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!

Tips from our nonprofit fundraising experts

At AB Charities, we love helping other nonprofits fundraise better by building small-dollar donor bases to sustain their work. Who exactly are we? We’re a team of fundraising experts passionate about talking nonprofit digital strategy and answering any technical questions about making the most of AB Charities accounts and our platform. Our grassroots fundraising platform gives nonprofits of all sizes access to easy, modern tools like mobile-optimized contribution forms and a saved payment universe of over 7 million ActBlue Express users who can give to you with a single click. And as a nonprofit ourselves, we know the stresses that come with raising funds for important advocacy work. It’s a huge reason why we’re usually on the road doing face-to-face trainings and making small-dollar fundraising less intimidating (and less lonely). And we don’t want to stop there: We’re bringing our top digital fundraising tips to you right here!


Adri

Adri

Nonprofit Outreach Manager
Gemini

Top online fundraising tip for nonprofits
Focus on building your recurring donor base! Recurring donors will be more invested in your organization and mission and are more likely to take other actions like signing petitions, volunteering, and encouraging their networks to donate to your organization. Having a strong recurring program also helps organizations budget, and this additional source of revenue allows for more flexibility to run programs and cover things like overhead costs!

Top tip for using AB Charities
Don’t be afraid to ask us for help! Our team is happy to help you create brandings for your forms, help you access donor information, and give demos to teach your team how to get the most out of your AB Charities account. We’re all passionate about empowering organizations to run strong, successful digital fundraising programs, because we understand how important your work is. We want you to have all the tools and skills you need in order to not only sustain but grow your organizations and expand your impact.


Kiersten

Kiersten

Nonprofit Outreach Director
Virgo

Top online fundraising tip for nonprofits
Mobile is becoming extremely common as a way for supporters to engage with your nonprofit and donate! Make sure your donation forms are optimized for mobile (we have Apple Pay and PayPal on our forms!) so supporters can donate via mobile no matter where they are. This is especially true for supporters who may not have internet access or who have mobile networks like 3G with slower page load times. Big picture, make it easy for a supporter to give no matter their device! They already want to support you, and you’ve empowered them to take action — so you’ll want your fundraising platform to make it as easy as possible for them to give.

Top tip for using AB Charities
Chat with us! We’re here, and we want to help. There are a ton of optimizations that you can make to your contribution form to help increase your one-time and recurring donations.


Selah

Selah

Nonprofit Outreach Associate
Aries

Top online fundraising tip for nonprofits
Take some time to nail a theory of change in your fundraising emails! Your donors will always be asking themselves “Why give now? What will my contribution do?” So it’s critical to: highlight the problem your nonprofit is looking to solve, explain what the solution is, and emphasize that donors are a key part of the solution — in this case, a specific sum of small-dollar donations. A (simplified) example might look like: “Our organization works hard every day to improve road safety here in our community, and we need your help. Our free brake light clinic is all set to reduce the chance of car accidents on Main Street: but we still need to get the word out! Just $50.00 will cover the costs of printing flyers that we’ll be posting up around town. Can you pitch in $5.00 today to close this gap and make a change? If 10 people chip in, we’ll be ready to hit the streets!”

A clearly articulated theory of change that answers the right questions goes further than you might imagine in composing an effective ask. Not only will you add an honest sense of urgency to your emails, but you’ll make it clear that donors are part of your team, and you’re getting things done together! It also goes a long way in developing a healthy relationship with your small-dollar donors, building trust, and displaying your nonprofit’s accountability and transparency.

Top tip for using AB Charities
Once you’ve built trust and rapport with your donors through your fantastic emails (featuring your well-written theory of change, of course), AB Charities features some excellent tools for building a sustainers program of recurring donors. Our unlimited, customizable forms have features that encourage supporters to commit to feasible, long-lasting gifts, and we make it easy to pull donor data and build a cohort of engaged supporters who give regularly.

You can also use AB Charities to send a personalized contribution form to your most committed donors to build and steward long-term donor relationships that much more effectively!


We’re a team of dedicated nonprofit fundraising experts who love brainstorming digital strategy that fits your nonprofit and making fundraising all about big numbers and big laughs! You can always give us a wave on Twitter. And if you have any questions about our tips above or making the most of AB Charities, hop on a one-on-one strategy call with us!

Make an impression with strategic social share settings

A fundraising campaign doesn’t end once a supporter makes a donation: It’s important to set up a really great action for donors to take after they’ve given! Chipping in makes folks more connected to a cause, so they’re eager to spread the word by posting about their donations on Twitter and Facebook. Make the most of this energy by creating custom social share settings that show up whenever a link to your contribution form is posted online!

Custom social share settings will make the donors sharing your forms feel like a part of your movement and will help make your brand more recognizable. While your own social media presence is crucial to your success, you have an opportunity to reach an even wider community when your small-dollar donors post about your work. And donors don’t just help you reach a wider audience — they often share their personal connection to the cause, which helps move others to action! Getting your social share perfect isn’t always easy, so here are some tips on how to get the most out of your social share.

First, check out how to use ActBlue’s tools to customize the images, titles, and descriptions for your Twitter and Facebook social shares here (including how to make reusable and default settings!). Once you’re familiar with the basics of social share settings, think critically about your goals. Beyond getting the word out to new audiences about why your mission matters and giving supporters an action to take after donating, you are promoting your professional brand. Your social share is a representation of your campaign or organization that will be seen by many. Your image and text should reflect your values and goals, while empowering people to join you.

1. Keep in mind who your audience is on each of these platforms. Are you targeting the same supporters on both networks? For example, according to Sprout Social, more women than men use Facebook, whereas men and women use Twitter equally. While Facebook is generally used by people of all ages, Twitter is generally used by a younger audience, with 40% of users ranging from 18-29 years old. Once you have an idea of the audiences you might be reaching on each platform, it’s easier to craft your message.

2. Just as Twitter and Facebook’s audiences are different, so are the dimensions for images and graphics. Check this handy guide to ensure that you are uploading the correct size! Make sure the graphic you choose to include is as compelling and thoughtful as your message. Think carefully about whether or not you want the graphic to depict an image, text, a donation button, or a combination of all three. What is most important is that your image reflects your brand. Using the same colors, fonts, logos, and images as your form branding is a great way to build your brand and create continuity across platforms. You can use our easy template to make a simple, professional graphic that matches the rest of your online presence.

3. Keep the custom titles and descriptions for your social shares short, so they don’t get cut off! You can check to see how your text (and graphics) will look on Twitter using this resource and on Facebook using this resource. Always remember to use inclusive language that builds authentic, horizontal relationships with your supporters — this can be as simple as writing “We can win, but only if we do it together” instead of “We have the solution, and we need you to help.”

4. Twitter is all about keeping things short and sweet. Keep your custom tweet text to 71-100 characters for the most retweets. You only have a couple seconds to make an impression while potential supporters are scrolling through their feed. Using action-oriented language that motivates and empowers readers is a great way to engage with people whose values align with yours. Instead of explaining why people should care about your mission, explain why they should act!

5. There are additional best practices to keep in mind when posting links to contribution forms from your own accounts! You can explicitly ask supporters to retweet a post from your Twitter account that features your social share for an increase in retweets. For peak engagement on Facebook posts, you can use up to 100-119 characters. While 19 more characters than a tweet may not seem like a lot, it can add up and allow you to squeeze in a few more words about why it is crucial to make a donation now. And no matter where you’re posting, a call to action is critical in motivating those who come across your social share.

There is no one way to create a compelling social share — just make sure you energize potential supporters and share what makes your campaign or organization worth their donation! If you are looking for more social media strategies for your campaign or organization, there are many different resources to help you hone your message and create a strong social media presence. Sprout Social has a guide for political campaigns looking to improve their digital skills. TechSoup has nine tips for nonprofit organizations that are trying to get a better handle on the growing world of online fundraising.

Your supporters feel a personal connection to the cause when they donate. Giving them an opportunity to share their contribution on social media is just another way to empower and uplift the voices of small-dollar donors, so take a minute and customize your social share today!

Making summer matter as a nonprofit fundraiser

Summer is an incredible time for your nonprofit to sharpen all parts of your online fundraising program so you’re keeping up with best practices and setting yourself up for a strong end-of-year. The pace of life might seem to slow down with the warmth, but small-dollar donors are ready to take action for causes and organizations in need no matter the time of year. This summer is only halfway over, and small-dollar donors have already raised $1.3 million for groups helping parents and children separated at the border. And you can see in our 2018 cycle in review that the number of new donors has skyrocketed at critical moments throughout the summer months.

August is traditionally thought of as sleepy, but there are strategies you can implement now to make the most of summer. Keep reading for high-impact steps to build a robust, streamlined program before the fall and set yourself up for big fundraising rewards.

Build:

1. Your email list.

Summer’s the perfect season for taking your organizing outside and adding emails to your list. With the warmer days finally here, think about hosting events that bring supporters together for your cause and build a sense of community that can translate into a strong base of grassroots donors. From a house party to a rally, cook-out competition to a bike-a-thon, outdoor events are great opportunities to collect emails on paper or digitally. You can sell tickets, collect free RSVPs, or do a combination of both using event forms on AB Charities. And just because you’re hosting an event doesn’t mean you can’t make a face-to-face donation ask! AB Charities makes it easy for you to collect donations at events with our Entry Mode feature, so multiple people can easily make secure donations on the same device. We’ve also made sure our contribution forms are optimized for mobile — it’s why this past quarter, over 50% of contributions made through our platform came from mobile devices!

Rural Utah Project Event

2. Your recurring donor base.

Invest time into building a strong recurring program while Giving Tuesday and other deadlines are still months away. Recurring gifts give you the amazing flexibility to budget for the future! And by nurturing a solid community of monthly supporters now, you’ll gain the superpower to plan for the big events and campaigns for your cause later in the year. You can begin by asking for monthly gifts of *smaller* amounts than one-time donations. You can also turn on our Smart Recurring feature, which encourages donors making a one-time contribution to make an additional, lower monthly gift.

Here’s a pro-tip: If you have inexpensive gifts like stickers to give supporters, you can ask people to make a monthly donation to receive a sticker. A simple email that says “Where should we send your sticker?” and includes a donation ask can build your recurring program!

Polish:

1. Your open rates.

Let go of inactive subscribers in your email list to boost your open and donation rates. Your emails are some of your most important communications with your supporters, and creative and authentic emails can build meaningful relationships with your base that raise more money in the long term. Metrics like open rates also affect whether your emails end up in Gmail’s Promotions tab or spam, so you’ll want to take your open rates seriously!

2. Your email targeting.

If you haven’t yet, segment your email list into groups of supporters organized by donor behavior. It’s easier than ever to group people by previous donation sizes using AB Charities’ tools for data on donor segments. Once you clean up your list and prepare your targeting, you can send more intentional, personalized emails that meet your donors where they’re at. And it’s this kind of detail in knowing your donors’ behavior that improves your fundraising results!

3. Your forms with A/B testing.

A/B tests are a great way for you to identify the most successful parts of your contribution form so you can make optimized forms that raise the most money. Our A/B Test Tool makes it super easy for you to run head-to-head tests on your forms, including comparing different form titles and ask language. Does a simple branding or fancier one connect with your supporters more? After testing various form versions, you’ll be left with a powerful baseline for all future forms you make!

Nourish!

While the sun’s shining, grow your relationships with your supporters through cultivation emails that aim to engage (and not just fundraise). Whether surveys, newsletters, or updates on your nonprofit’s work, sending compelling content builds trust and engagement with your list. Do you have swag and merchandise that are perfect for your supporters to sport in the summer? Try hosting a giveaway where you ask supporters to enter a contest to win sunglasses, hats, totes, or water bottles that show their grassroots pride!

Summer’s the perfect time to take big actions that can build up your grassroots fundraising. Don’t let the slow pace of these months fool you, and get started on strengthening all parts of your digital program with our tips. Still wondering where to begin? One of your first high-impact actions can be hopping on a one-on-one call with our team to talk through strategies that work for your nonprofit. We’re always happy to chat and answer any questions you have!

No ceiling to small-dollar donor engagement

More small-dollar donors than ever before are powering grassroots movements, and their immense energy for changing our country was on full display this past quarter. 2.4 million engaged grassroots supporters gave an incredible $246 million in Q2 ‘19 through ActBlue, with 56% of contributions made on mobile devices. In the first two quarters of this cycle, 3.3 million unique donors gave more than $420 million to nearly 9,000 campaigns and organizations, with an average contribution size of $32.29. These numbers are even more impressive considering that 4.9 million donors gave on ActBlue over the course of the entire 2018 election cycle!

Donors are all in to transform our country: 40% of donors have given more than once so far this year, and 1.1 million people have created ActBlue Express accounts so they can easily give to any group on ActBlue with a single click. And of donors who have given to both a presidential candidate and another type of candidate or group, 56% gave their first contribution of the year to a non-presidential candidate or organization and then went on to give to a presidential candidate. Many donors are showing up first for causes, congressional campaigns, or other down-ballot races, and then getting involved with the presidential race.

Keep reading to see all of what small-dollar donors achieved this quarter!

Total Dollars Raised on ActBlue Through Q2

Cycle-to-Cycle Comparison

2016 Cycle through Q2 2015 2018 Cycle through Q2 2017 2020 Cycle through Q2 2019
Contributions 2,073,889 8,827,452 13,024,448
Total Amount $75,815,141 $248,806,668 $420,495,119
Average Contribution Size $36.56 $28.19 $32.29
Unique Campaigns, Committees,
and Organizations
2,396 4,858 8,674

Topline Numbers

Q2 ’15 Q2 ’17 Q2 ’19
Contributions 1,281,954 4,655,506 7,620,071
Total Amount $48,572,278 $137,442,494 $245,989,080
Average Contribution Size $37.89 $29.52 $32.28
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 1,976 4,293 7,582

Building off the unprecedented participation of the 2018 midterms, small-dollar donors have expanded this grassroots movement in incredible ways, breaking multiple records on June 30th. By midnight, small-dollar donors made the largest number of contributions in a single day (390,000 contributions) and raised the second largest haul of money ever in a day ($12.5 million).

Creating a stronger democracy means winning elections at all levels of our government. We’re investing heavily in reaching out to state and local campaigns and making sure we’re ready to help thousands of state-level campaigns win. So far this year, we’ve worked with 5,744 different state and local campaigns and organizations, more than double the number we had worked with at the same point in 2017.

And donors are fired up about down-ballot races, too. They’ve supported state legislative candidates with unparalleled energy, raising twice as much money in the first two quarters of 2019 compared to Q1 and Q2 ‘17 to win back and protect crucial seats that will determine our voting maps for the next decade. At the local level, donors gave more than three times as much money to local candidates and groups so far this cycle compared to this point in the 2018 cycle.

Folks are also donating as a way to make a difference during one of our country’s biggest humanitarian disasters: Small-dollar donors raised $1.3 million in Q2 for groups helping parents and children separated at the border. Elected officials and activists used our Tandem Fundraising feature to create contribution forms listing multiple nonprofits on the ground so people looking to help immigrant and refugee families could support all of their work with one donate button.

ActBlue Express

Q2 ’15 Q2 ’17 Q2 ’19
New ActBlue Express Users 196,873 241,619 588,933
% of Total Volume via ActBlue Express 57.2% 59.2% 60.0%
% of Total Contributions via ActBlue Express 64.0% 65.9% 64.2%

There’s no ceiling that we’ve seen for small-dollar donor participation: 589K new folks signed up for ActBlue Express’ single-click giving in Q2 ‘19 alone. There are now 7 million small-dollar donors (and counting) in our ActBlue Express universe ready to transform our country and instantly take action for the left when it matters most.

Cumulative ActBlue Express Growth By Quarter

Mobile

Q2 ’15 Q2 ’17 Q2 ’19
% of Contributions via Mobile 27.0% 40.5% 55.7%

We’re constantly enhancing our tools to better serve growing grassroots movements and the donors driving them. This is our second quarter ever with more than 50% of contributions made via mobile devices! We know the importance of mobile in giving all people access to effecting change. It’s why our team of engineers has prioritized providing the same single-click ease of giving for donors using alternate forms of payment like Apple Pay and PayPal on tablets or phones.

New Mobile Contributions in 2019 by Payment Method

Our mission is to meet small-dollar donors where they’re at so they can make their voices heard on any device they have, anywhere, and at any time of day. It’s why we keep mobile at the forefront of our technological innovation and work hard to streamline mobile contribution forms. You can see just how many people are taking advantage of our optimized mobile forms to participate throughout the day below:

Mobile Contribution Rate By Time of Day, January - June 2019

Recurring Contributions

Q2 ’15 Q2 ’17 Q2 ’19
Total Recurring Volume $9,922,468 $36,630,129 $40,515,111
% of Total Volume 20.4% 26.7% 16.5%

Customer Service

Q2 ’19
Total Incoming Calls 23,587
Email Conversations 78,127

More small-dollar donors than ever are investing early in the 2020 cycle and showing up to power the left in this historic moment. Interested in being part of these people-powered movements? If you want help fundraising for your favorite candidate or cause, or if you have questions about this post, drop us a line at info@actblue.com. If you’re looking to get your group set up on ActBlue, you can always contact us at support@actblue.com. And if you’re interested in putting your skills to work and changing our country, we’re looking for passionate people to join our team!

Why small-dollar donors give, in their own words

At ActBlue, we believe that our elected officials and democratic institutions should be accountable to the people, not the 1%, and that collectively we’re more powerful than a few mega-donors could ever be. That’s why we work hard to build online fundraising tools that make it easy for grassroots donors to give to their favorite candidates and causes. Over the past 15 years, millions of small-dollar donors have taken action and donated through ActBlue to Democratic campaigns, progressive organizations, and nonprofits fighting for a better future. It’s this incredible participation from people all across the country that keeps us going, day in and day out. We recently asked why folks give through ActBlue, and we’ve never been so inspired. Here’s what motivates six small-dollar donors to give, in their own words.

Irina from Washington:

“I am an immigrant from Ukraine, I was raised in Soviet Union times and I know what dictatorship looks like! I was really excited to move to the U.S. and experience all the unimaginable freedoms that citizens have here. I have recently, just this May, become a U.S. citizen, and I am very excited to have the right to vote! I have been concerned that our democracy is in jeopardy and our human rights, and women’s rights especially, have been assaulted. I want to make sure I do my small part to keep our democracy intact.”

Kent from Texas:

“I am starting my fourth year as a public high school music educator in the great state of Texas. My home state is rich with culture, diversity, innovation, and possibility. The students who I see every day reflect those qualities of the community and state I serve. I support ActBlue because I want to fund candidates who pursue policies that will create a world where my students are safe from gun violence, where climate change can be curbed and reversed, where their ability to get an education or medical care isn’t determined by how much they or their parents make, and where they have equal representation and treatment in their government and under the law. I want my students to live in a country that speaks for and serves all Americans, not just the rich and powerful.”

Kathryn from Oregon:

“There are many ways to be an active participant in politics and progressive causes; I choose to join rallies and activist groups, call my elected officials, and donate money. These are all important, however, donating money keeps the organization(s) operating. I rely on the research, focus, and immediacy they provide to maintain my motivation to continue the fight for Democratic Party ideals and policy, which help make us a better country and partner with our allies.”

Patty from Florida:

“I’m grateful for your service and its ease of use to support the small donor and to contribute to the progressive candidates. Big donors, big PACs, and lobbyists have taken our government. We need small donors and your help toward the small donors’ efforts. Thank you.”

Warren from Alaska:

“The work you at ActBlue are doing allows citizens like me to express our desire for a better democracy, and a just and concerned society. Thank you for the work you are doing and please keep doing it.”

Nancy from Washington:

“I love my country and care about its future, especially for my grandchildren. I have always been proud to be an American, but in the past two years the ideals and institutions that make us unique are being eroded, and the only way to turn this around is to defeat Trump in 2020 and elect more Democrats to Congress.”

Everything we do is for the small-dollar donor movement, because we know people power is the only thing that can transform power structures in our country and create a democracy that truly works for everyone. And we’re seeing more engagement than ever before — in the last week of June alone, 1.1 million unique donors gave on ActBlue! So to all the grassroots donors out there, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for taking a stand. Thank you for actively working to make our country a better place. And thank you for letting us be a part of this movement with you!

The automation on ActBlue giving your fundraising a boost

Every campaign and organization on ActBlue has access to powerful automated tools. Our mission has always been to make fundraising incredibly easy for grassroots groups and the donors who support them, and automation plays a huge role in taking care of the small stuff so you can focus on the hard work of organizing, winning, and building strong movements. Automation can help you cultivate closer relationships with your supporters and raise more money, and with just a little extra customization, you can make these automated functions work even harder for you! Because our team of engineers is constantly focused on finding ways to make your fundraising better (and your life easier), we’ve made sure automation is baked into our platform. Check out the automation that’s giving your fundraising a boost on ActBlue and how you can take it to the next level.

Email Receipts + Thank You Messages

We automatically send email receipts to donors who give to you through our platform. These automated receipts let you recognize and value every single one of your donors!

How to level up: You can celebrate your donors even more by customizing the text in these automated receipts with a heartfelt thank you. Customized email receipts leave supporters with a meaningful message about the key role of small-dollar donors in your work and motivate your supporter base to stay in this movement with you. While you’re here, add a custom branding to your receipt to match your campaign or organization. You can use ActBlue’s easy design tools to spiff up your receipts with your logo (and a background color if you’re feeling artistic!).

Customized Receipt Example

Remarketing

Sometimes people navigate away from a form before completing their donation and need a nudge to finish it. Our remarketing feature encourages supporters to finish their incomplete contributions by automatically sending a follow-up email thirty minutes after an unfinished donation. Remarketing, a common and impactful feature in e-commerce, increases conversion rates and lets you get the most out of each and every ask!

How to level up: Customize your remarketing email text to remind supporters one last time why it’s so important for them to give to you and finish filling out the contribution form right now. (If you’ve used a branding on your email receipts, it will carry over to remarketing emails!)

Pop-up Recurring and Smart Recurring

Building a healthy recurring program sustains your work for the long term, and our pop-up recurring feature on our forms helps you get started. Pop-up recurring asks people who make a one-time donation to you if they’d like to turn that one-time donation into a monthly one. This feature is automatically on for all of our forms because it’s an easy way for groups on ActBlue to begin growing their recurring contributions. While pop-up recurring is turned on by default, groups can also turn on our Smart Recurring feature to automatically ask donors who make a one-time contribution to start an additional and smaller recurring donation to your campaign.

How to level up: We have default language for these pop-ups, but it makes all the difference for you to add your own title and ask. Whether pop-up recurring or Smart Recurring, this is a great opportunity for you to explain in your own voice how important recurring donations are for you. Even better? You can add an image or GIF to the pop-up to really make an impression. Another great strategy is letting donors know you’re sending a sticker to people who sign up to be monthly sustainers of your work!

PopUp Example 1

PopUp Example 1

Account Updater

After doing the hard work of growing your recurring program, you don’t want old and lost credit cards to be the reason you lose donations. We launched an integration with Account Updater in late 2016 that automatically updates lost and expired credit cards used for recurring contributions, saving you and your donors time and effort. It’s a really impactful integration that benefits all campaigns and organizations, so we make sure it comes standard for every single group on our platform (no extra charge!).

Account Updater Graph

These automated features are already running on our platform to give campaigns and organizations the fundraising advantage they need to build people-powered movements. When fundraising’s stressful for you, our goal is taking care of the technology so your digital work is easier and more successful. Curious to know more or need some help customizing these features? You can reach out to us at support@actblue.com.

How to retain (and love) your grassroots donors

One of the smartest and most exciting strategies your organization can implement right now is prioritizing existing donors! Reaching fundraising goals can be much more than finding *new* donors. Making donor retention a key part of your fundraising program helps you build strong, lasting relationships with your incredible supporters that lead to more money raised over the long term. Your small-dollar donors are your most passionate advocates and investors in your mission, so treat them as the valued stakeholders they are! And donor retention doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some tips for showing your supporters some love and motivating them to stay in this movement with you.

Start off on the right foot with a welcome email series

Welcome emails are a great way to show people who are new to your email list that they’re part of something bigger! These emails are the foundation on which you’ll build relationships with grassroots supporters, so you’ll want to put in the time to craft content that makes people want to stick around and take action.

What’s the anatomy of a strong welcome email series? From the get go, the content of your welcome emails should reiterate that by joining your list, supporters are joining a community of critical participants for your cause, like this welcome email from Sunrise does:

Sunrise Welcome Email

Let your supporters know how they can begin taking specific actions, whether it’s donating, signing a petition, volunteering, or sharing on social media. Sunrise provides links for action steps to make participating as easy as possible.

You can set a precedent for honest, respectful communication by laying out to subscribers what kinds of emails you’ll send their way, like Grist does below. Additionally, think about giving supporters an easy way to unsubscribe from your email list or linking to subscription preferences like Grist does. (Giving an easy opt-out from the start also keeps your list healthy and clean from inactive subscribers, and your future self might just thank you later).

Grist Welcome Email

Make appreciation your bread and butter

Make it a point to say “thank you!” Appreciate your small-dollar donors by letting them know they’re an irreplaceable part of your larger mission. You can immediately begin showing donors your appreciation by automating donation receipts that acknowledge gifts. AB Charities already sends automated receipts to donors for you, but you can (and should) customize the “thank you” text in these receipts. With automated, customized receipts, you ensure every grassroots gift is acknowledged and every donor leaves the giving process feeling special and important to your cause.

Saying “thank you” after someone donates is important, but appreciating your supporters in all pieces of communication for sticking with you is just as important. Keep gratitude and respect at the crux of your fundraising program by thanking supporters in every email you send. Whether a fundraising email or a newsletter, a line at the end saying “thank you” shows people they’re part of your work — and your organization knows it!

Go beyond asking for money

When a big goal of your program is building lasting relationships with donors, send non-fundraising emails that share high-quality, approachable, and timely content with your supporters. Your emails should aim to engage people so they want to stay on your list, hear from you, and invest in your cause for the long term. Many of your emails can be cultivation emails — non-fundraising emails meant to share compelling content — so you’re not only sending hard fundraising asks. With thoughtful cultivation emails, you can engage folks as partners in the fight for your cause rather than solely as piggy banks.

Try sending cultivation emails entirely dedicated to saying “thank you.” Do you have exciting numbers and accomplishments to share? You can use a thank you email as a moment to emphasize the impact of gifts and express appreciation for your donors’ actions. And you don’t have to sacrifice fundraising, either — leave an easy donate button at the bottom of the email for people who are compelled to give. Here’s an example of a great thank you email from United We Dream:

United We Dream Thank You Email

Another possible way to engage supporters is asking for their input and opinions to let them know their voices are central to your movement. Many organizations send surveys, but Friends of the Earth checked in with their list by asking people if they could make a special volunteer call to discuss advancing climate change legislation:

Friends of the Earth Volunteer Call Email

Be ready to support donors who need help

An enjoyable giving process also means having the donor support to quickly solve donation problems. Make sure you have the infrastructure to address the needs and concerns of donors. That’s why AB Charities has a dedicated donor support team that spends one-on-one time with donors having trouble. Your fundraising platform should also offer tools for frictionless donations. For example, AB Charities has a free integration with Account Updater to automatically update credit card numbers so recurring donations don’t stop even when cards are lost or expired!

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to begin building lasting relationships with small-dollar donors passionate about powering your work and sustaining your movement for the long haul. Relationship management can feel intimidating, so our team is always happy to jump on a one-on-one call with you to help your organization retain (and love) your donors!