Getting Started With ActionKit

This section provides an intro and links to more information for things you may want to set up in preparation for your launch. Launching means either sending your first mailing to your users or directing users to an action page in ActionKit for the first time.


Throughout this guide we use specific terminology to refer to attributes of the software. The basics are described below.

Pages are where your users take an action like donating or signing a petition. Users are email addresses. Every time a user submits on a page an Action is recorded. By default, actions subscribe users to the Mailing List associated with the page (if they aren't already subscribed). Only Subscribed Users can be emailed a Mailing through the mailer. Users who land on a page by following the link in a mailing are treated as Recognized Users by default, meaning they only need to enter required information that isn't in your database.

The Reports Tab provides tools for accessing and analyzing your data. Staff users are people you have given access to the admin or the API.

Intro To Pages

Before you start making pages you may want to review the Pages Overview and the section on how pages work.

Initial SetUp

There are several related objects you'll use in pages that you may want to create first:

  • Templateset: Templatesets define the appearance of your pages. You’ll probably want a designer or programmer to set this up for you. The section on managing templatesets can help you avoid templateset proliferation.
You can create and host your pages entirely in ActionKit or use an external CMS and host your pages yourself. If you're hosting your pages outside of ActionKit, you don't need a templateset, but you should read the section on embedding.
  • From lines: You'll use these in the thank you or confirmation emails you send to the user after they take action (and of course in mailings to users).
  • Email wrapper: Defines the appearance of your mailings and can be used in confirmation emails.
  • Mailing lists: Mailing lists can be used to enforce special mailing rules (e.g. they signed up to receive mailings once a week) or to allow users to remove themselves from particular mail streams. By default each page will subscribe action takers to one mailing list.
  • Tags: Tags are categories that you can associate with a Page or Mailing. They may represent issue areas or campaigns (e.g. Food Safety or Paris Climate Talks 2016). You can target mailings by tag when you want all users who took action on any page with that tag. Tag lists can easily grow unmanageable! Consider establishing a naming protocol.
  • Notification Emails: You can prompt an email to someone in addition to the action taker. Example uses: send an email from the donor to the honoree for an in-honor donation or notify your Development Director when a major gift is received so they can send a personal thank you.

Creating Your First Pages

To add a page, you select the page type under Add Page on the Pages Tab.

You can find a general overview of the steps for creating a page. Each of the available settings for each page type are described here as well.

You may want to create model pages as the basis for future pages and set organizational defaults for certain settings.

Testing New Pages

This is especially important when you’re getting started. ActionKit offers great flexibility to customize your page design and function. However, that means you can break things! Read more about testing and at a minimum consider:

  • Submit as a new user and by following a link from a mailing
  • Confirm your data capture
  • Confirm you got the after action email (if you set one up)
  • Confirm TAF works

Unsubscribe Page Requirements

Every mailing sent from ActionKit must include an unsubscribe link. The default email wrapper links to the default unsubscribe page. Minimally, you'll want to change the templateset for this page to one that has your logo and privacy policies. Read about the requirements for unsubscribe pages.

Action Sources: Tracking ROI

Every time a user submits on one of your pages an action is created. Every action has a source. The source of each user's first action is saved as the user's source. User source cannot be changed once it's set.

Some source codes are set automatically. Read about automatic sourcing. You can also add your own source codes.

It's worth thinking in advance about how you'll set sources so you can compare the value and effectiveness of different possible methods of recruiting users.

Fundraising Through ActionKit

To accept donations through ActionKit, you must:

  1. Set up a merchant vendor and/or PayPal account, if you don't already have one.
  2. Get us the information specified under account settings.
  3. Create one or more donation pages.

You can also manage donations through the ActionKit admin.

Creating Donation Pages

Creating a donation page involves the same steps as creating other page types. You can read about the donation-specific settings, including the Suggested ask formula, which allows you to customize the donation amounts shown to a previous donor based on that user's giving history. If you've had problems with credit card testers, you might also consider enabling Fraud Filtering, however this isn't generally necessary unless you find that someone is testing multiple numbers against your pages.

Always test your donation pages.

NOTE: Donations are worth money!!! Do some extra testing on your donation pages. Make a real donation (you can go to your user record from the user’s tab and refund it). This is the only way to confirm that donations are working correctly.

Managing Donations Through ActionKit

Please manage your donations through ActionKit. If you make changes directly with your merchant vendor they will not be reflected in ActionKit. Read more about managing donations, including how to prompt a refund and change or cancel a recurring donation.

Accepting Recurring Donations

You can accept recurring donations through ActionKit as long as you've configured your merchant vendor account for this. A monthly donation option is included in your standard donation pages if you base your templateset on the Original.

If you are using Braintree, pay special attention to the custom retry options for recurring donations.

Pages For Recurring Donation Management

You can create pages where your users can manage their existing recurring commitments (including changing their credit card number, billing address, or amount) or cancel them. They will have to set a password and login.

Recurring Donation Email Stream

You can set up recurring mailings to help you manage recurring donations. You might want one to users with active recurring profiles whose credit cards are about to expire. You might also consider a mailing that goes out to anyone who attempts to set up a recurring profile but fails.

Some clients have also had success with a welcome series.

Multilingual and Multicurrency Functionality

ActionKit supports both!

Read about setting up pages in other languages.

Read about accepting donations in other currencies.

Intro to Mailings

You've already created the related objects for mailings if you followed the page creation instructions above:

Next you can create your draft.

Before you send your first mailing, be sure to review some proofs.


Don't submit on the page from a proof unless you intend to record an action. ActionKit will count a submittal from a proof as an action from the user the proof is directed to (and the user will receive any confirmation email you've set up for the page). The only exception is for petitions with one-click enabled. You can click on the link and confirm that you've linked to the right page without recording an action.

Advanced Mailings Options

Some other mailing related options to consider:

  • Tags: Mailings and pages share the same tag list. Tags are useful for categorizing mailings so you can find specific mailings more quickly later.
  • Custom mailing fields: These can be used to insert content or trigger functionality on a mailing by mailing basis. They can also be used for tracking. We recommend tracking the ask type (e.g. donation, petition, partner_event, etc.) so you can later compare mailing stats for asks of similar difficulty.
  • Auto Excludes: Enable this option if you regularly need to ensure that each subscriber gets only the single most important mailing for them each day.
  • Re-engagement program: Automate a list hygiene program to improve your email deliverability.

Staff Users

We'll set up one or more staff users for you to start, but you can add more!

Staff users in ActionKit have access to the administrative interface. So if you have colleagues who will be needing access to ActionKit to set up pages, mailings, look at reports, or manage users, then you'll want to create staff accounts for them.

You'll also need to set up a staff user in order to grant API access to any external partners. Learn more about that under setting staff permissions.

Adding New Staff Users

Add staff users from the staff tab.

Setting Staff Permissions

Set permission levels for each staff user in their profile, which you reach from the Add staff users screen.

There are three checkboxes that control the status of an account, and another set of permission groups that you can use to customize the access granted to each staff account.

  • Active Account designates those users whose accounts are live. To disable staff accounts, uncheck this box.
  • Admin Interface grants login permissions to the staff user for the ActionKit admin web interface.
  • Superuser Status is a shortcut to grant all permissions to that staff user without needing to select them individually in the "Permission Groups" menu.

So to create a new staff account for someone who should be able to log into the admin, make sure to check "Active Account" and "Admin Interface", and then set their permission groups.

And to create a new staff account for someone who only needs API access, check "Active Account" and then give them the "REST API" permission. Do not give them "Admin Interface" access unless you also want them to be able to log into your ActionKit admin.

There is one special permission group, which is "Mailings - Receive All Mailings". Staff with this permission group will receive a copy of all mailings sent through the ActionKit mailer. Note that this permission group has to be explicitly assigned to staff, even for superusers, if the staff user wants to see all sent mailings.

Minimum Password Strength

Set minimum password strength requirements for staff users on your organization-wide settings screen.

Requiring Dual Authorization

Individual staffers can set up their accounts to require dual authorization which means they have to confirm their log in with a special code from a device they own (like their phone). You can also ask us to require this for your entire organization although we recommend setting up individual accounts first.

Direct SQL Access

Superusers can grant direct access to a read-only mySQL database to any staff members. From the Staff tab, find the user you want. Under Change User, find MySQL Access and click Create Account.

Once you complete the form, login credentials will be emailed to the user.

Customizing The Admin For Your Organization

You can set up your instance to have certain defaults for pages and mailings, and to enable some functionality like auto-excludes, fraud filtering, and spam checking. These settings are organization-wide defaults.

There are also built-in reports that define displays in the admin, including the Progress Report on the Home Tab, the stats on the Pages and Mailings Tabs and the reports listed on the Reports Tab. These special reports can all be customized.

Sign Up To Be Notified Of ActionKit Updates

New features and bug fixes are added to all client instances in periodic releases. The night before a new release we send an email describing the new features. You can request to be added to the release notes list.

Launch FAQ

What can we do to improve our email deliverability as we get started?

We provide you with a dedicated IP address for your outbound email. We also enroll you in all available feedback loop and whitelisting programs to help improve your deliverability and setup cryptographic signing of your emails to help prove that they are from your organization. This guarantees that your email reputation is entirely your own. Your deliverability will not be impacted by the action of other ActionKit clients.

Some ISPs, when they start to see email from your new IPs, may temporarily treat it as spam and either delay or block it. If this happens, we'll follow up with the ISPs on your behalf to resolve any problems.

Generally, after 4-6 weeks of receiving email from your new addresses, your reputation will be firmly established.

From your side, consistently sending solid outreaches is the best thing you can do to make sure that your new reputation is quickly established with ISPs.

How do I obtain Access and API keys for my AWS S3 Bucket?

In order to upload images to the media library, you'll need an S3 bucket. Below are the steps you'll need to take to obtain the Access and API keys for your AWS S3 bucket, which you should input and save in your admin configuration settings.

Alternatively, instead of creating your own S3 bucket, you can reach out to ActionKit support we'll create the necessary S3 bucket and user for you.

STEP 1: Log in to your Amazon AWS account at

STEP 2: Click on the Services tab in the top left of the header and search for "S3"

  • Click to select S3: Scalable Storage in the Cloud
  • You'll land on this page:

STEP 3: Click to create a bucket

  • You can name your bucket anything, but try to name it something like ak-[organization].
  • Be sure to select us-east-1 (or if us-east-1 is not available, US East N. Virginia) as your region.
  • Enabling ACLs for the bucket, and uncheck the "Block all public access".

STEP 4: Create an IAM user with full permissions for the bucket.

STEP 5: After you’ve created your S3 bucket, you’re ready to get your credentials!

  • Click on your account username -> My Security Credentials
  • Click on Create new access key. In the popup that appears, click on Show Access Key. You’ll see your Access Key ID and Secret Access Key.
  • Copy and paste these two keys and transfer them over to the appropriate fields in your ActionKit configuration settings page at