Volunteer Grants and Matching Gifts

By Christy Jones

You don’t have to be wealthy to contribute thousands to your favorite nonprofit. Volunteers at Mercer Botanic Gardens have raised nearly $30,000 over the past few years through company and nonprofit gift matching programs.

“Volunteer grants support Mercer Botanic Gardens and the Mercer Botanical Center in a phenomenal way,” said Suzzanne Chapman, the botanical collections curator. “While volunteers provide the gift of time, they can also earn important funding to help us improve the gardens. Many Mercer volunteers have participated in these programs for more than 20 years.”

Through the ExxonMobil Foundation Cultural Matching Gift Program, volunteers Helen Dowling and Ellen Alfar have earned thousands of dollars for Mercer. These funds have been used to conserve rare and endangered plants and preserve the herbarium and library collections at the botanical center.

To qualify for funding, volunteers must be an ExxonMobil retiree or the spouse of a retiree. Eligible volunteers can earn a $500 grant for the nonprofit of their choice by completing at least 20 volunteer hours per quarter.

Mercer volunteer Barbara Davidson is a longtime participant in ExxonMobil’s program. Davidson has been volunteering since her retirement from the company more than 15 years ago. She grew up in the area and has fond childhood memories of camping and swimming with her family along both Cypress and Spring creeks.

“My favorite volunteer activities always include working with children because it brings joy to my heart to see young children in the garden,” she said. “It was also rewarding to help rebuild after Hurricane Harvey’s floods. Just seeing the difference we made reinforced my belief in the importance of volunteering.”

Companies such as Home Depot and General Electric also provide opportunities for nonprofits. To see if your company offers a matching gift or grant program, contact your employer’s human resource office or community giving department or visit your company’s website.

Companies aren’t the only organizations offering gift matching programs.

“Volunteers also commit monetary support through affiliate groups,” said Chapman. “The Knowles Family and the Houston Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas provide funding for internships in honor of Dr. Larry Brown.”

Most recently, the Heartwood Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists and the Gibson family made donations in support of botanical internships at the Mercer Botanical Center. The additional funding has allowed Mercer to fully sponsor Texas windmill grass (Chloris texensis), one of the rare plants found at Precinct 4’s Prairie Dawn Preserve.

Mercer volunteers are encouraged to see if their volunteer hours contribute towards extra gifts for the gardens and botanical center. For more information, contact the volunteer coordinator at jhartwell@hcp4.net.