Corporate matching lets donors supercharge their generosity

Company matches can double or even triple the impact of a single gift

Every gift to Washington University counts. With corporate matching, however, alumni and friends have an opportunity to give their gifts an extra boost. Many companies encourage philanthropy by matching contributions from employees, retirees, or their spouses. While matching guidelines vary, participation can double or even triple the power of a single gift. Matching may also unlock membership in the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, which recognizes donors who contribute $1,000 or more to the Annual Fund.

Learn more about corporate matching and participating companies.

A rewarding partnership

In 1996, Nancy Pendleton, MEM ’93, MS ’93, became a first-time WashU donor by making a gift to the McKelvey School of Engineering. It was not until 2017, however, that she began participating in corporate matching through her employer, Boeing, the multinational aerospace corporation headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. That year, Pendleton, now a VP of Boeing’s Defense, Space, & Security Software unit in St. Louis, joined the engineering school’s national council, which gave her greater insight into its efforts to prepare students for a future beyond WashU.

“I was impressed by the engineering school’s holistic approach to supporting students through career advising, internships, and cocurricular activities,” Pendleton says. As a council member, she also came to appreciate how gifts from donors like her helped underpin this supportive culture. “I saw how the university was using these funds to invest in students’ success,” she says. “It inspired me to increase my giving, and I realized I could maximize my impact by taking advantage of the match.”

Pendleton and student mentee
Nancy Pendleton joined McDonnell Douglas, which eventually merged with Boeing, as an analyst in 1988. For nearly a decade, she has lent her expertise as a mentor to WashU engineering students like Sophia Dykstra, Class of 2024. (Photo: Dan Donovan/Washington University)

Pendleton, who received McKelvey Engineering’s Alumni Achievement Award in 2021, regards her WashU education as a professional pivot point. “My classes and professors gave me the tools and training I needed to shift from technical engineering to engineering management,” she says. “The experience really changed my career trajectory at Boeing.”

She expresses her gratitude as a committed WashU donor and volunteer who has spent nearly a decade mentoring engineering students. She is especially passionate about welcoming more women into the field and, in recent years, has devoted her time to the engineering school’s Women & Engineering Center. Pendleton’s giving priorities mirror her volunteer work, and corporate matching has made it possible for her to channel even more resources into this area.

By the numbers

Boeing sponsors a 1:1 match of up to $10,000 annually per eligible employee or retiree. The company began matching contributions to WashU in fiscal year 1979. Since then, the match has raised more than $1.6 million in funds for the university.

Emerson maintains a 1:1 match of gifts between $25 and $5,000 and caps contributions at $10,000 annually per eligible employee. The company began participating in corporate matching at the university in fiscal year 1981 and has since matched more than $780,000 in gifts.

Giving is good business

Through corporate matching, Boeing encourages employees like Pendleton — many of whom are fellow WashU alumni — to give back to the communities and institutions that matter most to them. “We have very dedicated people who want to make things happen,” Pendleton says. “The match signals that the company stands with us and shares our passions.”

Like Boeing, St. Louis-based Emerson is home to numerous WashU grads, including president and CEO Lal Karsanbhai, MBA ’95. Under his leadership, the global technology and industrial software provider has concentrated its charitable efforts on advancing equity in K-12 education. In 2022, the company pledged $200 million in contributions over the next decade to support this work in communities across the country.

“As a company, we can’t reach all of the great organizations that our employees are invested in,” acknowledges Akberet Boykin Farr, Emerson’s VP of diversity and social responsibility. “Participating in the match is a way for us to champion causes that sit outside of our core mission but are important to our team.”

Emerson’s matching program allows staff to amplify their giving — without additional legwork. Processes differ from company to company. However, Emerson has invested in making theirs as seamless as possible. Gone are the days of paper forms and snail mail. Today, employees can apply for the match entirely online. Boykin Farr believes these changes further incentivize employee philanthropy. “We’ve eliminated a lot of barriers to participation,” she says. “Now, you can make a big difference in just a few minutes.”