Platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter and Crowdfunder have been around for a while now. Their model is reasonably simple to understand: set a target and a deadline, launch the crowdfunding campaign, and try to hit the target in time.

But some creators are now considering longer-term options that offer recurring funding, or something closer to a subscription model – like Patreon, Ko-Fi, or Buy Me A Coffee.

What is recurring funding?

Backers pledge to support you with a small amount of money, repeatedly – either a certain amount per month (a bit like a charity direct debit) or a certain amount per ‘thing’ (backers could be charged every time you release a new song, podcast, long read, newsletter, artwork, etc). Often, creators can offer backers rewards at varying levels, not unlike the rewards in a one-shot crowdfunding campaign. The important difference if you go this route is that you need to be committed to producing those rewards regularly, and over an indefinite period of time.

Should you try recurring funding?

When you run a one-shot campaign, you spend the pre-launch as well as the campaign time doing some pretty heavy promotion. You contact a lot of people, and part of the story you tell is the urgency of it – we have one chance to raise this money.

But for a recurring funding campaign, that level of promotion would be both exhausting (for you) and off-putting (for others), because unlike a one-shot campaign there’s no end in sight: there’s usually no specific goal which means you’d stop promoting it. This shift in promotion styles is why I tell clients that for recurring funding, you bring your fans to the platform.

Patreon works brilliantly for established creators who already have an existing fan base. And it’s a good alternative to trying to monetise your existing content via ad revenue share. But if you don’t already have an audience asking you how they can see more of what you’re doing, or how they can support you in new ways, setting up a Patreon could be a lot of work for not much return.

Platforms like Ko-Fi or Buy Me A Coffee offer a few more options to suit creators who are a little less established or who work in different ways. You can set up a tip jar for one-off micropayments as well as taking monthly/recurring payments, you can offer extras and commissions, and includes a low-fee option (transaction fees only).

Are you overcommitting?

One risk with recurring funding is overcommitting to rewards: offering (say) $10 monthly supporters exclusive access to a brand new monthly podcast. Sounds great if you’ve got the numbers – but if you only have two people subscribing at that level for the first six months, you still need to make that podcast for them, every month.

How can you give it the best start?

Just like a one-shot crowdfunding campaign, make sure you’ve prepared thoroughly! Here are a few questions to start you off.

  • Do you already have an audience online who are interested in your new work?
  • How are they going to find out about your new funding option?
  • Have you thought about what you could offer as small-scale rewards or incentives?
  • Are you reliant on earning a lot of money from this route, or are you happy with letting it build slowly and more organically over time?
  • Can you scale up slowly? Start with one or two low-level reward options that don’t overcommit to creating new unique content, then if you get a great response think about offering something higher-level for your most enthusiastic and supportive fans.

There are no ‘right’ answers to these, but there are certainly answers that will make your life easier.

Recurring funding can be a fantastic way for enthusiastic fans to support the work they love, and it can feel like a subscription to something they value. If you’re a musician with fans who are big users of Spotify, it gives you the chance to talk about the difference between £2 a month straight to you vs your fractional share of their £10 a month to Spotify. And the tip jar model requires very little set up or promotion, as there’s very little to lose (no rewards to commit to – just set up a tip jar option on your site and see what happens).

With a bit of research and planning, you can make sure you’re choosing a model that suits the way you work – and, importantly, works well for your audiences and supporters.

If you want to make sure you’re choosing the right kind of campaign, let’s talk about how I can help – I specialise in working with creative people on arts and cultural projects, and I’d be happy to set you on the right path.