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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Number of contributions 169,672
Total raised $16,775,323.27
Average Contribution size $98.87
Committees receiving money 1,796
Fundraising pages receiving money 1,825
Pages created 887

 

October is the month for political activity. In September people are just beginning to pay attention, and Election Day is too early in November for campaigns to really do much that month. The following two charts display that growth in both relative and absolute terms:

Sept 2008 Sept 2012 Change
Contributions 113,131 169,672 50%
Volume ($) $11,945,397.21 $16,775,323.27 40%
Mean Donation $105.59 $98.87 -6%
Committees 1,388 1,796 29%
Pages Created 1,892 887 -53%
Pages w/ Money 2,006 1,825 -9%

 

And here are the top committees, by number of donors, of October 2010:

Name Race Donors Dollars
Joe Sestak PA-Sen 25,390 $1,300,011
Jack Conway KY-Sen 20,900 $645,685
Alan Grayson FL-08 20,395 $514,554
Barbara Boxer CA-Sen 16,325 $936,022
Scott McAdams AK-Sen 13,235 $397,175.
PCCC Organization 11,353 $159,908
Democracy for America Organization 11,292 $286,036
Raul Grijalva AZ-07 10,227 $146,210
Russ Feingold WI-Sen 9,566 $294,914
Anne McLane Kuster NH-02 9,505 $120,444

 

Note the massive increase in donors for the top 10 committes. In Semptember, Jack Conway topped the list with ~10,000 donors. In October, he doubled that figure and couldn’t keep his place at the top of the list, losing it Joe Sestak’s campaign. As he did in the primary, Joe Sestak closed strong on ActBlue, quintupling his donors relative to September. Barbara Boxer also moved up the list, and donors put Raul Grijalva on the board as it became clear the the progressive from Arizona had a race on his hands.

Number of contributions 93,024
Total raised $9,892,076.04
Average Contribution size $106.34
Committees receiving money 1,683
Fundraising pages receiving money 1,613
Pages created 951

 

September outpaced August signficantly, but more illuminating is the comparison between September 2008 and September 2010:

Sept 2008 Sept 2010 Change
Contributions 50,486 93,024 84%
Volume ($) $7,111,834.72 $9,892,076.04 39%
Mean Donation $140.87 $106.34 -25%
Committees 1,288 1,683 30%
Pages Created 1,040 951 -9%
Pages w/ Money 1,354 1,613 19%

 

And here are the top committees, by number of donors, of September 2010:

Name Race Donors Dollars
Jack Conway KY-Sen 10,403 $420,689
Alan Grayson FL-08 9,954 $247,141
Russ Feingold WI-Sen 9,139 $283,743
PCCC Organization 6,637 $101,370
Anne McLane Kuster NH-02 6,248 $88,021
Chris Coons DE-Sen 6,181 $518,462
Joe Sestak PA-Sen 4,943 $667,539
Democracy for America Organization 4,603 $55,914
Scott McAdams AK-Sen 3,988 $284,437
Barbara Boxer CA-Sen 2,626 $121,296

 

I’ll admit that I had to listen to a few motivational songs while compiling this list, but it’s important to realize that this is just a snapshot taken at the beginning of this year’s political season. Donors were just starting to wake up after the summer, and in September they sent more money through ActBlue than they did in July and August combined. Moreover, donors moved quickly to support the Democratic candidates in Delaware and Alaska Senate contests that were newly competitive after upsets in the GOP primaries gave us Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller. As I’ve said before, that agility is not something to be discounted.

Also, while many of these candidates faced a historically awful political environment, their success on ActBlue demonstrates a solid foundation for Democrats moving forward. The fact that dollars and donations are up in this political and economic climate speaks to the resilience of what we’ve built here.

Earlier this year, ActBlue unveiled ActBlue mobile, our interface for those of you who access the web via smartphone. Since then, we've had ample time to take a look at growth patterns and problems with mobile giving.

In my initial post, I talked about ActBlue Mobile as a way to meet donors where they are. That's becoming more and more the case. In May 2010, mobile users made up 2.6% of ActBlue visits. By October 2010, less than half a year later, they'd risen to 5.6%, a 72% increase. Moreover, overall mobile web usage is skyrocketing: according to Cisco Systems, mobile data traffic will double every year between now and 2014. That's a natural outcome of device convergence. It doesn't make sense to buy dedicated devices like a computer and internet connection (~$200+, and monthly fees, plus portability issues for desktops) a cellular phone (~$40+, plus monthly charges or prepaid minutes), and a digital camera (~$100+) when you can get all three of those functions in a $200 smartphone.

(Fun fact: there was more mobile data traffic in 2010 (.pdf, p.2) than there was on the entire internet in 2002 [See p.2].)

In other words, mobile web is accessible–and will become increasingly accessible–to a far broader pool of people. That dovetails nicely with ActBlue's mission of making it easier for people to participate in the Democratic fundraising process. Folks who don't have access to a computer or aren't comfortable making a donation from their work computer will have a way to make their voice heard in the political process.

However, to enable that to happen we need to play nice with mobile web browsers. As our pool of mobile users grew, we noticed that they tended to convert (jargon: not just visit, but actually make a donation) at a far lower rate than non-mobile visitors. The solution was to optimize our donation form for mobile access, making it more intuitive and easier for mobile users to navigate.

That simple fix led to a 160% increase in the conversion rate. That's crucial because as more and more people get smartphones, more and more people will be check their email on their phones. And, since email fundraising is still the gold standard in online politics, and a 160% increase in the conversion rate for mobile users is nothing to sniff at.

There's more to do in this area, and we're hard at work on it. It's just another way we're keeping Democrats ahead of the curve.

ActBlue has two core missions: increasing the number of people who donate to Democrats, and increasing the number of Democrats they can reach with that money. While it's become increasing common to cite a given candidate's ActBlue numbers–a fact we're very proud of–that tendency ignores what, in some ways, is the more important number: this cycle, 3,701 Democratic committees received ActBlue checks. Cut out a few hundred federal races, a handful of special elections, and a bunch of primary candidates who never made it to the general and you're still going to be several thousand committees short of that total. The remainder are state and local candidates and party committees, and a few ballot initiatives.

I want to single out ballot initiatives, because they're an area where the transparency and flexibility of ActBlue really matters. Ballot initiatives are often worded in a way that appeals to voter sensibilities at the broadest level and obscures their true impact. Take California's Proposition 23, which proposed to roll back a clean air bill from 2006 until unemployment dropped below 5.5% for 4 straight financial quarters. This is the usual–and overwhelmingly Republican–case for broad deregulation: it allows businesses to flourish, leading to more jobs. California's unemployment rate is 12%, so it seems like it could be worth a shot.

The problem is that almost every piece of available evidence tells us that Proposition 23 would've been a bad idea. Financial deregulation helped create the crisis that's responsible for California's unemployment rate. Failure to regulate energy companies effectively led to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Proposition 23, which was initially funded by a couple of major Texas oil companies, would've gutted California's clean energy industry, one of the fastest growing sectors of the state economy. Moreover, California's unemployment rate has only been below 5.5% for four quarters three times since 1976. The sunset provision was mostly a joke.

The problem is that it's hard to get that information to the voters. It takes time, money, and effective organizing. That's where CREDO Mobile comes in. They set up an ActBlue listing to process donations so that the No on 23 campaign would have the money they needed to get the message out. More importantly, CREDO and ActBlue gave people who couldn't make it to the ballot box the same voice that the Texas oil companies who funded the other side had. Freedom of speech–in the Citizens United sense–and the ability to advocate for your preferred position on an issue shouldn't be the sole province of major corporations.

That's the power that ActBlue represents: the opportunity for concerned citizens, organizers like CREDO, and political campaigns to come together in one place and express their opinions in dollars and cents. If we limited our scope, we'd be denying those people a voice in our politics that they surely deserve.

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