At ActBlue, we’re all about streamlining your workflow and providing you with the most data, ensuring your campaign or org is efficient and making knowledgable decisions. Our customer service team gladly handles a lot of low-level donor requests you may receive, including refunds, to help you save precious campaign time. We’ve always provided all the compliance info you need for those refunds, but we’ve recently launched a few new tools to help your administrative side manage and get more insight into the refund work going on.

So we’re rolling out three new tools, in order to give your operations and finance teams more data and insight into your donors’ financial accounting.

1) ) Refund center: Want to trace how a refund moved through the system? Check out the new refund center where you can see contribution details, date of contribution, date of original disbursement (typically check date), and date recovered (which check/wire it was taken out of).

2) Refund reason: Curious about your donor behavior? The new refund reason field offers some insight into the reason for a refund, so admins can see it a quick glance.

3) Refund alerts: Want to know right away when there’s been a refund? Just like our donation alerts, an admin user can elect to receive alerts every time a refund over a certain amount is issued. It’s available on the User Access tab of your entity.

Your compliance workflows stay the same. The refund information with checks is right where it’s always been, but now you have more data at your fingertips. If it’s useful to you, finance team members can sign up for alerts, monitor refunds, and follow up with donors who have been refunded and may have outstanding pledges. And compliance teams can easily see when refunds were issued and recovered, which may make their reporting duties easier.

As always, our customer service team is always here if you have questions about these new features or anything else. Just email info [at] actblue [dot] com and someone will respond promptly.

A blockbuster $3 million dollar day.

That’s how we finished up the first quarter of this Election Year. It was the second biggest day in ActBlue history and only our second day over $3 million. Our team was up late watching the numbers roll in and making sure everything was running smoothly. We collectively cheered when we hit the $3 million mark at 11:59 PM EST. Definitely a photo finish!

All that money came from 56,065 donors, making it our 7th largest day by number of contributions. It’s no wonder that 99 of our 100 busiest minutes of the month were on 3/31. The top time of the day was 9:24 PM with 114 contributions.

The grand total for March? $18,123,793 million. That’s more than our entire Q1 2012 total of $18,044,520. This year we raised $36.1 million in the first quarter, buoyed in part by a competitive special election in Florida and lots of high-profile Senate candidates like Jeanne Shaheen using our tools.

Check out the year-by-year numbers below:

  Mar ’11 Mar ’12 Mar ’13 Mar ’14
Contributions 143,012 167,030 204,232 405,802
Volume ($) $5,847,994.09 $8,966,153.88 $7,446,487.35 $18,123,793.44
Mean Donation $40.89 $53.68 $36.46 $44.66
Committees 673 1,628 951 1,967

 

As you can see, we doubled our March ‘12 fundraising totals and far more than doubled the number of contributions we brought in (167,030 to 405,802). The average contribution amount also fell from $53.68 in 2012 to $44.66 in 2014. The average contribution amount on our site has been declining over time, but contributions tend to be slightly larger during election years.

We’ve got an internal staff metrics page that we check rather obsessively, but never more so than on EOQ nights. We grabbed a screenshot for you today — check out the huge spike in donations during the end of the quarter. The five days ending up to the end of the quarter all had donation totals over $900k. And as usual, there was a sharp dropoff in fundraising as soon as midnight hit, making the first day of April relatively slow (though we wouldn’t call $529,811 too shabby).

sizeadjustedmetrics

A big winner for us has been our Express program and one-click donation system, Express Lane. We’ve got 794,000 Express users (it was only a month ago that we were so excited to hit 750k!), and dozens of campaigns using Express Lane to fundraise. 13% of all contributions in March were made with just one click of an Express link! That’s a huge number and we’re only expecting it to grow as more campaigns use the service and we continue to grow our Express user pool.

One of the other big factors contributing to our strong numbers is the number of candidates, committees, and organizations fundraising with us. We cut, printed, sealed, and sent checks to 1,967 candidates (our interns had to carry quite a big bag to the post office on Tuesday.), up from 951 in 2013 and 1,628 in 2012. And we had a particularly busy month with new campaign setups. We added 350 entities to the site in March alone.

Mobile donations continued to play a huge role in fundraising. 22% of all donations sitewide and 24% of Express donations were made via a mobile device. The total percent of mobile donations predictably jumps on the weekends. Some days, including end of quarter weekend, saw a full 25% of all donations made on mobile. The average mobile donation is $27.97, which indicates that mobile devices are a great way to reach a huge group of small-dollar donors.

It’s going to be a big, big year — and we’re taking bets on how huge the next EOQ deadline we’ll be. Got a prediction? Throw it in the comments.

Scott Brown made some uh interesting design choices for his new Massachusetts New Hampshire Senate campaign website. But where he went really wrong was his contribution form.

We’ve been watching this video from WebPageTest on a loop today (spoiler alert: our entire form loads before their first response):


We’re obsessive here at ActBlue about page load time, going to great lengths to shave off hundredths of a second. It’s often the difference between someone giving a donation and just simply giving up, particularly when they are on a mobile device. And that’s why 20.3% of all contributions on ActBlue last month were made on mobile. If your numbers aren’t up there, you’re doing it wrong.

And none of that would have been possible without the support of thousands of ActBlue donors, so thank you.

Now let’s all stop laughing at Scott Brown (for the moment) and get back to work powering Democrats to victory this November.

We’ll forgive you for not noticing that anything big was happening (after all, your contribution forms loaded faster than ever), but this relatively calm February was the 10th biggest month in ActBlue history. What’s even bigger is the fact that this was the only month in the top 10 that wasn’t at the end of a quarter or during the fall of an election season. If a random February can make ActBlue history, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2014.

Our last day of the month was our biggest as usual. We helped bring in $1.38 million dollars on February 28th. That was our second biggest day between any election day and June 30th of the next year. And if February’s $10.2 million fundraising total (double our February ‘12 total of $5 million!) is any indication, it will be a very busy March indeed.

Check out the numbers below:

  Feb ’11 Feb ’12 Feb ’13 Feb ’14
Contributions 34,496 110,323 162,791 259,464
Volume ($) $2,228,051.55 $5,076,973.20 $5,661,971.23 $10,263,484.93
Mean Donation $64.59 $46.02 $34.78 $39.56
Committees 561 1,340 801 1,684


We had a quarter of a million contributions in February, more than double the number of contributions we saw in February 2012. Our average contribution size dropped from $46.02 in February ‘12 to $39.56 in February ‘14. That means that we’re scaling and even increasing participation from small-dollar donors as our candidates and organizations raise more money.

February’s fundraising was boosted by a few factors. The competitive special election race in Florida’s 13th District (Go Alex Sink!) and the rise of the Koch brothers as a foil to grassroots funded campaigns made fundraising appeals more urgent. But the biggest driver of growth was the sheer number of campaigns and organizations raising money early. We sent checks to 1,684 different candidates, committees, and organizations, which is up 26% from February ‘12. We also had 242 new committees sign up to fundraise on our site last month, which only means bigger fundraising totals and more donors to come.

On February 28th, we came in to the office and saw we’d raised over 200k already, which mostly came from the monthly contributions scheduled for the end of the month. 7.9% of all donations sitewide were recurring donations, compared with 5.91% in February ‘13. The number of recurring donors has grown substantially over the years, and we couldn’t be happier because recurring money helps campaigns and organizations make realistic plans for the future. Recurring donors also give more money over time than one-time donors, which means that recurring donors can be incredibly important to a group’s success.

It wouldn’t be a monthly numbers blog post if we didn’t remind you all just how important mobile donations have become. They accounted for 19.2% of all traffic sitewide for the month and 22.6% of all traffic on the last day of the month. Additionally, 23% of all Express contributions were made via mobile.

If you missed our recent Express blog post, we’ll catch you up on why Express users are so important. We’ve got over three quarters of a million Express users who give to an average of 2.57 entities. In addition, 40% of all unique donors on ActBlue (since we started back in 2004!) have signed up for Express accounts. If someone has made a donation via ActBlue, there’s a good chance they’ve saved their payment information with us. That translates to a streamlined experience for donors and more money for campaigns and organizations.

The fact that we’ve been doubling our 2012 totals this year (and our internal goals!) indicates that 2014 will be one heck of an election year. And when you think about the fact that we brought in $35 million in October ‘12, it becomes clear just how big 2014 will be. Since then, online fundraising has grown rapidly, and we’re already working on scaling our tools to handle the huge growth spurt we’re seeing. Will we see a $100 million month? It’s not out of the question. But no matter what our volume numbers are in October ‘14, we’ll be ready.

Drumroll please…

Three quarters of a million people have signed up for ActBlue Express accounts!

That’s 750,000 people who have saved their payment information with us and can give with just one click on every ActBlue form. It doesn’t matter if it’s $5 for a city council race in Cottage Grove, MN or a max-out donation for Alison Lundergan Grimes, it works exactly the same.

We’ve been experiencing a crazy growth spurt in the Express user base, which is up from 600,000 in August. Below we chart the number of Express users we’ve added since the launch of the program. As you can tell, the number spikes during election years. One million here, we come!

The Express program is designed to help the Democratic party as a whole. Donors love it because it saves them time and gives them a secure and trackable way to give. And candidates and committees benefit from higher conversion rates.

Making a donation is a streamlined experience for Express users. That equals higher conversion rates, especially on mobile. The mobile part of the equation is going to be key during this election year.

We’ve already seen up to a quarter of the day’s donations come in via mobile. Since 2013, 18.1% of donations from Express users were made via mobile phones, compared with 10.9% for non-Express users. Since we launched mobile responsive contribution forms, 23.1% of all Express contributions were made on mobile (15.8% for non-Express users).

Making the giving experience as easy as possible for users is just as important as increasing conversion rates (although the two are obviously intertwined). Express users are some of our most active users. They give to an average of 2.57 entities campaigns or organizations a year and since 2013, 3.5% of donations from Express users were recurring, compared with 2.2% of donations from non-Express users. These are people who are committed to supporting the candidates and issues that mean the most to them, so it’s important that we’re paying attention to their giving patterns, and listening to them when they reach out to us. Not just for our own success, but for the success of the party.

Express Lane, our one-click payment system, has been a game-changer. We’ve been rolling out Express Lane to a number states for statewide and legislative races the past few months, and we’ve seen campaigns across the country increase their conversion rates (and raise up to 200% more money).

The Express user pool will grow dramatically as we get closer to the election, so we’ll be more focused than ever on finding new ways to increase conversion rates and make the donation process easier for these users.

Have you tried out Express Lane for your federal campaign? Have you used your Express account to keep track of your political donations? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.

In the fast-paced digital campaigns world, if you’re not innovating and testing constantly, you’re headed for obsolescence. And, more importantly, you’re letting your users down, especially those in short-term competitive environments (aka elections). At ActBlue, we’re always developing our platform with metrics-driven decision making, aka testing.

The result is that today’s ActBlue isn’t the same as the ActBlue of a month ago, and that’s a great thing. Sometimes our tests fail. Others result in a barely statistically significant bump in conversion rates. But that’s ok because all of those little bumps add up. Occasionally we hit on a big winner that dramatically increases conversion rates. We do it in a methodical, constant way that allows us to identify improvements big and small.

One advantage we have is the sheer volume of contributions we process, which allows us to A/B test small tweaks to the form and get statistically sound results. If one organization tried running an identical test on their own, they’d never be able to identify as many improvements.

We’ve got thousands of campaigns and organizations counting on us to have the best system possible, so they can focus on winning. It drives our work and testing every single day.

Our tech team make changes to the platform daily. Some are minor tweaks, others major changes. They’ve developed a rock-solid platform where we can easily roll out significant feature or a layout change, even in the middle of the crazy busy end-of-quarter period. And that’s no easy feat, but a deliberate design choice so we can be as nimble as the party needs.

Today we thought we’d roll back the curtain just a little bit and break down some of our favorite A/B tests from the past few months.

Test 1: Employer Address Checkbox

We know from our data that a lot of donors mark retired or unemployed on the forms and we wanted to see if we could use that knowledge to increase conversions. Turns out: yes! We A/B tested our normal form with one that has a checkbox they can click if they’re not employed. The checkbox automatically provides us with the information, which fulfills the legal requirement and bumps up conversion rates.

Original:

Checkbox:

We saw a 4.7% improvement in conversions (p < 0.05, for those of you keeping score), so we switched over to the new checkbox version. Bonus points for cutting waaaaay down on customer service questions about the occupation/employer boxes.

Test 2: Shrinking the Contribution Form

Speed is essential in online contributions, so we’re always looking for ways to make the Contribution Form shorter and faster to load, but the rapid increase in mobile donations has made it even more important than ever. We ran a number of tests aimed at shrinking the contribution form, including the following:

- Removed credit card tooltip (which popped up when you click the credit card box) so it would load better on mobile
– Removed “Employment” section header
– Using horizontal employer fields rather than stacking them vertically

All of these tests ended without statistically significant results, but that was a win for us, because it meant we could make our forms less cluttered. If a feature isn’t adding value, that means it’s time to go. And bye bye those three things went on every single form in our system.

You can see the evolution of the Employment section below.

Version 1 (original):

Version 2 (horizontal):

Version 3 (no header, checkbox added):

Test 3: Multi-step Contribution Forms

We already wrote a whole blog post about this test, but it’s worth mentioning again here. This was one of those big wins, with a 25.86% increase in conversion rates with 99% significance. That was after just a few days of running the test. We had tested multi-step Contribution Forms a few years back, and they lost to our standard one page forms, which just goes to show how important it is to test and test again.

One page form (losing version):

Multi-step form (winning version):

We do one thing at ActBlue and we’re the best at it in the business. And the biggest reason is that we’re constantly upgrading our platform. We push changes out to everyone ASAP so that thousands of campaigns and groups big and small can get the best right away.

In a few months when we get down to the crunch of election time, know that we’ve got your backs and you will always be using the most optimized and tested form out there.

Alliance for Justice Action Campaign and ActBlue Civics are delighted to announce a new joint-training, fashioned for 501(c)(4) social welfare groups, that will cover the legal rules and online fundraising skills for 501(c)(4) groups!

You’ll learn about the activities your 501(c)(4) can participate in and how to fund these activities through grassroots online fundraising.  This two-part, 80-minute web training will give a legal overview of the various advocacy activities permitted by 501(c)(4) organizations — including lobbying and election-related activities — as well as some tips for staying in compliance with your 501(c)(4) status.

In addition to learning the legal rules, attendees will receive skills-based training focused on best practices and methods for online fundraising for 501(c)(4) organizations.  We’ll go over the nuts and bolts of executing your fundraising program, how to ask effectively, and most importantly, how to raise more money for your organization.

Whether you’re just starting your online program or looking to give it a refresh, we’ll help you get up to speed on the latest in today’s fundraising strategy.

We’ll also discuss the recently proposed IRS 501(c)(4) regulations and how they could potentially impact your work.  This FREE, two-part web training will be offered at 2:00p.m (E/T) on February 18 and February 25, 2014.  Register for February 18th here and for February 25th here.

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