Introducing the ActBlue Glossary!

Welcome to the ActBlue glossary! Whether you recently started using ActBlue as an admin or you’re new to digital fundraising altogether, this is a helpful list of technical terms you’ll see all over our platform.

This blog will focus on basic ActBlue terms that you’ll find across our platform. If you’re looking for more detailed instructions or an answer to a specific question, check out our support site!

Our tools and features:

  • Dashboard: The hub for all of your admin needs on ActBlue, including your contribution forms, donor data, account settings, and more.

  • Contribution forms: The building blocks of ActBlue’s platform: Our forms are where small-dollar donors give to you! You can find all of your forms in your Dashboard menu under the “Contribution Forms” tab.

  • Community form: Contribution forms that anyone can create to fundraise for their favorite group! As an admin, you have access to the donor data for all community forms fundraising on your behalf.

  • Tandem form: A contribution form that allows donors to split one contribution between multiple groups with a single click. Make a contribution form Tandem by adding recipients in the form editor!

  • Form editor: Where you’ll find all of the options for customizing your contribution form! When you click “Edit” on a contribution form, either while viewing the form itself or in the “Contribution Forms” tab of the Dashboard, you will see the form editor pop up on the left.

  • Branding: A custom design you create for your forms and receipts using our form editor.

  • Social share: The text and image people see when your contribution form link is posted on social media! You can customize this in the form editor. Here’s an example:socialshare

  • Refcode: Short for “reference code,” a refcode is a short word or phrase you add to the end of your contribution form link as a reference, so you can easily track where your donations are coming from on the form’s Stats page!

  • ActBlue Express: Our saved payment feature for donors that enables them to give to any group on ActBlue with a single click.

Other helpful terms for fundraising on ActBlue:

  • Topline numbers: These stats, which you can find in your Dashboard Overview, give you a basic rundown of how your digital fundraising program is doing. The big three at the top are contributions, dollars raised, and average contribution size, and we break them all down here. 

  • CSV: CSVs are a popular and universal document format that work with all donor tracking software. You can download all sorts of donor and contribution form data in this format on ActBlue, including the data you’ll need for compliance.

  • Conversion rate: A term that refers to the percentage of people who take some sort of action on a form, email, ad, or other media. On a form’s Stats page, your conversion rate shows you what percentage of people who landed on your form ended up making a donation!

  • Merchant account: A merchant account is required by some state and local jurisdictions for campaigns raising money online. We have an easy system for getting groups with merchant accounts set up on ActBlue, and you can still use all of our tools seamlessly! If you have questions about reconciliation for your merchant account, check out this support article.

And a little bit about us:

  • ActBlue: We are a nonprofit dedicated to empowering small-dollar donors. Our tools make it easy for grassroots supporters to chip in to their favorite Democratic campaigns, progressive organizations, and nonprofits, creating people-powered movements and transforming power structures across the country.

  • Small-dollar donors: What we call donors who engage with their favorite candidates and causes at the grassroots level by chipping in! Together, they’ve contributed over $4 billion to groups on ActBlue since we opened our doors in 2004. Read why small-dollar donors give in their own words here.

Still have questions? Schedule a one-on-one strategy call with us! Our experts are always available to help with a specific feature or talk about what digital fundraising strategy will work best for your group.

Small-dollar fundraising metrics: 3 things to look for

Congratulations! You’ve conquered the basics of digital fundraising, and you’re raising your first dollars. Now how do you measure success? Your fundraising data might seem intimidating, but you don’t need to be a data scientist to use it: All you need is a willingness to look at your fundraising critically and the follow-through to apply what you learn!

Data lets you work smarter rather than harder. It all begins by taking stock of your data and using it to evaluate if you’re running an efficient program that is on track to fuel your campaign or organization for the long fight. Then, you can figure out how to refine your fundraising practices to improve your numbers. From the groups just getting started to the experts building out their program, every digital fundraiser can look at the following three metrics to analyze their small-dollar program. You can find all three right at your fingertips in your ActBlue Dashboard, so you’ll be driving your fundraising forward in no time!

1. Toplines: Number of contributions, dollars raised, and average contribution size over time

What it tells you: Your topline numbers give you a basic, holistic overview of your fundraising and donor behavior. These toplines include your program’s two core numbers: contributions and dollars raised. Your third topline number is average contribution size, which is found by dividing dollars raised by the number of contributions. Average contribution size can give you an idea of how much your program is relying on many small-dollar donors chipping in or fewer donors giving larger amounts.

Where you can find it: At the very top of your Dashboard Overview are your campaign or organization’s topline fundraising numbers. Here to greet you all the time, you’ll find your number of contributions, dollars raised, and average contribution size over the last seven days. The best part is you can easily change the timeframe for these topline numbers (and the corresponding graph) so you can observe your fundraising for any timespan you want. And if you want an idea of how a specific form performed, you can find these topline numbers for each form on its Statistics page.

What to do with this: Check the number of contributions and dollars raised for the month and quarter to see if you are hitting your fundraising goals. You can use the graph to predict when your fundraising will peak and send more emails during those strong moments. When you know you’ll hit slower fundraising periods, be ready to get creative with your tactics for engaging small-dollar donors.

Next, compare your average contribution size to the sitewide average contribution size of $30 in 2019 so far. Is your average contribution size really large? Think about whether you’ve shown donors who give $5 that their contribution matters to you. And think about what donation ask amounts are right for your program — you want to bring in as many people as possible and let them give at the level they like.

2. Percent of contributions made via mobile device

What it tells you: With more and more people using their phone or tablet to take action and give (more than 50% of donations on ActBlue have been made on mobile so far in 2019), it’s important for you to remember to keep a mobile-first mindset and meet your donors where they are. You can check what percent of your contributions were made through mobile devices and compare it to the average percent of sitewide contributions made via mobile.

Where you can find it: You can find a few important pie charts under “About your contributions” in your Dashboard Overview. One of these is the percent of your contributions made via a mobile device, with a sitewide average in grey below as an easy comparison point. Another place you can find percent mobile is on each form’s Statistics page. This helps you see how specific emails are performing on mobile devices!

What to do with this: While you’re thinking mobile first, don’t forget your fundraising emails! If you’re going to focus on improving one thing in email, make it the mobile experience. Make sure your emails are easy to read and quick to load on mobile. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on connecting with all of your supporters. Your fail-proof check is testing your emails and forms on a variety of mobile devices to ensure they look good and perform fast for every grassroots supporter.

3. Recurring retention

What it tells you: Retention is a measure of your program’s sustainability. Building a strong recurring program by keeping your retention high paves the way for you to raise more money long term and gain the flexibility to budget ahead. With an eye on your recurring retention, you can understand how many recurring donors want to stay in your movement rather than cancel their monthly donations. And this will give you a good idea of how many resources you’ll have months from now to commit to organizing and other actions.

Where you can find it: Right in the “Recurring” tab of your Dashboard menu is your Retention Matrix, a chart showing you how many donors choose to continue their recurring contributions for how many months before cancelling.

Here’s how you read your Retention Matrix: This chart shows the percent of recurring contributions you retain over time, grouped by the month the contributions were started. You can read the chart from left to right to see the percent of recurring contributions started in a specific month that were still active one month later, all the way to 12 months after the initial contribution!

Retention matrix

What to do with this: Your goal is to keep the percentages in your Retention Matrix high, and keeping track of your most avid supporters is crucial to good retention! Make sure your monthly sustainers know the incredible impact their contributions have and send them the most important updates from your group rather than more fundraising asks. Above your Retention Matrix in the “Recurring” tab, you can download a list of current recurring donor email addresses in your “Active recurring contributions CSV.” Exclude this email list from your fundraising emails, and instead send your monthly donors a thank you or ask them to take the next step of volunteering or fundraising on your behalf. And if you have one or two critical moments in your work, you can ask them for a special one-time donation while acknowledging their ongoing support.

Now you’ve got data on your side

Even if you don’t have a dedicated data analyst on your team, you have the tools you need on ActBlue to better understand and grow your fundraising success. And remember that our digital experts are ready to help you meet any fundraising challenge, including getting a handle on your data! We’re a call away to help your campaign, organization, or nonprofit assess and build your program.

The power of recurring contributions

Asking for monthly donations is one of the most impactful strategies available for engaging with small-dollar donors and building a sustainable grassroots movement. A successful recurring program allows campaigns and organizations to raise more money and budget more effectively, but that’s not all — asking people to invest in your cause over the long term helps you build meaningful relationships with donors. And ActBlue users are excited to give on a regular basis: During the 2018 election cycle, 41% of all donations on ActBlue came from recurring contributions. That added up to over $324 million given to progressive campaigns and organizations creating a better future as a result of both monthly and weekly donations!

Recurring contributions powered small-dollar donors’ record-breaking fundraising on ActBlue in 2018, and we know they’ll be even more important moving forward. Keep reading to learn more about engaging with small-dollar donors using smart grassroots strategies and ActBlue’s easy recurring tools.

First, why focus on recurring contributions instead of only sending one-time asks?

1. Long-lasting relationships.
Here at ActBlue, empowering small-dollar donors is our bread and butter. That’s why we think recurring contributions are so important: When people choose to give money to a group on a regular basis, they are investing fully in change and cementing themselves as an essential part of your campaign or organization. It’s conventional wisdom that early money makes a huge difference in politics, so asking early donors in particular to sign up for recurring contributions ensures that you have dedicated supporters from the very beginning and more contributions coming in as your campaign heats up. The same advice applies to nonprofits launching a new fundraising push! In addition to giving monthly, recurring donors are more likely to be vocal, action-oriented advocates who will support you over and over again: In 2017 and 2018, 35% of recurring donors on ActBlue gave a one-time contribution to the same group after their initial recurring contribution. In other words, these grassroots donors will help you spread the word, raise money, and achieve your goals!

2. More money: period.
Receiving small-dollar donations every month brings in more money than receiving larger one-time donations. The 2018 election cycle, which produced huge wins for Democrats and progressive causes, is a great example of this. A $10 recurring contribution started in the 2018 cycle now has a total worth, on average, of $61.94 — over 6 times the worth of a $10 one-time contribution (some of these contributions finished in the 2018 cycle, and some are continuing into 2019). And the momentum isn’t slowing down any time soon! ActBlue has already processed over $100 million in recurring contributions so far this year.

total recurring graph

3. Budgets for the win!
It goes without saying that budgets are absolutely essential to a well-organized campaign or organization. Recurring contributions make budgeting easier and more accurate — if you’re receiving a consistent amount of money every month, you can look forward and plan ahead. Recurring contributions created on ActBlue in the 2018 cycle lasted, on average, around 5 months, giving you plenty of time to schedule ads, hire organizers, or pay for whatever else your group may need. For small campaigns and organizations, having a reliable grassroots donor base and a regular number of recurring contributions will also allow staffers to spend less time finding one-time donors. A strong recurring contribution program is not only a proven fundraising strategy, it’s a time saver!

Asking for recurring contributions is intimidating — we get it! But grassroots donors want to invest in your campaign or organization long term, so it’s important to integrate recurring asks into your existing digital fundraising program. Plus, ActBlue makes it easy! Here are some tips and tricks:

1. Smart Recurring: The ultimate recurring tool!
When you create a contribution form on ActBlue, the pop-up recurring feature, which asks donors giving $100 or less to make their one-time donation a recurring one after they hit “Contribute,” is automatically on. Our Smart Recurring feature works similarly, but it asks donors for a smaller recurring donation after they’ve contributed. By asking people for a recurring contribution that is smaller than what they just gave as a one-time donation, you can help meet people where they are and raise more money in the long run!

2. Don’t forget rapid response.
When there is a crisis or event that thrusts your campaign or cause into the spotlight, people are much more likely to be tuned in to your group and give a donation right in that moment. Although it is easy (and understandable!) to focus on handling the immediate situation, some longer-term thinking can help extend your momentum. Asking for recurring contributions over email or social media is a powerful way to meet the moment and implement real change through small-dollar donations.

NARAL

A strong recurring program will ensure that when the media moves on to cover other news, your group will still have a dedicated cohort of monthly donors that enable you to do the important work you want to focus on.

3. Always say thank you!

Everytown Email

Last but not least, make sure to specifically thank your sustainers! You don’t want to send too many fundraising emails to your recurring donors, because they’re already making a big contribution to your work. Save those emails for key moments or rapid response situations (and only ask them for a one-time gift). Instead, focus on sending emails to this group of donors that recognize their vital support and highlight what their money is doing for your work. Read this article if you need a reminder on how to access your recurring donor information!

In many ways, recurring contributions are at the heart of the small-dollar donor movement: By giving a small amount of money on a monthly basis, individuals can make their voices heard and fully invest in causes and campaigns they care about without giving a large one-time donation. And by building these relationships with donors, you can budget more effectively and have a reliable base of active supporters. That’s what we call a win-win!