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!

Why our team hits the road and trains all over

It’s important to us as a mission-driven nonprofit to ensure people have all the knowledge they need to build strong, people-powered movements. While day-to-day we’re focused on building powerful fundraising tools that help candidates and organizations run small-dollar fundraising programs, we know that if we want to empower people who are new to the world of organizing or the political process, we need to back those tools up with training and resources on how to do fundraising right. That’s why dozens of folks at ActBlue travel around the country to connect with all types of audiences — candidates running in local races, nonprofit organizations, and budding activists — to talk about how to best leverage our tools for people-powered change.

With our mission to democratize power packed in our carry-on luggage, we put in the time (and miles) to go over the best practices of small-dollar digital fundraising. These trainings happen because we partner with incredible organizations and conferences who are creating spaces for people to learn how to build movements, run for office, and make change. Through these partnerships, we invest in the critical work of other groups and are able to show up in all types of organizing spaces to help folks use our fundraising tools and learn about building a small-dollar program. We’re serious about leading these trainings because we know that when we provide people with both the knowledge and the tools to start grassroots fundraising programs, more folks are able to play active roles in our democracy.

These trainings have become even more important in recent years: After the 2016 elections, thousands of people wanted to run for office for the first time, and we knew there would be an urgent need to provide training and resources to these candidates. Just look at the graph below to see the incredible growth in the number of groups raising money on ActBlue from the 2016 election cycle to the 2018 cycle (and visit our 2018 Election Cycle in Review to toggle this graph and see specific counts):

Groups fundraising on ActBlue

We view our trainings as irreplaceable opportunities to help people realize they can run for office, win, and lead people-powered change without having wealthy connections or an established network of donors. Common training topics include the basics of grassroots digital fundraising, best practices for building an email fundraising program that empowers small-dollar donors, organizing personal networks to give with community forms, and raising money in a rapid response moment. We travel year-round because organizing work never stops, and elections happen all the time — including now! We’re especially looking forward to helping more state and local campaigns build powerful small-dollar programs that help them win in tough races.

Where have we been in the past? In 2017 and 2018, we traveled to 181 events and trainings across the country. From the West Coast to the South, from the Midwest back home to the Northeast, we were so excited to help campaigns and organizations build stronger digital fundraising programs and power stronger movements. Check out the map below to see where we went:

ActBlue trainings in the 2018 election cycle

And we have our sights set on expanding our reach even more from coast to coast. Already in 2019, we’ve been hitting the road to share the power of small-dollar donors! Here are a few places we’ve been this year to train.

We partnered with BLUE Institute in Houston, TX to give a rundown of small-dollar digital fundraising to future leaders of color so they have the tools to build people-powered campaigns:

We flew all the way to Portland, OR for the 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference, where nonprofits of all missions and sizes learned how to prioritize grassroots donors in their fundraising strategy:

We traveled to Philadelphia, PA for the Granger Leadership Academy and shared with activists the magic of grassroots online fundraising in fueling change:

When we’re not traveling, we also host webinars on small-dollar digital fundraising! Whether you’re interested in in-person trainings or webinars, follow ActBlue on Twitter to keep up to date on our latest moves.

Small-dollar donors make it possible for groups to build people-powered movements that don’t have to rely on big money. That’s why we’re passionate about training all over and helping campaigns, organizations, and individuals drive big change with small dollars. Can we help empower your organization or community? Let us know if you could use a training! Drop us a line at support@actblue.com.

Spring cleaning: Spiff up your digital fundraising

From meeting monthly goals to meeting a news moment with rapid response, digital fundraising can get hectic. But with spring in full bloom, embrace the spring cleaning mood and check up on your grassroots fundraising program. Now’s the time to sharpen the digital tools that may have collected dust so your fundraising doesn’t stall in big moments. Here’s a rundown of what to tidy up right now to make your program stronger for the long haul.

Clean up the basics

First things first, double-check and update your default contribution form! Every campaign and organization on ActBlue is set up with a default form, which most supporters find when they search for you in our directory. Take this moment to refresh your form with your most up-to-date branding and a clear donation ask that’s relevant to your current messaging. Don’t forget that you can also A/B test your forms to figure out which elements on your form drive your donors to give.

Then make sure you’re nailing the details of your donors’ giving experience, from beginning to end. Take some extra time to freshen up the brandings on the form on your website’s homepage and other forms with high traffic. Beyond forms, do your *email receipts* have up-to-date brandings, too? It’s easy to forget about what happens to donors after they give, but you can finish the donation process with care by customizing the thank you text on your email receipt. And it doesn’t end there: Many of your invested supporters will want to share on social media that they gave to you. If you haven’t already, put in some time to make your social share pop, so excited donors fill their personal networks with your compelling images and messaging! You can even reuse social share settings on future forms and save time in big moments. And if you don’t think you have the digital chops to pull it off, we made this simple template for you to use.

Tidy up your email list!

Declutter your email list by keeping the engaged supporters and letting go of the inactive ones. If you’re an admin who sends regular emails to a growing list, keeping your list healthy and updated with only active subscribers gives you stronger returns on fundraising. It’s hard to let go of subscribers, but a more active list (that might be smaller) leads to more opens and donations. Metrics like open rates also affect whether your emails end up in the inbox purgatory of Gmail’s Promotions tab — or worse, spam.

How do you figure out who to unsubscribe? If you’re sending fundraising emails on a weekly basis or more, it’s generally good practice to unsubscribe people on your list who have not opened your emails for more than 90 days, which is the standard measure of inactivity. Once you’ve grouped them together, you can send them a courtesy email to let them know you’ve unsubscribed them and give them an option to resubscribe!

Give your fundraising a quick lift with these easy tools

Spring cleaning is also the perfect moment for you to implement tools that you’ve been too busy to try out but that can help grow your fundraising! Here are two simple tools you can quickly put to work to level up your program. First, turn on our Smart Recurring feature to encourage donors to support you for the long run. Smart Recurring automatically asks donors who make a one-time contribution to also start a smaller recurring donation to your campaign or organization. It helps you build a recurring donor program that will sustain your campaign for months — and our algorithms do all the math for you!

Second, add a *personal* touch to your remarketing email to encourage supporters to finish their donation! Our remarketing feature automatically sends a reminder email to supporters who didn’t completely finish their donation, but you can (and should) customize this email text. Personalizing allows you to explain how they’ll make a difference by completing their donation to your specific campaign or organization.

Lastly, and most importantly, keep your account’s security squeaky clean

Your security is our priority, and we’ve made it easier than ever for you to bolster your ActBlue account with two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA adds an extra level of protection to your login by requiring you to enter two independent pieces of verification that confirm your identity when logging in. If you have already set up 2FA but haven’t downloaded backup codes, now’s the time to do so and store them in a secure place (like a password manager)! In a world of increasing cyber attacks, being proactive in securing your account is the most important task in cleaning up your fundraising.

With this quick scrub, you’ve refreshed the basics of your program and set up your grassroots fundraising for long-term success. If you realize there’s most dust than you thought, you can always reach us at support@actblue.com to help get the spring cleaning going!

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.