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Our latest monthly report on ActBlue activity was just a teaser. Today is the filing deadline for federal campaigns and committees, and we’re releasing our Q1/2010 numbers. More real time numbers! Fewer hours spent sifting through FEC reports! Without further ado, the ActBlue Q1/2010 Report:

Number of contributions 109,891
Total raised $10,182,793.61
Average contribution size $92.66
# of committees receiving money 1,591
# of fundraising pages receiving money 1,688
New fundraising pages created 2,189

 

Every one of the above metrics reported an increase over the previous quarter, except for the average contribution size, which, reflecting the arrival of more small dollar donors, dropped by 20%. As we did in our previous stats post, we’ll look at the Q1/2010 results in light of the Q1/2008 numbers:

Q1 2008 Q1 2010 Change
Contributions 52,151 109,891 111%
Volume ($) $6,945,913.73 $10,182,793.61 47%
Mean Donation $133.19 $92.66 -30%
Committees 992 1,591 60%
Pages Created 1,469 2,189 49%
Pages w/ Money 959 1,688 76%

 

Incredible. More than double the number of contributions for the same period in the fundraising cycle two years ago--a presidential year–leading to a 50% increase in the amount donated to Democratic candidates through ActBlue. 1,600 Democratic campaigns and committees got a check from ActBlue. For scale, there are 535 voting members in Congress, and on the federal level alone ActBlue sent money to 627 committees.

Now let’s take a look at the top 10 recipient campaigns and committees of Q1/2010, ranked by number of donors. Making the list were two familiar national progressive organizations, four US Senate candidates, and four Congressional candidates.

Martha Coakley took the top candidate spot thanks to the special election to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Bill Halter, the AR-Sen primary challenger to incumbent senator Blanche Lincoln took fourth, while Sen. Bennet in CO and Sen. Gillibrand in NY took 5th and 7th respectively. The top House recipient was Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, whose ActBlue numbers surpassed Sen. Gillibrand’s and landed him 6th in the rankings.

Name

 

PCCC – Progressive Change Campaign CommitteeType

OrganizationDonors

17,091Raised

$192,967.67 Martha CoakleyMA-Sen, 201013,884$1,110,150.23 Democracy for AmericaOrganization12,066$92,395.08 Bill HalterAR-Sen, 201011,888$390,113.82 Michael BennetCO-Sen, 20108,452$119,364.08 Alan GraysonFL-08, 20107,520$121,794.81 Kirsten GillibrandNY-Sen, 20106,323$48,134.68 Anthony WeinerNY-09, 20106,007$155,387.52 Chellie PingreeME-01, 20104,145$190,124.60 Jared PolisCO-02, 20103,922$28,860.93

Looking at that data another way, we can rank the top 10 recipient campaigns and committees by total dollars raised. This adds a few new candidates to the list like Dan Seals in Illinois, MA-Gov. Deval Patrick, DE-Sen. candidate Chris Coons, Gavin Newsom for Lt.-Gov of CA, and PA-Sen primary challenger and current Congressman Joe Sestak.

Name

Martha
CoakleyType

MA-Sen, 2010$ Raised

$1,110,150.23Bill
HalterAR-Sen, 2010$390,113.82Dan
SealsIL-10, 2010$262,260.48Deval
PatrickMA-Gov, 2010$243,017.59Chris
CoonsDE-Sen, 2010$218,044.99Gavin
NewsomCA-Lt Gov, 2010$201,199.00Joe
SestakPA-Sen, 2010$200,852.82PCCC Organization $192,967.67Chellie
PingreeME-01, 2010$190,124.60Anthony
WeinerNY-09, 2010$155,387.52

Last but certainly not least is our report on the top 10 fundraising pages in Q1/2010, ranked by number of donors. These reflect the grassroots activity driving donors to give over the past three months.

Not surprisingly, every one of the pages below except for one has an average contributions size well below the average for the 1st Quarter. Half of the pages include embedded video and three include ActBlue fundraising thermometers. These pages are a source of good examples for how to design and market successful fundraising drives that any user can start on ActBlue.

Name Donors Raised Average
senateheroes-letter 8234 $160,938.49 $19.54
do-it-for-ted 7076 $693,854.37 $98.05
weinercdthc02242010 5232 $109,801.34 $20.98
dumplincoln 5006 $116,478.85 $23.26
polispingreegrayson 4008 $111,877.36 $27.91
pelosi-tv-ad 3576 $68,649.03 $19.19
2010pccc 3402 $66,266.55 $19.47
pccc_main 3128 $71,502.66 $22.85
pccchalterfield 1968 $32,449.24 $16.48
orangetoblue2010 1850 $66,934.74 $36.18

On Tuesday, the Personal Democracy Forum (PdF) released their "Who to Hire" guide to political technology providers, and we were happy to see that ActBlue took 2nd place overall, with a 4.23/5 rating and the third highest number of survey respondents. If you follow the link above, you'll see that when they broke down the responses by category, ActBlue led decisively across the board:

  • Capacity and Reliability of Software: 2nd
  • Usability of Software: 1st
  • Quality of Customer Service: 2nd
  • Fairness of Pricing: 2nd

No other service provider placed as highly in as many categories. In our internal discussions, these are exactly the categories where we strive to be an industry leader and it was humbling to see that our efforts were recognized by survey respondents. I want to highlight the "Usability of Software" category, and not just because we stand atop the podium.

As Nancy Scola has written, one of ActBlue's core goals is to normalize the act of political giving. That's fancy talk for a pretty simple idea: political giving should be a regular part of American life. You go to work, cook dinner, and after dinner head over to the computer and donate $5 to your preferred candidate.

A lot of the anger Americans feel toward their elected leaders is rooted in the idea that Washington serves special interests rather than the American people. And, to the extent that this intuition is correct, it's because those special interests have a lot of campaign cash to dole out. The obvious answer to this problem is to create an alternate source of funding for our elected officials, so that standing up to special interests isn't such an electorally damaging proposition.

The central idea behind ActBlue is that the American people have the potential to be that alternate source, and at this point we've clearly demonstrated proof of concept. ActBlue has sent $127.3M to thousands of Democratic candidates and committees, with an average donation size of around $100. And ActBlue users send their money to everything from presidential campaigns to mayoral races. As a final note, we practice what we preach: we fund our operations through tips and direct donations from our users.

However, if political giving is going to become a normal part of American life, it has to fulfill two criteria:

  1. It must be easy.
  2. It must be transparent.

I'm going to tackle the second point in a separate entry, as it's a complicated one. But #1 is pretty straightforward. Very few Americans pursue politics as a career. In fact, most of us are preoccupied by our roles as parents, small business owners, or what have you. So, if you want people participate in politics, you have to find a way to slot it into the very busy lives we all lead.

When I see that ActBlue is ranked #1 in terms of usability it tells me that we're making progress toward that goal. Whether you're a campaign or just someone looking to make a difference in the five minutes they have to spare, ActBlue is your best option.

(And, as a final note, it's not just PdF that feels this way. The New Organizing Insitute (NOI) honored us with the Most Valuable Technology award.)

We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about our monthly statistics posts, so we’ll be continuing them throughout the 2010 cycle. Today we’re looking at numbers from March 2010, and you should stop by late next week when we’ll release our end of quarter numbers. The purpose of these posts is to provide information, and nothing below should be construed as an endorsement of a particular candidate or committee.

The March 2010 overview:

Number of contributions 58,626
Total raised $5,228,392.83
Average contribution size $89.18
Distinct committees receiving money 1,250
Distinct fundraising pages receiving money 1,124
Fundraising pages created 1,002

 

Granted, every statistic is higher than it was in February, but March numbers are buoyed by the end of quarter (EOQ) fundraising push by federal candidates. To exempt that variable from our analysis, let’s compare March 2010 to March 2008. Keep in mind, though, that ’08 was a presidential cycle, and March was the last EOQ deadline before the decisive Pennsylvania Democratic primary. Nevertheless:

March 2008 March 2010 Change
Contributions 25,345 58,626 130%
Volume ($) $3,707,838.92 $5,228,392.83 41%
Mean Donation $146.29 $89.18 -39%
Committees 787 1,250 60%
Pages Created 564 1,002 78%
Pages w/ Money 654 1,124 72%

 

NB: “pages” here refers to fundraising pages, which are landing pages that make a specific fundraising ask. For an example page, click here.

The massive increase in volume and contributions, combined with decrease in average donation size, speak to the increasing power of grassroots fundraising generally, and, as we’ll see below, issue-oriented grassroots fundraising.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Campaigns & Committees for March 2010 (by donors).

 

Committee Name

Bill HalterType

AR-Sen, 2010Donors

11,887Amount

$390,112.82 PCCC – Progressive Change Campaign CommitteeOrganization8,603$109,664.77 Democracy for AmericaOrganization5,692$52,880.09 Krystal BallVA-01, 20103,587$35,793.04 Ann McLane KusterNH-02, 20103,456$35,193.03 Anthony WeinerNY-09, 20103,071$64,608.18 Alan GraysonFL-08, 20102,494$57,163.94 Connie SaltonstallMI-01, 20102,188$92,463.60 Dennis KucinichOH-10, 20101,788$36,188.49 Betsy MarkeyCO-04, 20101,205$27,998.14

In March, the top 10 (as always, ranked by number of donors) includes some new faces. As was the case last month, the PCCC and DFA take their spots on the podium, eclipsed only by Arkansas Lt. Governor Bill Halter, who is running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Blanche Lincoln. Lt. Gov. Halter amassed over 10,000 ActBlue donors in a single month with the backing of labor unions, progressive advocacy organizations, and Netroots PACs. For a more complete listing of the groups fundraising for Halter on ActBlue, click here.

What’s particularly interesting about this month’s top 10 are the interconnections between candidates and both policy issues and advocacy groups. Krystal Ball and Anne McLane Kuster–#4 and #5, respectively–earned their berth thanks to a fundraising page set up by the PCCC. They are challenging “Blue Dog” Democrats who opposed the public option in the recent healthcare bill, an issue of concern to many PCCC donors. The candidates ranked 6-8 also structured their fundraising efforts around the recent healthcare bill.Reps. Grayson and Weiner saw their candor about GOP opposition to the bill rewarded by online donors, and Saltonstall is running against Rep. Bart Stupak in Michigan.

The larger point being that our volume in March reflected–in real time–the momentum and enthusiasm that was building behind healthcare reform.

You can see that firsthand in the list for Top 10 Fundraising Pages for March 2010

Name Donors Raised Average
dumplincoln 5006 $116,478.85 $23.26
pelosi-tv-ad 3577 $68,669.03 $19.19
2010pccc 3402 $66,266.55 $19.47
weinercdthc02242010 2909 $56,459.33 $19.40
pccc_main 2042 $41,152.28 $20.15
pccchalterfield 1968 $32,449.24 $16.48
orangetoblue2010 1850 $66,934.74 $36.18
standupkucinich 1124 $21,366.66 $19.00
conniesaltonstall 780 $35,644.27 $45.69
graysonboldprogressive 718 $13,211.30 $18.40

 

Quick points:

  • Three of the top 10 ActBlue fundraising pages benefited Arkansas Senate candidate Bill Halter.
  • Over half of the pages directly mention or motivate donors to give to candidates because of health care issues.
  • Six of March’s Top 10 fundraising pages by numbers of donors were created by the PCCC
  • Democracy for America, Daily Kos, and the Firedoglake Action PAC all had fundraising pages that made the list.

Some of the common features used on these 10 fundraising pages were the inclusion of embedded video and the use of ActBlue’s goal-based fundraising thermometers. Be sure to check out some of the other pages linked above as well as our recent post that covers some important tips to get some ideas of how to make your next fundraising page more successful. 

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.

A week ago, Ben Smith of POLITICO broke a story about an RNC fundraising presentation held in Washington D.C. The presentation featured a slide of President Obama as the Joker under the heading "the Evil Empire," bracketed by caricatures of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (available here, in .pdf format). A number of other slides contained quotes like "What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House or the Senate…? Save the country from trending toward socialism!" and urged RNC fundraisers to promote visceral giving based on "fear, extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration."

What's particularly striking about the RNC presentation is the tacit admission that, to paraphrase an old conservative bête noire, the only thing they have to sell is fear itself.

The reaction to that revelation was a collective shrug, as if that sort of fear-mongering were an ineluctable element of grassroots fundraising. It's not, and I ought to know. I built the grassroots fundraising program that sustained ActBlue across 2009–a slow year for political giving. Those donations, drawn from our users, funded the enhancements that enabled us to grow 84% in 2009.

When discussing grassroots fundraising, it's critical to understand the difference between creating urgency and sowing fear. Successful asks underscore the need for the target to give, but negative emotions are hardly the only way to get there. In writing our own asks, I've talked about increasing the influence of grassroots donors and building infrastructure more than I've mentioned Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann, and donors responded better to the former. In fact, our most successful asks are those in which we demonstrate the relevance of grassroots actions on ActBlue to a larger Democratic agenda, or show them how the numbers they put up on ActBlue drive news stories.

In short, there are other ways to appeal to donors; by accepting the fear-based paradigm of the RNC as the sine qua non of grassroots fundraising we're buying into a false equivalence. The grassroots campaigns that take place on ActBlue employ a variety of fundraising strategies, often aimed at a specific goal. Some of the largest grassroots fundraising efforts on ActBlue have focused on granular policy details.

There's a cynical take on all of this that says it all reduces to
fear–fear that Republicans will win, fear that we won't get the
policies we want, fear that our voices will be drowned out by special
interests in Washington. That's a remarkably broad generalization to
apply to hundreds of thousands of ActBlue donors, one that is contemptuous of
the diverse reasons that move us to participate in American politics.

And, apparently, it's a view that the RNC subscribes to. The RNC strategy is built around juvenile imagery and a flair for terrifying GOP donors with the threat of a nebulous, abstract adversary–in this case, a wholly irrelevant political ideology. And rather than give their donors any idea what their money will be used for, the RNC leverages terms of art like "patriotic duty" and "front line mentality" to power an agenda of endless obstruction that negatively impacts the very donors they want to court.

In short, grassroots fundraising on ActBlue reflects the diversity of our user base, while the RNC seeks uniformity through terror. (An objectively socialist approach!) If we assume that these strategies are identical, we're neglecting the difference between real and phony populism, between framing and fiction.

You may be familiar with our quarterly statistics posts on the ActBlue Blog. By popular demand, we're going to start releasing information more frequently, starting with monthly stats posts. The purpose is to highlight successful techniques and strategies, and nothing below should be misconstrued as an endorsement of a particular campaign or committee. In the future we'll also start drilling down to the state level to provide more insight into fundraising dynamics there. 

Let's get started by looking at our February 2010 overview. 

Number of contributions 31,470
Total raised $2,335,868.11
Average contribution size $74.23
Distinct committees receiving money 1,007
Distinct fundrapages receiving money 745
Fundraising pages created 592

When we compare these numbers to February 2008, which was presidential year with a historically active primary season, we see growth across the board. The number of contributions was nearly double the 16,545 from two years ago. The total money raised increased by more than 500k over 2008 and the average contribution size was about 30% smaller. Finally, the number of fundraising pages created and receiving funds were both significantly higher. 

I want to highlight one number that would otherwise be overlooked: the 1,007 separate campaigns and committees that received a check for contributions made through ActBlue in February. That's a 70% increase over February of 2008! Included in those hundreds of new entities are state based campaigns, some local jurisdictions that ActBlue has expanded to, county parties, and more. We're excited about the growth and ability to sustain smaller and more localized committees with the same fundraising platform that has powered U.S. Senate and presidential campaigns. 

Here are the Top 10 Campaigns & Committees for February 2010 (by donors)

Committee Name

PCCC – Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Type

Organization

Donors

8,744

Amount

$71,999.48

Michael Bennet CO-Sen, 2010 8,237 $72,533.75
Democracy for America 6,594 $38,796.98
Kirsten Gillibrand NY-Sen, 2010 6,273 $41,241.93
Alan Grayson FL-08, 2010 4,646 $45,791.43
Chellie Pingree ME-01, 2010 3,930 $29,199.58
Jared Polis CO-02, 2010 3,892 $27,740.12
Anthony Weiner NY-09, 2010 2,766 $74,102.82
FDL Action PAC PAC 1,126 $29,038.28
Jennifer Brunner OH-Sen, 2010 479 $20,024.05

Just missing the top 10 were a Florida attorney general candidate and a Virginia state house candidate. At the federal level, ActBlue funds went to a healthy mix of Netroots-oriented organizations & PACs, US Senate candidates, and US House candidates. 

In fact, the two highest ranked candidates Michael Bennett & Kirsten Gillibrand are connected to the top two organizations–they were all part of February's singular most successful fundraising page. That page, created by the PCCC & DFA, encouraged donations to the two Senators leading the effort to restore a public option to the developing healthcare bill.

The PCCC/DFA page made use of the strengths inherent in ActBlue: it demonstrated the financial muscle of those organizations–specifically, their ability to provide financial support to like-minded legislators–and directed positive attention toward those fundraising efforts.

You can see the full list of the top 10 fundraising pages (by donors) below.

Name Donors Raised Average
senateheroes-letter 8183 $157,426.74 $19.23
polispingreegrayson 3992 $109,397.86 $27.40
weinercdthc02242010 2358 $53,342.01 $22.62
pccc_main 1228 $25,544.36 $20.80
firedogs 976 $27,280.03 $27.95
jenniferbrunner 420 $17,815.39 $42.41
fdlfiredogs 206 $9,040.50 $43.88
heat4mdp 126 $6,346.00 $50.36
washingtondays2010 112 $16,596.00 $148.17
allaboutjoe 109 $2,184.00 $20.03

I always enjoy looking at the top fundraising pages list because it shines a light on some of the more unique pages. We've talked about the top page already, and there are others in the top 10 that use similar strategies of rewarding "good" behavior by fundraising on a candidate's behalf. But there is some great diversity at the bottom of this Top 10 list. Pages like "Washington Days," a fundraiser for the Kansas Democratic Party and (my favorite) the Fix our Furnace Fund page. The latter uses a fundraising thermometer, picture, and compelling story to raise money for the Maine Democratic Party to replace a broken furnace at their Augusta Headquarters! 

Be sure to take a look at the linked pages to get some ideas on how you can create your own successful fundraising pages for your candidates and committees.  

On Monday, Democrat Bill Halter, currently the Lt. Governor of Arkansas, entered the AR-Sen race, challenging the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Later that day, DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas and NBC's Chuck Todd had a brief exchange on Twitter about Bill Halter's fundraising numbers.

Chuck Todd:

Would be a big statement RT @markos: Netroots funding for Bill Halter (Netroots + MoveOn) now just shy of 500k

Markos:

Getting there. RT @chucktodd Progressives as fired up for Halter as Lamont RT @markos MoveOn+ActBlue just hit 500k for Bill Halter

Today, MoveOn reported raising nearly $600,000 for Bill Halter, while ActBlue displays a total of $170,000 and counting, raised by groups like the PCCC and DailyKos. In other words, the statement has been made. Now the hard part: what does it mean?

First, some context: Sen. Blanche Lincoln has a war chest of around $5M. Or, put slightly differently, Bill Halter raised 10% of an incumbent Senator's war chest in one day. If his supporters reach their goal of $1M [Edit--Halter reached $1M in 48 hrs] by the end of this week, that'll be 20% of her funds. Moreover, Halter's success produced a flurry of media coverage, further elevating his profile. Finally, the AFL-CIO committed to $3M in expenditures on Halter's behalf. As a result, Sen. Lincoln will have to spend some of her money to fend off what looks destined to be a well-funded primary challenge from a candidate with significant name recognition both in Arkansas and beyond.

Someone ought to send a memo to Chris Matthews, who lamented late last year that the Netroots weren't grown-up Democrats:

I don’t consider them Democrats, I consider them netroots, and they’re different. And if I see that they vote in every election or most elections, I’ll be worried. But I’m not sure that they’re regular grown-up Democrats… They get their giggles from sitting in the backseat and bitching.

Yet today we have an insurgent candidate propelled to the forefront of national politics in one day by the Netroots and MoveOn. That's a far cry from the sort of Monday-morning quarterbacking that so upset Chris Matthews in late 2009, and it's worth revisiting why that $770,000 boost happened.

Whether it's political campaigns or media outlets, the organizations that make a splash are the ones that have mastered the breakneck pace and inclusive nature of the internet. And yes, I have to count Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) among those success stories. As Americans, our admiration for the spectacle of political participation is innate, as evidenced by the breathless coverage accorded to the Tea Party movement. However, in our increasingly digital age, political participation shouldn't be solely the province of people waving signs. The communities that exist online are every bit as vital, contentious and arguably more diverse than the arbitrarily large crowds that descend on the National Mall. 

Halter's primary challenge represents the political emergence of these groups into an arena that, until recently, was the sole province of Chris Matthews' "grown-up Democrats." It's not a trend that can be reversed, either. The organizations involved know they have the reach and scope to affect national politics, and after Rob Miller, Alan Grayson and Bill Halter, candidates know it too.

That change owes a lot to the infrastructure that ActBlue built over the last five years. Without the means to translate the Democratic passion of these communities into language that politicians can understand: campaign funds. And you can't build it in the moment, either. You have to have robust structures in place ahead of time, so that when the surge comes you don't miss out on a single dollar. ActBlue handled both public option pushes, Rob Miller, and, heck, even Martha Coakley. Our work has enabled new voices to emerge, and emerge powerfully. It's the beginning of a structural shift in American politics, more powerful and enduring than any Supreme Court decision.

*Ah yes, the much-lamented horse race metaphor. I didn't see anyone else making one, so I figured I'd be the first. Considered but rejected: "Halter Loosed" and "Halter Given Free Rein."

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