There's more than one way to raise money, build community, and make your podcast sustainable. Here, I want to cover some of the tested veterans of crowdfunding, such as Patreon. Then we'll look at some relative newcomers, which are turning out to be great Patreon alternatives. By the end, we'll have narrowed it down to the best crowdfunding platform for you!
New platforms appear all the time. When you think you've run out of ways to monetize your project, there are more crowdfunding platforms for podcasters. The big orange one almost always springs to mind, but it's not the only way to make it easy for people to support your show. There are many Patreon alternatives for podcasters.
Some of these crowdfunding platforms work on a time-based approach. Others are a per-project or per-month funding option. Just like everything else in podcasting, there are pros and cons. Let's take a look.
Deadline-Based Crowdfunding Platforms
If you want to raise funds over a period of time and devote your full attention to it, then a deadline-based approach is a good choice. Fundraising is a project in and of itself. If you separate your fundraising project from other parts of your podcast, you can take time and effort to promote the fundraiser and reward your supporters. Then, once the campaign is complete, you can focus on other aspects of your podcast.
This is good for producers who podcast in seasons or favor batch processing. It helps to separate crowdfunding from the rest of your workflow. But, when you've paid for all the resources you need, you have to start a new crowdfunding campaign. The deadline-based approach can make a campaign subject to binary judgment: it's either a “success” or a “failure.” This is not a great way to think about creative projects. As you'll see, there's more than one way to make a crowdfunding program effective.
Kickstarter has been the standard of crowdfunding for over a dozen years. It's favored by designers and people who make tangible things. Often, small businesses that compete on the tv show Shark Tank explain that they raised their initial capital via Kickstarter.
As the first online crowdfunding platform to have major visibility, it built the expectation that backers receive something specific and tangible in exchange for their support. The result is a mentality that Kickstarter is a way to pre-order a creator's merchandise at a discount. Nothing wrong with that. For podcasters, it's hard to compete with tangible objects, and there's a need to create extra rewards.
Kickstarter depends on an all-or-nothing approach. Either you meet your funding goal, or you don't. If your project receives enough pledges of support to meet your fundraising goal, Kickstarter charges the credit cards of all the supporters. If the project doesn't gather enough pledges to meet the goal, Kickstarter doesn't charge anyone.
In some ways, Kickstarter can be a good way to test the waters and find out if your idea is strong and planned properly, enough that people would be willing to support it financially. If your Kickstarter campaign doesn't meet its goal, it can be a good way to figure out what you can do to strengthen your plan.
Fees: “If a project is successfully funded, Kickstarter applies a 5% fee to the funds collected.”
Education: Kickstarter Creator Resources is a blog hub with articles about making a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Community: If the campaign succeeds, Kickstarter provides a list of supporters' names and e-mail addresses to the campaign creator. Creators can then ask the supporters to provide their contact information so they can send them their reward. After that, the community depends on your respect for your supporters' privacy. You can ask them to opt-in to an email newsletter, for example.
Similar to Kickstarter, Indiegogo offers a time-based goal. But, It's not an all-or-nothing approach. If you don't make your goal, you still get to keep what funds you do raise. Also, you can leave your campaign open after the deadline. If someone finds out about your podcast crowdfunding campaign after the fact, they can contribute to it.
Indiegogo has a marketplace called InDemand, so creators with funded products can sell merchandise from their campaigns. This is the only way I know of that you can buy an artificially intelligent pet robot. This platform also seems oriented toward tech and designers.
Fees: Indiegogo charges a 5% platform fee on all funds raised for your campaign. In addition, their payment processor charges transaction fees that vary by country and currency. For example, in USD, the charge is 3% plus 20 cents per transaction, with no transfer fees. In GBP, it's also 3% and £0.20, with an additional transfer fee of £25. Then, this fee can vary for creators receiving international pledges. Like all online tools, you should always check the pricing structure.
Education: Indiegogo has a help center with support articles. There's also Indiegogo for Entrepreneurs, an education center that offers articles, webinars, and even a podcast to help people plan their campaigns.
Community: Much like Kickstarter, creators can download a list of their supporters' names and contact information.
Seed & Spark
Finally, a crowdfunding platform that's oriented toward stories. Seed & Spark puts filmmakers and storytellers front & center. Their approach is also linear and time-based. But, it's not an all-or-nothing approach. Your campaign is funded as long as your pledges reach 80% of the goal.
Seed & Spark has some corporate sponsorship from companies invested in creators' success, such as Shutterstock, We Transfer, and The Sundance Film Institute. Creative people use their products, so this is a smart Patreon alternative.
Fees: Seed & Spark charges 5%. But, “during the pledge process, we offer your supporters the chance to cover that fee on your behalf.” That's not bad. The credit card processing fees are $0.30 + 2.9% of each pledge. You don't have to figure out how the fees vary depending on the country and currency of all the parties involved.
Community: The support Seed & Spark offers seems fun, such as crowdfunding rallies where multiple campaigns share resources to fundraise around a theme.
Women have different barriers to fundraising. As a result, they have greater obstacles to starting a business. iFundWomen wants to change that. This organization wants to make it easier for women to raise capital and investors to find women with interesting projects. iFund Women combines a traditional deadline-based approach with a funding marketplace. Users can apply for grants, many of which are funded by corporate partners such as Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker whiskey, Unilever, and Visa.
iFundWomen's target appears to be people who normally invest in equity-based funding rather than rewards-based crowdfunding. They have more money to give and benefit from the cachet of donating to help a small business or artist. This platform can lean on the corporate world while existing outside of it. They don't only fund businesses, though. The critically-acclaimed podcast company Observer Pictures recently used this Patreon alternative to fund their next series. This page is a good example because it shows their business plan very clearly.
iFundWomen offers flexible funding, which means you keep what you raise (minus fees, of course).
Fees: 5% per transaction. The payment processing fees are determined by Stripe or PayPal (about 2.9% +30 cents per transaction). They also say this discounts on the processing fees are available for certain charities.
Education: iFundWomen can guide you through every step of the process of fundraising, starting with a free workbook and workshops. They know that how you run your campaign reflects on them as a platform and want to ensure that your branding is consistent. iFundWomen offers guides for grant applications, as well.
They also offer a three-tier coaching plan for people who want private coaching sessions and email support. Prices range from $9 a month to $1499 a year.
Community: Users can create funder reports and send updates to their funders through iFundWomen.
Project-based crowdfunding platforms
A disadvantage of some online crowdfunding platforms is that supporters can change their minds before their card is charged or contest a credit card charge. Buyer's remorse is a legitimate concern. Project-based support tries to reduce that by focusing on the result of the funding campaign, the completed project, rather than a number. When funders can see the person making the project that has an impact, they're less likely to pull their funding. Abstract campaigns are easy to ignore and forget. Specific and clear campaigns are memorable.
Which donation would you rather make, five dollars toward a ten-thousand-dollar fundraiser or twenty dollars toward a podcaster producing relaxing stories for kids recuperating in hospitals? Details matter when it comes to crowdfunding platforms, whether Patreon or a Patreon alternative.
Many of these project-based crowdfunding platforms provide the option to donate once or to give a recurring donation. This means you don't have to start a new crowdfunding campaign whenever your funding runs out.
An alternate spelling of “coffee,” Ko-fi uses the idea of buying someone a cup of coffee in exchange for their creative work. Essentially, it's an online tip jar. This platform has no platform fees, no percentages, nada. It uses short links, so it's easy to share. Since funders give an amount directly, there's no risk of supporter's remorse. They don't even have to log in, as long as they have their own PayPal or Stripe account. It's straightforward and avoids buyer's remorse. If someone likes what you do, this is a simple way for them to pay for it. It's the simplest possible Patreon alternative.
Of course, there is a more committed option: Ko-Fi Gold. This lets you set up memberships, create patron-only posts, customize your page and username, sell merchandise, and more.
Fees: No fees or percentages for the base level. Ko-Fi Gold is $6 per month. Stripe and PayPal take their processing fees on their end of the transaction (as I understand, if you give a creator $3, what comes out of your pocket is $3 plus the processing fee).
Education: Ko-Fi has a blog and a knowledge base.
Community: Ko-Fi's Discord integration lets you chat with your most supportive fans. This is a great way to communicate with your audience. For example, you can have live Q&A sessions or chat about topics related to your podcast.
Buy Me A Coffee
Buy Me A Coffee lets supporters give a one-time amount or join with a membership to view members-only content. The emphasis here is on community. Patreon emphasized community initially, but this Patreon alternative continues to prioritize it.
A good example of a Buy Me A Coffee page is the podcast Nightmare on Film Street. It clearly explains who they are, what they do, and what your financial support buys. The page prioritizes extra rewards for their supporters, such as membership kits with stickers and temporary tattoos or invitations to virtual parties. Sure, users can give them a few bucks, but why would you do that when community fun stuff is right there in front of you?
In a nutshell: it looks like Patreon, acts like Patreon, but allows one-time gifts, and it's significantly less expensive for creators. Plus, they have more transparency and a set of values to be proud of.
Fees: 5% transaction fee. “Creators keep 95% of the earnings.” They are official partners with Stripe and PayPal: it's unclear to me how that affects payment processing fees.
Education: They have a clear FAQ and support articles, plus a Discord server.
Community: Supporters can leave a comment every time they give you money or comment on every membership post. Not only is the support per project, so is the interaction.
Speaking of crowdfunding platforms that are Patreon alternatives, Sponsus looks and acts like it, but eliminated Patreon's weak spots. They emphasize control, SEO, and privacy. Sponsus Storefront lets people sell merchandise. If a supporter wants to give you money without logging in, you can give them a gift code to use, which protects their privacy. Sponsus' built-in Discovery Engine helps supporters find more interesting projects.
DestinationLinux has a page within Sponsus that's a good example. Again, the emphasis is on what they do, how they do it, and what sponsors get in exchange for their support.
Fees: 7% plus 30 cents per transaction, Considering how much they prioritize security and SEO, there seems to be more architecture behind this crowdfunding platform, which is probably what that extra 2% provides.
Education: A frequently updated blog, knowledge base, and a Discord bot. They ask users to submit requests for features and seem to be responsive communicators.
Community: Again, supporters can comment on individual posts, so they respond to the project directly. There's also a Discord server.
Patreon Alternatives: What Do Podcasters Need In A Crowdfunding Platform?
Podcasters need to deliver a variety of perks, such as a show's background or supplemental information. They need the option to sell merchandise and tickets or invitations to live events. Podcasters definitely need to have a private RSS feed or ease of delivery for early and bonus content. Podcasters need a way to interact with their audiences, such as comments, Slack, or Discord. And, they need platform architecture that provides privacy and security. All of this needs to be cost-effective.
Often, when a crowdfunding platform becomes close to remunerative, its leadership sells it to a larger platform. GoFundMe brought Crowdrise. EFactor Group bought RocketHub. Remember, despite using charitable feelings as a marketing tool, crowdfunding platforms are not charities. They're businesses, and they're interested in their own stability and expansion.
Why Do Podcasters Need a Patreon Alternative?
Recently, Patreon announced that they would start investing in original content. Wasn't this what they were doing all along? Apparently, their recent $155 million fundraiser means that “the company is dedicating a significant portion of its most recent investment round to finance original programming for the first time. Patreon’s plans, which haven’t been previously reported, include courting … major celebrities such as Will Smith and Jennifer Lopez.”
So, Patreon would pay a curated selection of influencers to create content for them, including J-Lo, who owns a yacht. Oh, wait (checks notes), my mistake, a superyacht.
One could argue that having J-Lo on Patreon for a hefty, celebrity-exclusive price tag makes any content I put on Patreon more discoverable. However, I'd point out that the celebrity podcasts on Spotify have never resulted in an increase in downloads of my podcasts on Spotify. Do I need to do a ton of work making a great podcast so Will Smith can buy another house?
Patreon could be seen to be shifting their focus toward their funding campaign and shifting their focus away from your podcast. Independent podcasts, videos, visual art, and stories are arguably what gave them such a strong base, to begin with. When they forget that individual creators' success, which brings them traffic and money, is the foundation of their success, they might struggle to sustain their growth. After all, there are many ways to monetize, so they might find a lot of users considering a Patreon alternative as their crowdfunding platform.
When you work hard to create a great podcast, details are important. It matters what crowdfunding platform you use to sustain your work, just like your mic technique or scripting method matters. Fortunately, we can help with the details. At The Podcast Host Academy, we have courses, videos, downloadable resources, strategies, and more, to help you make a podcast that matters, and connect with the audience that needs your content the most.
Whether or not you buy a superyacht is, eventually, up to you.