How Do Matching Grants Work?
Non-profit givers love matching grants. Who wouldn’t like to double the value of their pledge? Some non-profits promise three dollars or even five dollars in match to every one dollar pledged. We’re not sure of their accounting, and can’t vouch for the truth of their offer, but you deserve to understand ours. Matching grants are offered to match one-time gifts at specific, limited times during our mail and on-air campaigns. Sustaining, month-to-month members are twice each year offered a chance to have their annual generosity matched.
Obvious Question: Should I wait for a matching grant?
Answer: Do not wait. Don’t even take a match unless you need it.
Reason: We simply don’t have enough matching opportunities for all listeners. If you can possibly support a program on its own merits, please leave the match for someone else who just will not pledge without a match. If you take the match, that’s one less enticement we have to motivate someone else! We hope the programs themselves move you enough to offer a personal donation right now. If we have to “tip the scales” with a matching grant to get folks to vote for a show, we’ve failed to prove that this show is essential!
So, how does a matching grant work at Radio Kansas?
As you know, local businesses act as sponsors for our programming. They pay for the electricity and other fixed costs associated with presenting your favorite shows. Their dollars don’t determine what’s on, but once listeners have selected a show, local businesses can take credit for helping!
We ask these businesses to be especially generous when they buy sponsorships, prospectively offering more money than they are yet certain about. Often, we earn their last measure of generosity only if listeners verify the value of our shows by meeting a goal when challenged.
From the perspective of listeners, a match verifies a real monetary goal, a deadline and the concept of scarcity (this offer will run out) – all essential to turn good intentions into action. A modest monthly contribution to public radio makes so much sense that thousands of people all tell themselves they will pledge – and even give themselves credit for having decided to do the right thing – but they don’t actually call! Matching grants give a reason to act…now. Most grants are scheduled such that they should run out, so we ask pledgers to actively request a match if they want one.
How do we administer a match? Most underwriters pay monthly on their sponsorship contract, so most of the year there is an unpaid balance. They are responsible for the full sum only if listeners verify that they value the show! From the business perspective: The sponsor undertook the donation with the understanding that listeners would appreciate their support of a program they love. Listener participation in a challenge grant verifies that this is true. Our promise to match is a guarantee of the quality of our product!
At any given moment, a majority of those listening are due to renew or have never given. If there aren’t enough people willing to rise to a matching challenge, it suggests that the program in question is not fulfilling our public service mission. If the sponsor is associated with more than one show, we may pivot and offer those dollars to another audience!
So, these are dollars offered, but not owed until confirmed by listeners. The match truly does bring money to Radio Kansas that we won’t get otherwise. If listeners together deny the value by failing to fully match, we really do rebate the difference to the underwriter. Depending upon the situation we may zero the remainder of what is owed, we may offer additional free spots, or – in the case that they have already contributed more than we match – we draft a check back to the business. This strict accounting is why you seldom hear Radio Kansas offer more than a dollar-for-dollar match. It’s real, and there’s only so much opportunity to go around!
So – to recap – don’t wait for a match. Pledge because you value the program. Leave the matching dollars for folks who only sort of value the show. Send the message yourself that funding the program is an obvious personal choice, so continuing the program should be an obvious choice for the station.