Everyone loves a freebie. A ‘buy one, get one free’ deal is great clickbait for marketers. Corporate matched donations for a giving day event or campaign are often marketed in the same way. Double your giving and impact by triggering corporate donations. We love to see corporates spending some of their profits on the community rather than shareholders, but like the showbags at the Melbourne Show, the gifts don’t always live up to the promise.
Giving day events have grown in popularity as a way to mobilise all audiences for a non-profit’s cause. Matched corporate donations for workplace giving are also popular amongst community minded staff. Do corporate matched donations add value and what are the pros and cons?
Who wouldn’t like a boost to revenues? The ‘double your impact’ hook can encourage regular donors and give them greater satisfaction than a normal gift. The combination of scarcity, urgency and a freebie can be very enticing. The corporate matched donations can also inspire participation from staff, customers and corporate networks. It’s a great way for corporates to demonstrate that they’re walking the talk, rather than just spending other people’s money. If the corporate donation is positioned as part of their authentic commitment to community, it can result in some positive PR and customer goodwill. Matched donations could also be used strategically to enhance staff engagement. Indeed, staff are usually the ones advocating to their corporates to provide matching donations for staff fundraising efforts and regular workplace giving, so it’s a great way to leverage your regular donor base for more impact.
Corporate matching donations can also be an easy point of entry for small to medium sized business partners. They may lack the resources of their bigger competitors but they often have a deeper relationship to the communities in which they operate. If the SMEs have limited budget, it’s a good way to get bigger impact for their chosen cause.
The main drawback for matched corporate donations is that they are often transactional, not relationship driven. The longer-term value of a corporate partnership is in growing the relationship, not settling for a series of one-off donations. With a deeper relationship comes trust collaboration and innovation- from which great financial commitment usually flows. Whilst a quick boost for revenue looks great for individual KPIs, it can come at the cost of a broader relationship. It’s hard to grow a relationship from a series of one-night stands and you may end up being exploited by corporates who just want some cheap PR.
Timing is another major issue. Corporate budget cycles vary and they may not sync with your plans for giving events. You need to plan a long time in advance, so don’t pressure a corporate partnership manager to come up with matching corporates for a giving event that’s only two months away. It’s a very one-sided approach; you’re simply offering some one-off marketing benefits in exchange for a donation. It doesn’t allow you time to get to know the corporate’s ambitions, priorities and pain points. It’s all about you, not them and you may burn bigger relationship opportunities in the process.
The general public are increasingly sceptical about corporate donations and any whiff of tokenism can attract some adverse social media attention. Activists in Australia are targeting the big supermarkets for perceived profiteering during a cost-of-living crisis, and corporate donations are often criticised for not being generous enough. It may be valuable income for your non-profit, but a corporate can attract some negative publicity from a sceptical community.
In trying to attract matched corporate donations a non-profit can be tempted to offer a suite of benefits that are too generous. You need to watch the cost of delivering those benefits and whether they undermine what you’re offering to long standing corporate partners. If corporates can get away with a small donation for big benefits they’ll probably take the opportunity. But you won’t be able to upgrade them to a bigger partnership afterwards and you could create conflicts with other corporate relationships.
The final risk of matched donations, especially for a giving day event, is that a corporate will simply deduct them from the total budget they have set aside for you. Corporate budgets are not bottomless and they will likely factor in a donation and simply delay making it until the right time. Better to have the commitment up front in a more holistic partnership than wait for it to dribble through in small amounts across the year.
Corporate matched donations can be a valuable addition to a non-profit’s income, especially if they are matches for workplace giving or employee fundraising. This tends to be more regular and predictable and is an authentic demonstration of a corporate’s commitment to its employees.
Corporate matched donations for giving events can be problematic if they are left to the last minute, prevent you from growing a relationship or the business is simply exploiting you for some cheap goodwill. Treat them with caution and plan well in advance to choose your matching partners carefully. Like those brightly coloured showbags, you need to check the contents to see if you’re getting value for money.