Patreon: Crowdfunding for Creatives

Patreon is a relatively young, up-and-coming crowdfunding platform geared specifically toward funding creative works. Its unique patronage model sets it apart from competitors, and has driven its rapid rise in popularity over the past two years. Compared to the popular creative crowdfunding sites IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, Patreon offers some unique characteristics that help it meet organization’s funding needs.

How Funding Works 

Under the Patreon model, patrons give a “tip” every time the artist releases new work. There is no single goal or end date defined by a campaign, but new goals set for either each month or each creation, depending on the page. Each page exists in perpetuity to allow funding for as long as the artist is creating. This means donations are not lump sums, but recurring payments which continue on a subscription basis.

This differs from campaigns on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, which are oriented toward funding an individual project with a set fundraising goal and end date. Their project-based model creates a greater sense of urgency and builds up more support around a singular project. Patreon generates a slow stream of money over time, rather than the bulk windfall that project-based crowdfunding platforms generate. Because Patreon encompasses the overall creative process rather than individual projects, funds are unrestricted and can go toward whatever needs the creator deems most important at that point in time. 

An example of how existing works and continued patronage are featured in Patreon campaigns.

An example of how existing works and continued patronage are featured in Patreon campaigns.

Site Setup 

In many ways, the setup of Patreon is identical to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. The pages are separated by creative medium, and each page features a video or photograph of the work. Fitting with Patreon’s model of ongoing, rather than project-based support, the featured picture or video shows works that have already been created in order to encourage patrons to fund future works. The page shows the short-term fundraising goal with a colored bar illustrating the percentage of the goal the page has reached so far. It also shares the number of patrons supporting the artist’s work, and has a space for artist updates and patron comments, allowing users to build and show the size of their fanbase. Identical to other crowdfunding sites, Patreon utilizes a reward model, using a sidebar of promised gifts for each donation level to incentivize levels of giving. Patreon pages also feature an optional image gallery that functions as a method of updating patrons on how their funds are being used.

A screenshot showing Patreon's categories and examples of how campaigns set monthly and project goals.

A screenshot showing Patreon's categories and examples of how campaigns set monthly and project goals.

Additional Considerations

Patreon is best suited for creative organizations with a high degree of output, as it can create a higher barrier of entry by assuming that the organization is creating on a regular basis. For an artist or organization just starting out, or one where works or products are created very slowly, it may not yield the return that a single, highly promoted Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign could generate. In addition, it is not as popular as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, creating increased reliance on enlisting funders from existing channels, rather than simply gathering new supporters who see projects featured on the site. If an organization wishes to use crowdfunding for a large individual project, there are many other platforms that may make more sense than Patreon.

Crowdfunding has become an increasingly popular trend in patronage for artists and arts organizations. Campaigns are helpful not only in generating funds, but also may gauge public interest and build awareness. Patreon encourages long-term relationships with donors in a manner distinct from other platforms, presenting exciting opportunities. However, ultimately, it is up to the organizational leadership to decide what strategic goals they wish to reach through crowdfunding and select the platform that best serves their needs.