You, Me and Gift Management

But wait a minute, I’m a writer, what do I have anything to do with gift management?? Doesn’t Patreon do that for me? And what exactly is “gift management”?

Patreon has the tools for relationship management and will be your gift processor, but the majority of gift management will fall to you.

I am a professional Gifts Administrator. While I’m not moonlighting as a fledging Flintlock Fantasy Writer or spending too much time on social media, I spend my day processing checks, cash, stock, wires, and matching gifts for non-profits. Understanding where your money comes from, how to process it, and how to acknowledge those gifts can mean the success or failure of a Campaign.

NP_Stock

Basically, my professional life. 

Diversify

While this series focuses on Patreon, I encourage you to diversify your income. Diversifying your income isn’t a new concept, especially for freelancers, but when you’re setting up your financial plan and factor it is also important to set up multiple income donation streams as is reasonably viable for your budget. Patreon may collapse tomorrow and with it your Patrons. Actual fundraising does not relay on one funnel of income alone; successful fundraising is a combination of many asks and providing several ways to support.

Diversifying income is key to retaining and obtaining donors. Some donors may only donate in appreciated stock. Some may refuse to sign a pledge and instead donate through a Donor Advised Fund. Some may be so generous as to gift you brand new writing software to write your next novel, which is called a gift-in-kind. And some may only write a check when you ask them nicely. While it is not likely that many of your donors will give like this, the main takeaway is that there are many ways to give that is mutually beneficial to both the donor and the receiver.

A Patreon page may only capture a small percentage of your actual paying audience. Maybe they don’t like Patreon. Maybe they’d rather give money directly to you or send you an emoji transaction on Venmo. Don’t be constricted by one channel. But understanding where your people are and how they would like to be approached, and how they prefer to pay will help you identify your fundraising strategy. However, managing multiple channels at once is a better strategy after you have collected some data and tried running a campaign first.

 

ACKNOWLEDGE ACKNOWLEDGE ACKNOWLEDGE

When I process a gift I must generate a receipt within twenty-four to forty-eight hours of the gift for tax purposes. A donor acknowledgment letter should also be generated. Patreon will do this for you by confirming a pledge and sending the donor your welcome content.

Too busy creating to thank your donors? Well, you’re dead wrong.

Not only should you thank someone who is supporting you, but building those relationships will help you and your writing career in the long.

Identify the threshold amount where you will go above and beyond to acknowledge a particularly large gift. The rewards section of Patreon will help you manage benefits, however, you must be organized and get them their rewards on time. Timely acknowledgements is crucial, and may even be required by law if you are a non-profit.

TAXES

Many ways to give, alas, means more taxes to manage. Your donors are not giving to a non-profit and will not receive any tax benefits from your gift. If you are not a 501(c) then you are not required to provide a receipt for your donor. Patreon will provide the receipt for your donor.

However, you must follow all of the 1099 rules (if you are in the US) as stated on Patreon. Diversifying your income will mean you will need to manage several sources of income that may have different rules regarding your taxes. The more you diversify the more you have to manage. 

Key Points

At the end of the day, Patreon is going to help manage the operational side of your gifts from your donors.

  1. Actual fundraising relies on accepting multiple sources of income
  2. Acknowledging donors on a timely basis is just as important as your content
  3. Follow all tax laws for all income sources. The more income streams you have the more to manage
  1. Building your fanbase
  2. Build your Database
  3. Building your Patreon Page
  4. Working with Artists
  5. Ongoing Campaigns
  6. You, Me and Gift Management
  7. Launch!
  8. Diversify

Patreon for Writers: Ongoing Campaigns

Campaigns?!

Such a scary word, but never fear, gentle writer, for this is the fun part!

In the non-profit world, I have experience with two kinds of fundraising: the Annual Fund and the Campaign.

These two types are the bread and butter of fundraising for annual operations and specific projects, be that capital (ie buildings) or productions (music festivals, scholarships, etc). Similar techniques can be used for your writing projects depending on your goals. Let’s take a look at how a non-profit model can help you understand and build your campaign.

The Annual Fund

The Annual Fund is a catch-all bucket for general donations given at any time during an organization’s fiscal year. For our purposes, we will set our writing fiscal year to the calendar year, which is January through December.

Annual Fund gifts are primarily for administrative and operational costs and are typically ongoing in nature. If donors want to give but don’t necessarily want to support a specific project, then they will give to where the need is greatest. For our purpose, let’s say our operational costs will include a Scribophile annual fee, a Microsoft Office or Scrivner license fee, update costs for your computer, and an ergonomic vertical mouse. These costs can be ongoing and will always be in your budget. Use your recurring annual costs to determine your Annual Fund goal.

The monthly Patreon subscription is the closest equivalent to an Annual Fund for the Creator. Donors are charged monthly, and Creators may use the monthly gifts for costs associated with creating, such as an Adobe Creative Suite subscription, Wacom tablets, website fees, etc. However, many Creators will also use the monthly Patreon model in conjunction with a Campaign to fund specific projects.

The Campaign

Campaigns can be fickle things, but necessary for specific projects. In a campaign, a non-profit may choose from two models to cover current operationing costs (Annual Fund) in addition to a project like a building or production.

  1. The Campaign (ie Your Book) and the Annual Fund (your writing expenses) are Concurrent: this means your patrons donate with the expectation that their gift will cover everything and their gift counts for both. If they give once during the year they do not consider going above and beyond. The fundraising goals will be combined.
  2. The Campaign and the Annual Fund are not concurrent: campaign goals are separate from your annual goals. This means asking donors to not only fulfill their annual gift but to also give above and beyond for your upcoming projects.

Campaigns are not easy. In my experience, raising millions of dollars in 2-5 years can strain staff and exhaust your donor pool. During campaign time staff will plan events showcasing the good work they do, reach out to people, and invigorate their existing donors and solicit new ones. Campaigns should be spaced out to prevent donor fatigue.

An example of a writing campaign would be a Kickstarter project for your book. You have all of the details lined up–the book is written, the cover artist lined up, the copy-editor primed, and now need help underwriting the costs. Now you have to ask your current donors to give, plus your hairdresser and mother.

What Model is Best for You?

Fundraising isn’t great for introverts. Fundraising is exhausting, but if you plan to crowdfund your book it is a necessary evil.

I suggest the Per Project Patreon model for writers starting out because at the beginning of your writing career you may not have much content. It is harder to justify recurring gifts when there isn’t much content to binge. It will also put more pressure on you to keep creating content on a monthly basis. Maybe that’s the kick in the butt you need! Or, with a day job and family and friends, it may just cause you more stress.

Knowing how you write and your workflow will help you choose a fundraising model that fits for you. If you are a prolific writer who can spit out a short story every month then the Per Month model may be for you. If you are like me and take months between projects, then the Per Project model may work for you.

And, before I go, consider using a hybrid crowdfunding model to separate your annual operating costs as a writer and costs associated with a specific project (ie use Patreon for recurring and Kickstarter for a book launch).

Next up: You, Me, and Gift Management

  1. Building your fanbase
  2. Build your Database
  3. Building your Patreon Page
  4. Working with Artists
  5. Ongoing Campaigns
  6. You, Me and Gift Management
  7. Launch!
  8. Diversify

Patreon for Writers: Working with Artists

Probably the most fun part of doing any creative project is seeing your writing come to life via artwork. Those who seek to self-publish need a great cover, and who better than to turn to talented artists? However, working with artists can be more challenging than anticipated, and learning how to work with an artist can take some practice.

I’m no Picasso myself, however, I do create political cartoons for my local newspaper and create parody non-profit culture comics. I’ve had my fair share of dealing with newspaper publishers who don’t understand how much time some changes take and don’t charge properly for the time.

As of May 26th, 2018 I’ve been working with Artist and Illustrator Sam Dutter for my upcoming epic fantasy book The Hymns of Creation. While it’s not my first time collaborating with an artist

1. It’s a Business Relationship

While writers and artists share the same goals of making cool stuff, sometimes we’re tempted to think that the artists have the same goal.

Artists are not paid to read your book. Normally, a publishing house will have an art director in charge of commissioning cover art, but if you’re Indie then you’re the art director of your project. If you strike gold with an artist who loves your work AND wants to work with you on super customized artwork then that’s awesome! But don’t send them your entire manuscript and expect them to make something up.

2. Prepare Your Materials

If you’ve ever worked on a group project before you know that it’s a two-way street. If everyone doesn’t provide the materials needed one person ends up doing all of the work. All artists work in different ways, but they can’t read your mind.

Some materials to prepare:

  • A contract
  • References, including links to book covers and stock photos you envision
  • Book summary
  • Character descriptions

3. Always Let them know what you’re using the artwork for!

Don’t pull a Terry Goodkind and trash your artist on social media. That’s just bad manners!

Crowdfunding online is all about being social, which includes collaborating with your team members. Some artists may not want to be more involved, and that’s ok too. But if they do, then it’s a great way to mutually benefit each other via exposure after the initial payments go through.

Some tips:

  • Many Millennial artists spend years building up their social media presence. If you plan on using any part of the artwork for social media promotion be sure to let them know–they can help you resize artwork for social media.
  • Ask your artist to resize part of your cover for your Patreon page
  • Be sure to thank your artist on Patreon and, if they also have a Patreon page, be sure to link back to it.

4. Don’t Be Cheap

We’re all on a budget. I know. I am too. As Indie writers we have to be careful about how we plan our budget, and for many writers, it doesn’t seem worth it to sink a lot of money into a customized cover.

Some books may not need customized artwork, and that’s OK!

When we watch artists livestream their artwork it’s easy to think, “well, that sketch took them five minutes! They shouldn’t charge that much!” Remember that many artists may have spent five years studying to be able to do a concept sketch in five minutes.

Some tips:

  • Respect the prices they quote you. If you ask for more than your contract states don’t be surprised if they charge you for the service.
  • Their art equipment, especially for digital artwork, is expensive.
  • If money is an issue get quotes from several potential artists.

5. Have Fun!

Ultimately both the artist and the writer want to have fun–after all, seeing the cover makes your book seem real.

Up next: Running a Campaign

  1. Building your fanbase
  2. Build your Database
  3. Building your Patreon Page
  4. Working with Artists
  5. Ongoing campaigns: The Ask Event Model
  6. You, Me, and Gift Management 
  7. Collaboration and Launch!

Writers on Patreon: Build Your Database

Repeat after me: your writing is a business.

Your writing is a business.

Feel the need to wash your mouth to get that bitter taste out of your mouth? Good.

Whether or not you like it your writing is a business. Why else are you creating a Patreon page? Now that we have that unpleasant business out of the way I’d like to share some facts from my non-profit experience.

First and foremost you need to build an audience. And just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. One thing you need to understand is that, although you may have hundreds of followers, only a small percentage of those followers will actually become donors.

Why?

Not everyone has the financial freedom to become a Patron to all of their favorite followers, but over time they may be able to. Think long-term.

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