Crowdfunding can diversify your revenue, help you fulfill creative potential, start new projects and turn YouTube into a career. What would you do with a little extra money?
Get started with crowdfunding
There are many different ways to make money with YouTube, besides enabling ads. Many creators sell merchandise, arrange brand deals, and make live appearances. But another way to make money is crowdfunding. You don’t need to be a YouTube “star” for a successful crowdfunding campaign. You just need enough supporters pledging an amount of money that makes it worth your while. Extra income from crowdfunding can potentially shift your channel from a hobby to a career and allow you to execute more ambitious projects.
Crowdfunding sites usually have tiered reward systems where backers receive a reward or perk in return for their contribution. Customized rewards can incentivize backers to contribute at different financial levels, like offering a shout-out in your next video for a small donation or something more substantial for larger donations. There are two common types of crowdfunding: recurring and project-based.
Recurring crowdfunding lets donors contribute to you on a regular basis (usually monthly or per video) making it easier to keep doing what you’re already doing. Recurring campaigns can have a big impact on overall revenue, especially for smaller channels. More established channels typically use recurring crowdfunding to make videos with high production value. When your audience sees the time and effort put into a crowdfunded channel, they may be more likely to support it.
Project-based crowdfunding is often used to sponsor a special project or to enable creators to buy new equipment. YouTube creators have used project-based crowdfunding to raise money for charity, experiment with long-form movies, and even publish books. Consider this type of crowdfunding if you want to make something new happen that you can’t afford on your own.
Crowdfunding can help diversify your revenue streams, fulfill your creative potential, find sustainability on the platform, and embrace new projects or opportunities that may otherwise be difficult to afford. What could you do with an extra $1000 each month? Or a lump sum to get an ambitious new project off the ground?
What type of crowdfunding suits your needs?
Are you hoping to raise money on an ongoing basis to support your channel? Are you making less than you need from ads, merchandise, or other revenue streams? If so, consider recurring crowdfunding.
Do you want to fund a new project or try something new creatively? Are you looking to purchase new equipment or need to replace something? If so, consider project-based crowdfunding.
See it in action
Comedian-Musician, Ali Spagnola, uses Patreon for recurring donationsAli explains why crowdfunded support helps her produce the types of videos her audience loves.
Neil McNeil setup a project-based crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to self-publish a comic bookHe successfully raised $4500 through crowdfunding. Rewards were given for donations ranging from $1 to $1,000.
Will your audience support crowdfunding?
We’ve found that creators who crowdfund with the best of intentions and explain why they’re doing it, tend to be well-received by their audience.
If you worry that your audience might not approve of you asking them for money, you’re not alone. It can be awkward or feel culturally-inappropriate. While it’s important to take these things into consideration, remember that most crowdfunding campaigns offer your donors something in return--whether that’s a perk money-can’t-buy (like a shout-out) from you, or new fabulous content on your channel. One of the best ways to see if your audience is receptive to a crowdfunding campaign is to ask them!
You can also consider these questions to see if your audience is ready to support crowdfunding:
- Are your viewers asking for more content? If so, growing through crowdfunding is one way to satisfy their request!
- Are you creating original, niche content that can’t be found anywhere else? If so, you’ve probably got a fanbase who would support your initiative because they can’t get videos like yours from other channels.
- Is your subscriber count growing? Do subscribers account for a higher percentage of watch time than non-subscribed viewers? Check your Subscribers report in YouTube Analytics to help understand who is watching your channel.
- Is engagement on your channel high? Do you get a lot of “Likes” and supportive comments? Do you have high audience retention? Check your Engagement reports to see how enthusiastic your viewers are. Highly-engaged, passionate fans can be your best advocates!
- How are similar channels performing? Try using public data to find channels comparable to yours in subscribers and content who are using crowdfunding platforms. See what types of projects they’re promoting, types of rewards they’re offering, and browse video comments to see how their audience responded.
If you have a loyal audience who loves your channel and supports your ideas, you might be a good candidate for crowdfunding.
See it in action
How much money can you make crowdfunding?
There is no magic formula that will guarantee how much money you will make crowdfunding. But there are tools you can use to decide which type of crowdfunding could work best and help you make an estimate on how much you could earn. Remember, you’re already at an advantage because you have a captivated channel audience.
First, set your targets. If you’re setting up a recurring campaign, determine how much money you spend on your channel monthly and what’s the ideal amount of money you could use to make your channel a success? If you’re going with a project-based campaign, create a budget for the project or piece of equipment you want to fund. Remember to include the costs of any rewards you’re offering in return for funding and the cost of using the crowdfunding platform you choose.
Then, try asking these questions to estimate how much money you could potentially raise--remember to be realistic!
- How many people might contribute? Look at your subscriber count and make a guess of how many engaged fans you have and how many could be motivated to donate. Let’s say you have 10,000 subscribers, could you get 100 (1%) to donate $3? What's a realistic number of people you could reach with the current audience of your channel?
- How many people can you reach? Do you have large social media, family, and friends networks who might support you? Are you using social media to your advantage? Try researching social media groups or use hashtags to explore who else you could reach. Consider reaching out to journalists or bloggers who might share your passion and be willing to write about your project.
- How much money are similar crowdfunded campaigns raising? Look at public data from similar YouTube channels raising money on crowdfunding platforms and use this data as a benchmark to estimate how much you could potentially ask for. Many crowdfunding platforms offer resources that can help you do your research.
- How much money will it cost you to create the rewards? Remember, the point of crowdfunding is not to sell merchandise. It may not be beneficial if all of your time and money is going more towards rewards than anything else. Weigh in if it’s worth your time to set up and follow through.
Analyze the answers to these questions and try to make an educated guess of how much money you could raise by crowdfunding. Does it match the target you set?
Steps for setting up a crowdfunding campaign
Once you’ve determined how much money you think you can raise, it’s time to put crowdfunding into action!
- Pick the right platform: There are vast differences between crowdfunding platforms, such as whether they allow recurring or project-based campaigns (or both!), the costs to host your campaign, time frames for raising money, moderation policies, tiering options, types of rewards you can offer, etc. Keep your audience and your needs in mind when choosing a platform. Check out YouTube’s list of approved sites to get started.
- Design your campaign: This is your chance to convey what’s motivating you to try out crowdfunding and decide on all of the details like selecting payment tiers and what rewards you’ll offer at each level. You’ll also want to consider producing a video to pitch your idea on your channel and many platforms allow you to upload a video to the online campaign. Building the initial buzz before it even launches is a great way to get your audience excited.
- Kickoff your campaign and promotion: YouTube offers a myriad of tools for promoting crowdfunding like Cards, calls-to-action, teaser videos, and linking out to your campaign in your descriptions. There are tons of ways to promote off YouTube too, like social media, forums, and asking other creators to promote your campaign.
- Give your audience updates: Once you’ve started the campaign, you can keep the momentum up by giving status updates on how close you are to reaching your goals. Remember to thank key contributors and fans helping you promote.
- Deliver and thank: This could be the first of many campaigns so be sure to deliver what you promised and try to find ways to show gratitude for the support you’ve been given. Even if you don’t make your targets, you now know you have a supportive audience who is open to helping you achieve your goals.
Helpful hints for an effective pitch video:
- Be authentic.
- Explain who you are, what you’re doing and why you’re crowdfunding.
- Generate excitement.
- Keep it short.
See it in action