How To Finance Your Site With Micro-donations
Every time you go to the coffee shop nowadays, you will see a tip jar next to the register. Why do the baristas put it out there? Because they know that people are more willing to give a little bit a lot of the time than to give a lot once. If the barista were to ask me for a $35 dollar donation, they would be very lucky to get it out of my hands. But when I buy a cup of coffee each morning for $1.86, hand over $2.00, and then drop the remaining $0.14 in the tip jar, that is exactly what I am doing.
Using this same logic, we can see some situations where those of you running WordPress websites could also benefit from micro-donations: whether you are crowdfunding a charity project, a publisher looking to receive payment for your content, or a plugin developer who needs cash to make up for the costs of distributing your plugin.
But what makes for a good micro-donation solution? First, it has to be very easy to use, function smoothly, and be attractive to look at. A small donor is less likely than a large one to complete a transaction if there are too many hurdles. Second, it should offer low transaction fees; if the user is only giving a buck, it is important that half of that isn’t eaten up by the processor’s fee. Third, it can’t have a minimum payment threshold (or at least, the threshold must be very low).
So which ones make the cut? Take a look below…
Probably the leading micro-donation solution available, Flattr also offers maybe the most sensible solution to the issue of getting people to pay for content they like. How does it work? The user decides each month how much money they are willing to give to content creators – say USD$20. The content creator, for their part, installs a Flattr button on their website. Whenever the user sees/reads/watches content they like, they click on the Flattr button. When the month is over, the original USD$20 is divided between each of the content creators whose buttons were clicked on by that user.
On the plus side, this is an easy to use and understand system that should make it affordable for users to reward content creators for producing good stuff. In theory. In practice, the system is not as widespread as we might hope and only a fraction of your total visitors will be signed up and able to give using Flattr. Nevertheless, since it is a low cost solution for you as the content creator, it is still very much worth installing their WordPress plugin on your site
If you already have a PayPal donation plugin or button installed that you like working with, you might not have to adopt a new micro-donation solution at all. PayPal offers a little-known micro-donation service that offers pretty attractive rates: a 5% commission on each transaction and a USD$.05 transaction fee.
To convert your PayPal-based plugin or button to a micro-donation one, all you have to do is to sign up for Paypal’s micropayments service and they will change over your existing PayPal Business or Premier account. Considering how widely used PayPal is by both users and seller, and the host of available integration options, PayPal has to be strongly recommended as an option.
A personal favorite that I also mentioned in a previous article, MuCash allows you to easily install a donation button that lets you to take micro-donations. Specially targeted towards to WordPress platform (their plugin can be found here) and designed to take donations of only pennies, it is a great turnkey solution for the content creator who would like to begin accepting micro-donations. For a demo that shows what it looks like and how it works, click here (or look at the screenshot below). If I had any caveats, it would be that (1) MuCash requires users to create an account with them as part of the sign-up process and that (2) their rates are not the lowest, with a robust 30% commission.
Dwolla has been shaking up the broader world of payment processing with their incredibly low transaction rates: free for transactions under USD$10, only USD$0.25 for transactions above that, and with no minimum transaction size. Using their WordPress plugin and application builder, you can create payment buttons that will allow your users to make small set donations with no transaction fees. This would be a near perfect micro-donation solution except for the fact that it requires the purchaser to create a Dwolla account before purchase, sends the user offsite to Dwolla.com, and can be kind of tricky to set up.
A really exciting venture, TipTheWeb, is taking the tip jar concept quite literally and allowing users to tip any website on the internet. Any website. Even those that haven’t signed up. TipTheWeb allows users to install a bookmarklet in their browser that, when clicked on, opens up a pop-up where they can make a small contribution to whatever website they are currently visiting.
On the customer’s side, the payment interface is easy to use and allows them to choose from a number of preset donation amounts. If they want to donate, though, they will need to create and fund an account with TipTheWeb.org. That the minimum funded amount is USD$5.00 makes account creation and funding a reasonably serious hurdle for the casual visitor. Nevertheless, since TipTheWeb does not charge any fees and is really easy to implement, it has to be considered one of the most suitable and worthwhile of options for any content creator.
Here are a couple of other options that are also definitely worth taking a look at:
- Although it seems to really only be supported nowadays as a legacy feature, Kachingle Anything works in much the same way as Flattr.com.
- Another good payment option, Noca provides an easy to install payment form, a rate structure that does not have a minimum transaction amount, and very low fees.