How to Find Dollars for a Matching or Challenge Grant

by Mandy Pearce



Throughout the years I have had the opportunity to work on numerous grants that listed matching funds as a requirement in the guidelines. For those of you new to grant writing, guidelines vary from donor-to-donor and agency-to-agency.  I have seen required matches from 20% to 100% of the total amount being requested.  One other thing you will want to note is whether the match can be in-kind as well as cash, or if it has to be one or the other. Best case scenario, you can use in-kind and cash to achieve your goal.

Now, how do you create your match?  This will vary based on the type of program and/or agency you have, as well as the type of funds you are requesting.  

Let’s say we are working with an educational institution on a grant with a required match.  This grant requires a 100% match, dollar-for-dollar.  The overall proposal being submitted will likely be around $60K.  We are challenged with where to find these matching dollars.

Luckily the organization has a nice little sum of cash to allocate to the match, which takes care of about $10-$15K.  Nice! Where else can we look?

As we have brainstormed the actual contributions from the organization that help make this program possible, we have listed space, portions of staff salaries, equipment, and in-kind services from partner agencies.

Basically, what I try to explain to new grant writers, is you need to create your needs list first. Sit down and write every possible thing you will need to make this program happen.  A lot of times people overlook the things like space, projectors, portions of overhead expenses (think about things like power, utilities, rent, etc.), marketing materials and the tools to create them (like copiers, ink, toner, paper, etc.). Once you have that needs list, compare it to the items you are requesting from the potential donor/agency.  Anything you are not requesting in the proposal budget, are things you will either have to acquire, you will have donated (in-kind hopefully), or are things you already possess.  These are the items that will become in-kind matches.

EXAMPLE | One of my favorite, and easiest to understand examples is this:

Funding For Good wrote a federal grant for an after-school program a few years ago. We were required to have a 20% match. This came out to $120,000/year. That seemed like a lot at the time. Ultimately, it was not very much at all.  The school was providing a gymnasium, a football field, a lunchroom, and a media center every day after school for 2.5 hours. During the school year that was 5 days a week times 40 days = 200 days.

We took the rental value of each of those facilities (because that rental fee is documented with the school system, we did NOT make it up) and calculated what it would cost for space if we had to rent it for the program.

Check it out (*these numbers are guesstimates because I don’t remember the exact numbers):

Gymnasium @ $100/hr x 2.5 hr/day x 200 days = $50,000
Football Field @ $100/hr x 2.5 hr/day x 200 days = $50,000
Lunchroom @ $100/hr x 2.5 hr/day x 200 days = $50,000
Media Center @50/hr x 2.5 hr/day x 200 days = $25,000

Total for 1 Year of In-Kind Space = $175,000

Now, this was a year-round program, and we have not even calculated the space for the summer portion of this program. Just imagine what we COULD have matched!

We would take a similar approach to determining the value of staff, media, technology, overhead, transportation and so on.

When you get to your first matching or challenge grant, or as you move through current grants that have matching requirements, don’t freak out.  It is doable.  It may take some creative thinking on your part, but it is doable.

As I always tell people, if you have a question or are unsure of how to proceed, talk with the program officer and refer to the guidelines. Don’t guess when you have resources at your disposal that can give you answers.

Happy Writing – Mandy