How to Start an Employee Matching Gifts Program in 6 Easy Steps

Are you ready to support today’s workforce when it comes to Employee Giving Programs?

Gone are the days of everyone gathering in the fall to rally for the yearly United Way campaign.  Participation rates are plummeting and it’s no surprise.  Most employee giving campaigns with the exception of the largest of enterprises use paper forms.  Baby Boomers are retiring and Millenials don’t do paper. For most companies, this may seem like a daunting task or at a minimum a very expensive task.  But, as more & more Millenials come into the work force, it’s becoming more critical that companies embrace and foster how Millenials are already giving back versus attempting to convince them to adopt to an antiquated corporate policy based on paper forms or isolated internal systems.

So the challenge becomes, “How can companies provide a consumer experience for employees giving at work?

These 6 easy steps will get you started quickly and ensure success.  To Start a Matching Gifts programs is really not that hard at all.   Just follow these 6 steps to get started.

6 Steps to Start an Employee Matching Gifts Program

Step 1.  Act Like a Startup


Often, companies spend months or a year designing the perfect employee giving program, writing down requirements and policies, engaging in an RFP process, and evaluating & choosing a vendor.

Don’t fall into this trap.  Don’t try to design the perfect employee giving programs.   You will waste precious time and will likely end up with a program that has low participation rates. Rather, become an “intrapraneur” in your company and follow the lean startup methodology.  That means start with a minimum viable program, then iterate over & over as you move forward.  This can easily be done through today’s cloud software with minimal expense.

GivingTrax Employee Matching Gifts Software, for example, allows companies to get started for as little as $50/mo per managed location.

Step 2 – Set a Budget for a Pilot or Test Program

Step 2 - Set Budget for Employee Matching Gifts Program

This does not have to be a costly program.    Start small and see how it goes the first few months.  Most companies can find $25 – $50K for a pilot.

One of the trends we’re seeing is companies are re-allocating part of their corporate contributions budget to employee matching gifts.  If you are struggling to locate funds for a pilot, approach your corporate philanthropy group to divert some of those dollars.

Step 3 – Decide on the Employee Matching Gift Rate

Step 3 - Set Employee Matching Gift Rate

A common approach is to match employee donations at a rate of 1:1, or dollar for dollar, up to a yearly maximum amount.  You can also set limits on any individual gift amount.  Your target budget will largely drive the program details.   Let’s look at an example of how this works for a small company.  Say your budget is $25,000 for an employee matching gifts program. For planning purposes, let’s assume:

  • Company Size of 1,500 Employees
  • 15% Participation Rate
  • $25,000 Budget
  • Employee Match Rate of 1:1, or 100% dollar for dollar

Based on a $25,000 budget, the maximum annual cap per employee that can be funded is:

Potential Cost:  15% participation rate = .15 x 1,500 employees = 225 employees

$25,000 budget / 225 employees participating = $111.11

Given this scenario, you could begin a program with these parameters:

  • Annual Cap of $100 per employee matching gift
  • Individual Donation Cap of $100

Alternatively, for larger organizations, say  a company with 7,500 employees, you could begin with a desired match rate, say $250 per employee annually.   The question then becomes, “how much do I need to budget for an employee giving program?”.  To calculate the amount, we first need to estimate the participation rate:

  • Company Size of 7,500 Employees
  • 15% Participation Rate
  • Employee Match Rate of 1:1, or 100% dollar for dollar
  • Annual Cap per employee matching gift = $250
  • Individual Donation Cap of $250

Given this scenario, you would need to budget:

15% participation rate x 10,000 employees = .15 x 7,500 = 1,125 employees

1,125 employees x $250 (annual max) = $281,000

The budgeted amount would need to be approximately $300,000 for the employee matching gift program.  If this amount is not affordable, the easiest way to lower the potential cost is to reduce the donation match rate.  In this scenario, reducing the employee matching gift rate to .5:1, or $.50 cents per dollar donated by the employee, drops the budget in half down to $150,000.

Step 4 – Decide Eligibility Criteria

Step 4 - Decide Eligibility Criteria for Employer Match

a.  Employee Eligibility Criteria – Most companies will allow full-time employees to participate, following their probationary period, if applicable.  We recommend allowing employees to participate at the same time as they become eligible for other company benefits.  Larger organizations will extend employee matching gifts programs to retirees, although at a lower rate.

b.  Recipient Organization Criteria – Most companies restrict employee matching gifts programs to eligible 501(C)(3) nonprofit organizations.  Occassionally, companies will restrict employee matches to specific types of causes the company endorses or prefers based on their industry or leadership preferences.  Our  recommendation at GivingTrax and the current trend in employee matching gifts programs is to offer open matches to any valid 501(C)(3), adding restrictions to organizations that may be counter to your organizations values or to meet regulatory requirements.  This gives you the added benefit of gaining insight into what your employees care about.

Some companies may go a step further, offering to match employee contributions to other organizations, such as schools, youth sports teams or hobby groups (e.g. bicycle club), that may not be a 501(C)(3) organization.

Any software chosen should include vetting of eligible organizations to ensure the donations will be given to valid 501(C)(3) organizations and offer the ability to restrict to specific types of causes as you may desire.  Our recommendation for matching gifts is to start small, by limiting the recipient to valid nonprofits and school organizations, then perhaps consider broadening the program based on direct feedback you receive.

Step 5 – Choose a department, division,  or sub-group to use as a pilot

Step 5-Pilot-Employee-Matching-Gifts-Program-in-Department-or-Division

Select a few departments, or divisions if you are a larger company, to get started.  Don’t make the mistake of rolling out a company-wide program without first testing it in a few selected areas.

Remember the lean startup approach is a continuous cycle of improvements.  Take the opportunity to learn from the initial users to validate your company’s potential participation rate and thus your ultimate budget requirements, the ease of use for the chosen software tool and potential areas for increasing employee engagement. This also helps minimize your budget exposure during a pilot phase.

Step 6 – Select  Cloud Software as a Service tool to Manage your Program

Step 6- Select Cloud Software as a Service for Employee Matching Gifts Programs

Why?  Because cloud software is low cost and requires no I/T services to use.  Generally, all you need is an email id to get started.    Plus, there should be very little to no setup or customization costs.   Why buy and maintain an expensive software product on your servers or pay to use & maintain a custom-built product to access from your intranet, when cloud software is so much cheaper?

Software as a Service first became widely known with the success of for sales automation.

When looking for cloud software, be sure to vet the vendor to ensure their offering is truly cloud vs remotely accessed custom implemented software.  Just ask these questions:

  • Is it truly multi-tenant or is the vendor running a specific instance of the software for each client?
  • Are there customization costs?
  • What is needed to get started?
  • How is the software maintained?
  • How are updates be provided?
  • How frequently are updates made?
  • How is a unique requirement handled?

The answers to these questions will provide insight into whether the offering is truly cloud software as a service or simply remotely accessed software.  An added bonus is your employees will be able to access eligible nonprofits anytime and from anywhere.  

Remember, the goal is to provide a consumer experience for your employees giving back at work.  As their employer, you want to foster employee giving by offering to match it and by making it as easy to use and just as engaging as a consumer websites.   This will not only foster employee loyalty, but will also allow you to gain a better understanding of what your employees care about.  

Of course, we hope you’ll choose GivingTrax for Employee Matching Gifts Programs , which provides the added benefit of empowering your employees to maintain access to their dashboard even when changing employers, but any new cloud software will be better than paper forms.