Are Employee Matching Gift Programs Really Engaging Your Staff?

It’s common for companies with corporate philanthropy initiatives to have employee matching gifts programs. Organizations match their employees’ donations to charity to increase employee engagement, creating higher productivity and retention, and promoting their status as a socially responsible company.

Some matching gift programs succeed in increasing employee engagement and making employees feel more connected and proud of their company. These matching gift programs often have a high level of employee participation, personalization, and an emphasis on supporting causes that are important to staff members.

Unfortunately, not all employee matching gift programs are so successful. Many fall short of expectations, resulting in limited engagement and low ROI. Some even become a cost center for businesses, taking up valuable time and resources.

Here are three of the most common reasons matching gift programs don’t realize their full potential – and how you can avoid facing the same issues.

1. Employees Don’t Know About the Program

While 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gift programs, the median employee participation rate is just nine percent.¹

A large part of the problem lies in the fact that few companies communicate their program effectively. Employees are simply not aware of the program and thus don’t participate.

To raise awareness, companies should promote employee matching gift programs through internal and external communications. You can use channels such as:

  • Email
  • Newsletters
  • Social media
  • Event promotions

For the best results, use a combination of tactics to reach more of your employees. Start with channels you know your staff uses frequently, such email, then routinely encourage employees to submit matching gift requests through other avenues, such as announcements at company events.

You can also consider having interested employees serve as workplace ambassadors for their favorite nonprofits. Not only does this increase awareness about the program, but it gets employees into the habit of sharing positive news about your company and it’s philanthropy programs. When done well, this tactics often spills over into employees’ personal lives, helping improve brand awareness and reputation through word of mouth.

2. Employees Don’t Identify with the Chosen Charity

Many companies offer a single charity to support through their donations and matching gifts – or rotate through different charities during set time periods, such as every quarter or every year. This is frequently the case with large companies and those that give through private foundations. Unfortunately, if your employees don’t identify with that charity or cause, a matching gift program will do little to increase engagement.

To remedy this, companies should develop a corporate responsibility strategy that lets employees choose the charities they want to support. More than 79 percent of companies report increased donor participation rates and 73 percent more money raised when they offer employees more charities to choose from.²

If your company has this problem, consider looking into software that gives employees more flexibility in the causes they support. The best corporate philanthropy software makes it easy for every employee to choose their own charity, contribute funds, and receive a matching gift from the company – all while ensuring that businesses maintain control of assets. Many of these philantech tools are standalone solutions, but they can also wrap around your existing technology and CR program to enhance its effectiveness.

3. Employees Can’t Donate Directly from Their Paycheck

One of the reasons 401k programs work well is because employees deduct the funds directly from their paycheck. They never “see” the money and therefore they don’t miss it. The same is true of many employee matching gift programs. When staff members see the money in their bank account, they may be less likely to donate directly from their pocket.

The best corporate philanthropy programs let employees automatically deduct pre-tax funds from their paycheck to give to charities. By making the process easy and automated, employees are much more likely to participate. They also see immediate tax benefits, which serve as an added incentive to participate.

Workplace giving software can help you enable automatic paycheck deductions without adding administrative work for your HR team.

4. Matching Gift Processes are Long and Complicated

More companies have matching gift programs and funds than is actually used. In 2016 alone, $10 billion of matching funds went unclaimed.¹ Much of those funds were left unclaimed due to the complexity of the programs. We’ve seen many programs where requesting and approving a matching gift takes months. The process goes something like this:

  1. Employee submits a matching gift request.
  2. HR researches the charity and donation to determine eligibility.
  3. HR requests a matching donation, which can vary based on title and tenure.
  4. HR contacts the charity to get the necessary information.
  5. A 90-day approval period begins.
  6. Final approval and communication.

It’s not uncommon for staff in multiple industries to face similar challenges with employee matching gift programs. They have to go through a long, arduous process simply to amplify their donation and take advantage of what should be a simple benefit. It’s often more trouble than it’s worth, causing many employees not to participate.

That only compounds the problems other matching gift programs see, such as low awareness and a lack of personalization. It also means that many companies expend a lot of time and resources supporting a program that isn’t being used.

Both companies and employees benefit by streamlining processes. Automation tools, as well as philantech that make requesting and approving matching gifts fast and easier, helps encourage employee participation and take the administrative burden off your HR staff.

Make Participating in Your Employee Matching Gift Program Easy

Mentioning matching gifts in fundraising appeals results in a 71 percent increase in the response rate and a 51 percent increase in the average donation amount,¹ making it a powerful vehicle for corporate responsibility. But a complicated program that locks employees into giving to a single charity chosen by your company likely won’t see the participation rates you want, nor will it result in increased employee engagement or retention.

Find ways to simplify your program, making it easy for employees to get involved and give to causes they care about – automatically, if possible. The simpler and more personalized your program, the more likely it is to engage employees and increase your workplace giving ROI.



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