So far as fur-friendly crowdfunding sites go, four big ones stand out: Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and Offbeatr for one-off projects, and Patreon for ongoing creative efforts. There are others (oh, there are others…) but unless something is uniquely tailored to your need, it just makes sense to go with an established site with a strong audience.
In the past I strongly recommended Kickstarter over Indiegogo, but now Indiegogo seems a better path for furries–it’s more accessible, easier to work with, and with Paypal as one possible payment system, better for international currency. Kickstarter has a better reputation, but in terms of usability and features, Indiegogo is where the innovation is.
Note: “Creator” here refers to the project creator, and “donor” to a supporter or contributor. Maybe not accurate, but short.
Kickstarter arguably has a better reputation than its competitors–with a generally positive reputation and a catchy name, Kickstarter is a household word. In its glory days Kickstarter restricted projects, weeding out a lot of jokes, scams, and non-starters, and so enjoyed a higher overall success rate and bigger success stories. However, in 2014 it abandoned its required internal review of projects, opened itself up to “fund my life” projects, etc. I feel that in time it will be more or less interchangeable with Indiegogo. At present, Kickstarter still has the lion’s share of the top-funded projects and, by extension, is a more powerful name.
Good for: Products, creative projects (games, art installations, books, theater productions). Check their guidelines.
Bad for: Kickstarter accepts most physical items and creative projects, but is more restrictive on pornography and nonprofits that re-give donations to other groups. Weaker for nonprofits, causes, and “fund my life” campaigns (the latter because Indiegogo hosts them for free, and theoretically Kickstarters must share something with the community.) Hardcore adult projects fare better on Indiegogo, as Kickstarter prohibits porn while Indiegogo prohibits nudity on their project pages.
NOTE: As of January 2015, Kickstarter processes its payments through Stripe instead of Amazon. This greatly streamlines Kickstarter’s previously cumbersome “merchant account” processes.
- Kickstarter is the largest and most established crowdfunding platform. People know what it is, and the vast majority of the most successful projects were funded through KS.
- Day One Display: When you need it most–first day, last day–KS gives prominent placement. KS organizes its entries by date. One side effect: journalists and bloggers looking for material can easily scan to see what’s new.
- Tools: KS has Kicktraq, an analytics tool to see what’s hot and trending. This is a mixed blessing, and its referral source tools aren’t strong, but they’re there. It also has a pledge manager to help with donor reward surveys. Not very flexible, but again, it’s there.
- Payment after the fact: No money is charged to your backer’s card until the end of the campaign. Generally this works well for backers, they don’t have a debt building up interest on their account. While backer confidence is a good thing, people do back out at the last minute or have declined credit cards (they could request refunds anyway, so this may not be that big a deal.)
- All or nothing: If you don’t make your goal, you get no money. Sorry! Why is this not a “con?” Having a well-planned business model, realistic goals, and confidence in your numbers builds your cred, it’s a good thing in some ways. Also, the groupthink psychology of KS encourages backing and joining winners and freaking out when the deadline draws close, something that the soft standard of IGG’s flexible funding discourages. Also, the odds of a project accidentally becoming a scam (or requiring a refund payout) are higher when the creator takes the donor’s money when the project’s only half funded.
- Definition of Project: Kickstarter is not great for charitable causes, and it’s not good for social networking projects. It’s also somewhat hostile to hiring third-party developers for software, spending money on real estate (a legitimate business expense for some people), and paying for overhead. Lastly, certain consumables/wellness products (in particular energy drinks, cosmetic products, and weirdly, eyewear) may not pass go. Read the Guidelines. The good news is that this policy keeps KS entrepreneurial and cuts down a LOT on scams. They don’t accept “genetically modified organisms” as projects…does that include ‘taurs?
- English only: Kickstarter targets mostly Europe, North America, and Australia, and may not be an option where you live.
- Customer Service: Rumor has it that KS is weak on customer service, and IGG is better on that front. I can’t confirm or deny this, both services have responded to my emails, though Indiegogo was a bit more prompt..
IndieGogo (IGG) was there first, made an early splash with the independent film and video game communities, and is arguably the easiest and most accessible crowdfunding platform to use. Its “flexible funding” model makes it popular with nonprofits (who can work with $500 as easily as $50,000, though obviously they’d like the $50K please), and polishing and finishing projects where the project’s done but every little bit helps. At this point in 2015, Indiegogo has been opening itself up to new crowdfunding and innovative ideas in a way that Kickstarter has not.
Good for: nonprofits, open-ended projects like small businesses and product-offering websites. Fundraising for events or other organizations. Newbies, people without well-developed business plans. “Stage two” funding for a project that’s already partially or completely funded. Annual fund-raising campaigns for a webcomic or ongoing project. IGG is actually a strong (and cheaper) alternative to Offbeatr for adult projects, as long as you keep the page content at a “Rated R” level (no nudity or profanity.)
Bad for: IGG offers pretty even support for everything, it’s a very “anything goes” model.
Indiegogo has two new features that really set it apart from Kickstarter: Indiegogo Life offers fundraising with no platform fees for “fund my life” campaigns (which creates a separate marketplace for this kind of campaign, and offers a simplified platform for this kind of campaign.) And as of 2/2015 it’s still being rolled out, but Indiegogo Forever Funding lets successful campaigns continue to fundraise after their deadline closes.
- Easy start-up: It’s simple to get a page going. IGG does not review projects in any way, which is a mixed blessing, but they won’t stand in your way if you need to get a project on-line today.
- International: IGG has no restrictions on geography, and has a wide variety of currency options (and uses paypal.)
- Adult-Friendly…Ish: With their limited restrictions on content, IGG is okay with adult content (I asked about this specifically), though they expect users to keep their pages worksafe.
- Cheap(er): Depending on your funding model, you can expect to spend between 7% and 12% (!) on fees (4% if you make goal, 9% if you don’t and used Flexible Funding. There may be an additional 3% fee for credit card transactions, and additional charges for non-US campaigns.)
- Customer Support: Anecdotally, some creators have said that IGG has stronger customer support and is just flat-out easier to work with.
- Anything Goes: Given the Fandom’s tendency toward weird animal people, website creation, a commission-based economy, and its high adult product levels, this is a good thing. But this lets in perpetual motion and homeopathic medicine scams, gory images for “fund my oral surgery” campaigns, “buy me an XBox” campaigns, lame jokes, and spammy entries, and overall the “fund my life” attitude of many of IGG’s entries hurts crowdfunding’s reputation. Kickstarter permits these projects too, but at the moment the level is lower than Indiegogo
- Flexible Funding: Unique among the Big Three, IGG will let you take about 90% of your money if you don’t make your goal. In a way, this is a good thing, since nonprofits can make $1000 work for them, and maybe you’re selling commissions, who cares if you don’t make goal? But for a product-based campaign, it’s dangerous (your printer fees are going to skyrocket with a small print run, but you may still need to keep that promise!) Here’s a longer article on the dangers of Flexible Fundraising. Be REALLY careful with that button–and as a rule, don’t use it. Personally, I will almost never contribute to a Flex Funds campaign. Deep down, I feel that it shows a poorly-thought-out business plan, and I don’t really know where my money will go if the campaign “fails.” I’m not alone! Imagine being the first person pledging a $20,000 flexible funding campaign.
- GoGoFactor: The more you update, inform, engage your donors, the higher you’ll place in the searches and category scans. So if you’re not actively promoting your campaign, it’ll sink. They call it a “merit-based system,” but you can come across as spammy.
- Better for Nonprofits/causes: It’s possible to set up an IGG as a part of a registered charitable organization so that it’s covered by your 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. Neat. The Flexible Funding works well for NPOs supporting causes (like an earthquake relief fund), and anyone can set up a fundraiser for their charity of choice, although there’s still a reduced transactional fee deducted from the final total. Also nonprofit discounts and lower fees generally.
- Payment Methods: IGG takes Paypal, which is great for young demographic projects. However, they take their payment up front, which leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouth, particularly with the flexible funding campaign enabled.
- Where the ^@#$ is my project?: That “GoGoFactor” means that your brand new project is somewhere between page 1 and 179 of the massive “new projects this week list.” Good luck with that. This is the single worst factor of IGG. If you’re doing something really narrow and niche, like say anthropomorphic animal art, you’re just not going to place at all. Of course, in ANY event most of your traffic comes from no-one but you, but it’s frustrating that the “GoGoFactor” really seems to only help projects that are doing well already.
- Lower results: As of 2014, around 35% of KS projects met their goal, and only about 10% of IGGs do the same (Flexible Funding campaigns make hard numbers about “successful” projects murky). The differences are sharper in technology (more like 4% of tech projects meet goal) Plus, Kickstarter brand’s stronger generally, Kickstarter is getting to be synonymous with crowdfunding–though the 2014 lifting of Kickstarter’s staff review policy is likely to change all this, as the majority of Kickstarter’s projects are now hopeless or jokes.
Offbeatr (see my article, “Crowdfunding for Adult Projects” before going further…)
The Internet is for porn. So is Offbeatr. Porn, sex toys, adult sites, all that stuff. For the rest of the world, Offbeatr (OB) doesn’t seem to be a viable platform–since its creation two years ago it’s had about 50 successful projects. However, for Furries, it’s great. As of 2014, about half of OB’s success stories are furry, or at least fantasy with a furry component. Neat! The “Furroticon” digital card game was OB’s first successful project. We’re still doing pretty well there. Kickstarter won’t take many adult projects anyway. IndieGoGo does take adult projects, but it’s certainly not the main “thrust” of the website, and they do require their project pages to be friendly to minors, so no nudity on your project page. Be discrete.
That being said, Offbeatr has very few successful projects. Its voting period creates confusion and a layer of separation between you and your donor. And with hefty fees and very few success stories (on one of my recent 2015 visits there were no projects being funded) it just doesn’t seem like a viable platform. Please look at my article on adult crowdfunding–don’t use Offbeatr unless you have purely digital projects and can’t find a viable alternative.
Good for: Adult digital projects, adult films.
Bad for: Anything wholesome. Anything that requires a substantial cost to produce (the 30% fee will hurt your margins.)
- Weirdly Fur-Friendly. Through some strange alchemy, Furry is the dominant kink on a very kinky website. There are many mysteries in life.
- Payment Options: Offbeatr takes PayPal and processes its own credit cards.
- Kink-Friendly, GLBTQBDSM-friendy: Generally, Offbeatr seems to be a non-judgmental platform that allows projects for all sexual orientations and most of the (legal) kinks.
- Offbeatr doubles as a digital distributor for product after the campaign closes, providing some ongoing funding
- The Voting Period: Since OB charges a deposit fee to launch the project, the platform does a little market research for you. There’s an initial voting and feedback period where members offer suggestions and promise to contribute. Once the magic number of votes is reached, the project can go live. Mostly, this is just an irritating hurdle, but it does let creators test out the waters–and, again, collect audience feedback. Because furries are a reasonably “organized” fandom, any project that basically makes sense and is reasonable will get greenlighted within a few days, as a general rule.
- Digital Options: I’m not sure I understand how it plays out, but OB seems to offer a form of flexible funding for digital products. Creators keep their money for digital products (less fees…) regardless of the overall success of the project.
- Expensive: Review OB’s price structure before launching your project. They’re over 20% more expensive than Kickstarter and Indiegogo, with fees around 30% and a project deposit. Their reason is that credit card fees for adult projects are higher, and they claim this is outside their control
- Won’t touch that: There’s a few hardcore kinks that the furry fandom can edge into–in particular, fuzzy non-sentient animals and under-age characters–that Offbeatr doesn’t allow…in theory. It looks like they’ve accepted Digimon adult fanart though, which seems to blur the line on the fuzzy animal angle. They also claim to reject copyright-infringing projects, but have been open to fanfic-type and Pony-based projects.
While the big three above are more focused on launching a project, Patreon is more focused on sustaining a long-term commitment to an audience. It’s a patronage model, members make pledges to support an artist or creator they respect, for the long haul.
The system allows different support models–artists might like a per-painting or per-MP3 structure, webcomics and blogs might look for support on a monthly basis. Patrons (as opposed to creators) can choose to pay up to a monthly amount, so if an artist suddenly quits their job, goes pro, and produces 1,300 paintings in a month, they don’t get a nasty surprise. It seems that Patreon is based heavily on a monthly model, so payments come from supporter’s accounts once a month, regardless.
Perks for the patron tend to be based on supporting member levels. Some typical patron rewards might be a monthly Google hangout chat, a monthly print, tutorials, tickets, etc. A high value pledge (say, $20 a month) might win the patron a monthly unique sketch or even a tiny commission, or a monthly random gimme from the artist’s pile of swag. Patrons can also win supporter ribbons for their web profiles, if that sort of thing’s meaningful.
One controversy that’s pretty common is the Patreon “Pay Wall.” Some artists will hide some, most, or all of the good stuff behind a subscription fee. I’m not an artist and don’t understand the reality of their business. As a fan and a content provider, I want to believe that art should be free, and Patreon is a fantastic way to get out of the same-old-same-old of endless, nearly identical commissions. But for some artists, it’s carrot and stick, and the incentive of the pay wall helps bring in extra tips. I don’t know what the “right” choice is, only that Patreon gives very flexible tools.
Good for: Ongoing creative efforts: webcomics, blogs, podcasts, media streams. Artists seeking long-term support for their graphical/media art. Hard-to-fund stuff like “a recipe a week,” movie reviews, etc. Adult-friendly.
Bad for: One-off projects that require a sudden “burst” of funding. Selling products.
- Open-ended relationship building. Patreon’s all about long-term.
- Sustained, predictable revenue. Instead of “burst” funding, Patreon is made for committed fan support. A stronger model for the “I want to make a life of my creative effort” artists.
- Fee Structure: Fees are standard for crowdfunding, in line with IGG and KS. 3% credit card fee and 5% service fee, slightly cheaper than the other services.
- Low-key: Patreon doesn’t make a lot of effort to promote, it’s more a destination site than a promotional tool. You’ll probably need to set up a yearly “pledge drive” to raise awareness, and place a payment button. No Patreon page is going to “go viral,” by its nature.
- Slow burn: Most crowdfunding is built around a sudden burst of activity, not a slow revenue stream. In a fandom that’s young and likely to be commitment-adverse, you may have an easier time working with IGG for that sudden fund injection. There’s no reason not to use both.
Feedback is welcome! The resources for crowdfunding are continually changing, updated information is useful.