Last Tuesday was rough. Really rough. As we analyze this election and start to hone in on the things that went really well, one of the brightest spots is the continued rise of the small-dollar donor.

We didn’t just have a big cycle here at ActBlue we had a HUGE one. I’m talking nearly double 2012. Here are the top line numbers:

  2008 Cycle 2010 Cycle 2012 Cycle 2014 Cycle
Contributions 474,625 810,797 3,848,447 8,501,067
Volume ($) $62,187,361 $85,814,697 $173,166,827 $315,187,405
Mean Donation $142.86 $114.83 $50.19 $44.54
Committees 2,681 3,564 4,457 4,987

 

The increase in donations (98.3% growth compared to the 2012 cycle!!) is way higher than the growth in the number of number of campaigns and organizations using ActBlue (11.8% increase). Everyone’s raising a lot more grassroots money than ever before. It’s awesome.

Keep in mind, the overall amount of money spent on Congressional elections is actually fairly stable compared to 2012. That means the overall share of money coming from grassroots donors on the left is increasing.

The average contribution continues to drop, but not nearly as dramatically as it has in the past.

Express

The Express user universe is simply massive at 1.2 million people with saved credit cards. It’s been growing at a steady rate all cycle, but has picked up steam since June 2014, averaging more than 67,653 sign-ups a month during the run-up to the election.

Express users accounted for 53% of contributions this cycle, but in October they accounted for 59% of contributions. This is one trend we don’t see stopping any time soon.

Express profiles lead to increased conversion rates and donors absolutely love the convenience of not having to re-enter their information.

Mobile

One of the biggest stories this election was the rise of the mobile giver. Just check out this chart:

You’ll notice a dramatic spike when we rolled out our mobile responsive form in September 2013. We worked incredibly hard to decrease load time, even if we were shaving off mere fractions of a second, to boost mobile conversion rates. Read more here.

These numbers will continue to climb, since more and more people are reading their email on their mobile devices. Smartphone adoption rates may have slowed, but usage is increasing rapidly.

Going forward, it will be even more important to optimize your forms for mobile devices, which means sticking to best practices like keeping the amount of text on your forms down and making sure headers aren’t too lengthy.

Nobody wants to have to type in a sixteen digit credit card number, let alone address/employment information, on a mobile device (no matter how big the phone’s screen is). That’s why Express is so important.

Recurring

All of these stats make us proud, but what’s the thing we’re most excited about? The growth in recurring. Look at these numbers!

Recurring volume was up 241% over 2012. Even more eye-popping is the 461% increase in weekly recurring. That’s way more than the overall increase in volume that we’ve seen this cycle.

We’ve been banging the drum for years about the potential of recurring donations, and this cycle is where we’re really seeing those recurring programs take off. Despite the bad news for Democrats this past week, there are dozens of organizations keeping up the fight and hundreds of candidates who did win. These groups will be around for years to come, and building a sustaining donor program is critical to their long-term success.

And we’re just scratching the surface of potential growth. We saw recurring contributions spike to 13.7% of all money raised in August, which was amazing to see, but typically it’s much lower and it shouldn’t be. Sophisticated email programs should be targeting likely recurring donors and sending them only recurring asks.

Off-years are the perfect time to be asking you list for sustaining money and building that pool of recurring donors. Internally, our team will be basing our 2015 goals on the number of people we sign up for recurring donations, and secondarily on the overall money we want to bring in. We’re optimizing for long-term sustainable growth.

Breaking all the records

Record-breaking is really the only way to refer to this cycle for ActBlue.

The combination of adding more campaigns and organizations, optimizing our features, and promoting grassroots fundraising led to a monster cycle. Here are our top 10 months in terms of total dollar volume. Seven were in 2014:

Date Total Dollar Amount
October 2014 $56,031,512
September 2014 $38,025,565
October 2012 $35,056,897
August 2014 $22,805,106
October 2012 $21,880,341
June 2014 $20,449,848
July 2014 $19,719,378
March 2014 $18,05,8418
October 2010 $16,775,008
May 2014 $13,858,256

And we had nine of our top ten biggest day in terms of dollar volume this year:

Date Total Dollar Amount
9/30/14 $5,624,944
6/30/14 $3,600,311
10/15/14 $3,310,945
9/29/14 $3,235,268
9/30/12 $3,037,231
3/31/14 $2,930,408
10/28/14 $2,902,375
10/31/14 $2,801,009
10/20/14 $2,786,699
10/27/14 $2,596,036

The biggest hour in terms of money was, shockingly (not), right near the end of the third quarter: 9/30/14 at 10 pm, when we processed a whopping $446,812.30. And the biggest hour in terms of the number of contributions processed was also during that end of quarter, when we processed 15,885 recurring contributions in a batch at 5 am. Yeah, that’s a lot.

And really, it speaks volumes about our reliability. We had no significant outages or problems this cycle, and that’s our norm. Our uptime is 99.99%. This past year we had a total of 54 minutes of downtime from 33 instances. And the vast majority of those were planned outages for maintenance.

We spent a ton of engineering time building our infrastructure to be able to handle 15k contributions in an hour, and it paid off. And our team is already at work preparing for 2016 and 50k contributions an hour, because it’s going to be so big that we might run out of superlatives.

We’re excited to see what 2016 brings for Democrats, but until then, we’re going to keep working every day to build tools that uplift small-dollar donors and the campaigns that are powered by them.


Note: We’ve made a change to how we tabulate the number of contributions made via ActBlue. Historically, we’ve only counted the first contribution made in a recurring subscription, mostly just because of how our database records this information. Now we will be counting each subsequent recurring contribution towards the total number of contributions. That’s how your dashboards calculate it already and this will keep things consistent.

With just one day until the election, we squeezed in some time to reflect on our monster October. There was no real “October surprise,” just a whole lot of grassroots fundraising, and a whole lot of work from campaigns and organizations across the country.

ActBlue handled a total of $56 million from 1.2 million contributions. Donations averaged $45.59 and went to 2,514 different campaigns, committees, and organizations. It was our biggest month by far, both in terms of dollars and donations. The runner up? Last month (September 2014), when we raised $38 million from 890,915 donations.

If you’re curious, the biggest hour of the month was on 10/31 at 3 PM EST ($222,965) and the biggest day was 10/15, the pre-general reporting deadline ($3.3 million). That’s a deviation from our typical month; fundraising totals usually build steadily, and the last day of the month is almost always the biggest. With Election Day looming, October was crazy from beginning to end. And that meant a massive, steady stream of contributions to handle, customer service emails to return, and campaigns to assist.

Check out how October ‘14 stacks up to past years:

  Oct ’11 Oct ’12 Oct ’13 Oct ’14
Contributions 61,438 825,893 289,808 1,229,502
Volume ($) $3,857,573.91 $35,055,118.28 $10,055,290.31 $56,051,590.11
Mean Donation $62.79 $42.45 $34.70 $45.59
Committees 1,140 2,183 1,576 2,514

 

Express users accounted for a huge chunk of that money — $33 million to be exact or 59%. With tens of thousands of new donors tuning into politics in October, our Express user community also grew significantly. We added 73,679 Express users last month, bringing the total up to 1,206,416!

Mobile donations continue to be a huge factor. 24.9% of contributions sitewide were made via a mobile device.

One of our most popular election season features is weekly recurring — and for good reason. It accounted for 10.7% of total volume in October and 315,281 contributions. More importantly, that money, combined with built-up monthly recurring (7.8% of total volume), provided a steady source of income for campaigns, so they could plan ad buys and GOTV efforts effectively.

Check out how this month stacked up against September, when we debuted weekly recurring and saw fundraising rising to a crescendo, rather than steadily marching towards Election Day.

(Click above to expand)

The narrative of the 2014 election has been that voters aren’t paying attention. But these numbers prove one thing: small-dollar donors are engaged and getting involved at a higher rate than ever before. And amongst all the Koch brother headlines, that’s an encouraging sign.

With just 13 days to go until the election, ActBlue is doubling down, and your supporters can too.

Double Down (formerly known as Insta-match for those of you with us in 2012) allows you to create a pop-up asking donors to double their donation after their initial contribution is processed.

This is your chance to convey a sense of urgency to your donors and make the conversion, so make sure you use short, compelling content (pictures allowed, too!).

To turn on Double Down, go to the “edit” tab of a form that you have created and scroll down and click “Show ‘Double Your Donation’ Options.”

Check the box to enable the feature and write a powerful sentence or two on why donors should double their contribution to your campaign or organization.

For compliance purposes, doubled donations will show up as two separate line items with the same ID.

We’re always working to make sure ActBlue’s tools suit your needs through the election cycle, and we hope Double Down will help power your campaign to victory. Weekly recurring has always been a super successful feature, but at this point in the year, you need a new way for donors to show their support. Double Down, just like weekly recurring, will end after Election Day.

If you have ideas for other great October-specific tools or questions about setting up or using Double Down, drop us a line at info [at] actblue [dot] com. Happy fundraising!

Introducing the greatest ActBlue feature ever: the ping.

pingping

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. Just go to your dashboard and append ?pinger=ping to the end of url. Like this: https://secure.actblue.com/dashboard/entity/entityid#?pinger=ping. Just log in and fill in your organization’s entity ID number and listen to the money come in.

And we’ve created a few options for the sound:

?pinger=beep
?pinger=chaching
?pinger=ping
?pinger=melody
?pinger=gong
?pinger=drip
?pinger=boing
?pinger=harp

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.

The third quarter of 2014 — our biggest ever — went out with a bang!

On the last day of September 2014, we handled over 130k contributions and helped raise $5.8M. It was a record-shattering final fundraising deadline before Election Day.

September 30 was the biggest day in ActBlue history (our first $5 million day!) and bested June 30, 2014, the now-number-2 biggest day, by 52k contributions and $2.1M. In a word, it was massive! Just for some context, it took us a full 2 years to reach 100k contributions. On September 30, we passed that 100k mark by 8PM.

We also established a few other impressive records:

  • most contributions in an hour (16,249 on 9/30 between 5 and 6 AM EST), a month (893,682 in September 2014), and a quarter (1,992,863 in Q3 2014).
  • highest dollar amount in an hour ($460,432 on 9/30 between 10 and 11 PM EST), a month ($39,245,312 in September 2014), and a quarter ($80,805,304.60 in Q3 2014).

Those records wouldn’t have happened without a seriously strong push from Democratic campaigns and organizations!

They’ve been hard at work throughout the election cycle engaging small-dollar donors to sign up for recurring contributions. These sustaining contributions give donors a chance to make a regular investment in the causes they care about. Though they averaged just $24.65 in size, they totaled $5,459,265 in September 2014. And it’s clear that these small-but-mighty contributions are adding up and making a huge difference.

It was a busy fundraising period for a significant number of campaigns and organizations. We sent checks or wires to 2,499 distinct entities, an increase of 18% over 2012’s total. At the same time, we had a nearly 100% increase in donations and dollars. That means these groups are raising a lot more grassroots money.

For the entire month of September, we averaged over $1.3M and 30k contributions each day. And the pace was simply blistering during the last week. We processed 44% of the month’s total dollar amount in the final seven days and 24% of the month’s total in the final two days.

We handled almost double the dollar amount and number of contributions as we did in September 2012, a presidential election year. At the same time, the mean contribution size decreased by 10%. It’s proof that with ActBlue’s help, Democratic campaigns and organizations are expanding the world of small-dollar donors.

You can dig into the rest of the month’s numbers here:

September ’11 September ’12 September ’13 September ’14
Contributions 70,156 463,044 319,890 893,631
Volume ($) $4,492,068 $21,881,384 $11,222,121 $38,211,396
Mean Donation $64.03 $47.26 $35.08 $42.76
Committees 1,068 2,113 1,439 2,499

Our Express universe continues to grow: 65,427 Express users signed up last month. The total number of people who have saved their payment information with us now sits at over 1.1M users. This community is shared across our platform, so if you’re an admin, make sure you’re contacting us to take advantage!

Express users are engaged, reliable donors. In September 2014, Express users were responsible for 64% of this month’s newly-made contributions, which added up to more than $20.7M. That’s more than half of the month’s total volume! And it demonstrates how campaigns and organizations are using the Express toolset to fundraise from small-dollar donors. We believe that more people engaged in the political process and having their voices heard strengthens our party and small-d democracy.

Express users continue to set the bar for mobile numbers…for a simple reason: they’ve saved their payment information with us, which increases mobile conversions. Express-users don’t have to go through the trouble of entering their info. Instead, they can just click a link. The proof is in the pudding. Last month they outpaced non-Express donors on a mobile device 27.2% to 21.7%.

There are fewer than five weeks until Election Day, and we don’t expect this pace to slow down. The stakes are too high to step off the gas pedal now. Campaigns across the country are relying on small-dollar donations to fuel them to victory. That’s why they’re using ActBlue. But rest assured we’ll be busy preparing for an intense rest of the campaign season.

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).

FOOTNOTES:

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.

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.

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