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Tips & Tricks

You may want to check out the follow up to this piece regarding e-mail.

Candidates and campaigns spend a lot of time figuring out how to communicate with their supporters and solicit them for contributions. That is important as campaigns can’t run without funding, but we should not forget another equally important step- thanking your donors!

When individuals make a contribution to a campaign, they become invested in the outcome of the election. Candidates and campaigns should always thanks donors for making this investment.

At the most basic level, (and let me stress this is the bare minimum) a campaign should be sure that the donor gets a receipt or confirmation that their contribution was successfully processed.  Leaving a donor without the knowledge that their contribution was properly received will work against your efforts to solicit a contribution from them in the future. Plus, it will create general confusion and distrust- don’t leave them hanging! (For contributions made via ActBlue, a receipt is automatically generated and emailed to the individual.)

The accepted campaign practice is to send a thank you note in addition to the receipt. This can be done via e-mail, postcard, or stationary but be sure to tell your donors what their contribution is going towards.  What value does their contribution have? Will it help the campaign mail 50 swing voters or pay for training volunteers? Donors are more likely to give again in the future when you ask if they know their contribution is being put to good use. Including some ‘inside’ information about the campaign can make contributors feel more invested and included so consider that option as well.

Regardless of what a campaign or committee chooses to write, with ActBlue, you’ll have access to all of the donor data (in real time) in downloadable formats making it easy to prepare those thank yous. You can make use of mail-merge tools to integrate any of the fields in the download to customize your thank you responses. It’s like micro-targeting your conversation with your donors to make your follow up as personal as possible- increasing the likelihood that they will donate again!

But you can take all of this a step further. Last week I talked about Fundraising with Online Video. As a follow up to that, I’d like to present three great YouTube videos where candidates themselves thank their donors- a new concept in replying to donors. There is no confusion here that the candidate is indeed the one sending along their thanks as they appear in person to deliver the message. It’s practices like this which are shifting the concept of funding campaigns. We’re moving towards a more communal effort where candidates and their supporters are in it together and away from the one-way ATM fundraising machine which disassociates the act of giving from being a part of campaigns.

Watch the videos in the extended entry.

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Here on the ActBlue blog we’ve highlighted our ActBlue Democratic Nominee Funds a couple times before. These funds allow for the collection of money against Republican-held seats for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and even U.S. President which then get disbursed to Democratic candidates once there is an official nominee. Donors don’t have to “pledge” to donate- they can do it directly and ActBlue directs it to the right people at the right time!

Some people have used them in conjunction with “Draft” efforts, others use them to start collecting funds for a candidate who is expected to enter the race shortly, while others make their 2008 contributions a year early since they plan to support anyone who wants to take more Republicans out of office.

John Kerry asserted today that it’s not just the President that stands in the way of his efforts to set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq- it’s other Republican Senators. He’s taken his cause to his email list to kick-start the 2008 Senate elections against 4 targeted Republicans. And he’s used 4 ActBlue Nominee Funds to make that happen.

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He’s already raised tens of thousands towards those efforts- money that will be held for the Democratic nominees.

Senator Kerry and his fundraisers are offering an incentive to
encourage candidates thinking about running to commit since now they
know that national attention and interest exists to support them. They are also ensuring that the winner of contested primary has an immediate boost when these funds are released headed into the general election.

From John Kerry’s email…

box_roadblock

So
we’re launching a unique campaign to pressure the critical points in
the GOP caucus. We are targeting a few key Senators for this message:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senators Sununu, Collins,
and Coleman. The last three are already top races for 2008, and Senator
McConnell is the bulwark of the GOP leadership on this.

So
go here to contribute to a fund run by our friends at ActBlue that will
go to the eventual Democratic nominee in those states and then write an
email message to those Senators explaining why you did this
.

This is
an extraordinary campaign; to my knowledge, nothing quite like this has
ever been done. But this money can make all the difference in each of
these races, and these Senators will know it. Senator McConnell is
secure in his belief that no one will be able to raise the money to
challenge him. We can show that he’s wrong. The other Senators are
already top targets in 2008, but they hope the power of incumbency and
fundraising can save them. We can show them that the power of
Washington won’t stand against the power of the people.

Sen. Kerry is right that this is extraordinary. We at ActBlue are glad to make it possible through Democratic Nominee Funds. These elections, even the primaries, are next year but Sen. Kerry knows that this is not a standard election cycle and people are ready today to take the fight to Republicans and build upon our 2006 Democratic victories.

P.S. As we’ve seen from comments in Sen. Kerry’s post on Daily Kos there are lots of people interested in expanding this beyond just these 4 states. ActBlue is here for anyone (bloggers, state parties, other officeholders) to make use of this technology. …maybe you’ll be the one to send e-mails state by state for the other 17?

ActBlue is flexible. That’s why we are happy to see our users get creative and make the most of our fundraising pages. So let’s explore the use of ActBlue for event ticketing. Here’s some examples.

  1. The San Diego County Democratic Party held their 27th Annual Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt Dinner in March and wanted to keep track of attendees. They used ActBlue to manage nearly 50 donor/diners by setting up this event page.

    On their page they clearly indicate the time and place of the fundraiser, who was sponsoring it, and the various ticket prices. They also provided instructions on how to pick up their tickets ‘purchased’ through ActBlue. The owner of the ActBlue page has access to all the contributors’ information and could print up nametags and place settings in advance.

  2. Christopher Cabaldon is running for the California Assembly and if elected would be the first GLBT person of color elected to the body. His campaign made this event page which includes the same good points outlined in the previous example. In addition, it includes a visual graphic of the event invitation. It catches the eye and ties into the event’s message.

Not everyone uses ActBlue in the same way and not everyone wants their fundraising totals made public (like the Netroots fundraising effort). With ActBlue, you have the option to turn this ‘scoreboard’ on of off and make the progress of your fundraising page public or private. This allows event organizers to choose the option that best fits their pitch. Some might want the scoreboard public to encourage more to attend a popular event. Other organizers might want the scoreboard private so as to not tips one’s success to a primary opponent. Like I said, ActBlue is flexible!


picture_1 On Monday I posted a tip for spicing up ActBlue fundraising pages by embedding video into ‘asks’. This is a very powerful fundraising tactic–especially when the asker and audience have an existing relationship.

Over at Calitics, a great community blog in California, they’ve taken that suggestion and run with it. I’ve included a screenshot of their pitch to the right (click on it to view a bigger version in a new window). Besides the video, Calitics’ blogger Brian uses several of the principles of fundraising to make a really compelling plea for his candidates.  Some of the successful elements they have included:

  1. Create Urgency- The pitch is for end-of-quarter donations.  Brian clearly states that there’s a deadline before which donors need to fundraise.  And he timed his pitch just a couple of days away from the end of quarter.
  2. Be Specific- Rather than overloading their page with a dozen candidates, Brian stuck with three candidates that have a common theme.  The majority of ActBlue donors give to an entire page’s slate of candidates…remember that when choosing your slate of candidates.
  3. Make it Personal- Brian, a Calitics blogger, is asking his own blog readers to donate. They have an existing relationship and a degree of trust built up. Potential donors are more likely to give when asked by someone they know and the pitch is personal.  They’re less likely to donate when spammed by someone they don’t know.
  4. Think Longterm- The Calitics’ ask offers the option of giveing once or of setting up a recurring contribution. Recurring donations are growing in popularity on ActBlue, with over 1000 users having chosen that option for a variety of candidates.   If a donor can’t contribute a lump sum amount at once, recurring contributions allow them to invest in the page in installments.

Most of these elements are included in their Calitics ActBlue fundraising page as well. To improve the impact, some ideas might be to include the text from the Calitics post next to the video on their ActBlue fundraising page itself or add the recurring contribution buttons below the embedded video. If that happened, their ActBlue fundraising page could be e-mailed around to additional friends or registered users of the Calitics blog extending the end-of-Quarter ask into a new medium.


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One other thing that might help the effort is to set a goal, similar to what the bloggers at Raising Kaine have done (screen shot at left again, click to enlarge). They are shooting for $20,000 to all their endorsed candidates by the end of the state quarter on Saturday, giving a real sense of momentum to their efforts. Adding some text about that immediate goal on their fundraising page would be perfect to tie it together with their blog posts.

While it is early in the cycle, bloggers can build upon their early adopters to make effective asks in creative ways that fit their audience. What ideas might you add?

Here’s a tip for all the ActBlue page creators out there- did you know you can embed a video clip in your personal fundraising page as part of your pitch to donors?  You can!

We’ve all gotten e-mails from campaigns and committees looking to raise funds for a hard hitting television ad that could change the direction of the election. They often ask you to click a link on some site where you can watch the ad and then ask you to click another link to donate to put the ad on the air.

Now you can include the video right next to the donate links in your ActBlue page. Check out these examples. Remember that powerful body armor ad VoteVets produced? One person put it directly into this fundraising page and circulated it while raising money. The Mississippi Democratic Party is gathering funds for a Gubernatorial attack ad…  you can watch it right where you click to donate.

But don’t think you have to be limited to just television advertisements. The Mark Leno State Senate campaign in California embedded his campaign announcement speech into this fundraising page. Such an effort allows you to communicate with your donors, introducing yourself while making an "ask".

Selectively embedding video in your pages can get your contributors to donate while still feeling the emotional effects of the content they just saw. Plus, this allows you to keep your content and fundraising pitch right next to each other, eliminating the falloff you see when people are forced to take two separate actions at two separate websites.

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