Archive

Analysis

November’s always a weird month around here. We have a handful of our biggest days of the year leading up to Election Day, and then there is a sharp drop off. We affectionately refer to this transition as Sad Graph™:

This pattern is to be expected: campaigns’ fundraising pushes end on Election Day. We raised $13 million for 1,634 candidates and organizations from 490,327 contributions (51.89% of that money came in during the first four days). That’s a big drop off from the previous months, but in line with past Novembers. The average donation size was just $27.22, and more than a quarter of contributions (27.8%) were made via a mobile device.

You can check out how those numbers stack up against past years below. Keep in mind that November top line figures can vary a little more year-to-year than other months, depending on when Election Day falls, and whether there are a lot of recounts and runoffs.

  Nov ’11 Nov ’12 Nov ’13 Nov ’14
Contributions 67,796 314,389 194,238 490,327
Volume ($) $4,057,080 $10,822,821 $7,397,575 $13,348,723
Mean Donation $59.84 $34.59 $38.09 $27.22
Committees 1,116 1,449 1,484 1,634

 

Despite the decline in contributions and the close of the election cycle, we continued to bring in a ton of new Express users. 17,171 people signed up for Express accounts, bringing our total up to 1,223,587. Those are our power users, and they accounted for 66% of all contributions in November.

Growing that Express user base and keeping them engaged is going to be a main focus for us going forward, because we know these users are going to play a crucial role in the 2016 elections.

Another main focus for the next election cycle will be recurring contributions. We’ve been championing recurring programs in this space for a while, and it’s paying off. Recurring contributions accounted for a full 39% of all dollars in November and caused that spike at the end of the month. That recurring money is a huge boon to campaigns and organizations, who were slammed during November. And it’ll keep paying off during the winter, when fundraising is tougher for most organizations.

Slower months don’t translate to a quieter time over at ActBlue. Now that the election has come and gone, we’re looking ahead to 2016 and planning out the tools and upgrades we’ll need to be ready. And we’ll be at Rootscamp in a few weeks if you want to talk about the future with us!

Last Tuesday was rough. Really rough. As we analyze this election and start to hone in on the things that went really well, one of the brightest spots is the continued rise of the small-dollar donor.

We didn’t just have a big cycle here at ActBlue we had a HUGE one. I’m talking nearly double 2012. Here are the top line numbers:

  2008 Cycle 2010 Cycle 2012 Cycle 2014 Cycle
Contributions 474,625 810,797 3,848,447 8,501,067
Volume ($) $62,187,361 $85,814,697 $173,166,827 $315,187,405
Mean Donation $142.86 $114.83 $50.19 $44.54
Committees 2,681 3,564 4,457 4,987

 

The increase in donations (98.3% growth compared to the 2012 cycle!!) is way higher than the growth in the number of number of campaigns and organizations using ActBlue (11.8% increase). Everyone’s raising a lot more grassroots money than ever before. It’s awesome.

Keep in mind, the overall amount of money spent on Congressional elections is actually fairly stable compared to 2012. That means the overall share of money coming from grassroots donors on the left is increasing.

The average contribution continues to drop, but not nearly as dramatically as it has in the past.

Express

The Express user universe is simply massive at 1.2 million people with saved credit cards. It’s been growing at a steady rate all cycle, but has picked up steam since June 2014, averaging more than 67,653 sign-ups a month during the run-up to the election.

Express users accounted for 53% of contributions this cycle, but in October they accounted for 59% of contributions. This is one trend we don’t see stopping any time soon.

Express profiles lead to increased conversion rates and donors absolutely love the convenience of not having to re-enter their information.

Mobile

One of the biggest stories this election was the rise of the mobile giver. Just check out this chart:

You’ll notice a dramatic spike when we rolled out our mobile responsive form in September 2013. We worked incredibly hard to decrease load time, even if we were shaving off mere fractions of a second, to boost mobile conversion rates. Read more here.

These numbers will continue to climb, since more and more people are reading their email on their mobile devices. Smartphone adoption rates may have slowed, but usage is increasing rapidly.

Going forward, it will be even more important to optimize your forms for mobile devices, which means sticking to best practices like keeping the amount of text on your forms down and making sure headers aren’t too lengthy.

Nobody wants to have to type in a sixteen digit credit card number, let alone address/employment information, on a mobile device (no matter how big the phone’s screen is). That’s why Express is so important.

Recurring

All of these stats make us proud, but what’s the thing we’re most excited about? The growth in recurring. Look at these numbers!

Recurring volume was up 241% over 2012. Even more eye-popping is the 461% increase in weekly recurring. That’s way more than the overall increase in volume that we’ve seen this cycle.

We’ve been banging the drum for years about the potential of recurring donations, and this cycle is where we’re really seeing those recurring programs take off. Despite the bad news for Democrats this past week, there are dozens of organizations keeping up the fight and hundreds of candidates who did win. These groups will be around for years to come, and building a sustaining donor program is critical to their long-term success.

And we’re just scratching the surface of potential growth. We saw recurring contributions spike to 13.7% of all money raised in August, which was amazing to see, but typically it’s much lower and it shouldn’t be. Sophisticated email programs should be targeting likely recurring donors and sending them only recurring asks.

Off-years are the perfect time to be asking you list for sustaining money and building that pool of recurring donors. Internally, our team will be basing our 2015 goals on the number of people we sign up for recurring donations, and secondarily on the overall money we want to bring in. We’re optimizing for long-term sustainable growth.

Breaking all the records

Record-breaking is really the only way to refer to this cycle for ActBlue.

The combination of adding more campaigns and organizations, optimizing our features, and promoting grassroots fundraising led to a monster cycle. Here are our top 10 months in terms of total dollar volume. Seven were in 2014:

Date Total Dollar Amount
October 2014 $56,031,512
September 2014 $38,025,565
October 2012 $35,056,897
August 2014 $22,805,106
October 2012 $21,880,341
June 2014 $20,449,848
July 2014 $19,719,378
March 2014 $18,05,8418
October 2010 $16,775,008
May 2014 $13,858,256

And we had nine of our top ten biggest day in terms of dollar volume this year:

Date Total Dollar Amount
9/30/14 $5,624,944
6/30/14 $3,600,311
10/15/14 $3,310,945
9/29/14 $3,235,268
9/30/12 $3,037,231
3/31/14 $2,930,408
10/28/14 $2,902,375
10/31/14 $2,801,009
10/20/14 $2,786,699
10/27/14 $2,596,036

The biggest hour in terms of money was, shockingly (not), right near the end of the third quarter: 9/30/14 at 10 pm, when we processed a whopping $446,812.30. And the biggest hour in terms of the number of contributions processed was also during that end of quarter, when we processed 15,885 recurring contributions in a batch at 5 am. Yeah, that’s a lot.

And really, it speaks volumes about our reliability. We had no significant outages or problems this cycle, and that’s our norm. Our uptime is 99.99%. This past year we had a total of 54 minutes of downtime from 33 instances. And the vast majority of those were planned outages for maintenance.

We spent a ton of engineering time building our infrastructure to be able to handle 15k contributions in an hour, and it paid off. And our team is already at work preparing for 2016 and 50k contributions an hour, because it’s going to be so big that we might run out of superlatives.

We’re excited to see what 2016 brings for Democrats, but until then, we’re going to keep working every day to build tools that uplift small-dollar donors and the campaigns that are powered by them.


Note: We’ve made a change to how we tabulate the number of contributions made via ActBlue. Historically, we’ve only counted the first contribution made in a recurring subscription, mostly just because of how our database records this information. Now we will be counting each subsequent recurring contribution towards the total number of contributions. That’s how your dashboards calculate it already and this will keep things consistent.

With just one day until the election, we squeezed in some time to reflect on our monster October. There was no real “October surprise,” just a whole lot of grassroots fundraising, and a whole lot of work from campaigns and organizations across the country.

ActBlue handled a total of $56 million from 1.2 million contributions. Donations averaged $45.59 and went to 2,514 different campaigns, committees, and organizations. It was our biggest month by far, both in terms of dollars and donations. The runner up? Last month (September 2014), when we raised $38 million from 890,915 donations.

If you’re curious, the biggest hour of the month was on 10/31 at 3 PM EST ($222,965) and the biggest day was 10/15, the pre-general reporting deadline ($3.3 million). That’s a deviation from our typical month; fundraising totals usually build steadily, and the last day of the month is almost always the biggest. With Election Day looming, October was crazy from beginning to end. And that meant a massive, steady stream of contributions to handle, customer service emails to return, and campaigns to assist.

Check out how October ‘14 stacks up to past years:

  Oct ’11 Oct ’12 Oct ’13 Oct ’14
Contributions 61,438 825,893 289,808 1,229,502
Volume ($) $3,857,573.91 $35,055,118.28 $10,055,290.31 $56,051,590.11
Mean Donation $62.79 $42.45 $34.70 $45.59
Committees 1,140 2,183 1,576 2,514

 

Express users accounted for a huge chunk of that money — $33 million to be exact or 59%. With tens of thousands of new donors tuning into politics in October, our Express user community also grew significantly. We added 73,679 Express users last month, bringing the total up to 1,206,416!

Mobile donations continue to be a huge factor. 24.9% of contributions sitewide were made via a mobile device.

One of our most popular election season features is weekly recurring — and for good reason. It accounted for 10.7% of total volume in October and 315,281 contributions. More importantly, that money, combined with built-up monthly recurring (7.8% of total volume), provided a steady source of income for campaigns, so they could plan ad buys and GOTV efforts effectively.

Check out how this month stacked up against September, when we debuted weekly recurring and saw fundraising rising to a crescendo, rather than steadily marching towards Election Day.

(Click above to expand)

The narrative of the 2014 election has been that voters aren’t paying attention. But these numbers prove one thing: small-dollar donors are engaged and getting involved at a higher rate than ever before. And amongst all the Koch brother headlines, that’s an encouraging sign.

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!

Democrats are fired up.

This month we handled a total volume of $19,812,843 from 694,625 contributions, second only to October ‘12 for the most contributions in a month. To put that in perspective, we handled 685,830 contributions in all of 2011.

Clearly, election years no longer have any dog days of summer. That’s especially true when Republicans’ antics include threatening to sue President Obama, actually suing him, and refusing to rule out impeachment.

In the wake of the GOP’s outrageous actions, major Democratic committees and organizations sent out hundreds of emails. And it worked. They raised millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands grassroots supporters.

July’s average contribution size was just $28.52. That’s the lowest we’ve seen in the history of ActBlue.

And we couldn’t be more thrilled! A month like this exemplifies ActBlue’s mission: to democratize power by putting fundraising tools in the hands of grassroots donors across the USA. It’s evident that small-dollar donations are increasingly powering the left’s campaigns and organizations.

July ’11 July ’12 July ’13 July ’14
Contributions 66,746 200,193 162,935 694,625
Volume ($) $2,424,679 $8,342,134 $5,750,964 $19,812,843
Mean Donation $40.12 $41.67 $35.30 $28.52
Committees 862 1,866 1,219 2,153

This month’s total volume was more than twice July ‘12’s total of $8,342,124. This year’s trend of doubling our fundraising numbers from 2012 is impressive in its own right, but it’s even more exciting to see the number of contributions increase by 3.5 times, while the average donation size continues to decrease. And we’re working with even more candidates, organizations, and committees: 2,153 this month, compared with 1,866 in July ‘12.

Recurring contributions continue to play a major role as more and more organizations and campaigns are realizing the value of a reliable stream of money. Last month we introduced infinite recurring to make it easier for campaigns and organizations to raise long-term, sustaining contributions. Recurring contributions accounted for 13.7% of this month’s total number of contributions.

Like we mentioned in last month’s recap, we process all of the recurring contributions early in the morning when most people are asleep. We do this for two reasons: campaigns and organizations wake up to a surplus of cash and and our system is ready to handle the rest of the day’s contributions.

The number of recurring contributions has grown and grown throughout this election cycle, a result of the hard work people put in to get sustaining supporters signed up. Recurring contributions are a convenient way for people to remain engaged with entities. And on July 30, we handled 8,453 contributions from 4-5AM, which is the new record. Because the number of people signed up for recurring contributions continues to increase, we don’t expect this record to last long!

Despite the incredible volume we saw in the final week of July (one $2M day, five days over $1M, and one day over $900K), it was smooth sailing for the ActBlue technical team. This is a true testament to the work that our tech team does on a daily basis to prepare for surges in volume like these.

Here’s a look at the month’s daily volume of money and number of contributions:

As you can see, the final push to the end of the month was massive: 50.1% of the month’s total volume of money came in the last 7 days. And over one-third of July’s total contributions (35.4%) were made in the final 4 days. Over the course of this month, 29% of the contributions were made with a mobile device. That’s due in large part to Express users: 31% of their contributions were made via mobile.

In case you missed our earlier blog post, the number of Express users climbed to more than one million! What makes this community a game changer for the left? Express users have securely saved their payment information with us, so they can donate to a Democratic campaign or organization in an instant.

In July alone, Express users contributed $10,465,812 (or 52.8% of the month’s total volume of money) and accounted for 61.5% of the total number of contributions. And 16.7% of all newly made contributions were made via Express Lane, our one-click contribution system.

Campaigns and organizations have set a blistering pace for emails sent and money raised in order to win this fall. And at this point in time, it’s safe to say that this cycle’s not slowing down anytime soon. There’s too much at stake not to.

The biggest day in ActBlue history…by over half a million dollars!

The last day of June started off a bit slow compared to other monster end of quarter days. The question—is $3 million possible?—loomed in the office.

But then in a 3 hour period, from 1 to 4 PM EDT, we handled almost a quarter (23.5%) of the day’s total volume of $3.7 million(!!). Campaigns were waiting on the two major Supreme Court decisions to be announced before sending emails. The day’s narrative switched from a typical, EoQ rush to the deadline to a more politicized one.

That $3.7 million came from over 85K contributions. On a single, gigantic last day of Q2 2014, we broke our own records for total dollar amount and number of contributions!

And those aren’t the only record shattering numbers from yesterday:

  • Of our all-time 15 busiest hours, 10 were on 6/30/14
  • Most contributions in an hour (7,046) from 10 to 11 PM
  • Most contributions in a minute (153) at 10:30 PM

We’re constantly upgrading our powerful tools to handle a ton of traffic, which makes days like these possible. At one point, we handled 655 contributions in 5 minutes! Our technical team works incredibly hard so we can offer Democrats the most reliable and secure software available. We’re ready for the surge of donations this fall.

You’ll notice in the graph above that there’s a massive spike in contributions at 4AM for each day. As you’d expect, it’s not because lots of people check their emails at that time. We get recurring contributions processed during the morning’s quiet hours, so campaigns wake up to bigger balances, ready to start the day. Overall, the number of recurring contributions has steadily increased as organizations are realizing the value of a steady stream of money.

June’s final tally? $20,513,475, our third biggest month ever. 541,427 contributions were made to 2,153 candidates, committees, and organizations, with an average donation of $37.89. Impressively, mobile donations accounted for more than a quarter (25.2%) of contributions this month.

June ’11 June ’12 June ’13 June ’14
Contributions 57,664 268,794 186,139 541,431
Volume ($) $3,850,081 $11,624,120 $9,052,454 $20,513,558
Mean Donation $66.77 $43.25 $48.63 $37.89
Committees 862 1,866 1,219 2,153

Compared to June 2012, the total number of contributions more than doubled, while the volume increased by more than 40%. The difference there is the decrease in the average donation size ($43.25 in 2012 to $37.89 in 2014). Chalk that up to growth in small dollar donations, which means campaigns and organizations are expanding their base. Nothing like an increase in grassroots support for Democrats!

Just a quick glance at a graph of this month’s contributions day by day shows how productive the final days of a quarter can be. Five out of the last seven days of June were over $1 million. Even the significant fundraising bump from Cantor’s defeat on June 10 could not compare to the high-stakes pressure of an EoQ week.


This was an important quarter for candidates and organizations gearing up for November, and the ActBlue donor community came out in full force: they gave over 1.1M contributions, totaling $46M, to 2,810 different candidates, committees, and organizations. Despite the busiest months of the election cycle lying ahead of us, we’ve already raised more money than any previous cycle! There’s still 4 months and 2 days left until the November elections, and all signs are pointing to a massive final push.

Part of what’s driving the push is that more and more campaigns and organizations are using ActBlue’s Express Lane program, our one-click donation system. They’re already seeing results: Express users were responsible for 59.9% of June’s contributions.

We’ve now got over 933K Express users. And thanks to the madness of EoQ, there were 45K new sign ups over this past week alone.

Looking at our numbers from June and 2014’s second quarter, it’s clear that this election year is going to get even busier. What dog days of summer? This cycle doesn’t look like it’ll slow down.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45 other followers