Is it absurd to ask for donations?

45 replies
Lets say I got a commercial website, and I sell a software on the site. I also have a section on that website where I hand out free edition of the main software, and free tools.

Is it absurd to ask for donations for that free tools and free edition? With a paypal donation button on the free tool pages or in the software?
#absurd #donations
  • Profile picture of the author LucasLT
    Is it absurd? No. Whether it's effective is an entirely different story
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    • Profile picture of the author Steve B
      This is just my personal opinion - you will hear contrasting views from other people . . .

      Adding a donation button to a charitable cause web site is fine - such sites often rely on the good will and generosity of individuals to move their cause along.

      Doing the same thing on a commercial site strikes me as quite unprofessional and in poor taste. I realize that some sites have relied on donations heavily in the past, a few successfully and most probably not very successfully.

      I am happy to pay for value and I expect my money to be exchanged for value that the product or service offers.

      My guess is . . . if you put a donation button on your site for 60 days and then put a pricetag on the same product/service for 60 days, you will make substantially more selling the product if the value is readily apparent.

      If the reason for using a donation button is because you are unsure of the value of your offering - don't do it. If there is no value, don't even give the thing away for free. It will harm your reputation.

      Steve
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      • Profile picture of the author Joe Mobley
        If he had published the story in a newspaper or magazine, he likely would have been paid about NZ$700 ($573) for his efforts, despite it being one of the top scoops of the year. The "leave a tip" approach proved a better option. In the course of 24 hours, donations had topped $4,000 ($3,727), all going straight into Ng's bank account. The National Business Review, a newspaper, joked that Ng had become "the best paid journalist in New Zealand."
        Blogger turns to tips, briefly becomes "best-paid" journalist in his country | PandoDaily


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      • Profile picture of the author yukon
        Banned
        Originally Posted by Steve B View Post

        This is just my personal opinion - you will hear contrasting views from other people . . .

        Adding a donation button to a charitable cause web site is fine - such sites often rely on the good will and generosity of individuals to move their cause along.

        Doing the same thing on a commercial site strikes me as quite unprofessional and in poor taste. I realize that some sites have relied on donations heavily in the past, a few successfully and most probably not very successfully.

        I am happy to pay for value and I expect my money to be exchanged for value that the product or service offers.

        My guess is . . . if you put a donation button on your site for 60 days and then put a pricetag on the same product/service for 60 days, you will make substantially more selling the product if the value is readily apparent.

        If the reason for using a donation button is because you are unsure of the value of your offering - don't do it. If there is no value, don't even give the thing away for free. It will harm your reputation.

        Steve


        I don't think it will harm a reputation for something like a small business. These guys are banking $21,000 a month from games. I guess the patreon numbers are legit.

        I know patreon shows subscriptions but some folks are using them for collecting donations. Obviously Apple, Microsoft, ebay, etc... aren't going to collect donations. Really it doesn't matter what you call it (donations, tip, subscriptions, etc...), all that matters is traffic is willing to pay for content.
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        • Profile picture of the author Lucian Lada
          Originally Posted by yukon View Post

          I don't think it will harm a reputation for something like a small business.
          I believe Steve was referring here to giving away free stuff of no (or very little) value.

          Also, do the people making 21k from games are also selling their games someplace else? Or are they freeware editions?

          In the case of the OP, he is selling a software, but he's giving away a feature-limited version for free (I think). I believe this free version is the bait to make them purchase the full product. In this case, it seems to me that the donation would stand in the way, but unless we know more about the free product and its features, it's difficult to judge.

          Personally, I would just focus on driving more traffic or improving the conversion rate and not mess with with donations, unless, as Steve mentioned, they are towards a charity, not towards one's own bank account.
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          • Profile picture of the author yukon
            Banned
            Originally Posted by Lucian Lada View Post

            I believe Steve was referring here to giving away free stuff of no (or very little) value.

            Also, do the people making 21k from games are also selling their games someplace else? Or are they freeware editions?

            In the case of the OP, he is selling a software, but he's giving away a feature-limited version for free (I think). I believe this free version is the bait to make them purchase the full product. In this case, it seems to me that the donation would stand in the way, but unless we know more about the free product and its features, it's difficult to judge.

            Personally, I would just focus on driving more traffic or improving the conversion rate and not mess with with donations, unless, as Steve mentioned, they are towards a charity, not towards one's own bank account.
            Software developers have been taking donations for years, as long as software has existed.

            The list of software below all take donations:

            That's just 4 that I can think of right now.

            Really If OPs creating the software/product they can do whatever they want, they don't need anyone else to justify one way or another.

            Test the traffic response & see what happens, If it makes money keep doing it, If it doesn't make money remove the donation link/s.





            Originally Posted by arrival7 View Post

            One thing about marketing my friend is , it is all about testing! Test it and see if it works and if it does not work change it. Nothing is really right or wrong in marketing

            Exactly, in the amount of time it took to create this forum thread OP could have added Paypal links to their software & already been testing to see how end users would respond.






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            • Profile picture of the author Lucian Lada
              Originally Posted by yukon View Post

              Software developers have been taking donations for years, as long as software has existed.

              The list of software below all take donations:
              The software you mentioned are given away for free with no feature limitation (from my knowledge, anyway), which is different to what the OP is doing. He's selling his software, but he's also giving away a free version with limited features to push the prospects into buying the full product. I believe that in this latter case the donation is standing in his way, but as others have suggested, until he conducts some testing, there's no way to tell.

              And I said, I don't know the number of features available in the free version. If there are enough that light users might not need to buy the full product, then a donation button would actually be justified.
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              • Profile picture of the author yukon
                Banned
                Originally Posted by Lucian Lada View Post

                The software you mentioned are given away for free with no feature limitation (from my knowledge, anyway), which is different to what the OP is doing. He's selling his software, but he's also giving away a free version with limited features to push the prospects into buying the full product. I believe that in this latter case the donation is standing in his way, but as others have suggested, until he conducts some testing, there's no way to tell.

                And I said, I don't know the number of features available in the free version. If there are enough that light users might not need to buy the full product, then a donation button would actually be justified.

                Ha, ha, I knew you would say that (free software).

                It doesn't matter either way, OP has to make their own decisions. I mean it takes what, maybe 5 min. to setup a Paypal button. OP is logged in & not even replying to their own thread. Must not be too big of a deal.
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            • Profile picture of the author Steve B
              Originally Posted by yukon View Post

              Software developers have been taking donations for years, as long as software has existed.

              Yukon,

              There is no question that commercial businesses can, and have made money in the past, asking for donations.

              The real question here, IMO, is will the donations bring you more or less money than not asking for them in the first place?

              It's my opinion (only) that a commercial business that sells products/services should not ask for donations at the same time they are selling their products which is what is happening with this OP.

              Personally, if I see a business asking for donations, it suggests to me one of several things:
              • The business isn't doing well and needs more income (why else would they be asking for a handout?)
              • The business doesn't understand what the donation product is worth and can't decide on a price.
              • The thing given in return for the donation is not really that good so they're asking customers to pay whatever they can. Typically the donation is asked for up front - the customer doesn't see the worth in the product until the donation has been made.
              • The thing given in return for the donation is free online elsewhere and if you looked for it you could probably find it.
              All these circumstances lead me to a negative opinion of the business. It seems unprofessional - not what most profitable businesses would ask of their customers.


              If you're making a donation, then whatever you get in return really isn't free, is it?


              I say, it's better to give away valuable things that are worth something to the customers and accept the fact that you are creating good will, branding your business as a company that gives customers more, and don't give the impression that you want a handout.


              Just my opinion.


              Steve
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              • Profile picture of the author yukon
                Banned
                Originally Posted by Steve B View Post

                Yukon,

                There is no question that commercial businesses can, and have made money in the past, asking for donations.

                The real question here, IMO, is will the donations bring you more or less money than not asking for them in the first place?




                Look at Kickstarter for instance, you can have multiple levels & let people pick from multiple prices for basically the same product/service.

                Would you rather have a $20 sale or no sale at all, I'll take the $20 sale.

                Everyone in the world doesn't value products/services the same way.

                I know the aged old tradition is to set a fixed price but you can pick up folks on the fence at a lower price & get your foot in the door for possible upsale to counter the original lower price point.

                Donations are the same way, some folks will pay less than the sellers intended price, some folks will pay higher.
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          • Profile picture of the author MikeVietri
            No this is totally fine..

            As long as you are genuinely offering the highest value you can offer to your visitors, than this is absolutely ethical form my perspective.

            There are many sites on the internet that do this, a big one is Khan Academy.

            They provide a high level education to anyone online. You can learn calculus, physics, and a lot more. They provide massive value for free and in turn ask for donations.

            Khan Academy is an extreme example, but the point is that if you are truly helping people out they will be more than happy to give you money.. in anyway lol.

            Rather that be purchasing your product or donating to you, in the end people feel a sense of "obligation" or a sense of "returning the favor" once they come to understand that you are the provider of the solutions they have been sneaking.

            Hoped that helped

            Mike Vietri
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  • Profile picture of the author Yosheena
    No. Not absurd at all. Go for it.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rory Singh
    No it's not. A lot of sites that offer FREE Stuff do have the paypal donate buttons.

    Some people will give you donations if your free stuff is good. Not all.
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  • Profile picture of the author JoMel
    not absurd. if your tools really add value to your visitors you may be surprised that you can make more money with donations than with sales!
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    I watch a Youtube channel (not IM related) where the guy post daily, he has a link in all his video descriptions for donations. Last I checked patreon.com he was making right at $600 a month from donations. Nothing to write home about but not bad for 50K YT subscribers.
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    • Profile picture of the author paladinseo
      Originally Posted by yukon View Post

      I watch a Youtube channel (not IM related) where the guy post daily, he has a link in all his video descriptions for donations. Last I checked patreon.com he was making right at $600 a month from donations. Nothing to write home about but not bad for 50K YT subscribers.
      jim sterling is making roughly 10k$/mo from donations on patreon with his yt chanell
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  • Profile picture of the author mustafavanancio
    I've seen a lot of WordPress plugin developers put a donate button inside their free plugins which are offered through the WordPress plugin directory.

    I don't see it being a problem.
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  • In a free world you can do whatever you want other then taking other's freedom by force! So yes asking for donations is not taking others freedom by force so you can do it since you can do anything as long as it's not by force. I hope this explains why we are free and what yo can do in a free country.
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    soon people... Relax...
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    • Profile picture of the author Alex II
      absurd? No, it's not.

      Does it make sense? Well, this is a whole different story.

      I personally do use quite a few free tools for various things, not only IM related.
      Some of them I have never visited their website again after the initial download. And I wouldn't donate up front, but only after having used their tool for a while and knowing it added value.
      So you might be better off to add a donate button within your tool somewhere.

      But it depends how you structured your business. If you have a free and a paid version of the same tool it won't make much sense to add a donation button, it would make more sense to push for the sale. If you offer different tools it's another story.

      You might also consider building a list in return to use your free tools and make more money with affiliate sales in the long run. This is a win-win for everyone as long as you offer helpful stuff to your list and they actually buy it.
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  • Profile picture of the author arrival7
    One thing about marketing my friend is , it is all about testing! Test it and see if it works and if it does not work change it. Nothing is really right or wrong in marketing
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  • Profile picture of the author Curtis2011
    Nobody can stop you from asking for donations. But I've heard it's a pretty bad way to actually raise much money.
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    • Profile picture of the author yukon
      Banned
      Originally Posted by Curtis2011 View Post

      Nobody can stop you from asking for donations. But I've heard it's a pretty bad way to actually raise much money.

      Nonsense.

      Ever heard of Kickstarter or Patreon, basically donations.

      Plus it's not uncommon for non-profits to rake in millions of dollars a year. It looks like Goodwill (non-profit/donations) brought in $3.53 billion (2012). They're doing something right.
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      • Profile picture of the author The Niche Man
        I think it all depends on your market.
        • Some markets would be put off by it. For example, if you sell to high end clients.
        • Others would not be offended and even donate if they find the product useful.
        • Others would not be offended - but wouldn't think of donating because they're "tight wad freebie seekers" - and never pay for anything unless they have to.
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        • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
          There used to be a software package out there called "Buy Me a Beer", where people could 'thank' the site owner for particularly useful content, downloads, etc. by buying a virtual beer.

          Some folks left it at that, others expanded by asking for other virtual items with different donations (virtual pitcher, nachos, etc.)

          If alcohol wasn't your thing, you could easily change it to Buy Me a Coffee, Candy Bar, or whatever.

          The trick was to make it something fun, as a gesture of thanks, rather than the pathetic begging I've seen some sites using lately.
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          • Profile picture of the author Steve B
            Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

            The trick was to make it something fun, as a gesture of thanks, rather than the pathetic begging I've seen some sites using lately.

            John,

            It would be interesting to know just how well the "buy me a beer" donation strategy actually worked. Do you have any performance data or even personal knowledge of what kind of monthly revenue this approach has actually created for site owners?

            My guess would be . . . and it's just that, a guess . . . some customers would send $5 to the owner, probably just once in a lifetime. Just as many customers would be "put off" by the owner asking for a handout. So maybe the net effect would be zero.

            It's my contention that the business owner should spend his time and effort on giving great value to the customer in both paid and free offerings . . . and I believe that the customers will gladly pay the selling price of the product owner without flinching.

            Just my thoughts.

            Steve
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            • Profile picture of the author Zan Elwick
              Go for it!
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            • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
              Originally Posted by Steve B View Post

              John,

              It would be interesting to know just how well the "buy me a beer" donation strategy actually worked. Do you have any performance data or even personal knowledge of what kind of monthly revenue this approach has actually created for site owners?

              My guess would be . . . and it's just that, a guess . . . some customers would send $5 to the owner, probably just once in a lifetime. Just as many customers would be "put off" by the owner asking for a handout. So maybe the net effect would be zero.

              It's my contention that the business owner should spend his time and effort on giving great value to the customer in both paid and free offerings . . . and I believe that the customers will gladly pay the selling price of the product owner without flinching.

              Just my thoughts.

              Steve
              It was never a big earner for me. I did, however, usually cover my hosting bill for the site I tried it on.

              I also know that Paul Myers (who introduced me to the script) still uses it for his TalkBiz News emails. Very low key. Near the end of the newsletter, he just puts "Find this useful? Buy me a beer..."

              Over the years, I have indeed bought Paul a few digital brews.

              It's my contention that the business owner should spend his time and effort on giving great value to the customer in both paid and free offerings . . . and I believe that the customers will gladly pay the selling price of the product owner without flinching.
              I don't disagree. I also think that if the OP wants to leave the door open for donations, she should give it a try (kind of like the 'pay what you want' model). Depending on the specific audience, a certain segment will never pay full price, but might donate. I wouldn't expect much, but it might generate a few dollars and some kind words that could become testimonials for the free stuff.
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      • Profile picture of the author strawhat
        They are getting donated used goods, which they then sell.
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  • Profile picture of the author Atmaier1989
    Most non-profit groups look for donations, so it is totally rational to ask for donations as long as whatever you are providing is worthwhile.
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  • Profile picture of the author maryJacko
    Thank you all for your replies. This thread convinced me to add a paypal donate button to my site, so I just added it on the free tools page. Testing is always the best way as you guys said.

    I don't only offer free edition, but also a few completely different tools. My products are generally IM related, so I'd like to help people with free tools, they can make money by using them already, if they use those tools wisely.
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    • Profile picture of the author yukon
      Banned
      Originally Posted by maryJacko View Post

      Thank you all for your replies. This thread convinced me to add a paypal donate button to my site, so I just added it on the free tools page. Testing is always the best way as you guys said.

      I don't only offer free edition, but also a few completely different tools. My products are generally IM related, so I'd like to help people with free tools, they can make money by using them already, if they use those tools wisely.

      Good to see you're testing, that's the only way to find out If it works for you & your traffic.

      Make sure to split test, I would even go as far as testing a popup when traffic opens the app. Maybe even include social sharing buttons inside the app. to help get traffic to promote the product/brand.
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  • Profile picture of the author kazimuhith
    It seems like a good idea. Not absurd at all. People do it all the time.
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  • Profile picture of the author Randall Magwood
    I have donated a few times to sites myself. Blackplanet .com, a copywriting product from Ken McCarthy, and even a forum in the sex niche.
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  • Profile picture of the author Brent Stangel
    So there's a donate button on your site...so what. It's convenient for people who are in a donating mood.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kingshouse
    Originally Posted by maryJacko View Post

    Lets say I got a commercial website, and I sell a software on the site. I also have a section on that website where I hand out free edition of the main software, and free tools.

    Is it absurd to ask for donations for that free tools and free edition? With a paypal donation button on the free tool pages or in the software?

    I've seen the 'you can buy me a bee'r buttons so why not a donation button?

    Look around, do some research otherwise just put a PayPal button on your site, ask for donations and see what happens.

    That way you'll know for sure.

    All the best.

    Will D
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  • Profile picture of the author onlyexist
    Not at all! if you offer something really valuable! i would donate!
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve L
    Originally Posted by maryJacko View Post

    Lets say I got a commercial website, and I sell a software on the site. I also have a section on that website where I hand out free edition of the main software, and free tools.

    Is it absurd to ask for donations for that free tools and free edition? With a paypal donation button on the free tool pages or in the software?
    It can happen automatically if you list a bitcoin address on your site thanks to this new chrome extension. Of course, not many people are using said extension yet.
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  • Profile picture of the author nishadhasan
    if you really offer something useful to the community, then its not bad to ask donations. Give something and ask for something
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  • Profile picture of the author Van Dam
    It's no absurd if you have spent your time and possibly some of your own money in creating a software for people to use. If they feel it is useful, then it only makes sense that they should throw a bit of money your way.

    However, a friend of mine did something similar in the past and yielded minimum donations from people.
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  • umm have you heard of twitch? people play video games and accept donations all the time. There is this one user his name is chance morris aka sodapoppin. He makes a VERY good living just streaming twitch. Im pretty sure from donations alone he makes around $500,000 a year. That is just donations not counting his subscriptions. So you asking for donations in this sense is OK!

    thanks
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    • Profile picture of the author jasonbw
      It is not absurd.
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  • Profile picture of the author ContentPro22
    Absurd? Definitely not.

    A good idea? That's a different story. Really depends on your audience. Wanna share your site? If not, that's cool.
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  • Profile picture of the author discrat
    Originally Posted by maryJacko View Post

    Lets say I got a commercial website, and I sell a software on the site. I also have a section on that website where I hand out free edition of the main software, and free tools.

    Is it absurd to ask for donations for that free tools and free edition? With a paypal donation button on the free tool pages or in the software?
    If Paul 'Hitman' Myers does it, then Iam inclined to say it can be effective and nothing wrong with it.

    On a commercial Site though it may be out of context.

    - Robert Andrew
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  • Profile picture of the author Marvin Lex
    It's not absurd. However, I doubt that many people will donate when you offer it for free. So you have to decide for yourself if you want to earn money or you want to help people and get a nice bonus from time to time.
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