When It Comes to Gaining Patrons, Honesty is the Best Policy

Driving people to pledge to your Patreon is one of the crowd-funding platform’s biggest challenges, but one of the most effective strategies is pretty straightforward: Be honest with your fans.

Fans will pledge to your Patreon if they love you and are convinced that you’re speaking from the heart. Simply saying that you’d like their support isn’t enough. Set aside the benefits you have planned for them and think about why they need to support you.

Do you need their financial support in order to continue creating content? To invest in new equipment? To hire a new employee? To simply be able to buy food and keep a roof over your head? Tell them that!

Opening up about why you need their support and how you will use it will build a personal connection between you and your fans, which will in turn drive them to pledge. It may be tough to open up in this way, but the relationship you build in this moment will be worth it.

Recent events with one of my shows inspired me to write this blog post. Over at my weekly millennial-oriented lifestyle podcast #Millennial, we’ve seen a significant drop in advertisers as they pull their marketing campaigns during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We’ve been using the extra air time that’s been freed up by a lack of advertising to explain the situation to listeners: We’ve lost advertisers and need your financial support in order to continue.

Since sharing the personal plea less than two months ago, we’ve seen a 15% lift in Patrons, after nearly a year of no growth. This sudden burst in support has been extremely inspiring and heartwarming, because it reminded us that people are really listening, understanding, and want to see the show thrive. I fully credit our bump in new pledges with the honest pleas we’ve been making on air.

Keep in mind that you can’t take for granted that your fans have pledged. They may decide later that their choice was a bad one. To fend off potential cancelations, you need to continue fulfilling all of your Patreon benefits, surprise them with posts they may not be expecting, and continue to give them the content that they fell in love with.

Giving them an on-air shoutout or sending them a personalized thank you can also be helpful. Hearing your name uttered by a creator you love is a great feeling!

A related tip: One of my co-hosts, Laura, had a great idea to make sure our Patreon plea was effective whether or not a listener could support us financially. We also told listeners that if they can’t support us financially, that they make sure that they’re subscribed to the podcast, and that they tell a friend about the show. This helps us discover new listeners, and make sure everyone is downloading every episode.

Thanks to these new Patrons as well as our existing support base, we’ve become less dependent on advertisers for the time being, and we can sleep easy at night knowing that our audience has our back. That said, we hope to get those advertisers back once the spread of COVID-19 slows down, because the extra funding is helpful for producing and promoting the show.

It’s also important to note that you’ll only ever see growth if you have a demonstrably engaged audience. I often hear from people looking to launch a Patreon account who have no audience, or one that isn’t very engaged with the creator. Patreon is for people who have already built a group of fans who feel compelled to support the creator’s work. If you’re not getting much engagement on social media posts and not hearing from potential fans, the honest truth is that you probably don’t have an audience that will pledge to you on Patreon. (I plan to write more about this soon.)