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Tips & Tricks

As I’ve said before, Facebook and ActBlue have more in common than a shared love of compound words; we’ve both created a space for people to make their passions known. At ActBlue, that means creating an easy way for Americans to participate meaningfully in Democratic politics wherever they may be, and whatever their time constraints. Given that mission, Facebook–with a user community measured in the hundreds of millions–has always been a natural place for us to be.

In February, we built an integration that allows donors to post their donations to their Facebook wall. That was just a first step. Today, we allow donors and campaigns to place a donate tab on their Facebook profiles and fan pages. In doing so, we’ve created another way for Democratic donors to translate their passion into (political) currency, and activate personal networks that candidates could never hope to reach. And we let everybody use it. For free.

ActBlue is the largest source of funds for Democrats, and that inclusiveness is the reason why. When we innovate, every Democrat benefits.

But fundraising is a means, not an end, and the logic behind this integration isn’t just about driving more money to Democratic candidates and committees. It’s about driving Democratic (and democratic) participation. It’s about teaching donors that they don’t have to be bankers or billionaires to have an impact on our political future, and about demonstrating to politicians and the press that those donors can deliver.

In other words, ActBlue is doing for our political lives what Facebook has done for our social lives. We’re working towards a future where political giving is as easy as sharing a link, or reconnecting with an old friend. The $140 million that ActBlue has sent to over 6,000 Democratic candidates and committees speaks to the power of that vision.

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Grab your coffee and make sure your laptop is fully charged, the end of the first quarter 2010 is upon us!

Why do we all fundraise at the End of the Quarter?  To people outside of the business it could seem like finance staffers are lazy… waiting until the last minute and then making up for it in a mad frenzy of fundraising reminiscent of cramming for that Biology 101 final your freshman year.  The truth is that donors respond to urgency and the end of the quarter finance disclosures provide a convenient urgent deadline four times a year.

At ActBlue we've seen plenty of EOQ deadlines come and go. The campaigns that consistently do the best are the ones who savvily use goals.  Here are a couple of tips for running a goal based EOQ fundraising campaign.

Set an attainable public goal

You should really have two goals. You already have an internal goal for how much you need to raise online to meet your quarterly numbers.  The other is the initial goal that you will make public for your EOQ push.

Goal Thermometer

The key to a good initial goal is making it reasonable enough that you can be confident you can hit it, but still challenging enough that it leads donors to believe that they need to chip in order to make the campaign a success.

You also should decide whether you want your public goal to be denominated in Dollars or Donors.  Many campaigns, knowing that their online givers tend towards a smaller donation amount average, like to go with a number of donors goal to publicize their grassroots support.

Make the goal visual

Donors love to see visuals and goals are no exception.  You could build a thermometer graphic by hand and update it constantly throughout the EOQ with new totals — but ActBlue has a much easier way.

Every Fundraising Page on ActBlue has a thermometer tool which allows you to set a goal denominated in dollars or donors.  Our system automatically updates the thermometer every five minutes with the current totals.  Once you pick your goal you can embed the thermometer anywhere on the internet and it will continue to auto-update from your live ActBlue numbers.

You can even embed the thermometer in an email, and it will pull the up-to-date numbers when it is opened by a potential donor.

Update your list on the goal's progress

One email isn't enough!  Once you have a goal, and people are donating, be sure to update your list on the goal's progress.  You should send an email to people who have already donated with an update on the goal and an ask for them to forward it to their friends and family.  People who haven't donated should get an email reiterating how important a donation is towards achieving the goal for the quarter and winning the race in the fall.

One good technique for a followup email to non-donors from the first solicitation is to get a quick quote from a recent donor.  Donors respond well to a message from other donors talking about how important it is to contribute to the cause, and how good it feels to be part of a movement.

As always, the ActBlue team is here to help your campaign succeed.  Please let us know if you have questions about EOQ fundraising or want help melding your fundraising ideas into into the online tools. 

Happy fundraising!

Tomorrow marks the end of the first quarter of 2010, and campaigns will be sending out their last emails before the FEC reporting period ends. But EOQ isn't just for campaigns, it's an opportunity for grassroots fundraisers to get in on the action.

First, take a look at our step-by-step guide to creating your own fundraising page. I've also included a few tips below to help you maximize your success.

  • Your request should be personal and urgent. Explain why you support your candidate and why your prospective donors should as well.
  • Make use of your social networks. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, make sure to post or tweet links to your fundraising page. Ask your friends to donate and retweet the page using ActBlue's handy Twitter and Facebook integrations.
  • Make sure you link people directly to the contribution form. The more your donors have to click, the less likely they are to give. (To find your page's contribution form, after you've created your page, click on the "contribute" button and copy the URL on the page you're redirected to.)
  • Relatedly, be sure to fill out the "Your Contribution Blurb" field. The text you put there will appear on the contribution form, so you're reminding your donors why they should give as they fill out the form. If you've already created your page, you can edit it by clicking on the "Edit" tab in the gray toolbar at the top of your page. 
  • Once you've created your page, click on the "Goal" tab to set a fundraising goal. Your progress toward that goal will be tracked with a nifty thermometer graphic, which lets your donors know how close they are to that goal.
  • Above all: don't get discouraged. Like baseball, fundraising is a game of
    failures. Thank the people who do give and keep asking. We have a few tips to help you
    ask successfully. 

Remember, all the money that comes through your page is tagged as such in the campaign's contribution reports, so your success will enable you to build credit with the people running the show.

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 and Facebook have more in common than a shared love of compound words: we’ve both created a space for people to make their passions known. With that in mind, it seemed only natural that ActBlue should have a Facebook page.

So take a minute of your Friday afternoon to become a fan of ActBlue on Facebook, and, of course, tell your friends!

We know that you have a lot on your plate, so the ActBlue Facebook page will be the place to read our blog entries and find out about the latest ActBlue news. It has a handy link to our Twitter feed, so you can find out what’s happening in real time.

You’ll also notice a new feature on your ActBlue contribution forms. Effective immediately, you’ll be able to share your donation on Facebook and Twitter. After you donate, just click on the appropriate button (see example below) and you can share your donation with your friends and followers.


ActBlue will automatically generate a wall post or tweet, which you can edit as normal. Furthermore, if you gave through a fundraising page with a thermometer, that thermometer will be appended to your wall post and your friends can join your fundraising effort with a single click:

As we discussed last time, Acting Blue with ActBlue doesn’t end on Election Day . But what happens after every 2008 election, special election, and run-off is finally over? If it happens to be after a Presidential Election, and if Barack Obama is being sworn in as the new President, it means that the fundraising continues… but not for who you might first expect.

Would have have guessed County Democratic Parties & Clubs?

One of the powerful things about ActBlue is that we list hundreds of Democratic party entities and allow them all to have the same access to our fundraising tools. This helps spread Democratic dollors the the local level, providing grassroots financial support from the bottom of of the Democratic Party up. Take a look at who has been topping the “Hot Pages” charts for the last month.

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Many, if not most, of these organizations are making use of ActBlue event pages which allow them to set ticket prices. This is incredibly useful as many groups have VIP level tickets, advance tickets, and regular tickets which they want to sell in one organized place. These pages allow groups to set a limited number of tickets at any particular level, erasing the confusing of oversold ticket groups.  Event pages also allow groups to collect all the information about their attendees and print out easy to use guest lists for the check-in table on Inauguration Day at their festivities.

County parties and Democratic organizations have also found it easy to include their event pages in email newsletters. For example, the Tarrant County Democrat Party in Texas included this in one of their recent e-newsletters.

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So far, they’ve raised over $25,000 for their local Inaugural Ball via this fundraising page.

There are countless other examples from across the country urging people to RSVP in advance by donating online instead of waiting in line at the door. And as anyone in at the Inauguration in Washington, DC today will tell you, the less waiting time spent waiting in line, the better!


Yesterday I wrote about the new way to view recurring contributions in your campaign or fundraising page reports on ActBlue. We hope this may inspire you to set up recurring donor programs to support your fundraising efforts!

Today I’d like to provide you with some examples of how campaigns and fundraisers are promoting recurring contributions through their ActBlue pages. Before I present those, let’s review a couple of reasons you should consider a recurring donor program to start with!

  • Regularizes revenue: Recurring donations allow you to better manage your campaign finances with a predictable stream of funding.
  • Increases potential giving: Recurring contributions encourage supporters to make a larger donation by spreading it out over time. For many contributors, giving a little each month is easier on the budget than one lump sum.
  • Increases pledge fulfillment: Recurring credit card donations eliminate the need for donor follow-up on pledges and the risk that a donor might renege – increasing revenue and saving valuable staff time.
  • Enhances relationships: Recurring contributions allow you to build long-term relationships with your donors. They are more likely to help your campaign in other ways besides money.
  • Reduces donor attrition: Recurring donors tend to contribute for longer periods of time. A regular pattern of giving leads to a sense of investment.

Now let’s look at some real-world examples.

  1. Building Netroots Infrastructure- This fundraising page was a joint fundraising effort by BlogPAC and ActBlue. In an effort to fund progressive infrastructure, blog readers and Democratic donors were asked to give monthly to allow the two groups to generate a steady predictable stream of income to support long term growth. This is a very sensible ask given the nature of the donors as well as the two groups being supported.
    recurringbuttonYou might also notice that embedded in the page are links preset with recurring amounts! Above is a quick image of what that looks like though you can see for yourself here.
  2. bluekreweLouisiana Blue Krewe- Linked from the front page of the Louisiana Democratic Party’s website, this page was set up for the state party’s recurring donor program.You may notice that the pitch focuses on the funds being used to build party infrastructure for all candidates for the next election and asks for a recurring contribution “at a level of $10, $15, or $25 a month”. You may also notice some of those snazzy buttons on this page as well.
  3. club26
    “Club 26″- Jon Powers, a candidate for Congress in New York’s 26th Congressional district in 2008, uses ActBlue for all of his online contributions. But he hasn’t stopped there- on his contribution page he promotes his recurring donor program called “Club 26″.
    He explains it as follows:

    We are asking dedicated supporters to sign up as recurring donors at the minimum investment of $26 per month through our victory in
    November. With your investment, we will expand our growing base of
    support at home in the District and across the country.

    This
    campaign is about putting you – the people – back in charge of your
    government and this is a great way to start. As a member of Club 26,
    you will be listed on the website and included in monthly conference
    calls with the campaign.

    I highlight the last sentence because this is a great way to encourage donors to give monthly- give something back! Tying your recurring donors into other aspects of your campaign is a tactic we highly encourage at ActBlue.

  4. presidentscirclebutton
    Yamhill County Democrats Presidents Circle- Oregon’s Yamhill County Democrats are including recurring contributions as a way for supporters to fulfill any of half a dozen donor levels that are part of their “Presidents Circle”.Promoted on their website, each level is named for a different Democratic President and corresponds to a different monthly recurring total in order to “strengthen grassroots infrastructure in preparation for campaigns,
    support our headquarters, communicate our values, and recruit
    candidates for office.”
    They are making use of referral codes and URL commands to preset recurring contribution size as well.

Earlier this week I wrote on the topic of thanking your supporters while introducing video as a medium to do so. Today, I’d like to follow up on that subject with e-mail as an example. Following the same basic practices I pointed out, look how Illinois House candidate Daniel Biss has leveraged his e-mail thank you note into a larger narrative (while asking for continued donations!).

Well, it’s official.  I just got an email from one of ActBlue’s amazing staffers confirming that our campaign is now the state-level campaign with the largest number of individual donors on ActBlue in all of 2007!

Thank you so much for making this happen!

The last surge that pushed us over the top took place mostly at the Yearly Kos convention.  The ActBlue page we set up specially for the convention now has 34 donors and and $1,072 raised.  You can see for yourself here: http://www.actblue.com/page/dbyk2007

When we tell local media and political insiders about this, it will show them that this is a new kind of campaign, built on a new base of supporters.  They will always understand, not just during the campaign, but even more importantly after I’m elected, that we represent a new force in progressive politics, a new partnership between political candidates and a nationwide network of activists.

We are a part of a movement that is changing the face of politics in America.  We are building — and funding — this campaign with the energy and hard work of ordinary people who have for way, way too long been shut out of the process.  I can’t tell you how proud and honored I am to have your support.

Candidates are supposed to like receiving lots of small donations because when someone gives you a small amount, you can go back and ask them for more later.  I like having lots of supporters because it means lots of people want a part of our campaign, because it means lots of people will be giving me feedback, and it means lots of people will be telling their friends about the campaign.

And I hope you will tell your friends about the campaign, to keep this remarkable momentum going. Whether it’s directing them to that same ActBlue page to prolong this amazing run of donations: http://www.actblue.com/page/dbyk2007

or asking them to join us at our campaign kick-off event

or sending them to our web page to learn more: http://www.danielbiss.com/

or just telling them that this is a pretty interesting campaign they should keep their eyes open about, I’d appreciate if you could keep spreading the word.  Your work is making all the difference in the world.

Again, thank you.  You’re truly amazing.

Warmest regards,
Daniel

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.

Read More

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…

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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?

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