Need more hours in the day? Press pause to be more productive.

This is a guest post written by Janice Chan, who often writes for our friends at Wethos over at The Wethos Collective blog. 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

Feeling burned out? I know this sounds counterintuitive, but put aside your to-do list for 30 minutes. Turn off your notifications, hide your phone, if need be, hide yourself in a conference room where your coworkers can’t find you. (Okay, maybe tell one person who understands the true meaning of the word emergency. You know, in case there is a fire or something.)

Then use that 30 minutes to brainstorm ways that you can get more hours back in your day. It takes time to make time. What would make it easier/less frustrating to do your job? Review everything currently on your to-do list and ask yourself these three questions.

Do you actually need to do this?

The quickest way to get back time is to go down your list and ask, of each item, “What will be lost by NOT doing this?”

At the micro level, this can be steps in a process. One low-lift example: Can you streamline an approval process? Maybe certain people only need to sign off if certain criteria are in play.

At micro and macro levels, re-evaluate wants vs. needs — just as you would with your budget. Maybe you want to run more events to attract new donors, but maybe what you really need to do is focus on continuing to build relationships with grassroots donors. Or maybe you want to revamp your website, but what you really need is a better digital strategy. Perhaps it is worth engaging a team of digital strategists to help you assess what items will have the most impact.

Do you need to do this?

Are you the only person who can do this? It can be scary to let go of things that you’re good at, or that you’ve always done. At the same time, it can be incredibly freeing not to shoulder a particular responsibility all by your lonesome. For example, to go on vacation and know that other people can handle things.

As you go down your list, consider whether any of these items could be good growth opportunities for a colleague. Or, perhaps, it is a tedious task that needs to be done but could be a little more evenly distributed than it currently is. What’s holding you back from delegating? Another low-lift strategy would be writing up a how-to guide (which is also important knowledge management, should you ever win the Powerball) or taking a screencast or training others. Ensuring organizational continuity is always time well spent now to free up your time later on.

Remember to leverage all the people on your team. For example, is your board fundraising? If not, perhaps it’s time to talk to board members about expectations.

Trying to figure out something new? Your nonprofit is probably not the first organization to tackle this challenge. For example, your cause is suddenly thrust into the news and the spotlight, and you need to come up with a fundraising plan yesterday! Or, you could take a page from these best practices in rapid response fundraising from AB Charities.

Is heavier lifting required?

Sometimes it is worth examining the opportunity cost of you doing X, when you could be making a bigger impact in other areas. Maybe you’d like to keep your hand on the wheel, but could get there faster with help, whether it’s extra hands or a particular skill set your team needs support with. There’s no shame in raising your hand — in fact, it requires maturity and confidence to ask for help. It’s what we often encourage others to do.

Admittedly, it can be challenging to ask for help when you’re not sure what you need. Wethos collaborative teams and the AB Charities team are always ready to support you and can even help you figure out what is needed.

Could this be accomplished differently?

We are often so busy getting things done that we forget to pick our heads up and survey the changing landscape — and sometimes we miss things, like technology that might make our jobs and lives easier!

Things you can do this week

Compound time saved with smarter habits

  • Are you asking for every single gift? Learn why you should ask for recurring donations and how AB Charities makes this simple and automatic (for you and your donors).

  • Does this need to be done in the office? Offices can be great for collaboration-heavy projects, but they are full of distractions. When you need to focus on a thinking-heavy project, perhaps it would be better to work off-site.

  • Should this be a meeting or an email or a phone call? Do everybody a favor and make a habit of asking this question regularly!

Invest upfront to multiply your time later

And if it is a thorny project that desperately needs to be tackled? Engaging a collaborative team of experts can help get you over a large one-time hurdle while also providing an opportunity to gain expertise you don’t currently have in-house.

Overwhelmed? Start somewhere, start anywhere — just start!

One pause and one deep breath can lead to another. I wrote this down so that you can come back to the resources and ideas. No need to tackle this all at once. Or alone — the AB Charities team is always available to help you with your digital fundraising, and Wethos collaborative teams are available to support you with a broad range of skill sets.

But now when you get overwhelmed, you can ask those three questions: Do I need to do this, do I alone need to be the one to do this, and could this be done a different way?

This post was written for AB Charities in partnership with Wethos and also appears on The Wethos Collective blog.

Save time with reusable social share settings!

When a donor shares the link to your contribution form on social media, they’re introducing your cause to hundreds of potential new supporters. We want you to be able to make the most of these moments, which is why we’ve upgraded our social share feature! In addition to customizing the image and text that appears on Facebook and Twitter when someone posts the link to your form, now you can create default and reusable social share settings for your ActBlue contribution forms. This will save you time and effort for future forms while ensuring your supporters are filling their networks with your messaging and branding!

To create reusable settings, just check the “Make settings reusable” box at the bottom of the “Social share” tab in the form editor after adding the text and image you want. Then give the settings a name.
 

Reusable social share setting option

 

Once you publish your changes, the next time you go to the “Social share” tab for a contribution form you’ll be able to select the reusable setting in the “Applied reusable settings” dropdown!

 

Applied reusable settings 1

Applied reusable settings 2

 

If you need help creating an image for your social share, check out this blog post!

To set a default social share setting for your campaign or organization, select the reusable setting you want from the dropdown and check the “Set as default” box that appears before publishing your changes.

 

Set as default

 

From then on, all brand-new forms you create will automatically have the default social share settings applied, except for new clones of forms with different settings.

If you decide to make a different reusable setting your default, that setting will only be applied to brand-new future forms, not pre-existing forms that use an old default or new clones of forms with different settings.

We’ve also made it possible to preview your social share text and image together with this upgrade. After customizing your Facebook or Twitter share, just click “Preview” above the image to see your social share setting.

Social share preview

Preview

We hope these improvements will save you time and make customizing your social share settings easier! To get a step-by-step guide to these changes, including how to edit a reusable setting, visit our support website. And if you’re an admin who needs assistance with social share or another aspect of contribution forms, you can always reach us at support@actblue.com!

Rapid response fundraising: Raising money online for the frontlines

When your cause is in the news, it’s often because of a crisis or a unique moment of focus on your work. That means people will be more tuned in to your cause than at any other time and more likely to make a donation right then and there. With the right digital strategy, you can use these rapid response moments to build a community of grassroots donors that will sustain your work long after your cause is out of the headlines, because we know your work doesn’t end when the moment is over.

So when your cause is thrust into the limelight, how can you meet the moment and give people a way to fight back and make a difference with a donation? First, although social media can help you boost content, it’s often too fleeting to grab attention. The majority of money still comes from fundraising emails, where you can convey a nuanced message and motivate supporters to contribute.

Second, when you develop your plan for rapid response, you should think about prioritizing recurring donations. People who donate during rapid response often become invested supporters who intentionally give again, volunteer, and advocate for your cause beyond the moment. That’s why when your cause hits the news, you should ask for sustaining gifts and grow your base of monthly givers. You’ll want to make sure your fundraising platform has great tools for building a recurring donor program when traffic is high and your capacity is low.

With the right tools and strategy, organizations of all sizes and people of all digital skill levels can build a powerful rapid response fundraising program. Here are some best practices to help you do exactly this:

  • Make your donation ask specific and clear. Tell your supporters why you’re asking them to give right now! Big moments often bring new people into your reach, so emphasize your mission and make sure they understand the work you’re asking them to support.

  • Provide a call to action that empowers supporters to take action (for now and for the long term). Explain why donations are necessary to immediately work to address the issue or respond to the crisis.

  • Make it easy for supporters to choose monthly gifts. You know the work doesn’t end once the media attention is gone. With supporters motivated to contribute to rapid response efforts, make it clear to passionate people why they should consider making a monthly gift to sustain your nonprofit’s mission for the long run. When asking your supporters to make a recurring donation, keep the ask amount lower than a one-time donation to encourage people to commit to feasible, long-lasting gifts.

  • Empower one-time donors to invest in your nonprofit as a sustainer. Not everyone will immediately opt to make a recurring contribution. You can use the Smart Recurring feature on AB Charities to ask donors who make a one-time donation to consider starting a smaller recurring gift. Smart Recurring is a great way to introduce donors to recurring contributions and is perfect for rapid response moments, when supporters galvanized to take action might also want to sustain your work for months.

  • Follow up with supporters who started but didn’t finish their contributions. On AB Charities forms, you can turn on our remarketing feature to automatically send follow-up emails to supporters who landed on your form but didn’t fully complete their contributions. Remarketing increases conversion rates and lets you get the most out of every ask. Customize your remarketing email text to remind supporters one last time why it’s important in this moment to give!

  • Customize your contribution form’s social share so donors can become your vocal ambassadors *in style.* Social share is even more important in rapid response moments: Supporters excited to share they donated can fill their social networks with your compelling images and messaging. By spreading your mission, they act as powerhouse organizers on your behalf and bring more people organically into your movement.

  • Get the creative work done ahead of time. AB Charities makes it really easy for any nonprofit to customize social share graphics with our free template (which you can find here). You can also plan ahead for the inevitable chaos of rapid response moments by making reusable social share settings that can be whipped out for any future form.

  • Send donors a thank you email! People who give in rapid response moments are often new donors, so you can use this email as an opportunity to turn them into long-term supporters of your organization. And you can go beyond an immediate thank you email! Build meaningful, lasting relationships with your donors by sending additional emails that let them know the impact of their gifts.

The power of rapid response fundraising is that it enables you to capture the energy churning in the news cycle and bottle it up, so you have the supporters and the resources you need to do meaningful work now and in the future. Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re ready to put your digital tools (and new skills!) to work and fundraise whenever a big moment hits. And you don’t have to do it alone! Our team is always happy to hop on a one-on-one call and help you leverage your AB Charities account to lock down your strategy.

Q4 2018: Closing a historic cycle

Small-dollar donors were fired up in the final sprint to Election Day, ending a historic 2018 election cycle with record-breaking Q4 fundraising numbers. Grassroots supporters made 8,457,209 contributions on ActBlue in Q4 alone — the biggest quarter ever for number of contributions. And hear this: More money was raised by more groups using ActBlue in Q4 than in the *entire* 2014 election cycle! Grassroots donors showed up until the very end and continued to give to resistance groups and Democrats spearheading change. Q4 2018 made it clear that while we’re leaving a lot behind in 2018 (like a GOP-controlled Congress), the small-dollar donor movement that drove huge wins in 2018 is here to stay.

Topline Numbers

Q4 '14 Q4 '16 Q4 '18
Contributions 2,177,088 4,159,948 8,457,209
Total Amount $76,314,676 $147,657,516 $367,387,118
Average Contribution Size $35.05 $35.50 $43.44
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 2,800 3,911 8,888

Cycle-to-Cycle Comparison

2014 Cycle Total 2016 Cycle Total 2018 Cycle Total
Contributions 8,972,224 23,366,034 42,101,095
Total Amount $335,049,366 $781,789,826 $1,662,987,705
Average Contribution Size $37.34 $33.46 $39.50
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 5,067 6,687 14,998

ActBlue Express

Q4 '14 Q4 '16 Q4 '18
New ActBlue Express Users 99,775 206,957 348,313
% of Total Volume via ActBlue Express 60.0% 60.6% 63.0%
% of Contributions via ActBlue Express 64.3% 64.6% 64.2%

Mobile

Q4 '14 Q4 '16 Q4 '18
% of Contributions via Mobile 25.3% 36.4% 46.2%
% Mobile for ActBlue Express 26.9% 38.2% 46.4%

Recurring Contributions

Q4 '14 Q4 '16 Q4 '18
Total Recurring Volume $11,364,805 $37,833,998 $62,877,525
% of Total Volume 14.9% 25.6% 17.1%

Customer Service

Q4 '18
Total Incoming Calls 46,646
Email Conversations 112,092

Interested in more data? Millions of folks across the country fueled Democrats to victory in 2018, and our election cycle review lays out how this grassroots fundraising shaped the midterms and will continue defining our country’s politics.

The numbers are in: Check out ActBlue’s election cycle review

The 2018 election cycle was truly one for the history books. Over the course of the last two years, the grassroots built a nationwide movement that helped Democrats win big, and our cycle review takes a close look at all the small-dollar fundraising that made it happen.

From raising $1.6 BILLION on ActBlue to electing more women to Congress than ever before, small-dollar donors created the kind of change that will have a lasting impact on our country and our politics. And this is just the beginning! Check out our 2018 election cycle review for all of the stats and visualizations you could want: report.actblue.com


2018 cycle in review

November ’18 Recap

Here’s a snapshot of our November numbers to tide you over until we release our 2018 election cycle review in just a matter of days! Small-dollar donors did not skip a beat after the midterms: November 2018 is now our seventh-biggest dollar month, coming in right behind October 2016, when grassroots donors gave $83 million in the final lead-up to the presidential election.

Topline Numbers

Nov. ’14 Nov. ’16 Nov. ’18
Contributions 495,115 1,423,929 2,401,214
Total Amount $13,454,226 $44,629,076 $77,543,624
Average Contribution Size $27.17 $31.34 $32.29
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 1,625 2,675 6,154

Cycle-to-Cycle Comparison

2014 Cycle through Nov. 2014 2016 Cycle through Nov. 2016 2018 Cycle through Nov. 2018
Contributions 8,740,236 22,618,759 41,048,224
Total Amount $329,282,129 $761,685,304 $1,632,621,051
Average Contribution Size $37.67 $33.67 $39.77
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 5,015 6,555 14,752

ActBlue Express

Nov. ’14 Nov. ’16 Nov. ’18
New ActBlue Express Users 17,157 89,975 74,028
% of Total Volume via ActBlue Express 61.1% 61.5% 63.4%
% of Contributions via ActBlue Express 65.9% 65.3% 65.3%

Mobile

Nov. ’14 Nov. ’16 Nov. ’18
% of Contributions via Mobile 27.5% 37.8% 48.1%
% Mobile for ActBlue Express 29.4% 39.5% 48.5%

Recurring Contributions

Nov. ’14 Nov. ’16 Nov. ’18
Total Recurring Volume $4,012,312 $12,187,030 $17,935,618
% of Total Volume 29.8% 27.3% 23.1%

Customer Service

Nov. '18
Total Incoming Calls 15,663
Email Conversations 43,102

The last-minute tips and tricks you need for giving season

Giving Tuesday (and the end-of-year giving season) is just 9 days away — it’s crunch time, and we know you’ve been hard at work putting plans in place to make this busy time of year a success.

There are SO many ways to get creative and maximize your fundraising during giving season, and we wanted to share some of our favorite tips and tricks to help you hit your goals. Keep reading for some helpful last-minute tactics:

Approach fundraising from several different channels. Running ads on Facebook and Twitter can give your content the boost it needs to reach more folks. But keep in mind: The vast majority of online contributions come in via email. Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to get more folks in the door and on your email list through paid ads on social media. That way you’ll have a bigger list to reach out to for the rest of giving season and the new year.

Add a pop-up to your website asking for a donation. Use this space to provide a quick and compelling reason why you’re fundraising during giving season. That way folks heading to your website can give on the pop-up quickly and easily without even having to search around your homepage for a donate button.

Customize your contribution form… Every contribution form on AB Charities comes automatically mobile-optimized and rigorously tested to get you the highest conversion rates possible. You can take your form one step further by adding specific text and making a special Giving Tuesday branding, so people feel like they’re part of your organization’s big giving day.

…and your social share settings. 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 AB Charities contribution forms. With so many people talking about giving online on Giving Tuesday, it’s absolutely crucial that you add social share content for the big day. You want to put your best foot forward if supporters are sharing links to your contribution forms.

Move your supporters up the ladder of engagement by asking them to help you raise money. Folks who are *already* engaged and supporting you can make an ask of their own personal networks on behalf of your work! Folks who care about your work can provide a new, personal perspective to fundraising asks and make a big difference in helping you hit your goals. With AB Charities it’s easy for your community of supporters to make their own fundraising pages.

Make recurring asks to keep folks engaged and fueling your work throughout the year to come. Recurring contributions are a great way to capture the excitement of giving season and turn it into long-term success. With AB Charities, you can set a deadline at the end of the year so donors can contribute a small amount each week from Giving Tuesday on, or you can set recurring contributions to run indefinitely every month, so you can keep the momentum going into the new year.

Use remarketing on your contribution forms. Enable remarketing on your AB Charities contribution forms and donors who abandon your form before completing it will automatically receive an email thirty minutes following their incomplete donation. This can make a huge difference in maximizing the amount of money you can bring in from a single ask.

Be sure to thank donors and think about ways to follow up and keep them engaged! With AB Charities you can customize the ‘thank you’ text on the automated receipts your donors will get after they’ve contributed. That personal touch can keep the connection going with your supporters and encourage them to come back and give again.

These are just some of the many creative ways you can maximize the money you’re raising this giving season. If you want to talk through your own ideas or ask our nonprofit team about any of the strategies shared here, we’re happy to chat. Reach out at support@actblue.com.

Happy fundraising!

October ’18 Recap

Folks, we’ve made it. Tomorrow, all of the work small-dollar donors have put in this election cycle will be on display as Democrats contest more seats than ever before. From the bottom of the ticket all the way to the top, from red states to blue states, grassroots donors have empowered a new generation of candidates to run for office. We’ll share a detailed breakdown of our numbers for this election cycle in the coming weeks, but here are the numbers for October. Not only was it our biggest volume month ever, October was also the biggest month ever for number of contributions and the third-biggest month ever for new ActBlue Express users.

Topline Numbers

Oct. ’14 Oct. ’16 Oct. ’18
Contributions 1,449,977 1,988,727 5,015,003
Total Amount $57,093,213 $82,923,436 $260,620,137
Average Contribution Size $39.38 $41.70 $51.97
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 2,503 3,310 7,922

Cycle-to-Cycle Comparison

2014 Cycle through Oct. 2014 2016 Cycle through Oct. 2016 2018 Cycle through Oct. 2018
Contributions 8,245,130 21,194,898 38,666,868
Total Amount $315,827,903 $717,056,656 $1,556,604,597
Average Contribution Size $38.30 $33.83 $40.26
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 4,957 6,410 14,511

ActBlue Express

Oct. ’14 Oct. ’16 Oct. ’18
New ActBlue Express Users 73,639 69,532 249,047
% of Total Volume via ActBlue Express 59.6% 59.7% 63.2%
% of Contributions via ActBlue Express 64.2% 64.7% 64.2%

Mobile

Oct. ’14 Oct. ’16 Oct. ’18
% of Contributions via Mobile 24.9% 36.2% 45.7%
% Mobile for ActBlue Express 26.5% 38.2% 45.8%

Recurring Contributions

Oct. ’14 Oct. ’16 Oct. ’18
Total Recurring Volume $4,462,063 $18,795,605 $34,616,588
% of Total Volume 7.8% 22.7% 13.3%

Customer Service

Oct. ’18
Total Incoming Calls 21,245
Email Conversations 58,528

Q3 2018: Biggest quarter ever

Topline Numbers

Q3 ’14 Q3 ’16 Q3 ’18
Contributions 2,304,231 3,342,271 7,782,934
Total Amount $82,656,488 $131,086,484 $385,176,557
Average Contribution Size $35.87 $39.22 $49.48
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 3,064 4,098 9,335


Small-dollar donors pushing for a sea change in November made Q3 2018 the biggest quarter in terms of dollars raised in ActBlue’s history. Grassroots donors raised $385,176,557 for 9,335 Democratic campaigns, progressive organizations, and nonprofits on ActBlue in Q3, more than double the amount raised in Q3 2016 before the presidential election. Q3 2018 also includes our three biggest dollar days ever: September 28th, 29th, and 30th.

Small-dollar donors raised over $11 million (crossing the $10 million threshold for the first time ever) on September 28th, the day after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The momentum continued over the weekend, with donors raising a staggering $16,853,013 on September 30th. And the records didn’t end there: Grassroots donors also made more donations in a single day than ever before on the 30th (307,320 contributions). All of this energy at the end of the month helped make September the biggest dollar month in ActBlue’s history, with $184,841,230 raised by passionate small-dollar donors.

This money is coming at a critical point in the 2018 election cycle. Sixty-eight percent of the money we disbursed to campaigns and organizations on October 1st was sent via wire transfer, which meant campaigns and organizations could start to use it that day. This unprecedented small-dollar support is empowering Democrats to compete with Republicans bankrolled by mega-donors in the final weeks before Election Day, when GOTV efforts and ad buys can make all the difference. And the GOP is beginning to realize its super PACs can’t keep up with Democrats’ people power.

Cycle-to-Cycle Comparison

2014 Cycle through Q3 2014 2016 Cycle through Q3 2016 2018 Cycle through Q3 2018
Contributions 6,795,206 19,206,237 33,665,261
Total Amount $258,734,705 $634,133,519 $1,297,262,888
Average Contribution Size $38.07 $33.01 $38.53
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 4,828 6,196 14,039


We’re in the home stretch now, and there’s no telling how big the rest of this cycle will be — small-dollar donors raised more in Q3 2018 ($385,176,557) than in the entirety of the 2014 election cycle ($335 million)! With $1.3 billion already raised on ActBlue this election cycle by 4.3 million grassroots donors and counting, it’s clear more people than ever before are participating in our democracy and making their voices heard.

Total ActBlue Volume by Election Cycle

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!

Reintroducing the ActBlue Pinger

EOQ can be a stressful time for emailers, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling you get after clicking the big red send button on a fundraising email and watching your fundraising total climb towards your goal. You can make that moment even more exciting by bringing what we call a “pinger” sound into the mix!

Just head to your group’s Overview on your Dashboard and scroll all the way to the bottom. You’ll see a blue bar across the page and a dropdown like the one you see below.

dropdown menu

You can choose any sound from the dropdown menu and then if you leave the page up, the sound you’ve chosen will play each time your group receives a donation. And any group on ActBlue can take advantage of this feature!

Even more fun? Our team has the ability to create new sounds on the fly (as we have the time and capacity), so if you have suggestions, you should let us know! Email us at support@actblue.com or find us on Twitter and let us know your idea (@actblue).

Here are some additional sounds we’ve created that you can try out. You’ll just need to attach the URL parameter to the end of your ActBlue Dashboard link, like this: https://secure.actblue.com/entities/33605/dashboard/?ping_url=https://s3.amazonaws.com/actblue-img/2018/gooooooooooal.mp3

“Goal”

?ping_url=https://s3.amazonaws.com/actblue-img/2018/gooooooooooal.mp3

“A Star is Born”

?ping_url=https://s3.amazonaws.com/actblue-img/2018/A+STAR+IS+BORN+Pinger+Edit.mp3

“Baby Shark”

?ping_url=https://s3.amazonaws.com/actblue-img/baby_shark.m4a

“Thanks Obama”

?ping_url=https://s3.amazonaws.com/actblue-img/thanks_obama.mp3

 

To turn off a pinger sound that you selected in the dropdown, simply refresh your Dashboard. To stop a custom pinger sound that you added via a URL parameter, delete everything after “dashboard/” in your Dashboard’s URL.

We hope this provides you with an extra jolt of excitement every time someone chips in to support your work. Happy Fundraising!