It’s past Giving Tuesday! Now what?

Grassroots Your Giving Tuesday!

You did it! You grew a fundraising program that empowers donors to support your work during and far after Giving Tuesday. December 3 is officially over, but you’ll continue the grassroots momentum for the rest of giving season and beyond! So even though you’re keeping up the nonprofit fundraising, don’t forget to think about the nonprofit fundraiser (you!). Here are some steps for taking care of yourself during and after giving season, so you’re in a good place to foster this important work for the long term!

1. After Giving Tuesday: Some self-care for you, by you.

In these immediate days after Giving Tuesday, remember that your nonprofit’s work is a long fight for change! So while nonprofit fundraising often involves hustling to hit goals, it’s also important to take care of yourself in ways that work for you. This way you’re ready to meet any fundraising moment throughout the year.

We know self-care means different things to different people. Whatever it means to you, give yourself what you need to feel recharged and to take care of yourself!

Some self-care for you, by you

2. When giving season winds down, celebrate:

Your achievements! Before giving season gets too far away, pat yourself on the back for the important groundwork you’re laying for sustained fundraising success in the new year. This is just the beginning: You’re ready to further nurture your community of supporters up the ladder of engagement and continue growing your program so any season can be your nonprofit’s giving season.

Your donors. As the year winds down, say thanks to the amazing supporters who gave to you throughout giving season! You can send an email dedicated to showing your gratitude for their end-of-year gifts and explain how their donations will be put to good use by your nonprofit next year. You can also recap and highlight some of your nonprofit’s achievements so far this year, made possible by the sustained generosity of donors like them!

Your team. Finally, express gratitude to your fellow organizers and colleagues! This work of change takes so many people, and you can show appreciation for their hard work and hours of care this past year. Say thank you at your team meeting, or better yet, write each team member a personalized thank you note! You can always take your team out for coffee or lunch, or you can bring the treats to your staff. Our nonprofit often hosts a hot chocolate bar – sprinkles, whipped cream, marshmallows, toppings galore — after busier moments for our work. It’s a delicious and low-lift treat for our team that makes us feel loved and appreciated when we need it most!

Celebrate your achievements, donors, and team

3. After the end of the year: Reflect and debrief (before jumping back in)

After giving season has come to a close, you’ll get back to your day-to-day and focus on continuing giving season momentum into the new year! But before you jump back in, take the time now to make time for the future. Janice Chan, from our friends at Wethos wrote a guest post for us about pressing pause after heavy lifts like year-end fundraising to prevent burnout. As Janice says, you can take a necessary breather now and reflect on how to move work forward in the new year with more efficiency and a little less stress.

You’ve put energy into building a healthy fundraising program that will drive your cause for the long term — and it should be the same for you, the nonprofit fundraiser. Put some energy into making sure you have sustainable work processes that can support you this upcoming year, too! And rest assured that automation has been running on AB Charities this whole time to help you clean up after end-of-year, like our automatic gift receipts.

Reflect and debrief

Hooray! Along your journey to grassroots your Giving Tuesday, you started to grow a program that can fuel your work year-round and picked up digital strategies you can pull out any time to boost your fundraising. We’re excited to keep this momentum going with you, so here’s a big grassroots cheers from us to you!

Introducing the ActBlue Glossary!

Welcome to the ActBlue glossary! Whether you recently started using ActBlue as an admin or you’re new to digital fundraising altogether, this is a helpful list of technical terms you’ll see all over our platform.

This blog will focus on basic ActBlue terms that you’ll find across our platform. If you’re looking for more detailed instructions or an answer to a specific question, check out our support site!

Our tools and features:

  • Dashboard: The hub for all of your admin needs on ActBlue, including your contribution forms, donor data, account settings, and more.

  • Contribution forms: The building blocks of ActBlue’s platform: Our forms are where small-dollar donors give to you! You can find all of your forms in your Dashboard menu under the “Contribution Forms” tab.

  • Community form: Contribution forms that anyone can create to fundraise for their favorite group! As an admin, you have access to the donor data for all community forms fundraising on your behalf.

  • Tandem form: A contribution form that allows donors to split one contribution between multiple groups with a single click. Make a contribution form Tandem by adding recipients in the form editor!

  • Form editor: Where you’ll find all of the options for customizing your contribution form! When you click “Edit” on a contribution form, either while viewing the form itself or in the “Contribution Forms” tab of the Dashboard, you will see the form editor pop up on the left.

  • Branding: A custom design you create for your forms and receipts using our form editor.

  • Social share: The text and image people see when your contribution form link is posted on social media! You can customize this in the form editor. Here’s an example:socialshare

  • Refcode: Short for “reference code,” a refcode is a short word or phrase you add to the end of your contribution form link as a reference, so you can easily track where your donations are coming from on the form’s Stats page!

  • ActBlue Express: Our saved payment feature for donors that enables them to give to any group on ActBlue with a single click.

Other helpful terms for fundraising on ActBlue:

  • Topline numbers: These stats, which you can find in your Dashboard Overview, give you a basic rundown of how your digital fundraising program is doing. The big three at the top are contributions, dollars raised, and average contribution size, and we break them all down here. 

  • CSV: CSVs are a popular and universal document format that work with all donor tracking software. You can download all sorts of donor and contribution form data in this format on ActBlue, including the data you’ll need for compliance.

  • Conversion rate: A term that refers to the percentage of people who take some sort of action on a form, email, ad, or other media. On a form’s Stats page, your conversion rate shows you what percentage of people who landed on your form ended up making a donation!

  • Merchant account: A merchant account is required by some state and local jurisdictions for campaigns raising money online. We have an easy system for getting groups with merchant accounts set up on ActBlue, and you can still use all of our tools seamlessly! If you have questions about reconciliation for your merchant account, check out this support article.

And a little bit about us:

  • ActBlue: We are a nonprofit dedicated to empowering small-dollar donors. Our tools make it easy for grassroots supporters to chip in to their favorite Democratic campaigns, progressive organizations, and nonprofits, creating people-powered movements and transforming power structures across the country.

  • Small-dollar donors: What we call donors who engage with their favorite candidates and causes at the grassroots level by chipping in! Together, they’ve contributed over $4 billion to groups on ActBlue since we opened our doors in 2004. Read why small-dollar donors give in their own words here.

Still have questions? Schedule a one-on-one strategy call with us! Our experts are always available to help with a specific feature or talk about what digital fundraising strategy will work best for your group.

Sharpening your form: Your 6-step checklist

Grassroots Your Giving Tuesday header image

In a couple of weeks, you’ll be inviting a bunch of folks to join your movement and invest in your cause. With excited donors making a beeline for your contribution form this giving season, update and streamline your form so folks can give as easily as possible!

We put together a checklist with six high-impact customizations you should make on your form. Found right in your AB Charities form editor, these quick customizations will make all the difference in empowering donors to give now and support you past giving season. Take a few minutes to make these final touches, and you’ll be ready to send your form to grassroots supporters taking action this Giving Tuesday!


Checklist for sharpening your contribution form

1. Title and donation ask:

  • Personalize the text on your form. Keep the messaging simple and motivational, asking your supporters to chip in as key members of your community and drivers of your cause!

2. Branding:

  • Use our branding editor to design a special form branding for Giving Tuesday that looks different from your other forms! Through design, you can emphasize giving season as a unique, exciting moment for your cause and inspire folks to click the donate button!

  • A great form branding can be as simple as customizing your form’s header image. Include a Giving Tuesday logo next to your logo in the header image like NARAL does, or try designing a special header image that matches your giving season theme as seen on Grist’s form.

3. Pop-up recurring:

  • Our pop-up recurring feature asks people who make a one-time donation to you if they’d like to turn that one-time donation into a monthly one.

  • It’s turned on automatically for all AB Charities forms, but it makes all the difference for you to personalize the pop-up’s text and explain in your own voice how important recurring donations will be to continue your work in 2020!

  • You could also opt to use our Smart Recurring pop-up feature, which asks donors who make a one-time contribution to start a smaller monthly gift. Just like pop-up recurring, customize the text and empower donors to make a long-term investment in your cause!

  • Feeling creative? You can use an image or a GIF instead of text in the pop-up!

4. Remarketing:

  • Our remarketing feature sends a reminder email encouraging supporters to finish their incomplete donations.

  • Personalize the text in this email to emphasize to folks one last time why their year-end donation is so important in making sure your work continues!

5. Thanks message and email receipts:

  • Recognize and value your donors by customizing the thank you text included in email receipts that are automatically sent to your donors! Explain how end-of-year gifts like theirs will make a lasting difference for your nonprofit.

  • Don’t forget: In the “Branding” tab of your Dashboard menu, you can customize the design of email receipts sent to donors, like adding your logo as the receipt’s header image.

6. Social share:

  • Finally, customize your form’s social share! This is the image and text that automatically appears on Twitter or Facebook when supporters share your form’s link. With folks excited to share their giving season support, it’s important that your social share stands out, matches your messaging, and invites more folks to give!


Now is the time to get your form ready for your giving season fundraising asks. Armed with this checklist, you can update and sharpen your AB Charities form in minutes so you can convert more donors! Here’s where the customizations you need live in your form editor:

Form with form editor opener, with numbers marking which customization is in which tab of the form editor

Have some remaining end-of-year fundraising questions? Our team of nonprofit fundraising experts is all ears!

Election 2019: What civic participation looks like today

There were several crucial state and local elections across the country on November 5, and grassroots activists and small-dollar donors powered Democrats to victory in many of them! Folks invested time and money in their state and local races like never before because these offices have a huge effect on our day-to-day lives.

Democrats flipped both the House of Delegates and the State Senate in Virginia, securing control of the state government for the first time in the 21st century! And in Kentucky, a traditionally red state, Democrat Andy Beshear is the governor-elect.

Millions of small-dollar donors and thousands of activists all over the country made these and many other wins possible. Election Day 2019 is an exciting example of how more people are participating in our democracy than ever before! And it was definitely not an off-year for small-dollar donors: They doubled their contributions to state legislative races on ActBlue in Q3 ’19 compared to Q3 ‘17!

Grassroots donors also directed their money to where it would make the most impact. Many groups organizing around state and local elections created Tandem forms on ActBlue, which enabled donors to give to multiple candidates with a single click. This tool was particularly successful in Virginia, where the entire state legislature was up for election. Grassroots donors contributed $1.8 milliona sixth of all the money raised on ActBlue for Virginia candidates — via Tandem forms in this election! Here are two Tandem examples from Virginia that made it easy to give to multiple highly competitive campaigns in a single click:

Swing Left

Impact Slates

But the engagement doesn’t stop with contribution forms: Small-dollar donors do much more than give! They vote, get the word out, and bring more people into a cause. The 2019 election is a great example of this.

Organizations like MobilizeAmerica, a volunteer management platform, help make record turnout numbers and huge Democratic wins happen by harnessing the power of the grassroots. In Virginia, volunteer activity through MobilizeAmerica was approximately five times the volume from 2017 — that’s over 15,000 volunteer shifts, 4,900 of which happened in the week leading up to the election!

Thousands of people did the vital work of going door-to-door, making calls, and asking people the simple question: What is your plan to vote? These efforts continued online too:

Tweet

The organizing that went into this election and its results lay the groundwork for 2020! Democrats, from grassroots donors to elected officials, will now have a voice in critical decisions and have tested strategies to take across the country. We can’t wait to see where this momentum will lead us. Check out our Twitter to stay updated on how small-dollar donors are making change happen across the country!

Bring your board members into grassroots fundraising

Grassroots Your Giving Tuesday

There is no better time than giving season to get board members fundraising for you! They are some of your biggest advocates and have a clear personal connection to your cause, so invite them in to create contribution forms and make pitches to their networks about why your cause is so important! As your board members become grassroots organizers for your cause, they’ll help new donors build a strong relationship with your organization for the long term.

And we know your board members are busy: You can directly involve them in your important Giving Tuesday efforts without asking them to make a heavy lift. In fact, you have the tools to make fundraising actionable, accessible, and fun for them! Here are a few ways for you to make taking action easy.

1. Give folks peer-to-peer fundraising tools they can use in seconds

Your organization’s stakeholders can create their own fundraising pages on AB Charities in seconds to fundraise on your behalf. We call these pages community forms! Community forms put supporters in the driver’s seat and allow folks to mobilize their own networks to give.

Your board members can include personalized pitches on their community forms that explain in their own words why their friends, family, and professional networks should donate to your nonprofit this year-end. You can also encourage supporters to add a goal thermometer to the form that tracks either the number of donors or dollars raised, which adds urgency and excitement!

We know your board members juggle many priorities, so to make it as easy as possible for them to begin fundraising, consider customizing forms for them yourself. With AB Charities, you can send board members a link to create a community form that you’ve already set up with a design and donation pitch.

landingpage

All your board members have to do is create a custom web address and click the “Get Started” button. Then they’ll be brought to their personal form that they can customize and share with their networks!

Looking to make it even easier than a few clicks for your busiest board members? You can make the custom web addresses for your stakeholders and then send each one their specific community form link!

You can also make fundraising a friendly competition among your board. Check on who’s raising the most by heading to the “Contribution Forms” tab of your Dashboard menu. Then click the “Community Forms” tab, where you’ll see all the community forms raising on your behalf, along with their contributions and dollars raised. Update your board with the current standings to give them a motivational boost and keep the fundraising going!

contributionforms

You can access all of the donor data from these forms by following these instructions!

2. Pre-write fundraising emails your board members can quickly send off

Now it’s time for your board members to share their community forms with their networks! Doing as much prep work as possible lowers your board’s barrier to action.

Write fundraising emails that your board members can send to their networks to ask for donations! Following some guidelines for crafting a successful fundraising email, you can write an email from your stakeholders’ point of view that explains why they support your cause and asks people to invest in your important work by donating! Your board members can take this pre-written email, add their community form link and signature, and send it off to the personal inboxes of friends, family, and colleagues.

It’s go time!
There are a little under 30 days until Giving Tuesday, so it’s the perfect time to empower your biggest stakeholders to become digital organizers themselves! You have the tools and strategies to make peer-to-peer fundraising on your behalf so easy and motivating that any board member can begin introducing your cause to their communities. You’re ready to rally your supporters around year-end fundraising now to ensure your work continues far into the future.

P.S. If you need to discuss board engagement strategies or have questions, now’s the time to give our nonprofit fundraising experts a call! We’re always happy to talk digital tactics that work for you.

Small-dollar fundraising metrics: 3 things to look for

Congratulations! You’ve conquered the basics of digital fundraising, and you’re raising your first dollars. Now how do you measure success? Your fundraising data might seem intimidating, but you don’t need to be a data scientist to use it: All you need is a willingness to look at your fundraising critically and the follow-through to apply what you learn!

Data lets you work smarter rather than harder. It all begins by taking stock of your data and using it to evaluate if you’re running an efficient program that is on track to fuel your campaign or organization for the long fight. Then, you can figure out how to refine your fundraising practices to improve your numbers. From the groups just getting started to the experts building out their program, every digital fundraiser can look at the following three metrics to analyze their small-dollar program. You can find all three right at your fingertips in your ActBlue Dashboard, so you’ll be driving your fundraising forward in no time!

1. Toplines: Number of contributions, dollars raised, and average contribution size over time

What it tells you: Your topline numbers give you a basic, holistic overview of your fundraising and donor behavior. These toplines include your program’s two core numbers: contributions and dollars raised. Your third topline number is average contribution size, which is found by dividing dollars raised by the number of contributions. Average contribution size can give you an idea of how much your program is relying on many small-dollar donors chipping in or fewer donors giving larger amounts.

Where you can find it: At the very top of your Dashboard Overview are your campaign or organization’s topline fundraising numbers. Here to greet you all the time, you’ll find your number of contributions, dollars raised, and average contribution size over the last seven days. The best part is you can easily change the timeframe for these topline numbers (and the corresponding graph) so you can observe your fundraising for any timespan you want. And if you want an idea of how a specific form performed, you can find these topline numbers for each form on its Statistics page.

What to do with this: Check the number of contributions and dollars raised for the month and quarter to see if you are hitting your fundraising goals. You can use the graph to predict when your fundraising will peak and send more emails during those strong moments. When you know you’ll hit slower fundraising periods, be ready to get creative with your tactics for engaging small-dollar donors.

Next, compare your average contribution size to the sitewide average contribution size of $30 in 2019 so far. Is your average contribution size really large? Think about whether you’ve shown donors who give $5 that their contribution matters to you. And think about what donation ask amounts are right for your program — you want to bring in as many people as possible and let them give at the level they like.

2. Percent of contributions made via mobile device

What it tells you: With more and more people using their phone or tablet to take action and give (more than 50% of donations on ActBlue have been made on mobile so far in 2019), it’s important for you to remember to keep a mobile-first mindset and meet your donors where they are. You can check what percent of your contributions were made through mobile devices and compare it to the average percent of sitewide contributions made via mobile.

Where you can find it: You can find a few important pie charts under “About your contributions” in your Dashboard Overview. One of these is the percent of your contributions made via a mobile device, with a sitewide average in grey below as an easy comparison point. Another place you can find percent mobile is on each form’s Statistics page. This helps you see how specific emails are performing on mobile devices!

What to do with this: While you’re thinking mobile first, don’t forget your fundraising emails! If you’re going to focus on improving one thing in email, make it the mobile experience. Make sure your emails are easy to read and quick to load on mobile. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on connecting with all of your supporters. Your fail-proof check is testing your emails and forms on a variety of mobile devices to ensure they look good and perform fast for every grassroots supporter.

3. Recurring retention

What it tells you: Retention is a measure of your program’s sustainability. Building a strong recurring program by keeping your retention high paves the way for you to raise more money long term and gain the flexibility to budget ahead. With an eye on your recurring retention, you can understand how many recurring donors want to stay in your movement rather than cancel their monthly donations. And this will give you a good idea of how many resources you’ll have months from now to commit to organizing and other actions.

Where you can find it: Right in the “Recurring” tab of your Dashboard menu is your Retention Matrix, a chart showing you how many donors choose to continue their recurring contributions for how many months before cancelling.

Here’s how you read your Retention Matrix: This chart shows the percent of recurring contributions you retain over time, grouped by the month the contributions were started. You can read the chart from left to right to see the percent of recurring contributions started in a specific month that were still active one month later, all the way to 12 months after the initial contribution!

Retention matrix

What to do with this: Your goal is to keep the percentages in your Retention Matrix high, and keeping track of your most avid supporters is crucial to good retention! Make sure your monthly sustainers know the incredible impact their contributions have and send them the most important updates from your group rather than more fundraising asks. Above your Retention Matrix in the “Recurring” tab, you can download a list of current recurring donor email addresses in your “Active recurring contributions CSV.” Exclude this email list from your fundraising emails, and instead send your monthly donors a thank you or ask them to take the next step of volunteering or fundraising on your behalf. And if you have one or two critical moments in your work, you can ask them for a special one-time donation while acknowledging their ongoing support.

Now you’ve got data on your side

Even if you don’t have a dedicated data analyst on your team, you have the tools you need on ActBlue to better understand and grow your fundraising success. And remember that our digital experts are ready to help you meet any fundraising challenge, including getting a handle on your data! We’re a call away to help your campaign, organization, or nonprofit assess and build your program.

Q3 2019: On track for a $1 billion year

Small-dollar donors took no time off this summer, setting multiple sitewide records in the third quarter (July, August, and September). Over 3 million donors (record number one!) chipped in to raise $297 million in Q3 ’19 — our biggest quarter this year and third largest in ActBlue history by dollars raised. Nearly one million of those people were first-time donors on ActBlue! And that’s not all: Roughly the same number of unique donors have now given this year as in the entire 2018 election cycle!

Q3’s 3 million donors made 10.5 million contributions to 8,984 campaigns and organizations fundraising on ActBlue, breaking our previous quarter record by almost 2 million contributions. And on September 30, small-dollar donors gave more contributions in a single day than ever before! We saw unprecedented engagement, with donors giving nearly 40,000 contributions per hour at the peak of end-of-quarter traffic. Mobile giving is driving more traffic than ever before, with an impressive 58% of donations this quarter made via mobile. 2019 is the first year we had a 50%+ mobile quarter, and that percentage has been growing fast!

Many people expected this summer would be a slow fundraising period, but our numbers show that the sleepy fundraising summers of the past are over!

Dollars Raised on ActBlue by Quarter

TOPLINE NUMBERS

Q3 ’15 Q3 ’17 Q3 ’19
Contributions 1,790,888 3,179,068 10,466,567
Total Amount $57,508,215 $108,146,597 $297,113,012
Average Contribution Size $32.11 $34.02 $28.39
Unique Campaigns, Committees,
and Organizations
2,263 5,226 8,984

CYCLE-TO-CYCLE COMPARISON

2016 Cycle through Q3 2015 2018 Cycle through Q3 2017 2020 Cycle through Q3 2019
Contributions 3,848,036 11,974,368 23,470,324
Total Amount $132,621,476 $355,506,035 $716,960,748
Average Contribution Size $34.46 $29.68 $30.50
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 3,009 6,392 11,082

Small-dollar donors were active and engaged throughout Q3, not just in September or at end-of-quarter — August 2019 was our fifth biggest month ever by total dollars raised! And not everything is about the White House. Small-dollar donors are supporting candidates and causes across the board — 62.4% of donors gave to a campaign or organization other than a presidential candidate in Q3.

With more and more attention paid to issues like gerrymandering, Medicaid expansion, reproductive rights, and gun sense laws, small-dollar donors are making sure their voices are heard in state-level elections this cycle. Compared to Q3 ‘17, donors have doubled their contributions to state legislative races. Small-dollar donors are engaged with congressional races, too. Despite the attention on the presidential primary, donors gave twice as many contributions to House and Senate races this quarter compared to Q3 ’17. It’s clear that not only are small-dollar donors engaged and excited, but they are both thoughtful and strategic in their giving.

ACTBLUE EXPRESS

Q3 ’15 Q3 ’17 Q3 ’19
% of Total Contributions via ActBlue Express 64.9% 64.4% 61.7%

Donors who save their payment information in an ActBlue Express account can give to any candidate or cause on ActBlue with a single click. The ActBlue Express community is empowered, and it is growing: Q3 2019 was our second largest quarter ever for ActBlue Express adoption. There are 7.7 million ActBlue Express users!

MOBILE

Q3 ’15 Q3 ’17 Q3 ’19
% of Contributions via Mobile 30.3% 41.1% 57.9%

We strive to meet grassroots donors where they are and make it as easy as possible for them to participate in civic life. Increasingly, donors are engaging with the news on the go amidst their daily lives, and we want to ensure they can take action right in the moment, no matter where they find themselves. That’s why we’re focused on making the mobile contribution experience as seamless as possible, from building automatically mobile-optimized forms to offering payment options like Apple Pay.

And mobile participation is on the rise. This quarter we saw the biggest ever hour for mobile donating during the Democratic presidential primary debate in September! Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET, the rate of mobile giving sitewide peaked at 82%. Mobile giving is making it easy for donors to engage in the moment and be politically active in real time. Since 2018 alone, the average percent of contributions made via mobile on ActBlue has risen almost 20%.

Sitewide Contributions Made via Mobile

RECURRING CONTRIBUTIONS

Q3 ’15 Q3 ’17 Q3 ’19
Total Recurring Volume $13,852,497 $25,283,816 $48,857,797

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Q3 ’19
Total Incoming Calls 30,045
Email Conversations 67,549

We’re a mission-driven nonprofit focused on empowering small-dollar donors, and that means we strive to provide the best possible experience for donors top to bottom, including customer service. This quarter at ActBlue our team has matched the energy of the small-dollar donor community through our work supporting 8,984 campaigns and organizations raising on our platform and responding to 97,594 donor conversations.

Small-dollar donors have blown us away with their enthusiasm and passion this quarter. It was huge and kept us on track for campaigns and organizations to raise one billion dollars on ActBlue alone this year — an incredibly impressive grassroots movement!

Total Dollars Raised on ActBlue Through Q3

With impeachment, more debates, Giving Tuesday, and important state elections happening this year, there are many more opportunities for small-dollar donors to shine. Looking forward to all that we accomplish together in Q4!

Email personalization: The key to engaging donors

The experts all agree: If you’re a campaign or organization, personalization is one of the most effective ways to engage one-on-one with the supporters on your email list. Personalization helps your emails stand out in a busy inbox and increases open rates, making it a popular and impactful strategy. But personalization does more than improve clicks — this strategy is a real way to make your digital communication with supporters as unique as your in-person conversation would be at an event!

Including information specific to individual recipients, like name, location, and donation history, reinforces that each and every one of your grassroots donors is a valued part of your team. Plus, small-dollar donors who are invested in your cause are more likely to volunteer, vote, and talk to friends and family! So developing deeper relationships with your supporters pays off in more ways than one — it is an important tool both for your group and the larger small-dollar donor movement.

Personalization might seem difficult if you’ve never done it before, but a couple simple tools will allow you to easily include personalized content in your emails. These strategies won’t just help you reach your fundraising goals — they will enable you to build authentic and individualized relationships with the grassroots donors who have chosen to support and advocate for your cause.

FIRST, A QUICK NOTE

Personalization combined with a smart email strategy, including fundraising emails and customized remarketing emails and receipts, is the best way to engage with your small-dollar donors. Although there are several great ways you can communicate with your supporters in our increasingly digital world, email is still an essential part of every digital fundraising program because it is accessible, affordable, and effective.

As long as you have an email address, you can talk directly to your small-dollar donors and ask them to invest in your cause. And unlike social media, where your messages are displayed for a broad audience, your emails go straight into individual inboxes. Personalizing small parts of your emails will put you on the path to developing unique and deep-rooted relationships with your supporters. Choosing to contribute to your cause is a personal decision — your emails should be personal too!

There are two main tools that are essential to email personalization: personalization tags and list segmentation, both of which are likely available to you through your email provider. Both are based on subscriber field data, or the information that supporters provide when they opt-in to your email list.

PERSONALIZATION TAGS

Personalization tags are small bits of code which automatically display personalized information. These will look slightly different depending on your email provider, but their basic structure includes the bit of personalized content you would like to include, plus a backup option if the recipient didn’t include that information when they signed up for your email list. Here’s an example from Campaign Monitor:

personalization tags

Your email provider should have a list of personalization tags for customizing different types of information, like the one above. The amount of personalization tags available to you will depend on the information you asked people to provide when they signed up for your email list. If you have already begun fundraising, you will also have opportunities for personalization based on whether a supporter has donated before or how much they have contributed in the past. If you’re new to personalization, we recommend customizing donor first names as a simple and effective first step!

Unlike more specific demographic information like age and gender, you will almost certainly have the name for everyone receiving your emails. And including a donor’s name, particularly in the subject line, will motivate them to open your email — according to Campaign Monitor, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.

To do this, simply copy and paste the personalization tag the email provider has supplied you into the subject line, and make sure to customize the backup text in case you don’t have someone’s information. The end result will look something like this:

personalized subject line

In the case of this example, the backup text could be “Only five states left, friend!”

Including names in the subject lines of your fundraising emails lets you directly address your supporters right in their inboxes. This kind of one-on-one communication motivates small-dollar donors not only to contribute, but to advocate for your cause in other ways because they are treated as an equal member of your team. Your grassroots donors are often the people most affected by your work, so building horizontal relationships with them is essential.

LIST SEGMENTATION

List segmentation refers to the practice of splitting up your email list based on subscriber field data, including location and donation history. Like personalization tags, segments of your email list can be accessed through your email provider. You can also download segmented lists of your donors and their emails in your ActBlue Dashboard!

By sending emails to specific groups of subscribers, you can tailor content to a particular set of your donors and speak directly to them in a way that is motivating and engaging. Welcome emails are a great example — campaigns and organizations send them out only to supporters who recently opted in to their email list.

welcome email

Welcome emails like the one above speak specifically to people who are new to your cause, recognizing their particular place on your team and introducing them to your story and work.

Segmenting your email list and sending your supporters information that is relevant to them is an important part of treating your donors like individuals, not ATMs. Have a group of volunteers that advocate for your campaign or organization? Send these dedicated supporters an email thanking them for their work. Notice that a particular community has stepped up for your cause? Recommend events they could attend, or send them a Tandem form that will expose them to other groups in their area. Plus, people are less likely to unsubscribe from your email list when they receive personalized emails rather than information that is over-generalized or irrelevant to them.

READY FOR THE NEXT STEP?

Although it might seem complicated at first, personalization is actually a powerful and deceivingly simple tool that ensures your emails are always unique and relevant to the small-dollar donors receiving them. Better yet, did you know ActBlue has a tool for personalizing your contribution forms? Read more about the snippet feature on our support site to take your personalization to the next level!

Grow your email list now for success later

Grassroots Your Giving Tuesday

When you have a passionate grassroots community and a fundraising strategy in place to engage folks, your fundraising success doesn’t have to depend on going viral on social media. This is where your email program is key. Through email, shift your focus for giving season to bringing more people into your movement and starting long-term relationships with supporters. To do this, you’ll need to put time and energy into growing your email list!

Adding new sign-ups to your list not only increases how many people will receive your Giving Tuesday fundraising asks — you’re also building a powerful grassroots base ready to support you on any Tuesday. Growing a healthy and engaged email list takes time, but our team has your back. We break down the basics, do’s, and beware’s of list building so you can get started now.

Tactics for building your email list

On your website:

  • The barebones: Make sure there’s an easy-to-find place to sign up for your email list on your website. All you need to collect is name and email to make signing up super easy!

  • To level up for giving season, add a pop-up on your website asking people to opt-in for updates.

  • Does your nonprofit have a blog for sharing your work? Place a subscription button at the bottom of your blog posts, asking “Do you want to receive important updates like this in your inbox?”

On social media:

  • Cultivate your social media presence and give followers different ways to engage! You can encourage followers to sign up for email updates, or host swag giveaways and ask folks for their email.

  • Try running ads on Twitter and Facebook asking folks to take an action, like signing a petition or joining your movement. When people click, you’ll ask them to provide some basic information like their first name and email to join your list.

In person:

  • For tablings and other year-end events, be prepared with a sign-in sheet to collect legible emails.

  • When people buy tickets online for your event, include a way to subscribe to your list for email updates. Better yet, when you sell tickets using AB Charities, your event’s contribution form automatically collects email addresses so you can communicate with them.

  • Use Entry Mode for in-person donation asks, so you can easily collect gifts one after another on a single tablet and automatically collect emails with each donation!

Through email:

  • Tandem Fundraising: Partner with an organization related to your cause to coalition-build and introduce each other’s work across your different lists.

  • Peer-to-peer power: When a supporter creates their own fundraising page and shares it with their network, you’re reaching people who may not already be involved with your nonprofit. You’re receiving new donations and adding more people to your email list!

Once you add new sign-ups to your list, send them welcome emails introducing your organization and work so they hear from you before you make your first fundraising ask. This way, you’re nurturing and engaging a community for the long haul! And as your list grows, make sure to keep your list clean. Fix easy typos like @gnail.com and let go of inactive subscribers, which affect whether your emails will land in spam or “Promotions.”

Quick takeaways:

Do: Start building your email list now for success much later!
Beware: Overlooking the time it takes to grow an online community that gives year-end and year-round.

Do: Promote signing up for your email list wherever you can. (Don’t be shy!)
Beware: Stopping at promoting — have a plan to welcome and engage new supporters on your list!

Do: Reach out to us for help! We love talking about digital strategy that fits your nonprofit and are excited to help you grassroots your Giving Tuesday so the momentum doesn’t end on December 3.

Celebrating 15 years of empowering small-dollar donors

ActBlue officially turned 15 years old this past summer! Since 2004, we’ve been driven by our mission to make it incredibly easy for people to give to candidates and causes on the left and make their voices heard. We sat down with our Executive Director Erin Hill to talk about Day One of democratizing power and how small-dollar donors have transformed how candidates run for office, how we elect our representatives, how movements take off, and how people effect change.

Erin


Why was ActBlue founded?

Erin: ActBlue was founded in 2004 by Matt DeBergalis and Ben Rahn, scientists who were not traditionally part of the political space. 2004 was another period of time in our country when folks were coming off of the sidelines and thinking about the way the country was going. George Bush was president, Hurricane Katrina would hit in 2005, and we were in wars we are still in today.

People were trying to think about how they could use their skills to make the country a better place, and I think our founders were canonical examples of that. They had these professional skills and thought: Could we use technology to make it as easy for people to participate in our politics and donate as it is to buy a book online? Something to remember is that there wasn’t a lot of online fundraising before 2004 — that time was still the rise of e-commerce! So Matt and Ben set out to democratize the least democratic part of the political process, with the simple idea of making it easy for more people to give.

How has ActBlue changed fundraising?

E: To get somebody to donate still takes the basics of making a very specific, urgent ask and inviting people to be part of your compelling ideas! But what technology does is make it possible for you to reach more people and to do it more efficiently. It lets us meet people where they are and lets them contribute in a meaningful way that fits in with their lifestyle.

The other thing this rise in small-dollar donors has done is help us compete in more places and help new candidates find their voice. People can build their own grassroots fundraising structure from the ground up, and that changes who can see themselves as a viable candidate.

Kitchen Origin Story

So many times, those campaigns are very small. It’s a candidate, a partner, and a neighbor over a kitchen table trying to think about how to make their community better. Our technology takes off some of the administrative burden so they can focus on connecting with supporters, which makes a big difference for these campaigns.

How will small-dollar donors impact 2020?

E: Small-dollar donors are going to elect the next president of the United States. They were the force behind the Democratic candidates who took back the House in the 2018 midterms, and they are going to fuel at least 50% of the Democratic presidential nominee’s fundraising. So they’re going to be really important in taking down Donald Trump.

Not only that: We are preparing to go more aggressively down-ballot this year than we’ve ever gone before. Small-dollar donors are giving to state and local candidates, causes, and charities that matter to them! So small-dollar donors are not only going to be important for powering the top of the ticket — they’re going to be important for powering the entire bench all the way down to make sure we’re going to fix our country.

Collective Power!

As someone who’s been with the organization since basically the beginning (ActBlue’s second team member ever!), what are you most proud to have witnessed and been a part of at ActBlue?

E: It’s such a privilege that our work at the end of the day gets to be about helping to empower other people. The thing that always surprises me the most is that in those early days, I was so used to talking about the ActBlue pitch. Now, to run into people who talk about what giving through our platform means to them, how that’s helped them have a voice in the democratic process in a way they didn’t have otherwise, who see us as an ally — that is so moving.

How are you making the giving process even easier for people who want to take action today?

E: We have a whole team of brilliant folks continuously running tests on our features and tools to learn about user behavior and use data to drive decisions! We like to say it’s our job to make giving as frictionless as possible. About 7.5 million people have saved their payment information in a single-click payment method we call ActBlue Express, which is especially important for the majority of donations made on mobile. There’s nothing worse than on your commute, reading an email and saying “Yes! I want to be in this,” and trying to type in 16 digits of your credit card number using your thumbs on a phone!

Subway Single Click

What does the future hold for ActBlue and the small-dollar donor movement?

E: I think this movement is going to keep growing! Small-dollar donors give little bits to lots of candidates and causes that matter to them. With the number of new folks we’re seeing come out this early in the election cycle, we’ll see millions of new small-dollar donors between now and Election Day in 2020. We hear a lot about the Koch brothers, big money, and dark money: I think small-dollar contributions are a positive and practical alternative to that. If corporate money and dark money are threats to our democracy, small-dollar donors will help save our democracy!

If you could say one thing for people to take away from our conversation, what would you want that to be?

E: I want small-dollar donors to know we wouldn’t be able to do any of this work if it were not for them. We’re a nonprofit, so the source of income for the entire organization is our own small-dollar donors! It means we work for the people who use us, which is a great privilege. It also means we’re all working together toward the same gains.

It’s amazing to see small-dollar donors become such an integral and effective part of how our democracy works right now. They change who is participating, who people are paying attention to, and who can run for office. At this particularly important time, we can put all of our brains together to change our country. And we get to be part of that! It’s just so awesome.


Thank you for 15 incredible years and many more to come! Since the beginning, it’s been grassroots movements changing our country for the better, and there’s no other place we’d rather be than in this small-dollar donor movement with you.

In other words, our story is your story! Are you a donor, supporter, or fundraiser who’s part of our 15 years? Leave us a message on our birthday wall letting us know when you first made a donation or used our tools!