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Business of Giving: The Art of the Matching Gift


Get competitive - and outdo fellow donors.

If you're reading this site, you're probably a go-getter who doesn't like to be one-upped by the firm across the street. So let me get your competitive juices flowing.

Did you know that there are firms out there that not only match employee charitable contributions, but give $2 (or better) for every dollar donated? No matter what the charity, from a local public broadcasting station to the American Heart Association, that donation is matched at an amount greater than the employee's original contribution.

One-for-one matches are great in and of themselves. But these double-dollar programs really help charities in their fundraising efforts in ways beyond the obvious ones. Charities also receive more donors, period. Knowing that their $100 investment can bring a 200% return motivates people to give. They instantly feel as if they're doing more. This is especially true for new donors, who often start their contributions small - and whose interest can grow over time.

Those are the reasons why double- and triple-matching are good for charities. But why are they good for the company? Here's an example: Two years ago, Citizens Financial Group decided to institute a 2-for-1 matching program. They already had a one-for-one program in place. What convinced them to up the ante? Their employees.

"We asked our 25,000 Citizens colleagues to fill out a very simple, short online survey," says Blake Jordan, Citizens' senior vice president and director of corporate giving. "We asked, 'What are you doing in the community? Where are you involved? At what type of groups do you volunteer?' And we were amazed when we got the data. Our colleagues were doing almost 300,000 hours a year in the community. It was just overwhelming."

Citizens decided that if volunteering was so important to its employees, then the company should support that endeavor. The "Give as you Earn" program provides a two-for-one match, up to $1,000 per employee, to any nonprofit organization.

But why wasn't one-for-one good enough? "We felt very strongly that it is important to support our colleagues and it is also very important for us to support the local communities where we live and work," says. "Our philosophy has been for years that the success of our business is based on the success of our communities and our happy and loyal workforce. So, this is just one way for us to do that."

In this case, Citizens' above-and-beyond financial commitment sent a message to employees that the bank supports what is important in their lives and communities. And from a branding perspective, it also sends the message to customers and potential clients that Citizens is a bank that cares about its community.

Now, I'm not saying that every company or firm should do a double matching program. But I am challenging you to get creative with your corporate giving programs, especially those that involve your employees. What can you do to help support your community, support the interests of your employees and build a good philanthropic image for your firm? If you've already got a great program in place, leave a comment and let me know. Let's keep these competitive juices flowing.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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