Railway Preservation News

Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits?
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Author:  DuesyJ29 [ Tue Aug 22, 2017 7:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits?

My interests take me far and wide across the vastness of the internet and in those virtual travels I've run across a couple of people that use a site called Patreon to raise funds for their projects. The one that impresses me the most is a man by the name of Doug Jackson(on YouTube its SV Seeker) in Tulsa, Oklahoma that is building a 76 foot Chinese junker in his front yard. The boat will be set up for ocean research by the time he's finished with it and it seems like a project worth investing in. So when he started his Patreon account, I thought nothing of giving him a steady $2 a month. And that's what I like about this crowdfunding site. It seems to follow the "pint a week" fundraising tool that the Tornado group in the UK used to raise a steady income over a long period, but it packages it neatly into what seems to be an easy to use website. Hit a button to donate and automatically once a month $2 comes out of my account and gets spent on something I think is worth backing. I know that if a number of other organizations that have members here on RYPN were to set up accounts with Patreon, I'd be one of the first to sign up.

Here is the rub though. You have to generate content, and the draw to donate on Patreon for your members is that you get to see the content before say, all of the other followers on YouTube/Facebook/Instagram/etc. do. Most of the other people that use Patreon are "YouTubers" and they'll post more exclusive/behind the scenes videos or pictures than what you would normally see on other social media platforms. These are generally people that make videos of their lives or smaller projects and are looking for a funding source to live off of or help pay for materials. And originally, that is what Patreon was founded for, to help create funding for artists(painters/sculptors/etc.). They are however, open to working with non-profits. My organization is considering using this source to help drive donations for some upcoming projects that we have in the works. But I wanted to extend the idea out here among the other professionals in this business for discussion. Maybe there's an angle I haven't considered yet, or something I've missed.

What do you think? Have you used Patreon or would you use it? If you have used it, what are some tips you might share with the rest of us? If you investigated and decided not to, what were your reason behind that decision? Please let me know.


Mike Sullivan

Author:  derail [ Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits

It might be possible for a museum/heritage railroad to take advantage of patreon but it is certainly not a normal use for it. On patreon you are expected to create content both for those that are donating on patreon and the rest of the internet. Any non-profit reaching out through patreon would be sharing the platform with individuals that can put the entirety of their patreon donations back into improving and making more content.

The recent rise in patreon use is not simply because it is a great donation tool, it is partly because many youtube creators have seen a decline in revenue from youtube's (Google's) own advertisements. These creators, many of which quit their day job to make youtube videos full time, have had to reach out to advertisers on their own and ask viewers to contribute to patreon if they would like.

Author:  Crescent-Zephyr [ Wed Aug 23, 2017 2:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits

A non-profit museum wouldn't really need to funnel through Patreon. They SHOULD be able to do it themselves. In this day of technology, it seems so easy to be completely transparent with donors. But yet... it doesn't seem like that always happens.

An example of what could be...

Big Town Railroad Museum has a group of members who want to restore Baldwin #1, a steam locomotive in the museums collection. They start a fundraising campaign that has a dedicated page on the website. Become a monthly giver at x amount of dollars, and get access to exclusive content that shows week by week (or month by month) progress of the locomotive. Donate xx amount of dollars per month and get a quarterly gift (this could be a lithograph of builders plans, lapel pin of the number plate, etc).

And then follow through... see that the money is actually going to the locomotive project. See that progress.. even if it's slow, is being made. Update the time line, follow through on video content and follow through on making progress.

People want to see that their money is going to the mission. Many railroad museums seem to want people to give blindly and just trust their money is being spent well. I think people want to know what the money is going for.

That's why the Patreon works.... people see what the money is going towards.

Author:  Zak Lybrand [ Wed Aug 23, 2017 4:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits

If the money is being applied properly, I don't see any reason why there shouldn't be a way for us to use Patreon. Surely you could come up with SOMETHING to provide weekly or monthly updates about.

Author:  DuesyJ29 [ Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits

I think what attracts me to it's use is the idea that a lot of people can donate a little each month automatically, and that it's so easy to do. I've been looking for a way to utilize the "pint a week" fundraising idea since I read about it so many years ago. I thought was a brilliant concept, and Patreon seems like a platform that's ready to put that idea to work. A group like the W.W. & F. that has an update on a regular basis seems like someone that could benefit tremendously from a source like this. Or any organization that has regular updates. I've noticed that this guy in Tulsa that's building the boat just posts what he put up on youtube on Patreon. There's no real special content just for supporters. So maybe having separate special updates isn't necessary. But it's certainly something I think might be useful and I know that we'll continue to pursue it and see where we end up.

Mike S.

Author:  Overmod [ Thu Aug 24, 2017 7:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits

It occurs to me that the content generation for Patreon is easily something that would fit within a museum's "mission" -- think of it as a much more detailed version of a given story or issue, extended over time and without the normal limitations of access and viewer overload in a 'bricks and mortar' exhibit.

An example of one of the simple kinds of 'stream' would be the weekly photo updates on ATSF 2926. I was checking periodically with some interest to see a full discussion of the Wagner bypass valves, and didn't see it -- that all by itself would be one meaningful installment of a Patreon stream. That is "a pint a week" with teeth.

An alternative is to look at a particular topic, amplifying and extending it periodically (with input from other sources, including those outside the organization). Much of the peripheral material that CSR/SRI has produced for Project 130 could have been supplied in weekly installments, with ongoing discussion and clarification on points of interest then being included in subsequent ones. There is, of course, no requirement that the content be restricted just to a particular project; some of it could address larger or even controversial themes.

Author:  Heavenrich [ Thu Aug 24, 2017 8:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits

Google is your friend !!!

There is a review at


One sentence summary -- this is a crowd funding source and costs money to use and may be ineffective for organizations with good websites.

Bob H

Author:  Evan [ Thu Aug 24, 2017 11:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits

Patreon isn't the only crowd funding site that allows recurring monthly donations. GoFundMe does for instance.

I'd expect sites like GoFundMe would be a better fit for most non-profit projects. But if you truly envision being able to produce 'exclusive' or 'inside' information on a regular basis for the life of the project to entice higher monthly payment levels, then Patreon would work.

Author:  robertmacdowell [ Sun Aug 27, 2017 2:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Patreon. Is this a new source of funding for non-profits

How well do they handle nonprofits? You need to go through Pub. 526 on this, but it may not be as simple as sending them a tax receipt for their total Patreon gift, since Patreon took a non-trivial fraction of the money, and that part may not be tax deductible.

Is your organization or project manager absolutely 100% prepared to do the mandatory tax letter for gifts over $250/YEAR (that being $21/month)? Usually the project manager has no clue, and it's a dog's breakfast whether your office staff happens to catch it and deal properly. It's even worse if the manager takes the money directly off Patreon.

One advantage of JustGive and certain others is they do handle nonprofits in a tax-correct manner, and do the tax work for you - easier on you, and easier on donors too since their tax letter covers all donations through that platform. That reduces involvement and overhead of office staff.

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