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Should I Add a Donation Button to My Blog?

Donate.jpgA question that hits my inbox or is sent to me on Twitter from time to time is – ‘Should I Add a Donation Button to My Blog?

When I first started blogging 7 years back it was not uncommon to see bloggers attempting to add an income stream to their blog with some kind of a donation button or invitation on their blog. Often these buttons were tied to a PayPal account that enabled the readers of the blog to send the blogger a little money as a thank you and/or as an encouragement to keep blogging.

Many bloggers tried the reader donation model as a way to make money from blogging but few made it work.

Example of Someone Who Made it Work (For a While)

One of the few who was able to sustain himself completely via donations was Jason Kottke who in 2005 famously quit his job to focus upon his blog solely funded by the generosity of his readers (see his supporter list for 2005 as an example of the large numbers of gifts he received).

His model was simple and worked to at least some level – one month a year he called for people to become micropatrons – he limited these calls for donations to a week long campaign so as not to overdo it with readers over a full year. You can read some reflections on how it went in the first year here – he actually did make enough from the donations to keep his income to a level he could live off but in his reflections admitted that it might not be a feasible model in the long term.

Jason proved that it was possible to make a living from your blog solely on the back of reader gifts – but it is worth noting that these days he has sold advertising on his blog (via the Deck) since 2006 and in his RSS feed.

I’m not completely sure of the reason that Jason switched his model to an ad based one back in 2006 but in chatting to quite a few other bloggers who went down the donation model route I suspect it was a pretty difficult model to sustain – even for a blog with large traffic like Kottke.

Can Donation Buttons Work?

So in answering this question of whether donations ‘can’ work on a blog I guess we’d have to answer with a ‘yes’ – at least in theory. However the reality is that they are not likely to work on the vast majority of blogs.

If they were to work I suspect the blog would have to have some or all of these factors:

  1. a very large readership – a small % will always be willing to donate but to get enough to live off you’d need a large readership
  2. a very loyal readership – obsessed readers who simply couldn’t live without the blog who were willing to dip into their own pockets to keep it running. Of course to get this high loyalty you need to provide readers with something that they can’t live without whether that be some kind of service or fulfillment of a need of some kind.
  3. no other forms of income – I think sites with lots of other income streams (advertising, affiliate programs) would be likely to see a decreased chance of readers contributing as there would be a perception that the blog was already making money

Donations as a supplementary Income

So making a living solely from donations is not likely unless you have a lot of raving fans – but this doesn’t mean it is a model with no merit at all. I do know of a couple of bloggers who are using it as a secondary income source. They know they’ll not make a lot of money from it but are still able to supplement their other non blogging income streams with the donations that their blog brings in.

One of those bloggers just uses a PayPal donations button and another uses a ‘Buy me a Beer’ WordPress plugin under their posts. Neither sees big money but both are happy to let this help earn them some extra dollars instead of running advertising on their blogs.

Adding Value to Supporters

Let me finish by saying that one way that I think donations could work for some bloggers is if they gave extra value to those who made donations. Whether this be by giving away a free ebook with donations, allowing donators to be listed somewhere, giving them larger avatars and a signature in their comments….. etc. This is a model that I’ve seen quite a few forums use successfully. It’s not purely a donation in that the person paying gets something in return but it is a low cost way for those using the site to give something back but also get something to acknowledge their gift.

Have you Ever Asked for or Received Donations on your Blog?

Got some experience to share on this topic? I’d love to hear your story of asking for and/or getting donations on your blog in comments below.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I can’t see any harm in having a donation button. It’s not offensive in any way. But I wouldn’t rely on it as a source of income.

  2. A donation button is a good way to have surprises. But when I see blogs with donation buttons which are already monetized with Google AdSense, that turns me off.

  3. Carleenp says:

    I have never asked for donations on my monetized blogs. I tend to feel like it is a bit cheesy. However, I recently started a non-monetized pet blog. It is nothing more than a silly/fun personal blog for my dog, but I have considered putting a donate button on that one—not for me, but for an animal shelter/charity. I figure a few people might actually donate and that would make the blog seem a bit more useful in a charitable way, rather than all silly. I haven’t done so yet though. I’m still just considering it.

    On another note, I have donated before to free programs that I use a lot and like. E.g. paint.net, various wordpress plugins etc. I have never donated to a blog though.

  4. As someone who recently added a donation button I can share my experience. I toldy readers up front that I am not the type of person that would donate to a blog, but I know there are people that do, and want to. I’ve added a paypal donation button and have received a few. Were I to start getting more I’d gladly take down some ads.

    Here’s how I made my donation unique though. Half of all donations go to non-profits, my first one is going to a program that promotes financial literacy in schools all over the country.

  5. I’ve actually wondered about this subject, because I see donate now buttons all the time.

    There are some sites that I have donated to, while others look as though they are just looking for a handout.

    A long standing blog, whose author was clearly making an effort to give something valuable to its readers, or if it appeared as though an honest effort was being put into “Career blogging”. Then I could see it being a worthwhile donation.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen brand new blogs where the donate button is up even before the first post. In those instances, it looks to me as though money is put before anything else and the appeal just isn’t there for me.

  6. I don’t think so, because it make us like an amateur blogger, but it’s okay for who want to get an extra income (it’s not much I think).

  7. I don’t think adding a donation button is a good thing.
    Ads and affiliate are better.

  8. Fighter Jets says:

    I think you eithier use ads as an income or donations

    - i perosnally think donations would work on site where they offer a free software which is made by the site owner

  9. Chris says:

    Like all blogging decisions it should be a calculated one. If you blog is providing people with real value and they are an audience that are likely to want to show their appreciation then why not. If positioned humbly many people won’t object.

  10. Jim Kukral says:

    I’m biased, but tips work much better if you get something in return, like a link.

    Try http://www.scratchback.com

  11. Mr Puffy says:

    I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. I don’t advertise and would never dream of asking for donations. Yours is one of the few blogs I read that is commercialized.

  12. I’m currently trying out a donate button when someone optis in to my mailing list. I’m using the idea of “Pay what you think its worth” to sell or accept donations for a product offer.
    Here’s the post on the idea:
    http://www.reallifepurpose.com/pay-what-you-think-its-worth/

    Of course, I have to sell people on the idea of actually making a donation based on the idea of paying what you think it’s worth.

    Still testing… But it does give me the opportunity to accept paypal donations . I don’t give the actual product until the donation has been accepted.

  13. I have a donation button (Will Write for Yams) and I love having it since it’s already bought me yams and burritos for the month. Enough fuel to keep me typing since I am unemployed. If I ask nicely it seems people will give, and since I use paypal it gives me the address of the person donating. Use those thank you cards folks!

  14. Günther says:

    I have a paypal button on my christian blog. I just implemeted your tipp with the buy me a beer plugin. Interesting. As my blog is about a Cafe I chose buy me a coffee :-)

    Now I am concerned I this means that my blog gets Seo-optimized for the buzzword coffee? Does anybody know if this right??

  15. Günther says:

    I have a paypal button on my christian blog. I just implemeted your tipp with the buy me a beer plugin. Interesting. As my blog is about a Cafe I chose buy me a coffee :-)

    Now I am concerned if this means that my blog gets Seo-optimized for the buzzword coffee? Does anybody know if this right??

  16. Günther says:

    I have a paypal button on my christian blog. I just implemeted your tipp with the buy me a beer plugin. Interesting. As my blog is about a Cafe I chose buy me a coffee :-)

    Now I am concerned if this means that my blog gets Seo-optimized for the buzzword coffee? Does anybody know if this is correct??

  17. I have put it on all of my posts at the bottom and on all of my download pages. I have +750 download files ranging from ebooks, plr articles, images and graphics. I have only once gotten a donation from someone and even added their site to my blogroll to say thanks.

    I would never quit my job just for donations, I would have to have numerous different income streams to do that.

    I guess so many can donate and it’s not that they would donate every month for long. It’s nice to see that some have tried this.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  18. Vanae says:

    Great topic, D.

    A year ago, I was debating if I should have a donation button as part of my business model, but I was concerned it might cheapen my brand. So instead, I focus on high quality content & services (aka One on One coaching, live workshops).

    I also decided to be very exclusive to the ads I post.

    Now, I’m building a strong readership so I can offer a membership section.

    =)
    Vanae

    Life & Dating Coach

  19. Frank says:

    I have been wondering what the answer is to this question for a while! I never thought someone would actually write a post about it. Although, I’m glad if the post came from anywhere, it would be here. After reading this, I have a way I plan to utilize this concept for my own blog and if it works out, I’ll be sure to email you Darren with what I did. I look at it this way…you may only get a few to donate, but if you come up with a plan that works, you can get a lot out of it!

  20. Donation cannot replace the main income streams, not now, not ever.

  21. Agent SEO says:

    Personally, I don’t think that you should utilize a donation button unless you can give something back to your readers. If you feel that the knowledge you are sharing is re-payment enough then that’s fine, but I would need more if I was going to donate.

  22. I’m surprised that anyone would want to have a donate button on their blog when there are some many monetization models available.

    Why would anyone want to rely on donatations when they can have a steady income from many other sources?

    If you have enough traffic to live off the donations just think how much money could be made from a properly monetized blog.

  23. Ragnar says:

    If you go by wikipedia standars, adding a donation button will make you millions in a few weeks, on a more realistic note if you feel that you are “over providing” compared to other blogs in the same niche, add a donation button.

  24. For me , donations may serve as an extra income stream for small bloggers but for the large ones it’s better to sell advertising space because donations are not easy to sustain and keep coming .

  25. I occasionally get donations on my site with the donate button, but I’m strongly thinking about dropping it.

  26. alone says:

    I used to try the Chipin and Buy Me a Beer widget. But it’s just for awhile because I only want to try it and donation is not an income source for me.

    Based on the scenario that had been mentioned above, it’s an extra features if you can provide something as an appreciation to the readers who donate to your blog. However, the readers will not hesitate to donate if you have a very good and beneficial content as the loyal readers absolutely want their favorite blog to stay alive.

    If you really want to make donation as one of your income source – create a win-win situation where the readers feel it’s a valuable to donate fo your blog =)

  27. I think asking for personal donations is very CHEESY; granted I don’t necessarily like to see ads on blogs but – they can be ignored and not looked at if someone (like me) finds them offensive or troublesome. I think people that have blogs (for the most part) do give out valuable information but then to turn around and ask for financial support for doing so, it just doesn’t seem right. I like the idea of giving the reader something if he/she makes a contribution — but if that is the case, just sell the e-book for a nominal fee ($5.00 or whatever) and take it from there.

    I don’t know, maybe it is just me, but asking for handouts for visiting my blog and reading my opinions, random thoughts, or helpful advice seems sleazy.

  28. zolar says:

    i’ve using donate button to my blog but there’s no input..
    it ain’t easy for reader to donate the money,

  29. Jonah Lisa says:

    Another type of blog that I think has big potential to do well with a tip jar is the kind that provides links to other blogs. I write a crafty mommy blog and there are several craft clearing house blogs that pull projects from ovther blogs and post them in one place. The Crafty Crow is like this, One Crafty Place, One Pretty Think, Kiddio.

    Because these sites support other bloggers and drive traffic to people who understand the kind of time and effort it takes to maintain a good blog, I think they would do well with donations.

    I know I send in donations to Crafty Crow as a thank you because she regularly posts my projects and that drives my numbers up for days and always causes my subscriber numbers to just up to a new level as well.

  30. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Donation option for my blog.

    I somehow feel that if you add Donation box, it makes the blog less professional or less trustworthy.

    What do you think?

  31. Adi Sucipto says:

    Ha ha, I have to try it again in my site . Although I have tried in several months ago

  32. I write a blog that details how to build alternative housing out of recycled materials and shipping containers. We do this, as my wife battles cervical cancer that is currently winning it’s war.

    After Hurricane Katrina ate our home (as it did for thousands of others as well) and insurance companies hid behind litigation and stalling tactics, we realized that “we’d just have to figure something out.”

    So, we started to write about our road “home.”

    As we finally got to the point where we had to decide between budgeting for much needed medicine and diapers, or bandwidth, we put a donation button on our blog.

    The response, although hardly capable of providing an income, certainly helps us continue to write and share our knowledge. The response is, albeit, very minimal, but every dollar helps. The fact that “I can’t write” probably contributes to that! :)

    But more importantly, it helped us “keep the faith” when we realized that people actually considered taking time out of their day (and opening their wallets), to help us continue to fight our way back to having a home for us and our infant son.

    For that reason alone, it was worth it. It gave us hope, something you can’t put a price tag on.

    That’s my .02 cents worth (however, in this economy, it’s probably depreciated as you read this…) :)

    Ronin

  33. anonymous says:

    don’t mean to be a buzzkill about kottke but let’s not forget he’s married to meg hourihan, cofounder of blogger. this guy doesn’t really need to beg for dollars here.

  34. Nancy McBride says:

    I am a survivor of a recent car and bike collision. I started a non profit organization in December of 2008.

    During my recovery time, and having a second chance at life, I raised and gave away over 500 helmets for kids and educated hundreds more in my community. I have been given a second chance at life and refuse to let it pass me by.

    I am considering starting a blog to help my organization with donations and spreading the word on helmet and bike safety.

    I would like the feed back on current bloggers if they would recommend my starting this journey!

    Donations are what change the lives of the children i educate. it helps me make helmet available and bring communities together.

    I am searching for and need the feed back of all of you.

    regards,

    Nancy McBride
    HABS org.
    Helmet awareness and Bicycle Safety

  35. I don’t have a donation button but then I am on a wordpress.com blog and I am not even sure if you can have one. I know they limit you for advertising.

    I would like to add it just because I am NOT making any real money now I am just sure if I can add it to my blog. I am willing to be creative. Any tips for me?

  36. Abdul Halim says:

    I personally do not support donation button on the blog. Asking donation means making yourself little to others. Donation is as same as begging. Blogger should not ad donation button on the blog. They should utilize their merit, skill and experiences to earn money from their blog.

    As an expert and experienced blogger Darren can lead to establish a blogger’s organization which can help bloggers to purchase product only from bloggers affiliate’s link among the members blogs. Because it is very tough to sell product through affiliate program now. This type of organization can helps and assures bloggers member to earn something from their blog.

    If we can do it it will be real implementation of Darren’s 15th day lesson of 31DBBB.

  37. jones says:

    I don’t think adding a donation button is a good thing, Ads are cool enough for income. thanks for sharing.

  38. Donnette Davis says:

    Hi there, some interesting reading here. When I started my FIRST website back in the day I thought I would add a Paypal button for donations to help with webhosting – not even to make a living. Hmmmpft!!! How many years on I have never received one donation, started taking down the PayPal donatin buttons on the pages as I work on them. Since the site is 30000 pages plus and growing they are still lurking ominously around…

    Yes I offer freebies – not just freebies actually, I offer full free curriculum, enough ebooks to fill a virtual library, and enough free teaching material on every conceivable subject for teachers, parents, caregivers for a year.

    I bit the bullet and hosted and maintained the site sans assistance. Google Adsense is what I have. Over time slowly have taken down any other form of advertising.

    Great idea IF it can work for you, and if it does congratulations. Doesn’t work for me so I have scapped it. I have discovered that if people can get something for free without singing up, joining a membership or anything they’ll take with both hands errr mouse and keyboard, and visit again next time for a look-see and quick download… Because the material was intended to be free I have absolutely no gripes with it at all. It did just open my eyes a lot and steer me in other directions as well.

    My sixpence worth… Have a great weekend everyone ☺

  39. blackzero85 says:

    Ads are not enough for income. :(

    I’m raising this button thing issue on our internal forum. Let’s see the result.

  40. As for me i use donation plugin for my blog.

    Actually it’s like a service. The client buys a link from my blog. He pays minimum $0,10, but there is no maximum. My blog shows only top-5 links (who paid more than other).

  41. nothing wrong with that. I guess its needed sometimes..

  42. Today I added a donation button on my blog and after couple of hours I received a $15 donation !! Isn’t that good as a first day ?

  43. Mikes says:

    i have no plans of adding donation box. i think it would shoo my readers away.

  44. I am also interest to add donate button in my blog which really will help me to do something helpful for the poor old people in my country. So in this case i think its really best practice to add donate button in my blog.

  45. Blogging buttons should be there, but it should be the heart of the content and no where the article’s motive should land up to the donation button…I have seen many bloggers and website owners doing this wrongly…

  46. Roxan says:

    I have a donate button but it is still an untouched virgin. The money is for a good cause but I think if I had lied and said it was for a boob job it probably would have been hit at least a few times.

  47. I guess its needed sometimes..

  48. Curtis says:

    I (literally) just setup a donations button because I want to give sponsors (mostly members of our networking group) the opportunity to help keep the blog up and running. I hesitate to charge because I myself, hate paying for ad spaces. Hopefully donating to http://sustainablecoin.com will make people feel good about essentially funding all of the work that goes into writing posts, sharing tools, and managing our Linkedin group.

    However, the jury is still out on this idea so I’ll keep you posted ;).