The off and on clothing trend called “Matchy Matchy” is seen as wearing an outfit that goes together too well making it looked forced and stylish. Something similar may very well be underway again at the Government of Canada with the Syria Emergency Relief Fund recently announced by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. On September 12th, 2015, a news release went out announcing a matching fund by the Government in response to the migrant conflict in Syria. The popular press and social media wrote and tweeted about this in laudatory and general terms. The news release contained few details but by all appearances it looked like charities would be able to double the money by raising funds for the cause if in fact they were doing humanitarian work in that area anyway. One had to go to the actual website of the department to see the details and the fine print about the Syria Emergency Relief Fund administered by the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada (DFATD).
The fine print revealed that the matching funding was not necessarily going to the charities raising the funds directly. This matchy matchy mismatch is becoming familiar. This is similar to the response of the Government of Canada in the cases of the Nepal earthquake relief and the Haiti earthquake scenarios and others in recent history. The details all seem to be the same. The money goes into a fund administered by the Canadian Government. Some tracking mechanism is created so that charities can let the government know how much they raised from donors during the strict time periods announced to qualify under the matching program. The Government indicates it will use the fund to support experienced international and Canadian humanitarian organizations using established Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) channels and procedures. The total amount is usually capped, and in the Syria relief case it will be capped at $100 million.
The donation criteria for various types of groups and the declaratory form that has to be filled out by registered charities and be received by DFATD on or before January 15, 2016 is all there on the website. Charities simply need to declare they raised funds that constituted eligible donations, and tell the Government how their Charity will use or has used these funds raised to support the humanitarian response to the Syrian crisis. Then voila! Matching dollars will be put into the fund for the DFATD to spend. They will use the fund to support experienced Canadian and international humanitarian organizations to meet needs resulting from the crisis in Syria.
After all the dust settles and all of the donations are in by the end of the year, and accounted for, it will be interesting to see how the funds are spent by the Government. This is certainly the case for all government matching programs referred to above and others. For those charities interested in searching what kind of programs the government has funded in the past with similar matching programs, they can easily do so by looking up the information up on a website maintained by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada called the International Development Project Browser. A quick review of that browser shows many well-funded projects in different stages of completion and reporting. Charities who are under the thumb of Canada Revenue Agency Charities Directorate, when they engage agents or intermediaries in third world countries to help them achieve their charitable objects, might be very interested in reviewing some of the information lacking or yet to be provided by the funded recipients of these international projects. But this is another topic for another day.
For all of this bureaucracy, however, matching is a relief for many causes and the charities that support them. Leverage is welcome when one is trying to do a lot with so little. However charities should not lose sight of other tried and true and perhaps less bureaucratic matching programs that are always in existence and should review their current practices to see that they are taking advantage of all of the matching programs that are ongoing out there. Much of this information is freely available on the internet by doing a search. Some of them include the following:
1. Companies with Matching Gift programs in Canada
There are many companies in Canada that match the donations of their employees. Many times employees are not aware that they are indeed eligible for this and need to be prompted to search their employee manual.
2. Board of Directors Matching Programs
Some Charities’ boards of Directors have pledged to match the donations received in certain cases. If this is the case in your charity, make sure that the existence of this program is well advertised, as some donors would be enticed to donate to your charity if the people at the top have done so.
3. Employee Matching Program
If you have a program whereby employees match donations for a project or ongoing operational matters, that should be widely advertised. Donors like to make donations to those who attract enthusiasm about a cause.
4. Triple Match Offers
From time to time, you will find situations where corporations will offer to triple match all donations received by a charity during a certain period. These are usually advertised very well by the charities involved because of the huge amount of leverage that can be achieved. Charities could explore these options with corporate sponsors more often to increase their donations.
5. General Corporate Matching Programs
There are some corporations that believe in a cause and will partner with a charity to fundraise. There are many creative ways that corporations have and could be encouraged to match donations. Events like Giving Tuesday have matching programs that have become very successful.
6. Donor Matching
Some individual donors will see the opportunity to allow charities to get leverage off of their often large donations. It is not uncommon for donors to say “If you raise X, I will match it and then you will double your money!” This is something that could be suggested to any donor at any time, especially one who believes in leverage.
As in the government programs, any matching arrangement with a donor or a corporation or any other potential lever partner will have fine print. Donors who hope to take advantage of matching programs should be encouraged to understand the fine print and the conditions that have been put on the matching programs so that their expectations will be met. Charities that participate in any matching program should also be aware of the fine print to ensure that their reputation remains intact, their goals will be met, and that the matching arrangement is a “win win” for both sides, especially with the charity as it has to comply with the CRA Charities Directorate Guidance guidelines and Regulations under the Income Tax Act for Charities. Getting a bigger bang for your buck is worth it, but understanding the fine print involved is important.