Charitable Contribution 'Matching' Challenges

This is meant as more of a GQ, but there might not be any hard factual answer, so I’ma put it here.

“If you donate now, your contribution will be matched by a challenge amount from the ACME Corporation - so your contribution will be doubled.”

These ‘matching challenges’ are doubtlessly effective - else why so many of them - but I can’t bring myself to believe that they’re totally honest. It seems more likely to me that ACME has donated $X anyhow, so the charity will only be missing your smaller contribution if you never send it in.

Totally honest or not, it won’t stop any of my contributions, but I’d frankly enjoy learning that one of my gray suspicions is wrong.


This article seems to say that matching is the only thing most donors explicitly sign up for. They may contribute even if the funds aren’t fully raised to the limit specified, but they are under no obligation to do so.

Career Development Professional here.

These are legitimate. The matching challenge can motivate donors who might otherwise pass the appeal by.

I have not had any personal experience with what happens if the challenge is NOT met. IOW if JoeBlow Foundation promises to give $20,000 if donors give $20,000 in the next hour (as in a public radio appeal) and donors don’t pony up the amount-- does the JoeBlow Foundation just walk away in disgust? Chances are they will extend the appeal for a longer time.

A different scenario, if the JoeBlow Foundation says they will match all donations made in the next hour up to $20,000, then yes, they will follow through. If donations are less than $20K, they will match. If they are more than $20K, I feel pretty sure they will continue to match over the amount.

The idea is that the JoeBlow Foundation is already a supporter of the organization. They DO want to make a give, and they want to motivate donors. It is effective.

Thanks for your responses; good to know.

Thanks for raising the question, and thanks for the answers! I also thought it was just a bit of motivational dishonesty.

By “motivational dishonesty,” you mean that the organization and or the foundation would claim that your donation would be matched and then they wouldn’t match it?

If so, that is a disturbing level of cynicism. Not saying it’s 100% unjustified in all times and places, but holy crap. :worried: On many occasions during my 40-ish year career, I prepared letters or reports to foundations/corporations listing the individual donations we received, name by name and amount by amount in a given campaign in order to trigger the matching gift. The foundation’s accountants had to have this for their reporting to the IRS and Board. (Unless it was a private family foundation.) Matching Gifts are a Real Thing.

The executive director of a charity I work with had this happen to another charity he worked for. When the charity didn’t meet their fundraising goal, the donor didn’t pay the money to the charity but the donor later re-offered to do another matching funds campaign on the same terms. He made sure that the second fundraising campaign was sufficiently publicized to meet the challenge.

I probably am disturbingly cynical, but in this particular case, no. I merely thought the money was already promised and the request for matching it was just a wee bit of dishonesty to motivate other donors.

I see these about the same as the perrenial “Hurry up! Big sale ends tomorrow!” come ons.

I see it as a motivational trick to overcome procrastination in folks who are almost to the tipping point of writing that check. And evidence says there’s a lot of those people.

IOW, like most of marketing, it’s intellectually & morally dishonest even if it’s 100% legally & monetarily honest.

WHOA! That’s a bit over the top. Lot of bitterness there. I’m guessing there’s some history.

Sometimes an organization does have a deadline and if you can motivate fence-sitters to make a donation in a timely fashion, that’s hardly “intellectually & morally dishonest.”

I did this for a living, AND I love and value, for example, NPR, but sometimes a matching gift, especially one with a deadline, WILL motivate me to give now rather than put it off.

When you raise charitable funds, you never know when you’re going to hit someone’s hot button. You certainly try to avoid doing that while still being effective. My first development job was with the American Red Cross, an organization my mother hated because she never forgave them for charging American soldiers for donuts during WWII. (They did that because other countries’ aid organizations charged their soldiers, and for Americans to get their goodies free caused hard feelings. Little did they know that charging for the donuts would cause 50+ years of hard feelings.) The generation that had to buy the donuts are mostly gone now (my mother died two years ago at age 93), and that’s probably the only thing that will lay that ghost.

Please tell me the donuts themselves are long gone [grin]. Yes, I’d heard the same story and the same explanation from another Red Cross worker.

Us people is a curious lot, ain’t we?

[quote=“ThelmaLou, post:10, topic:913386”]
WHOA! That’s a bit over the top. Lot of bitterness there. I’m guessing there’s some history.

[/quote]I have no “history” with charities good, bad, or otherwise.

I just have a deep-seated disdain for all uses of applied psychology in the pursuit of money or power. When an entity gets people to do something, even a good something, via a bad method, that’s a bad thing.