Throughout the years I have had the opportunity to work on numerous grants that listed matching funds as a requirement in the guidelines. A matching grant is a conditional award that requires an organization to raise a specified portion of the grant through solicitation of new money and/or in-kind contributions, depending on the stipulation in the grant guidelines. The purpose of a match requirement is to challenge an organization to increase its revenue and/or contributions and to encourage a nonprofit to diversify/broaden its base of support.

For those of you new to grant writing, guidelines vary from donor-to-donor and agency-to-agency.  As grant writers often say, “If you have seen one application, you have seen one application.” Keep this in mind as you read through guidelines.

I have seen required matches from 20% to 100% of the total amount being requested.  Very often state and federal grants have a match requirement, but foundation grants may as well. 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. In-kind contributions are defined as donated goods and services and can include provision of staff, space, equipment or labor. Contributions such as these may be considered in meeting the match requirement if they are quantifiable and reduce the actual amount required in the budget submitted to the Foundation and on which the Foundation based its match requirements. (be sure to read the guidelines for each foundation/donor carefully for their own instructions.)

Now, how do you create your match so you qualify for the funding from the foundation?  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 (it also had a Summer component) 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 (*remember we only needed $120,000) 

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.

Reasons To Actively Look for Matching Grants:
Some of you out there as asking why we would want to spend so much time and energy on a matching grant when there are other donors who require less work on our end. It’s a valid question. Some of the reasons I have found to hold true over the years are:
  • It allows an organization to show a donor the community support being contributed to the organization through in-kind support and donations.
  • If a match is earned through new money (new money is defined as funds received from sources that have not made a contribution to the organization in a specific number of recently completed fiscal years, as defined by each foundation, and/or funds contributed by a donor in excess of the donor’s contributions in the prior fiscal year.) and/or new donors, the match is allowing an organization to show it is willing to work to increase their donor base and find new ways to engage their community.
  • It shows a foundation or donor the level of commitment to achieving a fundraising goal that exists within an organization.
  • It shows a foundation that they are not the only invested donor.
  • It shows a donor that they are not providing 100% of the funding.

This list could go on, but I think you get the idea.

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