ActBlue- What's the Big Idea?
by KTatActBlue, Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 06:55:10 PM EST
Karl-Thomas works for Actblue.
Most MyDD 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 MyDD 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?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.