Feb ’15 Recap

Topline Numbers

Feb. ’12 Feb. ’13 Feb. ’14 Feb. ’15
Contributions 94,254 163,025 262,168 232,905
Total Volume $5,076,973 $5,661,921 $10,219,967 $7,334,456
Mean Donation $53.86 $34.73 $38.98 $31.49
Committees 1,340 801 1,684 1,150

Recurring

Feb. ’12 Feb. ’13 Feb. ’14 Feb. ’15
Total Recurring Volume $341,976 $327,927 $791,014 $2,388,012
Percent Recurring
of Total Volume
6.7% 5.8% 7.7% 32.6%

Express

We’re up to 1,250,848 Express Users — people who have saved their payment information with ActBlue.

Feb. ’12 Feb. ’13 Feb. ’14 Feb. ’15
New Express Users 9,429 23,465 21,631 12,942
Percent of Total
Volume Attributed
to Express Users
17.9% 44.9% 44.5% 57.1%
Percent of
Contributions
Attributed to
Express Users
21.5% 53.8% 53.1% 58.9%

Mobile

Feb. ’12 Feb. ’13 Feb. ’14 Feb. ’15
Percent Mobile 3.2% 7.8% 19.3% 23.8%
Percent Mobile for
Express Users
5.2% 10.4% 22.9% 25.9%

Losing is awesome

Here at ActBlue, we’re always optimizing our contribution form by testing different variations against each other to see which performs best. And, whenever possible, we like to share our results. Needless to say, it’s great to discuss tests that end up winning; every percentage point increase in conversion rate we bring to our contribution form benefits every committee — of which there are currently over 11,000 active — that fundraises on ActBlue.

A very important part of this process, however, is also tests that fail to bring about a positive change to our contribution form. Failure to openly discuss and reflect upon losing tests belies the experimental nature of optimization. Thus, I’m here to talk about an A/B test that we just ran on our contribution form that lost. (Bonus: it lost twice!)

We tried coalescing our “First name” and “Last name” fields into one “Full name” input. The theory was that one fewer input would reduce friction along the contribution path, thereby increasing conversions. Here’s what it looked like:

Control
Variation

The control version, it turns out, was actually associated with a higher conversion rate than the “Full name” variation, though not statistically significantly.1 We even tested another slight variation of the “Full name” field with slightly different placeholder text and a more expressive label, but it lost again.

If you’re wondering why it lost, then that makes two of us; in a case like this, it’s tough to say what actually happened. Was it aesthetics? Anti-novelty effect? If we speculate like this ad infinitum, we’ll end up with more questions than answers — the world is full of uncertainty, after all. Far from discouraging this type of reflection, I’m saying that we indeed should! This is the origin story of many new testing ideas.

Footnotes:

1: Pr(>|t|) > .05 , n = 63159

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.

Tandem Contribution Forms Just Got WAY Better

Our team is always thinking through ways to make our contribution forms easier to fill out and more streamlined. When donors have too many options and abandon a form, that’s known as choice paralysis. Eliminating that choice paralysis is a big part of building better contribution forms.

Tandem contribution forms list multiple candidates, which require more decisions to be made by donors. But the vast majority of people choose to just split their contribution evenly between all the candidates on the form. That used to look like this:

Too many options and too many boxes for our liking. Do you want to give more to candidate A than organization B? How much do you want to give in total?

We boiled the form down to that last question — how much do you want to give? This made it a lot easier for donors to give (spoiler alert: this A/B test was a huge success).

Now, when you land on a tandem form, you’ll see the normal amount buttons with a note underneath saying who the donation will be split among. You can still click a button to allocate different amounts to each candidate, but donors are less overwhelmed when they land on the page.

Here’s the new form:

So how successful was our A/B test? We saw a 7.16% overall improvement in conversion. That’s unheard-of-huge. We’ve done so many optimizations of our forms that we cheer for a test that leads to a 0.5% increase in conversions.

Part of that overall group consisted of non-Express users (people who haven’t saved their payment information with us) who land on our traditional multi-step form. Among that group we saw a 26% improvement in getting people to move from the first step of the process (choosing an amount to give) to the second step (entering their information).

There are so many candidates and organizations running really thoughtful tandem fundraising campaigns, and this is going to mean a huge bump for them. If you have questions, or want to tell us about a tandem campaign you’ve run, let us know at info AT actblue DOT com. We want to hear from you!

Introducing the Image Awesomifier

Our tech team just rolled out a useful, behind-the-scenes tool to make sure your Contribution Forms load as fast as possible.

We allow campaigns and organizations to use custom HTML and CSS on their branded forms, and we often see campaigns hosting their own images. While we love your customizations, hosting your image on a different site can make the form load slower. It can also make the page appear insecure to browsers, depending on where you choose to host it. And that can lead to security warnings (even though your pages have always been safe), which no one wants to see.

With the new Image Awesomifier (working title), we automatically grab your image and host a version of it on ActBlue’s super fast and secure servers.

This might not make a huge difference in February of an off year, but come 2016, this feature is going to shave precious milliseconds off your Contribution Form load times. And that means more conversions for you and your team. Plus, if your candidate or organization has a big moment (think Wisconsin Dems and Wendy Davis) and your fundraising goes viral, you won’t have to worry about your website crashing because too many people try to load an image hosted there. We’re saving you from yourself.

The best part? You don’t have to do anything different. Just keep adding your images the way you always have.

Jan. ‘15: New year, new monthly recap format

Rather than doing a monthly analysis of the data, we’re going to switch to quarterly deep dives into our metrics. Every month we’ll still post our usual statistics along with data from previous months/years so you can get a sense of trendlines.

We’ll be publishing figures in four categories — topline numbers, recurring, express, and mobile — for the month at hand (in this case, January 2015) and the previous three years of data for that same month.

Topline Numbers

Jan. ’12 Jan. ’13 Jan. ’14 Jan. ’15
Contributions 87,372 99,487 223,399 231,815
Total Volume $4,001,393 $3,341,965 $7,750,486 $6,229,575
Mean Donation $45.79 $33.59 $34.69 $26.87
Committees 1,206 764 1,603 1,158

Recurring

Jan. ’12 Jan. ’13 Jan. ’14 Jan. ’15
Total Recurring Volume $317,762 $270,438 $706,595 $2,572,302
Percent Recurring
of Total Volume
7.9% 8.1% 9.1% 41.3%

Express

For those keeping track at home, we’re up to 1,237,906 Express Users — people who have saved their payment information with ActBlue.

Jan. ’12 Jan. ’13 Jan. ’14 Jan. ’15
New Express Users 7,937 14,274 18,726 10,678
Percent of Total
Volume Attributed
to Express Users
19.2% 47.7% 47.2% 57.8%
Percent of
Contributions
Attributed to
Express Users
21.6% 55.1% 53.9% 60.3%

Mobile

Jan. ’12 Jan. ’13 Jan. ’14 Jan. ’15
Percent Mobile 2.8% 9.2% 19.7% 25.3%
Percent Mobile for
Express Users
4.5% 12.2% 22.8% 27.2%

When a refcode search box isn’t enough…there’s a chart!

Earlier this month we wrote about the refcode search box on the Contribution Form’s statistics page. It’s a neat feature that makes it easy to display metrics for refcodes that match your search terms. And now we’ve added a chart to illustrate that same page’s data. Just click on the words “Toggle refcode chart” to display it — if your form has thousands of contributions, it might take a few seconds for the graph to load. Here’s an example from an old ActBlue Contribution Form:

Like we mentioned in the earlier post, there are two ways to get to that page (and both require you to be logged in): if you’re already on your Contribution Form, go to the Contributors tab, and click on “View Form Statistics” or just insert your Contribution Form name into the url below:

secure.actblue.com/pages/CONTRIBUTION_FORM_NAME/statistics

When toggled, the chart displays the top-performing (maximum of 20) refcodes. And when you type in the search box, the chart will update based on your search input.

For instance, if you used one Contribution Form for the last five months of the election, it might look something like this:

Displayed are the 20 best-performing refcodes during that five-month timespan. Let’s say you want to display only November sends and you had a refcode system in place such that an email send in November 2014 would start like this “201411.” Here’s what that chart would look like after you entered those digits into the search box:

And our developers threw in a bonus capability: the chart also keeps track up to the seconds!

This is great for when you’re monitoring performances of refcodes just minutes after an email send. Here’s a chart displaying a single refcode within the first 15 minutes after a send.

Notice the tiny bumps — those are contributions measured on a second-by-second basis.

Our habit at ActBlue is to refresh this page again and again after sending emails, and this chart is another useful visual aid to keep track of refcode performance.

Spotlight on refcodes

For all those refcode-happy committees, this feature’s for you! Now you search for a specific refcode on the Contribution Form statistics page.

There are two ways to get to that page (and both require you to be logged in): if you’re already on your Contribution Form, go to the Contributors tab, and click on “View Form Statistics” or just insert your Contribution Form name into the url below:

secure.actblue.com/pages/CONTRIBUTION_FORM_NAME/statistics

To try out the new feature, just type in all or part of the refcode you want to see, and you’ll find only those refcodes that match your search:

It doesn’t get simpler than that!

Our developers also threw in a couple of bonus features. The first one allows you to add your search terms to a URL parameter on the Contribution Form Statistics page: ?refcode=search

This way, when you load the page you’ll only see the search results that you defined in the URL param. Here’s an example of using this feature to find specific refcodes on an old ActBlue Contribution Form. Back then, we were using the same Contribution Form for each email send and used refcodes to track the sends, including using year and month digits to keep track of when we sent them. If we wanted to see refcodes for October 2008, the URL param would be ?refcode=200810

The other features will help you find a “starts with…” or “ends with…” match. To only find the refcodes that begin with a certain character string, use the ^ symbol.

For example, if you write “^footer” then results that start with “footer” will be the only ones that pop up.

Adding a $ after the character string will only return refcode results that end with your chosen phrase.

For instance, at ActBlue if we re-send an email, we’ll add a “_r” to the end of our original email’s refcode. Typing “_r$” into the search box helps us quickly find those results without having to scroll through the entire page.

At ActBlue, we generally use upward of 20 unique refcode (and one Contribution Form) for each email we send. And we assign a different refcode to each fundraising link, which makes it easy to analyze test results. If you’re just getting started using refcodes, check out our tutorial for more information.

This new refcode search feature will let you hone in on the refcodes you care about. Let us know how you’re using this new feature by emailing us at info[at]actblue dot com!

Nov ’14: Solidly odd

November’s always a weird month around here. We have a handful of our biggest days of the year leading up to Election Day, and then there is a sharp drop off. We affectionately refer to this transition as Sad Graph™:

This pattern is to be expected: campaigns’ fundraising pushes end on Election Day. We raised $13 million for 1,634 candidates and organizations from 490,327 contributions (51.89% of that money came in during the first four days). That’s a big drop off from the previous months, but in line with past Novembers. The average donation size was just $27.22, and more than a quarter of contributions (27.8%) were made via a mobile device.

You can check out how those numbers stack up against past years below. Keep in mind that November top line figures can vary a little more year-to-year than other months, depending on when Election Day falls, and whether there are a lot of recounts and runoffs.

  Nov ’11 Nov ’12 Nov ’13 Nov ’14
Contributions 67,796 314,389 194,238 490,327
Volume ($) $4,057,080 $10,822,821 $7,397,575 $13,348,723
Mean Donation $59.84 $34.59 $38.09 $27.22
Committees 1,116 1,449 1,484 1,634

 

Despite the decline in contributions and the close of the election cycle, we continued to bring in a ton of new Express users. 17,171 people signed up for Express accounts, bringing our total up to 1,223,587. Those are our power users, and they accounted for 66% of all contributions in November.

Growing that Express user base and keeping them engaged is going to be a main focus for us going forward, because we know these users are going to play a crucial role in the 2016 elections.

Another main focus for the next election cycle will be recurring contributions. We’ve been championing recurring programs in this space for a while, and it’s paying off. Recurring contributions accounted for a full 39% of all dollars in November and caused that spike at the end of the month. That recurring money is a huge boon to campaigns and organizations, who were slammed during November. And it’ll keep paying off during the winter, when fundraising is tougher for most organizations.

Slower months don’t translate to a quieter time over at ActBlue. Now that the election has come and gone, we’re looking ahead to 2016 and planning out the tools and upgrades we’ll need to be ready. And we’ll be at Rootscamp in a few weeks if you want to talk about the future with us!

Congrats to the new DCCC and DSCC chairs

We’re excited to see long-time ActBlue user Rep. Ben Ray Lujan be named chair of the DCCC.

Reminded us of this video from 2008 when candidate Lujan taked about the importance of the entire Democratic ticket in New Mexico using ActBlue and the “phenomenal grassroots effort” we could all build together.

Six years later and that Democratic network in New Mexico is really paying off. Congrats! Looking forward to doing even more together in 2016 to take back the House!

Also, a huge congratulations to fellow ActBlue user, Sen. Jon Tester on his selection as DSCC chair. We can’t wait to work with both of you in your new roles.