and let you know if you need to fill out any necessary forms and be aware of submission deadlines.

Step 3: Once you have submitted your matching gift request form or if you have any questions about the process, please contact us at our website [website URL] or phone number [phone number].

Additionally, if your company doesn’t offer a matching gift program or won’t match your donation, please let us know as well.

[nonprofit’s name] appreciates each donation and act of support you make.

Thank you,

[nonprofit’s name]

Sample Matching Gift Letter for Large Nonprofits:

Dear [donor’s name],

Here at [nonprofit name], we appreciate every gift we receive. Your donation of [donation amount] has made such an impact to [your mission] and has done [a recent accomplishment] for us.

We are so close to our donation goal of [fundraising goal] and we think you can help get us there. Your contribution has already done so much, but we believe your employer, [donor’s workplace], may have a matching gift program that will match your generous donation and double your impact!

Taking the steps to increase your gift is a simple process. Please see the instructions below:

Step 1: Contact your employer’s HR head to see if they offer a matching gift program to increase your donation.

Step 2: Your HR head will point you in the right direction and let you know if you need to fill out any necessary forms and be aware of submission deadlines.

Step 3: Once you have submitted your matching gift request form or if you have any questions about the process, please contact us at our website [website URL] or phone number [phone number].

Additionally, if your company doesn’t offer a matching gift program or won’t match your donation, please let us know as well.

We appreciate your support tremendously. You are the reason we are able to reach our goal of [fundraising goal] and achieve [your mission.]

Thank you,

[nonprofit’s name]

Use templates like these to guide you as you set out to find matching gift revenue for your organization. Then, if you ultimately decide to invest in matching gift solutions, you’ll already have a great foundation for communicating with your donors!

Additional matching gift resources…

Hopefully our matching gifts guide has helped you learn more about this giving opportunity. If you want to do further reading, here are some awesome resources you can check out:

Find more matching gift revenue with a matching gift database!

When you Google the American Cancer Society (ACS), the second organic listing is for the nonprofit’s Facebook page. When you click on the first listing— American Cancer’s website— and navigate to opportunities to get involved, Facebook fundraisers are placed front-and-center. In fact, these fundraisers are listed as an opportunity to “make the most impact.”

ACS has a well-established Facebook fundraising foundation and because of that, is very successful when engaging supporters through the platform. Can your organization say the same?

We would guess that you probably maintain Facebook profiles, post regularly to market upcoming opportunities, and even have supporters conducting fundraisers on your behalf. But, there’s still something missing from your strategy, and it’s holding you back from the success ACS and other organizations have experienced.

At GoodUnited, we work with nonprofit organizations to raise their relationships with supporters on social media. We’ve researched and reported on Facebook fundraising for nonprofits, and discovered just what’s missing from traditional social media guidance. We’re going to cover this through the following points:

Before we explore what’s missing from your nonprofit’s social strategy, let’s discuss the best practices that have been commonplace in recent years.

Examining Traditional Nonprofit Social Media Best Practices

Until very recently, the pervading advice surrounding how to use social media for nonprofits went something like this:

  1. Post regularly and create valuable content to increase your social media followings.
  2. Incorporate social media into your overall multichannel marketing strategy, using the platforms to share your online donation, volunteer, and advocacy opportunities.
  3. Make it as easy as possible for users to click on a link in a post, leave your social media page and donate/register to volunteer/complete some other action through your website.

Lather, rinse, repeat. The overarching narrative was that you want to build an audience on social media and then send them elsewhere to take action. That’s no longer the case.

In this GoodUnited guide to Facebook birthday fundraisers, we discuss a narrative that quickly emerged as the platform’s fundraising tools did— the idea that organizations shouldn’t invest time, energy, and resources into Facebook fundraising because it’s a shallow, ineffective way for supporters to give. In our guide, we discuss how that couldn’t be farther from the truth, and in fact, we’ve found that Facebook fundraisers are the first step toward building impactful relationships with the next generation of social supporters.

Here’s What’s Missing: Connecting with Supporters Where They Are

Connecting with supporters where they are— directly in-channel on Facebook— is what’s missing to elevate your nonprofit’s social strategy. Recognizing supporters and donors, having one-on-one communications, and creating a community for your supporters to connect can now all happen directly on the platform.

With tools built directly into Facebook’s platform, you can put a concentrated focus on each individual supporter. You can understand these supporters more comprehensively, create experiences that inspire them to support your organization time and time again, and grow your relationships through regular one-on-one communications.

This is the key to turning a one-off peer-to-peer fundraiser on Facebook into a lifelong supporter of your organization. Rather than a short-term expansion of your audience, gathering a few additional supporters that are willing to conduct a Facebook fundraiser in your next P2P campaign, you can retain these supporters for the long haul.

Let’s explore what this will look like in action.

How To Raise Your Relationships Directly on Facebook

There are two tools built directly into Facebook’s platform that you can use to grow strong relationships with each of your nonprofit’s social supporters. These tools don’t require any additional investments or complicated back-end processes— simply the willingness and efforts of your team.

Facebook Groups

Did you know that Facebook groups are now favored over individual posts in the platform’s algorithm? This means that if you make a post through your nonprofit’s main Facebook page, and then make the same post in a group containing your supporters, these individuals are more likely to see the group post than the profile post.

Beyond the enhanced visibility, groups offer the benefit of an in-channel community for your supporters to connect. For example, here are a few unique ways you can use groups to unite your social community:

  • Hosting fundraising events. You can create a closed Facebook group, charge a small donation fee for admission, and livestream an engaging virtual fundraising event from within the group. Further, with Facebook Live, you can make live appeals and receive donations throughout the event.
  • Creating communities for supporters with similar interests. Whether ambassadors, advocates, volunteers, or even those who enjoy conducting Facebook fundraisers on your behalf, create groups for these supporters to connect and bond over their shared interests. In these groups, tailor the information you share to be interesting to each particular audience— such as information about upcoming P2P events in a group for users who are interested in Facebook fundraisers.
  • Uniting participants in peer-to-peer challenges. Let’s say you’re hosting a virtual walk-a-thon, which is an engaging virtual peer-to-peer fundraising idea. Invite participants to connect within a Facebook group, donate to one another’s fundraisers, and share training tips to meet their walking goals.

Once you’ve created communities for your social fundraisers, the fun begins. Share tips to help users reach their fundraising goals, present discussion topics, provide updates on the work of your organization, and even share educational resources. But remember— it should be a two-way conversation. Encourage users to add their own unique voices by posting in your groups as well.

Facebook Messenger

Just like you can use Messenger to connect with your Facebook friends, you can do the same with your nonprofit’s supporters on the platform.

Similarly to sending a thank-you letter to donors, you should also thank each user that creates a fundraiser on your behalf on Facebook. The easiest way to do this is to comment on the fundraisers that users create and post a personalized, genuine thank-you note.

With that note, invite users to connect with your organization via Messenger. You can then tailor this one-on-one conversational messaging to each individual supporter, building unique relationships with your social supporters. For example, you can:

  • Share updates about your organization. You can share upcoming fundraising events, volunteer opportunities, and any new developments within your organization. This information can be tailored to be interesting to the user you’re connecting with.
  • Answer questions and provide tips. If a user is encountering a fundraising challenge, provide tips to overcome those challenges. This will result in fewer unsuccessful fundraisers and set users up for success.
  • Connect during big milestones. If a user has a birthday coming up, you can send them well-wishes and encourage them to start a fundraiser aligning with the effort. Users will notice you went above-and-beyond to acknowledge their special day and feel encouraged to give back.
  • Learn more about your supporters. You can share surveys and ask one-off questions. From contact information to longer answers, such as why they support your mission and how they want to engage going forward, you can learn a good amount about your supporters.

With Messenger, you don’t just connect with users when they’re raising funds for your organization— you can stay in touch year-round and show supporters that you appreciate them for their contributions.

Wrapping Up: Why Invest in Social Fundraising Solutions?

When organizations stumbled across Double the Donation’s matching gift statistics and realized that anywhere from $4-7 billion in matching gifts goes unclaimed each year, did these organizations accept that their matches would never be realized?

No, they invested in technology and processes that would help them secure the unclaimed funds.

Similarly, if your organization doesn’t have an impactful Facebook fundraising foundation comparable to that of the American Cancer Society, you don’t just have to accept that your social efforts are subpar. You can optimize your Facebook efforts by investing in social fundraising solutions.

We’ve presented a variety of ways that you can engage with supporters directly on Facebook to improve your efforts. However, not every organization can dedicate the time and resources internally to connect with each and every Facebook supporter— especially if you have hundreds or thousands of supporters on the platform.

There are now turnkey social fundraising solutions— such as those offered by GoodUnited— that will empower your team to grow these relationships at scale. This provides your team with the people, processes, and technology needed to foster relationships with the next generation of supporters, including thank-you notes sent to every user that starts a fundraiser and custom automated messaging sequences via Messenger.

With these tips, and perhaps managed services for Facebook fundraising, you can take your social media efforts to the next level. Good luck!

About the Author:

Nick Black is the Founder and CEO of GoodUnited, a venture backed Software as a Service (SaaS) startup that helps nonprofits like Wounded Warrior Project, American Cancer Society, World Wildlife Fund create 1:1 relationships with their donors through the combination of data science and human judgement delivered in conversational messaging platforms. Nick’s work with GoodUnited resulted in being named The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s 2017 Distinguished Young Alumnus. 

Nick has been an innovator and leader at the intersection of business and social impact for over ten years. The concept for GoodUnited came through Nick’s work co-founding and leading Stop Soldier Suicide, a 501c3 that grew from startup to national leader in reducing veteran suicide to the national average in ten years. Stop Soldier Suicide’s growth and impact resulted in Nick being selected as a Presidential Leadership Scholar and a Leadership North Carolina Fellow. 

Nick co-founded Stop Soldier Suicide stemming from his experiences leading Paratroopers as a Ranger qualified Army Officer with the 173rd Airborne during 27 months deployed to combat zones in Afghanistan. During Nick’s six years of service he was awarded two Bronze Stars, an Army Commendation Medal for Valor and as a Field Artillery Officer, was repeatedly ranked 1st among 50 peer Officers in a premier Infantry Battalion.

Nick received a BA from The Johns Hopkins University. At Johns Hopkins, Nick was a four-year member of the Varsity football team, the first two-time President of Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity and a four-year scholarship winner of the Army ROTC program. Nick received an MBA from Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina. At Kenan-Flagler, Nick was awarded the Rollie Tillman Award for Leadership, selected as a Kenan Institute Leadership Fellow, was President of the Veterans Club and awarded the 2018 Distinguished Young Alumnus

Nick lives in Charleston South Carolina with his wife Amanda. Amanda and Nick have a five-year-old daughter and four-year-old son.

As a nonprofit organization, everything comes down to your fundraising efforts—whether you’ll be able to meet your program goals, put on a large event, pay for overhead costs, and most importantly, serve your mission.

Sometimes it can be hard to admit this, but fundraising revenue alone isn’t always enough. So what if you could double some of these existing dollars without asking donors to contribute more than they already have?

The answer is simple: matching gifts.

In this article, we’ll be talking specifically about corporate matching gifts, which allow donors to maximize their donations by reaching out to their employers for a company match. If you’re looking for ways to tap into this form of corporate philanthropy, you’re in the right place!

Let’s begin with the basics of matching gift programs, and then we’ll show you how to promote matching gifts to your donor base. Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.

1. Matching Gift Basics

The concept of matching gifts is pretty simple: donors give to an organization, submit a match request to their employer, and the employer sends the organization a matching donation.

It seems like everyone should be doing this, right? But there’s a problem: many donors don’t realize their company offers a matching gift program, and even if they do, they aren’t sure how to submit a match request.

Clearing up the haziness surrounding corporate matching gift programs is the first step you need to take as a nonprofit so you and your donors can fully take advantage of them. That starts with understanding the rules of these programs.

Rules for Corporate Matching Gifts

In general, corporate matching gift programs have thresholds that need to be met before the company will issue a matching donation. It’s important to know what these thresholds are so you can make the matching gift process run a lot smoother.

Consider these rules so you can understand how to promote matching gifts.

Here are the basic thresholds you should be aware of:

  • Minimum and maximum match amounts. Typically, companies have a minimum and maximum donation amount they’ll match. The minimum amount is usually around $25, while the maximum can be in the thousands.
  • Match ratio. Most companies match dollar for dollar (a 1:1 ratio), while some companies match at an even higher ratio. In general, ratios can range from .5:1 all the way to 4:1.
  • Employee eligibility. Another guideline to be aware of is whether a donor’s employment status is eligible for a company match. Companies typically specify whether full-time employees, part-time employees, or retirees are eligible. In some cases, this can even expand to spouses or domestic partners of those employees.
  • Nonprofit eligibility. This is a big one. Is your nonprofit eligible to receive a matching donation from the donor’s company? Most companies have a set list of organization types that they’ll donate to, which can include educational institutions, arts and cultural organizations, health and human services, and others. The most common restriction is around religious organizations, but again, this can vary by employer.

Understanding these rules for corporate matching gift programs will ensure that your nonprofit makes the most of eligible donations. But there’s more that goes into the matching gift process than meeting the initial guidelines. Your organization plays a key role in the next step: verification.

Verifying Corporate Matching Gifts

One of the most common ways nonprofits accidentally miss out on getting a matching donation from a company is by not verifying the gift. It might go without saying, but actually confirming with the matching gift company that your organization received a donation is pretty important.

Many companies use a third-party vendor to manage their matching gift process and allow nonprofits to verify donations. If your organization will be dealing with these vendors, you’ll want your team to be up-to-speed on how to use them. Whether it’s logging into an online portal or mailing in a letter, do not forget to verify the donation.

Once the donation has been verified, the company will submit their match!

2. Promoting Matching Gifts

Making the most of matching gift programs means understanding how they work. But you won’t get very far past that stage if your organization doesn’t actively promote this giving opportunity to your supporters.

There are several effective ways your team can get matching gifts on your donors’ minds. Check them out below:

If you want to know how to promote matching gifts, consider placing info about matching gifts on your donation page.On the Donation Page

If you think that supporters are most engaged with your organization during the donation process…you’re correct! Those who land on your donation page are seriously considering donating to your nonprofit. That much is certain.

But what if we told you that 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if a match is offered? That would mean if they saw an opportunity about matching gifts on your donation page, it could be the extra push they need to submit their donation.

Just a simple mention of matching gifts or using a matching gift search tool (more on that below!) will notify donors that their gift can go twice as far and encourage them to begin the process of requesting a match.

Another way to promote matching gifts is through your confirmation page.On the Confirmation Page

Congratulations—your supporter made a donation to your organization! Now what?

The first thing they’re likely to see after pressing Submit is a confirmation page that acknowledges their donation. For many donors, once they’ve given the gift, the process is pretty much over for them. Lucky for you, they’re still close to the height of their engagement.

That’s why promoting matching gift opportunities on your confirmation page is an excellent way to go. Donors already feel good about their gift. Why not make them feel even better by promoting an opportunity to stretch their contribution even further?

Learn how to promote matching gifts by using a dedicated matching gifts page.On a Dedicated Matching Gift Page

Even if supporters are just checking out your organization for the first time and browsing around your website, there are other ways you can promote matching gifts—even if they’re not actively looking to donate.

A dedicated matching gift page, or even a “Ways to Give” page, should include detailed information about matching gift programs and their impact on your nonprofit. Featuring this information in a prominent place on your website will both educate supporters about matching gifts and encourage them to donate in the first place.

Social media is another great place to promote matching gifts.On Social Media

If your organization is active on social media, consider using your platform to share information about matching gifts. Even better, you can schedule posts throughout the year so you don’t have to worry about forgetting.

Link your followers back to your website for more information, use visuals when you can, and keep your messages short and sweet.

If you want to know how to promote matching gifts, use your communications.In Your Communications

Beyond promoting matching gifts on your website or social media platforms, your email list is a huge opportunity to get the word out about doubling donations.

There are a few different ways you can incorporate matching gift letters as part of your email outreach and promotion strategy:

  • Thank-you emails. Once a donor has submitted their gift, they’re likely going to receive a confirmation email from your nonprofit thanking them for their donation. This is the perfect spot to also mention that their donation can go twice as far with a matching gift.
  • Newsletters. Does your team send out newsletters on a regular basis? Why not include matching gift information in a dedicated section of the email? Or, you can even send out one or two dedicated matching gift newsletters each year.
  • Year-end emails. A majority of charitable giving takes place during the holiday season. Send out holiday messages as part of your year-end campaign that highlight matching gifts to potential donors. Many companies also allow donors to request a match through the end of the year in which they gave, so be sure to encourage existing donors to check whether their earlier gifts are eligible.

Include links in any of these emails that direct donors back to your website for more information. This is why it’s a good idea to have a dedicated matching gift page on your site.

If you’re looking to take your email outreach a step further, consider using specific links within your messages that redirect donors to different pages of your website. For example:

  • If a donor has submitted a match request, encourage them to click a link in your email that will redirect them to a thank-you page on your website.
  • If a donor determines that their donation is not eligible for a matching gift, offer a link they can click that will show them alternate ways to show their support.
  • If a donor wants to unsubscribe from emails, redirect them to the corresponding page on your website.

Not only does this improve the donor journey, but it also gives your team a way to keep track of which donors have submitted matching gift requests, which donors are not eligible, and which donors want to unsubscribe.

Lastly, don’t forget to incorporate direct mail! Include postcards or inserts that contain info about matching gifts with an easy link or QR code to send donors to your matching gifts page. These inserts can go into any of your printed communications to help spread the word about the opportunity.

Sample Matching Gift Letters

If you’re looking for specific examples of the matching gift communications we’ve talked about, you’re in luck! Here are some sample matching gift letters your team can send out to promote matching gift opportunities:

Sample 1: The simple nonprofit matching gift letter.

Dear [donor’s name],

Thank you so much for your generous donation of [donation amount] to our nonprofit. Your contribution has already made such an impact to [your mission] by [example of physical impact]. We cannot thank you enough.

We think you might be able to double your impact! Your employer, [donor’s workplace], may offer a matching gift program that can increase your gift! Matching gift programs are a form of corporate philanthropy where businesses match the donations their employees make to charitable organizations.

Taking the steps to get your gifts matched is a simple process and we are happy to walk you through the process:

Step 1: Contact your employer’s HR head to see if they offer a matching gift program to increase your donation.

Step 2: Your HR head will point you in the right direction and let you know if you need to fill out any necessary forms and be aware of submission deadlines.

Step 3: Once you have submitted your matching gift request form or if you have any questions about the process, please contact us at [website URL] or [phone number].

Additionally, if your company doesn’t offer a matching gift program or won’t match your donation, please let us know as well.

We appreciate your support tremendously. You are the reason we are able to [recent accomplishment].

Thank you,

[nonprofit’s name]

This letter is personalized to the donor and includes actionable next steps the donor can take to determine their matching gift eligibility. There’s also an educational element to this letter, which explains what matching gifts are and how they tie into corporate philanthropy.

Sample 2: A higher education institution’s matching gift letter.

Dear [donor’s name],

The students of [school’s name] are eternally grateful for your generous support. They cannot thank you enough for bringing [recent school renovation or improvement, like an improved library, new building, or renovated dorms] to life and providing a space for them to learn and grow.

Last year we raised [last year’s total matching gift revenue] all from matching gifts, or donations made by businesses to match those made by their employees. With very little extra effort, many of our donors were able to double their original contributions because their employers had matching gift programs in place.

In a few steps, you can check to see if your company will match your gift. Here’s what you can do:

Step 1: Contact your employer’s HR head to see if they offer a matching gift program to increase your donation.

Step 2: Your HR head will point you in the right direction and let you know if you need to fill out any necessary forms and be aware of submission deadlines.

Step 3: Once you have submitted your matching gift request form or if you have any questions about the process, please contact us at our website [website URL] or phone number [phone number].

Additionally, if your company doesn’t offer a matching gift program or won’t match your donation, please let us know as well.

Your impact has already created a difference in the quality of life and the academic accomplishments our community has made recently. Imagine what can happen when your gifts are matched.

Thank you,

[school’s name]

This letter outlines the impact matching gifts have had on the institution and provides specific instructions the recipient can follow to submit a matching gift request. This letter in particular also highlights tangible results of the financial support already received (a new building, updated library, etc.).


Using a Matching Gift Database

While promoting matching gifts through all of the above channels can be effective, you can kick it up a notch or two by using a matching gift database.

A matching gift database is the key to finding tons of information on matching gift programs all over the world. They list thousands of companies, along with those companies’ matching gift guidelines, forms, and instructions. 

So how do you get access to a matching gift database?

This kind of info can be accessed in a couple of ways:

Matching Gift Search Tool

Invest in a matching gift solution that offers a matching gift search tool to embed anywhere on your website. That means on your donation page, your confirmation page, and your “Ways to Give” or dedicated matching gift pages.

Here’s an example of a matching gift search tool in action:

One matching gift best practice is incorporating a search tool as part of your website.

This search tool auto-completes the company name that’s being typed in, making it easy for the donor to select the name of their company and load the results.

Matching Gift Automation

Another awesome tool that can come in handy for larger organizations is a matching gifts automation platform. Once donors fill out the donation form on your website and submit their gift, this platform scans their info for any indication of matching gift eligibility (a work email address, employer details, etc.) and then triggers out customizable emails on your behalf.

Here’s what such an email would look like for someone who was determined to be match eligible:

Another matching gift best practice is to invest in a matching gifts automation platform.

This email explains to the donor that their donation is eligible for a matching gift from their employer. There are buttons the donor can then click to indicate their matching gift status.

Using a matching gifts automation platform saves your team time because each match-eligible donation will automatically go through the platform’s email stream and trigger the appropriate message. This leaves your organization more time to focus on high-value matching gift opportunities.

3. Other Matching Gift Best Practices

If you’re looking for more matching gift best practices beyond promotion, we’re going to conclude with a few last suggestions that can help your team bring in more revenue to fund your mission.

Demonstrate the Impact of Matching Gifts

One thing donors love is to know their donation is making an impact. And not just that—they want to know what their specific gift went toward.

In the case of matching gifts, share with your supporters how much money has been raised specifically from corporate matches. Explain how this doubled (or even tripled) your fundraising revenue and met your goals.

Then, go even further and explain what reaching your fundraising goals accomplished. For example, did the extra revenue help your organization feed 1,000 more people? Be specific!

You can share this in an annual report, on social media, on your website, and through other channels of communication.

Follow Up on Incomplete Matches

As we’ve mentioned before, keeping track of the status of donors and their matching gifts can help your team stay organized and maximize your revenue from this channel.

This means you should be following up on incomplete match requests—though this can be challenging to do manually.

Using an automation platform, you’ll be able to follow up with donors automatically, but not bombard them to the point where they get annoyed or disinterested.

Automation platforms incorporate sending limits, which helps your team limit the number of emails sent to donors within a given period of time. All you have to do is configure it in your settings. This applies to recurring donors, one-time donors, and even major gift donors. And once a donor indicates that they’ve submitted a matching gift request, they won’t be contacted again about that particular donation.

Following up gets much easier when you have an automated system in place. Don’t let your donors forget to submit a matching gift request if they’re eligible, but keep your communication to a reasonable level. 

Acknowledge Matching Gifts

Last, but certainly not least, thanking your donors at each stage of the process is essential. Of course, you’ll thank donors after they’ve made their initial donation, but you’ll also want to thank them:

  • After they’ve submitted a matching gift request.
  • After the company match has been received by your organization.

Keeping your donors in the loop shows that you value their support and want them to know their efforts made a difference. You should also keep in mind that the matching gift company might have a set preference for acknowledgement, as well. Most companies don’t need to be acknowledged and will say so—but if a company does want an acknowledgment, look for instructions from their outreach.


Incorporating these matching gift best practices and promotional strategies can help your organization raise the funds you need. Now that you have a basis to go off of, it’s time to get back to work!

Additional Matching Gift Resources

We hope these tips have given you some great ideas for your organization! If you’re looking for even more information about matching gifts, check out these additional resources:

Put more matching gift best practices into action with a matching gift database!

Direct mail is an integral part of any multichannel fundraising campaign. Your organization benefits from mail’s high visibility, response rates, and separation from online marketing clutter. There are a few best practices you can take to make the most out of your direct donation request letter efforts. 

Effective direct mail can be the turning point in meeting your goals. A physical fundraising appeal can work to direct readers to your donation page, ask for volunteer time, spread news, and anything else you may need to drive your mission forward. The opportunities are vast with effective communication via physical mail. 

Here at iATS Payments, we’ve worked with a wide range of nonprofits to increase their ROI in their fundraising efforts. A common challenge we’ve seen organizations run into is converting direct mail supporters to actual donors. There are a few practices you can use to make your mail work for your nonprofit:

  1. Strategize your direct mail fundraising appeal with donor segments.
  2. Add a personal touch to your mail for each supporter.
  3. Write effective copy in the body of your letter.
  4. Provide ways for donors to give through a payment processor.

With these tips in mind, you’ll get the highest ROI out of your direct donation request mail campaign. Let’s unpack some of the necessary steps.

1. Strategize your direct mail fundraising appeal with donor segments.

One of the first steps your team should take in creating a marketing strategy is to segment your audience. Categorizing your donors is easy and helps you specifically target those who can push your mission forward. Here’s how taking this simple step benefits your marketing efforts:

  • Higher conversion rates
  • Increased ROI
  • Targeted communications

This way, you’ll be sending mail to the segments that have taken previous similar actions to help your mission. These recipients are more likely to help out versus someone who has never interacted with your cause. If you’re looking to move forward with segment your audience, here are three simple steps you can take to do so effectively:

Utilize your CRM data. 

Your CRM works with the data you retain to build profiles and sort your valuable fundraising data. For example, you’re able to see the data inputted during the giving process from your donors. This can look like recent giving, events they’ve registered for, and contact info. Additionally, you’re able to track their interactions with emails you’ve sent and any other interactions with your digital marketing.

Put your CRM to use by incorporating your data insights into your direct mail strategy by focusing on targeted appeals to recipients for the most effective fundraising letter possible. 

Characterize your donor groups. 

When you characterize your donors into groups, you will notice that each segment becomes its own subset within your organization. When this happens, it’s indicative that your data effectively targets different people who participate in your efforts. For example, a school’s groups may look like this: 

  • Students
  • PTA Parents
  • School Board Members
  • Faculty and Staff

With these groups, your team can paint a picture of what it looks like to contribute to each subsection and how to communicate with them efficiently.

Plan separate outreaches to your donor subsections. 

Now that your groups are separated by characteristics, your communication should be strategic for targeting their interests. For reference, DNL Omnimedia provides specific tips for segmenting your donors that your team should consider. A good way to ensure you’re leveraging this data is to make sure your fundraising letters for each group cater to their interests. Be sure to keep track of how they’re responding and adjust accordingly. 

2. Add a personal touch to your mail for each supporter.

The next step after determining your donor segments is to draft your letters with personalization to each recipient. According to Experian, personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates (source). You’re already making a specific ask to your subgroups, and it’s worth it for your team to go the extra mile and incorporate a bit of extra information from your CRM into each letter. Your fundraising software should even automate this process.

Here’s how to catch your donor’s eye. 

  • Writing Dear [their name], rather than a general salutation.
  • Taking care to include the proper spelling of their name and address.
  • Including details about their prior engagements.
  • Recognizing donors for their previous efforts.

These personalized details can save your letter from looking like junk mail to the recipient. In taking these steps, your relationships with your donors also grow that much more. Going the extra mile confirms to your recipient that you recognize their efforts and care about them as an individual. 

3. Write effective copy in the body of your letter.

Now that you have a strategy for targeting individual donors, be sure to incorporate specific writing strategies to fully establish the mission of your letter. Think about how your team can write a letter that both tells a story about your specific fundraising campaign and why you’re asking for their contributions. 

Stories leverage your letter by:

  • Having an emotional appeal to the reader.
  • Being more memorable than numbers and facts.
  • Sharing the reason why you’ve dedicated your time to this cause.

You can tell the story of why you’re devoting time and energy to this specific fundraiser in a variety of ways. For instance, communicate this through how your past efforts have positively affected the community. When recipients read of tangible results, they know your organization is capable and worth investing in. 

Another storytelling route you can take is communicating why you’ve decided to form this nonprofit in the first place. If you’re stuck in writing the body of your letter, refer to this guide of fundraising letter templates for inspiration.

However you tell the story of your mission and efforts, be sure to make the donor feel like they are the hero of your story. This is effective writing because the reader will begin to picture themselves as part of the change your group is making. For example, you’ll want to directly address them as “you”.  Remember, they care more about what they can do for your organization rather than general actions you’ve done on your own.

Finally, end your letter with a straightforward call to action for a donation, whether online or through physical mail. Make sure that you tell your reader exactly how you want them to take action. Don’t leave details up for interpretation as it may confuse them. These details can include:

  • Asking for specific amounts. Include a variety of options for donation amounts. For example, writing out “$10, $25, $50, $100…” can help your donor picture what amount will serve your organization.
  • Cater these amounts to your donor segments. With your CRM’s data, you’re able to get an idea of each recipient’s giving history. With this, you can ask for larger gifts to people with the willingness and ability to give more.
  • Direct them to your giving options. The goal of your letter is to convince your reader to give to your organization. Make sure it’s clear how they can contribute with a link or QR code to a donation page, or a physical donation form.
  • Provide clear contact information. If your recipient has any questions about their donation, be sure to provide multiple lines of contact. This will reinforce your relationship with them even further if they pursue this option.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be writing an effective direct mail appeal in no time. 

4. Provide ways for donors to give through a payment processor.

Now that you’ve inspired your recipients to give to your cause, make sure they’re able to complete the process quickly and easily. iATS Payments explains the impact of your donation page and how its design affects the completion of the donation. If your system is confusing, it can scare away potential donors at the final step. On the other hand, providing a quick and convenient way to give encourages increased or recurring giving!

Let’s get into important items to consider when developing your donation form. Your goal is not not only to capture a single donation but to increase your efforts in any way possible. For example:

  • Suggested donation amounts help donors picture what is needed for your organization to reach its goals. These can also persuade donors to give a little more than they would have previously.
  • Including a recurring donation option can increase the likelihood that your supporter will consider and follow through with this giving tactic.
  • Provide multiple options for giving; this can be through a physical prepaid envelope, your website, etc. 
  • Continued communications that donors can opt in to. Include an area where visitors can indicate that they’re interested in attending events or giving time are great for recruiting more volunteers.
  • A few optional questions to boost your donor data. Consider asking simple questions such as “how did you hear about us?” to track the ROI of your direct mail campaign.

Overall, your donation page is the final and crucial step to securing donations. The choices you make can provide an easy and fast experience for donors, and ultimately can encourage future engagement and increased donations. 

Your direct mail fundraising campaign can bring in a lot of donations for your organization. Be sure you’re taking the above tips into consideration to make the most of your efforts. Get the most out of your CRM and personalize your letters for increased readership, then drive them to your optimized donation page. Happy fundraising!

Author Biography

Robbie Bernstein 

Author photo

Robbie Bernstein, an iATS Payments Account Executive, uses her wealth of payment processing knowledge to help nonprofits thrive. Robbie puts her heart into fundraising for Cancer research, the Make a Wish Foundation and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.  

Capital campaigns can be absolutely critical to take your nonprofit’s work to the next level. These campaigns are periods of concentrated fundraising efforts to raise a significant amount of money to achieve a substantial goal that will allow your organization to more effectively work toward its mission. 

Your nonprofit might decide to launch a capital campaign to construct a new building, create a new program, or purchase a necessary but expensive piece of equipment. No matter what level of experience your organization has with capital campaigns, a refresher of outreach basics will help you make the most of your campaign. In addition, many nonprofits have had to adjust to coronavirus-related restrictions that place new challenges on capital campaign outreach efforts.

Although your outreach efforts might look different this year due to these changes, your capital campaign will still consist of two outreach phases: the quiet phase, where you reach out to your existing network of major donors, and the public phase, where you introduce your campaign to the general public and solicit final donations to your cause. 

Both phases have their own specific outreach opportunities to help achieve the goal of getting a sizable number of donors on board to meet your fundraising needs.

To make your next capital campaign a smashing success, we recommend a blend of tried-and-tested techniques such as letter-writing campaigns with a dash of the latest trending virtual tools to round out your outreach efforts. 

We’ve compiled a list of the six best outreach methods to use during your capital campaign depending on the phase you’re working on:

Quiet phase outreach methods: 

  1. Sending fundraising letters
  2. Making phone calls
  3. Polishing and publishing campaign website

Public phase outreach methods:

  1. Incorporating giving (and fun!) into kickoff event
  2. Reaching out via social media
  3. Following up with thank-you letters

According to Bloomerang’s guide to capital campaigns, organizations that conduct successful campaigns also see greater returns in their annual giving programs and an increase in subsequent major and planned gifts. Therefore, in addition to helping your nonprofit reach its immediate fundraising campaign goals, these tips can plant the seeds of giving in your community for years to come. Let’s take a closer look at the best outreach methods for each phase.

Quiet Phase Outreach Methods

The first outreach phase of a capital campaign may be called the quiet phase, but that doesn’t mean you literally stay quiet about your plans. In this phase, you’ll set up meetings with your major donors who have previously given large sums to your mission to see if they’re interested in supporting your current campaign. In the pandemic era, these meetings will be virtual, but these tips will also apply when in-person meetings resume.

The first phase of your capital campaign is where you’ll receive the largest donations to your campaign, so it’s important to optimize your outreach efforts during this phase of the campaign to make significant strides to your goal.

One of your greatest outreach assets in the quiet phase of your capital campaign is your nonprofit CRM database. You can use the information stored in your CRM to not only identify past major donors to connect with, but also identify other donors who have the potential to become major donors. For instance, your regular mid-tier donors who have the capacity to give more might be willing to do so because it’s a one-time campaign designed to accomplish a single specific goal. 

Look for these opportunities in your donor database by analyzing the potential generosity of your existing supporters (using prospect research software) as well as their engagement metrics. Supporters with a high giving capacity who are regularly engaged with your organization are the most likely to contribute during the quiet phase of your campaign. 

To maximize your fundraising results in the quiet phase of your next capital campaign, consider these outreach methods that rely on your nonprofit CRM and other digital tools:

Sending Fundraising Letters

Even though it may seem old-school, a well-crafted fundraising letter can make all the difference between a rejection or a donation boost in your capital campaign. 

Use fundraising letters to reach out and inform supporters about your campaign before setting up a meeting, or send a letter after the meeting to put the information you’ve discussed in writing for reference and to make a final appeal. 

When you’re ready to write your letters, Fundraising Letters offers pre-drafted letter templates for all kinds of organizations including nonprofits, churches, public schools, and more. We have a few tips to help customize these templates and apply them to your capital campaign: 

  • Describe the goal of your capital campaign and how it fits into supporting your organization’s overarching mission.
  • Tell a compelling story of how the fundraising from your capital campaign will enhance your organization’s ability to help people in the community. 
  • Input the names of the recipients and the fundraising request amounts you gathered from your CRM to personalize the messages. 
  • Customize the templates to match the tone of your organization. 
  • If this is a preliminary letter, request a virtual meeting with the donor to offer further information on your campaign. If this is a summary letter after you’ve already held a meeting, thank the donor for their time and provide your contact information for any further questions. 
  • Sign the letters with your name—people appreciate knowing they’re corresponding with another human and not a robot. 

Following these tips will help you customize your outreach letters to match the urgency of your current capital campaign and connect with potential major donors.

Making Phone Calls

Similar to a letter-writing campaign, some people may shy away from making phone calls because it seems like an outdated, unproductive marketing tactic. However, making personalized phone calls to donors goes a long way toward fostering donor relationships and maintaining their support. Think of these outreach calls as calling up a trusty friend to seek their support for a new venture. 

Specifically, you might want to use your outreach phone calls to see if donors might be willing to be a sponsor of your capital campaign kickoff event and set up an ensuing video chat meeting to explain your request further. You can use Fundraising Letter’s sponsorship letter templates to guide the script for your outreach phone calls. These additional tips will help you have a successful phone campaign:

  • Make your calls during the evenings from 6-9 p.m. when people are generally at home and done working for the day. 
  • Use donor data from your CRM to reference the donor’s specific history of engagement with your organization and how grateful you are to have their continued support.
  • Use your script for reference to keep the conversation on track and include the ask amount that’s personalized to each donor.

Phone calls offer another COVID-safe outreach method that sets the stage for an eventual face-to-face donor meeting using video conferencing or live stream software. 

Polishing and Publishing Your Capital Campaign Website Content

As your quiet phase winds down and you start preparing to introduce your campaign to the public, ensure that content on your website devoted to your capital campaign is optimized for educating the public on the goal of your campaign and providing easy access to donation pages. 

Your capital campaign website content can be a separate microsite linked to from your main organization site, or a page within your website. Be sure this optimized information is ready to be pushed live on the day when you kick off your capital campaign.

Your capital campaign page or website should include an overview of the goals of your campaign and illustrate the ways that donations will help achieve your mission. Include prominent call-to-action buttons that encourage supporters to “Donate now!” and take them to a well-designed donation page where they can easily input their credit card information. 

Ensure your website is optimized for receiving a high volume of donations and ready to be presented as you transition to the public phase of your capital campaign. 

Public Phase Outreach Methods

After you’ve received the support of several major donors in the quiet phase of your capital campaign (nonprofits typically receive anywhere from 50-70% of total capital campaign donations during the quiet phase), you’re ready to launch into the public phase of your campaign where you garner support from the larger community for your cause. 

The aim of this phase is to reach out to as many potential donors as possible in a wide range of public-facing events and communications. Your outreach efforts should focus on energizing your audience to reach your fundraising goals. A few outreach strategies you can use to make it through the second half of your campaign include incorporating giving into your kickoff event, reaching out on social platforms, and following up with thank you letters.

Incorporating Giving (and Fun!) Into Kickoff Event

Just because your capital campaign kickoff event goes virtual doesn’t mean it has to be any less fun. Your virtual kickoff event can actually look fairly similar to in-person events. You can host a virtual concert with a well-known artist, an online gala with special entertainers like a comedian or public speaker, or a live-streamed groundbreaking ceremony for your new project. 

Use your kickoff event to not only make people aware of and excited about your capital campaign, but also provide donation opportunities during the event itself. In your virtual kickoff live stream or video, point people to your donation page on your website. Keep a running log of donations received on your website to allow donors to see how their donations are pushing you further toward your goals. Creating and refreshing a fundraising thermometer graphic is a fun way to continuously update supporters. 

Fonteva’s guide to virtual events provides virtual event best practices that all nonprofits should be aware of such as collecting key event data, fostering communication with and between attendees, and keeping an eye out for any technical challenges. Your virtual event kickoff will set the tone for the rest of your capital campaign, so use it to generate buzz at the start of the public phase. 

Reaching Out Via Social Media

Social media will be your best friend and one of your greatest outreach assets in the public phase of your capital campaign. 

Post to your social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep your supporters updated on your campaign progress and reach out for additional donations needed to reach your goal. Make sure to customize the content you post to be specific to the platform you use and the way that supporters interact with it. You can use Instagram Stories or Facebook Live to give people more information on your campaign or start up a Twitter hashtag with your campaign title to generate conversation. 

Depending on the size of your social media following, your campaign posts have the potential to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of potential supporters of your cause. Keep your social media posts concise and to the point so anyone who scrolls past immediately understands the purpose of your campaign and how their donations can help achieve your goal. 

Following Up With Thank-You Letters

Finally, as the donations pour in during the public phase of your campaign, be sure to thank each donor with a personalized message of gratitude.

Demonstrating appreciation and fostering donor relationships is a crucial part of donor retention. Donor retention is the calculation of how many donors continue to give to your organization year after year. According to this guide to donor retention from Bloomerang, boosting your donor retention rate has major payoffs because your organization won’t have to spend as much on donor acquisition and donors tend to give in higher quantities over time. 

Be sure to go above and beyond to show your appreciation to donors to boost your donor retention rate. For example, in addition to an initial thank-you in the donation confirmation email, you might also send a hand-written letter or host an appreciation event after the campaign ends. Donor appreciation letters help supporters feel valued and leave donors with a positive impression of your organization and a willingness to stay engaged in your mission.

Your capital campaign can be an easy jumping-off point for your donor retention strategy. You’ve already gotten the attention of an abundance of capital campaign donors. Now, you can focus ongoing outreach and communication efforts on converting these capital campaign donors to repeat donors who maintain an active and fruitful engagement with your organization.


With these outreach strategies in mind, your next capital campaign can thrive and be successful even in the midst of an uncertain year. By putting donor relationships at the forefront of your outreach efforts, you can gain the support of a wide range of people in your community who stay engaged in your mission even after your campaign concludes.


Jay Love

Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang.

Jay Love is the Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang.

He has served this sector for 33 years and is considered the most well-known senior statesman whose advice is sought constantly.

Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth.

He is a graduate of Butler University with a B.S. in Business Administration. Over the years, he has given more than 2,500 speeches around the world for the charity sector and is often the voice of new technology for fundraisers.

Churches require money to keep offering services to their communities. Tithes and offerings help support the cost of operation, however, church fundraising is key to keeping afloat—especially during the COVID era.

The necessity for fundraising is apparent, regardless of denomination. For churches, fundraising can be a challenging undertaking. A route that many organizations take is sending out fundraising letters to their potential supporters. Mail appeals can reach a broad audience of congregants and are typically successful in gaining support from communities. Letters can be a cost-efficient way to share your story and frame your financial ask.

At GivingMail, we help churches like yours write and send effective fundraising letters to garner the support you need. Church fundraising is a bit unique in terms of sending nonprofit donation appeals. Sure, they inspire individuals to give, and they can raise significant funds, but there are additional items to consider for the most effective letter possible. We’ve created this guide to provide you with tips on what elements to include in your letters to best communicate with and strengthen your church community. These items include:

  • Personal Salutations
  • Campaign Information
  • Specific Ask Amounts
  • Appreciation For Their Support

Writing any church communication letter requires strategic language and personalized touches. We’ll explain the four elements that can take your fundraising letter and turn it into donations that help to push your mission forward!

1. Personal Salutations

To start your letter-writing plan, choose a church fundraising letter template that can apply to a large group of donors. After you plan your general body text, be sure to personalize each letter for every recipient. Add personal details wherever you can. Your congregants will feel valued and appreciated from being addressed personally. A few ways to add this touch are:

  • Addressing the donor. Be sure to call them by their preferred name. For example, instead of writing “Dear donor,” be sure to write “Dear [name of recipient].” This may seem simple, but it goes a long way, especially in a community as close as a church.
  • Asking based on history. Include suggested donation amounts based on the donor’s previous giving history. This shows the donor that you know them and have created an appeal that is specific for them.
  • Drawing information from your CRM software. In your letter, draw on other engagement information to personalize the letter further. This can include the last service or church event they attended, along with a broader history of how long they’ve been involved with your congregation. 
  • Segmenting your donor base. Put your hard-earned data to work. GivingMail explains how to use your nonprofit database to personalize these letters. For example, you can reach church members with the highest probability of getting involved with that particular campaign and leverage their interests to craft the message that will most resonate with them. 

With these best practices in mind, your donors will feel like the valued members of your congregation that they are. Plus, you can mutually strengthen your relationship through this messaging tactic. It’s a win-win! 

2. Campaign Information

As you’re drafting your church’s fundraising letter, be sure it is clear what you are asking of your donors and why. Be sure church members and supporters understand what the fundraising campaign is for, how it will affect the church’s mission, and what part their donation will play. No one likes to donate to a cause blindly. Answer these questions when drafting your letter to effectively market your fundraiser:

  • Why do you need their donation? 
  • Why are they donating right now?
  • How can you communicate your campaign to the best of your ability?
  • Can you include a story to explain your need? 

While answering these questions in your letter, you should position your donor as the person doing the action. For example, you could provide a scenario such as, “your gift of X dollars will help send five children to Bible Camp this year.” This detail might seem menial, but it helps the reader understand your campaign’s purpose and gives them a sense of connection to your cause. If you’re stuck on how to word your ask, check out GivingMail’s tips on how to ask for donations.

Once your mission is clear, some people may want to help out but cannot contribute financially. In which case, be sure to provide other opportunities for getting involved with your campaign, like giving time or supplies depending on the mission. After the campaign, you’ll want to reiterate your goals and progress towards them with a well-crafted impact statement to your donors. 

3. Specific Ask Amounts

Don’t leave it up to the supporter to decide how much to give. Using data collected in your CRM, you can group recipients based on giving capability. This type of personalization can help you determine specific amounts to suggest in your appeal depending on their wealth indicators and giving history. 

When you provide suggested donation amounts, the donor will recognize that you’re paying attention to their prior contributions. This gesture will reflect your church’s attention to detail. Specific amount options can benefit your fundraising efforts by:

  • Giving the donor an idea of how they can help
  • Drive them to give more
  • Tailoring asks to their giving abilities

With these benefits in mind, it’s worth spending extra time targeting your potential donors based on their giving history or financial information.

4. Appreciation for Their Support

A little appreciation goes a long way. Show appreciation for your donor’s support throughout your campaign. Each time a congregant gives your campaign somehow, whether in money, time, or supplies, you must thank them for their generosity. Without them, your church would not be able to fund its efforts and achieve its goals.

It’s important to note that sending thank-you messages strengthens your relationship with your church community as a whole. Retaining donors is more cost-effective than acquiring donors, so take advantage of every opportunity to deepen these connections. Focus primarily on those who have given once. Securing their second donations help to make it a habit. To do this effectively, be sure to show appreciation for the past engagement, drawing on personal information when applicable.

Thank-you note best practices for any point of the donor journey are crucial to optimizing your appreciation efforts. Be sure to check out these templates for inspiration.

Church fundraising letters are a persuasive and effective way to empower your community to give to your cause. How you frame and ask for fundraising contributions determines if your fundraising goals will be met. The bottom line is that a little personalization and attention to detail go a long way when communicating with your potential donors. In no time, your church will be acquiring and retaining support from a compelling fundraising letter.  Good luck!

Come warmer weather, your school may be looking for ways to plan an exciting outdoor event. Walkathons are an excellent way to bring your students and families together safely while raising money. In the COVID climate, your school walkathon might be virtual or socially distanced but can be just as effective as a typical fundraising event.

Walkathons are relatively simple to plan and host for your organization with the right tools. If your school is new to this type of event, reviewing a few frequently asked questions and getting set up with pledge fundraising software (like 99Pledges!) will simplify the process. Once you plan your event, there’s still one critical task left to tackle — promoting your walkathon.

Your school has to take steps to actively promote your walkathon to get the most out of all the hard work that went into planning it! These strategies will help you build a solid marketing foundation to ensure a successful walkathon.

  • Taking a peer-to-peer approach
  • Using multiple communication channels
  • Offering perks and shout-outs
  • Encouraging healthy competition

Effective promotional strategies will ensure that your walkathon raises money and that your students and families know about it to begin with! With a range of marketing tactics at your disposal, your event is sure to succeed with your community. Let’s dive in.

1. Take a peer-to-peer approach.

The most crucial aspect of your walkathon is the promotion of your event. The more frequently people post and talk about your event, the greater the support and turnout. As a school, the connections between your students, families, and community will give you a real leg up in this regard.

So what’s the best way to tap into the power of these community connections? Taking a peer-to-peer approach to promoting your event.

Successful peer-to-peer fundraising involves your supporters promoting your campaign on your behalf to collect donations (or, in this case, walkathon pledges) from their own online networks. When word spreads about an event, especially for a local school, people will want to support the community they are a part of. Overall, peer-to-peer strategies have a range of key benefits:

  • They help you reach a much wider audience than you would on your own.
  • They help you raise more support from your growing audience.
  • They help to strengthen your relationships with supporters by letting them directly further your
  • campaign on their own.

To give your participants an easy way to spread the word about your walkathon, you’ll need dedicated walkathon software or pledge fundraising tools. A support service specialized in these types of events will be able to set up each of your registered walkers with their individual pledge pages, which they can then easily share far and wide online.

Encourage your walkers to actively promote their pledge pages to help your school tap into these networked benefits. Parents and students alike can play crucial roles in peer-to-peer marketing to your community. With friends and family as the faces of your cause, you can gain traction with your event with the personal touches that they provide.

Ask your students and families to personalize their social media posts and emails with their own messages or stories about what your school means to them. Hearing their motivations and reasons to contribute will be effective in putting a face to the cause.

Get creative to come up with additional fundraising and marketing twists, too! Check out 99Pledges’ favorite fundraising ideas for kids to start brainstorming ways to give your promotional efforts some extra energy. For example, if your students share their pages to secure a certain number of pledges, your principal might have to complete a funny challenge.

2. Use multiple communication channels.

As you and your walkers promote your walkathon, make use of multiple communication channels to maximize your reach. For instance, fundraisers typically rely on both digital and physical outlets to spread the word about campaigns and events:

Social media – Your first step is to promote your walkathon on your organization’s main profile pages. Then, be sure to encourage your walkers to heavily focus on social media, as well. These feeds are where their friends and family are checking most frequently. Be sure to include a link straight to the relevant page for signing up or making a pledge.

Email – Send announcements to your organization’s broader community with clear instructions for getting involved or donating. Have your walkers (or their parents) actively share their personal fundraising pages via email, too. It can be a good idea to provide your participants with easy donation request templates to simplify the process.

Direct mail – In addition to digital promotion, physical letters can be just as effective for spreading the word. If you’ve planned out your walkathon well in advance, you should have plenty of time to promote it to the community using physical mailers and newsletters. Be sure to use best practices for effective fundraising letters.

Rather than relying on a single outlet, like your participants’ social media posts, your school should actively work to promote your walkathon wherever possible. If your school wants a deep dive into multichannel marketing for nonprofits, DNL OmniMedia’s digital strategy guide can be a helpful resource. However, the main idea to keep in mind is that a multichannel approach in the physical and digital spaces will maximize your visibility in your community and beyond, leading to higher event turnout and more pledges.

3. Offer special perks and shout-outs.

A prize or reward helps boost the energy and anticipation leading up to your walkathon event! Offering perks like branded t-shirts, water bottles, and more to your walkers and donors can inspire extra giving and engagement.

For example, a water bottle or t-shirt given to someone as a thank-you for making and then fulfilling a pledge can go a long way. As people contribute to your walkers’ pledge pages from around the community (or even the world!), the more geographical spread your swag items can have. This is a relatively effortless way to gain publicity for your school.

Leading up to your event, be sure to also stir some excitement on social media. Give your walkers, event volunteers, and donors public shout-outs (with their permission). Post about them on your social media profiles and encourage plenty of likes and shares. For additional peer-to-peer promotional efforts, you might even ask your supporters to write their own posts explaining what your school means to them and the community. Use these testimonials to share on your main profile to give your event a personal touch.

Use your shout-outs and promotional materials to set appropriate expectations for your event, as well. If you’ve hosted a walkathon in the past, you might include photos so that participants can know what to look forward to. If you’re conducting your walkathon virtually or taking extra precautions to ensure social distancing, take the opportunity to fully explain how it’ll all work.

4. Encourage some healthy competition.

A bit of healthy competition can go a long way to secure more pledges and raise more money for your walkathon!

Think of ideas for offering a prize (or a range of tiered prizes) for your walkers who secure the most pledges or walk the most laps. Donors will be more motivated to give if their pledge can help their loved one win a prize or rank highly among their peers. Perks for students during the school day are the best motivators for kids to get involved!

Popular prizes for school walkathons include:

  • Extra recess time
  • A homework pass
  • A goodie bag
  • A pizza party for classes with 100% participation
  • Wear a silly hat to virtual class

Use your walkathon software to set up a digital scoreboard or leaderboard to regularly update leading up to your walkathon, and reference it in your social media posts. If your virtual walkathon occurs over a longer timeframe, keep updating your leaderboard as the laps and pledges roll in to show everyone the progress your walkers are making. This option will add a fun, competitive edge to your fundraising efforts.

Amid the challenges of coming up with socially-distanced fundraising ideas, walkathons have proven to be a reliable and adaptable choice. These events can quickly gain traction within a community because of the many connections that schools have with families in the area. Through conversation in the digital and physical spaces, your walkathon will grab the attention of your community in no time!

Be sure your volunteers and walkers are spreading the word about your walkathon. The best way to get donors is to put a face to your cause, and who doesn’t love to help their kiddo’s school raise money?

As a school, you can promote your event through your own social media pages with shout-outs and share testimonials from participants. Add a fun, competitive edge to the walkathon by awarding prizes for levels of pledges or laps walked. Your community will feel appreciated for their efforts in supporting your school and will be back to help in the years to come!

Imagine you get a postcard in the mail from a nonprofit you’ve supported. It displays a photo of a smiling kid holding a backpack. The words “Because of supporters like you, Maya can go to school with all of the supplies she needs.” You’re so inspired by the messaging, that you decide to give to the organization again.

The above scenario effectively displays why nonprofit marketing leaders should do everything they can to encourage their supporters. While your organization’s mission is important and essential, that alone is not enough to incentive your audience to support your efforts and give back. That is why you need a strong content marketing strategy. 

With modern fundraising, your content marketing strategy may be focused on digital efforts. The content in your emails, on your website, and on social media all play critical roles in how supporters respond and engage with your nonprofit. However, you can’t forgo printed marketing altogether. For starters, your older donors are more used to direct mail than the internet. On top of that, receiving a physical letter offers a special touch that is harder to mimic over the computer screen.

Aligning your digital and print content strategy is essential, especially if you want your nonprofit mission to reach and inspire the right people. This guide will walk through the following topics to ensure your content strategy is set up for success:

  1. Establishing goals, audiences, and messaging
  2. Mapping out a timeline and workflow
  3. General best practices for nonprofit content strategy

The best nonprofit websites, email messaging, and other digital materials should all align with and support the organization’s other printed content. Read on to learn how. 

1. Establish goals, audiences, and messaging

When it comes to developing and aligning your digital and print content strategy, you need a solid idea of what your focused goals are, who you’re trying to reach, and the messaging you want to relay.

For example, what do you want your nonprofit marketing content strategy to accomplish? Are you trying to reach a specific fundraising goal? To help you figure it out, using the SMART method is always a great place to start. Make sure your goals are:

  • Specific 
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound 

When it comes to your nonprofit efforts, it’s important to ensure your goal is measurable and achievable. Look to your past fundraising goals to see what you’ve previously accomplished and aim to go just a little bit above. Then, make sure you’re actively able to track this goal within your nonprofit database. 

For instance, let’s say your nonprofit is focused on providing more educational opportunities for children. The goal you decided on is to fundraise $100,000, a 10% increase from what you raised last year. 

Now, it’s time to consider your audience. It’s likely that your digital vs. print audiences are a little different, with your print audience consisting of your older donors along with major donors and other active supporters. On the other hand, your digital audience might consist of younger generations of supporters as well as your small and mid-range donors. 

Take a look at your existing nonprofit donor database to get a good sense of your current donors, as well as the major and active ones. You may even segment your audience further to those who donated once, recurring donors, and more.

As your team develops your messaging, keep your goal in mind and be sure to personalize each message to the audience. If you’re reaching out to both major donors and one-time donors, you’ll likely be using print for the former and digital for the latter. Within the messaging itself, be sure to include specific details leveraging your relationship with the audience, like the donor’s specific impact and so on. 

2. Map out a timeline and workflow

To ensure your digital and print content strategy goes off without a hitch, you need to figure out a timeline and workflow for how each message will be relayed.

Kanopi, a digital agency that often works closely with nonprofits, says this: “storytelling is key to a successful brand.” Similar to how corporations and businesses implement story techniques to engage with customers, you can do the same for your nonprofit content strategy. Storytelling as a nonprofit marketing strategy is best implemented over time and by releasing content at opportune moments.

Consider creating a fleshed out calendar depicting all the times you will send out various marketing material. Note that your nonprofit’s direct mail will likely need more time to develop, print out, and send to the right address. Mark the days that you’ll develop the materials as well as the days you plan to send them out. 

Similarly, you should plan when to release digital content, whether to your nonprofit website, social media profiles, or through an email newsletter. The content in your digital and print materials can be similar, but be aware of the capabilities of each medium. For instance, you can embed a video into your website, but not for your printed letters. 

Along with developing a timeline, it’s a good idea to assign specific tasks to the key players on your marketing team. Ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the goals, audiences, and messaging strategy that you initially outlined. 

3. General best practices for nonprofit marketing content strategy

You can’t have a successful content marketing campaign without involving both digital and print. In fact, GivingMail even says that “the majority of individual donations in the US come from direct mail.” 

With established goals and messaging as your foundation, and a timeline to follow, your digital and print strategy can work together to drive genuine results and engagement for your nonprofit. To further set you up for success, we’ve compiled a list of best practices that any fundraising leader can implement:

  • Invest in a content management system (CMS) that allows for scalability and customization. A large chunk of your digital content strategy will live on your nonprofit’s website. To ensure that you can easily update content as needed, incorporate additional elements like photos or videos to supplement your messaging, or expand your system with extensions or plugins to increase site functionality, you need to find the right CMS. Popular CMSs that nonprofits use include Drupal and WordPress, but it’s worth exploring their features and differences before deciding. 
  • Ensure your marketing content is as inclusive as possible. For both digital and print content, accessibility is key. Some easy ways to make your content more inclusive is to include multiple languages and to make sure the color contrast and font size are easily readable.
  • Use the same target action in your calls-to-action for both digital and print content. The target action for your marketing content is based on your core goal. If your goal is to increase fundraising revenue, you should have clear steps to how you can do that for both your digital and physical marketing recipients. For digital content, embed a link or prominent button. For print content, you might have steps listing out how to submit a gift or even include a QR code that they can scan with their phone. 
  • Thank your supporters and donors for their help. Supporter appreciation is a step that you cannot forget in any engagement strategy. If someone gives to your organization, participates in an event, or volunteers for an activity, sending a thank you is essential. Whether that is digital or print will depend on your existing relationship with them as well as their individual preferences. Fundraising Letters has specific templates for donor thank you letters that you can take advantage of.

As your content strategy evolves, it’s critical that your nonprofit tools are actively tracking its progress. From the rate of email opens, direct mail responses, online fundraising gifts, and more, you can get a better understanding of which outreach method is garnering effective and valuable results. 

Wrapping Up

Engaging and developing relationships is one of the most rewarding parts of being a nonprofit leader. And, having a dedicated content marketing strategy is an essential cog to that strategy. 

Make sure you keep the above best practices in mind and good luck!


DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS

Allison is a recovering (and award-winning) designer who applies her creative and organizational skills to marketing strategy for Kanopi.

Her diverse, multi-disciplinary background — which in addition to design includes glassblowing, publishing, podcasting, and figure skating — contributes to strong relationships to which she offers a broad perspective.

Her job is to tell the story of Kanopi by sharing information, writing, working with staff and partners, and keeping the brand cohesive across all channels.

We all remember these dreaded words from our parents after childhood birthdays: “Don’t forget to write your thank-you notes!”

As grueling as the handwritten thank-you note process was when we were little, we can all recognize that expressing gratitude for a gift is the polite thing to do.

In the world of nonprofits, expressing gratitude for your donors’ gifts is not only polite, but essential to your success. Recognizing your donors is a critical piece of the donor retention puzzle, and donor retention helps secure long-term support for your mission.

After marketing your campaigns and events like a pro and driving your fundraisers to success, the last thing you’d want to do is let important follow-up work (and donors’ long-term support) fall by the wayside. Showing gratitude for your donors in the form of donor recognition safeguards their support of your organization and makes them much easier recruits for your future work.

Having a concrete strategy in place for how you thank your donors and an arsenal of recognition ideas will go a long way to strengthen support for your mission over time. Here you’ll find a list of best practices when it comes to donor recognition and some awesome donor recognition ideas—so you can not only secure donations, but keep your donors coming back again and again. Let’s get started.

Donor Recognition Best Practices

1. Make it prompt.

No one wants to generously give to an organization only to feel like they tossed their money out into the abyss. Prompt recognition of your donors’ contributions is vital to making sure they feel noticed and appreciated for their support.

The first contact—and first essential aspect of recognition—after a donation should be in the form of a confirmation or receipt. For online donations, an instantaneous receipt delivered via email is a must. The receipt should contain information about the donation, a quick thank-you, and the donation amount.

Make sure you mention the specific context of the donation, like the name of the virtual fundraiser or event the donor attended. For instance, if your donor attended a virtual auction and won an item, specifically mention the event and the item that they bid on to let them know you’re paying attention to each and every donation you receive.

Setting up automated receipts and thank-you emails could be a huge time-saver for your nonprofit and help prevent donor recognition from falling through the cracks. Still, don’t forget about snail mail—a direct-mail follow up can add a nice touch and show donors that you value every donation you receive. If you want some more tips on using direct mail to communicate with your donors, GivingMail’s direct mail guide is a great resource.

Acknowledgment letters can be combined with your receipt delivery or sent out on their own, but either way, they should also go out within a reasonable time frame. “Reasonable” will vary depending on your organization, but the same day for emails and within five business days for direct mail is a good rule of thumb. The donor wants to feel like you value their gift, and a prompt thank-you gives the impression of gratitude much more than a letter weeks later.

2. Make it personal.

We’ve all heard what a difference a handwritten note can make, but that’s not the only way to personalize your donor recognition efforts.

If you send out automated emails, make sure they include your donors’ names. “Dear friend” and “Dear supporter” aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy. You could also consider segmenting your donor base by age, gender, or location to further customize your letters and make your letters even more effective.

Consider the signature of the letter or email as well. Whose thanks would mean the most to the donor? A generic signature from your organization rather than one from a specific person won’t carry as much weight. Instead, sign the letter from a real person at your organization whose job is relevant to the donation, whether it’s your fundraising lead, major gifts officer, or other trusted staff member.

The more your donor feels like your communications are to them specifically from you specifically, the stronger a bond you’ll forge between them and your organization.

Including a video with your thank-you message could be another effective way to humanize your communication with your donors. The video could be a recorded thank-you from a member of your team, a constituent of your mission, or a combination of both. You should also weave in some information about what your donor’s gift amount allowed you to accomplish. More on this best practice next!

3. Make it powerful.

No matter what form your donor recognition takes, it’s essential to communicate the impact of your donors’ gifts.

You can achieve this in a variety of ways, but you should always try to be as specific as possible about the good things their donation enabled you to do. Being specific about the impact of the gift gives the donor something concrete to feel good about and reinforces their connection to your cause.

For example, maybe a donor’s $50 donation provided school supplies for three students for a whole semester of school. One way to make this statement more powerful could be naming the students (with permission, of course) or sending pictures of them along with your letter of gratitude. Specificity will make your cause more salient to the donor and will make them feel good, which means they’ll be more likely to contribute to your mission on an ongoing basis.

Your thank-you message is probably not the place to ask for another gift from your donor, at least not yet. Imagine if you sent a thank-you note for a gift that said “Thanks for my pink shoes! I love them. Can I have another pair?”

As well-intentioned as a request for more support is, and as important as your mission is, asking for another donation in the middle of your letter of appreciation can come across as ungrateful. Instead, encourage your donor to engage with your nonprofit in a new way, like by signing up for your email newsletters. Otherwise, keep the focus on your donor and the impact of their good deed!

Our Top Donor Recognition Ideas

Once you have the best practices down, it’s time to get creative. There are all sorts of ways to recognize your donors beyond traditional thank-you letters (though those are an excellent first step). First, consider the scale and nature of your nonprofit. Different organizations naturally have different resources and capabilities when it comes to donor recognition.

Large, national organizations conducting major undertakings like capital campaigns might have the ability to erect permanent donor recognition installations on a grand scale, while smaller-scale nonprofits and campaigns might opt for a smaller plaque or thoughtful gifts.

The scale of the donation should also be considered. Establishing giving levels will ensure that smaller tiers of donations made to a crowdfunding campaign and large endowments for a building expansion are proportionately recognized. We’ll cover both ends of the spectrum with these fun donor recognition ideas:

  1. Donor recognition walls. A donor recognition wall is a meaningful option that allows you to permanently mark your appreciation for your donors. Because they can accommodate a lot of names, donor walls are usually associated with large capital campaigns. With this option, there is plenty of room for customization—Eleven Fifty Seven’s donor wall ideas are sure to inspire you.
  2. Donor recognition plaques. If a large-scale donor wall isn’t feasible but you still want to recognize your major donors in a meaningful way, custom plaques are another solid choice. Donor plaques often appear outside the doors of a new building expansion or on landscape features like benches, but get creative to find the perfect fit for your own unique community of donors and campaigns.
  3. Branded freebies. Plaques aren’t realistic for every smaller-tier donation your nonprofit receives, but branded freebies could be. Consider sending out pens, T-shirts, mugs, and other customized swag with your organization’s name and/or logo as a token of your appreciation. This option has the added benefit of doing a little marketing work for you!
  4. Events. Nothing makes people feel special like an invitation to a party. To make your donors feel extra appreciated, invite them to an exclusive supporters-only occasion or find ways to recognize them at events that are open to the public. Making them a part of your community and your cause helps to ensure they’ll keep supporting your mission well into the future. Even casual virtual gatherings and happy hours are a meaningful (and cost-effective) way to show your appreciation.

When it comes time to recognize your donors in concrete ways, these are all good choices. Select the option that best fits your organization and the level of the donation, and
remember to always be prompt, personal, and powerful in all of your communications with your generous supporters.

Nurturing your relationships with your current donors through effective, appropriate, and genuine recognition is not just “the polite thing to do,” but a smart long-term strategy for securing enduring support for your nonprofit. We hope you’ll take these tips and ideas and apply them to your organization. Best of luck!

Marketing is still a bad word in a lot of nonprofit circles. It’s easy to see why. 

Unfortunately, the whole field of marketing, especially for businesses, is stained with bad example after bad example. For those of us of a certain age, it can be summed up in a series of very popular 1980s Isuzu car advertisement series where actor David Leisure blatantly told over-the-top lies about the benefits of the product. Everyone felt that they met a “Joe Isuzu” at some time in their lives. He checked all of the stereotype “marketing man” boxes that still linger, reinforced by much more sophisticated “Mad Man” characters who would do anything to sell a product.

Added to the negative image, the concept of good marketing remains unknown to most people. And let’s face it, most people came to the nonprofit sector to do good work through their mission—not put precious time and money into slick advertising campaigns. After all, shouldn’t just doing a great job be enough for anyone to see?

Unfortunately, no. 

But that’s okay. You’d be surprised at how many things you never considered are actually forms of marketing, and how, when done right, they can really boost your income and visibility.

It starts with keeping one thing in mind: everything is marketing. Take a look at these examples:

  • Marketing is whether your receptionist smiles at everyone coming in the door, and sounds cheerful answering every call.
  • Marketing is whether you have fresh paint on your walls and clean furniture for your clients.
  • Marketing is being transparent with your financials, so you build trust with your donors, clients, staff, and volunteers.
  • Marketing is building pride in your staff so that they treat every client like they’re special.

These examples of solid, baseline marketing actions aren’t expensive. They show that every part of your organization has a hand in marketing, whether it’s in their title or not. It changes the role of a Marketing Director to a coordinator of the entire organization’s look, feel and image—and not just one who creates the website or places advertisements in the local newspaper. 

Perhaps the biggest mistake anyone makes when considering marketing in a nonprofit context is to first focus on the tools of marketing, rather than on the purpose and message. Consider that you can have an award-winning website, but if you’re focusing it on people who will never use or support your services, then it’s no good. 

So, before jumping in with training your nonprofit team to be exceptional marketing professionals, be sure to ask yourself these questions:

What are your goals? 

Before you get started, however, you need to know why you are marketing. Are you looking to take on new constituents who will be served by your organization? Or are you seeking to secure generous donations from individuals who support your mission and want to help fund your programming.

It’s critical to avoid the Cheshire Cat, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there,” problem. (Which, by the way, can be very expensive in marketing). Answering the following questions can help as you craft the rest of your plan. 

Who do you need to speak to?

This goes right back to your mission. Who you need to reach will make a major impact on what you will say (your message), and how you will say it (the tools and channels you will use).

Do you need more money (of course)? Where does your money come from? Donors? Government? Paying clients? Insurance companies? Are you facing a particular issue, like a zoning fight, where you need community and government support?

Are you getting the right clients for your mission? Are you focused on a specific geographic area, or a larger demographic? It should give you pause, for example, if you’re an HIV/AIDS clinic that targets a young Latino market, and you get more baby-boomers than anyone else. 

Just remember, good marketing starts at home. Perhaps the biggest, most overlooked audience for your marketing are the people who live and work with it daily: your employees and volunteers. Missing them is a major blunder. These are exactly the people who can validate everything you say, and carry your message far and wide—if they hear and see a message tailored specifically to them.

What do you want to say to them? 

What specific information do they need, and what emotions do you want them to feel? This is a good place to remind yourself that good marketing is not manipulative, and it is definitely not counterfactual. But you can tell people what’s important in ways that resonate, like stories backed with solid facts.

So how do you get this information? Interview previous constituents for stories. Collect and analyze data. Take some good pictures. It might take a bit of time, but it’ll be worth it when you see the dynamic impact that your carefully crafted messaging has on its intended audience.

What do you want them to do?

In marketing-ese, it’s called a call-to-action. It’s the action or next step you want the consumer of your message to take. Do you want them to show up for services? Volunteer? Work for you? Vote? Give? Always market with an action in mind, and don’t be afraid to ask for that action, directly. 

What tools do you want to use?

Of course, you’ll think of the traditional strategies, like print or online advertising, social media, email, direct mail, and much more. But what about the less obvious, subtle marketing means, such as consistent email signature lines, new blinds and updated bathroom fixtures? 

Blinds? Bathroom fixtures? Yes, think of the inexpensive ways you update your home. When you do, doesn’t that make you feel better about where you are? You’ve marketed the comfort and safety of your home—to yourself

It’s the same thing with your nonprofit’s marketing. Let’s say potential clients are an important group to your nonprofit. They come in and find mismatched or outdated handles on all the bathroom sinks and blinds with missing slats in a grimy conference room. When pointed out, you think “we’re being thrifty and focused on the important things.” They’re thinking, “if they don’t have enough to keep their facilities in order, do they have enough to give me quality service?”  

And that leads to the biggest lesson of them all: Always look at marketing from the point-of-view of the people you want to speak to. 

We can all think of times when we said something innocently that ended up offending someone. It happens, and you are never going to be perfect. It’s not that you need to tip-toe around everything and water down your message—not at all! But when you want support for your mission, you need to know your audience and speak to their concerns with empathy, understanding, and strength. Basically, keep in mind what’s in it for them when they support your cause with their presence, money, votes or whatever else you are asking them for. 

How can you train your team to be good marketers?

Now that you have an idea of what marketing is and how it can improve your overall operations, here are some powerful training resources that can give you ideas on how you can be marketing aware, and marketing effective, affordably:

  1. Marketing for Nonprofits: Get an overview of what makes effective marketing with the video, Marketing for Nonprofits. This free online webinar gives you 10 steps that every nonprofit staff member, board member, and volunteer needs to know about marketing—so you can get more money, and clients, for your important mission.
  2. CX University: An essential, but largely forgotten group when it comes to nonprofit marketing are your clients! Clients are who you serve, yes, but their experience has the power to bring you more clients or keep others away!
  3. Your Daily Dose of Nonprofit Newsletter: Think of it as a “drip marketing” course to your nonprofit brain. You’ll find content on communications, management, email, SEO, copywriting, marketing, video, storytelling, design, HR, events, social media, data security, public speaking, and more. 
  4. Smart Marketing for Small Nonprofits: How about one of the most popular podcasts on the web for nonprofit marketing: the Smart Marketing for Small Nonprofits Podcast? Each week nonprofit marketing expert Cindy May gives you marketing tips, tools, resources, and ideas that help you generate greater awareness and fundraising support for your cause. Each episode is designed to help you take immediate action on the most important marketing strategies that will move your mission forward. 
  5. Mission-Based Marketing: Let’s not forget books! This book from Peter Brinckerhoff is in its third edition, and deservedly so. It’s a great handbook on how to get your program off to the right start through strategic, mission-based marketing tactics.

Most of marketing isn’t crafting clever advertisements, designing impressive billboards, or even sending fundraising letters. It’s deciding what you want to accomplish, who you need to talk to, and what you want to say. Then, beginning with the small, barely noticed, and relatively inexpensive things. Start there, train your team effectively, and grow significantly!


Matt Hugg is the founder and CEO of Nonprofit Courses.This was a guest post contributed by Matt Hugg of Nonprofit.Courses.

Matt Hugg is an author and instructor in nonprofit management in the US and abroad. He is president and founder of Nonprofit.Courses, an on-demand, eLearning educational resource for nonprofit leaders, staff, board members, and volunteers, with thousands of courses in nearly every aspect of nonprofit work.