Case Study: A Successful Matching Gift Campaign

Earlier this year we worked on a matching gift campaign for the PKD Foundation. Merritt and I gave a presentation at NPConnect last month where we broke down the elements that combined to make it so successful. As nonprofits head into year end, I thought it would be good to quickly share the challenges, the solutions and the outcome of this winning matching gift campaign.

  • Framing the ask around an unsure outcome
  • Fluctuating match amount
  • The luxury of raising a lot of money
The PKD Foundation had a promising drug in the final stages of FDA approval. The campaign had to launch before we knew what the outcome would be. Donors' commitments to the matching gift were in flux and once it launched ... whoa, Nellie.


M&C recommended several specific strategies to manage the wildcard elements in the campaign and create a sense of urgency, enthusiasm and comfort in investing in the campaign for direct mail and online donors.
  • Simplicity. Rather than bog down the copy with the details of how the match came to be, who was doing it and the organizational underpinnings, we kept it super simple. The match is the rockstar and it came through in everything we sent out. Easy to understand. Easy to get excited about.
  • Focus on the feeling. The outcome of the drug testing wouldn't be known for a while, but what mattered was the sense of optimism and hope it gave major funders of the foundation. Our copy focused on the momentum in research. The fact that it sparked big donors to issue a matching gift challenge led to the entire community feeling it was a good time to make an investment.
  • Just keep going — add in the details later. Up until the announcement email launched, we were unsure of the actual match amount. We wrote around it and kept things moving. This way, we still launched on time and with some simple plug and play graphics, the branding was easy to maintain regardless of match amount.
  • Agility at all times. What do you do when you meet the match after the announcement email drops? Before the direct mail letter is even in the mail? You use your success as a rallying cry and reinforce the bold point you made that now is the best time to make a gift. The campaign continued and blew all expectations out of the water:
  • Goal: $125,000
  • Result: $224,542
  • Exceeded goal by 79.63%
  • Plus ... average gift of $229

Show Them, Don't Tell Them

I barely catch any commercials anymore ... thanks to my DVR, my subscription to Netflix and total impatience with anything. But one last night caught my attention. The scene opens in a preschool classroom with a circle of children playing a game of "pass the teddy bear." The bear comes to a particularly adorable little girl with a bright red nose. She lets out a giant sneeze. Then, not missing a beat, she passes the bear - the sneezed-on bear (!) - to the next child. The commercial closes with a bottle of fever reducer. A reminder to all parents that the inevitable will happen.

Simple. Funny (but not just for funny's sake).

Certainly, the commercial could have waxed poetically about statistics on the spread of germs, the superiority of the product or even the breadth of medicines available. It could have gone the Superbowl route ... flexing its creative and ironic might. But it didn't. It didn't need to.

It was a point well made. Enough said.