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Monthly Archives: April 2013

The first quarter after an election year – especially after an expensive presidential election – can be a time of transition for political fundraising, but other than a short break during the holiday season, we saw campaigns and committees getting right back to work. And boy did they ever!

Here are our top line numbers compared with Q1 numbers in past post-election years. The ActBlue staff obsessively looks at these numbers every day, but then again we’re big dorks, and if you are reading this, you probably are too.

Q1 ’07 Q1 ’09 Q1 ’11 Q1 ’13
Contributions 31,441 24,361 180,537 436,726
Volume ($) $3,141,038.27 $5,343,772.20 $8,712,756.77 $16,478,580.31
Mean Donation $99.90 $219.36 $48.26 $37.73
Committees 235 651 881 1,246

 

Notice that the average donation amount has dropped quite a bit, while the number of donations made has gone up. This is a fairly common phenomenon, but one we actually ascribe a bit of meaning too. It used to be that electoral campaigns didn’t do a lot of work in the off year, let alone trying to engage small dollar donors, figuring that it was too far from an election for anyone to care/respond. Instead, finance directors would spend quite a bit of time talking to major donors during that period, and often not have anyone on staff tasked with building an email list and bringing supporters on board. That lead to a disproportionate number of large donations being processed via ActBlue, rather than the small dollar donors that are more typical.

But we’re thrilled to see people starting earlier and investing in a grassroots fundraising program, thus increasing the number of people that have a stake in the outcome of the election and ensuring it’s not just the few people blessed enough to be able to give max-out donations. It’s something we’ve long urged campaigns to do. Engaging small dollar donors throughout the length of campaigns has a ton of benefits: A) It makes campaigns more small D democratic because there are more voices being brought in and kept in, B) It makes campaigns stronger because there’s more money and a bigger pool to work with for field and votes and C) It makes the whole left stronger as more voices come in and stay active.

We sent checks to 1,246 different organizations, campaigns and committees this quarter and we can’t wait to see what that number looks like in March ’15!

The final day of the quarter happened to coincide with Easter, and we weren’t sure what that would mean for donations. Traditionally, we see big spikes at the end of each month and a huge one at the end of the quarter. The number of fundraising emails that show up in your inbox around that time usually corresponds with a big uptick in donations. But we didn’t see a huge spike at the end of the quarter on Sunday. Instead, it was more of a steady climb during the last week, which meant that candidates and committees still did well overall, but didn’t see those huge last minute increases.

Take a look at the chart below to see the volume and number of contributions for each day:

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 2.26.56 PM

Our assumption is that it was just bad luck that the end of the quarter fell on not just any Sunday, but Easter Sunday. This year it just so happens that every end of quarter day is on a weekend, and it will be interesting to see if this pattern continues, but not so fun for all of those hard working finance and digital directors out there. Those spikes get the adrenaline going, especially when we’re so far from election day. No matter how big the spikes grow, the ActBlue team will be hard at work even on a weekend, responding to questions and keeping the site zippy.

We’ve seen some pretty big numbers on ActBlue in 2013 so far, and if we’re helping to raise this much money while campaigns are just ramping up, we can only imagine what this cycle will bring. That means more work for us internally to make sure we’re ready for what all you – our users – bring. Really, it’s about the work you’ve been doing as supporters and organizers, and your dedication to starting your fundraising programs early means a bright future for 2014 in races up and down the ballot!

Note: This is the first in what we hope will be a regular series on the ActBlue blog sharing our lessons learned from our email program with our larger community of practitioners.

Have you ever wondered if you’d raise more money if you asked your email list for recurring contributions instead of a one-time ask? Yeah, us too.

We’ve tested this from time to time, and usually find for ActBlue and our community members that recurring asks perform better. But we know that the email copy can influence the results, so we decided to test it again. Last Thursday we sent out nearly identical emails to our members, but with two different asks. Here’s an example:

1-time ask

The only way we can do it is if we hit our big goal of raising $75,000 for ActBlue, by the end of the quarter on Sunday. Can you contribute $5, or whatever you can afford, right now to ActBlue, and ensure we’re prepared to help thousands of candidates and organizations raise millions of dollars next fall?

Recurring ask

The only way we can do it is if we hit our big goal of 1,000 donors to ActBlue giving $3 a month, or whatever they can afford, by the end of the quarter on Sunday. Can you contribute $3 a month right now to ActBlue, and ensure we’re prepared to help thousands of candidates and organizations raise millions of dollars next fall?

Each email was sent to 100k random members. We let the test roll for 24 hours before making a call on Friday morning, but it was pretty apparent early on that we were going to have a winner.

One critical piece of important information that we had was the ability to calculate with confidence how much money the recurring contributions would bring in. Recurring donors on ActBlue pick the amount of months they’d like to make their contribution – the maximum is 24 months and we set that as the default when people land on the page through the email parameters. ActBlue Page Dashboards (which are in beta) do the math for you and display exactly how much money your members have signed up to contribute. They’re a tad hidden at the moment due to the beta status, but just add /dashboard/list before your specific page name when you are logged in to see it. For example: https://secure.actblue.com/dashboard/list/offthecharts/. Here’s how it looks for this fundraising page:

But we know that for one reason or another some people don’t complete their pledge. Their credit cards expire and they never updated them with us (even though we ask) or they simply cancel their recurring contribution. That’s why we recently analyzed our pledge completion rate. Since November 2010 the percentage of money that was pledged to ActBlue’s own PAC and received is 88.97% for all recurring contribution pledges that have completed. We did not include people who are still contributing monthly.

Across all the different committees who use ActBlue, we find a sitewide completion rate of 80%, so ActBlue is a bit higher than the average. And our completion rate has grown from where it used to be. All-time we are at a 77.78% pledge completion rate, so clearly we’ve gotten better at getting our folks to finish out their pledges.

Since we had the pledge completion rate, we could calculate how much we could reasonably expect to get in from both the one-time contribution ask and the recurring contribution ask. And here are our results after 24 hours.

One time ask : $2,557 projected
Recurring ask: $4,365.70 projected

We had more contributions on the one-time page than the recurring page, but clearly we were going to end up bringing in more money if we asked the remaining portion of our list to make a recurring contribution. Thus on Friday we sent out the recurring contribution ask to the remaining members of our list, and followed it with a kicker on Sunday, the last day of the quarter.

Our assumption is that ActBlue is viewed by our members as long-term infrastructure that should be supported as such. We’re not a candidate that’s trying to post a great end-of-quarter number, and we’re not trying to raise funds for a specific project like other non-profits. So while our members dig the recurring contributions, your members may not. So test it and find out!

We know people often make different assumptions about recurring revenue, but as you see with this test, the recurring ask is worth significantly more even though fewer people participate. Plus, at this point – 18 months from election day – you’re building a recurring pool so that you’ll have all sorts of money coming in via recurring. That adds up! And it’s a chance to create a long-term bond with your contributors.

We’ll likely run this test again in the not too distant future to ensure that a) our member’s interests/behavior hasn’t changed b) the results were not due to the specific email copy being more suited for a recurring ask. But until then, you’re likely to just be getting recurring contribution asks from ActBlue.

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