Matching gifts programs make donations go farther

Health insurance. Life insurance. Retirement plans. Paid vacation and sick time. These are standard benefits offered by most major companies. But in recent years, many corporate human resources departments are making available another benefit to their employees — a matching gifts program.

In fact, a number of businesses throughout the Boston Archdiocese are offering matching gifts programs to their employees. Simply put, matching gifts are a benefit that the employer provides to its employees that oftentimes serves as an incentive in employee recruitment.

Why the growing trend toward offering matching gifts as part of an employee benefits package? Not only are matching gifts seen as a valuable employee benefit, matching gifts are also often an overlooked asset relating to annual giving — or, in the case of the Archdiocese of Boston — the Annual Catholic Appeal. Electing the matching gifts option provided by your employer is also a way of doubling your gift to your favorite charity.

Just ask John Haran of Needham. An engineer by training and a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Haran regularly makes a matching gift to the Archdiocese of Boston through his former employer, Verizon. Haran, 86, is a retired engineer from the company’s precursor, New England Telephone, which later became NYNEX and still later, Bell Atlantic, followed by Verizon, as we know it today.

For many years, the Worcester native has lived in Needham, where he attends Mass daily at nearby St. Bartholomew Parish. A World War II veteran, Haran was married for 58 years to his late wife, who died in October 2003. Haran has three sons and six grandchildren, five grandsons and one granddaughter, and remains interested in sports, both college and professional. He is also an avid spectator at his grandchildren’s sports activities.

Haran initially learned of his company’s matching gifts program from a co-worker, and subsequently directed his gifts to St. John Seminary or to Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston.

"The challenge today is to increase Catholic Appeal donations by those people with matching gifts capabilities and who may not know of their matching gifts opportunities," Haran points out.

Indeed, the education component is a staple of matching gifts programs, which have grown in number in the Boston area in recent years. Historically, matching gifts companies have been academically oriented, traditionally matching donations to educational institutions.

Companies first designed matching gifts programs as a way for employees to give back to their college or university. This approach has since evolved to include a number of non-profit organizations such as, in the Boston Archdiocese, St. John Seminary and Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston. Haran’s former employer, Verizon, matches his gifts to both seminaries. The company offers a matching gifts program for its retirees as well as for current employees, which is not always the case among matching gifts companies.

Qualifications and guidelines among matching gifts companies, in fact, do vary, and it is up to the donor to determine employer guidelines and to meet company qualifications. Most matching gifts companies, for example, do not match pledges to capital campaigns for retirees.

Those whose company’s matching gifts programs may not match a favorite ministry or charity should not be discouraged. Most will match education endeavors — in the case of the Archdiocese, parish schools, St. John Seminary or Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston for delayed vocations.

And, back to John Haran, what does he say about the opportunity to double his gifts?

"Matching gifts are a year-round effort. When you make a matching gift to the Catholic Appeal, it goes directly to either St. John Seminary or to Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston. What better than to provide for the training of priests? If you have a priest in the family, you are blessed."

To learn more about making a matching gift as part of your planned giving efforts, call Leadership Gifts Officers Dick Murphy at 617-746-5675 or Michael Rhodes at 617-746-5929, or contact Judy Choharis in Advancement Services at 617-746-5719.