What a spontaneous online fundraiser looks like

I’d say last night was YUUUUGE, but others have done the Donald impression much better than I could. Suffice it to say, it was a historic night for ActBlue’s infrastructure.

Yesterday evening, during a 15 minute span, ActBlue processed over 26,000 contributions. That’s equivalent to 104,000 contributions / hour. For context, the biggest hour up to last night saw 13,981 contributions created. That’s how big of a surge it was.

We’re always prepping for the biggest moments, those are our bread and butter. And one of the best parts about a big night like last night is we get to see how our tools hold up to a heavy load, and how we can improve in the future. We processed every contribution that came our way last night, and we’re confident we could have handled 150k / hour (and we’ll be able to handle 200k by later tonight).

We did hit one bump late yesterday though. Last night’s spontaneous fundraiser (the one that raised $5.2 million in less than a day) broke our external processor’s response systems. That’s some amazing grassroots power. Like we said, we over-prepare, so we were ready for that. But the vendor started giving us a previously undocumented error message, which temporarily caused some donors to not move from the “please wait” page to the confirmation page…even though their contributions were already fully processed

It’s not ideal, and it’s not the exceptional donor experience we want to provide people with. And we were sorry for that. We worked quickly to get the issue remedied and to get the donor user flow back to what it should be. In addition to technical solutions, our customer service team was answering donor questions in real-time last night and they’re working hard to talk to every donor today.

And we’re happy to say that we didn’t drop a single contribution, and we didn’t go down. If you saw an error message last night, that was because you were trying to access a non-essential page. We triage those during our busiest times, so we can put all our resources behind handling contributions. That part worked exactly as it should, and it paid off with some pretty eye-popping statistics:

Numbers are fun, but pictures are more fun, so let’s start with a graph:

Want to guess what time Senator Sanders told a national TV audience to go to BernieSanders.com and donate $27?

Those are requests / minute as recorded by our (fabulous) CDN, Fastly. And for the briefest moment in time, we hit 333,000 rpm. Prior to last night, we’d never seen that number go above 40,000 rpm. So it was, in a word, unprecedented.

Internally, we could see those donors giving at a similarly rapid pace:

Isn’t it beautiful how nicely those graphs match up? And yes, this means we topped out at more than 2000 contributions / minute. Our previous record was 781. Here’s the breakdown of our new contribution records:

Minute: 2,689
5 minutes: 11,218
10 minutes: 19,822

But the best part of the contributions per minute graph is the natural decay in rate. By that I mean the gradual downslope as the wave passed. Why is this important? Because if our infrastructure was actually in trouble the graph wouldn’t look as natural — you would be seeing some sharp drop-offs.

Last night was a huge win for small-dollar donors. They once again showed that they are a powerful force to be reckoned with, and we’re committed to providing them with the best experience possible. We know that rock-solid and innovative infrastructure is key to helping Democrats up and down the ballot raise the most money online. But we also know that respecting donors and making sure they have a good experience both technology and customer service-wise is key to growing small-dollar donor participation. We’re expecting a lot more big nights, and we’re ready and excited to empower donors and help candidates build winning campaigns.

If you have questions about a contribution, or want to talk shop, email us at info@actblue.com and a real person will respond, as always.

What reaching 2 million Express users means for you

We hit a major milestone during the recent end-of-quarter rush: 2 million Express users! That’s 2 million donors* who have saved their credit cards with ActBlue and can give to virtually any Democratic candidate in America — and an increasingly large percentage of progressive organizations — with a single click.

Now, that’s obviously a huge number, but big numbers don’t mean much on their own. What’s important is that it’s not just a big pool, it’s a big recent pool of donors. These aren’t just donors who signed up back when President Obama was running the first time — these are current, active, and engaged donors. 815,706 Express users signed up in 2015 (573,241 in the last 6 months alone), from 2,685 campaigns and organizations. Check out this growth chart:

Cumulative total of ActBlue express users: 2.1M

And here’s a closer look at the year-by-year breakdown:

Cumulative total of ActBlue express users: 2.1M

And Express users don’t just sign up for accounts, they actually use them. Express users account for 69% of all donations made site-wide right now, and their mobile donation rate is consistently higher (41% vs 32%) than non-express users. That’s going to be key in 2016, given the steady growth of mobile donations. We’re seeing a full 38% of donations made via mobile, and as much as 58% during big night or weekend hours.

But the best part of the Express universe, as always, is that it’s a shared resource. That means that organizations and candidates — from small non-profits up to presidential candidates — can fundraise more effectively. And it means that donors can connect and contribute to their favorite causes in one place. Together, we build grassroots movements for change.

* Actually, it’s 2.1 million now. Yep, the Express universe is growing that fast.

Record-breaking quarter caps off ActBlue’s biggest off-year ever

Breaking records doesn’t ever get old around here. Then again we’re a bunch of digital fundraising nerds that get super excited about participation in democracy and our larger society.

And we did a ton of celebrating this quarter. Not only was December 31st our biggest donor day in history with 150k contributions, but we handled more volume over the last four days of the quarter than we’ve ever handled during a four-day period. Yep, even bigger than the lead up to the 2014 midterms. It was a virtual wave of grassroots money flooding into thousands of campaigns and organizations.

That doesn’t happen without tons of dedicated staffers working for candidates and organizations grinding it out over the holidays, working to reach more donors, and get more people participating earlier than ever in a crucial election cycle.

We broke plenty more records this quarter as well. Q4 saw the most Express users ever added in a quarter — 302k — which brought our total number of donors who have saved their credit card information past the 2 million mark.

I’ll admit that I didn’t think we’d reach that big milestone by the end of the year, but there was a tremendous surge at the end of December that put us over the top. We added the most Express users (31k) in a single day on December 31, 2015 — part of our unending quest to make it increasingly simple and easy for folks to give again in a single click.

During the last quarter of 2015 we handled 2.4M contributions — you guessed it, another record. Here’s a chart comparing Q4 2015 to past quarters, dating back to the 2012 election cycle:

Total contributions by quarter since 2011 on ActBlue

As you can see, the two previous cycles started out with slow growth, with the major growth happening in the last two or three quarters. That’s not happening this cycle. We’re seeing consistent increases quarter over quarter.

And yes, given this crazy growth pattern we’re busting our tails right now to make sure our underlying technology infrastructure continues to be rock solid. Not for nothing, while there were major enterprise-grade tech problems at the end of the year, ActBlue stayed up and processing contributions like it was any normal day.

It’s also worth pointing out that we’re past the $200M mark for the cycle. To put that in context, that’s $20M more than we handled in the entire 2012 election cycle, the last presidential cycle. And we’re nearly two-thirds of the way to 2014’s $320M benchmark (our biggest cycle).

So yeah, we’re well ahead of schedule to surpass half a billion dollars this cycle.

Off-year fundraising totals on ActBlue since the 2012 election cycle

On the above chart, you can also see a huge uptick leading up to 2015’s fourth end-of-quarter (EOQ). That spike is the $13M we handled from December 28, 2015 to December 31, 2015.

It’s proof that donors are in the giving mood (or at least still checking email!) at the end of the year — even if those donations aren’t tax deductible, like political contributions. Email is an evolving art, but it’s a good idea to keep this in the back of your head for planning out your send calendar for the end of the year.

But let’s focus on our biggest donor day ever — because December 31, 2015 was big and mobile-intensive. Here’s what the hour-by-hour looked like for contributions made on New Year’s Eve:

Mobile and desktop contributions made on December 31, 2015 by hour

A full 12,805 contributions came in between 9 to 10 PM (that’s the most newly made contributions in a single hour) with 57.7% (!!!!) of those being made via mobile devices. That’s by far the highest number of mobile contributions made in a single hour and it’s also the highest we’ve ever seen the mobile donation rate. Last EOQ we saw mobile rates spike above 50% for a few short minutes, but on December 31, 2015 there were three straight hours with more contributions coming in via a mobile device than a laptop or desktop.

It won’t be long now until >50% mobile is standard stuff, but right now this is new and exciting. And it’s also a reminder of how important it is for sites to load quickly during big traffic moments, especially when people should be enjoying a party and not fiddling with their phones.

And for those that are wondering how December 31, 2015 shaped up to the other three biggest donor days in our history, look no further than the following chart:

Contributions by hour on the biggest end-of-quarter days in ActBlue history

Just three months ago on September 30, 2015 we handled 147k contributions. The final tallies for September 30, 2014 and June 30, 2015 were 136k and 106k, respectively. What makes December 31, 2015 unique is the smaller bump at 4AM, which is when we process queued recurring contributions in a batch. We run this in the early morning to make sure our platform isn’t clogged up when the hourly volume picks up later in the day. For months that end in “30” we process recurring contributions made on both the 30th and 31st of a month, which is one reason why you see those huge upticks between 4 and 5AM for the other three biggest EOQs. There was just that much more organic traffic on December 31, 2015 to set the record for biggest donor day.

Below we break down this quarter compared to previous quarters.

TOPLINE NUMBERS

Q4 2011 Q4 2012 Q4 2013 Q4 2014 Q4 2015
Contributions 208,812 1,265,339 743,110 2,177,164 2,401,748
Total Amount $13,076,152 $48,271,803 $28,642,254 $74,208,413 $72,361,085
Avg. Contribution Size $62.62 $38.15 $38.54 $34.08 $30.13
Campaigns and organizations 1,688 2,419 2,189 2,800 2,618

We’re out-pacing where we were last election cycle by more than three times the number of contributions and more than twice the total volume. More committees, campaigns, and organizations are fundraising at this point in the cycle than last cycle, too. And we’re actually not that far off from the number that were fundraising over the last few days before Election Day in 2014.

EXPRESS

Q4 2011 Q4 2012 Q4 2013 Q4 2014 Q4 2015
New Express Users 14,049 114,799 69,600 99,821 302,993
Express User conversion rate 8.1% 17.3% 17.7% 15.6% 34.8%
Percent Express contributions 17.7% 53.4% 52.5% 64.5% 67.4%

Express users are our power users: Two out of three contributions made this quarter were from Express users (compared to a little more than one in two during the last off-year). Donors are also signing up at a fast clip: we added 816k new Express users this year, which is more than we signed up for Express throughout the entire 2014 election cycle.

The Express universe is huge, new, and active — donors consistently use their accounts to make contributions. It’s a big reason why we had such a monster Q4.

MOBILE

Q4 2011 Q4 2012 Q4 2013 Q4 2014 Q4 2015
Percent mobile 2.3% 8.9% 19.% 25.3% 34.8%
Percent mobile for Express users 1.7% 11.6% 23.3% 27.0% 37.6%

We’ve already talked about the huge spikes we saw during the last day of the year, but more than one in three contributions made this quarter were made on a mobile device. That’s the highest rate in our history. And it’s even higher for Express users because they’ve already saved their credit cards with ActBlue, which means they can give with a single-click using Express Lane.

RECURRING

Q4 2011 Q4 2012 Q4 2013 Q4 2014 Q4 2015
Recurring volume $769,101 $3,163,684 $1,835,802 $17,639,613 $17,242,658
Percent recurring volume 5.9% 6.6% 6.4% 23.8% 23.8%

Recurring volume continues to represent a significant portion of the quarter’s total dollar amount. Almost one in four dollars we handled were recurring. And in terms of total dollar amount, the recurring volume we saw in Q4 2015 was more than nine times(!) as much as in Q4 2013.

We couldn’t possibly talk about all of these insane numbers without mentioning our rockstar Customer Service team. They spent December 31st handling 2,791 email conversations and fielding 941 phone calls from donors across the country.

Over the course of the entire quarter, the team had 38,671 email conversations and answered 46,297 incoming phone calls from donors, making it possible for the campaigns and organizations using ActBlue to focus in on their fundraising programs and have a successful end to 2015. We work relentlessly to support donors in a timely manner, because it’s the right thing to do and because it makes them more likely to come back and give again.

All in all, this was a massive, record-breaking quarter, bigger than the last record-breaking quarter (noticing a pattern?). Stay tuned for more crazy totals and sky-high percentage increases.

But wait, one more! We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that we just passed the $900M mark for the total raised in our eleven-year history!!! That big B (billion!) word is in sight! #roadto1B

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of our fantastic year: report.actblue.com. As always, we like email and would love to get one from you, email info@actblue.com and a real, live human will respond.

Q3: The most donors in a day, ever.

As you read this, keep reminding yourself that we’re talking about the third quarter of an off-year. An off-year!

We broke the record for most contributions in a single day: 147k on September 30th. It was also our second biggest day ever in terms of money raised, a total of $5.5M. What’s #1 all time? Well, that was September 30, 2014, in the run-up to the mid-terms.

Here’s how we got there: We started off the morning strong with a peak of 400 contributions a minute (a new record) when we ran recurring contributions as a batch while everyone was sleeping. Later in the evening we were flying at 250 contributions per minute — all new, organic contributions (also a record).

In moments like these, infrastructure matters. Our engineers have been working for years to increase the volume we can handle per minute and everything ran as smooth as butter (or your favorite non-dairy substitute).

Meanwhile, people are no longer chained to their laptops — mobile giving was a powerful force this past quarter, especially in the evening hours, when people are more likely to be checking email on their phones. Between 9 and 10 PM on September 30, we saw mobile contributions spike to an unbelievable 50% at one point (another new record) and finish at an average of 44.3% for the hour.

The chart below details newly made contributions on September 30. You can see the incredible hourly volume we handled and the breakdown of mobile vs. desktop contributions:

That figure — 44.3% mobile contributions in an hour —is unheard of in this space. For a little context, just two years ago our mobile average was just 15.5% for the month. This leap was only possible because our tech team has focused on improving mobile conversion rates with notable features like Express Pass and Express Lane and on constant, small iterative changes to our contribution form that make it load faster.

There is no way that we would have broken so many records without thousands of hours of developer time going into mobile optimization and sheer processing infrastructure.

The chart below details the pace of the day compared to the other top EOQ days. We know fundraising picks up later in the day, so we process all of the scheduled recurring contributions early in the morning (note the massive number of contributions that start in the 4AM hour).

And it’s not all just west coasters giving in the last few hours. It’s folks checking their email on their phones before bed, reading an urgent appeal, and responding. And it’s a beautiful sight to see, for those of us who care about our democracy being for and by the people — not just those who can cut checks for thousands (or millions) of dollars.

But this quarter was about more than just the EOQ deadline. Here’s what we wrote to recap the first quarter of this cycle:

If current trends hold, ActBlue could process half a billion dollars in small-dollar contributions this cycle.

Well…it’s been nine months and we’re already well past the $130M mark. It’s fair to say we’re well on our way to hitting that target. And $56M of that money came in this quarter alone (scroll down to see how this quarter compares to previous years).

Campaigns, organizations, and committees are coming out in full force this year. So far this cycle, almost three thousand different campaigns and committees have raised money using ActBlue.

It’s all a sharp contrast to the massive checks the Republican super PACs have been cashing.

The bigger the pool of active, engaged donors, the stronger the party. That’s why we place such a strong value on our whopping 1.7 million Express users, who have saved their payment information with ActBlue. What’s important is not just the sheer size, but how recent and active these donors are. We’ve added more Express users (267k) this quarter than in any other. And we added an incredible 24k on EOQ day alone (new record)!

One reason why that’s the case: high Express conversion rates. This past month, 38% of donors eligible for an Express account signed up for one. Last cycle, we were averaging just over 20%. It’s an indication that more and more new donors are coming in and immediately thinking ahead to their next donations. That’s a huge strength for the party right now.

A bigger Express donor base is in the interest of Democratic organizations and campaigns of all sizes. As our Executive Director Erin Hill said in the Washington Post on Wednesday:

“Small[-dollar] donors are becoming the backbone of Democratic giving.” And the Republicans have nothing like it.

The chart below shows both the number of new Express sign-ups and the rate at which non-Express donors are signing up as Express users over the past 12 quarters.

Below we break down this quarter compared to previous quarters.

TOPLINE NUMBERS

2012 Q3 2013 Q3 2014 Q3 2015 Q3
Dollar Amount $42,997,505 $22,600,373 $80,391,630 $55,836,968
Contributions 973,909 637,924 2,304,190 1,791,040
Average Contribution Size $44.15 $35.43 $34.89 $31.18
Distinct Entities 2,681 1,827 3,064 2,263

MOBILE

2012 Q3 2013 Q3 2014 Q3 2015 Q3
% Mobile 7.0% 15.1% 27.2% 29.8%
% Mobile
for Express users
9.3% 18.7% 29.3% 32.4%

RECURRING

2012 Q3 2013 Q3 2014 Q3 2015 Q3
% Recurring Volume 7.2% 6.6% 13.7% 23.9%
Recurring Volume $3,107,154 $1,490,781 $11,021,894 $13,319,997

Some interesting nuggets from this data: We processed more than double the dollar amount we saw in our last off-year, Q3 of 2013. And there was an even bigger growth in the number of contributions from two years ago. We jumped up from 637,924 to a massive 1,643,083 contributions this quarter. That’s a 259% increase.

Recurring contributions remain the best way to sustain a campaign or organization in the long-term. And we’re continuing to see huge strides forward with recurring. On the morning of September 30th, we processed our biggest recurring haul ever: about $700k in recurring donations, from 37k contributions.

Look at the huge jump in the overall recurring numbers for the quarter. A full 23.9% of all the money that came in this quarter was from recurring contributions. That’s phenomenal!

This doesn’t all just happen. We’ve spent a lot of time extolling the virtues of a strong recurring program and helping campaigns and organizations increase their conversion rates. At the same time, Americans are starting to get more comfortable with giving monthly. Recurring is a huge percentage of the money raised by international NGOs. They’ll spend up to $175 on acquisition per person, because of the lifetime expected value of a recurring contribution.

Campaigns don’t value recurring contributions quite that highly yet, but it’s exciting to see the tide turning. It’ll lead to much more stability for campaigns and organizations. And they’ll be able to focus more on core work beyond fundraising. Plus, donors love being able to easily give on a regular basis to the candidates and organizations they care about.

To all the hardworking digital campaigners out there who made this quarter such a success, congrats! We’re proud to help you fuel your campaigns and organizations. Drop us a line any time if you want to talk strategy, or just have a question: info@actblue.com.

——

co-authored by: Kim Niedermaier

September ’15 Recap

With a massive end-of-quarter to close out the month of September, this turned out to be a monster $27M month (during an off-year, by the way). Most notably, we added more Express users in the past month than in any month prior — a whopping 124,824.

Check out the tables and charts below for a more detailed breakdown of this past month.

Topline Numbers

Sept. ’12 Sept. ’13 Sept. ’14 Sept. ’15
Contributions 463,901 319,785 925,261 795,853
Total Amount $21,881,359 $11,198,520 $37,921,801 $27,557,907
Average Contribution Size $47.17 $35.02 $40.98 $34.63
Committees 2,113 1,436 2,489 1,856

Recurring

Sept. ’12 Sept. ’13 Sept. ’14 Sept. ’15
Total Recurring Volume $1,240,618 $531,163 $4,869,166 $5,131,616
% of Total Volume 5.7% 4.7% 12.8% 18.6%

Express

We’re up to 1,738,816 Express users. These are some of our most engaged donors, who choose to save their payment information with ActBlue. As supporters continue to look for the fastest, most convenient way to contribute, we continue to see the number of Express users grow by leaps and bounds.

Sept. ’12 Sept. ’13 Sept. ’14 Sept. ’15
New Express Users 57,739 36,614 65,354 124,824
% of Total Volume
via Express Users
45.2% 42.9% 58.4% 59.4%
% of Contributions
via Express Users
49.6% 50.0% 63.9% 66.0%

Mobile

Sept. ’12 Sept. ’13 Sept. ’14 Sept. ’15
% Mobile 7.1% 20.5% 25.3% 32.2%
% Mobile for
Express Users
9.4% 24.3% 27.3% 34.9%

If you have questions or comments, feel free to reach out at info@actblue.com.

Our second biggest day ever: Q2 Analysis

Not only was last Tuesday the fourth largest quarter in ActBlue’s history, the last day of the quarter was the second biggest day in ActBlue history, clocking in at $4.6 million and 106k contributions!!

And Democrats and progressives weren’t the only ones taking notice that day — we tweeted that we were already at 42k contributions before noon (thanks mostly to all the recurring donations that ran that morning!), and the NRSC seized on it and sent an email to their list claiming we were “flaunting it.”

Bragging about the power of small-dollar donors using ActBlue? Absolutely. Heck, we even sent out an email about it.

Here’s a breakdown of topline numbers for Q2 2015. Keep in mind, the best comparison here will be to 2013, since it’s our most recent off-year…it’s easy to forget we don’t have an election coming up when you see numbers like these.

Topline Numbers

Q2 ’12 Q2 ’13 Q2 ’14 Q2 ’15
Contributions 625,485 529,607 1,215,395 1,281,922
Total Amount $27,151,235 $21,740,509 $46,245,990 $47,296,765
Average Contribution Size $43.41 $41.05 $38.05 $36.90
Committees 2,472 1,610 2,807 1,976

Yep, that’s right. We still raised more this quarter than we did in Q2 last year, a mid-term election year.

We also hit a major milestone this quarter — we’ve raised more than $750M online over the last 11 years. At this pace, we’re well on our way to one. billion. dollars.

But it’s not just that big number that’s growing so quickly. In the last quarter alone we saw a jump from 1,731 committees raising money to 1,976 committees.

Here are some fun stats for you: 7PM on June 30th was our fifth biggest hour for newly created contributions (i.e. not an hour when recurring contributions were running), clocking in at 7,288 contributions. How much credit can we give the leap second? Unfortunately, not much. And we followed that up with our ninth biggest hour at 8PM with 6,926 contributions.

With Republican presidential candidates flooding the airwaves with campaign announcements and Democrats at all levels jumping into races, it became clear during this past quarter that the 2016 cycle is well underway.

People are paying attention to politics again and we’re seeing an increase in participation across the board. With $47.3 million raised this quarter, the growth over past cycles is astounding. That’s the power of small-dollar donors in action.

Compared to Q2 2013, when the average contribution size was $41.05, Q2 2015 saw an average size of $36.90. We love to see that, but we were also excited to see more than double the number of contributions. In Q2 2013 we processed 529,607 contributions, but this past quarter we handled an amazing 1,281,922 contributions. This just goes to show that there’s more power in (small-dollar) numbers. It’s more apparent than ever that the grassroots movement is in full swing!

Recurring

We had our biggest hour ever thanks to recurring donations. It was June 30th during the 4AM hour, and we raised $355,410 from 20,300 contributions. We run all of our recurring contributions at 4AM, so the website doesn’t have to handle all of that traffic during our busiest hours.

With almost $10M from recurring contributions, Q2 2015 was the third quarter in a row that recurring donations represented more than 20% of the total volume.

Recurring donations help campaigns build strong infrastructures that will power them to victory in 2016. And since we’re still 16 months out from Election Day, those are going to bring in tons of money. Right now, we’ve got over $53 million pledged to campaigns and organizations site-wide.

Express and Mobile

There are now 1.5 million donors using ActBlue Express. We added 196,452 new Express users this quarter alone (that’s the second most in our history), compared to Q2 2013 when we gained 43,242.

Express users are donors that have chosen to save their payment information, so they can contribute with just the click of a button.

And the power these donors wield is no joke — Express contributions made up 57.1% of the total dollars raised this quarter. That translates to almost $27M.

It’s numbers like these that prove small-dollar donors are recognizing the importance of their participation this cycle. They’re not only making more individual contributions than ever, but they’re committing to the candidates and causes they support like never before.

We’re also continuing to see mobile giving increase. Last quarter the percentage of contributions made on mobile devices was 24.7% and this quarter we’re up to 27.2%. And that’s up from 8.8% during Q2 2013, our most recent off-year.

The number of contributions made on mobile devices has tripled in the last two years. And Express user growth and mobile contributions go hand in hand. The percentage of contributions via mobile jumps to 29.2% for Express users. That’s because they can skip the mobile form altogether and just give via a link or button in an email.

While our forms are already mobile-optimized, it’s important to always be thinking of ways to optimize your program. Pay attention to the readability of contribution forms on all devices, work toward increasing numbers of Express Users, and build a recurring donor program as early as possible. You’ll see a huge payoff next November.

And when you do, we’ll be ready to handle all of those contributions, no matter how big these end of quarter deadline days become.

Any questions? Leave us a comment or reach out at info@actblue.com.

Starting off the 2016 cycle strong: Q1 analysis

2016 is shaping up to be an absolutely massive cycle based on what we saw last Tuesday, our first end-of-quarter (EOQ) deadline day. We processed $2.1M, making March 31st the biggest start to a cycle in our history. It was a 200% increase over the first EOQ deadline day of the 2014 cycle.

If current trends hold, ActBlue could process half a billion dollars in small-dollar contributions this cycle.

We’re seeing more and more campaigns, organizations, and committees getting started fundraising early. And, ActBlue is now the default choice for large campaigns. Every major Senate campaign launched this year has launched with ActBlue and is using our platform.

Here’s a look at the topline numbers for Q1 2015 and how they compare to the previous four Q1s. The best comparison is to 2013, because it’s the most recent off-year.

Q1 2011 Q1 2012 Q1 2013 Q1 2014 Q1 2015
Contributions 143,012 364,733 467,138 897,890 791,908
Total Volume $8.7M $18.0M $16.4M $36.0M $26.6M
Mean Donation $46.44 $49.47 $35.21 $40.13 $33.54
Committees 881 2,050 1,243 2,478 1,731

The last election cycle started with a $16.4M first quarter and ended with $315M in total. Meanwhile, we just posted a $26.6M quarter. So, 2015-2016 is gonna be big.

Compared to the most recent presidential cycle’s first quarter (Q1 2011), we handled 5.5x as many contributions and 3x as many dollars. Overall, there were 39.2% more campaigns and organizations fundraising during this cycle’s Q1 than the first quarter of the 2014 cycle. But, we’ve also handled 69.5% more contributions and 61.5% more volume.

Recurring

We’ve been talking about how great recurring donations are for a quite a while now. They’re increasingly becoming a critical piece of the fundraising strategy for the thousands of campaigns and organizations that are building pools of sustaining donors. Recurring volume has never been this big.

In fact, 28.4% of the total dollar volume for this past quarter was recurring, which is the highest ever.

Here’s a table that looks at Q1 2013 and Q1 2015 (both are the first quarters in their respective election cycles.):

Q1 2013 Q1 2015 Growth Rate
One-time $15,473,353 $19,025,735 23.0%
Recurring $976,479 $7,533,511 671.5%
Total $16,449,833 $26,559,247 61.5%

These quarters have similar dollar volumes from one-time contributions, but there was a massive change in the recurring volume. The $10.1M difference in total volume is primarily a result of the 7.7x increase in recurring dollars from Q1 2013 to Q1 2015.

Recurring sign-ups from previous months are already paying dividends and will continue to throughout this cycle.

This trend isn’t isolated to Q1; we’ve been seeing a significant trend toward recurring contributions over the past year. In the chart below you can see the growth of recurring dollar volume as a percent of the total volume on a quarterly basis:

Plenty of new campaigns are focused on building their pool of recurring donors early in the cycle. In addition to helping campaigns and organizations hit their goals, these recurring contributions ultimately give early supporters a sense of investment that will continue to increase as we get closer to Election Day.

Express and Mobile

The number of ActBlue Express users grew to 1.27M, and these users are powering Democratic organizations and campaigns across the country. They have saved their payment information with us and can donate in a single click with Express Lane. This quarter we added 45,295 new Express users.

Express users accounted for 55.4% of the total dollars raised and 58.4% of all contributions this past quarter, part of a steady growth trend we’ve been seeing for years.

During Q1 2015, the Express sign-up conversion rate was 22.0%. That’s up from 18.5% during the last quarter of 2014. One of our big goals this cycle is to increase the number of Express sign-ups because, quite simply, they are our power users.

Here’s a tip for campaigns and organizations: If you’re not already sending Express Lane links to everyone on your list, now’s a good time to start. Doing so will likely increase the number of Express users on your list, which will go a long way toward increasing overall conversion rates for your program. You can read more here.

Donors love the convenience of not having to re-enter their credit card information each time they give. And that makes an especially big difference for mobile conversion rates. The percentage of contributions made on mobile devices was 24.7% for this past quarter, but that figure bumps up to 26.7% for Express users.

The chart below shows newly made contributions on March 31, 2015 broken down by the hour and device used. You can see that the share of mobile donations picked up outside of typical work hours.

The 2016 election cycle is just beginning, so now is the time to hone in on your program’s effectiveness. Two quick reminders: it’s the start of a new month, which means now is a good time to check-in on your recurring retention rates for the month of March. And don’t forget that you can also monitor conversion rates by refcode on your form’s statistics pages.

Nov ’14: Solidly odd

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!

2014 Cycle: Breaking records, taking names

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.

October ’14: A monster of a month

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.