Coleman Foundation Announces Results of 2017 #ILGIVE Matching Grants Program

For the fifth year, the Coleman Foundation has awarded matching grants to organizations that have used online and social media methods to generate gifts from new and returning donors.  Focusing on the month of November, 2017 and culminating in #ILGive for Giving Tuesday, 70 Foundation grantees raised $2 million from over 9,600 donors, approximately one quarter of whom had not donated to the organization previously.  In return, the Foundation has made matching gifts totaling $515,675.

Uncertain federal funding priorities and ongoing State of Illinois budget challenges continue to underscore the need for the non-profit sector to embrace an important priority of Coleman Foundation grant making: for grantees to develop non-governmental revenue streams. This priority has served as the basis for the Foundation’s Giving Tuesday matching grants programs over the past five years during which time $2.3 million in Foundation matching payments have contributed an incentive for over 28 million gifts totaling $6.4 million to be made to Foundation grantees.

The recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has created new urgency for organizations to increase their capacity to raise funds from individuals as it also expands the need for Giving Tuesday itself.  The Act modifies federal individual income tax deductions in a manner that may reduce incentives for prospective donors to make year-end gifts.  Research from the Tax Policy Center suggests these changes could reduce giving by more than $12 billion per year.

The Tuesday which follows the Thanksgiving holiday is rapidly becoming a new giving deadline, based not on tax incentives but by levering the motivation of donors to join a broad and growing civic experience.  On November 28, 2017 more than 2.4 million gifts were made online totaling $274 million, a 50% increase over the $180+ million given in 2016.  Totals in 2016 were 50% higher than in 2015.  Giving Tuesday organizers reported more than 20 billion social media impressions related to the 2017 campaign.

An increasing number of foundations across the nation, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provided matching grant opportunities to grow individual giving. Locally, The Dunham Fund, Grand Victoria Foundation, Pierce Family Foundation, and Retirement Research Foundation matched gifts to their respective grantees, providing more than $300,000 in total. William Blair & Company provided additional support to the #ILGive campaign as well as incentives for employees to participate.

More than 100 communities have organized Giving Tuesday campaigns.  In Illinois, #ILGive for Giving Tuesday generated $12 million for over 450 nonprofits, including $2.5 million given at a centralized donation web site.   #ILGive is led by Forefront, the the nation’s only statewide membership association for nonprofits, grantmakers, public agencies and advisors.

In addition to supporting the ability of its grantees to gain skills to raise funds online via social media, the Foundation’s two most recent Giving Tuesday initiatives also created opportunities to create new knowledge about donor behavior.  In 2017, a research program was designed to explore which matching gift incentives are most effective at encouraging individuals to give in the days before Giving Tuesday and/or on Giving Tuesday itself as well as how giving decisions in subsequent months are affected by the matches.  The effort was led by Ragan Petrie and Marco Castillo, economists at Texas A&M University, and involved 26 of the 70 matching grant program participants.  Various matching offers were sent to approximately 110,000 email addresses of prospective donors to these organizations.

The structure of this year’s matching program was informed by a research initiative conducted in 2016 in concert with the Foundation’s matching grants program.  That study, led by Petrie, Castillo and Anya Samek of the University of Southern California, evaluated responses to different offers sent to nearly 40,000 email addresses supplied by 9 participating nonprofits.  Results indicated that expanding the availability of matching gift opportunities to days prior to Giving Tuesday resulted in greater donations to participating nonprofits.

The 2017 program provided different match amounts based on the size of the donor’s gift.  Donations made on Giving Tuesday and during an early donation window of November 1-3, 2017 were matched.  The base match offer made via email to prospective donors by 44 participating organizations included a $25 match to gifts of $25 or more (the “Tier One” offer) and a $100 match to gifts of $100 or more (the “Tier Two” offer).  The remaining 26 organizations chose to join the research program which enabled them to also make a “Tier Three” offer: a $500 match to gifts of $500 or more.  Researchers also varied the Tier One and Tier Two offers to some prospective donors to these organizations in order to test donor responsiveness to alternates.  Data from the campaign are being studied at present with the expectation of published results in the future.

Five years ago, the Coleman Foundation began experimenting with different forms of matching grants on Giving Tuesday in an effort to identify match structures and approaches that more effectively aided its grantees in raising funds and more efficiently deployed its own resources.  Through experience which was informed by its grantees and research efforts, it has deployed matching grant dollars to generate donations for its grantees at higher rates.  In 2017, the nearly 4:1 ratio of funds raised from donors to the Foundation’s total matching grant payout  (derived from $1,998,719 gifts made to 70 grantees and $515,675 in matching grants awarded to them) represented the highest (i.e. most efficient) match ratio in the five years of the program.  This indicates the Foundation has learned how to better structure its matching offers in a way that enables grantees to raise more funds per grant dollar deployed.  The Foundation hopes that the 2017 research program leads to increased efficiency and higher match ratios in future campaigns.

The Coleman Foundation’s matching grants for the 2017 program are as follows: