Testing those beautiful brandings

This is the one you’ve all been asking for. We just added the ability to A/B test your brandings!

Now there’s no need to guess whether a giant photo of your candidate or a simple branding will fare better. And with our awesome multi-armed bandit A/B testing suite, you’ll get results as fast as possible.

To set up a branding test, create or open up a Contribution Form. Navigate to the A/B test tab and give your test a name. Next, check off “Branded layout.” Your first variation will be the branding your form is currently set to (or your default branding). You can choose your variation to test from the dropdown menu. You can also test having no branding by selecting “ActBlue default.” If you need a refresher on creating a branding, check out our guide.

Once you’ve made your selection, click “Create test.” You can monitor the results of your test once you start sending it out to donors.

Unlike a regular A/B test, our multi-armed bandit system of A/B testing will start sending more traffic to the winning version of the test as results come in, so you’ll get results faster and won’t lose money on a subpar variation. And there’s no need to pick a winner — the multi-armed bandit will take care of it for you!

If you have questions about setting up a beautiful branding or an A/B test, let us know at info@actblue.com.

One-stop shop: Visualize your data and create targeted lists

At ActBlue we’re committed to dreaming up new ways for you to visualize all of your data. In that spirit, our tech team just rolled out a new way for campaigns and organizations to analyze contributor data by tracking HPCs (highest previous contributions) and total contribution amounts by individual donors.

This new visualization provides amazing insight not just for technically skilled data people, but also for smaller campaigns and organizations. The chart allows users to select groups of donors based on their donation history and download their email address and contributor information. That means teams that don’t currently have the ability to segment and target donors can now instantaneously create a segmented email list!

Here’s how it works:

If you navigate to the “Donors” tab of your Dashboard (previously called the “Uniques” tab), you’ll see a graph that looks something like this:

You can also select “Total Contribution Amount” in the “Show your donors by” menu to see this:

You can toggle between the HPC and total contribution views of the graphed data at the top. This chart has a log scale for both its x and y axis. A log scale increases by an order of magnitude, rather than a fixed amount, which allows us to present a clearer picture of your data. What does that mean? If you look at the x-scale, you’ll see there’s more space between 1 contribution and 2 contributions than there is between 8 and 9.  There are far more people who gave just 1 contribution, but on a regular graph all those dots would be stacked on top of each other. So, by choosing a log scale, we’re able to show you more of your actual data.  

The x-axis shows the total number of contributions a donor has made to your campaign or organization in their lifetime on ActBlue. The y-axis shows the donor’s highest previous contribution, or the total amount that they’ve donated, depending on which view of the chart you are looking at.

Values on the y-axis are rounded. For values from $1 to $5, amounts are rounded to the nearest dollar. For $5 to $25, they are rounded to the nearest $5, and from there on, tens are rounded to tens, hundreds to hundreds, and so on.*

For values on the x-axis, contribution numbers above ten are rounded to the nearest ten. It’s unlikely that you have contributions ranging in the hundreds, but in that case they are rounded to the nearest hundred.

The graph itself gives an insight to highest previous contributions for your entire donor base, along with information on how many donations people have made. But it doesn’t end there. Click a dollar value or a number of donations to highlight a row or column. You can switch to the other visualization to see how their total volume corresponds.

More importantly, you can download a CSV of the email addresses and the corresponding contribution data from a column, row, or selected range of the graph. To select a column or row, just click on the corresponding value and click “Download selected” in the upper right hand corner. 

To select a custom set of data, you can drag your mouse to draw a box around your desired values and then download the data.

This allows you to do some pretty sophisticated targeting without needing to do the backend work. You can easily target donors based on their highest previous contribution and frequency of donating without knowing a line of SQL.

For example, we’ve seen a lot of success in our program by targeting donors based on their HPC. For low-dollar donors, we’ll ask them for $5, while higher-dollar donors are asked for $10 or $15. With this chart, you could download a list of $3 and $5 donors and then send a personalized ask to that group. If you have a big enough email list, you could try sending a $5 ask and a $7 ask, to see if donors would be willing to give just a bit more.

You can also toggle the graph to show outliers (people who fall outside the scale of the graph), if you’re interested in targeting those donors.

We hope that this new tool will allow you to get to know your donors in a more nuanced way and run an even better email program.

If you have questions about applications or how to read the graph, we’re happy to answer them. Just drop us a line at info@actblue.com

*We chose this rounding scheme to simultaneously maximize the granularity of useful information and minimize unimportant visual clutter.

Sharing the good news

We just built a new feature that allows you to set up contribution alerts for people who aren’t administrators on your candidate or organization’s ActBlue account.

This is a great feature for family members and friends who want to be kept in the loop but don’t need to create forms or access the back-end of your account. It’s also a great way to share fundraising progress with anyone who might be hosting a party for your candidate or helping out with your organization’s big fundraiser.

You can turn this feature on for specific Contribution Forms or for your entire campaign or organization. To turn it on for a specific Contribution Form, navigate to the Email Alerts tab of the form and click “new contribution form alert.” Then click to subscribe a third-party ActBlue user to your alerts and fill in the threshold as usual.

If someone has not created an ActBlue account, they’ll get an email asking them to create a password. Either way, they’ll get a confirmation email letting them know they’ve been signed up.

The process for signing someone up for a campaign or organization’s alerts is the same, but you can set them up by navigating to the User Access tab of your Dashboard.

We’ve also added a single click unsubscribe feature to all contribution alert emails, so if you don’t need to get them anymore, you can easily opt out. Between that feature, and the recently rolled out refund alerts and contribution form alerts, there’s a whole lot more you can do with email alerts. Be sure to try all the new features out, and then tell us how they worked for you at info@actblue.com!

Simple HTML, made simpler

We just built a new WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor into our Contribution Forms so you can add custom formatting to your pitches, thank you emails, pop-up recurring asks, and more. No HTML experience required.

Here’s what it looks like:

You can add basic formatting like bullet points and bolding, as well as add images. If you’d like to see the traditional HTML editor, click the pencil on the right-hand side of the menu to switch back.

While more creative control is awesome, this would be a good time to remember the “less is more” mantra. You want to make sure your forms are readable on all devices, particularly mobile, where 25% of all contributions are made.

If you have questions, email us at info@actblue.com. We’re happy to help!

Branding your receipts

With our new receipt branding feature, you now have the tools to create a receipt email that looks and feels like your campaign.

Instead of a plain text receipt, yours can look like something like this:

Go to the Brandings tab of your Dashboard. Either create a new branding or click to edit an existing one. Your receipt branding will be part of a Contribution Form branding.

Scroll to the bottom of your branding and toggle open the “Receipt Email Styles” section of your branding. Here you can add a background hex color code (something like #CCCEEE).

Here’s a tip: If you don’t know your campaign’s exact hex color code, you can scroll up to the “Background color” field and click the text box. A color picker will pop up, which you can use to eyeball your color. Then copy the hex code that pops up and paste it into the receipt email section.

You can also add a header image, which will be scaled to fit within 600px x 200px. Once you’re happy with your branding, click save.

To put the branding in action, just assign it to any Contribution Form you’d like, which you can do in the Options section of the Edit tab of the form. Add your custom text to the “Email receipt text” box and send yourself a preview email.

Hit save once you’re all set! Your donors will appreciate finding a customized receipt and thank you note in their inbox.

Have questions or just want to show off a really great branding? Let us know at info@actblue.com!

The Multi-armed Bandit: New and much improved A/B testing tools

The A/B test tool on ActBlue, which allows you to test out Contribution Form titles and pitches, among other variables, has gotten a significant upgrade, just in time for campaign season.

The old A/B testing tool worked great, but it also forced you to wait around for both test variations to get enough traffic to gain statistical significance. If one version was performing way better than the second one, that meant you were losing out on potential contributions in order to gain valuable insight.

This is how most A/B testing tools work, and it’s a good system. But with the new ActBlue testing tools, which use a more advanced statistical algorithm than typical A/B testing, you can still achieve statistical significance without having to sacrifice a ton of traffic to a losing form.

As the test runs and one variation begins performing better, we’ll start sending more traffic to that form, roughly in proportion to how they’re trending. You can see the traffic allocation listed just above each variation on the “A/B Test” tab of your Contribution Form. The traffic allocation will change continuously as donations come in. It’s important to note that if a variation is receiving 75% of the traffic, that does not necessarily mean it’s conversion rate is 3X as high as the other variation(s). If you’re curious what it actually does mean and want to talk complicated stats, you can get in touch with us here.

If there was a false positive and the losing form starts doing better, the traffic allocation will begin to reverse. The test will continue to run indefinitely until you click “Make Winner.” The A/B testing tool will eventually send 100% of volume to the winner if you don’t make either version the winner manually.

The new A/B testing tool makes your tests more efficient, which means you can try out more of them. If you have radically different language you want to try on a form, alongside three more standard pitches, there’s little risk. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll send fewer and fewer people to that losing form.

We wanted to give special thanks to Jim Pugh from ShareProgress for sharing notes on the multi-armed bandit method used in their software and helping us out with building this tool (and for hanging out in the ActBlue office for a week)!

As always, let us know what tests you’re running and what’s working for you at info@actblue.com!

On-the-go Campaigning: Contribution Alerts by Form

You’ve long been able to set up email contribution alerts for your campaign or organization, but with campaign season heating up, we’ve added that feature to individual Contribution Forms as well. This will help you track individual fundraising emails closely and keep an eye on any large donations that come in, no matter where you are. And as an added feature, you can set an alert for any refunds that are processed on the form.

To set an alert, navigate to your form’s dashboard and go to the new Email Alerts tab. Click “new contribution form alert” to set up your first alert.

Select the appropriate email address from the drop down menu, add a threshold above which you want to receive an alert, and choose either contribution or refund alerts. If you want to receive an alert for any donation or refund, regardless of amount, put a 0 as the threshold. However, we recommend setting that bar higher so you’re not inundated with emails.

Click “Set up alert” and you’re done. You can set up as many different alerts as you want on the Contribution Form. You’ll receive an email every time someone donates or is refunded, depending on your preferences.

It’s great tool to help your finance director keep tabs on big donations or refunds. It also helps you keep track of any large gifts so that your Executive Director or candidate can personally thank the donor.

Have questions? Let us know at info@actblue.com.

Tandem Contribution Forms Just Got WAY Better

Our team is always thinking through ways to make our contribution forms easier to fill out and more streamlined. When donors have too many options and abandon a form, that’s known as choice paralysis. Eliminating that choice paralysis is a big part of building better contribution forms.

Tandem contribution forms list multiple candidates, which require more decisions to be made by donors. But the vast majority of people choose to just split their contribution evenly between all the candidates on the form. That used to look like this:

Too many options and too many boxes for our liking. Do you want to give more to candidate A than organization B? How much do you want to give in total?

We boiled the form down to that last question — how much do you want to give? This made it a lot easier for donors to give (spoiler alert: this A/B test was a huge success).

Now, when you land on a tandem form, you’ll see the normal amount buttons with a note underneath saying who the donation will be split among. You can still click a button to allocate different amounts to each candidate, but donors are less overwhelmed when they land on the page.

Here’s the new form:

So how successful was our A/B test? We saw a 7.16% overall improvement in conversion. That’s unheard-of-huge. We’ve done so many optimizations of our forms that we cheer for a test that leads to a 0.5% increase in conversions.

Part of that overall group consisted of non-Express users (people who haven’t saved their payment information with us) who land on our traditional multi-step form. Among that group we saw a 26% improvement in getting people to move from the first step of the process (choosing an amount to give) to the second step (entering their information).

There are so many candidates and organizations running really thoughtful tandem fundraising campaigns, and this is going to mean a huge bump for them. If you have questions, or want to tell us about a tandem campaign you’ve run, let us know at info AT actblue DOT com. We want to hear from you!

Introducing the Image Awesomifier

Our tech team just rolled out a useful, behind-the-scenes tool to make sure your Contribution Forms load as fast as possible.

We allow campaigns and organizations to use custom HTML and CSS on their branded forms, and we often see campaigns hosting their own images. While we love your customizations, hosting your image on a different site can make the form load slower. It can also make the page appear insecure to browsers, depending on where you choose to host it. And that can lead to security warnings (even though your pages have always been safe), which no one wants to see.

With the new Image Awesomifier (working title), we automatically grab your image and host a version of it on ActBlue’s super fast and secure servers.

This might not make a huge difference in February of an off year, but come 2016, this feature is going to shave precious milliseconds off your Contribution Form load times. And that means more conversions for you and your team. Plus, if your candidate or organization has a big moment (think Wisconsin Dems and Wendy Davis) and your fundraising goes viral, you won’t have to worry about your website crashing because too many people try to load an image hosted there. We’re saving you from yourself.

The best part? You don’t have to do anything different. Just keep adding your images the way you always have.

Nov ’14: Solidly odd

November’s always a weird month around here. We have a handful of our biggest days of the year leading up to Election Day, and then there is a sharp drop off. We affectionately refer to this transition as Sad Graph™:

This pattern is to be expected: campaigns’ fundraising pushes end on Election Day. We raised $13 million for 1,634 candidates and organizations from 490,327 contributions (51.89% of that money came in during the first four days). That’s a big drop off from the previous months, but in line with past Novembers. The average donation size was just $27.22, and more than a quarter of contributions (27.8%) were made via a mobile device.

You can check out how those numbers stack up against past years below. Keep in mind that November top line figures can vary a little more year-to-year than other months, depending on when Election Day falls, and whether there are a lot of recounts and runoffs.

  Nov ’11 Nov ’12 Nov ’13 Nov ’14
Contributions 67,796 314,389 194,238 490,327
Volume ($) $4,057,080 $10,822,821 $7,397,575 $13,348,723
Mean Donation $59.84 $34.59 $38.09 $27.22
Committees 1,116 1,449 1,484 1,634


Despite the decline in contributions and the close of the election cycle, we continued to bring in a ton of new Express users. 17,171 people signed up for Express accounts, bringing our total up to 1,223,587. Those are our power users, and they accounted for 66% of all contributions in November.

Growing that Express user base and keeping them engaged is going to be a main focus for us going forward, because we know these users are going to play a crucial role in the 2016 elections.

Another main focus for the next election cycle will be recurring contributions. We’ve been championing recurring programs in this space for a while, and it’s paying off. Recurring contributions accounted for a full 39% of all dollars in November and caused that spike at the end of the month. That recurring money is a huge boon to campaigns and organizations, who were slammed during November. And it’ll keep paying off during the winter, when fundraising is tougher for most organizations.

Slower months don’t translate to a quieter time over at ActBlue. Now that the election has come and gone, we’re looking ahead to 2016 and planning out the tools and upgrades we’ll need to be ready. And we’ll be at Rootscamp in a few weeks if you want to talk about the future with us!