2024's Comprehensive Guide to Matching Grants

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August 1, 2021

Last Updated:

January 24, 2024

If you’ve started exploring grants, you’ve likely come across matching grants and may not know precisely what these are. You may also wonder why you would apply for a grant that requires you to provide your own fiscal resources in order to be awarded.

In this article, we’ll define matching grants, the types of match funding that go along with them, why you may consider matching grants, and where to find them.

By the end of this article, you should feel comfortable finding and applying for matching grants in order to bolster your overall grant funding strategies.

What are Matching Grants?

Matching grants


Matching grants evolved as a response to the need for collaboration between nonprofits and funders to achieve common goals.

Matching grants are grants that require the applicant to provide funds in addition to the grant award. Essentially, the applicant is matching the grant funds with their own funds.


Originally used by governments and foundations to incentivize philanthropy, they have gained popularity in the nonprofit sector due to their ability to leverage resources effectively.

Matching grants usually encourage organizations to generate additional income that complements the project's objectives in the grant application.

They also provide the grantor the ability to scale the funding offered to organizations by stretching the number of grantees.

Benefits for Nonprofits


At first glance, matching grants might seem like a demanding task, requiring nonprofits to raise or allocate their own funds.

However, these grants come with a host of significant benefits that make them highly valuable in the nonprofit sector.

  • Enhanced Funding: If a nonprofit receives a $10,000 matching grant, it must raise an additional $10,000 from other sources to unlock the full grant amount. This mechanism not only increases the total funds available for a project but also fosters donor engagement and encourages community support, amplifying the overall impact of the nonprofit's work.
  • Engagement and Commitment: Matching grants encourage donor engagement and commitment, as donors are more likely to contribute when they know their funds will be matched.
  • Building Stronger Relationships: Collaborative efforts in matching grant programs often lead to stronger partnerships and relationships between nonprofits and funders.
  • Visibility and Credibility: Successful matching grants can enhance an organization's visibility and credibility within the philanthropic community by showcasing its ability to attract external support. When grantors see that the organization can leverage their contributions to secure additional funding, it establishes trust and underscores the nonprofit's effectiveness and appeal.

How Does Grant Matching Work?

Understanding the mechanics of grant matching is essential for any nonprofit seeking to benefit from this funding strategy.

In this section, we will take an in-depth look into the mechanics of grant matching, shedding light on critical aspects such as matching ratios, practical examples, and the challenges that nonprofits may encounter.

The Basics of Ratios

Matching grants often come with specific matching ratios, typically expressed as 1:1, 2:1, or 3:1. These ratios determine the proportion of the grant that the nonprofit must match.


For instance, a 1:1 matching grant requires the nonprofit to match every dollar received with another dollar from its own resources.

Sometimes, matching grants will also be presented in percentages. For example, a 50% matching grant would require the nonprofit to contribute half of the grant amount from its own funds.

Common Requirements


Matching grant’s often come with requirements that nonprofits must meet.

Here are a few common requirements to be aware of:

  • Eligibility Criteria: Each grant opportunity will have specific eligibility criteria, which may include factors such as legal status, mission alignment, or geographic focus. Ensuring that your organization fits these criteria is the first step toward securing a matching grant.
  • Documentation: Matching grants call for meticulous documentation, including comprehensive financial statements and detailed project plans. These documents serve as a means of demonstrating your nonprofit's capacity to manage the grant effectively.
  • Timelines: Matching grants have clearly defined deadlines for proposal submission and may have specific project timelines. Being aware of these timeframes is essential to ensure that your proposal aligns with the grantmaker’s schedule.
  • Clear Budget: Nonprofits must provide a detailed budget that clearly outlines how both the grant and the matching funds will be utilized. This budget breakdown provides clarity on project expenses, thereby instilling confidence in funders about responsible financial management and project execution.

Challenges in Matching


While matching grants offer substantial benefits, they are not without their challenges. Being prepared to navigate these hurdles can significantly increase your chances of success:

  • Fundraising Pressure: Nonprofits may face increased fundraising pressure to meet the matching requirements. Finding and securing the necessary matching funds can be a demanding task.
  • Competition: The world of matching grant programs is often highly competitive. Due to limited funding availability, nonprofits face fierce competition from others looking to get the same resources.
  • Administrative Burden: Managing the matching process includes intensive record-keeping, tracking funds, and ensuring compliance. The administrative workload can be large, demanding careful attention to detail.

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Example of A Matching Grant

Let's simplify the concept of matching grants with a practical matching funds example.

Imagine your nonprofit is applying for a matching grant with a 1:1 ratio. The funder is offering a $50,000 grant if your organization can come up with an additional $50,000 from other sources.

This means that for every dollar provided by the funder, your nonprofit contributes an equivalent dollar, effectively doubling the grant's impact.

Let’s look at another matching funds example. Maybe your nonprofit is working toward expanding community playground resources, specifically to provide more ADA-accessible equipment.

Looking at the list of Grants for Children on Instrumentl, you find a matching grant that could provide the necessary funding for a new playground. The grant requires a 20% match. So, what does that mean?

Grants for Children on Instrumentl


If you request $100,000 for the playground project, and a 20% match is required, then you must demonstrate your ability to contribute $20,000 to the project (20% of the grant request). If the grant is awarded, the playground project would then have $120,000 available.

In summary, the example of matching funds works like this:

For a grant award of $100,000, a matching fund of 20% would be $100,000 x 20% = $20,000.


This matching funds example showcases a matching fund structure based on a percentage of the requested grant amount.

So, you now know how a match grant works, but how do you secure match funds? Where do you get that $50,000 or $20,000 described above?

The next section will talk more about what types of resources can be used in a matching grant.

What are the Different Types of Match Funding?

Match funding types


There are many options when it comes to match funding. Most matching grants will clearly outline the types of match funding that are or are not allowed. These funds are most commonly cash or in-kind resources.

Cash


The most common type of matching funds is cash. Organizations often plan for matching fund grants and try to accumulate a bit of a revenue reserve to address the need for match funding.

Cash also tends to be the least cumbersome to utilize as tracking expenditures is a familiar process for an organization.

In-Kind


Another common type of match funding comes by leveraging staff and resources already in the organization. Grant applicants are often able to quantify staff and resource value as an in-kind contribution toward match requirements.

In-kind match funding can also include the valuation of goods and services provided within the grant program.

When grants include in-kind matching of staff, it is important to consider any reporting requirements that may follow the designation of personnel to the grant program.

Some grants will require time and effort reports of the staff included as in-kind match funding. This means that the staff partially assigned to grant programs may have to keep track of when they are working on grant-funded activities to show the in-kind contribution of effort took place.

Additionally, the following funding sources may also provide match funding:

Donations


Donations play a role similar to cash reserves when it comes to matching grants. They offer immediate cash on hand that can be used to fulfill the matching grant's requirements. For nonprofit organizations aiming to scale up their programs or services, launching a donation campaign can be a strategic move.

This campaign can generate the necessary funds to meet the matching grant's criteria. Donations from individuals, businesses, or supporters can significantly contribute to your ability to secure matching funds and expand your impact.

Volunteers


Utilizing volunteers can be a valuable resource
when it comes to fulfilling matching grant requirements. In a manner similar to in-kind staff allocations, the hours contributed by volunteers can often be quantified and counted toward your matching obligation.

Leveraging the dedication and time of volunteers not only helps meet the matching ratio but also showcases community involvement and support for your mission. This dual benefit of fulfilling grant requirements while engaging the community underscores the importance of volunteer contributions in the context of matching grants.

Other grants


There are times when other grants may be able to provide the required match funding of a matching grant. Some refer to using grants in this manner as braided funding. You are weaving together a variety of funding streams to pay for a project or program.

Leveraging a variety of grants to fund a project is a viable option; however, you need to consider any grant restrictions that may prevent supplementing or supplanting existing grant projects. For example, many federal matching funds requirements will not allow other federal grant program monies as match funding.

The National Endowment for the Humanities shares a great resource for understanding typically approved and restricted match funding, for federal match grants in particular.

However, it is important to note that each grant may specify what is allowable as match funding and what is not. Be sure to read your grant application documents closely.

Prior to looking for matching grants, it may be helpful to look at your organization and start listing the possible match funds available. Where do you have resources and what value do they each hold?

Having a prepared understanding of what contributions you currently have available will assist you in knowing what additional fundraising efforts you may need or which matching grants you are prepared to apply for.

Steps to Write a Matching Grant

Securing a matching grant requires a strategic approach and a well-crafted proposal. In this section, we will outline the key steps involved in the process, from identifying opportunities to post-submission activities.

Identifying Suitable Match Opportunities: Research and Assessment

  • Market Research: Start by digging into the world of grants. Research and find potential funders that offer matching grant programs that align with your nonprofit's mission. Look for those whose values and goals match yours. A great starting point for your grant research can be exploring readily available grant databases like Instrumentl.
  • Assessment: Not all opportunities are a good fit. Evaluate each grant opportunity based on your organization's needs and whether you can meet the matching requirements. It's crucial to be realistic about your capabilities.

Crafting a Persuasive Grant Proposal: Demonstrating Need and Impact

  • Needs Assessment: By completing a needs assessment, you'll clearly explain the problems your project aims to solve. Highlight why these issues are significant and urgent. Writing a needs statement can help funders understand why your project is crucial.
  • Impact Statement: Describe in detail the impact and the difference your project aims to make and then explain how it aligns with the funder's goals and mission. Funders want to know how their support will create positive change.

Coordination: Engaging With Stakeholders for Match Contributions

  • Stakeholder Engagement: When crafting your matching grant proposal, incorporate details about where your matching funds are coming from. Highlight the involvement of potential matching donors, board members, volunteers, and other contributors. Demonstrate the collaborative nature of your project and the support it has garnered.
  • Fundraising Campaigns: Within your matching grant proposal, outline your fundraising campaigns as part of the strategy to secure matching funds. Clearly explain how you plan to raise the required match. This shows grantmakers your proactive approach and the community support backing your project.

Post-Submission: Tracking, Reporting, and Acknowledgment

  • Tracking Progress: Once your grant matching project is underway, carefully track its progress. Keep records of everything you do, including how you spend the funds. This ensures you stay on the right track and meet the grant's requirements.
  • Reporting: Prepare and submit regular reports to the funder. These reports should detail your project's milestones, outcomes, and how you've used the funds. Transparency and accountability are essential.
  • Acknowledgment: Don't forget to show gratitude. Recognize and appreciate the contributions of your matching donors and the funder. Their support is invaluable, and showing appreciation encourages continued support.

By following these practical steps, you'll be well-prepared to navigate the process of securing a matching grant. It's all about being organized, making a strong case for your grant-matching project, and working together with your community to make a positive impact.

Best Practices to Keep in Mind

To maximize your chances of success in securing matching grants, it's essential to follow best practices throughout the process.

These practices are a roadmap that will ensure that your efforts are both efficient and effective.

Financial Transparency: Honest Calculations and Valuations

  • Accurate Budgeting: Your grant budget is like a financial plan for your project. Make sure it accurately shows how much money you need for your project and how it aligns with the grant requirements. A clear and accurate budget not only makes you look more trustworthy but also helps funders understand why your project deserves their support.
  • Honest Valuations: When you talk about things like donated items or volunteer time, it's important to be honest. Don't exaggerate their value. Realistic valuations of these non-cash contributions give a true picture of your project's finances.

Building Strong Donor Relationships: Early Engagement and Clear Communication

  • Early Engagement: Starting conversations and engaging with potential matching donors early in the process is a smart move. It helps you build a connection and explain why your mission matters. When donors understand your goals and feel connected to your cause, they are more likely to support you.
  • Clear Communication: Being clear about how a donor's support will be matched by your nonprofit and how it will benefit your project is crucial. Explain how their contributions will make a difference. Clear communication helps donors see their role in your project and why it's important.

Ensuring Comprehensive Documentation: For Audit and Compliance Purposes

  • Thorough Documentation: Keep detailed records of everything related to your project—contributions, expenses, and every activity that you do. Good records show that you're open and accountable. Plus, they make it easier to report back to the funder about what you've achieved.
  • Compliance Tracking: Meeting the grant requirements is a must. Regularly keep an eye on your progress to make sure you're following the grant's rules. Regularly tracking your compliance and following these rules protects your organization and keeps the funder's trust.

Evaluation and Feedback: Measuring Success and Continuous Learning

  • Evaluation Metrics: Create clear techniques to measure how well your project is doing. These could be things like counting how many people your project has helped or how much progress you've made. Measuring success shows that you're serious about achieving your project's goals.
  • Feedback Loop: Think of the grant application process as a learning experience. Ask for feedback from your team, partners, and others involved. Use this feedback to improve and do better next time.

By following these straightforward best practices, you'll not only increase your chances of getting matching grants but also make your organization more effective overall.

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Why Should You Look for Matching Grants?

How do you find matching grants

We know that when looking for grants, your intention is to not strain internal or existing resources. You need new, additional funding for your organization. So, why should you still consider matching grants?

If you close the door on matching grants, you will be excluding one of the larger sectors of available grant funding. Federal grants regularly leverage matching funds in their application requirements. If you are a nonprofit organization, federal matching funds grants should be high on your list.

You may be reading this because you have already discovered in your grant searches that many (or most) state and federal grants have a match requirement. So, don’t shy away from these matching grant opportunities.

Matching grants also give you the opportunity to show your stakeholders that you are committed to the growth and development of your organization. Your donors and community partners may be more inclined to donate when you are able to show a possible match grant opportunity to leverage those donations further.

Fundraising and donation campaigns spurred by the need to build match funding for a grant can be a huge success. You are saying to your community that each of their donations will equate to a bigger impact in the sum of the project through the matching grant.

Through the application process of a matching grant, you have the opportunity to explore existing and new potential funding streams. By requiring match funding, applicants will have to consider where to find these resources.

This process can push you to identify new donor pools, expand community outreach and engagement, or re-examine your existing budget structure. Regardless of the outcome of your matching grant application, the process to apply will likely be beneficial.

Where Do You Find Match Granting?

Where to find matching grant


Matching grants are a very common type of grant, and they are worth considering. You can find matching grant opportunities in many of the same places you look for all other grants.

Different federal departments, such as USDA, provide grant notification listservs that will alert you of new grant opportunities. Look for “Subscribe Now” buttons on your state and federal department websites.

Subscribing to these alerts will mean grant opportunities come right to your inbox rather than requiring you to keep a regular routine of searching online. Similarly, your state agencies often provide an email list to stay up to date on funding available through grant programs.

USDA Subscribe

Grant notification listservs are great when you're able to find them. Unfortunately, they can be fragmented at times.


Other places to look for matching grants are through other local, state, and federal organizations that provide federal matching funds. Clubs and organizations such as Elks, Lions, and others regularly have fundraising efforts in order to provide grants to nonprofits and other local entities.

Consider your local community, in addition to state and federal agencies, and the possibility of grants through established organizations in your area.

A good option for finding and staying up-to-date on grant opportunities, including matching grants, is to explore the comprehensive grants list provided by Instrumentl.

Instrumentl Grants List

Instrumentl has hundreds of curated grant lists for different types of grant funding.


Grants are organized both by state and by type of grant, so you can quickly search and identify potential grant options for your organization.

Instrumentl also provides multiple free grant workshops that can support your work in grant writing as you begin applying for matching grants.

Using Instrumentl helps you find grants that can best fit your organization and project goals, help you stay on track with deadlines and requirements, and manage reporting requirements even after you are awarded a grant.

Wrapping Things Up: What are Matching Grants?

Match granting


So now you know that matching grants are grants that require your organization to provide partial funding for your grant proposal. Although the idea of spending money in order to bring in more money seems counterintuitive, it is really beneficial to consider this avenue for additional funding.

Matching grants provide you with the opportunity to engage your community and build more robust revenue streams.

Leveraging matching grants also gives you the chance to stretch the resources you have to implement your vision for your organization.

Using resources provided by Instrumentl will help you organize and prepare to find and write matching funds grants.

You’ll be able to dedicate time to writing for grants you are most likely to receive rather than spending time searching for grants.

If you’ve never tried Instrumentl, you can get personalized grant results for your nonprofit by starting a 14-day trial.

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Instrumentl team

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