Evelyn and I arrived at the Norton Art Museum in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Norton was Florida’s first recipient of a new challenge grant program for non profit organizations. We had flown from Tallahassee to spend the day documenting their match. If the staff could prove that the museum matched the funds, their organization would receive $250,000.

The staff was prepared. On a table in the conference room sat a six-inch stack of file folders and computer printouts. They handed us a sheet listing gifts from donors that totaled half a million dollars. “What would you like to see first?”

Evelyn, who was the Division Chief at Cultural Affairs, and I, in my role as the Division’s Internal Auditor, looked at the list, conferred for a minute and replied. Let’s start with the largest gifts. This $200,000 donation. What do you to have to document it?

The staff opened a file and produced a letter from the donor and a copy of the check. At our request, they retrieved a bank statement, from the same month, confirming its deposit into Norton’s account. Satisfied, we went on to ask about and reviewed several more gifts. Within an hour, the Norton proved their match and earned their quarter of a million dollars

When you include match in your grant budgets, consider in advance how you will prove them. While copies of large checks, like the Norton’s, work splendidly, you will often have to work with lesser amounts. Here, are some effective ideas on how to document match:

Cash Donations

Save copies of checks and corresponding bank statements. Letters from donors that indicate enclosed donations; copies of your letter of thanks and annual reports listing names support the match, but by themselves are inadequate.

In-kind Donations

Ask vendors to indicate the dollar value of the donated item or service. Ideally these should be on a vendor’s invoice or letterhead. If instead, you receive a verbal quote, sign and date a note to the file that references the conversation.

Save Time: Use Time sheets

Use time sheets and logs for volunteers and staff

Volunteers can record their hours in a sign-in notebook kept at the entry. Encourage the receptionist to remind volunteers to sign-in and out. These hours are often lost, because organizations fail to record them when they occur.

Staff should be informed in advance, if their salaries are funded from several sources. Provide them weekly or bi-weekly timesheets to list project hours. The staff can list all their work by project (a useful process for analysis of where time is invested) or just the hours for the grant project. Ask the employee to sign and date the completed time sheets. For an audit, you will also need payroll reports to back up the time sheets.


For simplicity sake, if at all possible purchase items for a project at one time. If you are buying for more than one activity, process the project items as a separate purchase. Label your receipt with the name of the project.

Large One-of-a-Kind Items

How do you handle a donation of large item like a used forklift? Or, the value of donated land? Use E-bay, Zillow or other websites to estimate their value based on similar items. Print out the pages and highlight the amounts. Note any price adjustments you make and why. For instance you note:  Since the forklift was manufactured one year before this one, I decreased the value by $300.  Save these pages in your project file.

Making Do

As a last resort, when you cannot document the match with any of the above, estimate the value using common sense. For example, your landscape person replanted a garden area at no cost. Now she has left town. In your photo album from a special event, you find a picture of the garden before.  To document the change, snap a picture of after.  To estimate prices you have several options: 1) Call another landscape specialist to get a ballpark estimate. 2) Go online to estimate the value of the plants used. (This resides in the too much work category unless you are match challenged or there are several expensive items.) 3) Use as a base, similar work, in this case, other yard work. If the lawn service costs $100 per month and takes approximately one hour per week (4 hours per month= $100) and this job took 16 hours, than $400-$500 is a reasonable estimate.

By planning in advance and using resources around you, you can keep match documentation simple. And, while you won’t always be able to prove your match in an hour, like the Norton’s staff, by using the above suggestions, you can be done before lunch

For more than 20 more articles to help you with grant writing at successful non profit organizations, see this directory.

For six audios to purchase that will help you write grants if you are a newbie or an expert, follow this link. Each offers one hours of training from Karen– and contains the content of her famous grant writing workshops.

For other sources of nonprofit income to augment your non profit grant opportunities, read this article, Can Your Organization Obtain More Income?