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If you looked really closely to the Express Lane emails of a number of groups and campaigns recently, you might have noticed a tiny but significant change. Rather than saying: “Because you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express…” the emails now read: “If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express…”



Why? Well, it turns out that you can raise slightly more money by sending an Express Lane-structured email to your entire membership. Traditionally, list admins send two distinct emails; Express users see Express Lane links, while everyone else gets an email with “regular” links. With Express Lane to all, you can send the same Express Lane email to all of your users, saving you time and opening up the possibilities for groups with smaller lists.

There’s been a lot of testing done both by us and other committees on sending Express Lane emails to everyone. The general consensus is that Express Lane structure to non-Express users does perform slightly better than normal links. We’ve tested sending Express Lane links to non-Express users 4 different times. Consistently, we see more money (the net bump is around 6-7%), but these results aren’t statistically significant. Others are seeing similar gains.

While we’d love to see statistical significance, we think it’s still a great idea because there is a tremendous upside potential for both groups and campaigns that are already using Express Lane and those who have yet to try it out. It’s a time saver for smaller groups and also encourages your members to save their information with ActBlue and become an Express user.

Our recommendation is that groups and campaigns test this with their membership and confirm that they are getting similar results before making this a best practice. There is some reason to believe that we’re seeing a novelty effect, since the new link structure is unusual. We’ll test this again in the future to make sure that the results are still holding, and we urge others do the same.

This tactic works particularly well for groups with smaller lists. We’re confident enough in the testing to tell you that you’re likely to raise more money from sending Express Lane to your entire list, especially with the strong growth in the Express universe (994k users and counting!). However, pay attention to future posts, in case we do find that there is a novelty effect.

We noticed something curious this week. Mitch McConnell sent an email this week that looked just like an Express Lane email, complete with “Express donate” links denoting specific amounts. And then another strange thing happened…Steve King did the same thing. Check them out:

When we stopped laughing we wrote this nice little note to them:

——————————————————–

Dear Mitch & Steve,

We’re flattered, really, that you want to use our tools in your emails. Mitch — you’re trying to run a “presidential level campaign,” and our tools are the best in the business, after all. And Steve, you’re looking to increase your national name recognition.

And we know you’re learning first hand in Kentucky and Iowa what an empowered small dollar donor base supporting an amazing Democratic candidate means.

So we get it. You’re jealous. But no, you can’t just try and steal or copy what we’ve built this last decade at ActBlue. Frankly, it’s impossible.

That’s because the most powerful thing about ActBlue is the nearly million strong community of committed Express donors. Without that community, those links you used are just links, not money makers, not flashy technology, and no use to you.

Imitations, however pale, are still flattering, so thanks. But you’re doing it wrong.

Best,

ActBlue

——————————————————–

Hilariously, if you clicked on any of Steve or Mitch’s links, they took you to a contribution form for just that amount, which is a recipe for a lot of lost money. It’s not just that they tried to copy us, it’s that they did it so badly. And they completely missed the point of why so many candidates and organizations around the country are asking people to give specific amounts right in the email.

There are over 950,000 ActBlue Express users that have saved their credit cards with us. With just one click, Express donors are powering campaigns and organizations. These days, 62% of all donations made through ActBlue are from people giving with an Express account!! That means more contributions and more funds because the less information people have to enter in, the more likely they are to give.

Mitch and Steve thought they could get that from just copying the style of Express Lane emails. Yeah, no.

First, try investing a decade in building a base of grassroots donors (unfortunately that means getting your party to actually care about people besides the Koch brothers), and then maybe your copy and paste efforts will be effective.

BTW we tested a version of this letter as a fundraising email to our list. It was a classic case of “you are not your list.” It was an email our staff really loved and had fun crafting, but our list didn’t respond as well to it as more traditional email talking about the momentum Democrats are gaining across the country. It’s not surprising, but it is a bit sad for us email writing nerds. And it’s a good reminder why it’s so important to test email copy.

Recurring pledges are like gold. There’s a reason why they’re often called sustaining contributions. Building a base of recurring donors can have a huge impact on the sustainability of any organization, including campaigns.

And now we’re making it easier for you to raise more long-term recurring contributions. Introducing: infinite recurring!

You’ve got a choice: ask people for a recurring contribution for a defined number or months (old standard), or ask them for one with no expiration date (new!). You can also choose not to have a recurring option, but we don’t recommend it (I’ll explain later.)

Here’s how you do it: Go to the edit page of any contribution form. Scroll down till you see this:

recurring toggle

Click on it to expand. It’ll look like this:

recurring options expanded

Select your radio button and then scroll down and hit submit. Yep, that’s it.

ActBlue got it’s start helping candidates raise money for their campaigns, which are built in two year cycles, so we allowed folks to set up recurring contributions for up to 48 months. The assumption was that donors would feel more comfortable signing up for a recurring contribution that would be sure to end at some point. These days, more and more organizations, who are around cycle after cycle, are using ActBlue. Plus, the way people use credit cards has changed and we have a whole system to let you extend/edit/add a new card to your recurring contribution, complete with prompts from us. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to have time-limited recurring contributions anymore.

So we tested it. Would forms with an infinite recurring ask perform the same (or better) as forms with a set number of months? AND would you raise more money if you didn’t have a recurring ask on the form, but asked people with a pop-up recurring box after their contribution was submitted?

We’ve got some answers. Several committees have run tests, confirming that conversion rates on time-limited forms and infinite recurring forms are similar. So if you’re around longer than election day, go ahead and turn on infinite recurring.

Generally speaking, making a form shorter and giving people fewer options leads to higher conversion rates. So theoretically, taking the recurring option off of a form should lead to more donations. We have a pop-up recurring box that campaigns can turn on to try and persuade a one-time donor to make their donation recurring, and there seemed to be a reasonable chance that having no recurring ask on the form would raise more money.

Nope! Turns out that we got a statistical tie on conversion rates between having the recurring option on the form or off. Just having pop-up recurring turned on did not generate as many recurring contributions as having it both on the form and as a post-donation action.

There were slightly more contributions processed on forms without a recurring option, but not enough to generate a statistically significant result. And then add to that the lost revenue from having fewer recurring donations, you end up with a pretty clear take-way: leave the recurring option on the form. Sure, you can turn off the recurring option, but you’ll likely lose money. And nobody wants that.

That’s why recurring contributions have been on every ActBlue contribution form since the beginning. These days we run anywhere from 8-14% recurring, and over $11 million is pledged to thousands of campaigns and organizations.

There is one big question we haven’t answered yet: will you raise more money overall from an infinite recurring contribution than say one with a 48 month expiration date? We’re currently working on a long-term experiment to test exactly that.

The answer might seem self-apparent, but the truth is nobody really knows. Credit cards expire and people cancel their pledges. You never know for sure how much money you’ll raise from a recurring contribution, but if you pay attention to your long-term data, you’ll be able to figure out your pledge completion rate.

If you’re interesting in figuring out a recurring donor strategy, we’re more than happy to give you some (free) advice. Just drop us a line at info@actblue.com.

Yep, we’re 10 years old. That’s ancient in Internet years.

We’re pretty busy during this last week before the critical end-of-quarter deadline, but we found some time to celebrate this milestone with a special message to the ActBlue community.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make ActBlue what it is today, from our amazing donors to the thousands of campaigns and organizations that have used our software to build a better democracy.

We just rolled out a new feature that allows you to duplicate an existing contribution form, saving your team precious minutes during crunch time. A few folks have already stumbled upon this feature. I’ve already had one friend post on my Facebook wall about it. Yep, they’re a big email nerd. No surprise he noticed it, this feature is for the email nerds and the power users.

This post is short and sweet because it’s super simple. If you have a fundraising form that you want to copy, there are now two places you can do that. You can login and go to: https://secure.actblue.com/my-pages and click the yellow Duplicate button beside the form.

duplicate option in list

Or, if you are editing an individual contribution form, you’ll see a greyed link that reads “Click here to create a new form based on this one.”

duplicate in form edit

Then you’ll see a pop-up that will ask you to pick a slug for the address. Hit the button and you’re done.

duplicate popup

Everything else about the contribution form will be copied over exactly as it is on the original contribution form.

This new feature will be particularly useful for the campaigns that do a lot of emailing and create a new form for each email, which is a best practice. This way all of their favorite settings will be set-up and all they have to do is replace the form content to match the new email blast.

If you are running tests within one page, the upgraded testing tool is still the way to go. But this should be a significant time-saver for a number of folks.

Email isn’t the only place you can use Express Lane links. Any spot where you can put a link with some explanatory text can be an opportunity to raise money. A few organizations and campaigns have recently been experimenting with Facebook ads targeting Express users.

Here are a few examples from the DCCC and Senators Franken and Hagan of Express Lane Facebook ads out in the wild.

Franken Facebook ad
DCCC Facebook ad
Hagan Facebook ad

Based on the results from those who have already tried this tactic, if you regularly run Facebook advertising, it’s worth testing Express Lane ads to your Express universe. If you do try it out, let us know what your ROI is on the ads.

The same rules apply here as they do for other uses of Express Lane. If you’re going to run Facebook Express Lane ads, you need to use our preferred language and be clear with the donor.

If you are interested in trying a new tactic with Express Lane links, drop us a line at info@actblue.com and we’d be happy to advise you on current best practices.

We’ve completely reengineered the A/B testing system to make it possible to test more variables.

You’ve long been able to test the page title and copy, as well as the appearance of (or lack of) a video or a thermometer on your contribution forms. Now, you can also test the pop-up recurring ask and title.

The best part? We’ve also added all of that testing data to the donor data .csvs, which are available for download on every form.

Here’s what it looks like. You’ll find it under the A/B Test tab when you’re logged in and editing a contribution form.

ABtestingtoolvisual

This new feature is best utilized by candidates and organizations that have thousands of donors contributing on one form. It’s unlikely that you’ll see statistical significance on these relatively small changes unless you have a large sample size.

For those of you that do have a large donor pool, you’ll be able to figure out which pop-up ask works the best for your program. For example, you can test offering a premium in the recurring upsell: “make it a recurring donation and you’ll get this awesome sticker.” And you’ll be able to track and fulfill those orders via the new .csv.

We’re really excited about this new feature because recurring contributions are so incredibly valuable to organizations and the pop-up recurring has proved to be such an easy way to convert people to recurring donations. Have fun testing and figuring out the best ways to build that recurring pool!

We’d love to know what you’ve been testing, especially if you’ve found clear winners and losers. And if you have questions about running A/B tests, please drop us a line at info@actblue.com. Our data analyst is more than happy to help you design and run a successful test.

Looking at your inbox on April 30th, you might have thought that it was the end of the quarter again, given the flood of fundraising emails. Nope, it’s just the end of the month, the little brother of EoQ.

Campaign and committee list managers have been teaching their list to respond to end of the month asks, despite the ahem…kinda made up deadline.

You see this sort of stuff in business sales. Everyone needs to hit their monthly sales numbers, so they start sweetening offers to clients at the end of the month. Clients learn to wait until the end of the month to put in their orders. All of a sudden, you’ve created an entire culture around the end of the month, making your workload crazy at the end. But you know what? It’s effective and that’s why they do it.

In this case, there is no legal reporting deadline at the end of each month, but the month by month numbers are often released as a show of strength. The campaigns really do have an internal goal for each month that the need to raise, so they hype the end of the month and that helps them reach their goal. And now lists are conditioned to respond to it.

Here’s our day-by-day breakdown of fundraising in April:

april day chart

This is actually pretty typical of how most months look. You see dips during the weekends, when people are sending fewer emails, and peaks during the week. Then the whole thing builds dramatically during the last week with a huge spike on the last day.

It’s important to note that this actually was a very good month over all–the highest month of the year outside of the actual end of quarter in March. It’s not that campaigns had to play catch-up at the end of the month, but rather that sending multiple emails and using the “deadline” as part of the pitch pulls in a lot of money.

This is how April ’14 stacked up against the previous three Aprils:

Apr ’11 Apr ’12 Apr ’13 Apr ’14
Contributions 51,727 122,619 169,922 321,771
Volume ($) $2,580,800 $5,485,860 $6,358,786 $11,975,308
Mean Donation $49.89 $44.74 $37.42 $37.22
Committees 677 1,651 1,010 2,003

2,003!! candidates, orgs, and committees using ActBlue. That’s the third highest month all time. #1 and 2 were October and September ’12. Yep, some candidates really do wait until the final hours to fundraise. But we strongly, strongly encourage people to start much earlier.

Our Express membership continues to grow like a weed! We’re up over 800,000 users…actually 831,630 when I hit “publish” on this post! Here’s our fun growth chart:

express growth chart

It’s just a matter of time till we hit 1 million. Given all this growth, you Express Lane users can’t forget to match your lists regularly to pick up new folks for your targeting.

Scott Brown made some uh interesting design choices for his new Massachusetts New Hampshire Senate campaign website. But where he went really wrong was his contribution form.

We’ve been watching this video from WebPageTest on a loop today (spoiler alert: our entire form loads before their first response):


We’re obsessive here at ActBlue about page load time, going to great lengths to shave off hundredths of a second. It’s often the difference between someone giving a donation and just simply giving up, particularly when they are on a mobile device. And that’s why 20.3% of all contributions on ActBlue last month were made on mobile. If your numbers aren’t up there, you’re doing it wrong.

And none of that would have been possible without the support of thousands of ActBlue donors, so thank you.

Now let’s all stop laughing at Scott Brown (for the moment) and get back to work powering Democrats to victory this November.

Drumroll please…

Three quarters of a million people have signed up for ActBlue Express accounts!

That’s 750,000 people who have saved their payment information with us and can give with just one click on every ActBlue form. It doesn’t matter if it’s $5 for a city council race in Cottage Grove, MN or a max-out donation for Alison Lundergan Grimes, it works exactly the same.

We’ve been experiencing a crazy growth spurt in the Express user base, which is up from 600,000 in August. Below we chart the number of Express users we’ve added since the launch of the program. As you can tell, the number spikes during election years. One million here, we come!

The Express program is designed to help the Democratic party as a whole. Donors love it because it saves them time and gives them a secure and trackable way to give. And candidates and committees benefit from higher conversion rates.

Making a donation is a streamlined experience for Express users. That equals higher conversion rates, especially on mobile. The mobile part of the equation is going to be key during this election year.

We’ve already seen up to a quarter of the day’s donations come in via mobile. Since 2013, 18.1% of donations from Express users were made via mobile phones, compared with 10.9% for non-Express users. Since we launched mobile responsive contribution forms, 23.1% of all Express contributions were made on mobile (15.8% for non-Express users).

Making the giving experience as easy as possible for users is just as important as increasing conversion rates (although the two are obviously intertwined). Express users are some of our most active users. They give to an average of 2.57 entities campaigns or organizations a year and since 2013, 3.5% of donations from Express users were recurring, compared with 2.2% of donations from non-Express users. These are people who are committed to supporting the candidates and issues that mean the most to them, so it’s important that we’re paying attention to their giving patterns, and listening to them when they reach out to us. Not just for our own success, but for the success of the party.

Express Lane, our one-click payment system, has been a game-changer. We’ve been rolling out Express Lane to a number states for statewide and legislative races the past few months, and we’ve seen campaigns across the country increase their conversion rates (and raise up to 200% more money).

The Express user pool will grow dramatically as we get closer to the election, so we’ll be more focused than ever on finding new ways to increase conversion rates and make the donation process easier for these users.

Have you tried out Express Lane for your federal campaign? Have you used your Express account to keep track of your political donations? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.

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