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!

The power of recurring contributions

Asking for monthly donations is one of the most impactful strategies available for engaging with small-dollar donors and building a sustainable grassroots movement. A successful recurring program allows campaigns and organizations to raise more money and budget more effectively, but that’s not all — asking people to invest in your cause over the long term helps you build meaningful relationships with donors. And ActBlue users are excited to give on a regular basis: During the 2018 election cycle, 41% of all donations on ActBlue came from recurring contributions. That added up to over $324 million given to progressive campaigns and organizations creating a better future as a result of both monthly and weekly donations!

Recurring contributions powered small-dollar donors’ record-breaking fundraising on ActBlue in 2018, and we know they’ll be even more important moving forward. Keep reading to learn more about engaging with small-dollar donors using smart grassroots strategies and ActBlue’s easy recurring tools.

First, why focus on recurring contributions instead of only sending one-time asks?

1. Long-lasting relationships.
Here at ActBlue, empowering small-dollar donors is our bread and butter. That’s why we think recurring contributions are so important: When people choose to give money to a group on a regular basis, they are investing fully in change and cementing themselves as an essential part of your campaign or organization. It’s conventional wisdom that early money makes a huge difference in politics, so asking early donors in particular to sign up for recurring contributions ensures that you have dedicated supporters from the very beginning and more contributions coming in as your campaign heats up. The same advice applies to nonprofits launching a new fundraising push! In addition to giving monthly, recurring donors are more likely to be vocal, action-oriented advocates who will support you over and over again: In 2017 and 2018, 35% of recurring donors on ActBlue gave a one-time contribution to the same group after their initial recurring contribution. In other words, these grassroots donors will help you spread the word, raise money, and achieve your goals!

2. More money: period.
Receiving small-dollar donations every month brings in more money than receiving larger one-time donations. The 2018 election cycle, which produced huge wins for Democrats and progressive causes, is a great example of this. A $10 recurring contribution started in the 2018 cycle now has a total worth, on average, of $61.94 — over 6 times the worth of a $10 one-time contribution (some of these contributions finished in the 2018 cycle, and some are continuing into 2019). And the momentum isn’t slowing down any time soon! ActBlue has already processed over $100 million in recurring contributions so far this year.

total recurring graph

3. Budgets for the win!
It goes without saying that budgets are absolutely essential to a well-organized campaign or organization. Recurring contributions make budgeting easier and more accurate — if you’re receiving a consistent amount of money every month, you can look forward and plan ahead. Recurring contributions created on ActBlue in the 2018 cycle lasted, on average, around 5 months, giving you plenty of time to schedule ads, hire organizers, or pay for whatever else your group may need. For small campaigns and organizations, having a reliable grassroots donor base and a regular number of recurring contributions will also allow staffers to spend less time finding one-time donors. A strong recurring contribution program is not only a proven fundraising strategy, it’s a time saver!

Asking for recurring contributions is intimidating — we get it! But grassroots donors want to invest in your campaign or organization long term, so it’s important to integrate recurring asks into your existing digital fundraising program. Plus, ActBlue makes it easy! Here are some tips and tricks:

1. Smart Recurring: The ultimate recurring tool!
When you create a contribution form on ActBlue, the pop-up recurring feature, which asks donors giving $100 or less to make their one-time donation a recurring one after they hit “Contribute,” is automatically on. Our Smart Recurring feature works similarly, but it asks donors for a smaller recurring donation after they’ve contributed. By asking people for a recurring contribution that is smaller than what they just gave as a one-time donation, you can help meet people where they are and raise more money in the long run!

2. Don’t forget rapid response.
When there is a crisis or event that thrusts your campaign or cause into the spotlight, people are much more likely to be tuned in to your group and give a donation right in that moment. Although it is easy (and understandable!) to focus on handling the immediate situation, some longer-term thinking can help extend your momentum. Asking for recurring contributions over email or social media is a powerful way to meet the moment and implement real change through small-dollar donations.

NARAL

A strong recurring program will ensure that when the media moves on to cover other news, your group will still have a dedicated cohort of monthly donors that enable you to do the important work you want to focus on.

3. Always say thank you!

Everytown Email

Last but not least, make sure to specifically thank your sustainers! You don’t want to send too many fundraising emails to your recurring donors, because they’re already making a big contribution to your work. Save those emails for key moments or rapid response situations (and only ask them for a one-time gift). Instead, focus on sending emails to this group of donors that recognize their vital support and highlight what their money is doing for your work. Read this article if you need a reminder on how to access your recurring donor information!

In many ways, recurring contributions are at the heart of the small-dollar donor movement: By giving a small amount of money on a monthly basis, individuals can make their voices heard and fully invest in causes and campaigns they care about without giving a large one-time donation. And by building these relationships with donors, you can budget more effectively and have a reliable base of active supporters. That’s what we call a win-win!

Grassroots Your Giving Tuesday!

Giving Tuesday (December 3rd) is a little less than 90 days away — so now is the perfect time to buckle in and start thinking about your nonprofit’s plans to maximize your end-of-year fundraising. With $400 million raised online in the U.S. in 2018, Giving Tuesday is one of the largest days of global charitable giving.

But the grassroots momentum shouldn’t start and stop on December 3rd! As you focus on your year-end game plan, prioritize building a small-dollar fundraising program that will empower tens of thousands of people who want to support advocacy work and set you up for future success far after the end of the year. By taking the time to grow your network and grassroots your Giving Tuesday now, you’ll be ready to connect with passionate supporters this giving season and engage them in years to come as sustainers and vocal ambassadors of your cause.

Our team’s got you covered! We’re a nonprofit ourselves, and we’re excited to help you build a stronger fundraising program and have a more successful giving season with the help of small-dollar donors.

We’ve put together all the end-of-year advice and checklists you’ll need so you can easily follow along to grassroots your Giving Tuesday. For the rest of the year, our team’s focus is making sure you’re ready to encourage supporters to give and join your movement. Each week we’ll deliver the best strategies you need straight to your inbox, so you’ll have a toolbox full of concrete, specific tactics to use during giving season. By the time December 3rd arrives (and far after that), you’ll be ready to raise more money for your cause and reach more supporters.

Here’s your checklist to get your #GrassrootsYourGivingTuesday planning started (and a preview of the tips and tricks we’ll be sending over the next couple months!).


Grassroots Your Giving Tuesday Checklist:

1. Sketch out your organization’s theme for the giving season.
□ Choose a theme for your year-end fundraising campaign that reflects the mission of your organization and that you can weave into your communications this giving season.
□ Nail your theory of change: Explain the problem you are looking to solve, and tell donors how they can help be part of the solution. Your work is important, and you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to explain why when the time comes.

2. Plan your fundraising strategy and timeline.
□ Create a content calendar and establish your timeline for sending emails and posting social media ads.
□ Make sure your fundraising strategy hits multiple channels. You’ll want to run ads on Facebook and Twitter to boost your content, but the vast majority of online donations still comes from email.

3. Build your email list so you have a large network excited to see your future content!
□ Add a pop-up to your website asking people to join your email list and receive important updates from your nonprofit.
□ Prepare your social media ads that encourage supporters to sign up for your email list.
□ Make sure you’re ready to collect emails of attendees at your fall events!

4. Loop in your stakeholders.
□ Explain how your board members can help mobilize their own networks this giving season.
□ Utilize ActBlue community forms to engage your advocates as fundraising champions this end-of-year!

5. Polish your contribution forms and website.
□ Make sure you’ve optimized your site, so when people land on your homepage, they now see a pop-up encouraging them to pitch in this giving season. And if you do not use a pop-up, make sure your donate button is prominent on your website.
□ Do you have a branding on your contribution form? Take some time to clean up your form’s design so it encourages people to give, but isn’t distracting. A couple quick changes can make a huge difference!
□ Make sure your contribution form is optimized for mobile (our forms are mobile-optimized and accept Apple Pay and PayPal!).

6. At last, prepare for post-Giving Tuesday!
□ Pat yourself on the back, take a deep breath, and treat yourself!
□ Come up with a plan to thank your amazing donors and involve them in your organization’s work for the next year.
□ Establish an email series that welcomes new donors who pitched in during end-of-year fundraising to your movement. You can keep your new donors engaged and build a community of excited advocates for your cause!


We’re excited to meet you in your inbox each week with the best practices you can rely on, and we’ll be posting our top tips for fundraisers on Twitter (so give us a wave!). And we’re always just a call away to talk digital strategy that fits your nonprofit — hop on a one-on-one strategy call with us if you have any questions or need a good joke to keep you moving this giving season.

Meet the interns powering grassroots movements

Every academic semester, a team of paid interns jumps on board to join ActBlue in empowering millions of small-dollar donors and gain hands-on professional experience in politics, advocacy, and tech. Many of those interns end up staying with us for multiple semesters, and nine former interns are now staff members! Our incredible interns come from different corners of the country and study different disciplines, but what brings them all to ActBlue is a shared passion for creating positive change. At ActBlue, we’re driven by our mission to make it easy for people to make their voices heard and change our democracy. It’s why we’re always excited to include inspired students in the day-to-day work of serving small-dollar donors and helping groups on the left build people-powered movements.

Interns bring their diverse skills and unique voices to various teams across the organization, and their excitement to make a difference is the kind of electricity that keeps a nonprofit like ActBlue going! From supporting donors with the Customer Service Team to helping groups make contribution forms with the Outreach Team, interns see all the work and people it takes to make democratizing power a reality. As an intern myself, I’ve gotten a firsthand look into the big role interns play at ActBlue.

Natalie
That’s me, Natalie!

As I start my last year at Emerson College and my second semester with ActBlue, I realize how impactful this internship has been. I started this past summer knowing that the next three months would be really important in my career trajectory. After all, this was my first summer away from home — Milwaukee — and my last summer as a college student! I had to start figuring out what I wanted to do after I graduate, and I am so grateful that I spent this time at ActBlue. Through my work with ActBlue’s Communications and Marketing Team, I’ve had incredible opportunities to take on independent projects and be a key part of a nonprofit and larger grassroots movement. I got to face new challenges and learn firsthand how to craft content and engage with different progressive communities taking action! It’s this kind of mission-driven work and mentorship from people in ActBlue that have supported my growth as someone passionate about political communications.

No matter your major, everyone can put their talents and skills to good use in changing our country. I sat down with a few summer interns from different departments to ask about their thoughts on being an intern at ActBlue. I’m excited to share their stories and perspectives from their time powering the small-dollar donor movement!

Daria

Hayes

Daria is a rising senior in justice and peace studies at Georgetown University. She returned home to Boston this past summer as a Customer Service intern at ActBlue to support the millions of small-dollar donors using our platform to give to campaigns and organizations on the left.

I stumbled upon the ActBlue internship online, and the mission of making sure politics doesn’t have to rely on billionaires and corporations made me want to work here! My favorite part of this internship has been helping grassroots campaigns and the donors who support them, as well as the awesome conversations I have every day in the office. If you know you want to do something, but you don’t know what exactly you want to do, this is a great place to learn all of the ways you can participate in the civic process. Even if you may not be interested initially in customer service, you’re doing so much more than just talking to people — you’re helping. When you’re helping that one individual donor, you’re helping the entire grassroots movement.

Hayes is in his fourth year at Northeastern University studying political science and economics (with minors in urban studies, gender studies, and public policy!). Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, Hayes is an intern on the State and Local Outreach Team, helping research candidates in crucial down-ballot races who could use ActBlue’s fundraising tools to connect with small-dollar donors and drive winning people-powered campaigns.

I’ve worked on a few state, local, and federal campaigns in the past, but the ActBlue internship gave me a chance to work on the actual infrastructure of campaigns. Campaigns are often sprints, and one election cycle’s lessons can get lost when Election Day is done! I feel with our work at ActBlue, we are able to make that long-term investment in improving the left. We take lessons from past election cycles and create this infrastructure and fundraising tools that any group on the left can use, no matter what level of government. As an intern reaching out to Western and Southern states about grassroots fundraising, I’ve learned how to manage multiple projects and directly communicate with campaign staff or organizers. I get to see firsthand how important down-ballot races are, and as sexy as working on a federal campaign can be, focusing on helping smaller races has given me a new fire.

Bennett

Shalinee

Bennett is a junior from Oakland, California, studying political science at Tufts University. As an intern with the Partnerships Team, she helped ActBlue build collaborations and support groups on the left with our digital fundraising trainings and resources.

Some friends recommended the ActBlue internship to me, and I knew through the people I talked to and from ActBlue’s mission of lifting up small-dollar donors that there was going to be value alignment between the work I was doing, what I really care about, and what I want to have an impact on. As an intern with the Partnerships Team, I research organizations we are interested in partnering with and want to support. I’ve been able to take on responsibility for multiple short-term and long-term projects and learned to build healthy professional relationships based in communication! One of the highlights from my internship was sitting in on a phone conversation between my supervisor and United Working Families (UWF), one of our partner organizations. It was fantastic to see how my background research on the important work UWF does helped my supervisor understand what resources ActBlue could provide to help them achieve their goals.

Shalinee is starting her second year at the University of California, Los Angeles, studying linguistics and computer science. This past summer, she came back home to Boston as a Customer Service intern.

I’m studying computer science, but I’ve always been super interested in politics. Interning at ActBlue, a technology nonprofit, has shown me that I can combine my love for progressive politics with my background in engineering! I’m really passionate about accessibility to education, so it’s cool that even though I’m not a political science major, I can work in politics. This is my first time working in an office setting, and I’ve really honed my email writing skills and learned how to help donors with different questions as much as possible. One of my favorite parts of this internship is the 18 types of loose leaf tea and snacks in the kitchen, but above all, I love working with all the friendly people at ActBlue. They care about the growth of students throughout the internship, and that’s the most valuable type of internship program.

Want to join us in powering grassroots movements across the country as one of our paid interns? While we already completed the intern hiring process for fall 2019, we’ll be looking to welcome some more amazing interns for spring 2020. What better way to close out your school year than an internship that gives you a chance to make a difference, pays you, and gives you mentorship, a public transit pass, and snacks and coffee? If you’d like to be notified when our spring internship application opens — typically at the end of October — fill out this form! We’d love to connect with you then about your passion for changing the future of our country.

Tips from our digital experts for state and local campaigns and organizations

Our team of organizers at ActBlue has already worked with 5,744 (and counting) different state and local campaigns and organizations in the first half of 2019! We’re passionate about making sure thousands of state and local-level campaigns win, including state legislature seats that will determine our voting maps for the next decade. Our grassroots fundraising platform gives all candidates and causes on the left access to powerful tools like seamless, mobile-optimized contribution forms and a saved payment universe of over 7 million ActBlue Express users who can give to groups on ActBlue with a single click. It’s important for us to back our easy fundraising tools with the tips, knowledge, and resources all levels of campaigns and organizations can implement to build strong, people-powered movements. You can catch us year-round traveling across the country to do in-person trainings and answer any questions folks have about technology or strategy. But it doesn’t stop there: We’re bringing our experts’ tips directly to you right here!


Zoë

Zoë

Senior State Outreach Manager
Midwest Region

What’s your top digital fundraising tip for state and local groups?
Speak honestly and candidly with your donors. You’re raising money, but you’re also building relationships and creating a community of invested supporters. Don’t be afraid to be honest in your email communication — talk to your people like they’re people!

What’s your top tip for using ActBlue’s fundraising tools?
Find out — either through your ActBlue contact or through your independent testing — how to not just use ActBlue’s tools, but how to utilize them most effectively. For example, use social share on all your forms — but go the extra step and investigate which images perform the best with your list and will ultimately yield maximum results.


Graeme

Graeme

State Outreach Assistant
West Region

What’s your top digital fundraising tip for state and local groups?
Be genuine — digital communication is how you are going to reach the most voters and potential donors, so use it to help people understand who you are, what you stand for, and why they should support your campaign.

What’s your top tip for using ActBlue’s fundraising tools?
Experiment! Our tools make it easy to analyze your fundraising and make specific, tested improvements to your forms, so try new things and find out what works best in your community.


Nisa

Nisa

Senior State and Local Outreach Associate
South Region

What’s your top digital fundraising tip for state and local groups?
What works in a big city won’t work in a rural area — use the tools and messaging that actually address the needs of your community, rather than focusing on tools and messaging that are out of touch.

What’s your top tip for using ActBlue’s fundraising tools?
Spend time customizing your form to show your supporters that you are as invested in this victory as they are: Why are you running? What is this money being spent on? How do your supporters fit into your strategic vision?


Kathleen

Kathleen

State Outreach Research Associate

What’s your top digital fundraising tip for state and local groups?
Use ActBlue’s tools to create a data-driven campaign. Look at your donors’ fundraising histories in order to determine whether you should encourage them to create a recurring contribution. Look at your most successful forms and replicate them. Figure out whether you are getting the bulk of your contributions through your very active Facebook page or through your email program with refcodes (hint: it’s probably your email list). By understanding who is supporting you, how they are supporting you, and what your successes are, you can build upon those wins in the future!

What’s your top tip for using ActBlue’s fundraising tools?
Use the data tools available to you! Your Dashboard Overview has a lot of valuable information, but the most important information and insights are found in the CSV files available under the “Reporting,” “Donor Segments,” and “Recurring,” tabs of your Dashboard. Also, take the time to set up refcodes! They can help you find insights about your donors and fundraising program that you wouldn’t have been able to find otherwise.


Small-dollar donors from coast to coast are fueling down-ballot candidates and causes and making winning grassroots movements possible. It’s our mission to make sure all people can make their voices heard in our country, and this means strengthening our democracy at all levels of government. Our digital experts come to work every day excited to help everyone — from first-time school board candidates to activists trying to flip state legislatures — make the most of ActBlue’s tools. Have questions about our tips above or want to talk digital strategy that works best for your specific group? Hop on a one-on-one strategy call with us!