Matching donations

I just saw an ad that used this technique so I thought it was appropriate to rant about it:

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of “matching donations” in fundraising drives.  You know the whole “We have a generous donor who will donate $1000 if we can raise $1000 from our viewers in the next hour!”  Or the standard “we have a donor who will match your pledge dollar for dollar up to $5000″.  I hear it all the time on Catholic radio and it drives me bonkers.

Listen, either an organization is worth donating to or it isn’t.  Whether it is worth donating to has NOTHING to do with whether others are donating.  Is this rich dude really holding his donation hostage until others donate?  And why should those of us with less money feel obligated to come up with cash to make the rich dude feel better about his donation?  As my Dad would say: Shit or get off the pot.

Yeah, I know, it is used as a “technique” for getting more people to donate money and in the end more money is raised.  But you know what?  The ends do not always justify the means.  Emotionally extorting people is not the right way to raise money.  I’m all for the “your ‘free’ gift with your donation will be…” and numerous other techniques that are used, but the matching donation technique crosses the line from acceptable to emotional extortion.

The fundraisers always present this as an opportunity for us regular folks to “double the value of our dollar” but the way I see it, it is a way for the rich dude to double the value of HIS dollar by extorting the less fortunate.

How very generous of him.

2 Responses to “Matching donations”

  1. Brian Conaghan Says:

    First of all, I agree that sometimes I feel the way you do. Either give or don’t, don’t put conditions.

    On the other hand, I have a couple places where I do like it:

    #1: My employer matches donations to any school, including Catholic schools. Do they actually care about Holy Redeemer, St. Gregory’s, or St Eustacius in particular? Would they donate to them if I did not? Clearly not, but part of encouraging me to donate there is their matching program.

    #2: After Katrina I donated a large sum to Catholic Charities to help with relief. Beyond that, I wanted to encourage those under me to also donate to a relief agency of their choice. I had donated the number I felt was right in my heart, but would have been willing to give more to encourage others. In the end I decided not to, because I do not trust myself enough to not favor those who donate creating a quid pro quo. I always feel better asking for money from those who have power over me rather than the other way around.

    So, what do you think? Is it a goodness to say, in my heart I want to give this much because I believe in this charity … and beyond that I am willing to give this much more to encourage other people to give, which is a goodness in and of itself.

    Thanks for being thought provoking,

  2. Ken Crawford Says:

    Brian, welcome.  I’m glad you visited.

    Yeah, the employer matching is really a different thing because it is not used by the entity trying to get donations. Instead it is a general encouragement to donate charitably. Or said another way, they are trusting you to direct THEIR charitable donations instead of using their money to direct YOUR charitable donations.