The Trick to Effective Match Campaigns

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Match campaigns can be an effective way to raise more money for your organization. It is also a good way to make donors feel like they have doubled their impact. However, it is pivotal that the timing of the gift be proper in order to avoid false advertising to your potential donor(s).

What is a Match Campaign and how can it be Marketed?

A match campaign is where an individual, group, or foundation pledges to give a donation to a charitable organization to match all donations from other supporters within a certain timeframe. For example, if Donor A wants to give $10k, then the organization must get $10k in donations from other sources before the organization actually receives the money from Donor A.  These campaigns are frequently seen as end of the year giving campaigns because there may be large donors that are missing a certain amount of money to meet their yearly giving quota and need to donate prior to December 31 for tax reasons.

The timing of the gift is critical to avoid false advertising. It is important to establish a timeline for the match campaign that allows for adequate time to receive donations to be matched by Donor A’s contribution. This allows the nonprofit to advertise that all new donations will be doubled due to Donor A matching the funds at a later date.

What Happens if the Nonprofit Already has Funds from Donor A?

If Donor A’s money is accepted before the matching donations, then you must do a challenge campaign instead. A challenge campaign is where, with the Donor’s permission, an organization announces that it has already received a donation and that Donor A has challenged other donors to raise the same amount. The key difference between a match campaign and a challenge campaign is that the organization already has the money from Donor A in a challenge campaign. This can have an adverse effect on other potential donors because it doesn’t “double” their donation.  

What to Avoid When Starting a Match Campaign

A common mistake made in creating a match campaign is taking the donation ahead of time rather than waiting for the other donations to come in. The match campaign is allowed only if money from Donor A is received after other donors give. The money can be held in escrow by a third-party if necessary.  However, if Donor A already donated the money then you must do a challenge campaign rather than a match campaign in order to avoid false advertising to donors.


Did you know the Colorado Nonprofit Legal Center can assist with any questions you have about fundraising? Reach out today with any questions you have about the differences between match campaigns and challenge campaigns. We are happy to assist in any questions you may have.

Written by Graham Hill

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