A Big Start to 2013: Q1 Numbers

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!

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