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Features

At ActBlue, we’re all about streamlining your workflow and providing you with the most data, ensuring your campaign or org is efficient and making knowledgable decisions. Our customer service team gladly handles a lot of low-level donor requests you may receive, including refunds, to help you save precious campaign time. We’ve always provided all the compliance info you need for those refunds, but we’ve recently launched a few new tools to help your administrative side manage and get more insight into the refund work going on.

So we’re rolling out three new tools, in order to give your operations and finance teams more data and insight into your donors’ financial accounting.

1) ) Refund center: Want to trace how a refund moved through the system? Check out the new refund center where you can see contribution details, date of contribution, date of original disbursement (typically check date), and date recovered (which check/wire it was taken out of).

2) Refund reason: Curious about your donor behavior? The new refund reason field offers some insight into the reason for a refund, so admins can see it a quick glance.

3) Refund alerts: Want to know right away when there’s been a refund? Just like our donation alerts, an admin user can elect to receive alerts every time a refund over a certain amount is issued. It’s available on the User Access tab of your entity.

Your compliance workflows stay the same. The refund information with checks is right where it’s always been, but now you have more data at your fingertips. If it’s useful to you, finance team members can sign up for alerts, monitor refunds, and follow up with donors who have been refunded and may have outstanding pledges. And compliance teams can easily see when refunds were issued and recovered, which may make their reporting duties easier.

As always, our customer service team is always here if you have questions about these new features or anything else. Just email info [at] actblue [dot] com and someone will respond promptly.

In the fast-paced digital campaigns world, if you’re not innovating and testing constantly, you’re headed for obsolescence. And, more importantly, you’re letting your users down, especially those in short-term competitive environments (aka elections). At ActBlue, we’re always developing our platform with metrics-driven decision making, aka testing.

The result is that today’s ActBlue isn’t the same as the ActBlue of a month ago, and that’s a great thing. Sometimes our tests fail. Others result in a barely statistically significant bump in conversion rates. But that’s ok because all of those little bumps add up. Occasionally we hit on a big winner that dramatically increases conversion rates. We do it in a methodical, constant way that allows us to identify improvements big and small.

One advantage we have is the sheer volume of contributions we process, which allows us to A/B test small tweaks to the form and get statistically sound results. If one organization tried running an identical test on their own, they’d never be able to identify as many improvements.

We’ve got thousands of campaigns and organizations counting on us to have the best system possible, so they can focus on winning. It drives our work and testing every single day.

Our tech team make changes to the platform daily. Some are minor tweaks, others major changes. They’ve developed a rock-solid platform where we can easily roll out significant feature or a layout change, even in the middle of the crazy busy end-of-quarter period. And that’s no easy feat, but a deliberate design choice so we can be as nimble as the party needs.

Today we thought we’d roll back the curtain just a little bit and break down some of our favorite A/B tests from the past few months.

Test 1: Employer Address Checkbox

We know from our data that a lot of donors mark retired or unemployed on the forms and we wanted to see if we could use that knowledge to increase conversions. Turns out: yes! We A/B tested our normal form with one that has a checkbox they can click if they’re not employed. The checkbox automatically provides us with the information, which fulfills the legal requirement and bumps up conversion rates.

Original:

Checkbox:

We saw a 4.7% improvement in conversions (p < 0.05, for those of you keeping score), so we switched over to the new checkbox version. Bonus points for cutting waaaaay down on customer service questions about the occupation/employer boxes.

Test 2: Shrinking the Contribution Form

Speed is essential in online contributions, so we’re always looking for ways to make the Contribution Form shorter and faster to load, but the rapid increase in mobile donations has made it even more important than ever. We ran a number of tests aimed at shrinking the contribution form, including the following:

- Removed credit card tooltip (which popped up when you click the credit card box) so it would load better on mobile
- Removed “Employment” section header
- Using horizontal employer fields rather than stacking them vertically

All of these tests ended without statistically significant results, but that was a win for us, because it meant we could make our forms less cluttered. If a feature isn’t adding value, that means it’s time to go. And bye bye those three things went on every single form in our system.

You can see the evolution of the Employment section below.

Version 1 (original):

Version 2 (horizontal):

Version 3 (no header, checkbox added):

Test 3: Multi-step Contribution Forms

We already wrote a whole blog post about this test, but it’s worth mentioning again here. This was one of those big wins, with a 25.86% increase in conversion rates with 99% significance. That was after just a few days of running the test. We had tested multi-step Contribution Forms a few years back, and they lost to our standard one page forms, which just goes to show how important it is to test and test again.

One page form (losing version):

Multi-step form (winning version):

We do one thing at ActBlue and we’re the best at it in the business. And the biggest reason is that we’re constantly upgrading our platform. We push changes out to everyone ASAP so that thousands of campaigns and groups big and small can get the best right away.

In a few months when we get down to the crunch of election time, know that we’ve got your backs and you will always be using the most optimized and tested form out there.

This one is for the fundraising pros, the long-time ActBlue users, and the data junkies out there. With our new custom date range CSV feature, you can now download a .csv of donations made in any data range or fundraising period you choose.

After nearly 10 years of helping some groups fundraise, people have a lot of data stored on ActBlue and need an easy way to access exactly the information they want. Juggling data and producing thousands of custom reports is no easy feat, but we knew folks would find it useful, so our new engineer Eric made it happen.

Just go to your Dashboard and click on the Reports tab.

Select your date range, and then click on the link that reads “Download a fundraising page CSV report.” It’ll generate a file for you and automatically download it, and you can pull as many custom reports as you need or want!

We’ve got tons of new features lined up on our development schedule, so stay tuned!

We are constantly testing and tweaking our system to optimize performance aka help thousands of candidates and organizations raise more money. Most of the time the improvements go unnoticed (except the extra $ ;). Not today!

Introducing multi-step! Anyone who doesn’t have Express cookied on their computer will see a brand-new four-step contribution form. Take a look at the new shiny-ness:

And yes, it’s bringing in a 25.86% increase in conversion rates with 99% significance. It’s a nice bump. We typically see the novelty effect in these sorts of changes to forms, so it probably will be less of an increase long-term as donors get used to the new form. Still, it should be a solid improvement. Oh, and it works on mobile to boot.

Express and Express Lane users will continue using ActBlue their usual way. This change is for new folks. If you’re a regular ActBlue user you probably have an Express account, but you can open any contribution form in an incognito browser to take a look at the new multi-step version.

Multi-step is now rolled out site-wide, so no need to do anything, just enjoy our holiday gift to you.

Here are a few more shots of the new layout:

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 :-)

If you’ve taken a look at your metrics lately you’ve probably seen the same trend as everyone else: mobile traffic is steadily increasing. It’s become a given that any web property needs to look good on a mobile device, whether that be one of the new fancy champagne colored iPhones that were just released or one of those Windows Surface tablets with their (zomg!) keyboard.

We were ahead of the curve here at ActBlue, when we released mobile-optimized contributions forms way back in 2010. The pages automatically recognized when you were on a mobile device and loaded a form that was way easier to use than a regular form on your tiny screen. It looked like this:

old mobile

Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve upgraded to mobile-responsive contribution forms. What’s the difference you ask? Well, pictures tell the story:

new mobile

Now, a candidate or organization’s branding will appear when a potential donor visits a contribution form using a mobile device. There’s nothing admins need to do to turn on this new feature; we’ve rolled it out to everyone automatically.

Nobody wants to struggle when they’re on their phone. Speed and ease of use rule the day. That’s why these forms are designed to look good, and more importantly function well, whether your giant touch-screen phone needs it’s own purse, or you’re still using an old-school Blackberry.

Mobile responsive contribution forms don’t just look better. We performed a functionality test on this feature, just like we do for all of our new tools. These tests are a big reason why we know that our technology is always improving, and the results of this latest test are unequivocal.

ActBlue donors who visit a mobile responsive contribution form convert at a statistically significantly (p < .01) higher rate than those who visit one of our old mobile forms. And the difference isn't trivial– mobile responsive contribution forms are a 49% improvement. That means that you could see 49% more donations from users on a mobile device. And with increases in mobile traffic, that gets more important every single day.

It's not just the design layout that helped boost the numbers. We've re-engineered it so the forms load a second faster. Let's face it, people are pretty impatient on their phones. If it's not easy, then they'll move on to the next thing.

At ActBlue we're always looking to innovate, so that donors have an easier time contributing to the candidates and causes they care about the most. We're never satisfied with having a great system. There's always something that can be improved, especially in an environment that's evolving as rapidly as the Internet. That's why our developers roll code every single day.

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.

Our crack tech team has been busting out the new features right and left lately. And now we’ve got one more: the ability to brand your pages without our assistance.

A few years ago we used to only allow brandings for our biggest clients. Then we opened it up to anyone, but you had to contact us, send over your logo file and background color and we’d get it up for you. Now you can do it yourself immediately and create as many different ones as you want to use on a page by page basis. It’s all part of our quest to bring our best and most awesome tools to everyone however big or small.

Just login and go to your admin panel and select that new option on the left navigation menu: “Branding”. If we haven’t set one up for you then just click “create new”. And then you’ll see a page that looks like this:

topbranding

Create a name for the branding for internal use. And decide if you want to make this the default branding for all your pages. You can have multiple brandings and use them on a page by page basis, or stick with one for all of your pages.

Click on the > beside the brand settings to expand it so you see this:

expandedview

And since not everyone knows their background hex color value off the top of their head, there is a color chooser that pops up when you click in the “Background Color” field. Choose your color and it’ll fill in the appropriate color code for you.

colorchooser

You can swap brandings on a page on the fly in the edit tab. It’ll let you select any one of the branding’s you’ve added.

And remember to watch that dashboard for notification of all the new features that we roll out.

We want to make it easy for campaigns to see their ROI on acquisition, so we’re launching a new tool for conversion tracking. For those who don’t understand that gobbledygook: it’s a way for people running online ads to track how well they’re doing.

Candidates and groups can now embed tracking codes on both the contribution form and the thank you page to track both those landing on the form and those who convert. And you’ve got the option to put the tracking snippets on a form by form basis, or set a default tracking setup for your committee which can then be opted-in on each contribution form.

The safest and easiest option for most committees will be to only set up tracking on contribution forms that are specifically made as an endpoint for an ad campaign. This ensures that the contribution forms that you use for email and website traffic load as fast and stable as possible.

To put tracking codes on a specific contribution form, first make sure you are logged in as the owner of that form. Then navigate to the “edit” tab for that contribution form:

And then look for the “Advanced Options” section:

If you have a campaign default set (see below for directions), you can select to use it here. To set up codes just for this contribution form click the radio button “Edit”:

Paste your code snippets in the correct fields. If your ad system allows you to pass a conversion amount, you can do so with the merge field {AMOUNT}. (Make sure to only do this on the conversion tracking page and not the landing page.)

We’ll replace that token with the amount of the contribution when the thanks page renders. This allows you to track the monetary value of a click from within your advertising platform.

To set a default tracking code for your committee, first visit your campaign dashboard. On the left side of the screen click on “Settings”. Now look for the “Advanced Options” section:

Paste your code snippets in the correct fields. If your ad system allows you to pass a conversion amount, you can do so with the merge field {AMOUNT}.

Once you have saved your committee default tracking code, you can select the radio button to use it on any of your contribution forms. See above for specific instructions.

That’s it. So go forth and track people (not in a creepy NSA way).

And here’s a page we’ve set up with the instructions that you can bookmark.

Earlier this month ActBlue was honored by our friends from Living Liberally at their 10th anniversary party in New York City, along with Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. The party brought out local New York City advocates, progressives from around the country both young and old, and candidates, including mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio to the Downtown Community Television Firehouse, an industrial event space in Chinatown with a screen projecting live tweets from party guests using the hashtag #DL10.

ActBlue Executive Director Erin Hill accepting our award from Living Liberally co-founder Justin Krebs

Living Liberally was founded 10 years ago, about a year before we founded ActBlue (which, you guessed it, means our 10th anniversary is up next). It began simply as Drinking Liberally during the combative Bush years, when liberals were seeking like-minded individuals to drown their sorrows – and organize – with. Since then the plight of liberals has improved, but Living Liberally has still been able to expand to their social organizing program to include Eating Liberally, Laughing Liberally, Reading Liberally, and Screening Liberally events. An unexpected side effect of all this socializing, they joked, was dating liberally, marrying liberally, and procreating liberally.

Living Liberally

Living Liberally co-founders Justin Krebs, Katrina Baker and Matt O’Neill with Nobel Prize Winner Joseph Stiglitz (second from right)

When the founders took the stage for the speeches portion of the night, the crowd almost immediately broke out into a chant of “10 MORE YEARS.” It was a celebration that included chapter leaders from all over the country, many of whom don’t get to see each other on a regular basis. My favorite story came from Kathleen Thompson, a chapter leader from Grapevine, TX, who talked about how she felt like she was the only liberal in the area, and what a relief it was for her to find a place where she could meet others who shared her beliefs.

Kathleen Thompson and Joseph Stiglitz

Kathleen Thompson and Joseph Stiglitz

Greg Leding, the current Democratic Leader of the Arkansas House of Representatives, met the people who ended up encouraging him to run for his seemingly unwinnable House seat through Living Liberally. Now he works to foster Democratic talent, in the hopes of recruiting others to take the big step of running for office in a state that’s often hostile to liberals.

Erin Hill, our Executive Director, took the stage to accept our award for “Empowering Liberally” through our work to connect supporters with candidates and causes in order to build a stronger progressive movement. We were happy to accept the award amongst some of our newest partners in New York City. This is the first election year that we’re able to work with candidates for mayor and city council. Justin from Living Liberally helped introduce us to many of them, including Council Member Brad Landers, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus of the NYC Council and the rest of his team, which is using ActBlue for slate fundraising in order to help support all of their members. It was the power of social organizing and the work Living Liberally does in action.

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