Matching contribution programs help turn donations into even bigger bucks
Derek Trimm ’13 was in employee orientation for his new job with ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. when he heard about the company’s matching gift program. His charitable donations, he learned, could be matched by his new employer up to three times the amount he gave. “Immediately,” he says, “I thought of giving back to UTSA.”
Trimm graduated from UTSA with a double major in finance and in real estate finance and development. He made his first donation to the university within four months of being hired and has turned $350 into $1,400, thanks to the ExxonMobil matching gift program. “Everybody can do their part,” he says. “You give what you can give, and cumulatively all the alumni can pull together and really create opportunities.”
Matching for UTSA
A handful of businesses have been regular contributors to the university with matching funds
Bank of America
Ernst & Young
Matching contribution programs can be hidden gems for people who want to get the most for their money, experts say. But at times they are so hidden that donors don’t know they are available. The General Electric Foundation is believed to have created the first corporate matching contribution program in 1954. Now more than half of Fortune 500 companies have one, while 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies do, according to HEPdata, a company that helps nonprofits navigate the world of matching corporate gifts.
“Don’t leave money on the table,” says Joan Graham, director of client relations at HEPdata. “It’s amazing how much a contribution can grow as a matching gift, and there are a lot of people who are unaware of these programs. When I first work with clients I tell them they have to embrace matching gifts and educate people.”
That is exactly why the university decided to more actively pursue matching gifts. By setting up a program that creates awareness and campaigns to get the matches, UTSA gift services saw an 18 percent increase in contribution matches in the first year. Now heading into its third, each year since has maintained a 20 percent increase.
For the university, partnering with the companies was easy because the entities want to show their employees that there is interest in what they value. For employees, knowing an employer will show the same support to their alma mater makes giving even better.
The UTSA program consists of three parts. The first is keeping a database of companies that match donations to support higher education. Second, the operations and gift services team identify gifts already given that could potentially be matched and then contact the donors about pursuing a match. Finally, the program oversees the operations side of the matching gift process. This includes tracking, for example, which companies match gifts to athletics programs and which companies match volunteer hours.
Trimm says he gave back to UTSA because he wanted to help provide opportunities for students like him. Although he got a big boost from scholarships, he worked in the restaurant industry to help pay for his education. When he first arrived at UTSA he thought he would eventually transfer to UT Austin. He decided against it because he appreciated the attention of UTSA staff and faculty, who he says care about students. “You aren’t just a number,” he says.
He joined the Student Government Association and in his senior year was SGA president as well as Mr. UTSA. “I was fortunate to receive several scholarships because people who were in the position I’m in now donated to provide those opportunities. UTSA gave me so much that my gift feels less like an obligation and more like a privilege.”