Need more hours in the day? Press pause to be more productive.

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

Feeling burned out? I know this sounds counterintuitive, but put aside your to-do list for 30 minutes. Turn off your notifications, hide your phone, if need be, hide yourself in a conference room where your coworkers can’t find you. (Okay, maybe tell one person who understands the true meaning of the word emergency. You know, in case there is a fire or something.)

Then use that 30 minutes to brainstorm ways that you can get more hours back in your day. It takes time to make time. What would make it easier/less frustrating to do your job? Review everything currently on your to-do list and ask yourself these three questions.

Do you actually need to do this?

The quickest way to get back time is to go down your list and ask, of each item, “What will be lost by NOT doing this?”

At the micro level, this can be steps in a process. One low-lift example: Can you streamline an approval process? Maybe certain people only need to sign off if certain criteria are in play.

At micro and macro levels, re-evaluate wants vs. needs — just as you would with your budget. Maybe you want to run more events to attract new donors, but maybe what you really need to do is focus on continuing to build relationships with grassroots donors. Or maybe you want to revamp your website, but what you really need is a better digital strategy. Perhaps it is worth engaging a team of digital strategists to help you assess what items will have the most impact.

Do you need to do this?

Are you the only person who can do this? It can be scary to let go of things that you’re good at, or that you’ve always done. At the same time, it can be incredibly freeing not to shoulder a particular responsibility all by your lonesome. For example, to go on vacation and know that other people can handle things.

As you go down your list, consider whether any of these items could be good growth opportunities for a colleague. Or, perhaps, it is a tedious task that needs to be done but could be a little more evenly distributed than it currently is. What’s holding you back from delegating? Another low-lift strategy would be writing up a how-to guide (which is also important knowledge management, should you ever win the Powerball) or taking a screencast or training others. Ensuring organizational continuity is always time well spent now to free up your time later on.

Remember to leverage all the people on your team. For example, is your board fundraising? If not, perhaps it’s time to talk to board members about expectations.

Trying to figure out something new? Your nonprofit is probably not the first organization to tackle this challenge. For example, your cause is suddenly thrust into the news and the spotlight, and you need to come up with a fundraising plan yesterday! Or, you could take a page from these best practices in rapid response fundraising from AB Charities.

Is heavier lifting required?

Sometimes it is worth examining the opportunity cost of you doing X, when you could be making a bigger impact in other areas. Maybe you’d like to keep your hand on the wheel, but could get there faster with help, whether it’s extra hands or a particular skill set your team needs support with. There’s no shame in raising your hand — in fact, it requires maturity and confidence to ask for help. It’s what we often encourage others to do.

Admittedly, it can be challenging to ask for help when you’re not sure what you need. Wethos collaborative teams and the AB Charities team are always ready to support you and can even help you figure out what is needed.

Could this be accomplished differently?

We are often so busy getting things done that we forget to pick our heads up and survey the changing landscape — and sometimes we miss things, like technology that might make our jobs and lives easier!

Things you can do this week

Compound time saved with smarter habits

  • Are you asking for every single gift? Learn why you should ask for recurring donations and how AB Charities makes this simple and automatic (for you and your donors).

  • Does this need to be done in the office? Offices can be great for collaboration-heavy projects, but they are full of distractions. When you need to focus on a thinking-heavy project, perhaps it would be better to work off-site.

  • Should this be a meeting or an email or a phone call? Do everybody a favor and make a habit of asking this question regularly!

Invest upfront to multiply your time later

And if it is a thorny project that desperately needs to be tackled? Engaging a collaborative team of experts can help get you over a large one-time hurdle while also providing an opportunity to gain expertise you don’t currently have in-house.

Overwhelmed? Start somewhere, start anywhere — just start!

One pause and one deep breath can lead to another. I wrote this down so that you can come back to the resources and ideas. No need to tackle this all at once. Or alone — the AB Charities team is always available to help you with your digital fundraising, and Wethos collaborative teams are available to support you with a broad range of skill sets.

But now when you get overwhelmed, you can ask those three questions: Do I need to do this, do I alone need to be the one to do this, and could this be done a different way?

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

Save time with reusable social share settings!

When a donor shares the link to your contribution form on social media, they’re introducing your cause to hundreds of potential new supporters. We want you to be able to make the most of these moments, which is why we’ve upgraded our social share feature! In addition to customizing the image and text that appears on Facebook and Twitter when someone posts the link to your form, now you can create default and reusable social share settings for your ActBlue contribution forms. This will save you time and effort for future forms while ensuring your supporters are filling their networks with your messaging and branding!

To create reusable settings, just check the “Make settings reusable” box at the bottom of the “Social share” tab in the form editor after adding the text and image you want. Then give the settings a name.
 

Reusable social share setting option

 

Once you publish your changes, the next time you go to the “Social share” tab for a contribution form you’ll be able to select the reusable setting in the “Applied reusable settings” dropdown!

 

Applied reusable settings 1

Applied reusable settings 2

 

If you need help creating an image for your social share, check out this blog post!

To set a default social share setting for your campaign or organization, select the reusable setting you want from the dropdown and check the “Set as default” box that appears before publishing your changes.

 

Set as default

 

From then on, all brand-new forms you create will automatically have the default social share settings applied, except for new clones of forms with different settings.

If you decide to make a different reusable setting your default, that setting will only be applied to brand-new future forms, not pre-existing forms that use an old default or new clones of forms with different settings.

We’ve also made it possible to preview your social share text and image together with this upgrade. After customizing your Facebook or Twitter share, just click “Preview” above the image to see your social share setting.

Social share preview

Preview

We hope these improvements will save you time and make customizing your social share settings easier! To get a step-by-step guide to these changes, including how to edit a reusable setting, visit our support website. And if you’re an admin who needs assistance with social share or another aspect of contribution forms, you can always reach us at support@actblue.com!

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.

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.

It’s weekly recurring season!

We’re seven weeks out from Election Day! It’s crunch time, especially for ActBlue admins who are trying to hit their campaign fundraising goals in the run-up to Election Day. And honestly, it’s the busiest crunch time we’ve ever seen. The good news is there’s an ActBlue feature that can help fundraisers out a lot during this final push: weekly recurring. It’s a great tool that helps campaigns and committees bring in more donations during these crucial weeks when the pressure is really on.

Just as it sounds, weekly recurring gives donors the option to sign up and make a recurring contribution that processes on the same day of the week, every week, until November 6th. After Election Day, the recurring contribution automatically ends.

Asking donors for weekly recurring contributions is a great way to build on the connection you’ve already made in the final weeks before the polls open. You should take this opportunity to let your donors know just how much their contributions will make a difference seven, six, or five weeks out from Election Day. Let them know how you’ll be spending the money and what their contributions could mean for the results of your race. Get them excited about helping you out through Election Day and make them feel like a part of your movement!

There are two important things to note about weekly recurring contributions: Someone from our team will need to enable the feature on one of your group’s contribution forms. And we can only turn weekly recurring on for your forms if you’re using ActBlue to fundraise for both your emails and website.

Here’s what your donors will see when you’ve got weekly recurring turned on for a form:

 
weekly-preset
 

So if a donor signed up for a recurring contribution on Tuesday, September 25th, they’d be making seven contributions, one scheduled to process each Tuesday (including Election Day). If you’re interested in turning on weekly recurring, shoot us an email at support@actblue.com with the forms you want it turned on for. If you decide to expand your weekly asks and you want to use it on more forms before Election Day, you can just clone a form that already has weekly enabled.

Don’t forget that you can use pop-up recurring asks for weekly contributions! But make sure you change the ask language and note that it’s a weekly recurring contribution.

Be sure to update your receipt text for weekly contribution forms. You’ll find the space to do that in the “Thanks & Receipt” tab of the form editor:

 
thanks-receipt
 

One weekly recurring test we had great success with was our ‘7 for 7’ ask, where we asked donors to give $7 for the last 7 weeks before the election. But it’s important to remember that every list is different.

Weekly recurring is a great way to keep your donor base engaged right up until Election Day. We’re thrilled to bring you this option again and would love to hear about any tests you run that are particularly successful. Are you ready to get set up with weekly recurring? Let us know at support@actblue.com and we’ll turn it on for you.

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!

Social share graphics for contribution forms: Designing your own with our new, easy-to-use template

We frequently hear from donors who are extremely proud of their donations and excited to share that they’ve chipped in, which is why we’ve built social share features right into our contribution forms. It’s easy to add images or text to your forms that will be included with your link every time someone shares it on Twitter or Facebook.

And now we’ve built a brand-new, easy-to-use template for folks to use to create their own social share images to add to their contribution forms. Keep reading for all the details.

What does social share look like?

If you customize your social share on ActBlue (and we highly recommend doing so for every form), it can look something like this:

 

example

Every time someone shares a link to your contribution form on social media they’ll be sharing a relevant image along with the link to donate. In the example above, we were tweeting out a form where folks could donate to Democratic nominee funds — funds we built at ActBlue to raise money for the Democrats who win primaries and go on to challenge Republicans in general elections. The social share graphic we included was attention-grabbing and helped explain a slightly wonky topic. That’s the kind of thing that can make a big difference when sharing forms this way.

And social share doesn’t have to be limited to just text-based graphics. Groups have seen success with all different types of images on their contribution forms. Here’s an example:

 

photo-social-share

 

Photos can add a human touch to your campaign or cause and catch the eye of people scrolling through their social media feeds. That’s why campaign photos are often a great choice for social share images.

Using our template to design a social share image

You’ll find our brand new social share graphic template here.

To start using the template to design your own custom social share image, first make a copy of the document when you are prompted. You’ll notice that the template is a Google Drive file, so once you’ve made a copy you’ll be able to find it in your own Google Drive from that point forward. (If you don’t have a Google account, you should create a free account in order to use the template.)

Here’s what the template will look like before you make your own changes:

 

template

 

The center area where you should put design elements you want displayed on your social share graphic is 1000 x 525 pixels (with a 2:1 ratio) — specs that will fit the standard Facebook and Twitter image sizes for sharing links.

You can make changes to the text on the template by adding in your own copy and changing the font and color of the text to fit your brand. You can also add images and logos, and/or change the background color of your graphic.

To replace the sample text on the template just highlight the text and begin typing.

 

typing-gif

 

To upload a logo or an image to the template, just select the Image box within the top menu and upload your image.

 

upload-image

 

You can replace the LoremIpsum logo with your own, like you can see in the example below. But you should also remember that this is just a template! Feel free to move things around within the template to make sure your graphic best fits your brand.

 
logo
 

After you’ve got your images and text in place, you can also change the background of your social share image, by using the bucket tool in the top menu.

 
background-color
 

Now that you’ve got the bones of your design, you can add some style to your text if you’d like. You can easily add some depth to your design simply by highlighting some of your text, as you can see in the gif below.

 

highlight-text

 

Feeling good about your design? Now you just need to download it! Note that you shouldn’t change the size of your image before downloading. Just head up to the top menu and choose the File dropdown menu. Then you’ll want to choose “Download as…” and download the image as a PNG file.

 

download

 

Once you’ve downloaded your image there’s one final step you should take to make sure your image will display in clear, high quality. Due to Twitter and Facebook’s image compression process, sometimes images will appear blurry on social shares. If your image is looking a little blurry, you can try this tool. Just drag your image into the box on the page. This will tweak your image so that it will bypass Twitter and Facebook’s compression tools (but won’t change the way your image looks). Once you’ve dragged your image on to the page, a new version will download to your computer and will include “TWITSAFE” in the file name. This will work for both Twitter and Facebook.

Adding your image to a contribution form

So, how do you set up your shiny, newly designed social share image on a contribution form? It’s easy! Once you’ve created a contribution form, select the “Edit” button, the first button on the contribution form navigation bar (form navbar).

 

form-editor

 

Next, you’ll want to choose “Social share” from the form editor.

Here you’ll be able to customize the title and description of your links as they’ll appear on both Facebook and Twitter. You can also include your campaign or organization’s Twitter handle if you’d like to be tagged every time someone shares your form. Below you can see just what you can change for your links on Facebook and Twitter.

 
social-share-ActBlue
 

Lastly, you’ll be able to upload your new, custom image using the “Upload an image” option which you can see below.

 

upload-graphic

 

You can also save these social share settings to easily reuse them for any future form by checking off the “Make settings reusable” option at the bottom of the “Social share” tab.

 

reusable-option

 

To double check that your image and text look how you want them to, head to https://cards-dev.twitter.com/validator and drop the link to your form in the Card URL box. It will show you a preview of what folks on Twitter will see in their feeds. You can do the same for Facebook at this link: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/.

Social share can make all the difference in social media fundraising, which is why we’ve made it so easy to build right into your fundraising program. If you’re a donor or activist creating contribution forms for causes you care about and you have questions about social share, you can reach out at info@actblue.com.

And if you’re working for a campaign or organization using ActBlue and you have questions or comments about creating social share graphics using our template, or customizing your social share text, just drop us a line at support@actblue.com!

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!

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.