What are Matching Grants? Grant Writing 101

If you have started exploring grants as a way to better fiscally position your organization, you likely have come across matching grants. Those new to grant writing may wonder what a matching grant is and how to access the funds afforded by them. 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 the grant.

In this article, we will define matching grants and the types of match funding that go along with them. We will also cover why you may want to consider matching grants and where to find them.

By the end of this article, you should feel comfortable finding and applying for matching grants. You will understand where and how to implement matching grants as part of your overall grant funding strategies.

What are Matching Grants? How Does Grant Matching Work?

Matching grants

Matching grants, in the simplest terms, are grants that require the applicant to provide funds in addition to the grant award. The applicant is matching the grant funds with their own funds. Typically, matching grants are intended to provide the impetus for broadening fundraising efforts or in kind capacities within the organization. The goal is to raise revenue in ways that supplement the project goals within the grant application.

Matching grants also provide the grantor the ability to scale the funding offered to organizations by stretching the number of grantees. In essence, matching grants help share the funding load with public and private entities.

Matching grants also create a need for establishing sustainability within programs by requiring applicants to create or define available internal resources for the proposed project. The matching grants work by requiring applicants to explain where matching funds will be obtained. The hope is that examining internal resources, as well as exploring new ways to acquire funding, will lead to ongoing and sustainable avenues for future revenue needs in the organization.

Here is an example of how a matching grant might work. Let’s take a fictitious nonprofit for children. They are working toward expanding community playground resources, specifically to provide more ADA accessible equipment. Looking at the list of Grants for Children on Instrumentl, they 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
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Let’s say that this nonprofit is looking to request $100,000 for their playground project. In this example, the required match is 20%.

The nonprofit would need to show they are able to contribute $20,000 to the project (20% of the grant request). The playground project would then have $120,000 available if the grant is awarded.

This example shows a match that is a percentage of the requested grant.

Another possible match structure would be a grant specifying the match as a percentage of the combined grant and match. This kind of match can be a little tougher to calculate, but falls along a similar concept. In the same playground example, if your total playground project requires $120,000 you would note a 20% contribution toward that total project, or $24,000 ($120,000 x 0.20).

In this example, your contribution would be 20% of the total, or $24,000, and the grant would provide 80% of the total, or $96,000. It is important to closely read and understand which match structure is required by the grant.

So, you know how a match grant works, but how do you show match funds? Where do you get that $20,000 or $24,000 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 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, 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

Matching fund donation

These function similar to cash reserves. Donations provide cash on hand to meet the requirements of a matching grant. Organizations looking to expand their programs or services may consider running a donation campaign to support their application for a matching grant.

Volunteers

Similar to in-kind staff allocations, if you are able to utilize volunteers you may be able to quantify their hours as part of your match requirement.

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 grant match 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.

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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.

Another place to look for matching grants are through other local, state, and federal organizations. 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 the 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 best fit to your organization and project goals, stay on track of deadlines and requirements, and manage reporting requirements 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.

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