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In the fast-paced digital campaigns world, if you’re not innovating and testing constantly, you’re headed for obsolescence. And, more importantly, you’re letting your users down, especially those in short-term competitive environments (aka elections). At ActBlue, we’re always developing our platform with metrics-driven decision making, aka testing.

The result is that today’s ActBlue isn’t the same as the ActBlue of a month ago, and that’s a great thing. Sometimes our tests fail. Others result in a barely statistically significant bump in conversion rates. But that’s ok because all of those little bumps add up. Occasionally we hit on a big winner that dramatically increases conversion rates. We do it in a methodical, constant way that allows us to identify improvements big and small.

One advantage we have is the sheer volume of contributions we process, which allows us to A/B test small tweaks to the form and get statistically sound results. If one organization tried running an identical test on their own, they’d never be able to identify as many improvements.

We’ve got thousands of campaigns and organizations counting on us to have the best system possible, so they can focus on winning. It drives our work and testing every single day.

Our tech team make changes to the platform daily. Some are minor tweaks, others major changes. They’ve developed a rock-solid platform where we can easily roll out significant feature or a layout change, even in the middle of the crazy busy end-of-quarter period. And that’s no easy feat, but a deliberate design choice so we can be as nimble as the party needs.

Today we thought we’d roll back the curtain just a little bit and break down some of our favorite A/B tests from the past few months.

Test 1: Employer Address Checkbox

We know from our data that a lot of donors mark retired or unemployed on the forms and we wanted to see if we could use that knowledge to increase conversions. Turns out: yes! We A/B tested our normal form with one that has a checkbox they can click if they’re not employed. The checkbox automatically provides us with the information, which fulfills the legal requirement and bumps up conversion rates.

Original:

Checkbox:

We saw a 4.7% improvement in conversions (p < 0.05, for those of you keeping score), so we switched over to the new checkbox version. Bonus points for cutting waaaaay down on customer service questions about the occupation/employer boxes.

Test 2: Shrinking the Contribution Form

Speed is essential in online contributions, so we’re always looking for ways to make the Contribution Form shorter and faster to load, but the rapid increase in mobile donations has made it even more important than ever. We ran a number of tests aimed at shrinking the contribution form, including the following:

- Removed credit card tooltip (which popped up when you click the credit card box) so it would load better on mobile
– Removed “Employment” section header
– Using horizontal employer fields rather than stacking them vertically

All of these tests ended without statistically significant results, but that was a win for us, because it meant we could make our forms less cluttered. If a feature isn’t adding value, that means it’s time to go. And bye bye those three things went on every single form in our system.

You can see the evolution of the Employment section below.

Version 1 (original):

Version 2 (horizontal):

Version 3 (no header, checkbox added):

Test 3: Multi-step Contribution Forms

We already wrote a whole blog post about this test, but it’s worth mentioning again here. This was one of those big wins, with a 25.86% increase in conversion rates with 99% significance. That was after just a few days of running the test. We had tested multi-step Contribution Forms a few years back, and they lost to our standard one page forms, which just goes to show how important it is to test and test again.

One page form (losing version):

Multi-step form (winning version):

We do one thing at ActBlue and we’re the best at it in the business. And the biggest reason is that we’re constantly upgrading our platform. We push changes out to everyone ASAP so that thousands of campaigns and groups big and small can get the best right away.

In a few months when we get down to the crunch of election time, know that we’ve got your backs and you will always be using the most optimized and tested form out there.

This one is for the fundraising pros, the long-time ActBlue users, and the data junkies out there. With our new custom date range CSV feature, you can now download a .csv of donations made in any data range or fundraising period you choose.

After nearly 10 years of helping some groups fundraise, people have a lot of data stored on ActBlue and need an easy way to access exactly the information they want. Juggling data and producing thousands of custom reports is no easy feat, but we knew folks would find it useful, so our new engineer Eric made it happen.

Just go to your Dashboard and click on the Reports tab.

Select your date range, and then click on the link that reads “Download a fundraising page CSV report.” It’ll generate a file for you and automatically download it, and you can pull as many custom reports as you need or want!

We’ve got tons of new features lined up on our development schedule, so stay tuned!

We are constantly testing and tweaking our system to optimize performance aka help thousands of candidates and organizations raise more money. Most of the time the improvements go unnoticed (except the extra $ ;). Not today!

Introducing multi-step! Anyone who doesn’t have Express cookied on their computer will see a brand-new four-step contribution form. Take a look at the new shiny-ness:

And yes, it’s bringing in a 25.86% increase in conversion rates with 99% significance. It’s a nice bump. We typically see the novelty effect in these sorts of changes to forms, so it probably will be less of an increase long-term as donors get used to the new form. Still, it should be a solid improvement. Oh, and it works on mobile to boot.

Express and Express Lane users will continue using ActBlue their usual way. This change is for new folks. If you’re a regular ActBlue user you probably have an Express account, but you can open any contribution form in an incognito browser to take a look at the new multi-step version.

Multi-step is now rolled out site-wide, so no need to do anything, just enjoy our holiday gift to you.

Here are a few more shots of the new layout:

Last week we were a bit of a tease. We announced to a million members that we had a super secret new feature that brings in 3x as much money for candidates, committees and non-profits. And then we never told them what it was. Well, we were saving it for you, our dear blog readers.

Today we’re proud to unveil ActBlue Express Lane! It allows donors to give immediately from a link in an email, no landing page needed. Donors just need to have an Express account with us. Over 618,000 donors (and growing!) have already saved their payment information and have Express accounts. With most federal lists we’ve seen about 40% of donors already in our system. And like all the features on ActBlue, it’s absolutely free.

So how does the magic happen? Express Lane works with special donation links tied to a specific dollar amount in combination with an ActBlue cookie on a donor’s computer or phone. When someone with an Express account clicks on that link, their card automatically gets charged, and they land on a thank you page. It makes the process effortless for donors, and you’ll see the results.

The conversion rate on Express Lane is dramatically higher. It’s clear that Express Lane is a winner for campaigns and donors alike. While results have varied list to list in our tests, all tests have shown eye-popping increases…some even up to 224.6%! The goal of Express Lane is to make it as easy as possible for activists to become donors. By making donating virtually frictionless, we’re ensuring more people will give and participate more often.

The best part is that the over 618,000 ActBlue Express users are shared across the whole platform. That means if a donor on your list saved their information while giving to say, Elizabeth Warren, they can use Express Lane to make a donation to your campaign or organization. There’s no need for them to re-enter their information. (Read all about ActBlue Express users here, they’re awesome.) The Express user base is growing in leaps and bounds, with over 13,000 new users this month alone.

We’ll match your list to our Express user database for free, and as we mentioned there are often huge overlaps among lists. Plus, once you start sending blasts to your lists using ActBlue, more of your donors will convert to Express. As your list continues to grow, so does our Express pool. You can match at your anytime so you’re always sending optimized emails and your performance keeps getting better.

Express Lane works for both one-time and recurring asks. We’ve been having a ton of success here at ActBlue using it for recurring asks. We’re also seeing higher percentage of donations come in off of mobile, due in large part to Express Lane. Increasing mobile conversions is a big organizational focus here at ActBlue, and Express Lane makes our great mobile system even better. It’s easier than ever for a donor to give via an email.

Express Lane isn’t available for everyone yet, but we are offering it for free to large federal campaigns using ActBlue for all their online fundraising. (We’re working on expanding it to more jurisdictions.) And you should keep in mind that you’ll need a decent size list, and a sophisticated email program.

Deploying Express Lane means you need to send two different emails on every fundraiser: one to Express users with the Express Lane ask links and then a “normal” one to the rest of your supporters. It’s very easy to create the links, we’ve got a link builder tool all set up for ya.

Here’s how an Express Lane ask structure looks:

Because you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:

Express Donate: $10
Express Donate: $25
Express Donate: $50
Or donate another amount

You may have seen us and a few groups beta testing this before we rolled it out to more people. We couldn’t have opened this powerful tool to so many campaigns and organizations without the help of over a thousand donors who contributed to this project. All of us here at ActBlue really can’t thank them enough.

If you are interested in Express Lane, drop us a line at info [at] actblue [dot] com. And don’t worry, our staff is happy to provide all the training you need to optimize Express Lane, for free of course.

If you’ve taken a look at your metrics lately you’ve probably seen the same trend as everyone else: mobile traffic is steadily increasing. It’s become a given that any web property needs to look good on a mobile device, whether that be one of the new fancy champagne colored iPhones that were just released or one of those Windows Surface tablets with their (zomg!) keyboard.

We were ahead of the curve here at ActBlue, when we released mobile-optimized contributions forms way back in 2010. The pages automatically recognized when you were on a mobile device and loaded a form that was way easier to use than a regular form on your tiny screen. It looked like this:

old mobile

Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve upgraded to mobile-responsive contribution forms. What’s the difference you ask? Well, pictures tell the story:

new mobile

Now, a candidate or organization’s branding will appear when a potential donor visits a contribution form using a mobile device. There’s nothing admins need to do to turn on this new feature; we’ve rolled it out to everyone automatically.

Nobody wants to struggle when they’re on their phone. Speed and ease of use rule the day. That’s why these forms are designed to look good, and more importantly function well, whether your giant touch-screen phone needs it’s own purse, or you’re still using an old-school Blackberry.

Mobile responsive contribution forms don’t just look better. We performed a functionality test on this feature, just like we do for all of our new tools. These tests are a big reason why we know that our technology is always improving, and the results of this latest test are unequivocal.

ActBlue donors who visit a mobile responsive contribution form convert at a statistically significantly (p < .01) higher rate than those who visit one of our old mobile forms. And the difference isn't trivial– mobile responsive contribution forms are a 49% improvement. That means that you could see 49% more donations from users on a mobile device. And with increases in mobile traffic, that gets more important every single day.

It's not just the design layout that helped boost the numbers. We've re-engineered it so the forms load a second faster. Let's face it, people are pretty impatient on their phones. If it's not easy, then they'll move on to the next thing.

At ActBlue we're always looking to innovate, so that donors have an easier time contributing to the candidates and causes they care about the most. We're never satisfied with having a great system. There's always something that can be improved, especially in an environment that's evolving as rapidly as the Internet. That's why our developers roll code every single day.

We’ve been crossing milestones left and right this summer. Earlier this month we topped 600,000 ActBlue Express donors. These are folks who have saved their credit card information with us, and let me tell you these people are awesome.

Keep in mind that when a donor signs up for ActBlue Express and gives to one entity (our word for a candidate, committee or non-profit listed on ActBlue), they can use their account to give to any other entity listed on ActBlue. It’s one of the biggest examples of ActBlue’s strength as a fundraising platform. We’re growing the pie, not eating it.

If you manage a sizable email list, a healthy percentage of your list members will be ActBlue Express donors, whether you’ve used ActBlue in the past or not. We’ve even seen groups start out fundraising on ActBlue receiving 40% of their donations from Express users.

Here’s why ActBlue Express donors are so incredible. They give 72.9% more frequently than non-Express donors. Yeah, that’s a pretty eye-popping number. These donors also give more money than other donors. The median amount of their lifetime giving is $84 (mean $284). Our site wide median is $50 (mean $237).

50.3% of Express donors have donated to more than one entity. That’s significantly more than the 39.3% of average donors. ActBlue Express donors can and indeed do save their credit card information while donating to one entity and then are able to donate to another group or candidate with fewer clicks.

Not surprisingly, these folks convert at a much better rate: 5.7 times higher on regular forms. It’s even better on mobile, where they convert 14.5 times higher than non-Express visitors. That makes a lot of sense: who really wants to pull out their credit card and type it into phone? With more and more emails being read on some sort of mobile device it’s crucial that we remove the barriers to donating on mobile. (Stay tuned for some new exciting new info about our mobile optimization efforts!)

The growth of Express users has been fairly cyclical–check out that huge spike around the election last year.

express growth chart

Still, we’ve seen solid growth each month, even this off year, as candidates reach out to donors early in the cycle. Plus, more and more organizations are using ActBlue these days and building a base of Express donors.

For a little fun, go into the way back machine and look at this post from 2011, when we changed the sign-up process for Express. Removing one click caused a five-fold conversion rate increase.

And that’s sorta the whole point. The easier it is for donors to give, the more likely they are to contribute to you and all of the other candidates, non-profits and committees listed on ActBlue.

Here’s a crazy fact for you: 70.37% of the money raised on ActBlue has come from donors who give to more than one candidate or committee. Yep, you read that right (and we triple checked it).

We’ve long known that one of the greatest strengths of ActBlue is a huge community of grassroots donors that give not just to their local representative, but to organizations and candidates across the country. But that stat really brings it home. And here’s some more:

Over 1.6 million distinct donors have contributed via ActBlue, but 39.33% have donated to more than one Democratic committee, candidate or non-profit, which we call entities for short. In fact, those who have donated to more than one committee or candidate on ActBlue average over six distinct entities overall. That’s why we’ve ended up with a large percentage of money coming from a core group of donors. There are a large number of donors that give to lots of different candidates, committees and non-profit organizations, big and small. These donors are the lifeblood of the left.

Here’s the breakdown of how many entities these donors gave to.

multiple entity pie chart

(Yep, you’re seeing a bit of a difference between mean and median in terms of number of entities these multiple entity donors are giving to.)

ActBlue donors tend not to be transient, but rather long-term community members who come together on ActBlue to connect with organizations and causes which they support. And 600,000 of them have saved their credit card information with us to become ActBlue Express donors.

ActBlue donors who give to multiple entities don’t just contribute more money, they also contribute at the most important times. The percentage of dollars given by supporters who donate to multiple candidates/organizations/committees increases in election years, meaning that these ActBlue users turn out to support candidates and committees with even greater commitment when it really counts.

Now, just because these dedicated ActBlue donors give more money doesn’t mean that they are just max-out donors who crowd out the grassroots. The most common donation amount (median) among multiple-entity donors is exactly the same as single-entity donors: $25. This pattern of donating perfectly reflects our ethos here at ActBlue — a community of grassroots donors who will be there to chip in to support a recall election in Wisconsin and support a campaign to expand Social Security a year later.

These folks are positive proof that fundraising is not a zero-sum game, and the biggest reason why the left keeps outpacing the Republicans online.

But these donors didn’t manifest overnight. They’re part of this community because of the commitment thousands of campaigns and organizations have made to reaching out to donors via email and social media. At ActBlue, we’ve made it easier for donors to give by streamlining and centralizing the contribution process with projects like ActBlue Express and mobile forms. And nothing would make us happier than seeing these numbers grow every single year.

July is typically the slowest month in politics with donors and staffers alike heading out of town. But this month was anything but dull. We processed $5.75 million in contributions from 162,935 donations, which helped us top $400 million and six million contributions!

Check out our how July stacked up against the last few years:


  July ’10 July ’11 July ’12 July ’13
Contributions 21,078 66,746 200,193 162,935
Volume ($) $2,424,679.54 $2,678,159.69 $8,342,134.24 $5,750,964.28
Mean Donation $115.03 $40.12 $41.67 $35.30
Committees 1,376 861 1,836 1,232


That money went to 1,232 candidates and organizations this month, and about 10,181 since we founded ActBlue in 2004. That’s a pretty big increase over 2011, the last off year, which means incumbents and organizations that were around last cycle are getting an earlier and stronger start to their fundraising.

The average donation size was down to just $35.30, compared with $40.12 in 2011 and $115.03 in 2010, meaning more and more small dollar donors are becoming part of the political process. ActBlue’s volume – the total amount donors like you gave – was up 115% from 2011, while the number of committees raising was up 43%. As we mentioned in May, this is a really good sign for Democratic candidates in 2014 and shows the strength of progressive non-profits.

We’re always trying to foster more community between donors and organizations, which is why we’ve been advising campaigns to ask for recurring donations for years. Despite the fact that recurring contributions raise a whole lot more money (you can check out this blog post for details), they also help campaigns build a relationship with donors and provide a steady income. That means smarter budgeting and strategic planning for campaigns and organizations.

We checked out the numbers across ActBlue and found out that 497,411, or 8.54% of all donations this past month were part of a recurring commitment, compared with just 6.66% in 2011. While that’s really good progress, our goal is to see that number grow even more!





When we hit big milestones here we get pretty excited, and sometimes break out the bubbly for oh about a minute, and then rush to share the news with you. While we put in a lot of work to make the system function, it’s really you – our donors, campaigns, and organizations – who have built ActBlue. That’s why we want to give a shootout to the person who gave the 400 millionth dollar via ActBlue.

Turns out it was a pretty typical ActBlue donor; someone who uses ActBlue to connect with and support the candidates and causes that are meaningful to them through small dollar donations. Her name is Joan and she’s given between $3 and $25 to Democratic committees every couple of months since the beginning of 2012. Her latest donation, $10 to Democracy for America (DFA), was in support of a campaign to expand Social Security. While we’ve been counting down the days until we hit $400 million, we’re equally excited the fact that it came from over 6 million contributions. That’s a lot of democratic participation!

The best part about hitting that $400 million dollar mark is that half a billion dollars for Democratic candidates and progressive causes is now in our sights. The only question is when. We’re taking bets on it at our office, but as donors you’ll be determining the answer with your dollars. I’d say it’ll happen early next October…followed by a resounding victory for Democrats.

Our crack tech team has been busting out the new features right and left lately. And now we’ve got one more: the ability to brand your pages without our assistance.

A few years ago we used to only allow brandings for our biggest clients. Then we opened it up to anyone, but you had to contact us, send over your logo file and background color and we’d get it up for you. Now you can do it yourself immediately and create as many different ones as you want to use on a page by page basis. It’s all part of our quest to bring our best and most awesome tools to everyone however big or small.

Just login and go to your admin panel and select that new option on the left navigation menu: “Branding”. If we haven’t set one up for you then just click “create new”. And then you’ll see a page that looks like this:

topbranding

Create a name for the branding for internal use. And decide if you want to make this the default branding for all your pages. You can have multiple brandings and use them on a page by page basis, or stick with one for all of your pages.

Click on the > beside the brand settings to expand it so you see this:

expandedview

And since not everyone knows their background hex color value off the top of their head, there is a color chooser that pops up when you click in the “Background Color” field. Choose your color and it’ll fill in the appropriate color code for you.

colorchooser

You can swap brandings on a page on the fly in the edit tab. It’ll let you select any one of the branding’s you’ve added.

And remember to watch that dashboard for notification of all the new features that we roll out.

A million dollars in one day, on a Sunday in June. Who would have thought that was possible? But man the last week in June was crazy, wasn’t it? And it turned into a huge day for thousands of campaigns and organizations on Sunday thanks to 26,285 donors. It was our first million dollar day of the year and somehow we don’t think it’ll be our last.

Our team was busy working all weekend, but frankly they’re happy to. It’s our little part to help keep this country moving forward.

Here are the toplines for the month, and it was our biggest one of the year!

The amazing ActBlue donor community chipped in (an understatement) $9,052,454.81 from 186,139 individual donations in June, bringing the total for the quarter up to $21.8 million and our grand total up to $395 million. That means that $400 million – and a celebration – is right around the corner!!!

This is how it compares to previous Junes:

junehistoric

The first thing we noticed was that the average donation amount actually went up, bucking our historical trend. So we dug into our numbers. It turns out that federal max-out donors in Q2, those folks giving $2,600 for a primary or $5,200 for the cycle, increased 75% from Q1. What’s that mean? Well, it looks like a bunch of federal candidates and committees are getting an early start building small dollar communities and reaching out to their early max out donors 17 months out. Frankly that should scare the crap out of the Republicans.

Donors contributed to 1,219 different committees last month, which is way up from 862 committees during June of the last off-year (2011). More candidates are starting to fundraise earlier from more donors. More. More. More! No seriously, it’s great to see and our team has been working hard adding dozens of newly declared candidates each month.

A full $4.2 million of the money you gave came in during the last week, in part because of the political events like Wendy Davis’s brave filibuster, the historic Supreme Court rulings and the End of Quarter deadline that mobilized and inspired all of you. Here are our day by day totals for the month. Check out that spike at the end!

junechart

Half of all contributions in June (51.5%) were made by ActBlue Express users! That’s definitely something to celebrate. That puts the count of our amazing ActBlue Express users up to 582,132 and growing.

By giving to candidates and organizations early in the election cycle, you’re helping them to build the foundation for 2014. With your support they’ll have the resources they need to mount strong campaigns and mobilize supporters. So thanks for doing your part to build a Democratic momentum for 2014!

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