Recurring pledges are like gold. There’s a reason why they’re often called sustaining contributions. Building a base of recurring donors can have a huge impact on the sustainability of any organization, including campaigns.

And now we’re making it easier for you to raise more long-term recurring contributions. Introducing: infinite recurring!

You’ve got a choice: ask people for a recurring contribution for a defined number or months (old standard), or ask them for one with no expiration date (new!). You can also choose not to have a recurring option, but we don’t recommend it (I’ll explain later.)

Here’s how you do it: Go to the edit page of any contribution form. Scroll down till you see this:

recurring toggle

Click on it to expand. It’ll look like this:

recurring options expanded

Select your radio button and then scroll down and hit submit. Yep, that’s it.

ActBlue got it’s start helping candidates raise money for their campaigns, which are built in two year cycles, so we allowed folks to set up recurring contributions for up to 48 months. The assumption was that donors would feel more comfortable signing up for a recurring contribution that would be sure to end at some point. These days, more and more organizations, who are around cycle after cycle, are using ActBlue. Plus, the way people use credit cards has changed and we have a whole system to let you extend/edit/add a new card to your recurring contribution, complete with prompts from us. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to have time-limited recurring contributions anymore.

So we tested it. Would forms with an infinite recurring ask perform the same (or better) as forms with a set number of months? AND would you raise more money if you didn’t have a recurring ask on the form, but asked people with a pop-up recurring box after their contribution was submitted?

We’ve got some answers. Several committees have run tests, confirming that conversion rates on time-limited forms and infinite recurring forms are similar. So if you’re around longer than election day, go ahead and turn on infinite recurring.

Generally speaking, making a form shorter and giving people fewer options leads to higher conversion rates. So theoretically, taking the recurring option off of a form should lead to more donations. We have a pop-up recurring box that campaigns can turn on to try and persuade a one-time donor to make their donation recurring, and there seemed to be a reasonable chance that having no recurring ask on the form would raise more money.

Nope! Turns out that we got a statistical tie on conversion rates between having the recurring option on the form or off. Just having pop-up recurring turned on did not generate as many recurring contributions as having it both on the form and as a post-donation action.

There were slightly more contributions processed on forms without a recurring option, but not enough to generate a statistically significant result. And then add to that the lost revenue from having fewer recurring donations, you end up with a pretty clear take-way: leave the recurring option on the form. Sure, you can turn off the recurring option, but you’ll likely lose money. And nobody wants that.

That’s why recurring contributions have been on every ActBlue contribution form since the beginning. These days we run anywhere from 8-14% recurring, and over $11 million is pledged to thousands of campaigns and organizations.

There is one big question we haven’t answered yet: will you raise more money overall from an infinite recurring contribution than say one with a 48 month expiration date? We’re currently working on a long-term experiment to test exactly that.

The answer might seem self-apparent, but the truth is nobody really knows. Credit cards expire and people cancel their pledges. You never know for sure how much money you’ll raise from a recurring contribution, but if you pay attention to your long-term data, you’ll be able to figure out your pledge completion rate.

If you’re interesting in figuring out a recurring donor strategy, we’re more than happy to give you some (free) advice. Just drop us a line at info@actblue.com.

We on the left have done a great job cultivating a “test, test, test” ethos, and while testing can result in big gains, it takes time and resources that digital organizers often don’t have. And for those working with a smaller list (say, fewer than 100k members or so), the challenges are even greater.

Don’t be discouraged, though; anyone can run an effective testing program, you just need to be aware of your organization’s specific circumstances. For instance, if you have a small list, it’s important to know that there are actually a lot of things that you shouldn’t test (more on this to come in future posts).

To help you get on track toward developing a strong testing program, we’re going to publish a series of blog posts, each focused on a particular aspect of digital testing for small organizations. We’ll be talking about anything from tools and techniques to case studies and getting buy-in from your supervisor.

If there are any specific issues you’d like to see addressed in this series of testing blog posts, please reach out! An email to info@actblue.com with a subject line “ActBlue Blog: Testing” will be directed my way.

Our mission has been to make your lives easier this campaign season, so you can spend more time connecting with supporters. We rolled out a new refund feature that will do just that. Now you can issue your own refunds for your campaign or organization, as long as we haven’t sent you a check with that money yet.

As always, we’re ready and willing to handle your donors’ questions and refunds in a timely manner, but this feature gives you the option to issue the refund yourself if it suits your needs.

Now, if someone contacts you directly for a refund, you can feel free to take care of that while you’re on the phone with them. If you know a particular donor is over their contribution limit, or ran a donor card incorrectly, you can handle that refund right away in-house.

Making a refund

One of our other favorite new features, the search function, makes the whole refund tool possible. Navigate to the search tab of your Dashboard, fill in the donor information that you have available, and click search. Once you’ve found the right contribution, you can click on the associated date to open up all the contribution information.

If the contribution is eligible for a refund, you’ll find a drop-down menu at the bottom of the screen where you can choose the reason for your refund and process the refund.

If the contribution has already been disbursed in a check, you’ll see a message prompting you to contact ActBlue Customer Service to obtain a refund.

You have a contribution you can’t refund yourself? Have a question for us? Would like us to handle a refund? Let us know!

Just drop us a line at info [at] actblue [dot] com and we’d be happy to help.

The biggest day in ActBlue history…by over half a million dollars!

The last day of June started off a bit slow compared to other monster end of quarter days. The question—is $3 million possible?—loomed in the office.

But then in a 3 hour period, from 1 to 4 PM EDT, we handled almost a quarter (23.5%) of the day’s total volume of $3.7 million(!!). Campaigns were waiting on the two major Supreme Court decisions to be announced before sending emails. The day’s narrative switched from a typical, EoQ rush to the deadline to a more politicized one.

That $3.7 million came from over 85K contributions. On a single, gigantic last day of Q2 2014, we broke our own records for total dollar amount and number of contributions!

And those aren’t the only record shattering numbers from yesterday:

  • Of our all-time 15 busiest hours, 10 were on 6/30/14
  • Most contributions in an hour (7,046) from 10 to 11 PM
  • Most contributions in a minute (153) at 10:30 PM

We’re constantly upgrading our powerful tools to handle a ton of traffic, which makes days like these possible. At one point, we handled 655 contributions in 5 minutes! Our technical team works incredibly hard so we can offer Democrats the most reliable and secure software available. We’re ready for the surge of donations this fall.

You’ll notice in the graph above that there’s a massive spike in contributions at 4AM for each day. As you’d expect, it’s not because lots of people check their emails at that time. We get recurring contributions processed during the morning’s quiet hours, so campaigns wake up to bigger balances, ready to start the day. Overall, the number of recurring contributions has steadily increased as organizations are realizing the value of a steady stream of money.

June’s final tally? $20,513,475, our third biggest month ever. 541,427 contributions were made to 2,153 candidates, committees, and organizations, with an average donation of $37.89. Impressively, mobile donations accounted for more than a quarter (25.2%) of contributions this month.

June ’11 June ’12 June ’13 June ’14
Contributions 57,664 268,794 186,139 541,431
Volume ($) $3,850,081 $11,624,120 $9,052,454 $20,513,558
Mean Donation $66.77 $43.25 $48.63 $37.89
Committees 862 1,866 1,219 2,153

Compared to June 2012, the total number of contributions more than doubled, while the volume increased by more than 40%. The difference there is the decrease in the average donation size ($43.25 in 2012 to $37.89 in 2014). Chalk that up to growth in small dollar donations, which means campaigns and organizations are expanding their base. Nothing like an increase in grassroots support for Democrats!

Just a quick glance at a graph of this month’s contributions day by day shows how productive the final days of a quarter can be. Five out of the last seven days of June were over $1 million. Even the significant fundraising bump from Cantor’s defeat on June 10 could not compare to the high-stakes pressure of an EoQ week.


This was an important quarter for candidates and organizations gearing up for November, and the ActBlue donor community came out in full force: they gave over 1.1M contributions, totaling $46M, to 2,810 different candidates, committees, and organizations. Despite the busiest months of the election cycle lying ahead of us, we’ve already raised more money than any previous cycle! There’s still 4 months and 2 days left until the November elections, and all signs are pointing to a massive final push.

Part of what’s driving the push is that more and more campaigns and organizations are using ActBlue’s Express Lane program, our one-click donation system. They’re already seeing results: Express users were responsible for 59.9% of June’s contributions.

We’ve now got over 933K Express users. And thanks to the madness of EoQ, there were 45K new sign ups over this past week alone.

Looking at our numbers from June and 2014’s second quarter, it’s clear that this election year is going to get even busier. What dog days of summer? This cycle doesn’t look like it’ll slow down.

We just introduced a new feature that will save you time when you want to update the look and feel of your contribution forms.

A consistent brand identity is critical for committees of all sizes. But what happens when you update your ‘look’ midway through a campaign? We know time is at a premium, so we decided to save you a big step and make it easy to swap a sharp, new branding for an old one.

After you create your new branding and check the box beneath the display name to make it the default, just delete the old default branding. All of your contribution forms with the outdated default branding will automatically update to your new, flashy identity.

This way you won’t have to assign an intern the tedious task of updating previous contribution forms one by one.

Don’t worry about accidentally deleting a default branding identity. You’ll get this handy warning message if you try to delete one:

This feature won’t affect contribution forms that were not created with the default branding. For instance, if you have a “Women for [Insert Candidate’s Name]” contribution form that used a unique logo and branding, it won’t change when you subsitute a new default branding for the old one.

Yep, we’re 10 years old. That’s ancient in Internet years.

We’re pretty busy during this last week before the critical end-of-quarter deadline, but we found some time to celebrate this milestone with a special message to the ActBlue community.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make ActBlue what it is today, from our amazing donors to the thousands of campaigns and organizations that have used our software to build a better democracy.

Last month we focused on how the culture of fundraising deadlines, even in non-EOQ months, has led to crazy-busy closes to each month. May was no exception. 29% of the $13.9 million fundraising total was raised during just the last 4 days of the month.

We’ve gotten used to doubling our 2012 fundraising numbers each month, and we were surprised when we only came in about $4 million ahead of our May ‘12 total of $10 million. And yes, we know it sounds crazy to be saying “only $4 million.” Even weirder: we only raised a million more in June ‘12 than in May ‘12.

We jumped in the way-back machine to investigate and realized that two years ago our May fundraising numbers were driven up because of the Wisconsin recall elections. This year, we had a solid but not stand-out month, which is what we’d expect when the country isn’t focused on one very unusual recall election. Campaigns are planning huge fundraising pushes for June, and May is just the (relative) calm before the end of quarter storm.

You can dig into the rest of the numbers here:

May ’11 May ’12 May ’13 May ’14
Contributions 45,783 234.065 173,541 353,386
Volume ($) $2,679,279 $10,041,334 $6,343,977 $13,891,935
Mean Donation $58.52 $42.90 $36.56 $39.31
Committees 728 1,854 1,068 2,099

It’s been a month of shuffling, with new campaigns joining and others dropping off due to primaries. We had 215 new campaigns and organizations sign up in May, and a total of 2,099 groups actively fundraising, compared with 2,001 last month.

Mobile donations continued to be hugely important and accounted for a full 23% of donations sitewide this month, and 25% of all Express contributions.

Our Express user base grew to 871k. The growth was partially driven by more and more campaigns switching over to ActBlue and using Express Lane. They’re getting to see just how big of a boost one-click payments provide. 14% of all contributions in May were made with Express Lane. Check out the growth here:

That’s a whole lot of clicks, and we only expect the numbers to rise as we move into June, which is sure to be a monster month for fundraising.

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