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Building a pool of recurring donors is critical to the long-term success of organizations and campaigns. These sustaining funds are a huge help — budgeting is much easier when you have an idea of how much money will be coming in. Plus, donors appreciate that recurring contributions give them both a sense of investment in and a long-term relationship with the campaigns and organizations they support.

Right now, there are over 150,000 recurring pledges across our platform. Some political organizations have been steadily building up their recurring program over multiple cycles, while others are just now asking their supporters to sign up for recurring contributions. Either way, now is a great time to evaluate your recurring program’s strength. We have introduced two visualizations to help you do so. The election is still far enough away that anything you do now to build a lasting recurring pool will have a big impact.

Our new feature, the graphs found on the “Recurring Retention” tab, provides an overview of the recurring contribution performance for a specific campaign or organization. Admins can navigate there by going to their dashboard and clicking on the “Recurring” header beneath “Metrics.” The new tab is to the right of the “Overview” tab.

The first chart groups recurring contributions together by month. Here’s what ActBlue’s chart looks like:

Rows represent every recurring contribution that began that month. The numbers from zero to thirteen above the columns? Those represent the number of months since the initial donation. The percentages represent the retention rate of those contributions.

You can look left to right to follow the monthly trends of a group of contributions. You can also look top to bottom to figure out what happens to contributions after a specific number of months. Or, you can spot trends. Below is the same ActBlue chart as above, but with red boxes to highlight the November-to-December jump:

Notice that inside the boxes are some major retention rate decreases. That is most likely because many donors only want to give until the election, even though they signed up for an ongoing recurring contribution. This is not out of the ordinary and fairly representative of the cyclical nature of politics.

We’ve also included a graph at the bottom of the “Recurring Retention” tab to help you figure out what is actually normal for your organization. Here’s how that chart looks when you hover over a specific line:

The grey and yellow lines represent the retention rate for a month’s worth of contributions. Another way to think about it is that each row from the chart on top of this page is represented as a single line in this graph. The red line is a trend line, which can help you gauge whether a month’s recurring pledges are over- or under-performing. Lines above the red line are being fulfilled at a higher rate than average. The opposite is true for lines below the trend line.

Here at ActBlue, we’re taking a look at our own recurring program and using these new visualizations to do so. This post is just the first in a series of insights, so stay tuned for our next one when we report back. In the meantime, this new feature can give you a sense of how your organization’s recurring program is doing on a monthly basis. You can start by customizing your recurring receipts1 and determining if that improves retention rates. Don’t forget that now is the time to keep growing your recurring pool! We’re just seven end of quarters away from November 2016.

Footnotes:

1: Just go to your entity’s dashboard, click on “Settings” under the “Tools” header, and then scroll down and click on “Blurbs, Disclaimers and Tracking Codes.” Under the “Email Message Blurbs” header, you’ll find the box called “Recurring email blurb”, which is what you want to edit.

Topline Numbers

Feb. ’12 Feb. ’13 Feb. ’14 Feb. ’15
Contributions 94,254 163,025 262,168 232,905
Total Volume $5,076,973 $5,661,921 $10,219,967 $7,334,456
Mean Donation $53.86 $34.73 $38.98 $31.49
Committees 1,340 801 1,684 1,150

Recurring

Feb. ’12 Feb. ’13 Feb. ’14 Feb. ’15
Total Recurring Volume $341,976 $327,927 $791,014 $2,388,012
Percent Recurring
of Total Volume
6.7% 5.8% 7.7% 32.6%

Express

We’re up to 1,250,848 Express Users — people who have saved their payment information with ActBlue.

Feb. ’12 Feb. ’13 Feb. ’14 Feb. ’15
New Express Users 9,429 23,465 21,631 12,942
Percent of Total
Volume Attributed
to Express Users
17.9% 44.9% 44.5% 57.1%
Percent of
Contributions
Attributed to
Express Users
21.5% 53.8% 53.1% 58.9%

Mobile

Feb. ’12 Feb. ’13 Feb. ’14 Feb. ’15
Percent Mobile 3.2% 7.8% 19.3% 23.8%
Percent Mobile for
Express Users
5.2% 10.4% 22.9% 25.9%

Rather than doing a monthly analysis of the data, we’re going to switch to quarterly deep dives into our metrics. Every month we’ll still post our usual statistics along with data from previous months/years so you can get a sense of trendlines.

We’ll be publishing figures in four categories — topline numbers, recurring, express, and mobile — for the month at hand (in this case, January 2015) and the previous three years of data for that same month.

Topline Numbers

Jan. ’12 Jan. ’13 Jan. ’14 Jan. ’15
Contributions 87,372 99,487 223,399 231,815
Total Volume $4,001,393 $3,341,965 $7,750,486 $6,229,575
Mean Donation $45.79 $33.59 $34.69 $26.87
Committees 1,206 764 1,603 1,158

Recurring

Jan. ’12 Jan. ’13 Jan. ’14 Jan. ’15
Total Recurring Volume $317,762 $270,438 $706,595 $2,572,302
Percent Recurring
of Total Volume
7.9% 8.1% 9.1% 41.3%

Express

For those keeping track at home, we’re up to 1,237,906 Express Users — people who have saved their payment information with ActBlue.

Jan. ’12 Jan. ’13 Jan. ’14 Jan. ’15
New Express Users 7,937 14,274 18,726 10,678
Percent of Total
Volume Attributed
to Express Users
19.2% 47.7% 47.2% 57.8%
Percent of
Contributions
Attributed to
Express Users
21.6% 55.1% 53.9% 60.3%

Mobile

Jan. ’12 Jan. ’13 Jan. ’14 Jan. ’15
Percent Mobile 2.8% 9.2% 19.7% 25.3%
Percent Mobile for
Express Users
4.5% 12.2% 22.8% 27.2%

Earlier this month we wrote about the refcode search box on the Contribution Form’s statistics page. It’s a neat feature that makes it easy to display metrics for refcodes that match your search terms. And now we’ve added a chart to illustrate that same page’s data. Just click on the words “Toggle refcode chart” to display it — if your form has thousands of contributions, it might take a few seconds for the graph to load. Here’s an example from an old ActBlue Contribution Form:

Like we mentioned in the earlier post, there are two ways to get to that page (and both require you to be logged in): if you’re already on your Contribution Form, go to the Contributors tab, and click on “View Form Statistics” or just insert your Contribution Form name into the url below:

secure.actblue.com/pages/CONTRIBUTION_FORM_NAME/statistics

When toggled, the chart displays the top-performing (maximum of 20) refcodes. And when you type in the search box, the chart will update based on your search input.

For instance, if you used one Contribution Form for the last five months of the election, it might look something like this:

Displayed are the 20 best-performing refcodes during that five-month timespan. Let’s say you want to display only November sends and you had a refcode system in place such that an email send in November 2014 would start like this “201411.” Here’s what that chart would look like after you entered those digits into the search box:

And our developers threw in a bonus capability: the chart also keeps track up to the seconds!

This is great for when you’re monitoring performances of refcodes just minutes after an email send. Here’s a chart displaying a single refcode within the first 15 minutes after a send.

Notice the tiny bumps — those are contributions measured on a second-by-second basis.

Our habit at ActBlue is to refresh this page again and again after sending emails, and this chart is another useful visual aid to keep track of refcode performance.

For all those refcode-happy committees, this feature’s for you! Now you search for a specific refcode on the Contribution Form statistics page.

There are two ways to get to that page (and both require you to be logged in): if you’re already on your Contribution Form, go to the Contributors tab, and click on “View Form Statistics” or just insert your Contribution Form name into the url below:

secure.actblue.com/pages/CONTRIBUTION_FORM_NAME/statistics

To try out the new feature, just type in all or part of the refcode you want to see, and you’ll find only those refcodes that match your search:

It doesn’t get simpler than that!

Our developers also threw in a couple of bonus features. The first one allows you to add your search terms to a URL parameter on the Contribution Form Statistics page: ?refcode=search

This way, when you load the page you’ll only see the search results that you defined in the URL param. Here’s an example of using this feature to find specific refcodes on an old ActBlue Contribution Form. Back then, we were using the same Contribution Form for each email send and used refcodes to track the sends, including using year and month digits to keep track of when we sent them. If we wanted to see refcodes for October 2008, the URL param would be ?refcode=200810

The other features will help you find a “starts with…” or “ends with…” match. To only find the refcodes that begin with a certain character string, use the ^ symbol.

For example, if you write “^footer” then results that start with “footer” will be the only ones that pop up.

Adding a $ after the character string will only return refcode results that end with your chosen phrase.

For instance, at ActBlue if we re-send an email, we’ll add a “_r” to the end of our original email’s refcode. Typing “_r$” into the search box helps us quickly find those results without having to scroll through the entire page.

At ActBlue, we generally use upward of 20 unique refcode (and one Contribution Form) for each email we send. And we assign a different refcode to each fundraising link, which makes it easy to analyze test results. If you’re just getting started using refcodes, check out our tutorial for more information.

This new refcode search feature will let you hone in on the refcodes you care about. Let us know how you’re using this new feature by emailing us at info[at]actblue dot com!

The third quarter of 2014 — our biggest ever — went out with a bang!

On the last day of September 2014, we handled over 130k contributions and helped raise $5.8M. It was a record-shattering final fundraising deadline before Election Day.

September 30 was the biggest day in ActBlue history (our first $5 million day!) and bested June 30, 2014, the now-number-2 biggest day, by 52k contributions and $2.1M. In a word, it was massive! Just for some context, it took us a full 2 years to reach 100k contributions. On September 30, we passed that 100k mark by 8PM.

We also established a few other impressive records:

  • most contributions in an hour (16,249 on 9/30 between 5 and 6 AM EST), a month (893,682 in September 2014), and a quarter (1,992,863 in Q3 2014).
  • highest dollar amount in an hour ($460,432 on 9/30 between 10 and 11 PM EST), a month ($39,245,312 in September 2014), and a quarter ($80,805,304.60 in Q3 2014).

Those records wouldn’t have happened without a seriously strong push from Democratic campaigns and organizations!

They’ve been hard at work throughout the election cycle engaging small-dollar donors to sign up for recurring contributions. These sustaining contributions give donors a chance to make a regular investment in the causes they care about. Though they averaged just $24.65 in size, they totaled $5,459,265 in September 2014. And it’s clear that these small-but-mighty contributions are adding up and making a huge difference.

It was a busy fundraising period for a significant number of campaigns and organizations. We sent checks or wires to 2,499 distinct entities, an increase of 18% over 2012’s total. At the same time, we had a nearly 100% increase in donations and dollars. That means these groups are raising a lot more grassroots money.

For the entire month of September, we averaged over $1.3M and 30k contributions each day. And the pace was simply blistering during the last week. We processed 44% of the month’s total dollar amount in the final seven days and 24% of the month’s total in the final two days.

We handled almost double the dollar amount and number of contributions as we did in September 2012, a presidential election year. At the same time, the mean contribution size decreased by 10%. It’s proof that with ActBlue’s help, Democratic campaigns and organizations are expanding the world of small-dollar donors.

You can dig into the rest of the month’s numbers here:

September ’11 September ’12 September ’13 September ’14
Contributions 70,156 463,044 319,890 893,631
Volume ($) $4,492,068 $21,881,384 $11,222,121 $38,211,396
Mean Donation $64.03 $47.26 $35.08 $42.76
Committees 1,068 2,113 1,439 2,499

Our Express universe continues to grow: 65,427 Express users signed up last month. The total number of people who have saved their payment information with us now sits at over 1.1M users. This community is shared across our platform, so if you’re an admin, make sure you’re contacting us to take advantage!

Express users are engaged, reliable donors. In September 2014, Express users were responsible for 64% of this month’s newly-made contributions, which added up to more than $20.7M. That’s more than half of the month’s total volume! And it demonstrates how campaigns and organizations are using the Express toolset to fundraise from small-dollar donors. We believe that more people engaged in the political process and having their voices heard strengthens our party and small-d democracy.

Express users continue to set the bar for mobile numbers…for a simple reason: they’ve saved their payment information with us, which increases mobile conversions. Express-users don’t have to go through the trouble of entering their info. Instead, they can just click a link. The proof is in the pudding. Last month they outpaced non-Express donors on a mobile device 27.2% to 21.7%.

There are fewer than five weeks until Election Day, and we don’t expect this pace to slow down. The stakes are too high to step off the gas pedal now. Campaigns across the country are relying on small-dollar donations to fuel them to victory. That’s why they’re using ActBlue. But rest assured we’ll be busy preparing for an intense rest of the campaign season.

Labor Day has historically marked the start of campaign season. Somebody forgot to tell this cycle’s campaigns: we’ve already passed the $200M mark!

In August 2014 we handled $22,982,206 from 690,488 contributions, placing it in our top-3 with October 2012 and July 2014 for most contributions in a single month. Both this month’s incredible number of contributions and the low average donation size (just $32.88) demonstrate how hard campaigns and organizations are working to mobilize a grassroots movement.

August ’11 August ’12 August ’13 August ’14
Contributions 78,172 309,877 155,524 690,488
Volume ($) $3,051,815 $12,785,110 $5,674,068 $22,982,206
Mean Donation $39.04 $41.26 $36.48 $32.88
Committees 916 1,981 1,305 2,251

August 2014 was more than $10M larger than August 2012, while the number of contributions has increased by 122%. That’s causing the average contribution size to decrease by 20%. And that means more small-dollar donors are supporting the causes and candidates they care about.

We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the percentage of recurring contributions compared to previous cycles. 15.4% of August 2014’s total volume of money — a sum of $3,523,237 — came from sustaining donations. The chart below shows the growth of recurring volume in the 2010, 2012, and 2014 election cycles:

So far this election cycle, we’ve handled $17.8M of recurring contributions. That’s an increase of 170% from the same point in the 2012 cycle and more than ten times where at the end of August 2010.

Building a base of recurring donors can have a huge impact on the sustainability of a campaign or organization. A predictive, steady stream of money helps them better manage their finances. And for organizations, which will continue their important work long after November, a pool of recurring donations can help with the post-election donor-fatigue. Recurring donations help donors stay engaged by letting them make regular, small dollar investments in the causes they care about.

To cap off another massive month, we passed the 10 million contributions mark on August 30th! We were too preoccupied with a crazy amount of donations over the holiday weekend to properly celebrate. Over the last 3 days of the month, we handled 22.7% of August’s total volume of money. For those wondering, we did manage to take a screenshot of our internal metrics page and share it with the team.

It wouldn’t be an ActBlue monthly recap if we didn’t point out some impressive Express and mobile stats. Over 54k Express users signed up this past month to join our million-plus individuals strong community of supporters who can donate in an instant. Express users made 63.7% of all contributions in August 2014, which totaled more than $12M. That’s more than half of this month’s total volume, and a testament to how many campaigns are working with the Express tools.

Express users have saved their payment information with us, which increases mobile conversions. They give with mobile devices at a higher rate than non-Express users: 29.6% to 23.9%. Mobile donations continue to increase sitewide. This month saw 26.2% of all contributions made with a mobile device.

Campaigns and organizations are fundraising at a blistering pace. In the past two months, we’ve handled more than 1.3M contributions. And we’re prepared to handle the massive load of small-dollar contributions that are predicted to come between now and November. It’s going to be a crazy ride!

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