As in many other areas, people routinely start new crowdfunding platforms with little consideration for what’s already out there. But when we discussed starting Snowdrift.coop, we did our due diligence in researching the existing market. So, we reviewed all we could find of the huge numbers of largely redundant funding platforms out there. We can confidently say there’s no other crowdmatching system or even anything that similar. We also took the extra effort to share our research into what else is out there.
While we may emphasize what makes our system distinct, we also want to guide people to the better options among other options (especially when they serve a different niche or function than we offer).
Our background research
In 2013 (when we did our initial research), directories of crowdfunding sites filtered to only donation-style crowdfunding listed over 500 sites. We reviewed all of them and many others since.
As we focus on the issues facing Free/Libre/Open (FLO) works, we ignored the equity and loan crowdfunding as largely irrelevant to us. We also leave out plain paywall services (like Gumroad or Podia) which are rarely used by FLO projects and go against the spirit of FLO values (although selling works at those sites isn’t actually in conflict with FLO licensing).
The comparison and discussion below highlights only the more popular or otherwise distinctive sites relevant or at least tangential to technological or creative FLO projects. The rest (the majority) of the sites we found were redundant, defunct, or otherwise unremarkable. We also ignored sites dedicated to specific rivalrous purposes like funding college tuition, medical bills, or concerts. There are also several holistic fundraising services designed to manage the whole fundraising arms of traditional non-profit organizations, and we’re not reviewing any of those. We’ve also chosen not to include several absurd sites (the nonsense out there includes things like a site to auction off artist’s copyrights and another that funds creative work by having fans watch unrelated ads,1 among many other stupid and sometimes offensive ideas).
As more sites show up all the time and others die off or change, we make some effort to keep this page updated, but we cannot promise that the info here is fully up-to-date. If you see anything missing, consider updating this page or contacting us to let us know.2
Issues with most services
The most known services such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Patreon, and Flattr are usable, robust, and effective in many regards. However, these sites are themselves proprietary and non-democratic in their governance. Most projects on those platforms remain proprietary as well. We see these proprietary terms as a shame because when a project comes to the community for funding, the community deserves to receive uncompromised products.
Recommendations when using other sites
We urge patrons to support only FLO projects, regardless of platform. Kickstarter, Patreon, and other popular platforms include some freely-licensed, community-respecting projects (see our project requirements for clarity and links about the issues), and such FLO projects deserve your support over restrictive proprietary ones.
Our reference charts
We have organized sites by the type of their basic funding mechanism. In some cases, services cross into many different categories, so we had to select one or make a mention in multiple spots. In the charts, “Fee” indicates the percentage taken by the crowdfunding site itself. Transaction charges from payment processors (usually PayPal) are additional to the site fee. If the site fee is all-inclusive, we have marked it as a “flat” fee.
Bolding indicates our recommendations in each category, although, in some cases, the best remains far from ideal. For those tables that don’t mention FLO or non-profit, we believe that all the entries are for-profit and proprietary. Some sites go in the right direction by using Creative Commons licensing yet use or allow the problematic NC non-commercial license, and we have indicated this in some cases in italics.
All-or-nothing campaigns (what most people associate with the term “crowdfunding”) achieve some assurance of critical mass. These sites run time-limited campaigns with strict funding goals. Fees are typically contingent on reaching or exceeding the goal.
As well as hard threshold, some sites below offer “keep-it-all” flexible funding campaigns (often with higher fees). Keep-it-all is basically just traditional donation (see section below).3
|Indiegogo||5%||art, commerce, cause||required|
|Goteo||4%||FLO projects, social justice||optional||✔||AGPL site, projects all NC or fully FLO|
|Crowd Supply||5%||mostly hardware||required|
|Bountysource||10% flat||FLO software||none||FLO site and projects|
|Drupal Fund||7.5%||Drupal projects||Projects only|
|Crowdfunder||5%||art, commerce, cause||required|
|KissKissBankBank||5%||(French) art, commerce||required|
|Voordekunst||€100 listing fee + 7% flat||(Danish) art, culture||required?|
|Boomerang||5% (non-refundable) + 7%||(Dutch) art, culture||required?|
|Pozible||5%||art, commerce, cause||required|
|Community Funded||5%||art, commerce, cause||optional|
|Funddy||2% (basic)||art, commerce, cause||optional|
|Experiment||8%||scientific research||Special access perk required|
|Catarse||13% flat||creative||required||FLO site (MIT license)|
|Start Some Good||5%||“positive social change”||required|
|Seed & Spark||5%||independent film||required|
|Benfeitoria||0%||art, commerce, cause; Brazil||required||CC-BY-SA-NC|
|BitcoinStarter||5% flat||anything Bitcoin-funded||required|
|Pledge Me||6.5%||projects based in New Zealand||required|
Kickstarter: The best-known threshold site and the one with most of the high-grossing projects that make the news. Focus tends toward projects with final deliverables such as hardware. Some FLO projects have had success on Kickstarter. Featured projects often gain massive exposure. Although not itself FLO and lacking in respect to many other ideals, Kickstarter is at least registered legally as a Benefit Corporation — that means that while they remain for-profit, they are legally bound to serve a mission to have a positive influence on the world overall.4
Indiegogo: The second-best known site, with more flexibility than Kickstarter and a wider range of projects. Besides threshold, Indiegogo also offers keep-it-all flexible campaigns.
Goteo: Crowdfunding for “the commons” with a strong focus on community organizing, ethical principles, and economic democracy. Culture and technology projects are all shareable — either fully FLO or with NC clauses (note that NC means non-FLO). The site itself uses the AGPL. Based in Spain, some of the documentation is only in Spanish or Catalan. Perks are fully optional. Projects have an initial 40-day campaign to reach a “minimum” goal and then an additional 40 days to reach an “optimum” stretch goal. Goteo strives for high ideals, and our only complaints involve the NC issue for projects and their inclusion of Facebook and Google Analytics trackers (which can be blocked, of course) and use of Google Maps instead of Open Street Map and some other minor details.
Hatchfund is an art-focused platform run by a 501(c)(3) non-profit where all donations are tax-deductible. Rather than a true threshold where you only are charged when a threshold is reached, donors give to Hatchfund immediately. If a project does not hit their threshold, the donations go into a matching fund available to other projects. They also regularly partner with outside grant organizations to offer matching support that way. Hatchfund curates the campaigns to work only with artists with respectable credentials that fit adequately their 501(c)(3) art-focused mission, and they work to maximize the rate of success (they claim a 75% success rate, which is much higher than most generic threshold sites). They say no fees come out of the artists’ funds, but they require a minimum 5% donation to Hatchfund itself along with each pledge.
Others: We can’t go into all the details about hundreds of sites that are basically all the same. Note that BountySource (listed below under bounties) includes a threshold campaign function.
Snowdrift.coop’s thoughts on threshold campaigns
All threshold sites have weaknesses arising from their arbitrary funding goals and deadlines and their lack of accountability. We have a separate article about problems with threshold campaigns. Still, when a project needs major capital infusions, such campaigns may work. Snowdrift.coop does not compete directly here as we focus instead on long-term sustainable funding. Though not perfect, we endorse Goteo as the overall most ethical FLO-dedicated threshold crowdfunding platform.
Recurring payments support ongoing projects or for supporting a particular teams who continue to produce new content on a regular basis. In the tech world, subscriptions may get used for hosting or support services. Some subscription sites emphasize special access for subscribers (i.e. “paywalls”), thus promoting proprietary restrictions and the separation of users into classes with different access levels. Subscription sites typically lack any matching or threshold or other mutual assurances.
|Snowdrift.coop||0%||FLO shareable works||monthly||none||strictly FLO site and projects||✔|
|Patreon||5%||arts and media||per-release or monthly||required|
|Tipeee||8%||arts and media||per-release or monthly||required|
|YouTube channel memberships||30% flat||YouTube videos||monthly||required?|
|Steady||10%||arts and media||monthly||required?|
|Drip by Kickstarter||?||creative people / groups||per-release or monthly||required|
|Liberapay||0%||anything||weekly||none||public domain site||✔|
|Bountysource Salt||10% flat||FLO software||monthly||none||FLO site and all FLO projects|
|Open Collective||10%5||any group (but site has software focus)||monthly||none||FLO site|
|Tidelift||?||upstream FLO software||monthly?||none|
|Seed&Dew 30% flat||FLO software||monthly||none|
|GitFund||0%||FLO software||monthly||advertising of sponsorship||FLO site|
|Ratafire||0%||creative projects / research||monthly||none|
|Donorbox||0.89% when >$1,000 total donations in a month||anything||one-time or monthly||none|
|MoonClerk||monthly sliding fee, $15 minimum (1.5% or less when over $1,000/mo in revenue)||anything||one-time or monthly|
|Memberful||10%, or $25/mo+2%, or $100/mo+1%||anything||adjustable||optional|
|Google Contributor||?||websites||monthly||ads replaced by thank-you message|
|Autotip||0%||websites||auto, per-visit||none||MIT-licensed plugin|
|Maecen||near 0||creative projects / research|
Snowdrift.coop focuses on ongoing FLO projects with continual development needs. As a means to solve the issues with collective action, our matching pledge makes everyone’s donations contingent on the amount of support from everyone else. Each patron pledges a monthly share level determined by the number and level of everyone else’s pledges. In essence, we all agree to do our part together — but in a flexible manner rather than hard all-or-nothing. If more people will come help, the rest of us will do that much more! Thus, we combine the mutual-assurance aspects of the threshold model with the sustainable long-term focus of subscription patronage. Although our model is distinct from any other existing mechanisms, we fit best into the subscription category. We also offer many other tools dedicated to the needs of FLO projects. The rest of our site describes the details further, of course.
Patreon is a robust site that has proven successful with creative artists. Besides a simple per-month option, Patreon also offers a donate-per-release option (which adds elements of bounty and tipping systems to their subscription model). For per-release pledges, patrons can still set an optional per-project maximum monthly cap. The projects/artists choose which patronage plans to offer and set tiers with different dollar levels and perks. The per-release approach naturally creates issues with defining a qualifying release and emphasizes quantity over quality, but the recurring nature of the pledge still provides a level of accountability. Overall, Patreon emphasizes perks which are typically (but not always) restricted club goods, emphasizing the paywall service aspect of the platform.6 If using Patreon, we urge projects to use only FLO licenses (such as CC0, CC-BY, CC-BY-SA), use only rivalrous perks (like physical merchandise or dedicated time), and release all non-rivalrous work as public goods. We also urge any patrons on Patreon to specifically support FLO projects.
Flattr: Uses a browser plugin to track attention time and visits to white-listed sites that the donor wants to support. Donors set a fixed monthly donation total which gets divided among the different websites based on the plugin’s analysis of user activity.
Tipeee is a French clone of Patreon with nearly identical policies, options, and issues. Steady is a German competitor to Patreon with a different set of features, not really a clone.
YouTube Memberships is the official YouTube subscription support service. As of this writing, it’s fixed at a monthly $4.99 (no tiers or options). Perks include access to non-public extra videos among other minor features.
Drip by Kickstarter is a direct competitor to Patreon. As of November 2017, the only distinguishing features are an initial period where patrons are badged “founders” and some potential integration with Kickstarter.
Liberapay emphasizes FLO software and culture but does no curation or enforcement. They accept donations from anyone for anyone but insist that all donations be pure gifts with no special rewards or strings attached. Although recipients are individuals, they have an optional “teams” function where donations to a group get routed alternately to different team members so that, over time, the group donations are distributed to team members by some formula.
BountySource Salt: simple monthly donations run alongside their bounty system.
Open Collective goes beyond just donations by having an integrated accounting system for tracking how funds are used and which members withing a group get funded for what. They emphasize showing the accounting transparently for patrons. After setting up a group to receive donations, members of the group submit requests for funds from the group account. Open Collective helps manage the whole process. They currently also provide fiscal sponsorship (serving as a legal entity for a group) for FLO software projects and work with other fiscal sponsors for other types of groups (which can be any sort even groups that don’t publish anything like a local social club or anything else that is not a for-profit business).
Tidelift focuses on enterprise (businesses and NGOs) funding the upstream FLO software they depend on. Using libraries.io, they propose to make complex determinations about dependencies and appropriately distribute each enterprise’s donations to those projects they utilize most. They do not focus on end-user software for the general public.
Seed&Dew plans a strange algorithmic model. Donors give the system $10/month, software projects get listed, somehow the time donors spend (on documentation?) per project is tracked, and the money (after the 30% cut) allocated proportionally to that.
GitFund from Espians (a FLO-focused idealistic organization) is simple monthly patronage with an emphasis on public marketing of sponsors. They emphasize institutional sponsorships while allowing individual patrons as well. Projects set a limited number of high-value sponsorship slots and boldly advertise their sponsors. In essence, this is just the most traditional form of advertising: static reference to generous sponsors put in prominent places in a project’s public image. Although all-FLO in its own code, GitFund emphasizes integration with GitHub (which is a proprietary platform). Like Snowdrift.coop and Liberapay, GitFund aims to use its own mechanism for self-funding rather than take a cut from other projects.
Rocket Fuel: British music-focused site provides a small set of fixed subscription levels with strong emphasis on perks. One-time donations also included. Also provides an online store selling merchandise for artists. They present goals as “missions” that look like threshold campaigns but just represent funding milestones and have no deadline or threshold.
Ratafire: A no-fee (aside from payment processor fees) site that emphasizes patronage of creative artists and researchers. Ratafire is simple unilateral donations with a range of monthly donation levels from $2 to $100. Ratafire requires log-in with Facebook (and may automatically link or make a Facebook artist page) and seems to specifically require that all posted work to the project be CC BY-NC-SA, no option for projects to use any FLO license.
Donorbox: A simple site/service where projects can specify amounts as either one-time or recurring donation, emphasizing what value the different donation amounts will have for the projects. Payment is with Stripe or Paypal. Emphasizes the ability for projects to set up their own branding, so Donorbox stays mostly out of the way. For those able to handle self-hosting, we recommend options like Fosspay instead (listed below under self-host) for being fully FLO.
Memberful is a lot like Donorbox: a simple form, integrated with your website. They provide Stripe-integrated membership subscription management for a relatively high price. Their service aims for and emphasizes offering making some things exclusive access to members, but that’s not required.
MoonClerk is also similar to Donorbox. It’s a simple front-end to Stripe that just provides UI, billing, and other features to let anyone accept payments through Stripe.
Google Contributor is an explicit version of the annoy-you-until-you-pay model we describe at our existing funding mechanisms page. Participating sites must all show Google ads normally, and contributors who sponsor the site at $1 to $3 monthly get to see little thank you messages where the ads would have been. Because participation in contributor requires sites to be showing ads otherwise, Google Contributor really encourages the use of advertising, and Google ads specifically. Instead of paying off sites that annoy us, we recommend all internet users run the free uBlock plugin to block ads on all websites. Then, use other services (like Snowdrift.coop) to support creative projects, favoring those who do the honorable thing by forgoing ads in the first place.
Autotip is a browser plugin that sets up automatic micropayments of Bitcoin to participating websites for each time someone visits the site.
GameWisp is specifically for Twitch and Mixer video-game streaming channels. Since live streaming itself uses bandwidth and isn’t non-rivalrous, this is tangential to FLO issues. The copyright issues around game streaming are also complex. But in principle, it’s possible for FLO public goods to be produced by or in conjunction with these streaming services. Gamewisep allows subscribers six donation tiers to choose from and charges $1 to $6 fees depending on the tier.
Maecen is a Danish platform run by a co-op entity. At the time of this writing, they claim to be “Open Source” but only offer that people can inquire by email about participating, no public source or clarification about terms. They charge effectively nothing, planning to take a tiny 1 kroner flat fee per project regardless of number of patrons. They emphasize exclusive content as a paywall-service similar to Patreon.
Snowdrift.coop’s thoughts on subscriptions
Of course, in our biased judgment, Snowdrift.coop is the best subscription site for all the many reasons described throughout our writings. As a non-profit cooperative with our focus on FLO projects, we emphasize aligning every decision with the public interest. Beyond only the relationship between each patron and the projects they support, we emphasize the network of relationships between everyone in a project’s community and help patrons coordinate their support to achieve a greater impact. We have a separate page further enumerating the advantages Snowdrift.coop offers over other platforms.
Patreon deserves a note as the most robust and successful in the subscription field with a more traditional business model and venture capital funding. Several FLO projects have used Patreon successfully, but the site and the majority of the projects remain fully proprietary. Of course, using Patreon makes it easiest to reach donors who already use it for other projects.
Flattr is interesting (and is a pivot from an earlier tipping-focused manual-click approach) but prioritizes attention over real value (though white-listing helps avoid funding the most low-value engagement). Flattr’s monthly pot is a classic zero-sum situation, so it has little prospect to actually grow the economy for creative works.
Of the other sites, Open Collective, LiberaPay, BountySource Salt, and GitFund are the closest and most philosophically aligned with us. Like Snowdrift.coop, they are FLO and focus on (though most do not require) FLO projects. However, their unilateral donations do not provide a new funding model. The fundamental issues facing the FLO economy (particularly the snowdrift dilemma) are not addressed by these systems.
Donations with no recurring pledge or assurance contract can use a simple “donate” button on their website. They may still define goals and perks and run special promotions. Yet many platforms are available for running special one-time fund-drives even though they work just like any “donate” button given the lack of a real threshold. These crowdfunding sites have value mainly from administration tools and marketing features.
As noted in the “threshold” section, many sites with flexible campaign goals charge higher fees if goals are set but not achieved.
|Go Fund Me||5%||art, commerce, cause||optional|
|CoopFunding||0%||co-op, public good projects||none||✔|
|RocketHub||4% / 8%||art, commerce, cause||required|
|Crowdera||0%||education and social-focused non-profit projects||optional||*|
|Pledgie||3%||art, commerce, cause||none|
|Benevolent||10.75% flat||personal but verified by non-profit||none|
|We Did It||5%||Non-Profit||optional|
|Give A Little||0%||New Zealand causes, projects||optional||✔|
|Facebook Donations||4% or 2%||personal causes, non-profits|
CoopFunding: Site based in Spain that requires projects to be cooperatively-run and serve the public good. Given no real threshold, there’s no need for assurance of payment from everyone, so, uniquely, CoopFunding offers remarkably flexible payment methods beyond regular credit card processing including just collecting funds in cash in person among several other options. As of May 2016, the FLO status of the site is unclear, but they reference “copyleft” in the footer.
Supportly: Well-designed collective action site that allows for crowdfunding, petitions, events, in-kind donations, etc.
Pledgie: Requires user-submitted content to be licensed as CC-BY, but the site’s own code and content is still proprietary. Mainly good for low fee and simplicity.
Crowdgift.ca (previously Dana.io from a Buddhist term for freedom and generosity) supports “microphilanthropy” with the premise that all projects should do good for the community, environment, education, or innovation. They accept donations themselves and take no fee whatever. They don’t appear to be legally non-profit but pledge that 100% of their revenue will go toward improving the site. They seem to actually charge fees but they use past fee/tips to cover new ones, and maybe it’s effectively possible for some campaigns to pay no fee themselves. Unfortunately, at this time, they seem oblivious to FLO issues.
Facebook Donations started as a way to set up campaigns with goals for 501(c)(3) non-profits where Facebook takes 2% fee (plus processing fee). In 2017, they announced the addition of fundraising for personal causes like education or medical expenses, for which they take a 4% (plus processing) fee. Being Facebook, anything there inherently means tying it more to personal records compared with using any platform (but then, unfortunately, these days people commonly promote all other campaigns on Facebook anyway, although that at least allows non-Facebook users to participate).
Snowdrift.coop’s thoughts on traditional donations
There are many ways to solicit traditional donations. Instead of using a formal platform, you can just work directly with a payment processor and add a donate button to your site. Better yet, encouraging prospective donors to take advantage of the matching funds from the Snowdrift mechanism to make a greater impact. We can still work alongside traditional donation, but we encourage everyone to instead take advantage of the network effect that our matching system offers.
Subset of donation sites based on “appreciation” or “attention” gifting. Some sites do one-time tips and others are subscription-style. Because they emphasize the “gift” framework for donation, tipping sites help to work against the trend of putting a price on everything. Tipping is generally friendly and open-ended but has no mutual assurance or any other incentives to donors aside from being nice. It’s really nothing more than small traditional donations.
|Buy Me A Coffee||5%||anything|
|Tip4Commit||5%||programmers||per update||FLO site, FLOSS projects|
|BitHub||tips||programmers||per update||FLO site, FLOSS projects|
|ChangeTip||1% for deposits or withdrawals||users of social websites|
Ko-Fi (a homonym for coffee) offers a lot of the promotional and social benefits of a dedicated platform that highlights recipients and has aspects of other categories like stating “goals”. But in the end, it is just a nice, no-charge front-end for Paypal donations.
Buy Me A Coffee is a basic one-time payment site with some emphasis on building a paywall service and selling one-time access (or hiring a creator for a new work).
NoiseTrade: Allows musicians to post tracks for free download in exchange for emails and ZIP codes from users, and also asks users to tip the artists. The site takes an unusually high 20% of all tips (even though the site also has ad revenue). No FLO focus and no recognition of Creative Commons licenses. Tracks must be in the proprietary MP3 format but are all DRM-free.
Tip4Commit: Very simple FLO system to donate Bitcoins to software developers for every commit they make to FLOSS projects. Currently works only with GitHub. The system is run by the same people as the advertising business (Anonymous Ads) that places non-tracking ads and pays only in Bitcoins. They seem motivated by Bitcoin promotion as much as by supporting FLOSS. Sponsors deposit Bitcoins to an overall per-project pot (as opposed to a per-sponsor account); each commit to a project gets 1% of the pot (so the pot can never run out, but tips diminish proportionally until new deposits come in). This odd system means that tips vary primarily by whether or not a commit occurred just after a deposit. Although this presents a clear quantity-over-quality problem (just splitting each update into several commits will claim more of the funds), new deposits to the pot could be done sooner versus later depending on how the donors feel about the progress overall. The same developers also run Coin Giving which is a simple system for publicly acknowledging and promoting donations in Bitcoin to all types of projects.
BitHub is some software that works almost identically to Tip4Commit except with a system-wide pot for tips instead of per-project. This means the same problems like quantity-over-quality and requiring projects to use GitHub. (Note: BitHub.com is something totally unrelated that was for a while a points and swag reward system for FLO volunteering but is now some sort of social media aggregator.)
ChangeTip does Bitcoin tipping and currently requires users to be registered through centralized web platforms (Reddit being the only FLO option). They charge no fee for tipping, only for funds coming in or out of the system. Unlike many other Bitcoin-focused sites, they show little emphasis on respecting user privacy.
Coinbase offers their own tip button now which makes it easy for anyone to accept Bitcoin tips.
Pling appears to be just a promotional site where FLO projects (their criteria for FLO hasn’t yet been determined that we can tell) get listed along with a plain old donation button. They take no fee.
Snowdrift.coop’s thoughts on tipping
Special tipping services are largely just traditional donation with minor tweaks.
We started Snowdrift.coop because we saw inadequacies with plain tipping and other unilateral donations. Beyond social encouragement, our matching system actually amplifies the impact of each patron and provides better accountability. All the patrons on Snowdrift.coop serve as an invitation to the outside world to come join us and make a real difference.
Although most tipping sites rarely provide substantial income (most, if not all, of the sites listed above have provided only negligible funding), they can still work as a symbolic “thank you”. If there is demand for it, we may eventually add our own one-time tip function on top of the basic ongoing pledge (and decisions about things like that will be up to the community given our cooperative governance!).
Bounties are the reverse of the other funding approaches. Rather than the project expressing what they want to do and asking for funding for it, donors put a money offer behind their requests and seek people to achieve the goal.
Bounties become crowdfunding by allowing multiple people to contribute to a bounty listing and can be loosely threshold-like as several people add their pledge to a bounty until it reaches a level that makes it worthwhile for someone to claim it.
Bounties may face various problems with coordination and disagreements. What if multiple developers want to claim a bounty? How do we validate an accurate claim? We have compiled a long history of failed bounty sites with further discussion. Here, we list only the (at least somewhat) active platforms where various projects can post bounties.
|Bountysource||10% flat||up to 1 year||FLO software||FLO site and FLO projects||sponsors pick 1 developer|
|Freedom Sponsors||3% paid by sponsors||open, but encouraged to set one||FLO software||AGPL||sponsors agree on division|
|GitCoin||?||?||FLO software||✔||project accepts git merge|
|Bountify||99¢ + 14-20%||1 week||small programming tasks or questions||poster decides|
|Hacker One||free for FLO software projects||n/a||security bug discovery|
|Big Leap||5%||open||social problems||adjudicated|
Bountysource offers software bounties as well as a threshold campaign option and a sustaining subscription donation feature. Although they originally had a proprietary backend, Bountysource released their full site code in 2015. They have (or had?) some corporate backing and connections to various corporate (typically proprietary) companies. With that backing and effective marketing, BountySource has become probably the only bounty site in a long history of failed sites to have any truly substantial success. They also offer a threshold “fundraiser” option and a subscription donation system called “Salt” (see the subscription section).
Freedom Sponsors is an honorable site that avoids third-party trackers and shows consistent dedication to Free/Libre/Open ideals. While not formally non-profit, fees are low and based on hosting and processing costs. Based in Brazil, they offer English, Spanish, and some other international support. Sponsors can divide bounties to settle developer disputes. Issues can be suggested without first placing bounties. They offer integration options for GitHub, JIRA, Bugzilla, and Trac; and can include links to any other external ticket system. The minor downsides include their focus on logging-in through various proprietary sites (although they also offer their own private log-in option) and the integration with Paypal that requires a Paypal verified account in order to send or receive funds.
GitCoin is an Etherium (cryptocurrency) based bounty approach focused on GitHub projects. The system itself is AGPL, but no clarity (as of this writing) on whether they will actively weed-out non-FLO projects (as long as the project is on GitHub). The payment to contributors is tied to the acceptance of a pull-request on GitHub.
Bountify focuses not on bugs or fixes that end-users want but on programmers asking other programmers for help. Tasks should be clearly defined with verifiable solutions. This approach accepts the idea of multiple offers of solutions and picking a particular winner. With the focus on this really clear tiny bits, this approach fits the bounty concept better than most. Bounties have only one week to be claimed or else the funds are donated to a charity. Extra tipping functionality is also available to tip any of those who offered solutions to a bounty. Mainly in regular currency with Paypal, they also accept Bitcoin.7
Hacker One offers a suite of hosted, proprietary tools for handling security problems. Among their tools, they have a bounty system for offering bounties to hackers who report security bugs. They offer no-charge use of their hosted software to FLO projects.
Big Leap: A seemingly inactive, unsuccessful site hosting bounties for solving social problems like providing educational games to children. Notable as the only bounty site we found outside of software focus.
Snowdrift.coop’s thoughts on bounties
At Snowdrift.coop, instead of formal bounties, we simply reference work needed and encourage patrons to provide feedback and requests and for projects to consider patrons’ input. Our integrate ticketing offers the easiest way for project teams to see which features patrons want most. Thus, instead of funding tied strictly to specific features, developers have flexibility and autonomy yet remain accountable to patrons (who will more likely continue their support when their requests get addressed).
Strict bounties present numerous problems from practical struggles to issues with trying to price everything. A bounty may even sabotage a feature in cases where all the active volunteers happen to not need the money, so they decide to avoid the bountied issue so others may claim it. In a many ways, bounties are the wrong direction for FLO. The concept has been around for many years and has never had much success.
If a project wants to do bounties despite the issues, BountySource makes the most sense as it is the most active platform. However, we also endorse FreedomSponsors.org for their high level of FLO dedication.
Custom work / Freelance
Although not really “crowdfunding”, FLO public goods can be funded by getting a client to pay for custom work which is then freely released. Many platforms provide a marketplace to bring together freelancers and clients. We have not thoroughly reviewed that space, but we’ve reviewed some of the options.
Snowdrift.coop’s thoughts on freelance platforms
Commiss does better than Fiverr at clearly showing something about licensing. We’d love to see those or other sites embrace FLO terms fully. There’s room for freelancing to specifically promote the idea that you get custom work done both for the result and as part of funding FLO public goods.
Overall, freelancing won’t directly fund the core work on most FLO projects and will only be an option for some projects that can find appropriate clients for custom work. However, it can work well alongside other funding sources.
Ransoms involve donations, (pre-)sales, or pledges which must reach an “acceptable” revenue level before a proprietary work is then released under a FLO license. This ransoming fails to respect essential FLO issues both of both freedom and of open development. We’ve written elsewhere about failed and successful ransoms for FLOSS and the problems inherent in the mechanism.
Threshold campaigns (see above) are the typical option for collecting ransom funds. Otherwise, artists or developers may simply announce that when they get enough donations, they’ll free their work. The details vary regarding time-frame, ransom amount, and extent of freeing. The following sites focus specifically on ransom campaigns:
|Unglue.It||6% campaign, 25% sales||Books||allows any CC license, including NC and ND|
|Fund I/O||under development||Media, Software||“Open licenses”|
Fund I/O: A proposed but never implemented concept involving an initial pledge drive to set a minimum pre-sale price that will achieve a funding threshold, followed by a decreasing-price sale period that generates refunds for earlier buyers along with profits for developers before potentially (no guarantee) reaching the “open release” threshold. Fund I/O emphasizes the calculated incentive system while the FLO focus is a minimal after-thought. Effectively, it is a structured system for open-source-eventually.
Snowdrift.coop’s thoughts on ransoms
At Snowdrift.coop, we are considering a feature to let projects get tentative pledges before actually starting to receive funds; that way, projects may acquire a certain level of support before releasing fully FLO. Unlike ransom, our system allows funds to go through only after the work is already FLO; and funds are monthly patronage for ongoing work rather than all-at-once ransom for past work. We do not want to reward projects for initially releasing under proprietary terms. That said, we support efforts to help projects transition from proprietary to FLO terms.
Other funding approaches
The following don’t really fit any traditional category but are in the funding space applicable to public goods projects.
Basic Attention Token: A complex ecosystem built on Ethereum and blockchain where advertisers reward web users for their attention to ads and then the users distribute the tokens to publishers. Attention is monitored locally via the Brave web browser which also blocks ads that aren’t part of their system. Of course there are many reasons for skepticism about all the implementation details. Overall, embracing the attention economy this way does little to address its problems (although they claim to somehow measure real quality engagement so it’s not rewarding clickbait etc).
Fund Club: Each month, the club selects a project connected to marginalized people in tech, and club members commit to donate $100. To stay a member in good standing, donors must consistently go along with the club’s selection. While the focus isn’t strictly FLO, the club’s community has a FLO lean. Compared with Snowdrift.coop, this approach is prescriptive, top-down, inflexible, and unlikely to scale substantially; but Fund Club acknowledges many of the core ideas that drive Snowdrift.coop: importance of positive social pressure, collective action, consensus around projects, and curation of deserving ethical projects. In some ways, Fund Club is just an extension of traditional charity foundations with less formality and no formal incorporation.
Solid Fund is overall the same model as Fund Club but with emphasis on co-ops (especially worker co-ops) and democracy. Also, Solid Fund allows donors to set their monthly donation (with a low minimum) instead of a prescribed set donation level.
FLO Hosting Options
Several FLO options exist for hosting your own crowdfunding campaign or even a multi-project crowdfunding platform:
- ITPrism Crowdfunding is a robust Joomla plugin licensed under the GPL (see code at GitHub) and seems to have a robust feature set including support for lots of payment options.
Drupal Crowdfunding offers a suite of related tools for use with any Drupal site. Many other fundraising-related Drupal modules are available as well.
- LibrePatron is a Bitcoin/cryptocurrency tool designed for sustaining donations. It uses BitPay for payment processing.
- Fosspay is a simple platform-independent website widget to facilitate one-time or monthly donations via Stripe. Set up requires a secure web server and basic skills managing web server tools.
- The one crowdfunding plugin for Wordpress that we know is FLO itself is wp-crowdfunding.
- The now closed site Tilt Open was built with Rails framework (forked from older project called SelfStarter) and has source at GitHub which could be used for self-hosting. Although primarily a threshold system, it can be adapted in many ways. It includes features such as full admin controls, a subscription option for ongoing donations, and more. Tilt Open used Balanced Payments originally, and that shut down in 2015, so this requires adapting to another payment processor (Stripe is the service that Tilt moved to before Tilt themselves shut down).
- Make Your Own Crowdfunding Site is designed as a tutorial for Node.js but could work as a resource for setting up a hosted threshold campaign. Unfortunately, it was set up with Balanced Payments, which shut down in 2015, so using this requires adapting to another payment processor.
- CiviCRM is a full contacts management system for non-profit and similar organizations, and it includes fundraising campaign features. It runs on top of either Drupal, Joomla, or Wordpress. It requires substantial setup but goes far beyond just a simple fundraising system.
- Simple webpage plus basic payment service — for doing traditional fundraising without a hard threshold, one option is to simply explain the goals and levels on a regular web page along with a donation button linked to a payment service like Stripe or Paypal. The page can even be manually updated to show progress, thus requiring no fancy platform.
- Adapt any of the fully FLOSS sites from our listings above: Goteo, Catarse, Freedom Sponsors, Liberapay, GitFund, Open Collective (which is design to be self-hostable, unlike the others).
- There are also some defunct sites that were never designed specifically for self-hosting but have code available (unclear about reliability or quality): Gratipay, Bounty Funding, Spot.us, Beex, Fundry, and Elveos.
Lighthouse (also this Lighthouse fork) was an excellently-named Bitcoin threshold tool. It was designed to be a reliable contract where the payments only went through when the threshold was reached. It seems to have had conflicts with changes to Bitcoin and/or just be no longer maintained.
Proprietary self-host / whitelabel platforms
We do not recommend these proprietary platforms (and so do not link directly). The services below are among the main parties responsible for the bloat of redundant crowdfunding sites. While the gold-rush is driven by the prospectors (the projects) and the shovel-sellers (the sites), these are the shovel-makers. This list is here for reference to explain the source of the clutter of cookie-cutter sites out there.
Hybrid Funding (was at hybrid-funding.com, seems gone now) had answered the question “isn’t this market overcrowded already?” with “many people haven’t heard of crowdfunding yet”. Obviously, that logic is faulty, and existing sites could easily handle additional traffic. More sites is not what the market demands, but more sites certainly serves the interests of businesses like Hyrbid Funding.
They offered a wide range of modules. Combining all these with hosting, the cost to get a working feature-filled site from them added up to $5000 or more, and the license only lasted a year. Still, an impressive compilation of features was offered:
- campaign types
- traditional donation
- all-or-nothing threshold
- keep-it-all flexible
- equity investing
- peer-to-peer lending
- fund-a-feature and feature requests
- ransom for private work-area files
- labor-on-demand job postings connected to projects
- crowd knowledge / polling / voting
- collaboration / discussion tools
- blog / forum / newsletter features
- categorization / admin panel etc. etc.
- campaign types
- CrowdFund HQ (https://crowdfundhq.com/): some interesting sites use this platform such as WeTheTrees which is dedicated to permaculture and environmental causes.
- Katipult (https://www.katipult.com/): robust and attractive software offers a SaaS option for $1500 monthly or you can get a quote for buying a license to the software.
- Launcht (http://www.launcht.com): tries to appeal to institutions, especially universities, but not as robust as other sites. Organized as a Benefit Corp.
- FundraisingScript (http://fundraisingscript.com/): has specific proprietary clone modules called “Kickstarter Clone”, “Indiegogo Clone”, “GoFundMe Clone”. Also offers “clone” versions of non-crowdfunding sites like Pinterest or Eventbrite. Agriya (https://www.agriya.com/products/kickstarter-clone) also has a Kickstarter clone
- CrowdFund Magic (http://www.crowdfundmagic.com/) yet another whitelabel with a flashy homepage
- CauseVox (https://www.causevox.com) is yet another general fundraising service
- Proprietary WordPress plugins: Ignition Deck (https://ignitiondeck.com), Fundraising (https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/fundraising/) (note that we mention a FLO Wordpress plugin above under self-hosted options)
- FundraisingBox (https://www.fundraisingbox.com/): German platform.
- Thrinacia (https://www.thrinacia.com/) was initially started as a whitelabel GPL project for crowdfunding, failed to get funding, and decided to pursue a proprietary direction having only a FLO front-end and otherwise is just another proprietary whitelabel crowdfunding thing.
- CrowdEngine (https://crowdengine.com/): yet another whitelabel expensive service
- NCrypted (https://www.ncrypted.net/) is a poorly-designed (bulky and overwhelming looking) site that advertises “clone” websites including Kickstarter, IndieGogo, generic “crowdfunding” and a bunch of unrelated things. Known to post spam other sites (we got a trashy spam posting from them here at Snowdrift.coop).
“Support me by watching these ads” is really just a more explicit version of all ad-based monetization of people’s attention. Interestingly, making it so bold seems more offensive and absurd, but it really isn’t much change. The common advertising schemes really are just as objectionable, and this framing helps highlight that.↩
We have used our best judgment about including or excluding sites of questionable notability. Sites that never gain much traction may be included if their model is notably unique. We may omit sites that function on the margins but are effectively just low-quality clones of well-known sites with nothing of interest to us. For examples of the latter, MakerSupport and Hatreon are the more mentionable (but not worth including at this time) of a class of small fundraising sites dominated by right-wing free-speech fundamentalists who do not feel welcome at mainstream sites. If they became significant enough, we might add them to our listing. However, we will not list similar sites that fund legally and ethically questionable activities like doxxing of political enemies or other vigilante-style journalism.↩
Of course, setting a very low primary goal (one you are practically guaranteed to meet) for an all-or-nothing campaign along with a higher stretch goal achieves the same basic effect as a keep-it-all traditional campaign. The only difference is when and whether the campaign gets marked as successful.↩
In our view, the requirements of a Benefit Corporation should be the case for all for-profit entities. It is plainly unethical to have anything less than a clear dedication to have an overall positive impact on the world. However, because the legal status is so new, we do not shame traditional corporations over not having a Benefit Corporation legal status. Still, it’s a shame that this bare minimum stands out as notable in our society today.↩
Open Collective software is designed to be self-hostable, but for having them host, they charge 5% fee for the software hosting and 5% fee for fiscal sponsorship.↩
Patreon’s emphasis on putting restrictions and paywalls on otherwise non-rivalrous works is highlighted by the way they frame concerns around the site. In a blog post about a proposed fee structure, they describe “charge up-front [as] the most creator-requested feature over the last 2 years…” and say that “if you’re a creator on the monthly plan without the benefit of charge up front, you are constantly worried that your patrons are going to delete their pledges before they’ve paid”.
Why would that be a worry? If patrons mean to support you, why would they delete their pledges?? Is the idea that patrons sign up mostly impulsively and you want at least one donation before they change their mind?? If patrons want to delete their pledges, doesn’t that mean they don’t actually want to donate and that should be respected??
Well, Patreon is not about simply donating to support public goods. It’s mostly used as a freemium model. Creators publish some works openly at no charge (but still usually with restrictive All Rights Reserved terms) and put other works behind a paywall (sometimes temporarily, i.e. “early access”, sometimes permanently). The assumption is that many or most patrons sign up not in order to just donate but specifically to pay the price to access the perks. Without an immediate charge, a freerider could sign up, get access (watch, read, download, etc), and then cancel before the charge date (and could do it all again later to access any new works).
This freeriding would not be a problem for rivalrous perks like getting custom requests honored or similar. It would be easy enough to just not give out those perks until after a new patron actually pays at the first of the month (or even limit certain rivalrous perks to patrons who have stayed on for some number of months). Nobody expects instant access to those sorts of rivalrous perks anyway. If all the non-rivalrous works were released as true public goods, the worries around charge-upfront wouldn’t exist, and Patreon wouldn’t have felt the need to propose their controversial fee change in the first place.