Looking back at 2015’s March Millions—and how matching gifts inspire new levels of generosity

Just last year, GiveMN helped facilitate a $1 million matching gift campaign for more than a hundred nonprofits in southeastern Minnesota. Below, read an excerpt of our blog post from 2015 to learn how this month-long match was met in just four days.

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MarchMillions2In the fall of 2014, the trustees of the Otto Bremer Foundation asked GiveMN to facilitate a creative way for the foundation to be introduced to a new region for responsive grantmaking—southeastern Minnesota. They were interested in making a large matching gift ($1 million!) to area organizations to learn about the causes the community values most.

It was an easy yes for GiveMN because if there’s one failsafe way to ignite generosity, it’s matching gifts. The evidence is all around us, from Buy One Get One promotions at local retailers to Yale/University of Chicago research across a wide swath of charities showing that the presence of a dollar-for-dollar match increases donor response rate by as much as 19%.

GiveMN worked with Lue Her and his colleagues to create Otto Bremer Foundation’s March Millions for Southeastern Minnesota and they selected just over 100 organizations from the region to participate. In addition to the $1 million in matching funds, one lucky donor was selected each day in March to win a $1,000 Bremer Boost prize grant for their organization and a Mega Bremer Boost of $10,000 was awarded at the end of the campaign, randomly drawn from all March Millions donations.

Before the campaign went live, the GiveMN team guessed how much the campaign would generate. Guesses ranged from $358,034 (the amount of money raised on GiveMN.org by organizations in those counties during the entire prior year) to the full $1 million.

MarchMillions4The final result? Donors met the month-long advertised match in just four days. In addition to the $1 million from Otto Bremer Foundation, supporters made more than $1.2 million in gifts to these nonprofits during the month of March.

So why has this campaign been so successful? Here are three key factors that have helped inspire more than 2,100 unique donors to make a donation:

  1. The generous matching gift from Otto Bremer Foundation.$1 million is the largest matching gift to be offered competitively on GiveMN ever! It was first come, first served (or first given, first matched) across all participating organizations and it got the attention of nonprofits, media, and donors. We like to call matching gifts “Minnesota’s BOGO for Good!”
  2. The 102 participating organizations.They got creative about how they promoted March Millions, whether it was right out of the gate in the race for matching dollars or rallying later in the month around winning those Bremer Boost prizes. There was a sense of community and “we all win” among the nonprofits that swooped into action with less than a month to prepare for this campaign.
  3. The media coverage. GiveMN and Otto Bremer Foundation, with the support of FleishmanHillard, put together a small paid media campaign and a successful earned media campaign, raising the visibility of the March Millions effort across the region.

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For more strategies and tips on matching gifts, attend GiveMN’s “Strike a Match: 5 (and a half) steps to get your fundraising cooking and ignite generosity with matching gifts” webinar on Tuesday, April 26.