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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Grab your coffee and make sure your laptop is fully charged, the end of the first quarter 2010 is upon us!

Why do we all fundraise at the End of the Quarter?  To people outside of the business it could seem like finance staffers are lazy… waiting until the last minute and then making up for it in a mad frenzy of fundraising reminiscent of cramming for that Biology 101 final your freshman year.  The truth is that donors respond to urgency and the end of the quarter finance disclosures provide a convenient urgent deadline four times a year.

At ActBlue we've seen plenty of EOQ deadlines come and go. The campaigns that consistently do the best are the ones who savvily use goals.  Here are a couple of tips for running a goal based EOQ fundraising campaign.

Set an attainable public goal

You should really have two goals. You already have an internal goal for how much you need to raise online to meet your quarterly numbers.  The other is the initial goal that you will make public for your EOQ push.

Goal Thermometer

The key to a good initial goal is making it reasonable enough that you can be confident you can hit it, but still challenging enough that it leads donors to believe that they need to chip in order to make the campaign a success.

You also should decide whether you want your public goal to be denominated in Dollars or Donors.  Many campaigns, knowing that their online givers tend towards a smaller donation amount average, like to go with a number of donors goal to publicize their grassroots support.

Make the goal visual

Donors love to see visuals and goals are no exception.  You could build a thermometer graphic by hand and update it constantly throughout the EOQ with new totals — but ActBlue has a much easier way.

Every Fundraising Page on ActBlue has a thermometer tool which allows you to set a goal denominated in dollars or donors.  Our system automatically updates the thermometer every five minutes with the current totals.  Once you pick your goal you can embed the thermometer anywhere on the internet and it will continue to auto-update from your live ActBlue numbers.

You can even embed the thermometer in an email, and it will pull the up-to-date numbers when it is opened by a potential donor.

Update your list on the goal's progress

One email isn't enough!  Once you have a goal, and people are donating, be sure to update your list on the goal's progress.  You should send an email to people who have already donated with an update on the goal and an ask for them to forward it to their friends and family.  People who haven't donated should get an email reiterating how important a donation is towards achieving the goal for the quarter and winning the race in the fall.

One good technique for a followup email to non-donors from the first solicitation is to get a quick quote from a recent donor.  Donors respond well to a message from other donors talking about how important it is to contribute to the cause, and how good it feels to be part of a movement.

As always, the ActBlue team is here to help your campaign succeed.  Please let us know if you have questions about EOQ fundraising or want help melding your fundraising ideas into into the online tools. 

Happy fundraising!

Tomorrow marks the end of the first quarter of 2010, and campaigns will be sending out their last emails before the FEC reporting period ends. But EOQ isn't just for campaigns, it's an opportunity for grassroots fundraisers to get in on the action.

First, take a look at our step-by-step guide to creating your own fundraising page. I've also included a few tips below to help you maximize your success.

  • Your request should be personal and urgent. Explain why you support your candidate and why your prospective donors should as well.
  • Make use of your social networks. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, make sure to post or tweet links to your fundraising page. Ask your friends to donate and retweet the page using ActBlue's handy Twitter and Facebook integrations.
  • Make sure you link people directly to the contribution form. The more your donors have to click, the less likely they are to give. (To find your page's contribution form, after you've created your page, click on the "contribute" button and copy the URL on the page you're redirected to.)
  • Relatedly, be sure to fill out the "Your Contribution Blurb" field. The text you put there will appear on the contribution form, so you're reminding your donors why they should give as they fill out the form. If you've already created your page, you can edit it by clicking on the "Edit" tab in the gray toolbar at the top of your page. 
  • Once you've created your page, click on the "Goal" tab to set a fundraising goal. Your progress toward that goal will be tracked with a nifty thermometer graphic, which lets your donors know how close they are to that goal.
  • Above all: don't get discouraged. Like baseball, fundraising is a game of
    failures. Thank the people who do give and keep asking. We have a few tips to help you
    ask successfully. 

Remember, all the money that comes through your page is tagged as such in the campaign's contribution reports, so your success will enable you to build credit with the people running the show.

Certificate

It's been a couple of very busy weeks at ActBlue, but I wanted to take a moment to thank our friends at Roots Camp 2010 for awarding us the Most Valuable Technology certificate. The nomination and award were as welcome as they were unexpected. For our part, we're not planning to rest on our multicolored laurels–in 2010, we plan to earn the title of MVT several times over.

A week ago, Ben Smith of POLITICO broke a story about an RNC fundraising presentation held in Washington D.C. The presentation featured a slide of President Obama as the Joker under the heading "the Evil Empire," bracketed by caricatures of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (available here, in .pdf format). A number of other slides contained quotes like "What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House or the Senate…? Save the country from trending toward socialism!" and urged RNC fundraisers to promote visceral giving based on "fear, extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration."

What's particularly striking about the RNC presentation is the tacit admission that, to paraphrase an old conservative bête noire, the only thing they have to sell is fear itself.

The reaction to that revelation was a collective shrug, as if that sort of fear-mongering were an ineluctable element of grassroots fundraising. It's not, and I ought to know. I built the grassroots fundraising program that sustained ActBlue across 2009–a slow year for political giving. Those donations, drawn from our users, funded the enhancements that enabled us to grow 84% in 2009.

When discussing grassroots fundraising, it's critical to understand the difference between creating urgency and sowing fear. Successful asks underscore the need for the target to give, but negative emotions are hardly the only way to get there. In writing our own asks, I've talked about increasing the influence of grassroots donors and building infrastructure more than I've mentioned Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann, and donors responded better to the former. In fact, our most successful asks are those in which we demonstrate the relevance of grassroots actions on ActBlue to a larger Democratic agenda, or show them how the numbers they put up on ActBlue drive news stories.

In short, there are other ways to appeal to donors; by accepting the fear-based paradigm of the RNC as the sine qua non of grassroots fundraising we're buying into a false equivalence. The grassroots campaigns that take place on ActBlue employ a variety of fundraising strategies, often aimed at a specific goal. Some of the largest grassroots fundraising efforts on ActBlue have focused on granular policy details.

There's a cynical take on all of this that says it all reduces to
fear–fear that Republicans will win, fear that we won't get the
policies we want, fear that our voices will be drowned out by special
interests in Washington. That's a remarkably broad generalization to
apply to hundreds of thousands of ActBlue donors, one that is contemptuous of
the diverse reasons that move us to participate in American politics.

And, apparently, it's a view that the RNC subscribes to. The RNC strategy is built around juvenile imagery and a flair for terrifying GOP donors with the threat of a nebulous, abstract adversary–in this case, a wholly irrelevant political ideology. And rather than give their donors any idea what their money will be used for, the RNC leverages terms of art like "patriotic duty" and "front line mentality" to power an agenda of endless obstruction that negatively impacts the very donors they want to court.

In short, grassroots fundraising on ActBlue reflects the diversity of our user base, while the RNC seeks uniformity through terror. (An objectively socialist approach!) If we assume that these strategies are identical, we're neglecting the difference between real and phony populism, between framing and fiction.

You may be familiar with our quarterly statistics posts on the ActBlue Blog. By popular demand, we're going to start releasing information more frequently, starting with monthly stats posts. The purpose is to highlight successful techniques and strategies, and nothing below should be misconstrued as an endorsement of a particular campaign or committee. In the future we'll also start drilling down to the state level to provide more insight into fundraising dynamics there. 

Let's get started by looking at our February 2010 overview. 

Number of contributions 31,470
Total raised $2,335,868.11
Average contribution size $74.23
Distinct committees receiving money 1,007
Distinct fundrapages receiving money 745
Fundraising pages created 592

When we compare these numbers to February 2008, which was presidential year with a historically active primary season, we see growth across the board. The number of contributions was nearly double the 16,545 from two years ago. The total money raised increased by more than 500k over 2008 and the average contribution size was about 30% smaller. Finally, the number of fundraising pages created and receiving funds were both significantly higher. 

I want to highlight one number that would otherwise be overlooked: the 1,007 separate campaigns and committees that received a check for contributions made through ActBlue in February. That's a 70% increase over February of 2008! Included in those hundreds of new entities are state based campaigns, some local jurisdictions that ActBlue has expanded to, county parties, and more. We're excited about the growth and ability to sustain smaller and more localized committees with the same fundraising platform that has powered U.S. Senate and presidential campaigns. 

Here are the Top 10 Campaigns & Committees for February 2010 (by donors)

Committee Name

PCCC – Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Type

Organization

Donors

8,744

Amount

$71,999.48

Michael Bennet CO-Sen, 2010 8,237 $72,533.75
Democracy for America 6,594 $38,796.98
Kirsten Gillibrand NY-Sen, 2010 6,273 $41,241.93
Alan Grayson FL-08, 2010 4,646 $45,791.43
Chellie Pingree ME-01, 2010 3,930 $29,199.58
Jared Polis CO-02, 2010 3,892 $27,740.12
Anthony Weiner NY-09, 2010 2,766 $74,102.82
FDL Action PAC PAC 1,126 $29,038.28
Jennifer Brunner OH-Sen, 2010 479 $20,024.05

Just missing the top 10 were a Florida attorney general candidate and a Virginia state house candidate. At the federal level, ActBlue funds went to a healthy mix of Netroots-oriented organizations & PACs, US Senate candidates, and US House candidates. 

In fact, the two highest ranked candidates Michael Bennett & Kirsten Gillibrand are connected to the top two organizations–they were all part of February's singular most successful fundraising page. That page, created by the PCCC & DFA, encouraged donations to the two Senators leading the effort to restore a public option to the developing healthcare bill.

The PCCC/DFA page made use of the strengths inherent in ActBlue: it demonstrated the financial muscle of those organizations–specifically, their ability to provide financial support to like-minded legislators–and directed positive attention toward those fundraising efforts.

You can see the full list of the top 10 fundraising pages (by donors) below.

Name Donors Raised Average
senateheroes-letter 8183 $157,426.74 $19.23
polispingreegrayson 3992 $109,397.86 $27.40
weinercdthc02242010 2358 $53,342.01 $22.62
pccc_main 1228 $25,544.36 $20.80
firedogs 976 $27,280.03 $27.95
jenniferbrunner 420 $17,815.39 $42.41
fdlfiredogs 206 $9,040.50 $43.88
heat4mdp 126 $6,346.00 $50.36
washingtondays2010 112 $16,596.00 $148.17
allaboutjoe 109 $2,184.00 $20.03

I always enjoy looking at the top fundraising pages list because it shines a light on some of the more unique pages. We've talked about the top page already, and there are others in the top 10 that use similar strategies of rewarding "good" behavior by fundraising on a candidate's behalf. But there is some great diversity at the bottom of this Top 10 list. Pages like "Washington Days," a fundraiser for the Kansas Democratic Party and (my favorite) the Fix our Furnace Fund page. The latter uses a fundraising thermometer, picture, and compelling story to raise money for the Maine Democratic Party to replace a broken furnace at their Augusta Headquarters! 

Be sure to take a look at the linked pages to get some ideas on how you can create your own successful fundraising pages for your candidates and committees.  

On Monday, Democrat Bill Halter, currently the Lt. Governor of Arkansas, entered the AR-Sen race, challenging the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Later that day, DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas and NBC's Chuck Todd had a brief exchange on Twitter about Bill Halter's fundraising numbers.

Chuck Todd:

Would be a big statement RT @markos: Netroots funding for Bill Halter (Netroots + MoveOn) now just shy of 500k

Markos:

Getting there. RT @chucktodd Progressives as fired up for Halter as Lamont RT @markos MoveOn+ActBlue just hit 500k for Bill Halter

Today, MoveOn reported raising nearly $600,000 for Bill Halter, while ActBlue displays a total of $170,000 and counting, raised by groups like the PCCC and DailyKos. In other words, the statement has been made. Now the hard part: what does it mean?

First, some context: Sen. Blanche Lincoln has a war chest of around $5M. Or, put slightly differently, Bill Halter raised 10% of an incumbent Senator's war chest in one day. If his supporters reach their goal of $1M [Edit–Halter reached $1M in 48 hrs] by the end of this week, that'll be 20% of her funds. Moreover, Halter's success produced a flurry of media coverage, further elevating his profile. Finally, the AFL-CIO committed to $3M in expenditures on Halter's behalf. As a result, Sen. Lincoln will have to spend some of her money to fend off what looks destined to be a well-funded primary challenge from a candidate with significant name recognition both in Arkansas and beyond.

Someone ought to send a memo to Chris Matthews, who lamented late last year that the Netroots weren't grown-up Democrats:

I don’t consider them Democrats, I consider them netroots, and they’re different. And if I see that they vote in every election or most elections, I’ll be worried. But I’m not sure that they’re regular grown-up Democrats… They get their giggles from sitting in the backseat and bitching.

Yet today we have an insurgent candidate propelled to the forefront of national politics in one day by the Netroots and MoveOn. That's a far cry from the sort of Monday-morning quarterbacking that so upset Chris Matthews in late 2009, and it's worth revisiting why that $770,000 boost happened.

Whether it's political campaigns or media outlets, the organizations that make a splash are the ones that have mastered the breakneck pace and inclusive nature of the internet. And yes, I have to count Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) among those success stories. As Americans, our admiration for the spectacle of political participation is innate, as evidenced by the breathless coverage accorded to the Tea Party movement. However, in our increasingly digital age, political participation shouldn't be solely the province of people waving signs. The communities that exist online are every bit as vital, contentious and arguably more diverse than the arbitrarily large crowds that descend on the National Mall. 

Halter's primary challenge represents the political emergence of these groups into an arena that, until recently, was the sole province of Chris Matthews' "grown-up Democrats." It's not a trend that can be reversed, either. The organizations involved know they have the reach and scope to affect national politics, and after Rob Miller, Alan Grayson and Bill Halter, candidates know it too.

That change owes a lot to the infrastructure that ActBlue built over the last five years. Without the means to translate the Democratic passion of these communities into language that politicians can understand: campaign funds. And you can't build it in the moment, either. You have to have robust structures in place ahead of time, so that when the surge comes you don't miss out on a single dollar. ActBlue handled both public option pushes, Rob Miller, and, heck, even Martha Coakley. Our work has enabled new voices to emerge, and emerge powerfully. It's the beginning of a structural shift in American politics, more powerful and enduring than any Supreme Court decision.

*Ah yes, the much-lamented horse race metaphor. I didn't see anyone else making one, so I figured I'd be the first. Considered but rejected: "Halter Loosed" and "Halter Given Free Rein."

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