In September we rolled out a brand-new, donor-focused feature on ActBlue, giving millions of donors the ability to earn badges for taking different actions on the platform! These achievements are exclusive to donors with ActBlue Express accounts, so they’re able to log in and track their badges, give again, and share the badges they’ve earned on their social media pages. From storing a payment method in their ActBlue Express account, to donating to local candidates, to creating a community form, ActBlue Express users can now earn and share their achievements right from their account.
While this project originated with our Donor Experience product team and Lauren Tucker, Group Product Manager, it was truly an organization-wide effort to roll out this feature. We relied heavily on our Communications and Marketing Department to communicate this new way to get involved: Our Social Media Director, Chelsea McDonnell, worked in close collaboration with Lauren and others across ActBlue. They both joined us here on the blog to talk about what it was like to put together a full product rollout for this exciting new feature.
Lauren: Brainstorming and Ideation
Our Donor Experience team has been focused on building out ActBlue Express accounts, which provide donors across the country with a hub for all the different actions they take on ActBlue. As a Product Manager, my goal along with the rest of the Donor Experience team is to help donors feel a sense of community and connection, both to ActBlue and our tools, but even more importantly, to the campaigns and causes they’re supporting when they use ActBlue.
When the product team started broaching the idea of building out badges, each team we talked to expressed their excitement to help build a feature like this. We knew that the concept of achievements and rewards had been popular on other platforms (think fitness trackers and ride-share apps). Our hypothesis was that donors would enjoy earning badges as conversation starters in their communities, and that they might even be motivated to take different actions based on whether or not they could earn a badge for it. We also thought badges might help donors better understand the different kinds of impact they can have by using ActBlue and educate them about the different kinds of candidates and organizations that use our platform!
From there, we held a brainstorm including folks across the organization to think through what badges folks might be excited about and what we might call each badge. We made sure to begin bringing in stakeholders as early as possible. For example, we knew our designers would play a big role here, so we made sure they were involved throughout the brainstorming and development processes.
We also knew it was important to get the logic right and ensure every action that earned a badge worked as expected for all donors. The product engineers worked closely with the data science team to write the data queries and iron out any of the edge cases well before we launched. And we brought in folks from our Donor and Admin Support teams in the Customer Service Department, along with our Outreach Department, to help brainstorm what questions might come up for donors and fundraisers around this new feature. All of these folks and their teams were critical in making sure we could support folks as they interacted with badges for the first time!
Chelsea: Collaborating with Design
Lauren and I worked closely with the designers at ActBlue, and after introducing them to our ideas for how badges would work and how we wanted them to feel — gratifying, engaging, and community-oriented — they really ran with it! Our design team considered the user interface on the ActBlue platform and in donors’ ActBlue Express accounts — that clean, white background and crisp design — and in contrast, they ran the gamut of the saturated tones of the ActBlue color palette so the rainbow colors would pop against that environment. And they took it a step further, referencing retro badges that would be sewn on clothing so our badges would look tactile and friendly, like you could pluck them off the screen.
Chelsea: Launching the Badges Program
Once we had a visual foundation and the engineers could finalize the experience of earning badges within ActBlue, we kicked off a truly organization-wide effort to prep the messaging, materials, and documentation needed to make sure donors could begin engaging with their badges immediately upon launch.
This felt like a unique opportunity to applaud donors for their individual engagement on the ActBlue platform, while still helping them to feel a part of the larger grassroots movement. The success of badges thus far has been driven by deeply integrated product marketing fostered by our marketing team across our social, email, and blog channels.
Combining newly built technology with a deep marketing component helped us provide donors with engaging content that they can then share out on their own social media pages, spreading awareness and building community around the campaigns and causes they really care about. And we’re building lasting relationships with folks who are taking actions that earn badges by communicating with folks regularly about how many badges they’ve earned (and what’s left to earn)!
Lauren: More to Come
It was really exciting to watch the fruits of so many teams’ labor come to fruition just in time for the November 2021 election. From our first brainstorm session in March of this year through the launch of badges at the end of September, at least thirty individuals across ActBlue touched pieces of this work, whether they were creating content, working on development, or helping Chelsea and I shepherd along this complex project. Since launch in September, folks have really embraced badges, and we’ve seen them share that they’re earning badges over 3,100 times on Twitter alone. We’re planning to continue iterating and expanding on this achievements program, affording us a chance to build long-term relationships with donors who use ActBlue every day and with each other internally as we strengthen our product marketing efforts.
We’re thrilled to continue connecting with small-dollar donors across mediums as folks earn their badges throughout 2022. If this sounds like the kind of collaborative, innovative work you want to be involved in, we are hiring for several roles on our tech team. You can check them all out here! And follow us on Twitter @actblue if you want to follow along with all things badges, new features, and hiring.