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A blockbuster $3 million dollar day.

That’s how we finished up the first quarter of this Election Year. It was the second biggest day in ActBlue history and only our second day over $3 million. Our team was up late watching the numbers roll in and making sure everything was running smoothly. We collectively cheered when we hit the $3 million mark at 11:59 PM EST. Definitely a photo finish!

All that money came from 56,065 donors, making it our 7th largest day by number of contributions. It’s no wonder that 99 of our 100 busiest minutes of the month were on 3/31. The top time of the day was 9:24 PM with 114 contributions.

The grand total for March? $18,123,793 million. That’s more than our entire Q1 2012 total of $18,044,520. This year we raised $36.1 million in the first quarter, buoyed in part by a competitive special election in Florida and lots of high-profile Senate candidates like Jeanne Shaheen using our tools.

Check out the year-by-year numbers below:

  Mar ’11 Mar ’12 Mar ’13 Mar ’14
Contributions 143,012 167,030 204,232 405,802
Volume ($) $5,847,994.09 $8,966,153.88 $7,446,487.35 $18,123,793.44
Mean Donation $40.89 $53.68 $36.46 $44.66
Committees 673 1,628 951 1,967

 

As you can see, we doubled our March ‘12 fundraising totals and far more than doubled the number of contributions we brought in (167,030 to 405,802). The average contribution amount also fell from $53.68 in 2012 to $44.66 in 2014. The average contribution amount on our site has been declining over time, but contributions tend to be slightly larger during election years.

We’ve got an internal staff metrics page that we check rather obsessively, but never more so than on EOQ nights. We grabbed a screenshot for you today — check out the huge spike in donations during the end of the quarter. The five days ending up to the end of the quarter all had donation totals over $900k. And as usual, there was a sharp dropoff in fundraising as soon as midnight hit, making the first day of April relatively slow (though we wouldn’t call $529,811 too shabby).

sizeadjustedmetrics

A big winner for us has been our Express program and one-click donation system, Express Lane. We’ve got 794,000 Express users (it was only a month ago that we were so excited to hit 750k!), and dozens of campaigns using Express Lane to fundraise. 13% of all contributions in March were made with just one click of an Express link! That’s a huge number and we’re only expecting it to grow as more campaigns use the service and we continue to grow our Express user pool.

One of the other big factors contributing to our strong numbers is the number of candidates, committees, and organizations fundraising with us. We cut, printed, sealed, and sent checks to 1,967 candidates (our interns had to carry quite a big bag to the post office on Tuesday.), up from 951 in 2013 and 1,628 in 2012. And we had a particularly busy month with new campaign setups. We added 350 entities to the site in March alone.

Mobile donations continued to play a huge role in fundraising. 22% of all donations sitewide and 24% of Express donations were made via a mobile device. The total percent of mobile donations predictably jumps on the weekends. Some days, including end of quarter weekend, saw a full 25% of all donations made on mobile. The average mobile donation is $27.97, which indicates that mobile devices are a great way to reach a huge group of small-dollar donors.

It’s going to be a big, big year — and we’re taking bets on how huge the next EOQ deadline we’ll be. Got a prediction? Throw it in the comments.

January just ended, which means Election Day 2014 is right around the corner. At least it feels that way in the fundraising world, where early money is key for structure, momentum, and success in November.

2012 was a breakout year for online fundraising, and had presidential election year with presidential-level media attention, but as you can see below, 2014 is poised to be much, much bigger. And that’s because more campaigns have started using ActBlue as their main fundraising platform, got an early jump on fundraising, and harnessed the power of grassroots donors.

  Jan ’11 Jan ’12 Jan ’13 Jan ’14
Contributions 10,120 87,370 98,953 223,334
Volume ($) $636,711.13 $4,001,392.93 $3,341,964.67 $7,780,137.87
Mean Donation $62.92 $45.80 $33.77 $34.84
Committees 460 1,206 764 1,604


We helped raise $7.8 million in January ‘14, nearly double the $4 million in January ‘12. The money we raised this past month came from 223,334 donors, who gave an average of $34.84. So: we doubled the amount of money while shaving $11 off of our average contribution size in January ’14. That’s the kind of grassroots power that we love to see in action, because those donors will likely give several times and it’ll add up to a big impact come Election Day.

Because of optimization testing and development work we’ve done in the offseason, we’ve got a ton of new folks gearing up to work with us in 2014. We set up 214 new campaigns and organizations this past month alone! (If you work for a campaign or organization and are interested in trying out our tools, please get in touch.) The combination of higher conversion rates and more campaigns and organizations means rapid growth.

So, what else did January tell us about the year to come? We’ve been saying it for a while, but 2014 will be the year of mobile, and January’s numbers confirmed our mantra. 19.7% of all contributions on ActBlue were made via a mobile device, with some days seeing that number rise to 25%.

Mobile contributions are even more popular when it comes to Express users, who made 22.8% of their donations via mobile devices. That’s key because we now have over 720,000 Express users, and they accounted for 55.2% of all donations made on ActBlue in January. They’re our power users, and the biggest supporters of Democratic candidates and causes. As the number of Express users grows, and mobile phones become the go-to way to check email for supporters around the country, all eyes will be on mobile conversion rates.

Taking a look at the past few election cycles, we can make some predictions about 2014 fundraising.

election year giving

election_year_dollars

We brought in $35 million dollars in October ‘12, almost 9x the amount that we helped raise in January ‘12. The beginning of the year, while strong, will pale in comparison to those big months. Predictably, fundraising spikes in March and June for the end of quarter fundraising pushes. However, fundraising growth continues at about the same rate after September’s crucial end of quarter, which means you can bet that October 1st won’t be a day for recovery. From July on, it’s likely to be non-stop fundraising.

January is one of the biggest months for political contribution reporting (our compliance team worked overtime and then some to get it all done). We sent reports on 380,311 contributions to 16 different federal and state agencies. For us, that’s just as important as the $7.8 million we raised. Our mission is to help supporters elect Democrats and progressives, but those grassroots victories would be meaningless without transparency and accountability.

For ActBlue, 2013 went out with a bang. A $3 million bang. And that means a very happy new year for Democrats and progressives across the country. On the last two days of the year, we processed $1,174,688 (12/30) and $2,089,632 (12/31). That brought our 2-day total up to $3 million and gave us our second $2 million day of the year.

The supercharged final days brought our December total up to $11.2 million, our biggest month of the year. The quarter and year totals came in at $28.7 million and $89.5 million, respectively. That’s more than double our 2011 off-year total of $41 million. So, in other words, 2013 was big, and the work we did this past year is going to help pave the way for victory in 2014.

Here are a few other fun facts about the year:

1. The busiest minute: 12/04 at 10:11 PM EST, when we raised $5,171.54 from 176 donations (and yes, it’s totally random)
2. The biggest day of the year was 9/30 with $2.1 million, followed by 12/31, 2/28, and then 12/30
3. We went from 731 mobile contributions in 2010 to 293,934 in 2013
4. 7/10 of the busiest minutes were on 2/28 during the 5 PM hour (thanks impending government shutdown!)
5. October 12th had the highest percentage of mobile contributions (28.5%)

We broke down the numbers for December, Q4, and all of 2013, for this triple-the-data, triple-the-fun end of year recap, with the big moments, trends, and takeaways from the year in fundraising. Dig in below.

  Dec ’10 Dec ’11 Dec ’12 Dec ’13
Contributions 27,807 61,438 76,424 259,423
Volume ($) $1,185,162.85 $3,857,573.91 $2,344,501.66 $11,245,607.21
Mean Donation $42.62 $62.79 $30.68 $43.35
Committees 442 1,140 1,356 1,585

 

  Q4 ’10 Q4 ’11 Q4 ’12 Q4 ’13
Contributions 209,981 186,769 1,168,637 680,113
Volume ($) $19,122,770.37 $13,076,171.73 $48,273,858.28 $28,705,060.90
Mean Donation $91.07 $70.01 $41.31 $42.21
Committees 1,927 1,688 2,419 2,194

 

   2010  2011  2012 2013
Contributions 544,759 685,830 2,896,197 2,119,923
Volume ($) $56,927,561.68 $41,121,132.96 $136,467,283.62 $89,500,820.43
Mean Donation $104.50 $59.96 $47.12 $42.22
Committees 3,084 2,344 3,894 2,988

 

This year’s New Year’s Eve, the Q4 deadline, outpaced the last few by HUGE margins. In 2011, just a year out from a presidential election, we brought in $511,553.47, compared with the $2 million and change in 2013, a nearly 300% increase. Expect to see more monster fundraising deadlines next year. If you’re part of a campaign or organization that is fundraising, you might want to make sure you’ve got more than one email at the ready if you want to jump in the mix. Don’t get swallowed up by the inbox influx. And yeah, we can all see where this trend is heading.

We raised $15.7 million more in Q4 ‘13 than in Q4 ‘11, for a total of 2,194 different candidates, committees, and organizations. That’s a 30% increase in the number of committees from Q4 ‘11. Conversely, the average donation fell substantially, from $70.01 in 2011 to $42.22 in 2013, meaning that an army of small-dollar donors powered this huge jump. Early money is worth more to campaigns and organizations because it means they can build infrastructure, hire staff, and recruit volunteers. The successful Q4 will go a long way towards ensuring these groups are prepared for the upcoming election, and shows the GOP that Democrats are gearing up for a serious challenge next November.

This year we also launched Express Lane, our one-click donation system. We’ve been building up our pool of users for years, and now have a total of 714,519 Express users, shared across all candidates and committees. That makes it a whole lot easier for donors to give to all of their favorite candidates, and for candidates and organizations to increase conversion rates.

It had been pretty clear to us even before 2013 that mobile is the future of online donations, and we rolled out brand new mobile-responsive forms this year that made it easier than ever for donors to give on the go. Overall, the percentage of donations via mobile in 2013 was 14%, double the previous year’s mobile rate. Consider the fact that we introduced our mobile responsive forms late in the year—mid-September— and the results are even more incredible. With such a huge upward trend, we’re predicting that 2014 will be the Year of Mobile.

We had a hunch that the mobile numbers might have jumped during the holidays, when donors were away from their desks. We were right. Mobile contributions constituted 24% of all contributions on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the highest of the entire month. That number also stayed above 20% from 12/20 on. The beginning of the month, on the other hand, saw rates around 13%-17%. The takeaway? If you’re sending on a weekend, a holiday break, or a popular vacation time in the summer, be extra sure your content is mobile friendly. Then again, you should already be doing that.

So, 2013 was busy to put it lightly. But it will pale in comparison to the volume we’re going to see next year ahead of the midterm elections. We spent 2013 beefing up our tools so that we’ll be ready for a crazy busy 2014.

A couple of weeks ago, Julia unveiled our new mobile-responsive contribution forms to the world. Since we’ve rolled out mobile-responsive forms, our mobile contribution numbers have been through the roof, so we’re really excited to share them with you.

Check out this graph, in which the red line represents the release date. Notice anything?

ActBlue mobile donation trends

ActBlue mobile donation trends

As we’ve mentioned, our initial A/B test yielded some excellent results: our new mobile-responsive forms led to a 49% boost in conversions (a statistically significant improvement at p< .01). And these forms are already making a marked difference.

Since the release, 21.9% of sitewide donations have been made by supporters using a mobile device. For ActBlue Express users– those who have saved their credit card information with us– the number’s even higher at a full 25.9% mobile. According to the stats textbooks I keep on my desk for reference, that number is “insanely high”.1 Seriously though, from the beginning of the year to the day our mobile-responsive contribution forms were released, 9.0% of donations were made via mobile devices (12.3% for Express users). It’s pretty tough to exaggerate how prodigious this jump is, and there’s clearly more growth to come.

The importance of mobile donations is increasing inexorably; we all know that. But, on one of the busiest days of the year, we topped over 30% mobile donations among ActBlue Express users. It’s a whole new world.

Footnotes:
1Just kidding, of course :-)

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.

If you had hundreds of millions of lines of contribution data, what would you want to know? Well here at ActBlue, we have an insane amount of data, and we’re always looking to learn more about our donors and how they use our site.

So we recently recently posed the question:

Who donates more…men or women?

The answer turns out to be women, but only if you approach things from the right perspective.

Before I go on, I’d like to say that I by no means want to perpetuate the gender binary; everyone at ActBlue respects and values people all across the gender spectrum.

We all know some of the basic election gender data – more women went for Obama, more men for Romney. But, political contributions involve personal investment, so I wanted to see how it breaks down on our site, which is obviously exclusive to Democrats. There was just one hiccup in my data-nerd fantasy: we don’t collect any information on our donors’ gender identification.

The easiest way to get around this problem is to use approximate name-gender matching. While many databases available for this purpose are either costly, unreliable, or both, I did eventually find a source which I felt comfortable using (an academic paper available for free in which the authors explained their methodology). So after digging into our database and crunching the numbers, I came out with some answers. I’ll give an overview of my results first and then explain my methodology and some statistical issues I want to highlight in a bit more detail further down.

I found that for individual contributions, women give about 15.0% smaller dollar amounts than men do. I also found, however, that women are 12.4% more likely to make a recurring contribution than men are. (Assume all of these values are statistically significant, but if you’re interested read more on that below.)

So the obvious question was: what happens once you factor in future installments of a recurring contribution, and not just the initial dollar amount? I crunched the numbers again, but it turned out not to change anything — women still donated about 16.6% smaller dollar donations than men. This was a big surprise, so I started racking my brain for possible explanations.

You’ve probably already figured it out, but I made quite an oversight in my initial assumptions. It’s well documented that the gender wage gap still persists; 77 cents is a popular estimate for how much a woman earns for doing the same amount of work a man is payed one dollar to do. This is incredibly unjust, but it is also directly relevant to my project — women are unfairly earning less income than men, so it makes sense that they’d have less disposable income from which they are willing and able to make political contributions, all else equal.

So I did what every progressive has always dreamed of. I punched a few computer keys and voilà– the gender wage gap disappeared! After this adjustment for equality, women turned out to make about 12.9% higher dollar contributions than men, and when factoring in the entirety of recurring donations, they donated 11.4% more than men. Quite the change from my initial findings, indeed. (This kind of broad and general adjustment is bound to be approximate, but in my opinion it was actually a fairly conservative change. But, see below for some discussion of that.)

Given ActBlue’s focus on grassroots donors, I wondered what would happen if I trimmed my dataset to include only donations that were $100 or less. Well, I did that and was left with about 95% of my original sample, which really does demonstrate the extent to which ActBlue is all about small-dollar donations. After trimming the dataset (and continuing to use adjusted donation amounts), I found that women were donating higher dollar amounts than men to an even greater extent than before, at 21.1%!

As many of you know, ActBlue Express Accounts allow donors to securely store their payment information with us and donate with just one click. I found that women and men in my sample donated using an ActBlue Express Account at a remarkably similar rate– within 1 percentage point. This just goes to show how egalitarian ActBlue Express Accounts are!

Now there are several important takeaways here. It looks like on ActBlue, for example, women tend to donate higher dollar amounts than men (after adjusting for the gender wage gap), and also tend to give recurring contributions more often than men. But for me, the biggest lesson was to be vigilant about understanding what outside factors might be affecting the internal nature of your data.

Before I move on to some nitty-gritty technical comments, I want to say that I really did mean the question that opened this blog post. So, readers, what would you want to know if you had that much data? I really enjoyed sharing these results with you, so please shoot me a note at martin [at] actblue [dot] com to let me know what you’d like our team to dig into for the next post!

My discussion below is a bit more technical and intended for other practitioners or very curious general readers.

As I mentioned above, name-to-gender matching is difficult for several reasons. In “A Name-Centric Approach to Gender Inference in Online Social Networks”, C. Tang et al. combed Facebook pages of users in New York City and, after using some interesting techniques, came up with a list of about 23k names, each of which was associated with the number of times a user with that name identified as male and female. I definitely recommend reading through their study– you might not think it’s perfect, but it could provide some inspiration for the aspiring data miners among you. In any case, I then did some further pruning of their list for suitability reasons, the effects of which were minimal. I combined their name-gender list with a n=500k random sample of contributions made on ActBlue since 2010, matching only names that appear on both lists for obvious reasons.

At that point, I had a dataset that included, on a contribution-basis, the donor’s name, estimated gender (the authors of the study pegged their matching accuracy at about 95%), and some other information about the contribution. Of the 500k sample, the matching spat out about 50.4% females.

When I say “other information”, I’m specifically referring to factors that I know from past analyses directly affect contribution amount (for instance, whether the donor is an ActBlue Express User or not). I took this extra information since I knew I’d need to control for these factors when evaluating the effect of gender on donation amount. This is a good reminder of why it’s super important to know your data really well by staying current with trends and performing frequent tests– otherwise you might end up omitting important explanatory variables, choosing a misspecified model, or making other common mistakes.

With my dataset ready, I tried a few different types of models, but landed on one in which the dependent variable (contribution amount) was in logarithmic form, so it looked like:

ln(contribution_amount) = β0 + β1female + some other stuff + u

This model was best for a few different, yet boring (even for practitioners) reasons, so I’ll spare you the discussion :)

As I noted in my general discussion, all of the results I found were “statistically significant”, but there was an issue I wanted to address. In my case, yes, beta coefficients were significant at p<.0001, as was the overall significance of the regression and joint significance of groups of regressors I thought it important to test. But with n=500k, I think saying certain things were “statistically significant” can be a bit insincere or misleading if not explained properly, unless you’re talking to someone fairly comfortable with statistics. What I mean is pretty obvious if you just think about how a t statistic is actually computed, why it’s done that way, and what that means.

At huge sample sizes, very small differences can be “significant” at very high confidence levels, and lead to misinterpreting your results. Moreover, just because something is statistically significant doesn’t mean that it is practically significant. There are a few different ways to deal with this, none of which are perfect, though. In my case, I saw that 95% CIs of the regressor coefficients were really tight, and would certainly consider 10%-14% differences practically significant (don’t get me wrong—of course there are times when small differences like 0.3% can be practically significant, but this isn’t one of them). I’m not bashing large sample sizes here or saying that hypothesis testing is unimportant (it is!), but rather emphasizing caution and clarity in our reporting.

Further, there’s another important lesson here. Sometimes, no matter how cleverly we choose our models or carefully we conduct our analysis, the explanatory power of a regression is going to be limited because you simply don’t have enough data. I don’t mean depth of data (i.e. sample size), but rather the breadth of the data (i.e. categories of information). For instance, personal income is clearly going to be an important factor in determining the dollar amount of a given political contribution. We don’t, however, have that kind of information about donors. Does that mean I should have just thrown away the regression and called it a day? Of course not, because obviously partial effects can be estimated fairly precisely with very large sample sizes, even with relatively large error variance. Again, the lesson is to be judicious in your interpretation and reporting of results.

I also noted that I thought my gender wage gap adjustment was fairly conservative. What I did was simple; for all contributions in the dataset made by females, I calculated an “adjusted” contribution amount by dividing the actual contribution amount by 0.77. This implicitly assumes that if women were paid equally for equal work, they would contribute more overall dollars, but at their current ratio of donations/income. In other words, their marginal propensity to donate would be constant as income increases. In fact, I think this is probably false in reality, and women (and men, for that matter) would instead demonstrate an increasing marginal propensity to donate with increased income, and therefore I should have increased the contribution amounts by even more than I did. I haven’t, however, read any study that provides a reliable estimate of a marginal propensity to donate, and therefore decided it best to keep things simple.

I already asked you to reach out and tell me what you’re interested in knowing, but I’ll double down here: I would love to hear from you and get your input so that the next blog post will reflect our community members’ input! So shoot me an email me at martin [at] actblue [dot] com.

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!

ActBlue helped candidates, committees and organizations raise almost a million dollars more this month than we did in April 2012, when the presidential election was really ramping up. That’s awesome.

What does that mean? It means that more people are donating more often. And beyond that it means that the amount of people engaged and connected with the electoral process is going up. People are fighting to have their voice heard and standing up for what they believe in now that they have the tools to do so.

We’re pretty proud of that. Take a look at how the numbers stack up:

  April ’10 April ’11 April ’12 April ’13
Contributions 31,000 51,727 122,619 170,090
Volume ($) $2,767,800.98 $2,580,800.91 $5,485,860.74 $6,382,236.67
Mean Donation $89.28 $49.89 $44.74 $37.52
Committees 1,235 677 1,651 1,031

 

Our average contribution rate is dwindling – it’s now $37.52. That’s the one metric we’re thrilled to see going down. It’s less than half of what it was 3 years ago during the midterm elections and $12 lower than in April 2011 when we were in the midst of the grassroots movement in Wisconsin. Even with smaller contributions, our overall volume is growing, which means that people are more engaged than ever. In April alone, we processed 170,000 contributions, an increase of 50,000 compared to April 2012. This growth is driven by an increasing number of small dollar donors who are becoming active and pooling their resources together to make a big impact.

Another interesting fact? 621 fewer committees raised money in April 2013 than in April 2012. We don’t like seeing numbers go down, but that difference is understandable as there are always more races during a big election year. Knowing that a smaller pool of campaigns and organizations pulled off these impressive fundraising numbers makes it even sweeter. These groups are building truly grassroots efforts and we’re excited to see them grow.

The South Carolina special election between Elizabeth Colbert Busch and Mark Sanford is a prime example. Sanford recently called us an “ultra liberal money funnel” and tried to discredit Colbert Busch’s hard-earned grassroots donations. No wonder he was nervous: she raised an impressive $731,100 from 19,328 donors this month and helped drive lots of traffic. That’s a whole lot of engaged folks for a spring election in an off year.

Our biggest tool for building online grassroots programs has been ActBlue Express, which allows returning donors to give with just one click every time they get served up an ActBlue donation page. That means all Express users are valuable for any campaign or organization who decides to use us. Last month over half (52.1%) of our site wide contributors were ActBlue Express users and we brought our total Express users up to 552,188. We know that these users are our most dedicated donors, so we’re happy to see that number growing!

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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