Tips from our nonprofit fundraising experts

At AB Charities, we love helping other nonprofits fundraise better by building small-dollar donor bases to sustain their work. Who exactly are we? We’re a team of fundraising experts passionate about talking nonprofit digital strategy and answering any technical questions about making the most of AB Charities accounts and our platform. Our grassroots fundraising platform gives nonprofits of all sizes access to easy, modern tools like mobile-optimized contribution forms and a saved payment universe of over 7 million ActBlue Express users who can give to you with a single click. And as a nonprofit ourselves, we know the stresses that come with raising funds for important advocacy work. It’s a huge reason why we’re usually on the road doing face-to-face trainings and making small-dollar fundraising less intimidating (and less lonely). And we don’t want to stop there: We’re bringing our top digital fundraising tips to you right here!


Adri

Adri

Nonprofit Outreach Manager
Gemini

Top online fundraising tip for nonprofits
Focus on building your recurring donor base! Recurring donors will be more invested in your organization and mission and are more likely to take other actions like signing petitions, volunteering, and encouraging their networks to donate to your organization. Having a strong recurring program also helps organizations budget, and this additional source of revenue allows for more flexibility to run programs and cover things like overhead costs!

Top tip for using AB Charities
Don’t be afraid to ask us for help! Our team is happy to help you create brandings for your forms, help you access donor information, and give demos to teach your team how to get the most out of your AB Charities account. We’re all passionate about empowering organizations to run strong, successful digital fundraising programs, because we understand how important your work is. We want you to have all the tools and skills you need in order to not only sustain but grow your organizations and expand your impact.


Kiersten

Kiersten

Nonprofit Outreach Director
Virgo

Top online fundraising tip for nonprofits
Mobile is becoming extremely common as a way for supporters to engage with your nonprofit and donate! Make sure your donation forms are optimized for mobile (we have Apple Pay and PayPal on our forms!) so supporters can donate via mobile no matter where they are. This is especially true for supporters who may not have internet access or who have mobile networks like 3G with slower page load times. Big picture, make it easy for a supporter to give no matter their device! They already want to support you, and you’ve empowered them to take action — so you’ll want your fundraising platform to make it as easy as possible for them to give.

Top tip for using AB Charities
Chat with us! We’re here, and we want to help. There are a ton of optimizations that you can make to your contribution form to help increase your one-time and recurring donations.


Selah

Selah

Nonprofit Outreach Associate
Aries

Top online fundraising tip for nonprofits
Take some time to nail a theory of change in your fundraising emails! Your donors will always be asking themselves “Why give now? What will my contribution do?” So it’s critical to: highlight the problem your nonprofit is looking to solve, explain what the solution is, and emphasize that donors are a key part of the solution — in this case, a specific sum of small-dollar donations. A (simplified) example might look like: “Our organization works hard every day to improve road safety here in our community, and we need your help. Our free brake light clinic is all set to reduce the chance of car accidents on Main Street: but we still need to get the word out! Just $50.00 will cover the costs of printing flyers that we’ll be posting up around town. Can you pitch in $5.00 today to close this gap and make a change? If 10 people chip in, we’ll be ready to hit the streets!”

A clearly articulated theory of change that answers the right questions goes further than you might imagine in composing an effective ask. Not only will you add an honest sense of urgency to your emails, but you’ll make it clear that donors are part of your team, and you’re getting things done together! It also goes a long way in developing a healthy relationship with your small-dollar donors, building trust, and displaying your nonprofit’s accountability and transparency.

Top tip for using AB Charities
Once you’ve built trust and rapport with your donors through your fantastic emails (featuring your well-written theory of change, of course), AB Charities features some excellent tools for building a sustainers program of recurring donors. Our unlimited, customizable forms have features that encourage supporters to commit to feasible, long-lasting gifts, and we make it easy to pull donor data and build a cohort of engaged supporters who give regularly.

You can also use AB Charities to send a personalized contribution form to your most committed donors to build and steward long-term donor relationships that much more effectively!


We’re a team of dedicated nonprofit fundraising experts who love brainstorming digital strategy that fits your nonprofit and making fundraising all about big numbers and big laughs! You can always give us a wave on Twitter. And if you have any questions about our tips above or making the most of AB Charities, hop on a one-on-one strategy call with us!

Make an impression with strategic social share settings

A fundraising campaign doesn’t end once a supporter makes a donation: It’s important to set up a really great action for donors to take after they’ve given! Chipping in makes folks more connected to a cause, so they’re eager to spread the word by posting about their donations on Twitter and Facebook. Make the most of this energy by creating custom social share settings that show up whenever a link to your contribution form is posted online!

Custom social share settings will make the donors sharing your forms feel like a part of your movement and will help make your brand more recognizable. While your own social media presence is crucial to your success, you have an opportunity to reach an even wider community when your small-dollar donors post about your work. And donors don’t just help you reach a wider audience — they often share their personal connection to the cause, which helps move others to action! Getting your social share perfect isn’t always easy, so here are some tips on how to get the most out of your social share.

First, check out how to use ActBlue’s tools to customize the images, titles, and descriptions for your Twitter and Facebook social shares here (including how to make reusable and default settings!). Once you’re familiar with the basics of social share settings, think critically about your goals. Beyond getting the word out to new audiences about why your mission matters and giving supporters an action to take after donating, you are promoting your professional brand. Your social share is a representation of your campaign or organization that will be seen by many. Your image and text should reflect your values and goals, while empowering people to join you.

1. Keep in mind who your audience is on each of these platforms. Are you targeting the same supporters on both networks? For example, according to Sprout Social, more women than men use Facebook, whereas men and women use Twitter equally. While Facebook is generally used by people of all ages, Twitter is generally used by a younger audience, with 40% of users ranging from 18-29 years old. Once you have an idea of the audiences you might be reaching on each platform, it’s easier to craft your message.

2. Just as Twitter and Facebook’s audiences are different, so are the dimensions for images and graphics. Check this handy guide to ensure that you are uploading the correct size! Make sure the graphic you choose to include is as compelling and thoughtful as your message. Think carefully about whether or not you want the graphic to depict an image, text, a donation button, or a combination of all three. What is most important is that your image reflects your brand. Using the same colors, fonts, logos, and images as your form branding is a great way to build your brand and create continuity across platforms. You can use our easy template to make a simple, professional graphic that matches the rest of your online presence.

3. Keep the custom titles and descriptions for your social shares short, so they don’t get cut off! You can check to see how your text (and graphics) will look on Twitter using this resource and on Facebook using this resource. Always remember to use inclusive language that builds authentic, horizontal relationships with your supporters — this can be as simple as writing “We can win, but only if we do it together” instead of “We have the solution, and we need you to help.”

4. Twitter is all about keeping things short and sweet. Keep your custom tweet text to 71-100 characters for the most retweets. You only have a couple seconds to make an impression while potential supporters are scrolling through their feed. Using action-oriented language that motivates and empowers readers is a great way to engage with people whose values align with yours. Instead of explaining why people should care about your mission, explain why they should act!

5. There are additional best practices to keep in mind when posting links to contribution forms from your own accounts! You can explicitly ask supporters to retweet a post from your Twitter account that features your social share for an increase in retweets. For peak engagement on Facebook posts, you can use up to 100-119 characters. While 19 more characters than a tweet may not seem like a lot, it can add up and allow you to squeeze in a few more words about why it is crucial to make a donation now. And no matter where you’re posting, a call to action is critical in motivating those who come across your social share.

There is no one way to create a compelling social share — just make sure you energize potential supporters and share what makes your campaign or organization worth their donation! If you are looking for more social media strategies for your campaign or organization, there are many different resources to help you hone your message and create a strong social media presence. Sprout Social has a guide for political campaigns looking to improve their digital skills. TechSoup has nine tips for nonprofit organizations that are trying to get a better handle on the growing world of online fundraising.

Your supporters feel a personal connection to the cause when they donate. Giving them an opportunity to share their contribution on social media is just another way to empower and uplift the voices of small-dollar donors, so take a minute and customize your social share today!

Making summer matter as a nonprofit fundraiser

Summer is an incredible time for your nonprofit to sharpen all parts of your online fundraising program so you’re keeping up with best practices and setting yourself up for a strong end-of-year. The pace of life might seem to slow down with the warmth, but small-dollar donors are ready to take action for causes and organizations in need no matter the time of year. This summer is only halfway over, and small-dollar donors have already raised $1.3 million for groups helping parents and children separated at the border. And you can see in our 2018 cycle in review that the number of new donors has skyrocketed at critical moments throughout the summer months.

August is traditionally thought of as sleepy, but there are strategies you can implement now to make the most of summer. Keep reading for high-impact steps to build a robust, streamlined program before the fall and set yourself up for big fundraising rewards.

Build:

1. Your email list.

Summer’s the perfect season for taking your organizing outside and adding emails to your list. With the warmer days finally here, think about hosting events that bring supporters together for your cause and build a sense of community that can translate into a strong base of grassroots donors. From a house party to a rally, cook-out competition to a bike-a-thon, outdoor events are great opportunities to collect emails on paper or digitally. You can sell tickets, collect free RSVPs, or do a combination of both using event forms on AB Charities. And just because you’re hosting an event doesn’t mean you can’t make a face-to-face donation ask! AB Charities makes it easy for you to collect donations at events with our Entry Mode feature, so multiple people can easily make secure donations on the same device. We’ve also made sure our contribution forms are optimized for mobile — it’s why this past quarter, over 50% of contributions made through our platform came from mobile devices!

Rural Utah Project Event

2. Your recurring donor base.

Invest time into building a strong recurring program while Giving Tuesday and other deadlines are still months away. Recurring gifts give you the amazing flexibility to budget for the future! And by nurturing a solid community of monthly supporters now, you’ll gain the superpower to plan for the big events and campaigns for your cause later in the year. You can begin by asking for monthly gifts of *smaller* amounts than one-time donations. You can also turn on our Smart Recurring feature, which encourages donors making a one-time contribution to make an additional, lower monthly gift.

Here’s a pro-tip: If you have inexpensive gifts like stickers to give supporters, you can ask people to make a monthly donation to receive a sticker. A simple email that says “Where should we send your sticker?” and includes a donation ask can build your recurring program!

Polish:

1. Your open rates.

Let go of inactive subscribers in your email list to boost your open and donation rates. Your emails are some of your most important communications with your supporters, and creative and authentic emails can build meaningful relationships with your base that raise more money in the long term. Metrics like open rates also affect whether your emails end up in Gmail’s Promotions tab or spam, so you’ll want to take your open rates seriously!

2. Your email targeting.

If you haven’t yet, segment your email list into groups of supporters organized by donor behavior. It’s easier than ever to group people by previous donation sizes using AB Charities’ tools for data on donor segments. Once you clean up your list and prepare your targeting, you can send more intentional, personalized emails that meet your donors where they’re at. And it’s this kind of detail in knowing your donors’ behavior that improves your fundraising results!

3. Your forms with A/B testing.

A/B tests are a great way for you to identify the most successful parts of your contribution form so you can make optimized forms that raise the most money. Our A/B Test Tool makes it super easy for you to run head-to-head tests on your forms, including comparing different form titles and ask language. Does a simple branding or fancier one connect with your supporters more? After testing various form versions, you’ll be left with a powerful baseline for all future forms you make!

Nourish!

While the sun’s shining, grow your relationships with your supporters through cultivation emails that aim to engage (and not just fundraise). Whether surveys, newsletters, or updates on your nonprofit’s work, sending compelling content builds trust and engagement with your list. Do you have swag and merchandise that are perfect for your supporters to sport in the summer? Try hosting a giveaway where you ask supporters to enter a contest to win sunglasses, hats, totes, or water bottles that show their grassroots pride!

Summer’s the perfect time to take big actions that can build up your grassroots fundraising. Don’t let the slow pace of these months fool you, and get started on strengthening all parts of your digital program with our tips. Still wondering where to begin? One of your first high-impact actions can be hopping on a one-on-one call with our team to talk through strategies that work for your nonprofit. We’re always happy to chat and answer any questions you have!

No ceiling to small-dollar donor engagement

More small-dollar donors than ever before are powering grassroots movements, and their immense energy for changing our country was on full display this past quarter. 2.4 million engaged grassroots supporters gave an incredible $246 million in Q2 ‘19 through ActBlue, with 56% of contributions made on mobile devices. In the first two quarters of this cycle, 3.3 million unique donors gave more than $420 million to nearly 9,000 campaigns and organizations, with an average contribution size of $32.29. These numbers are even more impressive considering that 4.9 million donors gave on ActBlue over the course of the entire 2018 election cycle!

Donors are all in to transform our country: 40% of donors have given more than once so far this year, and 1.1 million people have created ActBlue Express accounts so they can easily give to any group on ActBlue with a single click. And of donors who have given to both a presidential candidate and another type of candidate or group, 56% gave their first contribution of the year to a non-presidential candidate or organization and then went on to give to a presidential candidate. Many donors are showing up first for causes, congressional campaigns, or other down-ballot races, and then getting involved with the presidential race.

Keep reading to see all of what small-dollar donors achieved this quarter!

Total Dollars Raised on ActBlue Through Q2

Cycle-to-Cycle Comparison

2016 Cycle through Q2 2015 2018 Cycle through Q2 2017 2020 Cycle through Q2 2019
Contributions 2,073,889 8,827,452 13,024,448
Total Amount $75,815,141 $248,806,668 $420,495,119
Average Contribution Size $36.56 $28.19 $32.29
Unique Campaigns, Committees,
and Organizations
2,396 4,858 8,674

Topline Numbers

Q2 ’15 Q2 ’17 Q2 ’19
Contributions 1,281,954 4,655,506 7,620,071
Total Amount $48,572,278 $137,442,494 $245,989,080
Average Contribution Size $37.89 $29.52 $32.28
Unique Campaigns, Committees, and Organizations 1,976 4,293 7,582

Building off the unprecedented participation of the 2018 midterms, small-dollar donors have expanded this grassroots movement in incredible ways, breaking multiple records on June 30th. By midnight, small-dollar donors made the largest number of contributions in a single day (390,000 contributions) and raised the second largest haul of money ever in a day ($12.5 million).

Creating a stronger democracy means winning elections at all levels of our government. We’re investing heavily in reaching out to state and local campaigns and making sure we’re ready to help thousands of state-level campaigns win. So far this year, we’ve worked with 5,744 different state and local campaigns and organizations, more than double the number we had worked with at the same point in 2017.

And donors are fired up about down-ballot races, too. They’ve supported state legislative candidates with unparalleled energy, raising twice as much money in the first two quarters of 2019 compared to Q1 and Q2 ‘17 to win back and protect crucial seats that will determine our voting maps for the next decade. At the local level, donors gave more than three times as much money to local candidates and groups so far this cycle compared to this point in the 2018 cycle.

Folks are also donating as a way to make a difference during one of our country’s biggest humanitarian disasters: Small-dollar donors raised $1.3 million in Q2 for groups helping parents and children separated at the border. Elected officials and activists used our Tandem Fundraising feature to create contribution forms listing multiple nonprofits on the ground so people looking to help immigrant and refugee families could support all of their work with one donate button.

ActBlue Express

Q2 ’15 Q2 ’17 Q2 ’19
New ActBlue Express Users 196,873 241,619 588,933
% of Total Volume via ActBlue Express 57.2% 59.2% 60.0%
% of Total Contributions via ActBlue Express 64.0% 65.9% 64.2%

There’s no ceiling that we’ve seen for small-dollar donor participation: 589K new folks signed up for ActBlue Express’ single-click giving in Q2 ‘19 alone. There are now 7 million small-dollar donors (and counting) in our ActBlue Express universe ready to transform our country and instantly take action for the left when it matters most.

Cumulative ActBlue Express Growth By Quarter

Mobile

Q2 ’15 Q2 ’17 Q2 ’19
% of Contributions via Mobile 27.0% 40.5% 55.7%

We’re constantly enhancing our tools to better serve growing grassroots movements and the donors driving them. This is our second quarter ever with more than 50% of contributions made via mobile devices! We know the importance of mobile in giving all people access to effecting change. It’s why our team of engineers has prioritized providing the same single-click ease of giving for donors using alternate forms of payment like Apple Pay and PayPal on tablets or phones.

New Mobile Contributions in 2019 by Payment Method

Our mission is to meet small-dollar donors where they’re at so they can make their voices heard on any device they have, anywhere, and at any time of day. It’s why we keep mobile at the forefront of our technological innovation and work hard to streamline mobile contribution forms. You can see just how many people are taking advantage of our optimized mobile forms to participate throughout the day below:

Mobile Contribution Rate By Time of Day, January - June 2019

Recurring Contributions

Q2 ’15 Q2 ’17 Q2 ’19
Total Recurring Volume $9,922,468 $36,630,129 $40,515,111
% of Total Volume 20.4% 26.7% 16.5%

Customer Service

Q2 ’19
Total Incoming Calls 23,587
Email Conversations 78,127

More small-dollar donors than ever are investing early in the 2020 cycle and showing up to power the left in this historic moment. Interested in being part of these people-powered movements? If you want help fundraising for your favorite candidate or cause, or if you have questions about this post, drop us a line at info@actblue.com. If you’re looking to get your group set up on ActBlue, you can always contact us at support@actblue.com. And if you’re interested in putting your skills to work and changing our country, we’re looking for passionate people to join our team!

Why small-dollar donors give, in their own words

At ActBlue, we believe that our elected officials and democratic institutions should be accountable to the people, not the 1%, and that collectively we’re more powerful than a few mega-donors could ever be. That’s why we work hard to build online fundraising tools that make it easy for grassroots donors to give to their favorite candidates and causes. Over the past 15 years, millions of small-dollar donors have taken action and donated through ActBlue to Democratic campaigns, progressive organizations, and nonprofits fighting for a better future. It’s this incredible participation from people all across the country that keeps us going, day in and day out. We recently asked why folks give through ActBlue, and we’ve never been so inspired. Here’s what motivates six small-dollar donors to give, in their own words.

Irina from Washington:

“I am an immigrant from Ukraine, I was raised in Soviet Union times and I know what dictatorship looks like! I was really excited to move to the U.S. and experience all the unimaginable freedoms that citizens have here. I have recently, just this May, become a U.S. citizen, and I am very excited to have the right to vote! I have been concerned that our democracy is in jeopardy and our human rights, and women’s rights especially, have been assaulted. I want to make sure I do my small part to keep our democracy intact.”

Kent from Texas:

“I am starting my fourth year as a public high school music educator in the great state of Texas. My home state is rich with culture, diversity, innovation, and possibility. The students who I see every day reflect those qualities of the community and state I serve. I support ActBlue because I want to fund candidates who pursue policies that will create a world where my students are safe from gun violence, where climate change can be curbed and reversed, where their ability to get an education or medical care isn’t determined by how much they or their parents make, and where they have equal representation and treatment in their government and under the law. I want my students to live in a country that speaks for and serves all Americans, not just the rich and powerful.”

Kathryn from Oregon:

“There are many ways to be an active participant in politics and progressive causes; I choose to join rallies and activist groups, call my elected officials, and donate money. These are all important, however, donating money keeps the organization(s) operating. I rely on the research, focus, and immediacy they provide to maintain my motivation to continue the fight for Democratic Party ideals and policy, which help make us a better country and partner with our allies.”

Patty from Florida:

“I’m grateful for your service and its ease of use to support the small donor and to contribute to the progressive candidates. Big donors, big PACs, and lobbyists have taken our government. We need small donors and your help toward the small donors’ efforts. Thank you.”

Warren from Alaska:

“The work you at ActBlue are doing allows citizens like me to express our desire for a better democracy, and a just and concerned society. Thank you for the work you are doing and please keep doing it.”

Nancy from Washington:

“I love my country and care about its future, especially for my grandchildren. I have always been proud to be an American, but in the past two years the ideals and institutions that make us unique are being eroded, and the only way to turn this around is to defeat Trump in 2020 and elect more Democrats to Congress.”

Everything we do is for the small-dollar donor movement, because we know people power is the only thing that can transform power structures in our country and create a democracy that truly works for everyone. And we’re seeing more engagement than ever before — in the last week of June alone, 1.1 million unique donors gave on ActBlue! So to all the grassroots donors out there, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for taking a stand. Thank you for actively working to make our country a better place. And thank you for letting us be a part of this movement with you!

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

Introducing the new, powerful branding editor

Contribution form brandings are a crucial part of the online donation process. A beautiful branding will catch your supporters’ attention and make your campaign or organization look more professional. Admins have always been able to create custom brandings on ActBlue, but up until now you had to use custom CSS to create more advanced designs. We knew that wasn’t an option for lots of smaller organizations and candidates running for state or local office for the first time. We’re all about breaking down barriers to entry in politics and advocacy, even when it comes to the details, so we’ve completely overhauled brandings on ActBlue to make it easier for everyone to create polished brandings!

 

Branding editor gif

Now, anyone using our platform can have attractive, personalized brandings. Admins of all skill levels can customize dozens of contribution form elements from within the form editor. There’s no need for complicated custom CSS, and you can preview changes to your brandings in real time because they live in the form editor!

This change will also ensure contribution forms load as quickly as possible and help prevent brandings from losing their custom formatting due to outdated CSS. (From now on, our team will be limited in their ability to support custom CSS branding issues.)

To use the new branding editor, go to the “Branding” tab in your form editor. If your contribution form doesn’t have a branding, you’ll see a bunch of elements you can customize!

Branding editor menu

If your form is already using a branding, you’ll be able to edit the branding using the new branding editor — just click the blue “Edit” button.

Edit button

We’ve thought of everything! It’s as easy to make big changes — like your background color, form layout, or header image — as it is to customize the details, like the weight of the font on your donation buttons. And under “Save options,” you can name reusable brandings and set a default branding to save yourself time in the future. We go into detail about all of the functions in the new branding editor on our support site.

The new branding editor gives admins more control than ever, but we encourage beginner designers to focus on just a few elements to make your branding shine. With design, less is often more. You want a clean, simple branding that allows your supporters to focus on donating.

As you get to know the branding editor, try starting with the basics. Under “Background” and “Header,” set a background color and upload your logo as your header image. And make sure your text is really easy for everyone to read! You can change the color or weight of the font if needed.

We’ve also made it easy to incorporate your campaign or organization’s current design standards. If you know the hex color codes for your group’s commonly used colors, you can use them in the branding editor and remove any guess work. The branding editor also includes popular fonts that you may already be using on your website or in your emails.

Here are two examples of simple, professional brandings on desktop that you could create in minutes using the new branding editor:

Example branding 1

This branding uses a centered header image, a stacked form layout, and a light gray background color.

Example branding 2

This branding uses a left-aligned header image, a side-by-side form layout, orange action buttons (learn about button types in our support article), and bolded Verdana font for the form title (“Join our cause!”).

We’re really excited about the opportunities the new branding editor will give to campaigns and organizations using ActBlue. If you’re ready to design some beautiful brandings, check out our support site for detailed instructions. If you want to talk about brandings with us, just email support@actblue.com! We’d love to walk you through your new capabilities or help you build your branding.

Happy designing!

Why our team hits the road and trains all over

It’s important to us as a mission-driven nonprofit to ensure people have all the knowledge they need to build strong, people-powered movements. While day-to-day we’re focused on building powerful fundraising tools that help candidates and organizations run small-dollar fundraising programs, we know that if we want to empower people who are new to the world of organizing or the political process, we need to back those tools up with training and resources on how to do fundraising right. That’s why dozens of folks at ActBlue travel around the country to connect with all types of audiences — candidates running in local races, nonprofit organizations, and budding activists — to talk about how to best leverage our tools for people-powered change.

With our mission to democratize power packed in our carry-on luggage, we put in the time (and miles) to go over the best practices of small-dollar digital fundraising. These trainings happen because we partner with incredible organizations and conferences who are creating spaces for people to learn how to build movements, run for office, and make change. Through these partnerships, we invest in the critical work of other groups and are able to show up in all types of organizing spaces to help folks use our fundraising tools and learn about building a small-dollar program. We’re serious about leading these trainings because we know that when we provide people with both the knowledge and the tools to start grassroots fundraising programs, more folks are able to play active roles in our democracy.

These trainings have become even more important in recent years: After the 2016 elections, thousands of people wanted to run for office for the first time, and we knew there would be an urgent need to provide training and resources to these candidates. Just look at the graph below to see the incredible growth in the number of groups raising money on ActBlue from the 2016 election cycle to the 2018 cycle (and visit our 2018 Election Cycle in Review to toggle this graph and see specific counts):

Groups fundraising on ActBlue

We view our trainings as irreplaceable opportunities to help people realize they can run for office, win, and lead people-powered change without having wealthy connections or an established network of donors. Common training topics include the basics of grassroots digital fundraising, best practices for building an email fundraising program that empowers small-dollar donors, organizing personal networks to give with community forms, and raising money in a rapid response moment. We travel year-round because organizing work never stops, and elections happen all the time — including now! We’re especially looking forward to helping more state and local campaigns build powerful small-dollar programs that help them win in tough races.

Where have we been in the past? In 2017 and 2018, we traveled to 181 events and trainings across the country. From the West Coast to the South, from the Midwest back home to the Northeast, we were so excited to help campaigns and organizations build stronger digital fundraising programs and power stronger movements. Check out the map below to see where we went:

ActBlue trainings in the 2018 election cycle

And we have our sights set on expanding our reach even more from coast to coast. Already in 2019, we’ve been hitting the road to share the power of small-dollar donors! Here are a few places we’ve been this year to train.

We partnered with BLUE Institute in Houston, TX to give a rundown of small-dollar digital fundraising to future leaders of color so they have the tools to build people-powered campaigns:

We flew all the way to Portland, OR for the 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference, where nonprofits of all missions and sizes learned how to prioritize grassroots donors in their fundraising strategy:

We traveled to Philadelphia, PA for the Granger Leadership Academy and shared with activists the magic of grassroots online fundraising in fueling change:

When we’re not traveling, we also host webinars on small-dollar digital fundraising! Whether you’re interested in in-person trainings or webinars, follow ActBlue on Twitter to keep up to date on our latest moves.

Small-dollar donors make it possible for groups to build people-powered movements that don’t have to rely on big money. That’s why we’re passionate about training all over and helping campaigns, organizations, and individuals drive big change with small dollars. Can we help empower your organization or community? Let us know if you could use a training! Drop us a line at support@actblue.com.