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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.

We know you want your fundraising data to be accessible, digestible, and shown to you in real-time. That’s why we spend so much time developing and enhancing our campaign dashboards to fit your needs. But you can’t always be monitoring your dashboard.

That’s why we’re introducing our new contribution email alerts. Now you can sign up to receive an email every time your candidate, committee or cause receives a donation over an amount of your choosing. That means you can follow up with a high dollar donor right away and work on building a good relationship.

The average contribution size for most groups is pretty low – it was $34.82 on ActBlue last month – and these donations make up the backbone of most online fundraising program. Everyone knows we love donors of all sizes, but high dollar donors are often very important to organizations, helping them fund new projects or reach quarterly goals. And they’re investing a significant amount of money because they believe in what you’re doing, so you want to be able to keep an eye on them.

To sign up, go to your committee’s page and click on the “User Access” tab. There you’ll see everyone with access to the committee. Click on “create a contribution alert” under your name or a team member’s name and enter an amount for the threshold. You’ll receive an email alert for any donation over this amount. If you want to edit the amount, you can come back to this page at any time.

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And we’re always looking to make our tools work better for you, so if there’s something you’d like to see on ActBlue, feel free to drop us a line at info AT actblue DOT com.

Special thanks to Molly Ritner and Greg Berlin (both at the DCCC) for working with ActBlue to design this feature. We love our power users!

Our mission is to increase participation and transparency in the fundraising process, and we work hard to make sure our features match that goal. No matter how you measure it–3,000,000 donors, more than a quarter billion dollars sent to Democrats–it’s been a success. Here’s one example:

A while back we noticed that mobile web traffic was exploding, so we built a mobile donation form that would make it easy for people to donate with their phone. We also realized that data entry, already a pain on a regular computer, would be even more difficult on a phone. Long story short, we made our mobile form play nice with ActBlue Express, a feature that allows donors to create a profile so they don’t have to retype their info every time they want to give.

The combination proved extremely potent. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of users with an ActBlue Express account, and the mobile conversion rate has grown steadily. ActBlue is hardly the only political entity out there with a quick donate option or a mobile form. But we’re different in one important respect: we provide these tools to every campaign that accepts donations through our site. They’re available to you whether you’re a state senator or a federal candidate, whether you’re a donor who gives $25 or $2,500.

Why does that matter? If you follow politics, you’ve probably seen something about Democratic discomfort with the Citizens United decision. As Republican SuperPACs ramp up for 2012, Democratic campaigns are worried that they won’t be able to keep up with the Adelsons. Donors, meanwhile, are concerned about entrenching a system they dislike. ActBlue is a way out of that dilemma. Candidates don’t have to put themselves at a competitive disadvantage vis a vis Republicans. Donors can give quickly and easily, without embracing GOP tactics.

By taking a settled piece of campaign finance–the ability of individuals to support campaigns–and updating it for the digital age, we’ve massively increased participation and transparency in fundraising. Oh, and sent nearly $100,000,000 to Democrats this cycle.

That’s what we’re here to do.

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