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Got a match?

“Send a net. Save a life.” When the Nothing But Nets campaign was introduced to The United Methodist Church, we were amazed that a simple $10 bed net could do so much. Then the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “For every dollar you give, we’ll give a dollar.” Suddenly, our $10 gift could buy two nets, and two families would benefit. It became a win-win situation: every contribution went twice as far. And, of course, it was great for the people in Africa who received the life-saving nets.

At United Methodist Communications we use this concept in our Igniting Ministry strategy. When the Igniting Ministry TV spots air, we offer conferences and local churches the opportunity to apply for matching grants. If you can raise $500, $10,000 or any amount, we can match it. Churches are inspired to find new ways to share their messages, and members give to seize the opportunity. Igniting Ministry’s money is doubled in the process. 

Everyone wins! A push—a power—results from the prospect of our gift being matched. So how can you apply this concept to the local church?

My guess is someone in your church can afford to do a matching gift. He or she may not have the assets of the Gates Foundation, but if you find a cause that is close to their heart, they will sign on. You are offering them the opportunity to double their gift. You offer the same to the rest of your donors. Again, everybody wins!

Here are a few ideas to see if matching gifts might work in your congregation.

  • Is there someone with a passion for education who might offer a matching gift to help excite your church about raising money for the Africa University Fund, the Black College Fund or the Ministerial Education Fund? If your church already sends 100 percent of its apportionment asking for these funds, perhaps this gift would help you to exceed the goal!
  • Who might match the offering for one or all of the six churchwide Special Sundays? Imagine doubling your offering to Human Relations Day, One Great Hour of Sharing, Native American Ministries Sunday, Peace with Justice Sunday, World Communion Sunday or United Methodist Student Day!
  • If raising the $2,500 it takes to be a Covenant Relationship Partner with one of our United Methodist missionaries is too hard for your church, consider who might make a matching gift. The willingness of one person to commit about $100 per month to direct missionary support could open the door to a wonderful, personal relationship that would bless your church as well as those who live where the missionary serves. Everyone wins!

If you decide to try using matching gifts to reach a mission goal for your congregation, here are a couple of tips:

  • Be clear about the goal you want to achieve; then pray to discern who could help you reach that goal with a matching gift.
  • Don’t think only the most “well-to-do” in your congregation are capable of contributing this kind of gift. This is more about what is in the heart than what is in the wallet.
  • When you approach someone about donating a matching gift, realize you are honoring this person, recognizing their life has modeled commitment, passion and faithful stewardship; otherwise, you would not have approached them.
  • Share your goal; then ask your potential donor what they could offer. Matching doesn’t have to mean “one to one.” If your goal is $3,000 and someone can come up with $1,000, you can announce that the donor will match $1 for every $2 we give. It still works, and everybody still wins!
  • Many matching donors prefer to remain anonymous. Obviously, you will want to honor that wish, but be sure to thank them privately!

When we participate in connectional giving, our gifts are matched by the person sitting next to us; then someone two rows back gives and unknowingly matches what the couple with the baby on the other side gave. Then the gifts your church sends through the conference treasurer are added to those from other congregations. Your conference’s gifts, along with those from other conferences, enable vital ministries no one church can support. 

Consider these words of Luke (6:38), paraphrased in The Message: “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”