On the PCCC

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We walk a fine editorial line here on the blog. As a good faith partner to Democrats of various ideological orientations, ActBlue doesn’t endorse candidates or committees. At the same time, we always enjoy it when a group or candidate uses our tools well. In that vein, I want to highlight the tremendous accomplishments of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) over the past two years.

Founded in 2009, the PCCC is a recent entrant to the world of progressive political organizations–MoveOn.org dates back to 1998, while Democracy for America grew out of Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign. Newcomer status aside, the PCCC has accomplished some pretty remarkable feats on ActBlue. Their total of 100,000 supporters easily doubles the mark set by some of our most successful campaigns. Equally impressive is their average donation figure, which comes in just under $20. Those figures came about as part of a broad involvement with progressive issues that encompassed everything from Bill Halter’s primary challenge in Arkansas to activism around the public option in the healthcare bill.

ActBlue’s raison d’etre revolves around the idea of d/Democratizing power. We created these tools to put consequential political action at the fingertips–literally–of anyone with access to the internet. And while we’ve produced $174 million for Democrats in six years, our goals are broader than that. In 2004, our hunch was that increasing access to and participation in the political fundraising process would have a number of salutary effects on our political system. Broader access makes it easier for candidates and organizations to build their own fundraising networks, allowing new voices to emerge. Increased participation means that political giving is seen as a form of democratic participation rather than a corrupting influence. Taken together, those ripple effects restore our faith in the underlying promise of democratic politics: everybody gets a say.

That’s why the PCCC is such a valuable test case for us. Their rapid emergence combines real political results and a dedication to a model of fundraising that both promotes broad engagement with Democratic politics and puts that engagement within reach of almost everyone. Aggregating those totals on ActBlue makes it easy for their donors to see that they’re a part of something much larger and more powerful than their $20 donation.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Here’s Adam Green, one of the founders of the PCCC, on the role ActBlue played in getting the PCCC off the ground:

At a time when we had pretty much no resources, ActBlue lowered the barrier for entry for us into the online fundraising marketplace allowing us to … not have to deal with the legal obstacles and technical obstacles and quickly accumulate a grassroots fundraising base … it’s valuable piece of progressive infrastructure. It allows groups like ours to get off the ground. We’re still using it today and I can’t say thanks enough to those who had the vision to come up with this concept.

Ruffini on Mobile Giving

Patrick Ruffini, a Republican consultant, recently diagnosed the ills that plague mobile giving:

it can be pretty frustrating watching these solutions get tripped up in the bureaucratic thicket of the FEC, or the closed ecosystem of the wireless carriers — with all the architectural limits they carry that the free Internet does not.

He argues that the point-of-sale constraint of Square, SMS payment limits, and FEC disclosure requirements are the major obstacles to mobile giving. Here's the problem: simplicity and ease of use are important, but the real limit Ruffini is bumping up against–by his own admission–is the lack of scalable infrastructure on the right. That lack forces Ruffini into awkward spaces, like calling for mobile operating systems to update their OS, or the creation of new apps to facilitate political giving. It's not that these are impossible, or not worth doing, but that their value is unknown relative to the costs they impose on developers and carriers.

Fortunately, over here we've got that problem solved.

Want to collect donations in real time? Text or email your audience with a link to an ActBlue page. And, unlike asking people to download apps, collecting email/phone information at political events is pretty commonplace, as are email solicitations. Checking mail is a core functionality of almost any mobile data device, be it smartphone, iPad or laptop. Devices will proliferate, change and converge, but email will almost certainly remain. The ubiquitous nature of email means people don't have to leave their comfort zone to give, provided you offer them a simple way to do so. And, because we've already borne the costs and seen the results of our innovation, we're in a better position to negotiate the sort of partnerships that Ruffini outlines.

In short, ActBlue didn't need to build, "something that can create a reality distortion field" (Orwellian!) to produce $174+ million for Democrats. We took a means that already existed (email/websites) and made it easy for people to apply it to a new space (political fundraising), while building in the flexibility that would allow it to grow and improve with changing circumstances (not easy!). As a result, ActBlue is now both an invaluable source of funds and a giant proving ground for candidates and best fundraising practices.

Finally, an insidery point: Ruffini is a consultant who necessarily makes his living by selling his insights and strategies. ActBlue is something fundamentally different. Because we're a political nonprofit that makes our tools available for free to all Democrats, we're creating of economies of scale that don't exist on the right. When we innovate, thousands of Democratic campaigns, consultants and committees benefit, and they don't have to pay a cent. I imagine Ruffini's innovations carry a far higher pricetag–man's got to eat–which hinders their adoption.

Expanding the Ballot

ActBlue has two core missions: increasing the number of people who donate to Democrats, and increasing the number of Democrats they can reach with that money. While it's become increasing common to cite a given candidate's ActBlue numbers–a fact we're very proud of–that tendency ignores what, in some ways, is the more important number: this cycle, 3,701 Democratic committees received ActBlue checks. Cut out a few hundred federal races, a handful of special elections, and a bunch of primary candidates who never made it to the general and you're still going to be several thousand committees short of that total. The remainder are state and local candidates and party committees, and a few ballot initiatives.

I want to single out ballot initiatives, because they're an area where the transparency and flexibility of ActBlue really matters. Ballot initiatives are often worded in a way that appeals to voter sensibilities at the broadest level and obscures their true impact. Take California's Proposition 23, which proposed to roll back a clean air bill from 2006 until unemployment dropped below 5.5% for 4 straight financial quarters. This is the usual–and overwhelmingly Republican–case for broad deregulation: it allows businesses to flourish, leading to more jobs. California's unemployment rate is 12%, so it seems like it could be worth a shot.

The problem is that almost every piece of available evidence tells us that Proposition 23 would've been a bad idea. Financial deregulation helped create the crisis that's responsible for California's unemployment rate. Failure to regulate energy companies effectively led to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Proposition 23, which was initially funded by a couple of major Texas oil companies, would've gutted California's clean energy industry, one of the fastest growing sectors of the state economy. Moreover, California's unemployment rate has only been below 5.5% for four quarters three times since 1976. The sunset provision was mostly a joke.

The problem is that it's hard to get that information to the voters. It takes time, money, and effective organizing. That's where CREDO Mobile comes in. They set up an ActBlue listing to process donations so that the No on 23 campaign would have the money they needed to get the message out. More importantly, CREDO and ActBlue gave people who couldn't make it to the ballot box the same voice that the Texas oil companies who funded the other side had. Freedom of speech–in the Citizens United sense–and the ability to advocate for your preferred position on an issue shouldn't be the sole province of major corporations.

That's the power that ActBlue represents: the opportunity for concerned citizens, organizers like CREDO, and political campaigns to come together in one place and express their opinions in dollars and cents. If we limited our scope, we'd be denying those people a voice in our politics that they surely deserve.

Belated Thanks

Certificate

It's been a couple of very busy weeks at ActBlue, but I wanted to take a moment to thank our friends at Roots Camp 2010 for awarding us the Most Valuable Technology certificate. The nomination and award were as welcome as they were unexpected. For our part, we're not planning to rest on our multicolored laurels–in 2010, we plan to earn the title of MVT several times over.

Transparency is Money

If you're a campaign, the real-time numbers and transparency ActBlue provides are things you should embrace.

ActBlue helps your fundraising momentum get noticed as it happens, rather than months later. In September, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled "you lie" at President Obama. 48 hours later his Democratic opponent, Rob Miller, had racked up $1,000,000 on ActBlue. The first $100,000 came in overnight, and the rest poured in over the next 36 hours. For an entire day, Rob Miller was getting $7 a second through ActBlue.

That surge happened because reporters could see it happening in real time. The press coverage–Bloomberg, CNN, Politico–pushed the story out to an even wider audience, and the money kept pouring in. As a result, a race that was off the radar is now the focus of national attention. That's what ActBlue can do for you. You can't control when your opponent will make a mistake, but ActBlue ensures that you won't leave any money lying on the table when they do.

ActBlue isn't just about capitalizing on major fundraising events. It can also help you build a stable base of grassroots support and increase the size of your email list. That means when your opponent messes up, you'll have someone to tell.

When grassroots donors give, they're looking to connect with your campaign, to play a part in something larger than their $15, $20 or $50 contribution. When they give through ActBlue, their contribution is recorded and added to your total in real time. They can see how many other people are a part of this effort, and broadcast your momentum through their own social network using Facebook and Twitter. Using our recurring donation system, you can build a war chest and network of supporters months, even years before an election.

In other words, ActBlue means more donors, a bigger list, and more money

Without ActBlue, when the donor contributes that money disappears into your payment processing apparatus and doesn't see the light of day until months later, when it gets written up in an article about campaign finance that they won't read. They don't feel like they've made a difference, and they're less likely to give again.

That is–quite literally–a mistake you can't afford to make.

ActBlue Looking for Ideas (prizes involved!)

"I believe candidates with strong, sound stances deserve our support, and this is a race where your dollars can make the difference. Please make a contribution to this critical cause."

Sound familiar? If you have any experience with our fundraising pages you will have seen this (and perhaps fallen asleep to it) a few too many times. It is the default text for ActBlue's fundraising pages. ActBlue's customizable fundraising pages allow progressive activists to raise money for the best Democratic candidates out there easily and effectively, and the fifty state blog network has taken advantage of this feature to support state and national candidates with customized, targeted pages. But while the original blurb did help Democrats use our pages, we're in year 5 of ActBlue, and this is definitely year 3-4 material. We'll be working with thousands of new fundraisers this cycle, and we want to make sure they have the best language. And, well, this isn't it.

So, we need ideas.

We know you're best equipped to know what language will appeal to your friends and neighbors, so we wanted to give all of you an opportunity to create the next fundraising page blurb. If we pick yours, it will show up automatically on almost every fundraising page created on ActBlue. To show our appreciation, we'll send the winner and two runners-up an ActBlue Ice Cream Scoop! (No, we're not kidding. And trust us, it's a high quality scoop – The Original Zeroll.)
Okay, here are the guidelines:

  1. The blurb must be fewer than 50 words.
  2. It has to be fairly generic (no specific issues or names), but still get across the basic reason for the fundraising page. This is something our current text does fairly well, if you are looking for an example.
  3. If you can make it apply to pages for candidates and/or committees, all the better. If not, at least make it appeal to people looking to donate to candidates.
  4. We are Democrats, and our pages are for Democrats. If your message would appeal to Democrats, that would probably earn points.
  5. Humor is a big plus, but only that universal humor that works for everyone.
  6. Effective fundraising is personal. Think about what kind of language would help you be a better fundraiser, and think about why your friends and family might feel compelled to give.
  7. All entries must be received by 3/25.

Fill out your entry form right here! Thank you for your participation!
ActBlue is active in all 50 states, helping Democrats raise money for their chosen candidate from the comfort of their living rooms and offices. We believe that your voice should be heard everywhere from your state capitol to the Senate floor, and we're working to make sure it is. Please support our work with a $15 recurring contribution today!

ActBlue is Hiring!

ActBlue is on the hunt for some kick-ass individuals to join the team and transform the Democratic Party: a communications genius, a legal mastermind, a blogger’s blogger, and entry-level folks ready to learn the new tools of the trade.

If any of these sound like you, please read on. And if any of them sounds like someone you know, please send them this post and point them our way.

Since 2004 ActBlue has sent more than $30 million to over 2,000
Democratic campaigns and committees. We’re laying the groundwork for
aggressive targets in 2007-08: massive growth of our fundraiser
network, increased outreach to thousands of state level campaigns, and
raising $100 million for Democratic candidates and committees.

To reach those goals we’re seeking comrades-in-arms, so to speak —
super-sharp people who share our political goals, our commitment to
rock-solid dependability, our impatience with inefficiency, and our
commitment to serving as an honest broker for all Democratic
campaigns.

Here are our current openings — for full descriptions and application info, see http://actblue.com/content/jobs

Key qualities we’re looking for in applicants for all positions:

  • Serious written and oral communication skills
  • Serious attention to detail
  • Serious willingness to do whatever needs to be done
  • Serious commitment to Democratic victory

We are extremely selective in who we hire. You’ll be working with a close-knit team in a rather free-wheeling environment that rewards initiative. You’ll need to learn quickly and grow comfortable
making independent (and correct!) decisions. Political or campaign experience is often helpful, but not a requirement.

All positions are full-time in Boston. Come join us!

Questions? Email jobs@actblue.com.

The $4 Million Man

Just a couple days shy of the end of the 3Q federal fundraising deadline, Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards has officially passed the $4 million mark in funds raised online through ActBlue. Nearly 50,000 donors have powered Edwards to his current status as the most active candidate on ActBlue, both by number of dollars and donors. Over 100 grassroots fundraisers have helped make his success possible. Congrats!

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Shift in the Top 10 Pages

It’s not often that the list of the Lifetime Top 10 pages (by # of donors) changes this far out from an election, but this weekend the longstanding page in the 10th spot got knocked out by the recent Burn Bush for Darcy Burner effort.

With 2,422 donors, it’s now #10, just behind John Kerry, replacing the longstanding Kos Dozen page from 2004. Both are great examples of thousands of small donors coming together to change the way we fund campaigns.