The automation on ActBlue giving your fundraising a boost

Every campaign and organization on ActBlue has access to powerful automated tools. Our mission has always been to make fundraising incredibly easy for grassroots groups and the donors who support them, and automation plays a huge role in taking care of the small stuff so you can focus on the hard work of organizing, winning, and building strong movements. Automation can help you cultivate closer relationships with your supporters and raise more money, and with just a little extra customization, you can make these automated functions work even harder for you! Because our team of engineers is constantly focused on finding ways to make your fundraising better (and your life easier), we’ve made sure automation is baked into our platform. Check out the automation that’s giving your fundraising a boost on ActBlue and how you can take it to the next level.

Email Receipts + Thank You Messages

We automatically send email receipts to donors who give to you through our platform. These automated receipts let you recognize and value every single one of your donors!

How to level up: You can celebrate your donors even more by customizing the text in these automated receipts with a heartfelt thank you. Customized email receipts leave supporters with a meaningful message about the key role of small-dollar donors in your work and motivate your supporter base to stay in this movement with you. While you’re here, add a custom branding to your receipt to match your campaign or organization. You can use ActBlue’s easy design tools to spiff up your receipts with your logo (and a background color if you’re feeling artistic!).

Customized Receipt Example

Remarketing

Sometimes people navigate away from a form before completing their donation and need a nudge to finish it. Our remarketing feature encourages supporters to finish their incomplete contributions by automatically sending a follow-up email thirty minutes after an unfinished donation. Remarketing, a common and impactful feature in e-commerce, increases conversion rates and lets you get the most out of each and every ask!

How to level up: Customize your remarketing email text to remind supporters one last time why it’s so important for them to give to you and finish filling out the contribution form right now. (If you’ve used a branding on your email receipts, it will carry over to remarketing emails!)

Pop-up Recurring and Smart Recurring

Building a healthy recurring program sustains your work for the long term, and our pop-up recurring feature on our forms helps you get started. Pop-up recurring asks people who make a one-time donation to you if they’d like to turn that one-time donation into a monthly one. This feature is automatically on for all of our forms because it’s an easy way for groups on ActBlue to begin growing their recurring contributions. While pop-up recurring is turned on by default, groups can also turn on our Smart Recurring feature to automatically ask donors who make a one-time contribution to start an additional and smaller recurring donation to your campaign.

How to level up: We have default language for these pop-ups, but it makes all the difference for you to add your own title and ask. Whether pop-up recurring or Smart Recurring, this is a great opportunity for you to explain in your own voice how important recurring donations are for you. Even better? You can add an image or GIF to the pop-up to really make an impression. Another great strategy is letting donors know you’re sending a sticker to people who sign up to be monthly sustainers of your work!

PopUp Example 1

PopUp Example 1

Account Updater

After doing the hard work of growing your recurring program, you don’t want old and lost credit cards to be the reason you lose donations. We launched an integration with Account Updater in late 2016 that automatically updates lost and expired credit cards used for recurring contributions, saving you and your donors time and effort. It’s a really impactful integration that benefits all campaigns and organizations, so we make sure it comes standard for every single group on our platform (no extra charge!).

Account Updater Graph

These automated features are already running on our platform to give campaigns and organizations the fundraising advantage they need to build people-powered movements. When fundraising’s stressful for you, our goal is taking care of the technology so your digital work is easier and more successful. Curious to know more or need some help customizing these features? You can reach out to us at support@actblue.com.

How to retain (and love) your grassroots donors

One of the smartest and most exciting strategies your organization can implement right now is prioritizing existing donors! Reaching fundraising goals can be much more than finding *new* donors. Making donor retention a key part of your fundraising program helps you build strong, lasting relationships with your incredible supporters that lead to more money raised over the long term. Your small-dollar donors are your most passionate advocates and investors in your mission, so treat them as the valued stakeholders they are! And donor retention doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some tips for showing your supporters some love and motivating them to stay in this movement with you.

Start off on the right foot with a welcome email series

Welcome emails are a great way to show people who are new to your email list that they’re part of something bigger! These emails are the foundation on which you’ll build relationships with grassroots supporters, so you’ll want to put in the time to craft content that makes people want to stick around and take action.

What’s the anatomy of a strong welcome email series? From the get go, the content of your welcome emails should reiterate that by joining your list, supporters are joining a community of critical participants for your cause, like this welcome email from Sunrise does:

Sunrise Welcome Email

Let your supporters know how they can begin taking specific actions, whether it’s donating, signing a petition, volunteering, or sharing on social media. Sunrise provides links for action steps to make participating as easy as possible.

You can set a precedent for honest, respectful communication by laying out to subscribers what kinds of emails you’ll send their way, like Grist does below. Additionally, think about giving supporters an easy way to unsubscribe from your email list or linking to subscription preferences like Grist does. (Giving an easy opt-out from the start also keeps your list healthy and clean from inactive subscribers, and your future self might just thank you later).

Grist Welcome Email

Make appreciation your bread and butter

Make it a point to say “thank you!” Appreciate your small-dollar donors by letting them know they’re an irreplaceable part of your larger mission. You can immediately begin showing donors your appreciation by automating donation receipts that acknowledge gifts. AB Charities already sends automated receipts to donors for you, but you can (and should) customize the “thank you” text in these receipts. With automated, customized receipts, you ensure every grassroots gift is acknowledged and every donor leaves the giving process feeling special and important to your cause.

Saying “thank you” after someone donates is important, but appreciating your supporters in all pieces of communication for sticking with you is just as important. Keep gratitude and respect at the crux of your fundraising program by thanking supporters in every email you send. Whether a fundraising email or a newsletter, a line at the end saying “thank you” shows people they’re part of your work — and your organization knows it!

Go beyond asking for money

When a big goal of your program is building lasting relationships with donors, send non-fundraising emails that share high-quality, approachable, and timely content with your supporters. Your emails should aim to engage people so they want to stay on your list, hear from you, and invest in your cause for the long term. Many of your emails can be cultivation emails — non-fundraising emails meant to share compelling content — so you’re not only sending hard fundraising asks. With thoughtful cultivation emails, you can engage folks as partners in the fight for your cause rather than solely as piggy banks.

Try sending cultivation emails entirely dedicated to saying “thank you.” Do you have exciting numbers and accomplishments to share? You can use a thank you email as a moment to emphasize the impact of gifts and express appreciation for your donors’ actions. And you don’t have to sacrifice fundraising, either — leave an easy donate button at the bottom of the email for people who are compelled to give. Here’s an example of a great thank you email from United We Dream:

United We Dream Thank You Email

Another possible way to engage supporters is asking for their input and opinions to let them know their voices are central to your movement. Many organizations send surveys, but Friends of the Earth checked in with their list by asking people if they could make a special volunteer call to discuss advancing climate change legislation:

Friends of the Earth Volunteer Call Email

Be ready to support donors who need help

An enjoyable giving process also means having the donor support to quickly solve donation problems. Make sure you have the infrastructure to address the needs and concerns of donors. That’s why AB Charities has a dedicated donor support team that spends one-on-one time with donors having trouble. Your fundraising platform should also offer tools for frictionless donations. For example, AB Charities has a free integration with Account Updater to automatically update credit card numbers so recurring donations don’t stop even when cards are lost or expired!

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to begin building lasting relationships with small-dollar donors passionate about powering your work and sustaining your movement for the long haul. Relationship management can feel intimidating, so our team is always happy to jump on a one-on-one call with you to help your organization retain (and love) your donors!

The easiest design guide for high-impact form brandings!

You may have heard: We completely upgraded how brandings are created and edited on ActBlue! No matter your digital skills or design background, you can make gorgeous brandings right in the form editor. But with far more creative freedom and customization options comes far more power. You may need some time to get familiar with every corner of our new and improved branding editor, so we’ve compiled digestible design tips to help you get your footing and tackle form brandings with confidence.

Below are some design principles for creating beautiful brandings that drive donors to give. After the design principles we’ve included templates for successful brandings. To skip ahead to the templates, use these links:

Design 101: What to keep your eyes on

Before you begin tinkering around with the branding editor, it’s helpful to know the basics of good design. Design isn’t just about how something looks: Just like the language you use to move supporters to give, design is a big communication tool that can empower small-dollar donors. The goal of your form is to encourage donations, so your design choices should be intentional about making it easy for supporters to give (despite the temptation to let your inner Picasso run wild). When creating your form branding, keep in mind the following design principles so that your design matches your messaging and moves people to click the donate button.

Composition

  • Composition describes how all the different elements of your design work together as a whole. We mean it when we say less is more for understanding your branding’s composition. Strive to include only the most important design elements that encourage donations and keep your form clean and easy to read.

  • White space is your friend! White space is the unmarked space of your composition. It gives each element breathing room so your form doesn’t appear too cluttered!

Color

  • If you already have brand colors, your form is the perfect place to flaunt them! If you’re just choosing them, you can find inspiration in colors associated with your organization’s cause or your campaign’s hometown. (If you need a starting block for choosing colors, this free online color tool generates color schemes.)

  • You don’t need the whole rainbow to make your form stand out. First stick with a few of your brand’s most important colors. When using multiple colors together, there’s a helpful 60-30-10 design rule that recommends you combine colors in the proportion of 60%–30%–10%. (The biggest section goes to the dominant color, 30% goes to a secondary color, and 10% goes to an accent color.) Don’t fret about the math too much, though — the point is to be mindful of how multiple colors work together in harmony! You can explore other tips on color in this article.

  • Remember your supporters: Color can detract from your form’s accessibility. With red and green color blindness as the most common form of color blindness, try avoiding red and green as significant emphasis colors.

  • And aim for a high contrast design. Contrast (how the color of your font reads on the color of the background) significantly affects whether people of various eyesight abilities can read your text. An easy way to create contrast is pairing a light and dark color! When you pair colors that are too similar, your contrast decreases, and the text appears faint or fuzzy. Test out font colors against different background colors to see which combinations pass or fail at accessibility and legibility standards.

Font

  • Stick to one or two fonts to keep your form looking polished.

  • Which fonts? The branding editor comes with a “System” font already selected as default for all forms, as well as other common fonts. The pre-selected “System” font has already been optimized for screen legibility and loading speed. You should use this “System” font and the other ones available in the branding editor to your advantage instead of scouring the internet for custom fonts!

  • Next, think about the typeface you’d like to use to match your messaging. There are two main typefaces people choose from: serif fonts that have decorative details at the end of letter strokes, and sans-serif fonts that lack the decorative details.

  • Serif and sans-serif fonts

    Serif fonts like Times New Roman seem traditional and bookish, while sans-serif fonts like Montserrat appear modern and informal.

    Fonts used in a sentence

  • Why not both? You can try delegating serif for the title font and sans-serif for the donation ask font, or vice-versa. Explore this font-pairing website to see font combinations in action and possibly find the font pair you want!

  • Save bold for when you need to emphasize information.

  • When in doubt, choose grayscale font colors: shades of gray that sit between white and black. Opting for grayscale colors can keep your design simple and sleek while letting accent colors stand out. Plus, there’s nothing more legible than a black font!

Winning combinations (and how to make them)

The new branding editor comes with so many great customization options, but you only need to use a few to make some beautiful, successful brandings. Here are a few easy recipes for success that you can follow to a T to craft a form branding that looks like (and rakes in) a million bucks. We’ve labeled all of the elements in the branding editor that you need to use to create brandings like these!

Branding Level: Easy

Branding Level: Easy image

Branding Level: Medium

Branding Level: Medium image

Branding Level: Picture Perfect

Branding Level: Picture Perfect image

Changing Default Blue Colors

Changing Default Blue Colors image

Spring cleaning: Spiff up your digital fundraising

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

Clean up the basics

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

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

Tidy up your email list!

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

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

Give your fundraising a quick lift with these easy tools

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

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

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

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

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

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.