Brewer Direct



Premier Non Profit Marketing Partner

A Matching Challenge campaign can potentially lead to increased response rates, average gifts and net revenue. To maximize your match, here are 3 steps on creating a campaign that’s most likely to succeed.

Everyone knows that 2 is better than 1.

And that’s the whole strategy behind a Matching Challenge gift!

A Matching Challenge offer, also called a Challenge Grant, takes your usual 1:1 offer and offers donors a limited window where their donation will be worth 2:1 instead. If you’re a nonprofit or fundraiser, you’re familiar with Matching Challenge language like:


✔ $10,000 Matching Challenge  

✔ Deadline: June 30

The power of the Matching Challenge is in its SPECIFICS. It has a specific offer and goal, with a specific deadline, as seen in the examples above. The most effective Matching Challenge appeals also speak to specific outcomes and results – how much more will be accomplished with those funds.  

These specifics often spur donors who may not have given to a typical appeal to take action. Donors who would have given anyway will often give more, knowing their donation doubles. Because of that, a Matching Challenge offer commonly raises more than twice the amount of a standard campaign.

In a year-over-year comparison, Brewer Direct showed the increase in response rate, average gift and net revenue per piece for its clients by testing a Matching Challenge offer in 2016 instead of the 2015 control offer.

                                                                                              Response                                 Avg. Gift                                Net Revenue Per Piece

2015 (control offer)                                                                 6.94%                                   $41.86                                                   $2.38

2016 (Matching Challenge)                                                   8.27%                                   $52.40                                                   $3.80

Increase in Net Revenue Per Piece: +$1.42

Other sources bear out Brewer Direct’s results. According to Dean Karlan’s article “Small Matches and Charitable Giving: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment” in the Journal of Public Economics, one study showed that a Matching Challenge offer brought in 23% more donors and 18% more donations when compared to an identical campaign.  

So it’s clear that donors find a Matching Challenge gift offer appealing. But knowing that, what are the best practices for obtaining a Challenge and communicating it to your donors?  

Obtaining a Matching Challenge gift takes time to pre-plan and set into motion. The more preparation, the easier the process. One of the most popular and effective times to offer a Matching Challenge is during your Year End campaign. To ensure its success, the optimal time to begin planning is at least 6 months ahead of time.

Starting early gives you time to implement the 3 key steps to any successful Matching Challenge campaign!

STEP #1: The first step of any good Matching Challenge is figuring out your specific goal. Will the Challenge be focused on providing basic care like meals or medical care? Will it be tied to a Capital Campaign for expanded services? Will you launch a new program with the funds? The more specific your goal is, the easier it will be when you move to the second step of your Matching Challenge.

STEP #2: The next step is engaging your major donors, Board of Directors or corporate partners. This is why it’s best to have a specific goal in mind first – so that when you speak to them, you can clearly communicate the goal and engage them on how their involvement will help meet that goal.

As fundraiser Laurence Pagnoni in NonProfit Quarterly puts it, “Spell out what the Challenge gift will do to help raise more money from other donors… You can and ought to show the major donor how much a Challenge boosts response compared to a typical appeal. Use the same pitch on the Board. It’s all about leveraging the money.”

If you’re not sure which major donors, Board or corporate partners to approach, it’s time to go to your data! Assess who your most generous donors are based on the last year of campaigns or a recent event – and then, get in touch with them. A phone call is a great way to initiate contact and can lead to an in-person meeting.

Some development professionals may feel a little skittish about asking for such a large donation all at once – and that’s understandable. Don’t get hung up on the dollar amount! Your pitch should center on the Challenge goal and how much money needs to be raised to achieve that goal. Your major donors, Board or corporate partners will likely be more interested in putting up a Matching Challenge gift, especially if he, she or they know how much their gift will encourage other donors to give.  

This process may take time – and at least a few conversations! Don’t be discouraged if your initial phone calls aren’t successful. Look back at your goals and work on incorporating more specifics into your future calls and meetings with major donors.

STEP #3: Once you’ve locked down an individual or group to issue the Matching Challenge gift, then it’s time to prepare your communications with the rest of your donors. And that means effectively communicating the URGENCY of this offer.

A Matching Challenge is a limited-time offer and as such, utilizing a ticking clock, or a countdown to a final deadline, is a proven strategy for success. Donors feel the urgency to make their gift while it still has double the impact, provides twice the help and turns $50 into $100.

Don’t forget to reach out to donors through ALL the channels available! For example, in addition to direct mail, include this offer in your newsletters and your email appeals. Organic social media posts featuring stories of changed lives coupled with hard-hitting donation-driven asks is an effective way to reach donors during the last days and hours of a Matching Challenge campaign.

When you set specific goals, engage your most generous partners to put up the Challenge gift and communicate the offer with a sense of urgency, a Matching Challenge offer can yield some of the highest response rates, average gifts and revenue of your entire fundraising year. Begin planning your campaign at least 6 months in advance to take advantage of all the benefits that a Challenge gift can offer your organization.  

Here’s more on Matching! To download our FREE GUIDE on how to use all your communication channels to maximize your Matching Challenge gift, please click here.  


Does your organization need expert guidance in setting up or maximizing a Matching Challenge campaign? Lolly can help! Get in touch with Brewer Direct’s Client Service Lead Lolly Colombo by clicking here.     


Tell us your experiences with Matching Challenge offers @brewerdirect!   

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