March Madness For Giving: Making Nonprofits Compete For Gifts

Just in time for March Madness, Brackets for Good injects charitable fundraising with a healthy dose of competition–and a little trash talking.

March Madness For Giving: Making Nonprofits Compete For Gifts
[Image: College basketball via Jeff Schultes / Shutterstock]

There’s nothing like a little structured competition to get people’s blood moving. And it turns out that what’s true for college sports is true enough for charitable fundraising as well. A little rivalry is good for the soul and for nonprofit finances, too.


Brackets for Good takes the format of the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament. But instead of Duke and Florida State, there are names like Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. There’s still trash talking, apparently. But it’s all in the name of drumming up money for good causes.

Indianapolis residents Matt McIntyre and Matt Duncan came up with the concept in 2011 while they watched Butler University reach the national championship game for the second year running. They wondered how they could channel the excitement in the city into a positive force for charity. Naturally, they turned to sports, and the response from the area has been impressive. In 2012, they raised $32,000 for eight charity “teams.” Last year, they raised about $85,000 for 16 charities. This year, they have 64 teams competing, and expect a return of $500,000.

“The concept of competitive or gamified giving attracts new donors,” says Duncan. “It’s a different way for a nonprofit to ask for dollars, and it’s a different way for a donor to give and have their dollars amplified through the tournament.”

The teams try and out-raise each other by appealing to anyone who’ll listen. In early stages, like-sized groups are paired with one another (so resources are similar). And every dollar raised equals one tournament point. There are prizes for making it out of each round, and $10,000 for the winner (courtesy of a local company).

See this year’s match-ups here.

McIntyre says the format is particularly useful for smaller groups that gain publicity by being in the tournament. When a rival group sends out a mailer saying they have to beat X, the donor base learns about that organization as well, he says.


Brackets for Good collects all the money centrally and distributes checks to each group, making accounting easier. It also helps with social media and marketing advice. The tournament may not have quite the intensity of March Madness. But the gaming element seems to jockey up the dollars nicely.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.