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!

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!

Introducing our new support website!

Exciting news: Today we’re launching our redesigned support website for ActBlue admins and donors! We completely overhauled the site to make it more user-friendly for everyone who uses ActBlue, from people running for office for the first time to seasoned fundraisers to folks making their first political donation in response to Trump and the GOP.

When you visit https://support.actblue.com now, the site is clearly split into two sections: For Donors and Supporters and For Campaigns and Organizations. This way you can immediately know where to look for the information you need!

Overview

The different categories within these two sections are full of helpful articles and how-to guides. If you’re not sure which category to look in, just use the search bar at the top of the page!

Search

We’ve also linked to related topics at the end of every article to make it as easy as possible for you to get the answers you need.

Additional

Of course, our friendly Customer Service Team is always available to help you if you can’t find what you need online. If you are a donor or a supporter with a question, email us at info@actblue.com. If you work for a campaign or organization that uses ActBlue, reach out to us at support@actblue.com. Or you can always give us a call at (617) 517-7600! We return every phone call and email we receive, typically within 24 hours.  

New Two-factor Authentication recommendations

ActBlue admins will notice something new on their Dashboard starting today: A message regarding two-factor authentication.

2FA Message

Two-factor authentication (2FA for short) is a security protocol that requires users to provide two different, independent pieces of verification to confirm their identity when logging into an online account. A common form of 2FA requires users to enter a username and password combination AND an authentication code that is randomly generated by a separate app on a phone. We’ve offered 2FA on ActBlue admin accounts since 2016. Today, we’re releasing new 2FA recommendations and options to reflect current best practices.

1. We strongly recommend setting up 2FA with Google Authenticator for your ActBlue account today, even if you are already using a different 2FA application (and especially if you are not currently using 2FA). Google Authenticator is a Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP) app. TOTP apps are the most secure 2FA option because they use algorithms to generate authentication codes. When you use Google Authenticator with your ActBlue account, you will not receive text messages or voice calls as part of the verification process as those methods can be vulnerable to social engineering.

To start using Google Authenticator with your ActBlue account, simply log in to ActBlue and then follow the link in the message at the top of your Dashboard (pictured above). You’ll be brought to a page where you can download Google Authenticator on your phone or tablet.

2FA Page

Open the app and select “Begin Setup” and then “Scan barcode.”

Google Authenticator

Scan the barcode on our page. The app will then show you an authentication code, which you should enter in the “Confirmation code” box on our page. Please note that every code will disappear in the app after a few seconds, but the app will constantly generate new ones (so don’t worry if you are too slow entering it the first time).

Click the orange button at the bottom of our page to complete the setup process! From then on, you will be asked to enter a Google Authenticator code when logging in to your ActBlue account on an intermittent basis or any time you log in on a new device.

2. If you currently use the 2FA application Authy and do not want to switch to Google Authenticator, we strongly recommend disabling the Authy Multi-Device feature. This feature leaves your account vulnerable to social engineering. See number three — “Enable (or disable) Authy Multi-Device” — on this page for instructions. Or just set up Google Authenticator instead. It only takes a few minutes!

3. We are excited to now support YubiKeys for 2FA! While using an app on a phone like Google Authenticator will be easiest for most ActBlue admins, we’re always striving to be on the cutting-edge. Now, if you have a YubiKey (a physical device that you insert into your computer, similar to a USB drive), you can use it with codes generated by the Yubico Authenticator desktop application for your 2FA.

Two-factor authentication is one of the best ways you can protect yourself and your organization from attacks. If we can help you deploy 2FA to your entire campaign or organization on ActBlue, or if you have any questions about these recommendations, contact us at support@actblue.com!

Ted Cruz thinks we’re big money

Last night, Ted Cruz mentioned us in a debate about the tax code on CNN with Bernie Sanders. Perhaps not surprisingly, Cruz got his facts wrong. When talking about big money in politics, he compared us to the Koch brothers — some of the biggest Republican mega-donors in the business.

As a nonprofit fundraising platform for the left dedicated to helping small-dollar donors speak truth to power, we were caught off guard by his mistake — and so were the people in our community.

 

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It was actually kind of funny how wrong he was:

 

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In case Ted Cruz is still confused, here are some tweets that explain what we do from some of the amazing small-dollar donors and grassroots activists who use ActBlue:

 

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Better luck next time, Ted.

 

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In the meantime, we’ll be actively empowering small-dollar donors so they can fuel the organizations and causes they care about and power Democrats to victory in 2018, 2020, and beyond.