Q3 2016: It’s definitely the quarter before an election

Man, oh man, was Q3 busy. We moved more than $130M, almost $50M more than in Q3 2014 (the same quarter in the last election cycle).

Why the uptick in volume? We handled donations for over 4,000 campaigns, committees, and organizations as they made their way into the final stretch of an incredibly important election cycle. That’s a 33.9% increase over the number of groups using ActBlue in Q3 2014. What else is exciting? Compared to Q3 2014, we handled $20M more in recurring dollars, which is a whopping 172% increase. And recurring contributions made up more than one-fifth of our total funds raised.

Read on to see how our sitewide fundraising compared to where we were at the same point back in previous years.

Topline Numbers

Q3 2013 Q3 2014 Q3 2015 Q3 2016
Contributions 637,925 2,304,240 1,785,908 3,355,813
Total Amount $23,154,771 $82,657,048 $57,202,581 $131,890,675
Avg. Contribution Size $36.30 $35.87 $32.03 $39.30
Unique Campaigns, Committees,
and Organizations
1,827 3,064 2,259 4,102


Here’s the biggest news: as of Q3 2016, we’ve helped raise over $630 million in contributions. That means we’ve already nearly doubled the amount we raised in the 2014 cycle (2014 was a $335 million election cycle), and we’ve still got one more quarter to go in Election 2016.

In the chart below, we break down the total number of campaigns, committees, and organizations using ActBlue by cycle. The vertical axis shows the running total for unique groups raising funds on ActBlue, while the horizontal axis represents the days in the cycle with the first day of each quarter as the labels.


Look at that rapid growth in committees and orgs using ActBlue! Almost 6,200 different groups used our tools to fundraise in this election cycle, with over 4,000 active groups this quarter. We had almost 800 new candidates and groups sign up this quarter, which is huge compared to 560 new signups during this time in 2014 and 558 in 2012.

This election cycle, we’ve expanded into new cities and counties. We’re working with a higher percentage of federal campaigns than ever before. And the best part is that we offer the same fundraising tools to candidates in school board races as we do to presidential candidates. We’re constantly innovating. We’re a one-stop shop where folks can give to all the causes they care about, at any level of government, no matter how big the race or how small the organization.


In true ActBlue fashion, once we hit an exciting number, we have to keep upping the ante. 65% of our contributions this quarter were made via Express, and as of Q3 2016, we have over 3.2 million Express donors! And they’re an active bunch. In Q3 2016, we handled over $75 million in recurring contributions from folks who saved their information using our Express feature. As a quick refresher, our Express feature lets donors save their payment information with us and donate with a single click, making it easier for them to give (win, win). And in an election cycle like this where every dollar really counts, that efficiency and speed make a big difference in fundraising.


Inspiring donors to give again and again is critical to any strong fundraising program. At ActBlue, over 43.5% of the contributions we handled in Q3 2016 were recurring contributions. Our recurring asks are usually monthly, but in September we brought back weekly recurring. That feature was so successful that it accounted for $3,821,234 of the nearly $31.5M we raised in recurring contributions this quarter. That means weekly recurring accounted for 10.26% of our total recurring volume in Q3 2016 — and it wasn’t even being used in full force until the end of the quarter! Take a look at the chart below to see how weekly recurring contributions have picked up steam:


In just two weeks, the number of new weekly contributions had surpassed the typical number of new monthly contributions. And let’s not bury the lede here: we handled more than 70k recurring contributions on September 30th. That’s the second highest total ever (surpassed only by February 29th when we ran recurring contributions from three days at once). In total, we moved $1.4M before 10AM that day — that’s a lot of traffic before most folks had even had their morning cup of coffee!

Q3 before an election has historically been a big quarter (no surprise there). But this election cycle features seven out of the eight greatest quarter over quarter increases in terms of recurring donations. Back in Q3 2014, we handled only about a third of the recurring contributions we handled in Q3 2016. And in 2012, which was the last presidential election year, we handled less than $5M in recurring volume. That means we’re now raising over six times what we did in the last presidential election. Pretty cool.



It was another strong quarter for giving on the go — 30% of the funds we raised came from a mobile device. And while people are definitely using mobile devices to do more, more often, we can’t chalk up the success of mobile giving just to time alone.


We’ve also spent a lot of time optimizing for mobile. We tested and implemented a new feature: when mobile donors land on a form, they’re automatically taken past the contribution blurb to the part where they choose how much to give. With an increase of 5.2% in sitewide conversions (p < 0.05), that optimization has translated into real cash. We’ve also added an autocomplete search feature that populates your address on contribution forms, which has already started to boost our numbers. The goal with mobile is making it as easy as possible to give from a smaller screen, and that’s what we’re going to keep improving on.

Customer Service

It was another busy quarter for our customer service team, who handled an incredible 28,490 calls and had 72,504 email conversations with ActBlue donors. At midnight on September 30th, the last day of the quarter, there were a grand total of zero donors waiting to have their emails and calls returned. Our team had squared away their emails and calls in real time!

From folks who are giving for the first time and have questions about the process, to returning donors who want to check in about their contribution, our customer service representatives handle it all. They helped make the giving process as smooth as possible during this extremely busy quarter.


In February 2016, we launched our remarketing feature. When enabled, it sends a reminder email to donors who have started but failed to complete a contribution after 30 minutes of inactivity.

This quarter, remarketing helped bring an extra $420,000 in the door from over 13,000 contributions. In an election cycle where every dollar matters, that’s a lot more than just pocket change. But here’s the thing: only one fifth of our contribution forms sitewide that received contributions had our remarketing feature enabled. That means 80% of ActBlue forms are losing out on a lot of extra contributions! If you haven’t turned on remarketing yet, here’s a reminder about how to do it.

Contributions by Timezone

Being knowledgeable about where your donors are based is helpful because it can lead to new tests where you target different folks at different times. Take a look at this chart below to see where ActBlue’s sitewide donor base is located, and when folks from different parts of the country give most:


It was an incredible quarter for ActBlue, and we’re so excited to have our biggest election year yet. That’s why we want to thank our donors! Without them, there’s no way we’d be on track to handle more than $700M this election cycle. We also couldn’t be more proud to be lowering the barrier for participation across the board. Our tools give folks who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get involved in the political process the opportunity to make real change happen.

Of course, we’re also thrilled that the more new folks start using our tools, the more fundraising records we can break. After all, let’s remember our prediction back in Q1 2016: we said we might process over half a billion dollars in small-dollar contributions this election cycle: looks like we’ve got some ceilings to smash both in terms of our own record, and in the White House.

Weekly recurring is back and better than ever

We’re less than two months from the election. It’s definitely crunch time, and the need for resources has never been more critical. Our answer? Weekly recurring. It’s a great tool that helps campaigns and committees bring in more donations during these tough last few weeks when the pressure is really on.

Just as it sounds, weekly recurring gives donors the option to sign up and make a recurring contribution that processes on the same day of the week, every week, until November 8th. After Election Day, the recurring contribution automatically deactivates.

It’s important to note that we can only turn weekly recurring on for your forms if you’re using ActBlue to fundraise for both your emails and website.

Here’s what your donors will see when you’ve got weekly recurring turned on for a form:

weekly form


So if a donor signed up with a recurring contribution today, they’d be making 7 contributions that would each be scheduled to process on Thursday. If you’re interested in turning on weekly recurring, shoot us an email at info [AT] actblue [DOT] com with the forms you want it turned on for. If you decide you want to use it on more forms in the future, you can just clone a form that already has weekly enabled.

Don’t forget that you can use pop-up recurring for weekly contributions! But make sure you change the ask language and note that it’s a weekly recurring contribution.

When you’re creating your links, you can add a parameter (recur_weekly=yes) that sets the form to weekly. It looks like this:


We recommend you update your receipt text for weekly contribution forms. You’ll find the space to do that within the Edit tab of your forms:



We also recommend putting some time into figuring out how to make the right asks of the right folks. When we’ve tested our weekly recurring feature, we’ve found that people who are more likely to sign up for our usual monthly recurring ask are also more likely to give weekly. Conversely, folks who are more likely to give to a one-time ask are less likely to give on a weekly basis.

Another test we had great success with was our ‘7 for 7’ ask, where we asked donors to give $7 for the last 7 weeks before the election. But it’s important to remember that every list is different.

Weekly recurring is a great way to keep your donor base engaged with you up until when it really counts: Election Day. We’re thrilled to bring you this option again, and would love to hear about any tests you run that are particularly successful. If we’ve convinced you to get set up with weekly recurring, let us know at info [AT] actblue [DOT] com and we’ll turn it on.

Best of luck!

Our 2015 report is here!

We just launched our 2015 report. It has all the graphs and (moving!) charts you could want, plus insights into the world of small-dollar fundraising.

At ActBlue, we have an amazing group of supporters who chip in to help us build our tools, plus a great community of campaigns and organizations putting our tools to the test with their fundraising prowess, so we wanted to take the time to thank every one of those people and report back on our work in 2015.

Check out the report.

Oh, and big things are coming in 2016!

Victory at the FEC: Draft Fund Fun

Last month the FEC ruled 6-0 to approve our request to open up restrictions on draft funds for federal candidates. Yes, it’s incredibly nerdy, but it’s a big deal.

Here’s Politico on the ruling (behind paywall):

Democratic digital fundraiser ActBlue won a unanimous green light from the Federal Election Commission today allowing the firm to start raising money for the Democratic 2016 presidential nominee — only if that person is a woman.

Hillary Clinton or any other female Democrat who secures the top spot on the 2016 ticket would benefit from ActBlue’s efforts. The company had previously secured FEC approval to establish “draft” campaigns before a formal candidate had declared their intention of running for an office. With its latest request, ActBlue got specific permission to establish a fund for which gender was the primary reason for someone to donate cash.

Yep, ActBlue can now set up a nominee fund and raise a pot of money that goes to the nominee if she is a woman. She’d get it when she officially became the nominee.

Additionally, you can now set deadlines for candidates to declare. If they haven’t announced their candidacy by then, the money goes elsewhere. It’s a way of building urgency around draft campaigns and getting your issues injected into the debate.

And wait, there’s more! The FEC gave us a thumbs-up to create draft funds that name a series of potential candidates as recipients.You can combine the two and do something totally whacky like:

  • If Beck declares by February 20th he gets the money
  • But if he doesn’t and Beyonce gets in by March 14th she gets it
  • But if she doesn’t and Kanye decides to run by April 27th then he gets it
  • But if none of the potential recipients declare in time, then the DNC receives the funds.

The primary reason we asked the FEC to rule on these requests is so that millions of small-dollar donors can encourage candidates — especially women — to run for federal office, in particular the presidency. And that’s something the FEC commissioners are interested in themselves.

ActBlue is always innovating to find new ways to give small donors a voice and help the organizations that use us advance their agendas and meet their goals. This new freedom from the FEC will help us do just that.

Pings for everyone!

Pings for everyone!

Introducing the greatest ActBlue feature ever: the ping.


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. Visit your campaign or organization’s Metrics page and scroll to the bottom where you’ll see an option to “Play a sound when you get a contribution!” Use the drop-down menu to test out sounds and make your selection.

Sounds include chaching, ice rink, coin, and more! 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.

It’s crunch time so optimize those weekly recurring asks!

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).


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.

Working with the system: How we got Express Lane approved in Massachusetts

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.

New Year, New Election, New (York) City

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.

Not Infrastructure

As a follow-on to my previous post, I'd like to emphasize that groups like American Action Network and Crossroads GPS are not infrastructure in the ActBlue sense. 

These groups are a means for very wealthy individuals–upon whom AAN and GPS depend to survive–to influence our electoral process through large undisclosed donations. Those donations aren't popular among the electorate, and the organizations themselves exist largely as a result of the Citizens United decision and the disarray of the RNC under Chairman Steele. It's a winning combination of dependence, insecurity and loathing: dependent on a small number people, founded in shifting legal ground, and widely loathed by the American people. 

ActBlue is rooted in the least controversial aspect of campaign finance law: the ability of actual (not corporate) persons to give to campaigns. The sort of giving our platform enables is tremendously important to a community of donors over a million strong, and is exactly the sort of credential candidates like to burnish.