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Introducing the greatest ActBlue feature ever: the ping.

pingping

Sometimes you want to know every single time you get a contribution, right? I mean, you need more notifications in your life.

Now it’s possible. Just go to your dashboard and append ?pinger=ping to the end of url. Like this: https://secure.actblue.com/dashboard/entity/entityid#?pinger=ping. Just log in and fill in your organization’s entity ID number and listen to the money come in.

And we’ve created a few options for the sound:

?pinger=beep
?pinger=chaching
?pinger=ping
?pinger=melody
?pinger=gong
?pinger=drip
?pinger=boing
?pinger=harp

Happy Friday everyone. 24 days to go!

Have a suggestion of a sound you’d like us to add? Let us know at info@actblue.com.

We’re fewer than six weeks from the election. That means, among other things, that optimal fundraising strategies become even more important than usual. Here at ActBlue, we’ve been running tests on a nearly daily basis on all kinds of Express Lane strategies.

Typically, we see the largest (statistically significant) improvements when optimizing factors related to the Express Lane askblock structure like amounts, number of links, and intervals between the links. For our own list, we find that, statistically speaking, the flashier aspects you see in some fundraising emails — emojis in subject lines, e.g. — do not do much (if anything) to improve donation outcomes. Here’s a tactic we recently tested, though, that’s a bit more on the fun side of things and definitely brought in a lot more money.

A little while ago, we started using our weekly recurring feature to great success. (By the way, if you haven’t tried this feature yet, shoot us an email at info [at] actblue [dot] com and we’ll turn it on for you.) After testing which amounts brought in the most money, we landed on this1:

We wanted to see if we could raise more money by asking for “$7 because there are 7 weeks until the election!” Gimmicky? Sure, but we had a hunch that it would perform well.2 Here’s what it looked like:

So what happened? The segment with the ‘7 for 7′ ask performed much better than the control; it brought in 87.6% more money, a statistically and practically significant improvement.3 Cool!

What’ll be interesting to me is to see when this tactic will lose its optimality. The key factor is that $7 (with gimmick) performed better than $10 (the control and previously optimal ask amount) despite it being a lower dollar amount. Though, at some point, a too-low number-of-weeks-to-election-dollar-ask-amount combination will negate the positive c.p. effect of the gimmick. Based on other testing we’ve done, my guess is that that will be at 4-weeks-$4. We’re doing follow-up testing on this “n weeks until the election!” tactic, so we’ll see!

If you decide to test something similar, send me an email and we can chat! Emails to info [at] actblue [dot] com with my name in the subject line will be directed to me.

P.S. Doing a lot of testing in the election run-up? Want a tool to help you manage your test groups? I wrote something in R for you! I’ll post something on the blog about it soon, but if you want it in the meantime, shoot me a note (emails to info [at] actblue [dot] com with my name in the subject line will be directed to me).

FOOTNOTES:

1 Actually, we built a model that predicts how a given Express user will respond to different types of donation requests based on previous donation information. Using those predicted values, we decide what type of donation ask they receive (of one-time, weekly recurring, monthly recurring) and for how much money they are asked. Math! The point: this is what we landed on for a certain subset of our list.

2 Of course, all else equal, it’s tough to distinguish whether any difference was due to the gimmick or because $7 is lower than $10. The theory would be that with a lower amount, more people would give, and even though the mean donation amount would likely be lower, the increase in number of donors would outweigh the decrease in mean donation size. This is definitely possible, but so is the opposite; it’s all about finding the optimal point.

In fact, we included a segment in the test which received an askblock starting with a lower amount and saw this dynamic in action, though the overall treatment effect was not statistically significantly different from the control. This lends support for interpreting the effect from the gimmick segment as the gimmick per se, but a detailed discussion is excluded from the body of the post for the sake of brevity. More rigorous follow-up testing on this “n weeks until the election!” tactic is already in the field— shoot us an email to chat!

3Pr(>|t|) < .01, controlling for other significant factors, including previous donation history.

At ActBlue, we’re constantly working to improve our technology in ways that will help us further our mission so that we can share those improvements with you! But it’s not always a steady march towards progress. As anyone with compliance experience knows, campaign finance regulations aren’t always up to date with emerging technology and that’s when we have to get creative.

We recently encountered a clear example of this tension in our home state of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (“OCPF”) is responsible for promulgating, overseeing, and enforcing campaign finance regulations within the state. We wanted to roll out Express Lane, our single click donation system, in Massachusetts, but one OCPF regulation in particular gave us pause. This regulation applies to contributions made with a credit or debit card over the internet and it requires that the contributor click a checkbox on the contribution form to confirm they meet certain requirements prior to their final act of clicking the “donate” button. Given that the whole purpose of Express Lane is to just click once in an email in order to contribute, the regulation meant that we couldn’t use Express Lane in Massachusetts.

In some instances, outdated regulations slow us down and we can only offer limited tools in that state or locality. Fortunately, we sometimes get to work with agencies like the OCPF that are interested in learning about the ways their regulations might impact evolving technology, so that they can evaluate regulations and develop workable solutions. With an important gubernatorial election around the corner and deadlines looming, ActBlue submitted a request for an advisory opinion to the OCPF. We were seeking clarification of the regulation’s application to Express Lane and offering a creative solution for how our Express Lane tool could comply with the law in Massachusetts. (In case you didn’t know: lawyers can be creative, too!)

Luckily the OCPF shares our commitment to making it possible for more grassroots supporters to get involved in politics. The department invited our legal staff for a sit-down at their office to discuss the advisory opinion request. The staff expressed its interest in finding a way for Express Lane to help spur contributor and voter engagement in Massachusetts and agreed that requiring some changes to Express Lane could be counterproductive if they resulted in inhibiting contributions. That’s the ideal situation when we work with regulatory agencies. We always want to play by the rules, but we also appreciate working with regulators who want to ensure that the rules encourage small donors to participate in the democratic process.

Ultimately, the OCPF determined that adding specific language in Express Lane emails could allow contributors to simultaneously donate and certify that they meet the requirements, as opposed to requiring two separate actions. Because the OCPF was willing to work with us as we made changes to our tools to ensure Massachusetts candidates and committees could use Express Lane with ease, we’re proud to say ActBlue Express Lane is now active in Massachusetts, along with thirty-two other states! We’re looking forward to working with more regulators to solve the challenge of keeping campaign finance regulations up to date with technology.

Want to use Express Lane in Massachusetts? Just drop us a line at info at actblue dot com.

In November, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will be term-limited out of office, and will no longer hold the title of “Hizzoner.” For the first time in 12 years, the mayoralty will once again be up for grabs, along with at least 22 city council seats, and 4 out of 5 borough presidencies. That’s why we’re excited to announce that after months of work with our partner, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, we are offering our fundraising tools to the city’s municipal candidates–from the mayoral candidates on down–including those who will receive public matching funds.

Here at ActBlue, we’ve always been about making your voice heard, helping you pool the resources of your supporters to increase your impact, and making sure that no donation, no candidate, no vision is too small.

The Board is proactive when it comes to regulating money in politics, and their efforts have created one of the country’s best public financing systems. Naturally, the system comes with strict regulations, especially for credit cards processed online. This means that smaller campaigns don’t always have the opportunity to fundraise online because of time constraints and prohibitive costs–which translates into lost opportunities and fewer connections with supporters. However, since ActBlue shifts much of the resulting burden of compliance and legal work from local campaigns to our staff, even the smallest NYC campaign can now raise money online using our tools.

When candidates sign up for ActBlue, they’re also getting a chance to tap into our community of 500,000 registered ActBlue Express users. They are our most dedicated donors, who make most of their political contributions through ActBlue and convert at a significantly higher rate due to our one-click donation process. This gives candidates a higher return on their fundraising initiatives, making the program a great resource for our campaigns. We’re excited to share it with NYC candidates so they can benefit as well.

Most of the money raised through ActBlue comes in the form of small dollar donations – $50.27 was the average donation during the last election cycle. That’s important for New York City, where candidates can receive matching funds of up to $6 per dollar donated on contributions under $175. ActBlue was built specifically for grassroots fundraising, and we couldn’t pass on a chance to team up with a city that supports our vision.

We hope you’ll take a look around the site, search for your favorite New York City candidates, spread the word or sign up here. No campaign is too small–or too big–to start putting power in the hands of supporters.

 

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Congressional gridlock, persistent unemployment, President Obama’s re-election chances–none of these will be a problem for Democrats after this Saturday. According to Christian radio host Harold Camping, May 21st, 2011 is the date the Rapture will occur:

I know it’s absolutely true, because the Bible is always absolutely true.

You can check his math here, though if it’s been a while since you took Algebra I and you’re not sure what (atonement x completeness x Heaven)^2 is, you may need to crack the textbook. Also note that Mr. Camping’s track record isn’t spotless; the original Rapture date was September 1994, but a mathematical error skewed his calculations.

However, as a political organization, we like to focus on the political ramifications of God’s elect being called to his side.

Congress

The gridlock that has stymied the Democratic agenda will clear up, as congressional delegations lose their most moralistic members and those Representatives that remain are, presumably, too embarrassed to engage in high profile obstruction. Relatedly, Republicans will no longer need to pander to hardline social conservatives and will compromise with Democrats to address the unending destruction unleashed upon humankind.

Labor

Unemployment will fall as the elect leave the workforce, opening up more positions and reducing competition for those positions. The improving economy will bolster the chances of Democrats up and down the ballot in 2012, and should assure President Obama–or, should he be called, his designated successor–of a smooth path to re-election.

Catastrophe

That’s not to say there’s no bad news for Democrats. The sun will go dark, putting a dagger through the heart of solar power initiatives, and the people of Judea will flee to the mountains, further complicating the peace process that President Obama recently put at the center of his foreign policy. There will be additional wars, famines and earthquakes, as well as a series of devastating meteorite impacts across the world.

That said, financial armageddon should be somewhat easier to avert in a post-Rapture House of Representatives, which would be more amenable to a clean debt ceiling vote, and it seems unlikely that Wall Street will be significantly impacted by Saturday’s events. In fact, rising commodity prices should offset the recent crash in that market, and there will be significant new opportunities for currency arbitrage due to volatile exchange rates.

Finally, depending on your interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “the dead in Christ will rise first,” you may want to familiarize yourself with the CDC’s recent Emergency Preparedness and Response guidelines.

Over at Greg Sargent's blog, Adam Serwer (who also blogs at the American Prospect) has a good post up on the GOP reaction to President Obama's executive order requiring contractors who do business with the federal government to disclose their political donations. 

I predicted the GOP would react this way in an earlier post, but I didn't expect the additional layer of irony that is John Yoo arguing for "a right to political privacy" in the Wall Street Journal. John Yoo, you'll recall, is the guy who said the President could order a village massacred. He's the guy who wrote the torture memos and argued that the fourth amendment doesn't apply to the War on Terror. That exemption was the basis for the warrantless wiretapping program exposed by the New York Times in 2005. And the final sign that Yoo is way out on a limb here is simply that Justice Antonin Scalia disagrees with him:

[R]unning a democracy takes a certain amount of civic courage. And the First Amendment does not protect you from criticism or even nasty phone calls when you exercise your political rights…

So, to recap, according to John Yoo, the American people don't have any right to privacy. The government can seize your phone records, lock you away forever, have you tortured, and whatever else seems like it might stop the terrorists. But should Uncle Sam ask contractors that stand to benefit financially from their campaign donations to disclose who they're giving to–well, that would be government overreach.

Since this issue is complicated, let me boil it down to a few key facts:

  1. The Supreme Court has explicity rejected the argument that disclosure "chills speech." When you speak using your voice, people know that it's you speaking. The same should be true when you speak using your money. 
  2. In Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court specifically called for disclosure: "[w]ith the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters… citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests."
  3. The Republican Party has blocked off all other avenues for protecting disclosure. The DISCLOSE Act "failed" in the Senate, as a 59-39 majority in favor of it was insuffient to overcome a Republican filibuster. And our General Counsel has written extensively about the way in which the 3-3 Republican-Democrat split in the FEC has rendered the body impotent. The executive order was hardly the preferred option.

Those three facts and the choice of John Yoo as messenger should tell you everything you need to know about the sincerity, coherence and good intentions that underlie the GOP's position on disclosure. 

Read the editorial, it's a masterwork of mendacity, a cavalcade of calumnies, a fraudulent fantasy penned by a man who shouldn't have an iota of credibility on matters of speech, privacy or democracy. On a personal note, I find the sickest thing about Yoo's editorial to be its view that the assault, imprisonment and murder of Civil Rights supporters and disclosure laws are equally injurious to our democracy. Taking a beating in the press is in no way the same as actually taking a beating

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