Building a pool of recurring donors is critical to the long-term success of organizations and campaigns. These sustaining funds are a huge help — budgeting is much easier when you have an idea of how much money will be coming in. Plus, donors appreciate that recurring contributions give them both a sense of investment in and a long-term relationship with the campaigns and organizations they support.

Right now, there are over 150,000 recurring pledges across our platform. Some political organizations have been steadily building up their recurring program over multiple cycles, while others are just now asking their supporters to sign up for recurring contributions. Either way, now is a great time to evaluate your recurring program’s strength. We have introduced two visualizations to help you do so. The election is still far enough away that anything you do now to build a lasting recurring pool will have a big impact.

Our new feature, the graphs found on the “Recurring Retention” tab, provides an overview of the recurring contribution performance for a specific campaign or organization. Admins can navigate there by going to their dashboard and clicking on the “Recurring” header beneath “Metrics.” The new tab is to the right of the “Overview” tab.

The first chart groups recurring contributions together by month. Here’s what ActBlue’s chart looks like:

Rows represent every recurring contribution that began that month. The numbers from zero to thirteen above the columns? Those represent the number of months since the initial donation. The percentages represent the retention rate of those contributions.

You can look left to right to follow the monthly trends of a group of contributions. You can also look top to bottom to figure out what happens to contributions after a specific number of months. Or, you can spot trends. Below is the same ActBlue chart as above, but with red boxes to highlight the November-to-December jump:

Notice that inside the boxes are some major retention rate decreases. That is most likely because many donors only want to give until the election, even though they signed up for an ongoing recurring contribution. This is not out of the ordinary and fairly representative of the cyclical nature of politics.

We’ve also included a graph at the bottom of the “Recurring Retention” tab to help you figure out what is actually normal for your organization. Here’s how that chart looks when you hover over a specific line:

The grey and yellow lines represent the retention rate for a month’s worth of contributions. Another way to think about it is that each row from the chart on top of this page is represented as a single line in this graph. The red line is a trend line, which can help you gauge whether a month’s recurring pledges are over- or under-performing. Lines above the red line are being fulfilled at a higher rate than average. The opposite is true for lines below the trend line.

Here at ActBlue, we’re taking a look at our own recurring program and using these new visualizations to do so. This post is just the first in a series of insights, so stay tuned for our next one when we report back. In the meantime, this new feature can give you a sense of how your organization’s recurring program is doing on a monthly basis. You can start by customizing your recurring receipts1 and determining if that improves retention rates. Don’t forget that now is the time to keep growing your recurring pool! We’re just seven end of quarters away from November 2016.

Footnotes:

1: Just go to your entity’s dashboard, click on “Settings” under the “Tools” header, and then scroll down and click on “Blurbs, Disclaimers and Tracking Codes.” Under the “Email Message Blurbs” header, you’ll find the box called “Recurring email blurb”, which is what you want to edit.

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%

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

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.

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!

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.

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%
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers