ActBlue Looking for Your Ideas

“I believe candidates with strong, sound stances deserve our support, and this is a race where your dollars can make the difference. Please make a contribution to this critical cause.”

Sound familiar? If you have any experience with our fundraising pages you will have seen this (and perhaps fallen asleep to it) a few too many times. It is the default text for ActBlue’s fundraising pages. ActBlue’s customizable fundraising pages allow progressive activists to raise money for the best Democratic candidates out there easily and effectively, and the fifty state blog network has taken advantage of this feature to support state and national candidates with customized, targeted pages. But while the original blurb did help Democrats use our pages, we’re in year 5 of ActBlue, and this is definitely year 3-4 material. We’ll be working with thousands of new fundraisers this cycle, and we want to make sure they have the best language. And, well, this isn’t it.

So, we need ideas.

We know you’re best equipped to know what language will appeal to your friends and neighbors, so we wanted to give all of you an opportunity to create the next fundraising page blurb. If we pick yours, it will show up automatically on almost every fundraising page created on ActBlue. To show our appreciation, we’ll send the winner and two runners-up an ActBlue Ice Cream Scoop! (No, we’re not kidding. And trust us, it’s a high quality scoop – The Original Zeroll.)

Okay, here are the guidelines:

  1. The blurb must be fewer than 50 words.
  2. It has to be fairly generic (no specific issues or names), but still get across the basic reason for the fundraising page. This is something our current text does fairly well, if you are looking for an example.
  3. If you can make it apply to pages for candidates and/or committees, all the better. If not, at least make it appeal to people looking to donate to candidates.
  4. We are Democrats, and our pages are for Democrats. If your message would appeal to Democrats, that would probably earn points.
  5. Humor is a big plus, but only that universal humor that works for everyone.
  6. Effective fundraising is personal. Think about what kind of language would help you be a better fundraiser, and think about why your friends and family might feel compelled to give.
  7. All entries must be received by 3/25.

Fill out your entry form right here! Thank you for your participation!

ActBlue is active in all 50 states, helping Democrats raise money for their chosen candidate from the comfort of their living rooms and offices. We believe that your voice should be heard everywhere from your state capitol to the Senate floor, and we’re working to make sure it is. Please support our work with a $15 recurring contribution today!

Why does ActBlue support Every Democrat?

The following post is provided by ActBlue’s President, Benjamin Rahn.

When I’m explaining ActBlue to people who don’t spend much personal or professional time on politics, I usually start with something like “Most PACs operate by endorsing candidates who are strong on their issues and raising money for them.  But we’re not like most PACs.”

At ActBlue we pride ourselves on being an honest broker in the Democratic movement. Concretely, that means that every Democrat running for President, House, Senate, and state executive and legislative races around the country that’s registered with the appropriate election office is listed in our candidate directory (or at least they should be — if you notice someone missing just let us know) and we provide them all with access to exactly the same software and services.

And we’re particularly proud that campaigns trust our neutrality: in primaries including the recent MA-05 special election and the upcoming ME-01 and CA Senate District 3 races, all (or almost all) of the Democratic campaigns are using ActBlue as a core part of their online fundraising program.

But for an organization with an inherently political mission, it’s an odd route to take.  So why’d we do it?

When Matt DeBergalis and I founded ActBlue in 2004, this course was a straightforward choice for several reasons:

  1. Republicans controlled every branch of government and were on an unchecked tear to remake this country in their own horrifying ultra-conservative vision: a disastrous war abroad, erosion of civil rights at home, and a government run for the benefit of corporate greed — social and environmental consequences be damned.  We needed to push back–hard–by returning the Democratic Party to power.
  2. The organizations, bloggers, and grassroots activists we wanted to serve were all making different choices about who to support.  With different issue priorities, different strategies, and different opinions about which campaigns were most likely to put Democrats over the top, the best way to help them all was to build a platform that could support all of the candidates for whom they wanted to fundraise.
  3. It didn’t hurt that this route was easy to implement. We could focus our efforts on building a novel fundraising platform rather than detailed candidate research.

Of course we got a good bit of flack for this choice in various corners: “Why are you supporting [candidate X]? They’re way too conservative/crazy/long-shot to deserve help from ActBlue.”  One of my off-hand responses from 2004 lives on in our Frequently Asked Questions:

You listed a candidate who clubs baby seals-shouldn’t you take them off the site?

We…don’t impose our personal or ideological judgments on our decisions to include or exclude anyone. However, if our users share our anti-baby-seal-clubbing views, no one will promote them on their fundraising pages, and there won’t be any problem. 

In that quip, though, lies a more fundamental reason for our approach that we didn’t fully appreciate when we got started. By offering a trusted, neutral platform for all Democratic candidates and fundraisers, we’re creating a more democratic (little ‘d’) party — and that ultimately makes the movement stronger.

Let me unpack that a bit.

The strategy of most political groups goes something like the following:  “first, we’ll build our capacity to raise funds, recruit volunteers, and/or persuade voters.  Then, we’ll use those resources to help elect the candidates we like.  And, finally, we’ll wield our money, volunteers and votes as carrots and sticks to encourage politicians to see things our way.”

In creating ActBlue, we envisioned ourselves helping fellow progressives build the small-donor fundraising force Democrats need to fight back against the corporate money that fuels the GOP and stymies progressive change. But why be so general as to help support all Democrats?  Why not restrict the use of ActBlue’s fundraising tools so they could only be used to support specific, vetted candidates we like?  If this is really such powerful stuff, why not wield our fundraising platform as a super-duper carrot-and-stick machine?

We’ve chosen to instead make ActBlue an honest broker because we believe that the best Democratic Party, and the best government as a whole, can only be achieved when every part of the political process — including fundraising — is conducted according to the greatest aspirations of our democracy.  Only by changing the rules of the game can the competition for political influence be won by those who best represent the interests of the public as a whole. 

In a Democratic movement with truly democratic fundraising, every Democrat with the courage to throw his or her hat into the ring — regardless of issue positions, previous endorsements, or chance of success — has the opportunity to pitch themselves and make their ask to everyone who wants to make a difference.  And every person involved in our movement has the technology and organizing resources to gather like-minded individuals together and build political power.  Our approach at ActBlue is backed by a belief that if we can level the playing field, the best leaders will emerge and the best ideas will win the day. 

Paired with our idealism about bringing out the best in our movement is pragmatism about building the strength we need to fight the conservative movement.  The standard political modus operandi (“Stay on message!  Focus 100% on the endorsed campaigns — otherwise you’re wasting resources!”) doesn’t make sense for a movement as large and diverse as ours.

When someone goes out to make a fundraising ask, they’re not going to be effective unless they passionately believe in the cause they are supporting.  Of course activists and groups will argue about candidates and strategy.  We won’t all agree.  But even with our differences, at ActBlue we believe that the combined power of everyone’s full effort far outweighs the results when rigid adherence to a specific strategy is enforced. And so if institutions like ActBlue were to force people to follow a specific strategy designed by a few, we wouldn’t increase efficiency at all. We’d just end up with a few people being more effective, and a lot more people staying at home.  By empowering each person and each group to back the candidates they find y inspiring and to fight for the positions that they personally find most important, we maximize the power of our movement. 

ActBlue Stats Week

With the end of the Federal 2nd Quarter fundraising period, we’ve taken some time to look through the data we’ve collected at ActBlue. Each day this week we released some data regarding the activity across ActBlue, both for the quarter and how that compares to our lifetime statistics for the past 3 years. I’ve analyzing it for trends and patterns that may shed light into the giving habits of Democratic donors at the early phase of campaigns.

Here’s a review of the week.

Totals, donors, and contributions-
find out info on the raw numbers system wide.

Candidates- find out who’s hot by the number of donors and dollars.

Fundraising Pages- find out the top 10 pages on ActBlue by donors and dollars.

State Level Activity- find out what’s up in non-federal races and who’s leading.

ActBlue Turns 3 Years Old Today

Today ActBlue marks its 3rd Anniversary. Seriously, 3 years? I know- time flies.

Back in 2004, our founders Matt DeBergalis and Benjamin Rahn thought they could build something that would change Democratic fundraising- making it, well, more democratic. The two of them, living off of savings and limited investment, set out to build a platform that would end up changing our Party. Working out of their homes, they built the first generation of ActBlue.

This innovative, secure, and groundbreaking way to give money to Democrats was launched in June of 2004 before the end of the fundraising quarter. The earliest adopters, the blogosphere, helped push $250,000 into federal campaigns that summer. Printing $1 million in checks out of Matt’s living room by the end of 2004 was an accomplishment for the start-up. ActBlue caught the eye of Democratic campaigns, organizations, and establishment investors and it was time to grow.

And grow ActBlue did. You can see it for yourself in the numbers.

Total Raised for Democrats through ActBlue: $24,167,741

# of fundraising pages on ActBlue: 4,204

# of people contacted in just 3 weeks via ActBlue’s new Spread the Word tool: 3,751

# of active entities in ActBlue’s directory: 3,739 (will grow towards 10,000 this cycle)

# of candidates and committees receiving funds to date: 1,725

# of states where ActBlue is active for state level activity: 23 (soon to be 24)

# of people behind the ActBlue curtain: 6

# of months until ActBlue outgrows its 600 sq foot office: 1
  (that’s over $40,000/sq.ft. of productivity!)

There a lot of talk about investing in lasting infrastructure for the Democratic Party. ActBlue returns over $20 in aid for Democratic candidates for every $1 in investment. We have more ideas under the hood than you can shake a stick at, limited not by our creativity, but by time and investment.

ActBlue is an investment in our Party. ActBlue is an investment in a Democratic future.

So, in honor of our 3rd Anniversary, will you invest in ActBlue?

With your help, the future will be more than just bright- it will be Blue.

So I offer a toast: the undiscovered country . . . the future. Here’s to turning 3.

ActBlue Helping County Parties

US Counties

Since 2004, ActBlue has helped Democrats raise over $22 million in online contributions.  We are a Political Action Committee, not a business, so our motivation is getting Democrats elected instead of padding profit margins.  We know how much of a hassle accepting credit card donations on the Internet can be, and we want to help.

One of the areas that ActBlue can help in is with your local County Democratic Party.

If your local county party or committee is in one of the 22 states where ActBlue is already active (minus some clean-elections states like Arizona), you can have all the ActBlue fundraising tools utilized by top tier House and Senate campaigns at the disposal of your county party.  Several county parties are already using those tools to achieve success!

In Oregon, the Yamhill County Democratic Party uses ActBlue to accept monthly recurring contributions:

Instead of soliciting your membership for a one-time donation, recurring contributions allow you to ask them for $10 a month (or more) for the next year.  This helps you budget and helps your members by spreading out their contribution over an entire year.

The San Diego County Democratic Party used ActBlue to accept RSVPs and payments for their annual fundraising dinner:

Using ActBlue for event management allows you to see your rsvps in real time (no waiting for a check in the mail!).  Online invitations help circulate event details while collecting contributions. Contributor data in spreadsheet form provides you with an instant guest list and useful template for nametags and thank you notes.

The Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley used ActBlue earlier this year to collect registration costs for their General Assembly meeting.

So how cost effective is this for local parties?  There is no setup fee, no maintenance fee, no check fee, no check re-issue fee and no customer service fees.  We deduct a processing fee of around 3.95% which covers what we are charged by our credit card processor.  This fee comes out of your contributions so there are never any bills to pay.

Every Monday we mail checks to all campaigns and committees that received contributions through ActBlue during the past week.  All of the information about the individual contributors is available online and can be imported to your existing campaign finance software.

You can see that there are a number of ways that County Parties can use ActBlue. In the most basic sense, parties can use ActBlue to process their general donations and ease their reporting burden. At any time they can take advantage of these more creative and advanced options to enhance their fundraising, none of which even requires a county party to have a website!

This is just another way we are hoping to make ActBlue useful to you in building a more Democratic America. Please contact us at to discuss how we can help your county party. We’ll be happy to get you started!

End-of-Quarter Blog Fundraising Asks

cross-posted from the new ActBlue Blog

On Monday I posted a tip for spicing up ActBlue fundraising pages by embedding video into ‘asks’. This is a very powerful fundraising tactic–especially when the asker and audience have an existing relationship.

Over at Calitics, a great community blog in California, they’ve taken that suggestion and run with it. I’ve included a screenshot of their pitch to the right (click on it to view a bigger version in a new window). Besides the video, Calitics? blogger Brian uses several of the principles of fundraising to make a really compelling plea for his candidates.  Some of the successful elements they have included:

  1. Create Urgency- The pitch is for end-of-quarter donations.  Brian clearly states that there?s a deadline before which donors need to fundraise.  And he timed his pitch just a couple of days away from the end of quarter.
  2. Be Specific- Rather than overloading their page with a dozen candidates, Brian stuck with three candidates that have a common theme.  The majority of ActBlue donors give to an entire page’s slate of candidates?remember that when choosing your slate of candidates.
  3. Make it Personal- Brian, a Calitics blogger, is asking his own blog readers to donate. They have an existing relationship and a degree of trust built up. Potential donors are more likely to give when asked by someone they know and the pitch is personal.  They?re less likely to donate when spammed by someone they don?t know.
  4. Think Longterm- The Calitics? ask offers the option of giveing once or of setting up a recurring contribution. Recurring donations are growing in popularity on ActBlue, with over 1000 users having chosen that option for a variety of candidates.   If a donor can?t contribute a lump sum amount at once, recurring contributions allow them to invest in the page in installments.

Most of these elements are included in their Calitics ActBlue fundraising page as well. To improve the impact, some ideas might be to include the text from the Calitics post next to the video on their ActBlue fundraising page itself or add the recurring contribution buttons below the embedded video. If that happened, their ActBlue fundraising page could be e-mailed around to additional friends or registered users of the Calitics blog extending the end-of-Quarter ask into a new medium.

One other thing that might help the effort is to set a goal, similar to what the bloggers at Raising Kaine have done (screen shot at left again, click to enlarge). They are shooting for $20,000 to all their endorsed candidates by the end of the state quarter on Saturday, giving a real sense of momentum to their efforts. Adding some text about that immediate goal on their fundraising page would be perfect to tie it together with their blog posts.

While it is early in the cycle, bloggers can build upon their early adopters to make effective asks in creative ways that fit their audience. What ideas might you add?

ActBlue Launches a Blog

(It seems almost funny to say this to one of the most influential bulwarks of the netroots, but welcome to the blogosphere, ActBlue! – promoted by DavidNYC)

cross-posted at Daily Kos and MyDD

With as many friends as ActBlue has in the Democratic blogging community, it’s about time we joined the party with a blog of our own. So today we are launching our official ActBlue Blog where we look forward to bringing our donors, candidates, campaigns, fundraisiers, and bloggers interesting resources, analysis, tips, and other information to more effectively raise funds to elect Democrats!

Here’s just a sampling of things you can expect to see-

  • Case Studies on some of the most creative ways ActBlue has been used
  • Analysis on how and why people donate
  • State Reports that highlight successful state level campaigns
  • Tips & Tricks about ways to use ActBlue you may not have known about
  • Page of the Week where we will highlight our favorite fundraising strategies
  • Monthly ActBlue Zeitgeist to explore trends, patterns, and other cool stuff
  • Major Series where we will explore how we are most relevant to your efforts in fundraising

This week I’ll be cross-posting some content from our blog as a way to introduce it to our friends in the online community. Tomorrow we’ll be releasing our version of a case study on the Secretary of State Project (which I was a blogger for last year before being hired by ActBlue). Later in the week I’ll introduce you to successful state level fundraising efforts by blogging communities and local organizations.

Our posts will strive to be informative and useful while maintaining the Democratic grassroots values which have driven us for the last two and a half years. We encourage you to subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up to receive new posts via e-mail to keep up with our latest posts (both available at

Much of the growth for ActBlue and the netroots in the next 2 years will be at the state level. Hopefully I’ll be able to work with you to enable more successes in the statehouse while we work to expand our DC majority. If you have thoughts or questions, please leave me a comment!

ActBlue- What’s the Big Deal?

Karl-Thomas works for Actblue. X-posted to dKos and MyDD

Most Swing State readers have at least some familiarity with ActBlue.  You may be among the 15,000 who contributed via the 2006 Netroots fundraising page, or among the 110,000+ contributors who have used ActBlue to send $18 million (and counting) to over 1200 Democratic campaigns and committees since we launched in 2004.  And as a SSP reader you certainly know why Democratic dollars are crucial to the political future of the country.

But in recent conversation one prominent blogosphere denizen made an eye-opening comment. To paraphrase: “I know ActBlue is the place where I go to contribute to the netroots candidates…but is that the big idea?” Well…yes and no.  The netroots fundraising page is a big idea — $1.5 million raised on that one page alone sure made a lot of people take notice.  But there’s a bigger picture here, a bigger idea about changing politics.

Rather than spewing off a bunch of talking points, though, we’re going to take a different approach: in the coming days and weeks, as part of the BlogPac/ActBlue fundraising drive we’re going to tell you some stories, do some analysis, and use those pieces to build up a 30,000-foot view of ActBlue and how it’s shifting the terrain on which our political battles are fought.

Seeing as I’ve just recently joined ActBlue after having graduated from UT-Austin, I wanted to start by just taking you through some of the highlights that jumped out at me when I was thinking about jumping on board full-time, and then tell you a bit about where we’re going.

What is ActBlue?- ActBlue is a Federal PAC and series of State PACs active in 22 states that empowers anyone — individuals, local groups, and national organizations — to fundraise for the Democratic candidates of their choice. To date, that’s $18,953,791 worth of empowerment. Our goal is to help Democrats get elected by putting ActBlue’s powerful fundraising tools in the hands of every local blogger, Democratic committee, and progressive grassroots group around the country.  We’re going make sure every eligible state legislative campaign and executive campaign knows that with ActBlue can accept online contributions from day one. And we’re going encourage every federal campaign to leverage ActBlue’s community fundraising platform — and thereby encourage them to engage in a more democratic politics.

ActBlue Facts and Stats- ActBlue is now being used for Presidential level fundraising with our 2008 candidate and draft funds. But to set up the framework for how we got here let me begin by pointing out some interesting historical data.

  • ActBlue was there for candidates like Richard Morrison in 2004, Paul Hackett in 2005, and Ned Lamont & Ciro Rodriguez in 2006. In each case, impressive candidates and their supporters organized to raise unexpected online funds that changed the electoral dynamic and media perception of races across the country. The power of small donors was realized.
  • In the 05-06 cycle, the top 5 recipients benefiting from ActBlue were Freshman Sen. Jim Webb ($890k), Freshman Rep. Joe Sestak ($870k), IL-10 challenger Dan Seals ($540k), OH-02 challenger Paul Hackett ($540k), Freshman Rep. Tim Mahoney ($510k).
  • Progressive bloggers Daily Kos, MyDD, Swing State Project, Firedoglake, Crooks & Liars, Down with Tyranny, Atrios, and AmericaBlog together raised $2.3 million in 2005-06. You know the rest…
  • Over 110,000 people have now donated to candidates using ActBlue. The average contribution is $110 split between two candidates. 500 candidates for federal elected office received contributions via ActBlue in primaries and general elections. Over 360 state level candidates and committees in our 22 active states received contributions. There are 1,200 fundraisers who have set up ActBlue fundraising pages to support their favorite candidates with unique methods (like the HelpMeGetAHaircut page, Pizza for Progressives, or I Donated a Case of Beer to Barack Obama page).
  • Supporting ActBlue as part of the BlogPAC/ActBlue monthly recurring donations campaign is a great investment. With only $25,000 in seed money when it was started in 2004, ActBlue turned around and saw $850,000 distributed to Democrats. For 05-06, distributions grew to $18 million with only $345,000 in operating expenses. So while traditional fundraising practices return $2 on ever $1 in investment, ActBlue was able to turn every $1 in investment into $50 in return for campaigns.

ActBlue Success Stories- Some specific projects that were active last year under the radar of the netroots community at large include the following.

  • Secretary of State Project- The Secretary of State Project used bloggers, of which I was one, and ActBlue to raise $415,000 for seven Democratic candidates for Secretary of State in swing states.  The result: Democratic victories in Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, and Iowa with a near miss in Colorado bringing hope for fair 2008 presidential elections in these states.

  • Sen. Maria Cantwell- ActBlue’s slate-style fundraising has encouraged unprecedented teamplay among Democrats.  In 2006, Maria Cantwell, facing her own challenging race, used ActBlue to raise $100,000 for Darcy Burner, Peter Goldmark, and Richard Wright, all of whom were facing tough House races in Washington state.

  • ActBlue Utah- Utah citizen-activists and party committee members came together to raise $10,000 so that ActBlue could expand to support Utah state candidates.  ActBlue and the Utah State Democratic Party then worked to train Democratic candidates and campaign staff in using ActBlue to fundraise online.

So where are we going from here?

  1. Expansion to further states- State legislative and executive candidates in 22 states can fundraise with ActBlue; we’re going to be tackling the remaining 28. We’re currently active in Alabama, Arizona, California, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi (soon), Montana, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia (full launch end of February), Wisconsin, and Wyoming. If your state isn’t listed and you know some resident campaign finance experts or geeks let us know and we may very well move your state to the top of the list!
  2. Training and campaign services-  It’s not enough to just provide technology; we want to help campaigns and fundraisers use it well.  In the summer and fall of 2006 we began a series of very successful training conference calls about fundraising in general and ActBlue in particular.  We see an enormous opportunity to positively influence the operations of campaigns and the impact of grassroots activists through online-, phone-, and in-person trainings.
  3. Expanding ActBlue beyond fundraising to volunteering and event management-  Just as ActBlue has created a unique public space for online fundraising, we will be expanding our website to enable campaigns, groups, and individuals to publicize events, accept online RSVPs, and manage their volunteers.

This is be no means the end or final vision for ActBlue; it’s evolving and growing with the input, needs, and suggestions of campaigns and donors like you. I’ll be exploring many of these areas in more detail in future posts- giving examples of great ideas and ways people have effectively used ActBlue to achieve victory and grow the Democratic Party across the country.

So what do you think?– Seriously, the power of distributed fundraising is similar to the power of distributed idea creation. What types of things do you think we could do or should investigate? Legal barriers might prevent some suggestions, for others it might be money or time. But there very well could be some outstanding innovative ideas, big picture or small tweaks that we should know about. Leave a comment, we’ll be reading and responding. And if you like what we do, may I again direct your attention here.