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About ActBlue

Yep, that’s right. The community that we started building in 2008 has grown to include one million supporters.

What’s so special about Express users? They’ve securely saved their payment information with us, which means they can give in an instant to any candidate, committee, or organization using ActBlue. Whenever you make it easier for people to donate wherever they are, whenever they want, they’re more apt to give and conversion rates go up. That means our work is directly benefitting Democrats and progressives across the country.

In other words, Express users are power donors. But not the Koch-brother type. The small-dollar kind. Check out how many dollars ActBlue Express users have been giving:

Express users also power Express Lane, ActBlue’s one-click payment system. Express Lane increases donation rates anywhere from 40% to 200%. The more Express users an organization has, the more likely they are to bring in those Express Lane donations. The best way to increase your Express user pool? We’ve found that sending Express Lane links to all your users increases donation rates and helps you convert more of your list to Express users. We wrote a post about it here.

The community has been growing rapidly, but we’re really happy to see the current monthly growth rate at about the same level as October 2012. If you remember, there were some big things going on.

As we get further into the election cycle, more and more new donors are emerging and joining the Express Lane community. Every campaign out there is organizing and growing their ranks, all the major campaigns in the country are using ActBlue and adding their donors to this pool, and together the entire left is raising more money. And if we’re seeing this many new donors signing up during summer vacation months….well, we can only imagine what this fall will bring!

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.

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.

On ActBlue, August pushed us north of $12 million for the month and put the Big Number within striking distance of $300 million. That’s huge. And while the top 5 committees for August raised more than $6m of that total, none of them had an average donation size larger than $40. The rest of the $12 million went to nearly 2,000 other committees. There are around 500 races that get you a seat in Washington D.C., which means that 1,500 other candidates and committees are raising money through ActBlue.

Across the aisle, the folks at the top of the organization decide to drop huge sums of money on a few races. Over here, hundreds of thousands of donors give what they can to support thousands of candidates across the country. I don’t know if you’ve seen the polls lately, but it looks like our way is working a little bit better. And now, the numbers:

Number of contributions 309,877
Total raised $12,785,110.61
Average Contribution size $41.26
Committees receiving money 1,981

 

Here’s what August 2012 looks like compared to August 2011 and 2008 (last presidential election year). Percentage change is year over year:

August 2008 August 2011 August 2012 Change
Contributions 21,267 78,172 309,877 296%
Volume ($) $2,706,849.69 $3,051,815.13 $12,785,110.61 319%
Mean Donation $127.28 39.04 41.26 5%
Committees 1,068 916 1,981 116%

 

Here are the five top committees, by number of donors, for August 2012.

Name Race Donors Dollars
DCCC Party Committee 129,318 $4,215,738
DSCC Party Committee 40,678 $1,585,605
CREDO SuperPAC SuperPAC 16,120 $385,933
Democracy for America Organization 13,674 $274,859
Mazie Hirono HI-Sen 9,499 $227,671

Not only are the July numbers strong, they reflect how broad ActBlue has become. While the top 5 recipients make up a significant portion of July’s volume (~$4.5m) that leaves another ~$4m that flowing through ActBlue to smaller candidates, committees and causes. It’s evidence of the broad base of support that ActBlue represents, one that is changing the way people raise money. It couldn’t be more timely. And now, the numbers:

Number of contributions 200,247
Total raised $8,346,045.09
Average Contribution size $41.68
Committees receiving money 1,836

 

Here’s what July 2012 looks like compared to July 2011 and 2008 (last presidential election year). Percentage change is year over year:

July 2008 July 2011 July 2012 Change
Contributions 19,906 66,746 200,247 200%
Volume ($) $2,565,814.49 $2,678,159.69 $8,346,045.09 212%
Mean Donation $128.90 $40.12 $41.68 4%
Committees 1,043 861 1,836 113%

 

Here are the five top committees, by number of donors, for July 2012.

Name Race Donors Dollars
DCCC Party Committee 85,045 $2,695,553
DSCC Party Committee 31,359 $1,319,036
Elizabeth Warren MA-Sen 11,798 $241,687
Democracy for America Organization 8,575 $198,614
PCCC Organization 8,376 $119,989

Here’s the short version: $27 million sent to Democrats via ActBlue with an average donation under $50. That’s incredible. To put it in perspective, we tripled the amount of money we sent over the same period in 2011, and quadrupled the number of donations. We sent that money to twice as many campaigns. So when we talk about grassroots power, we’re talking 8 figures.

Number of contributions 582,951
Total raised $27,186,771.78
Average Contribution size $46.64
Committees receiving money 2,476

 

A for-profit company would love to take these numbers to their shareholders. Since we’re a non-profit, we’re bringing them to you. While 2012 is a presidential election year and that pushes the numbers upward, you can glance at our 2008 numbers to see how much we’ve grown over the interim.

Q2 2008 Q2 2011 Q2 2012 Change
Contributions 61,617 142,027 582,951 310%
Volume ($) $13,423,736.96 $9,110,160.70 $27,186,771.78 198%
Mean Donation $217.86 $64.14 $46.64 -27%
Committees 1,390 1,106 2,476 124%

 

Here are the five top committees, by number of donors, for Q2 2012.

Name Race Donors Dollars
DCCC Party Committee 182,345 $5,343,811
Tom Barrett WI-Gov 26,827 $2,010,889
DSCC Party Committee 46,091 $1,875,056
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Party Committee 45,048 $1,105,153
PCCC Organization 24,270 $244,764

We have another milestone to celebrate around the office: 2 million donations! And we got there only a year and a half after we hit 1 million. Averaged out over that period, we're talking 55,000 donations a month during some of slowest months of the election cycle.

Here's why it matters: our infrastructure is what turns grassroots passion into political results. While the "enthusiasm gap" was making headlines across the country, Democratic donors flocked to ActBlue to connect with their chosen candidates. Our infrastructure enabled the Wisconsin Recall efforts to demonstrate their fundraising oomph in real time, and helped labor issues find their way back into national discourse. Today that conversation is in a dramatically different place than it was a few months ago.

But 2012 is where the rubber meets the road. It's our transparent, participatory architecture against the small and increasingly shadowy world of Republican fundraising unleashed by Citizen's United.

2 million grassroots donations or five guys writing blank checks: which system would you rather have?

Sam Stein of the Huffington Post has a well-reported item up on mobile giving and campaigns. The takeaway is that everyone knows mobile giving is the next big thing but the actual "how" of the process as it relates to political donations is still unclear. As I've mentioned before, what we're dealing with is fundamentally an infrastructure problem. Amazon's one-click model works for two reasons: you can buy almost anything on Amazon and people are now broadly comfortable with the idea of purchasing things on the internet (in no small part due to Amazon's work in that area).

In the political world, neither of those conditions hold. For starters, the environment is far more fractured, with most candidates pursuing a la carte solutions. If you take a random sample of 25 campaigns, you'll find ten different vendors are responsible for processing donations, each with a particular set of technical constraints that means they can't play nice with one another. That means that each campaign would have to set up their own mobile donation platform, which in turn would require donors to create a mobile profile for each and every candidate they want to give to. Surprisingly, most people aren't up for that. 

Second, online political donations are a fairly new phenomenon and people's comfort zones are still adjusting. A few years ago, an online fundraising program was an optional part of your campaign plan. Today, it's essential. That change happened very fast, and it's why we regularly receive calls from folks who want to give to a candidate but aren't comfortable doing so over the internet. That's not unusual in circumstances like these. In 1998, Newsweek ran an editorial questioning whether anyone would ever buy books–much less other things–using internet retailers like Amazon. Today, the questions are somewhat different: will Amazon kill off book publishers, for example.

The reason ActBlue Express has succeeded relative to many other approaches to mobile giving is that we provide the same clearinghouse advantages that Amazon enjoys. You can create a single profile and give to every Democrat listed on our site (which is to say: almost every Democrat). Instead of campaigns pursuing endlessly duplicative infrastructure and trying to lure donors to this website or that website, they can come to a single place and connect with a pre-existing community of users. Crucially, the fact that these users have ActBlue Express accounts means they're donors and they have a pretty high level of engagement with politics. 

The fact that we've been around for a while and people know and trust us doesn't hurt either.

But the single greatest advantage we enjoy in here is the fact that we're a political committee, not a business. That means we can innovate in ways that for-profit vendors can't match. Simply put, they have to look after their bottom line. Because margins in this business are thin, if something isn't going to be immediately profitable it tends to land on the back burner. At ActBlue, we're able to get out in front of things like mobile giving because we're not as constrained in that regard. Our constituency of interest is our userbase, not our shareholders. If we can provide value to our users, that's the metric we're interested in.

ActBlue Express is simply one expression of that core tenet. 

In July, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) asked ActBlue to set up a draft fund for Elizabeth Warren. By mid-August the PCCC had shattered all records for the largest and fastest growing draft fund in our history, raising over $102,000 from around 7,000 supporters even before Elizabeth Warren formed an exploratory committee for a Massachusetts Senate run.

Today, their unprecedented success is the reason we're sending her committee a six-figure check.

The PCCC's landmark efforts are not only impressive, they tell us something important about the way politics is changing in response to the digital age. In 2009, the PCCC was a brand new organization. Today, the PCCC has a played a central role in a number of key battles over the last two years — from the fight for the public option and the push to keep Keith Olbermann on the air, to this year's Wisconsin recall elections and the Draft Warren fund. With the help of a large and active donor community, the PCCC has raised millions even though their average donation size is just under $15. In short, they've become a major political player at a speed and donation size that would've been unthinkable five years ago.

Much the same can be said of ActBlue. Seven years after our founding in 2004, we've become the single largest source of political funds in the United States. Our mission was (and is) to give voice to the voiceless, and bring attention to those donors and communities that are often ignored or overlooked. We call it "Democratizing Power," and this is how it works:

ActBlue raises up small donors, who raise up the PCCC, which raises up Elizabeth Warren. 

It's an organic, bottom-up process that's based on shifting the incentives that politicians face in a direction that's a win for everybody involved and the political system at large. By using ActBlue, the PCCC can demonstrate to everyone who cares to look that they can have a major impact on campaigns, and their donors can see exactly how powerful they are when they work together. Politicians learn that grassroots donors can be counted on to produce major results when it matters. And over time we get a political system that's responsive to the needs of folks who contribute $25, not just those who can afford $2500 donations.

Our architecture and their work–which has already raised another $7,000+ for Warren–improves your government. It's a good thing, man.
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