Donation Buttons on Blogs?

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Jeremy Wright has a good post answering the question – Why I Don’t Have a Donate Button? His answer …

Because: my users already donate to my well being by simply reading this blog and clicking on various ads. I already trade against my reader’s goodwill by displaying ads. To me, having a donate button on top of that is very ucky. I’m already making money off of your attention, so making money off of your goodwill seems to be “double dipping” to me.’

Link: Why I Don’t Have a Donate Button

Donate buttons are definitely a way of monetizing your blog that many bloggers utilize (to different levels of success – see Andrew Sullivan and Jason Kottke for two who have had some success with it). In my experience this approach only works in one of two situation (or a combination of both):

High Readership Levels – Only a small percentage of your readership will ever donate to a blogger – no matter how good they might be. One of the obvious ways to increase the numbers of those donating is to have a lot of visitors to your site. This is a similar principle to that of a good Adsense (or other advertising) strategy – only a small percentage of readers click on ads – get more of them you get more clicks (its similar to an increase impressions type strategy’ that I often talk about with Adsense.

Devoted (Obsessed) and Loyal Readers – Another obvious way to increase your chances of getting donations on your blog is to have a loyal readership who feel strongly about you and your topic. Obviously these regular and loyal readers are more likely to feel the desire to help you out with some cash than the one off Search Engine generated reader. If we want to continue the comparison with Adsense strategy this one is more about increasing your Click Through Rate. The main difference here is that with Adsense its your Search Engine Traffic that is more likely to generate you an income than your loyal readers (who tend to become blind to your ads).

Of course there would be other ways of increasing your chances of donations including the placement and presentation of your donation button and the way in which you introduce it (most successful bloggers using this method tend to have a short period of time when they work hard on generating sponsors for the year and then don’t talk much about it for the rest of the year). However the above two factors of high traffic and devoted readership are probably two things you’re going to want before you quit your day job and become a fully paid blogger from this method – unless you have a couple of very wealthy and generous readers who are going to bankroll you.

I personally have not gone down this path for a number of reasons:

I don’t have blogs like I’ve just described – most of my blogs have smallish readership – and the bigger ones rely upon Search Engine Traffic. (Actually ProBlogger is probably the one that would be most successful at the donation model because its repeat reader factor is higher than the others).

It is difficult to sustain a donation based income stream – One of the things I’ve observed from a number of people using this strategy is that it can be difficult to maintain a support base over a number of years. You run the risk with this approach of disillusioning your readers if you’re constantly mentioning your donate button – some like to give a one off donation one year to cover future years – and some donators are dependent upon what stance you’re taking on your blog (Andrew Sullivan is one example of this – his donations go up and down in proportion with what he’s writing about).

Changes the Dynamics of your Blog – Whilst I’ve got nothing against donation income streams, something inside of me reacts against them. I find it hard to put my finger on it but I wonder if it would change the dynamics between an author and their reader/supporter. In a sense your reader becomes your boss which could bring up all kinds of tricky dynamics – do the people paying you to write affect what or how you write? – of course similar issues can arise from taking on Advertisers.

I don’t need the money – I guess this is the main factor – my advertising revenue is enough to live on and I wouldn’t feel right in asking for more at present. There is only so much a person needs to sustain themselves – to ask for more from readers right now would be greedy in my mind.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on donation buttons and asking for financial support from readers – leave a comment below.

Darren Rowse is the founder of ProBlogger.net, a blog about the many ways of adding an income stream to blogs.

Darren owns and writes a variety of blogs including Digital Photography Blog and Camera Phone
. He is also a co-founder of the Breaking News Blog Collective.

Donation Buttons on Blogs?
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