Using crowdfunding to monetize your platform

content creation membership communities monetization Apr 18, 2023

When I first started creating digital content and developing my online platform, I was at a season of life when my finances were very tight.  I’m grateful for that season and all the lessons I learned during that time, even though it was stressful.  But just the same, it felt like a little bit of a financial risk to start paying for things like podcast and website hosting while my cash flow was so minimal.

I knew that if I was going to keep developing content for the long term, I would need to come up with a few revenue sources to help cover my costs.  One of the first options I heard about was crowdfunding.  I wasn’t exactly sure how it would work, but I looked into it.

It turns out that my podcasting host had a crowdfunding source baked into their platform.  Through that, I was able to encourage listeners to consider supporting the costs of creating the show.  Initially, I asked if they would consider giving just $1.00/month, and to my surprise several committed to doing so.  Over time, that increased.

I also placed a crowdfunding support link on my website once that got developed.  PayPal was the payment processor I used to create it, and to my great surprise, people used it and were very generous in their support.

In time, I learned about other options like Patreon and Buy Me a Coffee.  Both are excellent ways to give your audience the option to help you cover the costs of what you’re producing.  And even if your costs are more than covered, there are people who will support you on top of that because they value the time you’re putting into creating good content for them to consume and they just want to say thanks.

If you go down the route of utilizing crowdfunding sources like PayPal, Buy Me a Coffee, Tip Jar, or Patreon, it’s common to offer your supporters something special to say thank you.  You don’t have to do this, but if you do, I think it can generate goodwill and might potentially encourage them to support what you’re doing on a regular basis instead of only once.

Let me suggest six easy ways you can reward your supporters and say thank you for their contributions.

  1.  Exclusive content: Offer your crowdfunding supporters exclusive access to content that isn't available to the general public. This could include early access to videos, blog posts, or podcasts, or even behind-the-scenes footage of your creative process.
  2.  Personalized messages: Send personalized thank-you messages to your supporters, either as a group or individually. You could also offer to answer their questions or give them personalized advice on their own creative projects.  I know of one content creator who sends a hand-written postcard each month to everyone who supports his YouTube channel with at least $3.00/month.  I’m pretty sure it’s one of the primary ways he’s funding his entire lifestyle.
  3.  Merchandise: Create merchandise that is exclusive to your crowdfunding supporters, such as T-shirts, stickers, or posters. You could even offer limited-edition items that are only available to supporters who have been with you for a certain amount of time.
  4.  Discounts: Offer your crowdfunding supporters discounts on your existing products or services, such as courses or coaching sessions.  This could be a real win/win scenario that helps you retain long-term support, make more sales, and demonstrate a spirit of generosity toward those who have gone out of their way to be generous toward you.
  5.  Community involvement: Create a private community or forum where your crowdfunding supporters can connect with you and each other. This could be a great way to foster a sense of community and build relationships with the most dedicated members of your audience.  I can also testify to the fact that this can be a lot of fun.  You’ll be surprised to see how many healthy, long-term friendships will get built by doing this, and you’ll have the privilege of being the catalyst for getting it all going.
  6.  Recognition: Give your supporters a shout-out on social media or in your content, or even feature them in a video or blog post. This can help show your appreciation and let them know just how much you value them.  I’ll confess to you that I still get excited if I hear my name mentioned on some of my favorite podcasts or YouTube channels.  Feeling noticed like that definitely helps deepen a sense of connection as well.

Ultimately, the key is to offer your supporters something that they will find valuable and that shows your appreciation for their support. By doing so, you can build a strong and dedicated community of fans who will continue to support you over the long term.

In some cases, you may not need to do anything complicated or time-consuming to demonstrate your appreciation for those who participate in your crowdfunding campaigns.  You might find that a simple “thank you” is sufficient.

That’s my experience with Buy Me a Coffee, which is one of my favorite crowdfunding tools.  If you aren’t familiar with how their system works, here’s what it looks like.  Your supporters can show their appreciation by buying you a coffee, which means they send gifts in $5.00 increments and each one counts as having bought you a coffee.  For instance, yesterday a podcast listener bought me 10 coffees which is to say that she gave me a crowdfunding gift of $50.00.  

Every time someone does that, I make sure to reply to their gift with a word of thanks.  I don’t skip anyone because I genuinely appreciate their willingness to support what I’m doing.  Besides, how hard is it to share a simple “thank you”?  It takes me mere moments to type and I would feel rude if I didn’t do so after being blessed by the generosity of others.

Do you have any crowdfunding options in place on your platform?  Which options does your audience seem to prefer?  How well are you promoting these options?

If you decide to start covering your platform expenses with crowdfunding, always remember to say thanks.  Those who appreciate you and the content you create will be grateful for your thoughtfulness.


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