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

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!

3 strategies to leverage technology creatively in raising money

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

When you don’t have the resources of a large organization behind you, being creative and adapting quickly is even more critical to making the most of what you have. Good news is that technology keeps making it easier to fail fast and pivot quickly without risking huge investments of time or money. Regardless of where your organization is in terms of technological maturity (or how aligned your use of technology is with your mission), there are strategies you can implement at any stage.

One: Choose platforms that provide a solid start.

If you want to leverage technology creatively, choose an online fundraising platform that provides a solid default along with the ability to customize the look and feel on your own. What does this look like for online fundraising? It means the product is designed with thoughtful consideration for the defaults — both how they support your mission-driven organization and a delightful donor experience.

Most of the time, we don’t give a ton of consideration to our defaults. Like when we reach out to our social networks (and only our social networks) when we need to staff up for a project and miss out on great talent who never knew there was an opportunity.

So take time when choosing a platform because that will be your launch pad. As a nonprofit organization, particularly if you’re a small to mid-sized organization, it is probably important that…

  • Your systems can talk to each other so you can work efficiently.

  • You have control over a donor’s giving experience and your branding.

  • You can customize, manage, and maintain this without having a full IT team in-house.

  • You can test and evaluate your efforts.

  • And, if you don’t have the time to, you know the system was designed based on rigorous testing of what is most effective.

Even if you are not looking for a new system right now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t look for new opportunities to optimize your current platforms or try new approaches.

Companies release updates and enhance functionality all the time. Even if you unsubscribed from the product updates, your vendor probably has a blog where you can check out any helpful new features you might have missed and get ideas for using them. Maybe you can even reach out to the vendor’s team and discuss what current features could help you accomplish X better! Or, if you’re looking to strategize across multiple channels (and potentially multiple platforms or systems), consider if it’s worth brainstorming with an outside team of strategy and design experts to figure out how to leverage them together to advance your mission.

Two: Test, test, test.

You know what they say about assumptions. So, how do you know that something is a terrible idea? Okay, maybe some you can recognize right as they exit your mouth, but you still need to throw some spaghetti at the wall before you can tell what sticks.

Technology makes it easier to know what’s working and what’s not. Make use of tracking, reference codes, or features that support A/B testing. If you’re wondering what A/B testing is, it is a basic science experiment: take two similar groups of people; give one group version A and the second group version B. Ideally, there would only be one difference between versions A and B – otherwise it gets very difficult to tell which difference is leading to different results (if they are different).

Platforms like AB Charities make it really easy to test different form titles, blurbs, brandings, videos, and more. However, you can test in any channel. Maybe you’re an elephant sanctuary and you want to see whether you get more clicks on a donation link via social media when you share photos vs. videos. While some platforms may allow you to set up different referral links, you can also compare the stats for the different kinds of posts. You’ll want to know which version they clicked on and you’ll need a way to measure the result (e.g. clicking a link, shares, etc.) depending on what outcome you’re hoping to achieve.

How do you decide what to test?

If data isn’t one of your love languages, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. But you know what? Using data to make decisions is something you’re already doing in your daily life. Ever looked at the fuel gauge on your car before getting on the highway and pulled over at the nearest gas station? Congratulations! You’ve made a data-informed decision!

Start with knowing what you would do differently. If one version performs better, what will you keep doing? What would you adjust or stop doing? If it’s not something you could or would change, then find something else to test!

Visualize your data for faster decision-making. Whether your system has dashboards, or you’re making a quick and simple Excel chart, you want to be able to look at your data and immediately know whether action is needed or if you should keep doing what you’re doing because it’s headed in the right direction.

Make adjustments based on what you learn. Dashboards are super useful for checking in to see if you need to change course, but only if you actually make those adjustments. If you’re wondering how you’ll do this on top of everything your team already does, consider adding some temporary capacity. Just as technology allows you to test and pivot quickly without a major investment, bringing on a freelance team allows you to benefit from the insights of specialists without having to add a permanent position (or search for a unicorn!) when you’re trying out new things.

Start small. Start light. Just start. It will be easier to keep the testing and learning and experimenting momentum going once you’ve gotten started and it becomes part of the way you do things.

Three: Remember that it is about the people.

Just because you haven’t met your donors in person doesn’t mean you can’t build a relationship with them. From the updates and acknowledgements you communicate to using social media to empower your supporters to advocate for your cause online, take advantage of the ways in which technology can help us (and our work) transcend borders.

Try out new or unexpected ways to engage with your supporters (and potential supporters).

Grow your network and deepen your connection with current donors.

  • Your supporters are proud to support you! Make it easy for them to spread the word with social share graphics.

  • Speaking of empowering your donors to share the amazing work you’re doing, have you tried peer to peer fundraising yet?

Customize your appeals for different audiences so that they have a great experience.

  • You probably have different versions of thank you letters based on how the gift came in or what it was for, right? If you have very different types of fundraising campaigns, or very varied types of supporters, consider creating different donation forms specific to each audience or appeal for a cohesive experience.

  • Provide more options when people sign up for your email lists. Giving your supporters more control over the content they receive means they’re more likely to hear about what they’re already interested in, and you can better tailor your emails.

Take advantage of viral moments and hot topics.

  • Whether it’s the next ice bucket challenge or current events that suddenly make your work top of mind, you’ll want to be able to take advantage of it. In addition to creating a topical donation form, consider setting up a landing page for new website visitors.

  • Consider whether to add ads (promoted posts on social media, Google AdWords, etc.) to the mix.

And for as much as we’ve talked about people being donors, don’t forget about other people! This includes volunteers who might be able to help you identify great stories to share, non-development colleagues who might have a new idea for you to test out, vendors who want to support your organization with even better tools, or a platform like Wethos, which will match you with a freelance team best suited to help your nonprofit strategize and think creatively about testing ideas or executing what you’ve already learned by leveraging the latest technology.

Just as the future of fundraising relies on getting everyone aboard, the future of work means finding a way to grow your team’s capacity sustainably.

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

Creating community forms to raise money for candidates and causes you care about

We’re seeing more energy and participation right now from small-dollar donors than we ever have before. It’s amazing. But even more amazing is that we’re seeing donors taking matters into their own hands — they’re not just donating to campaigns and organizations when they’re asked, they’re organizing and connecting with their communities to raise money for campaigns and causes they care about. How exactly are they doing this? They’re creating community forms on ActBlue — forms that are not created by a campaign or organization, but by members of their community of supporters. They’re raising money for individual campaigns and organizations, and they’re creating forms where folks can give to lists of candidates supporting legislation they’re passionate about, or lists of nonprofits doing critical work on the ground in our communities. And they’re raising millions for campaigns and organizations on ActBlue!

Creating forms is an easy way to take your activism one step further. And it’s free to do using ActBlue’s tools! That’s why we wanted to walk you through creating community forms and raising money from your friends, families, and extended networks. Keep reading for all the info you need to create your own forms and get fundraising!

Creating your form

If you’ve used ActBlue before you’ll want to get started by logging in to your account here. If you’ve never made an account with us before, you can create an account here. Once you’re all logged in, you’ll want to select the My Fundraising tab.

my-fundraising

Look for the blue box titled “Create a new fundraising form” and click the orange button to search our directory of organizations that use ActBlue.

search-directory

Alternatively, you can open the Recent menu in the navigation bar at the top of your screen and follow the link at the bottom to the directory.

 

recent-menu

Type the name of the candidate or organization you want to fundraise for in the search box.

directory

You must click the blue magnifying glass button to see the correct results, not the names that appear in the dropdown. You can also find groups by selecting one of the links in the gray box.

search-directory

 

At this point, you’ll be brought to a list of groups, with options (in orange) to create a community form to fundraise for each of them. Once you’ve found the group you want to fundraise for, click the group’s “Create contribution form” button to start making your community form.

list

A pop-up will open where you can fill out your form’s basic information.

pop-up

First, give your form a title. You’ll be able to edit your form’s title later, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect.

Then finish the web address for your form by typing a short, simple, memorable word in the “Web address” box, which will be part of the unique web address for your form. Pick a short word or phrase and make a note of it so you can locate your form easily at a later time.

When you click “Create and continue,” you will be taken to a live preview of your form and you’ll see the form editor open on the left.

Fundraising for more than one candidate or organization

One way to make a big impact by fundraising on ActBlue is to raise for a group of candidates or organizations doing work you care about via Tandem Fundraising (using one single form). For example, you can add all the candidates who are running against Republicans who take money from the NRA, or you can add multiple organizations working on the immigration fight to support their efforts to reunite families.

It’s easy to add more than one group to your form! Just head to the “Recipients” tab of the form editor, where you can easily add different campaigns or organizations. When a donor lands on a Tandem Form, they can then split one contribution between all of the groups listed on the form.

Add details to your form

Now you can use the form editor to add important information to your form. You’ll be able to preview the changes you make to your form here in real time! Click here for tips on using the form editor.

The first thing you should do is add a donation ask. Go to the “Title, ask, and URL” tab in the form editor. In the “Donation ask” box, write a short blurb explaining why a supporter should donate. Since you’re creating a form specifically to raise for candidates you believe in or causes you’re passionate about, you should use this space to explain why. Drawing a personal connection to the work will help motivate your friends and family to give. And don’t forget to actually ask for money! You should make a point to specifically include a line of text that says something like “Will you chip in $3?”

 

form-editor

You can add basic formatting, like bullet points and bolding, and images to your ask.

Another great feature in the form editor that we encourage folks to take advantage of is social share. This lets you customize the content that will be shared on a donor’s Facebook and Twitter account when they choose to share that they’ve made a contribution on social media. It’s a simple way to catch the eye of potential supporters! To do this, open the “Social share” tab in the form editor and then fill in the fields.

 

social-share

Here’s an example of what customized social share can look like:

social-share-example

It can be difficult to raise money via social media, since folks are often scrolling quickly through their feeds and aren’t super likely to actually stop, read a fundraising pitch, and click out of Facebook or Twitter to donate. Social share can grab people’s attention and help motivate them to donate, so we encourage customizing your social share text and/or image if you can.

We also have a handy social share image template available for folks to use to create simple graphics to include in their social share. You can find it here: https://docs.google.com/drawings/u/1/d/1qEILgxbIBFr5Sjgpx3a9S9Uxl7DU7dDat5EksOF1Pzo/copy.

Sharing your form

After publishing all of your changes, close the form editor and head to the “Promote” button to start sharing your form!

 

promote

To send your form out to the world, just copy the link that’s generated on the top of the Promote pop-up and paste it in an email, a social media post, or anywhere else you’d like to fundraise.

promote-link

There are lots of further customizations that can be made to contribution forms, but we wanted to highlight the basic, easy ways to get started with fundraising to help folks get the ball rolling. You can also do things like set your form to accept recurring contributions for a specified length of time or choose specific contribution amount buttons to be displayed on your page. You can also add a goal thermometer and customize the text your supporters will receive after they donate. We’re always happy to help folks take advantage of our tools and organize their networks, so if you have questions about building forms feel free to reach out to our team at info@actblue.com. You can also find even more detailed instructions on our support site.

And if you’re seeing success using ActBlue forms to fundraise from your community, we’d love to hear about your work. Drop us a line at info@actblue.com or tweet at us @actblue to tell us about it!

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!

Q2 2018: Primaries, protests, and people power

In a quarter filled with exhilarating highs and devastating lows for our democracy, small-dollar donors were the one constant we could count on. Not only did donors break fundraising records on ActBlue once again (more on that later), hundreds of thousands of people were moved to give for the first time this quarter. Many were activated by the Trump administration’s horrific separation of families at the border, as well as the new opportunity to vote for primary candidates who looked like them and embraced small-dollar donors over super PAC money.

This increased participation is reflected in our latest cycle-to-date numbers: Small-dollar donors have now raised over $900 million this election cycle and are on track to hit $1 billion this summer! Additionally, the number of unique groups using our fundraising tools this cycle is nearly double the number that used us in the entire 2016 election cycle! Grassroots donors are truly uniting behind Democratic candidates and successfully leveling a playing field traditionally stacked by conservative mega-donors.
Cycle-to-Cycle Comparison

Dollar Volume Raised on ActBlue Cycle-to-Date

Small-dollar donors aren’t just breaking cycle records — this was also the biggest quarter ever on ActBlue in terms of dollar volume ($210,747,320), and it includes our biggest dollar day ever (June 30 — $9,373,597). On top of all of that, we also officially crossed 5 million ActBlue Express users! Keep reading to see everything grassroots donors achieved this quarter.

Q2 Topline Numbers

With so many brand-new grassroots donors getting off the sidelines and jumping in to help more candidates and organizations than ever before, we once again broke the record for the number of unique groups using our tools in a single quarter: 9,070 campaigns and organizations. Q2 was also our second-biggest quarter ever for number of contributions. Small-dollar donors gave 5,177,216 contributions, nearly matching the current record of 5,615,070 from Q1 2016, which was in the midst of a heated presidential primary! This is yet another example of the participation and activism we’re seeing build as we near November.

Many of the new donors in Q2 were motivated to give to charities fighting for parents and children who were separated at the border. When the crisis began, activists and elected officials used our Tandem Fundraising feature to build contribution forms that listed multiple nonprofits advocating for families so that folks could support all of their work with a single click. Over 380,000 people gave their first contribution through ActBlue this quarter, and 51.3% of those folks gave that donation through one of these forms.

Donors Who Gave Their First Contribution on ActBlue via a Border Crisis Tandem Form

ActBlue Express

Q2 ‘14 Q2 ‘16 Q2 ‘18
New ActBlue Express Users 137,998 231,463 280,319
% of Total Volume via ActBlue Express 53.5% 62.3% 58.3%
% of Contributions via ActBlue Express 58.7% 70.1% 62.2%

With ActBlue Express, donors can save their payment information and give to any campaign or organization using ActBlue with a single click. In Q2, 62.2% of all contributions came from ActBlue Express, and 280,319 folks created ActBlue Express accounts. We officially hit 5 million ActBlue Express users on June 30 during the end-of-quarter rush — only a year and a day after hitting 4 million users in 2017!

ActBlue Express Growth

Mobile

Q2 ‘14 Q2 ‘16 Q2 ‘18
% of Contributions via Mobile 23.7% 39.8% 43.0%
% Mobile for ActBlue Express 26.2% 43.1% 43.1%

Recurring Contributions

Q2 ‘14 Q2 ‘16 Q2 ‘18
Total Recurring Volume $3,914,199 $25,403,318 $41,456,595
% of Total Volume 8.2% 19.2% 19.7%

Recurring contributions sustain campaigns that have to make it from primary season to November and enable the nonprofits fighting for families at the border to support the affected children and parents for months to come. This quarter, recurring contributions made up 19.7% of total sitewide volume.

Customer Service

Q2 ‘18
Total Incoming Calls 28,015
Email Conversations 77,004

Q2 made it more clear than ever before that we are living in a new age of American activism that is being powered by small-dollar donors. From protesting to voting to donating, the left put in an incredible amount of organizing that will set us up for victory this fall. And with months still to go until Election Day, we know this movement will only continue to expand! If you want to fundraise for your favorite campaign or cause, or if you have questions about this post, get in touch with us at info@actblue.com!

5 Steps to Flip the Ladder Sideways and Grow Your Grassroots Donors

This is a guest post written by Janice Chan, who often writes for our friends at Wethos over at The Nonprofit Revolution. 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 1

Ever played that team building game, “All Aboard”? You’re in a group and you are given say, a hand towel or a telephone book (showing my age here, I know), and the goal is to get everybody on board without anyone having a foot touching the ground. Depending on the variation or the prop used, the boat may get smaller (e.g. towel is folded in half) or your group may get bigger — and still you need to get everyone on board without any feet touching the ground.

Often, working at a nonprofit organization can feel that way. You’re trying to serve the same number of people with fewer resources, or serve more people with the same amount of resources. This metaphor is not only apropos to programming, but to fundraising as well. You’re trying to raise funds from more supporters (get more people on board) with the same number of staff or resources. And yet, the more you raise, the more people (donors and clients) you can get on board.

It does not need to be an endless game of chicken, egg, chicken, egg.

That’s why you focus on major gifts and/or grants, right? We know it’s important to respect donors at all levels, but in terms of where we spend our fundraising resources (time, budget, attention), it is clear that we prioritize funders who can give large gifts. But it’s easy to take those smaller dollar annual gifts for granted — just send or share it out to enough people and build our lists and followers because it is a small percentage of volume, volume, volume.

Or is it?

We tend to believe, particularly if we are smaller organizations, in the myth of scarcity. That if we spent time focusing on small-dollar donors, it would take away from the time we spend on major gifts and grants, and that would cause much bigger problems if we didn’t have those. We act as if this were a game of musical chairs instead. And so we close ourselves off to the people who could help us.

Worse, we leave people feeling like their contributions won’t matter unless they can write a check with more than two digits in front of the decimal point.

The trick to playing “All Aboard” is that when you have more people, you can use each other to hold all of you up. The more people you have, the more people you can get on board. This is not musical chairs. But you have to involve every person on board.

One, value small-dollar donors.

Valuing small-dollar donors isn’t simply the right thing to do; it’s a key part of any smart fundraising strategy. Small-dollar donors provide increased revenue, can be more vocal supporters and ambassadors for your organization once they’ve invested in your work, and can donate multiple times.

Valuing donors is not about what we say but whether our donors feel like they matter to us. You know how we rush to address whatever it is that a major donor, funder, or board member raised as an issue, no matter how small? Or how we otherwise pay attention to all aspects of their donor experience? Sometimes it’s because they are important details; sometimes the details are simply important to them. Donor experience is key at all levels. What if we took the same care and put the same level of thought into how all of our donors experience supporting our organization?

Note that I said thought, not necessarily time. Often, we know more than we give ourselves credit for knowing. Like the fact that increasing numbers of donors give via mobile devices. Or that A/B testing is an effective way to experiment and see what works best for your particular donors.

But getting there seems overwhelming and, as a small or medium nonprofit, like it’s out of our league. However, technology advances all the time but so do the services available. Customizable, data-driven online fundraising platforms are no longer as out of reach as you think — not in cost or in staff capacity to manage and maximize.

Two, create a plan to grow the number of small-dollar donors.

Giving Tuesday doesn’t just magically happen as some type of positive penance amid the Cyber Monday hangover (Cyber Monday also not being a natural consequence of Black Friday).

Grassroots fundraising can change the game if you’re intentional about it. What does intentional look like? There is a strategy, there are planned efforts to grow the number of small-dollar donors, and these efforts are tracked, measured, and evaluated to inform future efforts. These strategies don’t have to break the bank, and the right expertise is also not as out of reach as you think! (Not entirely sure what you need? Platforms like Wethos offer free consultations that can help you define your project prior to hiring a freelancer.)

And remember how we talked about involving every person on board? Traditionally, fundraising has been about moving donors up the ladder of engagement over time, from smaller annual gifts to larger major gifts. But that’s ignoring a subset of donors who, for various reasons, wish to give lower amounts, or who perhaps would rather give smaller amounts more often, a.k.a. recurring gifts.

Flip the ladder of engagement sideways, like a platform you can build on. Challenges and matches can be a successful strategy for getting people on board, while giving your major donors a new way in which to support your organization and grow your capacity.

Three, set a goal to encourage recurring gifts from small-dollar donors.

Yes, we can ask small-dollar donors for recurring gifts, and yes, we can receive them. Even if the amount per donation is lower, the recurring nature means that a donor will likely give more than if you had asked them for a one-time gift. For example, you might only get $25 as a one-time gift but the same donor might be willing to pledge $5/month for 12 months (and $5 x 12 = $60).

You know what else? It is also a sign that this donor is more connected to your cause and your organization, which means they will probably be more likely to respond to your other calls to action. It’s also easier to ask friends to give when, hey, you support this organization every month.

Want recurring gifts? As with all fundraising, you won’t get what you don’t ask for. Build this into your strategy and your online giving forms. (Or take the time-saving approach and choose a platform like AB Charities where recurring gifts and management of them is already built in.)

Four, for any goals, figure out how you’ll evaluate your progress.

A big benefit of grassroots fundraising? Sample size. This makes it much faster to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. And whereas some donors may be fairly forthright about why they did or didn’t give to you, raising money online also gives you the benefits of tracking things like how many people visit your online donation page without clicking through — and where they dropped off in the process.

Five, apply what you’ve learned to value your grassroots donors.

And like that Brian McKnight song, we are back at one.

Best practices are not without merit, but they are not based on your particular organization or your supporters. Use what you learn to continue to figure out how to make all your donors feel valued, respected, and like their contribution matters. This will change over time. Good thing is that so do the tools and resources available to us.

You do what you do because your organization believes in our capacity to be better, in our capacity to make the world better. Believe in the capacity of your grassroots donors.

All aboard!

This post was written for AB Charities in partnership with Wethos and also appears on their blog, The Nonprofit Revolution.

Q1 2018: A record number of records

Since Trump’s election, small-dollar donors have been fired up and actively engaged in trying to change our country’s future. We’ve reported back every quarter on how grassroots supporters have been besting past election cycles and breaking records, but this past quarter was truly astounding. Thanks to small-dollar donors, Q1 2018 was our biggest quarter ever (beating out every quarter of the 2016 election!), with a total of $180,737,948 raised. Additionally, we’ve already raised $702,744,083 in the 2017-2018 cycle and will be hitting $750 million in a matter of weeks. For comparison, our total for the entire 2015-2016 cycle was $746 million.

There were also a record-breaking number of campaigns and organizations raising on ActBlue in Q1 2018 — 7,838 in total. And there have now been over 10,000 groups who have raised money through our platform during the 2017-2018 election cycle, another sign of how truly massive the resistance movement has become. Below, you can see the extraordinary growth in groups using our tools during this cycle. This is an increasingly diverse set of groups that includes national advocacy organizations and local nonprofits in addition to campaigns of all sizes. That means supporters will have plenty of places to direct their energy after election season ends. We’re experiencing a historic moment in the small-dollar donor movement, and it’s not even a presidential election cycle!

Please note that Y1 on this graph refers to the first year of the election cycle, and Y2 refers to the second.

Total Groups Fundraising on ActBlue

Grassroots donors also propelled us to another milestone this quarter: On January 4, we officially hit $2 billion raised in the lifetime of our platform. We only hit the $1 billion mark in March 2016, in the midst of a spirited presidential primary. An unparalleled amount of organizing from concerned citizens and activists helped us double that in just under two years!

Check out all of the highlights from Q1 and new cycle-to-date comparisons below:

Topline Numbers

Q1 ’14 Q1 ‘16 Q1 ‘18
Contributions 897,884 5,558,959 4,659,660
Total Amount $36,955,658 $164,307,042 $180,737,948
Average Contribution Size $41.16 $29.56 $38.79
Unique Campaigns, Committees,
and Organizations
2,478 2,981 7,838

Small-dollar donors made 4,659,660 contributions on ActBlue this quarter, and they had many reasons to give. In addition to some special elections and the start of primary season, folks were fired up about government shutdowns, the ongoing fight for DACA, and organizing for gun control.

We got to our record total of $181 million raised this quarter thanks to remarkably consistent daily totals. In Q1, there were a record-setting 38 days when candidates and organizations raised more than $2 million — including every weekday in March! In the chart below, you can see how steady donations were, especially during the work week.

Daily Totals on ActBlue in Q1 of 2018

Cycle Comparisons

Q1 ’13 through Q1 ’14 Q1 ’15 through Q1 ’16 Q1 ’17 through Q1 ’18
Contributions 3,440,238 12,027,805 21,797,423
Total Amount $128,589,673 $370,657,131 $702,744,083
Average Contribution Size $37.37 $30.81 $32.23
Unique Campaigns, Committees,
and Organizations
3,638 4,402 10,295

There’s so much unprecedented grassroots engagement right now that we decided to compare the 2018 election cycle so far to the same timeframe in past cycles. Across all metrics, it’s clear that Democrats have more grassroots support going into this election year than ever before.

In the graph below, we break down fundraising totals on ActBlue for these election cycles by quarter. With so many small-dollar donations coming so early in the 2018 cycle, Democrats will be able to keep up with Republicans bankrolled by mega-donors right up to Election Day.

Amount Raised on ActBlue by Quarter

ActBlue Express

Q1 ’14 Q1 ’16 Q1 ’18
New ActBlue Express users 79,155 771,193 290,744

In January we officially hit 4.5 million ActBlue Express users, and by the end of March we had over 4.7 million! 290,744 people saved their payment information with us this quarter and can now give to anyone on our platform with a single click. In a real show of commitment, 43.4 percent of the ActBlue Express donors who gave in Q1 made more than one contribution, and 38.7 percent gave to more than one group! We’re looking forward to hitting 5 million ActBlue Express users next quarter, in time for the heat of election season.

Mobile

Q1 ‘14 Q1 ‘16 Q1 ‘18
% of Contributions via Mobile 20.2% 40.3% 42.7%
% Mobile for ActBlue Express 23.3% 43.8% 42.0%

Recurring Contributions

Q1 ‘14 Q1 ‘16 Q1 ‘18
Total Recurring Volume $2,523,315 $25,639,162 $36,080,458
% of Total Volume 6.8% 15.6% 20.0%

Twenty percent of Q1’s total volume came from recurring contributions. Now that we’re only seven months away from Election Day, recurring contributions are more important than ever for Democrats running for office. When donors chip in monthly contributions, campaigns can budget ahead of time for ads, events, GOTV efforts, and more so they’re not out of cash at crunch time.

Customer Service

Q1 ‘18
Total Incoming Calls 33,239
Email Conversations 74,544

We added six (!!) new customer service experts to our team this quarter. With a record number of first-timers running for office and new folks supporting them as grassroots donors, we want to make sure we can answer any and all questions.

This quarter, small-dollar donors set Democrats up for success. We know the midterms won’t be easy, but with so many records already being crushed, the left has the energy and the resources to win in November. If you want to get your campaign on ActBlue (it’s never too late!) or need help fundraising for your favorite cause, or if you have questions about this post, contact us at info@actblue.com.

Election Day 2017: Wins at the state and local level, fueled by the grassroots

Hi, I’m Rachael from the Outreach Team at ActBlue, stopping by the blog to talk about the (amazing) outcome we saw this past Election Day. I work with state and local candidates and teach them how to use our platform to build campaigns funded by small-dollar donors. I’ve been traveling across the country in 2017 doing this work, and I’ve gotten to see firsthand the incredible surge of folks getting involved in politics at the state and local level since the 2016 election.

We talk a lot on our blog about the huge impact small-dollar donors have on campaigns and organizations across the country, and we’re proud to make that possible with our tools at ActBlue. The 2017 elections were a great reminder that donors and activists are making a bigger difference than ever, and that when small-dollar donors chip in to support the candidates they care about, those folks have the resources to win their races. During this month’s elections, Democrats picked up Republican seats in deep-red Georgia and flipped control of the legislature in Washington. The first openly transgender woman, Danica Roem, was elected to the Virginia state house. The first black woman, Vi Lyles, was elected mayor of Charlotte, NC, and the first woman, Joyce Craig, was elected mayor of Manchester, the largest city in New Hampshire. And those are just a few of the biggest highlights.

My team and I were excited to see so many of the Democrats we work with have a successful election night. And it was amazing to see voters and activists so invested in campaigns at the state and local level. Why exactly were they so enthusiastic to help out and vote for these candidates? Voters now have a clear picture of how things go when Republicans are in charge, and thankfully, a lot of people took advantage of their first chance to show they don’t approve. What else? People ran for office. It’s that simple. Instead of allowing Republican incumbents to hold on to their power any longer, Democrats came forward to run against them. And these candidates built winning races with help from grassroots donors, who chipped in what they could to support their efforts.

In Virginia specifically, state and local campaigns raised over $12 million in 2017 from over 200K contributions made by small-dollar donors using ActBlue. And that’s compared to over $3.4 million raised from 33K contributions in Virginia’s state and local elections in 2015. (Note: There was not a VA governor’s race in 2015.) And the contributions for this year’s races paid off big time. Political strategists were pretty adamant that Democrats didn’t have any chance to take back the Virginia House this year, but of the 17 seats we needed to flip to win the majority, we flipped 15 and nearly toppled the GOP’s power. And 12 of those 15 candidates beat a Republican incumbent. To top it all off, 100% of the challengers who beat Republican incumbents in Virginia used ActBlue to raise small-dollar donations and build their campaigns from the bottom up.

We’ve been working hard to expand our reach in local jurisdictions this year, so we can help candidates in every race build winning grassroots campaigns, just like they were able to in Virginia. Our compliance staffers have cleared 100 jurisdictions so far in 2017, and those are all places where new candidates can now use ActBlue to fund their campaigns. And as we expand further, staffers like me are getting out on the ground in these areas to train candidates on the best practices of small-dollar fundraising. We truly believe in the power of grassroots donors, and we know candidates can build winning campaigns when their supporters chip in $5 or $10 online. In fact, small-dollar donations are especially impactful at the state and local level where candidates typically don’t need to raise millions of dollars in order to build a winning campaign.

That’s why we’re doing this work — so you can give to local and state campaigns in every election, at every level, and help create real change in your communities. You might not be able to volunteer to knock doors for every race, but you can make a difference in the work being done to bring Democrats and their policies to the state and local level. Groups like Indivisible, Flippable, and Run for Something are great resources for voters and small-dollar donors to learn about important races all over the US. And aside from contributing and volunteering, you can actually run for office. Since the 2016 elections, more groups and resources to support new candidates have sprung up than ever before. We even celebrated the first ever National Run for Office Day this month with Run for Something, where folks at the ActBlue office heard from Boston City Councilor-Elect Lydia Edwards, the first woman to ever hold her seat. It’s becoming clear that if you have the passion and drive you can run for office and you can win. And at ActBlue, we’ve got the tools to help first-time candidates build powerful movements. Who knows, you just may be the next state representative, mayor, or city councilor to go on to become the President of the United States.

We want to hear from you so we can help! Who are you supporting? What are you running for and where? You can check out the local jurisdictions we’ve cleared here. If you’re running for an office that we don’t currently have listed, reach out to us at info@actblue.com and we’ll work to get that cleared. And if you have questions about running for any office from the top of the ticket on down, just drop us a line at info@actblue.com.

Getting the most out of #GivingTuesday

The end of 2017 is rapidly approaching, and with that comes holidays, shopping, and something that’s likely on a lot of fundraisers’ minds right now: giving season. Giving Tuesday (November 28th), the official kickoff to giving season, has become a prominent, global day of generosity, falling immediately after big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s the start to an end-of-year period when people are driven to give back. In 2016 on Giving Tuesday alone, nonprofits raised over $168 million globally, up a whopping 44% from 2015. And the giving won’t stop there — 30% (!!) of all nonprofit giving happens from Giving Tuesday through the end of the year. That adds up to a whole lot of groups making appeals for support on the same day, and a crowded marketplace as you work to hit your fundraising goals.

Folks tend to be feeling generous as the year comes to a close, and some have likely even planned ahead to make charitable contributions in the last month of the year. That’s why nonprofit fundraising teams should plan ahead as well, so you can have a strategy in place to reach those excited supporters multiple times during giving season, when they’re already inclined to chip in.

The more prepared your organization is, the better. If you’re a nonprofit fundraiser, you’ll find our top tips below for preparing your giving season fundraising campaign. As you make progress on your plans, we’re available to answer questions or talk strategy at AB Charities, so let us know how we can help. And if you’re not set up to use our tools yet, there’s still time — most organizations can get set up within a day or two!

  • Decide on a goal and make your donors feel like they’re invested in helping you hit it. You should focus on a measurable, realistic goal that you know your supporters can help you reach — and you should let your donors know about it! When there’s a tangible goal in mind, donors feel more motivated to give and help you succeed.

  • Outline, write, and prepare your content ahead of time. You’ll want to be prepared for both Giving Tuesday and the larger end-of-year push that comes afterwards. Having one or two emails prepared likely won’t be enough content to help you hit your goal. Take some time to brainstorm with your team and think through the different stories you want to tell and what fundraising emails, graphics, social media content, or blog posts you’ll need to get those messages across. And remember that above all, you want to tell a compelling story and incorporate urgency and emotion. Let your donors know why they should care about your work right now, why you need their contribution, and what you’ll be able to do with their donation if they give. You can also prepare thank-you text to send out to donors. AB Charities will send out a receipt automatically when people donate, but you can easily customize that language to thank your donors and add it to your fundraising page ahead of time, so every time a donor contributes they’ll receive your note.

  • Brand your contribution forms for Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday has become a way for supporters to feel like they’re a part of an incredibly large, global movement for positive change. When you brand your contribution forms to show donors that you’re asking for their support as a part of your Giving Tuesday campaign, it can help donors feel even more motivated to make a contribution that will help you reach your goals. Using AB Charities, it’s quick and easy to add a branding to your forms that fits in with the look and feel of your Giving Tuesday campaign. If you have questions about creating a branding find more info here or contact Kiersten from our advocacy team at arnoni [at] actblue [dot] com.

  • Connect with folks in your organization’s community ahead of time and invite them to participate in peer-to-peer fundraising. If you have supporters who are willing to put in a little work for your cause, you can make them an AB Charities contribution form and encourage them to organize their networks by emailing or posting on social media to help broaden your reach. Those folks who are already engaged in your organization’s work can offer compelling appeals for support by telling their personal stories or offering unique perspectives as to why your organization needs their donation. You can also get board members involved and make them their own fundraising pages, so they can keep track of fundraising goals and help you hit them. Your organization’s staffers can log in and check on the progress of the peer-to-peer and board fundraising pages, saving your team a ton of time!

  • Include a pop-up donation ask on your website. With so many donors planning on giving and researching causes they want to support, it’s common for charitable groups to experience high traffic on their websites from Giving Tuesday through the end of the year. Building a pop-up ask into your giving season campaign is a great way to meet your donors where they already are. Using AB Charities, ActBlue Express users can give easily with a single click on your pop-up. This will make it especially simple for donors who access your website via their phone or tablet — no typing in their credit card number to complete a donation.

  • Make a recurring ask to seize the momentum of Giving Tuesday and keep supporters engaged long-term. Many groups focus on bringing in one-time contributions to hit their goals, but we recommend asking for weekly or monthly recurring contributions. Recurring contributions are a great way to capture the excitement of giving season and turn it into long-term success. When you know you have a certain amount of money coming in each week or month from recurring donations, you can budget and plan ahead for the future. 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. Donors will feel invested in your work and you’ll be able to rely on a steady stream of donations even as giving season comes to a close.

Taking the steps above will help you have a solid plan in place and will set you and your team up for success. AB Charities allows you to track the performance of your contribution forms and how donors are responding to different content, social media asks, or email pitches in real time.

If you’re interested in learning more about our tools, have questions about preparing for Giving Tuesday, or want to run a test between AB Charities and your current platform, just let us know. You can drop Kiersten a line at arnoni [at] actblue [dot] com. We wish you good luck during giving season, and can’t wait to see your fundraising campaigns in action!