QUICK SHOT: Does a Matching Challenge REALLY work?

Matt Rayburn, Account Director/Strategist

Here’s a little info about me… I don’t believe in hacks or shortcuts. I know success in direct marketing – like in life – is the result of hard work, struggle and persistence. It requires patiently making little improvements over and over to make things better, not trying out some easy fix. 

However, every rule has its exception and Matching Challenges are touted as a surefire winner in the fundraising world. So the question today is: Does a Matching Challenge REALLY work?

Let’s investigate and see… 

Did a Matching Challenge work better than a Summer Step-Up Challenge?

In 2021, BDI clients had the option of running two different campaigns for May. 

  • Campaign #1: a Summer Step-Up Challenge campaign that encouraged donors to “step up and help the Mission” get ready for the busy summer months. 
  • Campaign #2: a Matching Challenge campaign that doubled the donor’s gift using a matching gift from a generous friend of the Mission. 

The idea behind the Matching Challenge campaign is that the major donor’s matching gift would only be secured if regular donors donated an equal amount. 

It’s a powerful motivator for both regular donors (who feel like they are needed even more) and major donors (who feel like their gift can be strategically maximized). 

If you’re guessing which campaign did better, here’s a hint… it wasn’t even close.

The Matching Challenge really works! It trounced the Summer Step-Up Challenge, generating a higher response rate and average gift – leading to $2.28 more revenue per piece mailed. On the follow-up, the Match outperformed the Challenge again with a higher response rate and higher gift – garnering $1.44 more revenue per piece mailed. 

And to be clear, this was not an anomaly. The previous year, the Matching Challenge campaigns won too… and the year before that… and the year before that… 

Are you starting to see a trend?

More proof that a Matching Challenge is the way to go! 

A match doesn’t just work well in May. In 2021, BDI offered a matching campaign for clients participating in our Year End Campaign. It was the same campaign for every Mission: The overall strategy was to ask donors to make a gift before the end of the year. This is one of the best campaigns of the year as donors like to ensure that Missions finish the year financially stable (and also ensure that they maximize their tax write-offs).  

Again, the year-end campaigns that incorporated a Matching Challenge offer performed significantly better than the non-match versions. It also worked better online when we created and deployed a special Giving Tuesday Matching campaign in 2020.

So despite the fact that I don’t believe in hacks and shortcuts, let me offer you a huge one: Any time you get a chance to do a matching campaign do not hesitate… Do the match! It’s an easy strategy that will make your organization more money.

And for those of you who have struggled to get a donor (or group of donors) to commit to a match in the past, that’s okay, too. Keep working at it. Embrace the struggle. Be persistent. 

Matching Challenges REALLY do work… so do your best to utilize them whenever possible, and the result will be more revenue for your organization!  

  • Matthew Rayburn

    Matthew Rayburn, Account Strategist

    For 20 years, Matt’s work on both the agency and nonprofit side to bring faith-based solutions to issues of homelessness, poverty and addiction. Prior to joining BDI, he was an Account Manager at an agency serving nonprofits and provided leadership at Christian nonprofits, including as Executive Director of Family Promise of San Gabriel Valley, Director of People Assisting the Homeless and Development Director at The Jonah Project. In these roles, Matt spearheaded fundraising efforts to increase housing, as well as coordinated a highly-successful shelter network of faith communities in the greater Los Angeles area.

    As an Account Strategist at BDI, Matt oversees his clients’ accounts with an unparalleled level of empathy and expertise and a passion for his clients’ Kingdom work, while also drawing on his many years working in nonprofit leadership. With his years of experience on the client side, a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and as a Certified Fundraising Professional (CFP), Matt has a holistic view of his clients’ ministries and can work alongside them as a trusted expert and advisor.

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