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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!

We want to make it easy for campaigns to see their ROI on acquisition, so we’re launching a new tool for conversion tracking. For those who don’t understand that gobbledygook: it’s a way for people running online ads to track how well they’re doing.

Candidates and groups can now embed tracking codes on both the contribution form and the thank you page to track both those landing on the form and those who convert. And you’ve got the option to put the tracking snippets on a form by form basis, or set a default tracking setup for your committee which can then be opted-in on each contribution form.

The safest and easiest option for most committees will be to only set up tracking on contribution forms that are specifically made as an endpoint for an ad campaign. This ensures that the contribution forms that you use for email and website traffic load as fast and stable as possible.

To put tracking codes on a specific contribution form, first make sure you are logged in as the owner of that form. Then navigate to the “edit” tab for that contribution form:

And then look for the “Advanced Options” section:

If you have a campaign default set (see below for directions), you can select to use it here. To set up codes just for this contribution form click the radio button “Edit”:

Paste your code snippets in the correct fields. If your ad system allows you to pass a conversion amount, you can do so with the merge field {AMOUNT}. (Make sure to only do this on the conversion tracking page and not the landing page.)

We’ll replace that token with the amount of the contribution when the thanks page renders. This allows you to track the monetary value of a click from within your advertising platform.

To set a default tracking code for your committee, first visit your campaign dashboard. On the left side of the screen click on “Settings”. Now look for the “Advanced Options” section:

Paste your code snippets in the correct fields. If your ad system allows you to pass a conversion amount, you can do so with the merge field {AMOUNT}.

Once you have saved your committee default tracking code, you can select the radio button to use it on any of your contribution forms. See above for specific instructions.

That’s it. So go forth and track people (not in a creepy NSA way).

And here’s a page we’ve set up with the instructions that you can bookmark.

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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