Soliciting Crowdfunding and Donations for Your YouTube Channel

By Rob Ciampa, Theresa Moore, John Carucci, Stan Muller, Adam Wescott

You may want to think about crowdfunding and donations for your YouTube channel. Accepting donations has been a revered practice for almost as long as humans have been able to open their hands and extend a palm toward a potential benefactor. With crowdfunding, the donation has received a modern-day makeover, so instead of one large sum from a single rich patron, it’s possible now to get a bunch of very small donations pooled together over a website from a bunch of average Joes.

How effective is it? Pretty effective. Recently, feature films such as the Veronica Mars movie raised capital through crowdsourcing.

The art of raising money through crowdfunding depends on finding the right crowdfunding site for your needs. Here are some of the fundraising sites accepted by YouTube.

Subbable

Funding a YouTube project may cost less than raising money for a feature film, so why use the same crowdfunding sources? That’s what’s special about Subbable, a boutique-level site.

This relatively small group prides itself on helping creative types raise funds to continue ongoing yet smaller (in scope) projects, as opposed to helping raise money for various stand-alone projects that require larger funding. The site is quite popular with YouTube creators.

Creators feel a sense of community with their subscribers, because subscribers are actively involved in funding their projects. Basically, the Subbable system lets subscribers pick the particular content they like and then contribute. Subscribers can pay any amount they want monthly, just one time, or not at all.

Funds donated by subscribers enter the Subbable system and can be traded in later for perks or merchandise. This includes swag such as T-shirts and hats as well as perks like event tickets, music, mentions in the video credits, or even a shout out for your YouTube channel in their video.

Kickstarter

The most popular crowdfunding site, Kickstarter has bridged the gap between the concept and its creation by helping artists fund their projects. Since its inception in 2009, it has funded over 135,000 projects.

Its model for success lies in users and pledges receiving rewards and experience on a sliding scale. For example, for a movie being funded, you can get a signed movie poster for a smaller donation and dinner with the stars for much more substantial ones.

Its popularity, however, acts like a double-edge sword. On the one hand, more people can potentially look at your campaign, but on the downside, there’s a lot of competition for folks to choose from. Smaller projects, like a YouTube web series, tend to get lost when going up against a feature film.

Regardless, it’s worth a try to get your funding.

Here is what you should know about Kickstarter:

  • It’s easy to get started. Participation in the Kickstarter community is easy. All it takes is a visit to the site to create a username and password. Actually, you don’t even have to go that far; just use your Facebook login. After that, simply fill out a brief profile and you’re ready to roll.

  • It’s all or nothing. Kickstarter campaigns require you to set a financial goal, but you only get the money if you meet that number. Coming up short is like coming up empty because you won’t get anything, and all money goes back to the donors.

  • Ownership remains with the creator. Though the project is funded by a group of individuals, you still retain complete ownership and copyright with the content.

  • Kickstarter gets a cut. If the project is funded, Kickstarter gets a 5 percent cut for its troubles. There are also processing fees, so you get roughly 90 percent of the raised funds.

  • Protective restrictions apply. Not everyone can fund their project on Kickstarter. You’ll need to read the user agreement to get all the details, but basically your funding has to be for something more than just a concept. Kickstarter now requires a working model before you can begin your program. That’s not a bad thing, because donors have been burned by projects not meeting deadlines.

Patreon

It’s a play on words, because this funding site treats the donor more like a patron of the digital arts. The Patreon community supports lots of smaller works as opposed to a single bigger one. That makes it ideal for YouTube content creators who generally need less money than those proposing more ambitious projects.

As a patron, you provide an artist that you admire with a small donation that’s much more like a tip to continue their work. Since many of the members are bloggers, musicians, and video content creators, their financial needs are much lower than, say, someone looking to fund ADR (automated dialog replacement, for you non-Hollywood types out there) on the movie they just shot.

Patrons can set a monthly donation amount, and the artist can give something back to the patron — anything from some swag to a mention in the video’s closing credits — as a means of thanks. This nurtures more of a sense of community between the creator and patron, because the relationship doesn’t end after a project is funded.

As for the basics, here’s what we can tell you:

  • Signing up is simple. Participation in the Patreon community begins with a simple sign-up. All it takes is a visit to the site and a click on the Join Us button, and then creating a username and password.

  • Patreon gets a cut. That’s about 5 percent (with fees, a little more) of whatever you raise. You don’t have to meet your goal to get the money.

  • Patreon provides recurring funds. Electronic transfers are made at the beginning of each month directly into your account. On the downside, there are some fees associated with it.

Indiegogo

If you’re making an independent film, Indiegogo is definitely for you. Even the name makes its preferences clear. This larger, well-established funding site compares with Kickstarter, though it has a more relaxed atmosphere. Around 9 million people per month visit the site, looking for projects they believe in. Just like Kickstarter, donors receive gifts and perks as opposed to equity in the project.

For creators, Indiegogo does not charge fees to create a campaign, and there are no strict rules regarding who can start a campaign.

Here are some other facts about Indiegogo — it has

  • More flexibility: As on Kickstarter, if you have a fixed financial goal and you do not meet it, you get nothing. But unlike its competitor, if you don’t think you can meet your goal but you still want to try, you have the option of choosing flexible funding. They take out a greater portion in fees, but you get to keep what you earned, so at least the campaign doesn’t go for naught.

  • A unique rate structure: On a fixed-funding campaign, the site charges 4 percent (as opposed to 5 percent charged by Kickstarter), but if you choose Flexible Funding, the cut jumps to 9 percent. There are also processing fees. And one more thing. . . .

  • A discount for nonprofits: If you’re a verified nonprofit raising funds for your 501 (C)(3) organization, the rate is only 3 percent. In addition, the funds can go directly to your charity.

If you are a verified nonprofit on YouTube, you can qualify for some free money to advertise on YouTube — just note that, in order to do that, you first need to have a Google for Nonprofits account.