When I first joined the Kerry Campaign, one of our biggest problems was in our online contribution system. Prior to joining the campaign, a decision had been made to get the most application out of the least amount of money. The finance team went with a homegrown solution (due to the fact that our previous systems were not scalable or flexible) - and when I arrived, I discovered a solution that could barely handle the load or track contributions successfully. In one particular story, we faced a major compliance issue of recharges that had the compliance team going through every contribution made over the course of five months to determine if we had accidentially overcharged people. All of this could have been avoided, if we had made a better spend in the beginning.
Today, campaigns are offered a better solution with actBlue, one of the best systems I have seen in operation today. Instead of being a feature on an all-in-one system, the team at actBlue have focused on making a robust, scalable and easy to use system with a low cost charging mechanism for candidates. Candidates do not have to get a merchant account (a pain for small campaigns that are not incorporated or do not have a banking history), rather actBlue takes care of the transactions and sends a check to the campaign on a weekly basis. On the admin site, the campaign can also download an NGP or FECfile formatted list of contributors for compliance issues. Tracking performance of syndication (read: grassroots supporters) is a breeze with simple referral codes - which makes tracking the performance of fundraising campaigns somewhat easier.
Become a Pioneer or Minuteman
One feature actBlue offers that is only found on all-in-one systems is the ability for grassroots supporters to create their own personal fundraising pages - for any candidate or candidates you wish. Now you too, can be a Pioneer or a Minuteman or a Ranger - all you have to do is Netroots Candidates supported by DailyKos and myDD. Or see the efforts of BlueAmerica, another group of bloggers. Or, to see a successful Senate campaign efforts - take a look at Maria Cantwell who, instead of building their own contribution system, are leveraging the actBlue platform in conjunction with the website.