August ’18 Recap

August wrapped up an unparalleled summer, with the small-dollar donor movement breaking multiple fundraising records from beginning to end. Grassroots donors started the month off strong by hitting a huge milestone on August 2nd: $1 billion raised on ActBlue in the 2018 election cycle! By the end of the month, small-dollar donors gave over $117 million (compared to $40 million in August ‘16) and made over 2.6 million contributions to 7,567 candidates, organizations, and nonprofits. This astounding level of participation not only made August our first $100 million month, but also our biggest month ever in terms of dollar volume and number of contributions.

So just how big was this summer? Our three biggest months ever in terms of volume are now June, July, and August of 2018. This is especially astounding because summer tends to be a relatively slow time for fundraising, even in an election year, as you can see in the graph below.

6-AB-Blog-AugustCycleGraph-9.7.18

Cycle-to-Cycle Comparison

2014 Cycle through Aug. ’14 2016 Cycle through Aug. ’16 2018 Cycle through Aug. ’18
Contributions 6,154,524 18,354,388 31,831,516
Total Amount $219,805,324 $576,052,891 $1,112,900,791
Average Contribution Size $35.71 $31.38 $34.95
Unique Campaigns, Committees,
and Organizations
4,631 5,950 13,457

So far in the 2018 election cycle small-dollar donors have raised nearly double the amount they had raised at the same point in the 2016 cycle, with an average contribution size of just $35.  The huge totals from this election cycle so far are a testament to the collective energy coming from the left to get Democrats into office this November.

Check out all the highlights from August below.

Topline Numbers

August ’14 August ‘16 August ‘18
Contributions 713,298 1,063,228 2,686,159
Total Amount $23,427,025 $39,724,145 $117,641,612
Average Contribution Size $32.84 $37.36 $43.72
Unique Campaigns, Committees,
and Organizations
2,244 3,109 7,567

The number of campaigns and organizations using our platform to raise money from small-dollar donors more than doubled from August 2016, reaching 7,567 groups this August! We’ve seen an outpouring of new candidates and organizations as people decide to change our country and run for office themselves.

August ‘18 also saw a big increase in the number of contributions when compared to August 2014 and 2016. Small-dollar donors are excited to be taking an active part in our democracy this year and are making more contributions than ever to a larger and more diverse set of campaigns and organizations.

5-AB-ElectionYearFundraisingDotChart-9.10.18.png

ActBlue Express

August ‘14 August ‘16 August ‘18
New ActBlue Express Users 59,628 50,476 149,979
% of Total Volume via ActBlue Express 57.6% 59.8% 62.2%
% of Contributions via ActBlue Express 63.6% 66.2% 64.7%

August was the biggest month in 2018 for new ActBlue Express users! The number of donors choosing to join ActBlue Express keeps growing, with an incredible 149,979 people signing up in August. These donors are able to save their payment information with us and give with a single click to any group using ActBlue. As small-dollar donors feel the urgency of the midterms and want to stand up to Republicans bankrolled by mega-donors, they are looking to make multiple donations to Democrats with fewer clicks.

Mobile

August ‘14 August ‘16 August ‘18
% of Contributions via Mobile 26.9% 35.9% 45.8%
% Mobile for ActBlue Express 28.9% 38.6% 46.1%

Mobile contributions made up 45.8% of all contributions on ActBlue last month. Mobile giving continues to steadily make up almost half of all giving on our platform, especially as more rapid-fire news churns out leading up to the elections. That’s why we make sure our contribution forms are easy to give through on desktop and mobile interfaces so donors can participate wherever they are located.

Recurring Contributions

August ‘14 August ‘16 August ‘18
Total Recurring Volume $3,607,682 $9,623,822 $19,567,407
% of Total Volume 15.4% 24.2% 16.6%

Recurring donations totalled over $19.5 million this August, more than double the volume in August 2016. With the midterm elections just around the corner, grassroots donors are meeting the call to mobilize and backing candidates on the left with people-powered campaigns.

Customer Service

August ‘18
Total Incoming Calls 12,599
Email Conversations 39,265

We’ve never seen a summer of giving like this past one. Small-dollar donors are building and growing a movement to turn Congress, state houses, and city councils blue this November. With primary elections quickly coming to an end and the anticipation of midterms reaching a high, grassroots donors aren’t showing any signs of stopping. If you want help fundraising for your favorite candidate or if you have questions about this post, get in touch with us at info@actblue.com. And if you’re looking to set up an ActBlue account for your group, contact support@actblue.com!

Our biggest month ever: $100 million raised in August

As of today, small-dollar donors have raised $100 million on ActBlue in August alone, making it the biggest month in our history!!

This milestone comes on the heels of an absolutely incredible summer for the small-dollar donor movement — June, July, and August of this year are now the top three biggest months we’ve ever had on the platform. For comparison, we handled about $40 million in August 2016 during the height of the presidential election. This is ActBlue’s first $100 million month, and we’ve seen 2.2 million grassroots supporters donate to 7,350 different campaigns and organizations across the country so far this August.

Below you can check out how August 2018 stacks up against the other biggest months.

top five biggest days

How to find the right fundraising platform for your nonprofit

Being a nonprofit fundraiser is hard enough without being hampered by clunky, expensive tools. But finding the right fundraising platform for your organization takes work, especially if you’re looking to expand your small-dollar donations. You need time to research and test the options, and you might have to convince stakeholders with different priorities to trust you (hello, board members!) — all while keeping up your current fundraising numbers. To help nonprofit fundraisers everywhere, we’ve put together a list of questions you should ask when researching a new fundraising platform.

1. When was the last time you did a deep dive into your online fundraising?

Tech-native millennials are now 20-40 years old and will only become a larger part of your donor base as time passes, so in order to create sustainable fundraising programs most nonprofits today need to prioritize online grassroots donations. You probably know off the top of your head which big grants you’ve been awarded so far this year and which ones you’re waiting to hear about, but tracking online giving can be a lot more complicated. From dollar volume to donor retention, there’s a lot to look at! If you haven’t analyzed your online fundraising recently, take stock before you start researching new tools so you know what you need in a platform.

If it’s hard to get a good picture of your online giving with your current platform, then you know to look for a platform with easy access to reports and analysis. With AB Charities your reporting and refund data is front and center on your Dashboard, we make it easy to download CSVs for any time period or donation type, and we also have integrations with various CRMs. Your Dashboard is also home to multiple graphs, pie charts, and maps that are constantly updated to help you analyze everything from donation bands to geographic interest in your cause.

2. Will the new platform help your staff grow their digital skills and give you capacity you didn’t have before?

If you’re switching platforms, look for something that will help you raise more money and learn more. A transition is the perfect time to expand the scope of your team’s work and start building new skills. At AB Charities, we love to talk digital strategy and give advice to folks using our platform! Our fundraising experts can help you with the basics of a good digital program, from building email lists to writing effective fundraising emails, or help you implement more advanced strategies and tools for growing your small-dollar donor base. We love helping nonprofits fundraise better because we know that money will help them power more good work.

3. Does the fundraising platform have the right (money-making) features?

Don’t pick a platform because it has the most features — pick a platform that has the right features! Look for specific tools that will actually raise more money, not take up space or be so complicated that setting them up is a waste of time.

Any platform worth considering should make it easy for you to customize the look and feel of your contribution forms so they fit with your brand, but don’t stop there. AB Charities comes with an ever-expanding suite of intuitive tools that both novice and veteran fundraisers can use to connect with more grassroots donors and raise more money. With our smart recurring feature, you can easily customize a pop-up that will ask donors to make a smaller sustaining donation after giving a one-time contribution. And with our remarketing feature you can write a follow-up email to donors who visited your page but didn’t finish their contribution, and we’ll send it for you — no CRM required!

4. Will the platform make it easier for your donors to give?

Your fundraising platform should not only make your life easier — it should also positively impact your supporters. After all, if you switch to a platform that hurts your donors’ giving experience, what was the point? Online contribution forms that are easy for donors to use will increase your conversion rates in a real way, which is why all AB Charities forms are automatically mobile-optimized and constantly being tested and redesigned by our engineers for even better results.

Another common barrier for online donors is keeping track of which donations need to be updated when credit cards change. That’s why we’re proud to have a (free!) integration with Account Updater that automatically updates lost and expired credit cards used for recurring contributions made on AB Charities. Not only does this save time for your donors, it also helps you raise more money without having to lift a finger.

We’ve also seen that donors like being able to save their payment info so they can give easily in the future, which is why we built ActBlue Express. Five million small-dollar donors (and counting) have saved their credit card information with us and can give to any group using our platform with a single click. We offer Apple Pay for the same reason!

5. Will the tools be obsolete in a few years?

We all know it takes a while to get comfortable with even the most user-friendly fundraising software, so make sure you invest in tools that you can depend on for the long run. Look for platforms that try to stay one step ahead of trends, have the resources and staff to innovate, and don’t require you to pay to upgrade to the latest version or get new features.

AB Charities is a nonprofit first but a tech organization second, so we’re always working on something new. We have an entire team of engineers constantly running A/B tests on our contribution forms, and when their tests lead to higher conversion rates they apply the results sitewide so everyone benefits. We already offer integrations with many CRMs and platforms, and we also have open webhooks for you to make your own. And as a mission-driven organization, we love to hear from our users about new features you’d like to see!

6. Can you actually count on the platform’s support services?

Even the most experienced fundraisers need help at some point, and when it’s crunch time you might not have hours to sift through complicated online guides. Make sure there is a real person you can contact who wants you to succeed, not just a support email. In addition to giving you strategic fundraising advice, our team is available to answer questions at any time of the day.

7. Can you afford the fundraising platform?

There’s nothing worse than getting excited about new tools only to learn you’ll have to pay exorbitant fees and sign a years-long contract. As a nonprofit ourselves, we don’t use contracts or charge anything to use our tools. There’s a 3.95% credit card processing fee on all donations, and that’s it. All of the features and customer support we’ve mentioned in this post come standard — the smallest community nonprofits get access to the same tools national charities use. We believe in the potential of small-dollar donors to revolutionize the way nonprofits run, so we want to help as many organizations as possible!

We hope these questions will make your quest for a new fundraising platform easier and help you come away with the best tools for your team’s long-term needs. If you’re looking to make a change now or simply want to test AB Charities, email us at support@actblue.com and we’ll help you set up an A/B test with your current platform!

Social share graphics for contribution forms: Designing your own with our new, easy-to-use template

We frequently hear from donors who are extremely proud of their donations and excited to share that they’ve chipped in, which is why we’ve built social share features right into our contribution forms. It’s easy to add images or text to your forms that will be included with your link every time someone shares it on Twitter or Facebook.

And now we’ve built a brand-new, easy-to-use template for folks to use to create their own social share images to add to their contribution forms. Keep reading for all the details.

What does social share look like?

If you customize your social share on ActBlue (and we highly recommend doing so for every form), it can look something like this:

 

example

Every time someone shares a link to your contribution form on social media they’ll be sharing a relevant image along with the link to donate. In the example above, we were tweeting out a form where folks could donate to Democratic nominee funds — funds we built at ActBlue to raise money for the Democrats who win primaries and go on to challenge Republicans in general elections. The social share graphic we included was attention-grabbing and helped explain a slightly wonky topic. That’s the kind of thing that can make a big difference when sharing forms this way.

And social share doesn’t have to be limited to just text-based graphics. Groups have seen success with all different types of images on their contribution forms. Here’s an example:

 

photo-social-share

 

Photos can add a human touch to your campaign or cause and catch the eye of people scrolling through their social media feeds. That’s why campaign photos are often a great choice for social share images.

Using our template to design a social share image

You’ll find our brand new social share graphic template here here.

To start using the template to design your own custom social share image, first make a copy of the document when you are prompted. You’ll notice that the template is a Google Drive file, so once you’ve made a copy you’ll be able to find it in your own Google Drive from that point forward. (If you don’t have a Google account, you should create a free account in order to use the template.)

Here’s what the template will look like before you make your own changes:

 

template

 

The area in the pink rectangle is where you should put design elements you want to be displayed on your social share graphic. The area within the pink box is 1200 x 675 pixels (with a 2:1 ratio) — specs that will fit the standard Facebook and Twitter image sizes for sharing links.

You can make changes to the text on the template by adding in your own copy and changing the font and color of the text to fit your brand. You can also add images and logos, and/or change the background color of your graphic.

To replace the sample text on the template just highlight the text and begin typing.

 

typing-gif

 

To upload a logo or an image to the template, just select the Image box within the top menu and upload your image.

 

upload-image

 

You can replace the LoremIpsum logo with your own, like you can see in the example below. But you should also remember that this is just a template! Feel free to move things around within the template to make sure your graphic best fits your brand.

 
logo
 

After you’ve got your images and text in place, you can also change the background of your social share image, by using the bucket tool in the top menu.

 
background-color
 

Now that you’ve got the bones of your design, you can add some style to your text if you’d like. You can easily add some depth to your design simply by highlighting some of your text, as you can see in the gif below.

 

highlight-text

 

Feeling good about your design? Now you just need to download it! Note that you shouldn’t change the size of your image before downloading. Just head up to the top menu and choose the File dropdown menu. Then you’ll want to choose “Download as…” and download the image as a PNG file.

 

download

 

Once you’ve downloaded your image there’s one final step you should take to make sure your image will display in clear, high quality. Due to Twitter and Facebook’s image compression process, sometimes images will appear blurry on social shares. If your image is looking a little blurry, you can try this tool. Just drag your image into the box on the page. This will tweak your image so that it will bypass Twitter and Facebook’s compression tools (but won’t change the way your image looks). Once you’ve dragged your image on to the page, a new version will download to your computer and will include “TWITSAFE” in the file name. This will work for both Twitter and Facebook.

Adding your image to a contribution form

So, how do you set up your shiny, newly designed social share image on a contribution form? It’s easy! Once you’ve created a contribution form, select the “Edit” button in the contribution form editor.

 

form-editor

 

Next, you’ll want to choose “Social share” from the menu.

Here you’ll be able to customize the title and description of your links as they’ll appear on both Facebook and Twitter. You can also include your campaign or organization’s Twitter handle if you’d like to be tagged every time someone shares your form. Below you can see just what you can change for your links on Facebook and Twitter.

 
social-share-ActBlue
 

Lastly, you’ll be able to upload your new, custom image using the “Upload new file” option which you can see below.

 

upload-graphic

 

To double check that your image and text look how you want them to, head to https://cards-dev.twitter.com/validator and drop the link to your form in the Card URL box. It will show you a preview of what folks on Twitter will see in their feeds. You can do the same for Facebook at this link: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/.

Social share can make all the difference in social media fundraising, which is why we’ve made it so easy to build right into your fundraising program. If you’re a donor or activist creating contribution forms for causes you care about and you have questions about social share, you can reach out at info@actblue.com.

And if you’re working for a campaign or organization using ActBlue and you have questions or comments about creating social share graphics using our template, or customizing your social share text, just drop us a line at support@actblue.com!

Creating community forms to raise money for candidates and causes you care about

We’re seeing more energy and participation right now from small-dollar donors than we ever have before. It’s amazing. But even more amazing is that we’re seeing donors taking matters into their own hands — they’re not just donating to campaigns and organizations when they’re asked, they’re organizing and connecting with their communities to raise money for campaigns and causes they care about. How exactly are they doing this? They’re creating community forms on ActBlue — forms that are not created by a campaign or organization, but by members of their community of supporters. They’re raising money for individual campaigns and organizations, and they’re creating forms where folks can give to lists of candidates supporting legislation they’re passionate about, or lists of nonprofits doing critical work on the ground in our communities. And they’re raising millions for campaigns and organizations on ActBlue!

Creating forms is an easy way to take your activism one step further. And it’s free to do using ActBlue’s tools! That’s why we wanted to walk you through creating community forms and raising money from your friends, families, and extended networks. Keep reading for all the info you need to create your own forms and get fundraising!

Creating your form

If you’ve used ActBlue before you’ll want to get started by logging in to your account here. If you’ve never made an account with us before, you can create an account here. Once you’re all logged in, you’ll want to select the My Fundraising tab.

my-fundraising

Look for the blue box titled “Create a new fundraising form” and click the orange button to search our directory of organizations that use ActBlue.

search-directory

Alternatively, you can open the Recent menu in the navigation bar at the top of your screen and follow the link at the bottom to the directory.

 

recent-menu

Type the name of the candidate or organization you want to fundraise for in the search box.

directory

You must click the blue magnifying glass button to see the correct results, not the names that appear in the dropdown. You can also find groups by selecting one of the links in the gray box.

search-directory

 

At this point, you’ll be brought to a list of groups, with options (in orange) to create a community form to fundraise for each of them. Once you’ve found the group you want to fundraise for, click the group’s “Create contribution form” button to start making your community form.

list

A pop-up will open where you can fill out your form’s basic information.

pop-up

First, give your form a title. You’ll be able to edit your form’s title later, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect.

Then finish the web address for your form by typing a short, simple, memorable word in the “Web address” box, which will be part of the unique web address for your form. Pick a short word or phrase and make a note of it so you can locate your form easily at a later time.

When you click “Create and continue,” you will be taken to a live preview of your form and you’ll see the form editor open on the left.

Fundraising for more than one candidate or organization

One way to make a big impact by fundraising on ActBlue is to raise for a group of candidates or organizations doing work you care about via Tandem Fundraising (using one single form). For example, you can add all the candidates who are running against Republicans who take money from the NRA, or you can add multiple organizations working on the immigration fight to support their efforts to reunite families.

It’s easy to add more than one group to your form! Just head to the “Recipients” tab of the form editor, where you can easily add different campaigns or organizations. When a donor lands on a Tandem Form, they can then split one contribution between all of the groups listed on the form.

Add details to your form

Now you can use the form editor to add important information to your form. You’ll be able to preview the changes you make to your form here in real time! Click here for tips on using the form editor.

The first thing you should do is add a donation ask. Go to the “Title, ask, and URL” tab in the form editor. In the “Donation ask” box, write a short blurb explaining why a supporter should donate. Since you’re creating a form specifically to raise for candidates you believe in or causes you’re passionate about, you should use this space to explain why. Drawing a personal connection to the work will help motivate your friends and family to give. And don’t forget to actually ask for money! You should make a point to specifically include a line of text that says something like “Will you chip in $3?”

 

form-editor

You can add basic formatting, like bullet points and bolding, and images to your ask.

Another great feature in the form editor that we encourage folks to take advantage of is social share. This lets you customize the content that will be shared on a donor’s Facebook and Twitter account when they choose to share that they’ve made a contribution on social media. It’s a simple way to catch the eye of potential supporters! To do this, open the “Social share” tab in the form editor and then fill in the fields.

 

social-share

Here’s an example of what customized social share can look like:

social-share-example

It can be difficult to raise money via social media, since folks are often scrolling quickly through their feeds and aren’t super likely to actually stop, read a fundraising pitch, and click out of Facebook or Twitter to donate. Social share can grab people’s attention and help motivate them to donate, so we encourage customizing your social share text and/or image if you can.

We also have a handy social share image template available for folks to use to create simple graphics to include in their social share. You can find it here: https://docs.google.com/drawings/u/1/d/1qEILgxbIBFr5Sjgpx3a9S9Uxl7DU7dDat5EksOF1Pzo/copy.

Sharing your form

After publishing all of your changes, close the form editor and head to the “Promote” button to start sharing your form!

 

promote

To send your form out to the world, just copy the link that’s generated on the top of the Promote pop-up and paste it in an email, a social media post, or anywhere else you’d like to fundraise.

promote-link

There are lots of further customizations that can be made to contribution forms, but we wanted to highlight the basic, easy ways to get started with fundraising to help folks get the ball rolling. You can also do things like set your form to accept recurring contributions for a specified length of time or choose specific contribution amount buttons to be displayed on your page. You can also add a goal thermometer and customize the text your supporters will receive after they donate. We’re always happy to help folks take advantage of our tools and organize their networks, so if you have questions about building forms feel free to reach out to our team at info@actblue.com. You can also find even more detailed instructions on our support site.

And if you’re seeing success using ActBlue forms to fundraise from your community, we’d love to hear about your work. Drop us a line at info@actblue.com or tweet at us @actblue to tell us about it!

July ’18 Recap

The summer of small-dollar donors continued in July as folks across the country ramped up their organizing for the midterms. Grassroots donors on ActBlue raised $83,743,916 for 7,229 candidates, organizations, and nonprofits — $50 million more than was raised in July 2016 during a presidential year! This is especially impressive because giving typically slows during the summer. Small-dollar donors are clearly more motivated than ever, and all of their energy last month led to an incredible milestone on August 1: $1 BILLION raised by small-dollar donors using ActBlue so far in the 2018 election cycle! For comparison, $781 million was raised on ActBlue over the entire 2016 presidential election cycle.

A big reason why we were able to reach this milestone is all of the new donors who are excited to get Democrats elected to Congress in November and make change in their communities. 59.3% of all people who have given on ActBlue since January 1, 2017 are first-time givers. We took a closer look and found that 77.6% of new donors this election cycle who have given twice or more have an average contribution size of $35 or less! People are truly embracing small-dollar donations as a way to fight back and make their voices heard, just in time for the midterms.

new-repeat-donors-by-avg-donation-size

Check out all of the highlights from July below.

Topline Numbers

July ’14 July ‘16 July ‘18
Contributions 692,478 1,005,855 2,083,356
Total Amount $20,300,081 $33,281,979 $83,743,916
Average Contribution Size $29.31 $33.08 $40.20
Unique Campaigns, Committees,
and Organizations
2,175 3,002 7,229

Grassroots donors made 2,083,356 contributions in July, more than double what was made in July 2016! The number of groups using our tools also more than doubled from 2016. Nearly half of the groups using our tools last month were state-level campaigns, which is incredibly exciting. State legislatures have passed some of the most conservative policies at the state level and are in control of redistricting for Congress, making it essential for Democrats to win back state houses in November if we want to make long-term change.

Many folks were moved to give when Trump announced Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court at 9 p.m. ET on July 9. We saw contributions more than double in the hours after the announcement. Online grassroots donations give people a positive way to channel their frustrations and combat feelings of helplessness in situations like this.

contributions-by-hour-july-ninth

ActBlue Express

July ‘14 July ‘16 July ‘18
New ActBlue Express Users 75,753 60,391 117,781
% of Total Volume via ActBlue Express 57.1% 60.6% 61.5%
% of Contributions via ActBlue Express 61.4% 66.4% 64.4%

The ActBlue Express universe of donors continues to grow as more people realize the power of small-dollar donations and want to give multiple times. 117,781 people signed up for ActBlue Express in July, and 64.4% of all contributions came from ActBlue Express users!

Mobile

July ‘14 July ‘16 July ‘18
% of Contributions via Mobile 28.5% 38.2% 45.2%
% Mobile for ActBlue Express 30.7% 41.0% 45.2%

45.2% of all contributions in July were made on mobile, up from 38.2% in 2016. Fundraising programs that don’t prioritize mobile giving will miss out on a lot of money. That’s why all ActBlue contribution forms are automatically optimized for mobile. Donors can give just as easily from their phone at the beach as they can from their laptop in the air conditioning.

Recurring Contributions

July ‘14 July ‘16 July ‘18
Total Recurring Volume $2,811,282 $9,131,642 $18,038,185
% of Total Volume 13.1% 27.4% 21.5%

Monthly donations allow campaigns to plan for the future. Democrats are in a strong position going into the fall as recurring donations totaled $18,038,185 on ActBlue in July, nearly double the recurring volume in 2016. That’s a whole lot of money for knocking on doors and get-out-the-vote efforts!

Customer Service

July ‘18
Total Incoming Calls 10,681
Email Conversations 32,728

Grassroots donors are donating at unprecedented rates and making it possible for Democrats to get their message in front of more voters ahead of November. With only 89 days until Election Day, this participation and energy is really making a blue wave possible and laying a foundation for long-term change. If you have questions about this post or want help fundraising, get in touch with us at info@actblue.com!

Why we need to #FixDemocracyNow

Right now, our friends at Every Voice are running a “Fix Our Democracy Now” week of action, and we’re proud to be a participating organization. Every Voice is pushing for elected officials to pass legislation that would reform campaign finance law, protect voting rights, and end partisan gerrymandering. We’re excited to support these reforms because our government will only be truly democratic when everyone can run for office regardless of their economic background, vote without having to jump through discriminatory hoops, and know they are fairly represented.

We know this because we’ve been fighting the corrupting influence of big money in politics ever since our founding in 2004. We started building grassroots fundraising software way back then because we saw there was a huge barrier to entry for people who wanted to get involved with the political process: both potential candidates and supporters felt like they couldn’t make a difference if they didn’t have millions of dollars to burn. This prevented diverse, smart people with good ideas from running for office and left room for candidates controlled by mega-donors to cruise to victory. And especially after Citizens United, conservative mega-donors like the Koch brothers not only bankroll entire campaigns but also pay for dark money groups that lobby for voter ID laws and fund court cases that contest district lines.

Luckily, thousands of groups have now realized how small-dollar contributions fuel widespread civic engagement. When people can easily chip in $5 or $10 to a candidate or cause, they become invested in the outcome and are more likely to volunteer, ask friends and family to donate, and give again themselves. And the conversations these donations spark are what get more people to the polls. We even hear from donors that being able to give a few dollars online is sometimes the only way they can support a cause. This is how small-dollar donations add up to democratic people power that conservative mega-donors can’t beat.

What’s more, we’re seeing an unprecedented amount of participation across ActBlue right now. Since Trump’s election, more and more folks have realized the power of grassroots donations and are donating for the first time, fundraising for their favorite candidates, or choosing to run for office with the support of their own small-dollar donors instead of big money. More than a quarter of all people who gave via ActBlue in Q2 2018 were first-time donors, and grassroots donors have raised nearly $1 BILLION using our platform so far this election cycle. It’s clear Americans are more engaged in our democracy than ever before and want the playing field to be leveled — now.

These reforms couldn’t come at a more important time for our country. The Koch brothers are spending $400 million on the midterms, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson recently gave $30 million to a GOP super PAC, and the list goes on. That’s why everyone who believes in our democracy needs to fight for reform now. Small-dollar donors are countering the impact of these mega-donors by raising more money, talking to their communities, and turning out voters, but we need to get Democrats elected so they can enact reforms before Trump and his enablers do more damage.

Momentum is on our side right now, but we’re going to have to put in a lot more work before Election Day. To learn how you can take action to Fix Our Democracy Now, visit www.fixdemocracynow.com. And if you’re interested in fundraising for your favorite campaign, reach out to us at info@actblue.com for help getting started!

Q2 2018: Primaries, protests, and people power

In a quarter filled with exhilarating highs and devastating lows for our democracy, small-dollar donors were the one constant we could count on. Not only did donors break fundraising records on ActBlue once again (more on that later), hundreds of thousands of people were moved to give for the first time this quarter. Many were activated by the Trump administration’s horrific separation of families at the border, as well as the new opportunity to vote for primary candidates who looked like them and embraced small-dollar donors over super PAC money.

This increased participation is reflected in our latest cycle-to-date numbers: Small-dollar donors have now raised over $900 million this election cycle and are on track to hit $1 billion this summer! Additionally, the number of unique groups using our fundraising tools this cycle is nearly double the number that used us in the entire 2016 election cycle! Grassroots donors are truly uniting behind Democratic candidates and successfully leveling a playing field traditionally stacked by conservative mega-donors.
Cycle-to-Cycle Comparison

Dollar Volume Raised on ActBlue Cycle-to-Date

Small-dollar donors aren’t just breaking cycle records — this was also the biggest quarter ever on ActBlue in terms of dollar volume ($210,747,320), and it includes our biggest dollar day ever (June 30 — $9,373,597). On top of all of that, we also officially crossed 5 million ActBlue Express users! Keep reading to see everything grassroots donors achieved this quarter.

Q2 Topline Numbers

With so many brand-new grassroots donors getting off the sidelines and jumping in to help more candidates and organizations than ever before, we once again broke the record for the number of unique groups using our tools in a single quarter: 9,070 campaigns and organizations. Q2 was also our second-biggest quarter ever for number of contributions. Small-dollar donors gave 5,177,216 contributions, nearly matching the current record of 5,615,070 from Q1 2016, which was in the midst of a heated presidential primary! This is yet another example of the participation and activism we’re seeing build as we near November.

Many of the new donors in Q2 were motivated to give to charities fighting for parents and children who were separated at the border. When the crisis began, activists and elected officials used our Tandem Fundraising feature to build contribution forms that listed multiple nonprofits advocating for families so that folks could support all of their work with a single click. Over 380,000 people gave their first contribution through ActBlue this quarter, and 51.3% of those folks gave that donation through one of these forms.

Donors Who Gave Their First Contribution on ActBlue via a Border Crisis Tandem Form

ActBlue Express

Q2 ‘14 Q2 ‘16 Q2 ‘18
New ActBlue Express Users 137,998 231,463 280,319
% of Total Volume via ActBlue Express 53.5% 62.3% 58.3%
% of Contributions via ActBlue Express 58.7% 70.1% 62.2%

With ActBlue Express, donors can save their payment information and give to any campaign or organization using ActBlue with a single click. In Q2, 62.2% of all contributions came from ActBlue Express, and 280,319 folks created ActBlue Express accounts. We officially hit 5 million ActBlue Express users on June 30 during the end-of-quarter rush — only a year and a day after hitting 4 million users in 2017!

ActBlue Express Growth

Mobile

Q2 ‘14 Q2 ‘16 Q2 ‘18
% of Contributions via Mobile 23.7% 39.8% 43.0%
% Mobile for ActBlue Express 26.2% 43.1% 43.1%

Recurring Contributions

Q2 ‘14 Q2 ‘16 Q2 ‘18
Total Recurring Volume $3,914,199 $25,403,318 $41,456,595
% of Total Volume 8.2% 19.2% 19.7%

Recurring contributions sustain campaigns that have to make it from primary season to November and enable the nonprofits fighting for families at the border to support the affected children and parents for months to come. This quarter, recurring contributions made up 19.7% of total sitewide volume.

Customer Service

Q2 ‘18
Total Incoming Calls 28,015
Email Conversations 77,004

Q2 made it more clear than ever before that we are living in a new age of American activism that is being powered by small-dollar donors. From protesting to voting to donating, the left put in an incredible amount of organizing that will set us up for victory this fall. And with months still to go until Election Day, we know this movement will only continue to expand! If you want to fundraise for your favorite campaign or cause, or if you have questions about this post, get in touch with us at info@actblue.com!

5 Steps to Flip the Ladder Sideways and Grow Your Grassroots Donors

This is a guest post written by Janice Chan, who often writes for our friends at Wethos over at The Nonprofit Revolution. In over a decade in the nonprofit sector, Janice has written fundraising appeals and grant proposals, led social media outreach, managed volunteers, executed rollout plans, managed donor and program databases, and learned the hard way that changing to a new website host means you’d better make sure that donation form still works!

Wethos 1

Ever played that team building game, “All Aboard”? You’re in a group and you are given say, a hand towel or a telephone book (showing my age here, I know), and the goal is to get everybody on board without anyone having a foot touching the ground. Depending on the variation or the prop used, the boat may get smaller (e.g. towel is folded in half) or your group may get bigger — and still you need to get everyone on board without any feet touching the ground.

Often, working at a nonprofit organization can feel that way. You’re trying to serve the same number of people with fewer resources, or serve more people with the same amount of resources. This metaphor is not only apropos to programming, but to fundraising as well. You’re trying to raise funds from more supporters (get more people on board) with the same number of staff or resources. And yet, the more you raise, the more people (donors and clients) you can get on board.

It does not need to be an endless game of chicken, egg, chicken, egg.

That’s why you focus on major gifts and/or grants, right? We know it’s important to respect donors at all levels, but in terms of where we spend our fundraising resources (time, budget, attention), it is clear that we prioritize funders who can give large gifts. But it’s easy to take those smaller dollar annual gifts for granted — just send or share it out to enough people and build our lists and followers because it is a small percentage of volume, volume, volume.

Or is it?

We tend to believe, particularly if we are smaller organizations, in the myth of scarcity. That if we spent time focusing on small-dollar donors, it would take away from the time we spend on major gifts and grants, and that would cause much bigger problems if we didn’t have those. We act as if this were a game of musical chairs instead. And so we close ourselves off to the people who could help us.

Worse, we leave people feeling like their contributions won’t matter unless they can write a check with more than two digits in front of the decimal point.

The trick to playing “All Aboard” is that when you have more people, you can use each other to hold all of you up. The more people you have, the more people you can get on board. This is not musical chairs. But you have to involve every person on board.

One, value small-dollar donors.

Valuing small-dollar donors isn’t simply the right thing to do; it’s a key part of any smart fundraising strategy. Small-dollar donors provide increased revenue, can be more vocal supporters and ambassadors for your organization once they’ve invested in your work, and can donate multiple times.

Valuing donors is not about what we say but whether our donors feel like they matter to us. You know how we rush to address whatever it is that a major donor, funder, or board member raised as an issue, no matter how small? Or how we otherwise pay attention to all aspects of their donor experience? Sometimes it’s because they are important details; sometimes the details are simply important to them. Donor experience is key at all levels. What if we took the same care and put the same level of thought into how all of our donors experience supporting our organization?

Note that I said thought, not necessarily time. Often, we know more than we give ourselves credit for knowing. Like the fact that increasing numbers of donors give via mobile devices. Or that A/B testing is an effective way to experiment and see what works best for your particular donors.

But getting there seems overwhelming and, as a small or medium nonprofit, like it’s out of our league. However, technology advances all the time but so do the services available. Customizable, data-driven online fundraising platforms are no longer as out of reach as you think — not in cost or in staff capacity to manage and maximize.

Two, create a plan to grow the number of small-dollar donors.

Giving Tuesday doesn’t just magically happen as some type of positive penance amid the Cyber Monday hangover (Cyber Monday also not being a natural consequence of Black Friday).

Grassroots fundraising can change the game if you’re intentional about it. What does intentional look like? There is a strategy, there are planned efforts to grow the number of small-dollar donors, and these efforts are tracked, measured, and evaluated to inform future efforts. These strategies don’t have to break the bank, and the right expertise is also not as out of reach as you think! (Not entirely sure what you need? Platforms like Wethos offer free consultations that can help you define your project prior to hiring a freelancer.)

And remember how we talked about involving every person on board? Traditionally, fundraising has been about moving donors up the ladder of engagement over time, from smaller annual gifts to larger major gifts. But that’s ignoring a subset of donors who, for various reasons, wish to give lower amounts, or who perhaps would rather give smaller amounts more often, a.k.a. recurring gifts.

Flip the ladder of engagement sideways, like a platform you can build on. Challenges and matches can be a successful strategy for getting people on board, while giving your major donors a new way in which to support your organization and grow your capacity.

Three, set a goal to encourage recurring gifts from small-dollar donors.

Yes, we can ask small-dollar donors for recurring gifts, and yes, we can receive them. Even if the amount per donation is lower, the recurring nature means that a donor will likely give more than if you had asked them for a one-time gift. For example, you might only get $25 as a one-time gift but the same donor might be willing to pledge $5/month for 12 months (and $5 x 12 = $60).

You know what else? It is also a sign that this donor is more connected to your cause and your organization, which means they will probably be more likely to respond to your other calls to action. It’s also easier to ask friends to give when, hey, you support this organization every month.

Want recurring gifts? As with all fundraising, you won’t get what you don’t ask for. Build this into your strategy and your online giving forms. (Or take the time-saving approach and choose a platform like AB Charities where recurring gifts and management of them is already built in.)

Four, for any goals, figure out how you’ll evaluate your progress.

A big benefit of grassroots fundraising? Sample size. This makes it much faster to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. And whereas some donors may be fairly forthright about why they did or didn’t give to you, raising money online also gives you the benefits of tracking things like how many people visit your online donation page without clicking through — and where they dropped off in the process.

Five, apply what you’ve learned to value your grassroots donors.

And like that Brian McKnight song, we are back at one.

Best practices are not without merit, but they are not based on your particular organization or your supporters. Use what you learn to continue to figure out how to make all your donors feel valued, respected, and like their contribution matters. This will change over time. Good thing is that so do the tools and resources available to us.

You do what you do because your organization believes in our capacity to be better, in our capacity to make the world better. Believe in the capacity of your grassroots donors.

All aboard!

This post was written for AB Charities in partnership with Wethos and also appears on their blog, The Nonprofit Revolution.

Our new navigation bar’s best features

ActBlue users of all types (organization admins! candidates! donors!) will see a brand-new navigation bar (navbar) on ActBlue starting today, pictured below. We wanted to run through a few of the reasons why we made this change and how we think it will make your workflow even better!

Nav1

A better mobile experience

First off, we wanted to make the experience better on mobile for everyone. In the old version of the navbar, there were a few different nested menus, which didn’t lead to a very quick or userfriendly experience. The new navbar makes it much easier for users (especially campaign and organization admins) to navigate to the pages they need.

Nav2
The pink circles show the many nested menus in the old navbar on mobile.
Nav3
The new navbar is much simpler on mobile!

Better support for multi-group admins

We also know there are a lot of admins who work with more than one candidate or organization on ActBlue. We wanted to make that multi-group experience as smooth as possible. To that end, we got rid of the old gray slideout menu and replaced it with a “My Dashboards” tab where you can see the last five Dashboards you’ve accessed or use the search function to quickly find the Dashboard you’re looking for.

Nav4

An easier way to get back to your favorite pages

We’ve added a “Recent” menu to the header, which will bring up a donor or admin’s recently visited pages. For admins, that means you can easily access the contribution forms and Dashboards you’ve been working with. And for donors, it means you can find your way back to contribution forms for your favorite candidate or organization, or use the link to the directory to find the cause you’re looking for.

Nav5

Access to the navbar on contribution forms for entity admins

If you’re a cookied entity admin, you’ll now be able to log in to ActBlue while you’re on a contribution form! This should make it easier for you to access your contribution form data or Dashboard while preserving the regular contribution form experience for donors.
Nav6

We know this is a big change, but we designed this new tool with faster workflows and a better mobile experience in mind, and we hope it will help out entity admins! We’ve also heard from many donors about needing an easier way to find favorite candidates and organizations, and this is a big step toward that goal. If you have questions or concerns, let us know at info@actblue.com.