I have always had super-duper mixed feelings about donations, and have discussed that in the past here on HL. I don’t have an issue with donations, in and of themselves; I’ve happily made donations; I’ve happily accepted donations. It’s the asking or being asked part that gives me a bit of an icky feeling.
Until now, I’ve only ever had the option of donating in place for readers to find if they were determined enough, but never really made it easy or asked in an overt way. The way I’ve seen some websites and artists ask for donations has been at the very best, unbecoming, and at the worst, straight up unethical and deceptive.
Monetarily, no website or artist that freely releases their work to the public owes you anything and you owe them nothing. That’s not to imply that you should be disrespectful in any way, it’s just that there is no obligation. Speaking for HL at least, we’re not arrogant enough to think that we’re providing a service. When we create content, it’s a conversation. As free as we are to write and publish something, you’re free to read it and comment.
That’s how art works; it’s about sharing, not conditionals. Of course, art and commerce often overlap with one another, and that’s okay, when done reasonably. But, support should be based on the love of something, not an “Or else…” ultimatum. For example, any website that’s ever claimed (read: bluffed) that if they didn’t receive X amount of donations, they’d have to just shut down and go away, was utterly and completely full of shit:
- No one who’s ever created a brand and poured their heart into it is going to just let it die. Worst case, they’ll sell it to someone who has more money and resources, but it won’t just go away. That’s not how it works.
- Hosting isn’t really that expensive. A well-optimized site on decent, but still cheap hosting, can easily support up to 100-200k visitors a month. Beyond that, it does of course begin to get more expensive, but sites that get that big make enough to cover such costs, which are still very low comparatively to the overhead of non-digital businesses.
Donations based on threat models like that are gross. Instead, I think the proposition should mostly be like a tip jar. If the visitors love what a website does, can afford it, and want (want, not need) to make a donation, that’s great if there’s an option for them to do so. Because of this very basic ethical principle, I was turned off from Patreon (which is more like a subscription model) for the longest time, and had to find an alternative that allowed for one-time donations.
The premise of monthly payments bothered me because that implies that what we do is a service, and that people need to pay for it. That feels wrong. But, maybe I’m wrong? Maybe that’s how I should think of it? I should clarify though, that if you’re a creator and you use Patreon in that manner, that I’m not intending to disparage you in any way. I realize completely that many creators should receive monetary support for their work, and would love to hear other perspectives on this.
Even though I’m honestly still not quite sure about it, I’ve gone ahead and opened Patreon back up. I realize that even if the service is intended to be a platform for paid services, that many people might use it in other ways and even prefer to donate this way? Perhaps they’d be happy to kick $1, $5, whatever to a project every month, but could never remember to do so manually each month, and would appreciate the convenience of an automated system like that?
So, I’ve set up a proper donations page finally and made it possible for people to either make a monthly or one-time donation. Whichever they prefer.
If you can help, please do. — There, I asked! ♥♥♥
♥ Thank You! ♥
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