Many people start new websites with little consideration for what’s already out there. Thus, we get huge numbers of mediocre, redundant sites. Well, we did our due diligence in researching the existing market. We can confidently say that no other site else works like Snowdrift.coop where each patron’s input is reinforced by everyone else. We can also share our research.
In discussing the overall market, we most want to emphasize our distinctions and encourage people to join us to help realize our vision. However, we also want to guide people to the better options among other sites (especially when they serve a different niche or function) and to discourage people from adding still further fragmentation and redundancy.
Our background research
The largest of many directories of crowdfunding sites is crowdsourcing.org/directory. Filtering to only donation-style crowdfunding they still list over 500 sites (and that was back in 2013 when we went through it all). We have reviewed all these as well as many others they missed. As we focus on the issues facing Free/Libre/Open (FLO) works, we ignored the equity and loan crowdfunding as largely irrelevant to us.
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 up-to-date. The bulk of our research took place in fall 2013. We have updated as new items come to our attention, but we have not done further systematic review.
Issues with most sites
The most known sites 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).2
|Indiegogo||5%||art, commerce, cause||required|
|Tilt||0% / 2.5%||personal, cause||none|
|Tilt Open||0% / 2.5%||anything||optional||MIT-licensed platform|
|Goteo||8%||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||GPL site frontend only, FLO projects|
|Drupal Fund||7.5%||Drupal projects||Projects only|
|Crowdfunder||5%||art, commerce, cause||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|
|Openfire||unlisted||“long-term social value”||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|
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.3
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.
Tilt Open includes many features and offers many other options besides threshold campaigns (so it fits many of the categories here). The basic hosting for Tilt Open has no fee aside from payment processing. For a 2.5% fee, they offer some additional services. Tilt itself (not the Tilt Open part) is a somewhat distinct service which charges no fee for collecting money, but 2.5% fee for “fundraising” and emphasizes mostly private / personal campaigns of no more than a few hundred dollars with a 30-day maximum deadline.
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, and Tilt Open is notable for being itself FLO, robust, the most flexible, and the lowest cost.
Bounties involve a price placed on a new feature or bug fix as a reward for whoever solves the issue. This mechanism seems common only for software projects. Fees apply only when a bounty is claimed. Bounties can be loosely threshold-like when several people add their pledge to a bounty until it reaches a critical 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; we only include the most recently active here.
|Freedom Sponsors||3% paid by sponsors||open, but encouraged to set one||FLO software||AGPL||sponsors agree on division|
|Bountysource||10% flat||up to 1 year||FLO software||GPL site frontend only, FLO projects||sponsors pick 1 developer|
|Bountify||99¢ + 14-20%||1 week||small programming tasks or questions||poster decides|
|Open Funding||5%||open-ended||FLO software||donor validation|
|Big Leap||5%||open||social problems||adjudicated|
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.
Bountysource offers software bounties as well as a threshold campaign option and a sustaining subscription donation feature. Only the frontend of the site is FLOSS, the backend is proprietary. Bountysource has some corporate backing and connections to various corporate (and often proprietary) companies. They have marketed more successfully and thus gained more attention than other bounty sites. They also offer a threshold “fundraiser” option and a subscription donation system called “Salt” (see the subscription section).
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.4
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, we endorse FreedomSponsors.org for their FLO dedication. Bounty Funding also seems honorable, and while we don’t feel that they add notable value, they are a reasonable option for projects already using supported bug trackers. Although we don’t endorse BountySource, there’s clear value in going with the most popular site. We would endorse BountySource if they released their backend under FLO terms.
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.
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|
|Gratipay||0%||any ongoing project||weekly||none||Public Domain site||*|
|Liberapay||0%||anything||weekly||none||public domain site||✔|
|Bountysource Salt||10% flat||FLO software||monthly||none||GPL site frontend only, FLO projects|
|Ratafire||0%||creative projects / research||monthly||none|
|Donor Box||$15 flat per month if over $1,000 total donations||anything||one-time or monthly||none|
|Google Contributor||?||websites||monthly||ads replaced by thank-you message|
|Autotip||0%||websites||auto, per-visit||none||MIT-licensed plugin|
|TubeStart||5%||YouTube Channels||monthly, per-release (in beta)||required|
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 particularly popular creative artists. The core concept combines subscription with elements of bounty and tipping systems by making payment contingent on release of content. For example, a patron sets a donation amount per video or per blog post. Patrons can set an optional per-project maximum monthly cap. Patreon also offers a simple per-month option. The projects/artists choose whether to have release-based or monthly or both, while the patrons set the amounts. The per-release approach naturally creates issues with defining a qualifying release and emphasizes quantity over quality. Of course, as with any sustainable system, a level of accountability is built-in. Projects that release high quantity of mediocre works will lose patrons. Still, some amount of quantity over quality is inevitable in this arrangement. The emphasis on perks encourages proprietary restrictions, although the perks can include simple acknowledgment or rivalrous perks like time with the project team or physical merchandise. If using Patreon, we urge projects to use only FLO licenses (such as CC0, CC-BY, CC-BY-SA), and we urge patrons to only support FLO projects.
Tipeee is a French clone of Patreon with nearly identical policies, options, and issues.
Gratipay (formerly Gittip) defines itself as an “Open Company” — fully transparent and where site developers are paid through the system via donations in the same manner as other projects that use the service. Incorporated as an LLC, but mission-driven rather than profit-driven, Gratipay’s envisions an ethically-focused gift economy: people do good in the world, others give them gifts, no strings attached. System-wide giving and receiving totals are public, but individual donation amounts are not. Originally, Gratipay funded anyone for anything while holding funds in escrow. In the U.S., this model could have been determined an illegal money transmitter. When Gratipay’s payment processor shut down, no other service was willing to accept their model. So, with assistance of legal counsel, Gratipay switched to charging in arrears and limiting to a more curated set of projects that all meet some criteria. They now have an informal “open source” emphasis but an application process for projects with no prominent specification about requirements. They effectively just operate a platform for projects to be listed and donors to subscribe to weekly donations.
Liberapay started as a fork of Gratipay. Liberapay brings back Gratipay’s older donations-for-anything approach (as long as pure donations, not receiving any reward or exchange) and holding funds in escrow. Liberapay avoids the U.S. legal issues as a non-profit registered in France while using MangoPay (out of Luxembourg) for processing. In the end, their model remains simply traditional donations on a recurring membership model and is most notable for the minimal fees.
BountySource Salt: simple monthly donations run alongside their bounty system.
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.
Donor Box: A simple site 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 Donor Box 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.
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.
Contributoria: Writers (primarily journalists) propose items, get voted on by paid members of the system who have points alloted to them. If enough votes support a proposal, then it gets written using collaborative tools that encourage feedback, editing, and high quality. Finished writings are then published and writers get some of the system-wide funding pool from membership fees proportional to their votes in some way. The final published works are licensed CC-BY-NC (which is shareable but causes compatibility problems and other issues, see why NC is not FLO).
TubeStart focuses specifically YouTube channels and offers threshold and one-time options as well. See Patreon comments above for potential problems with TubeStart’s per-release pledge option.
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 strongly marketed 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 the other sites, Gratipay and LiberaPay are the closest and most philosophically aligned. Like Snowdrift.coop, they are FLO, focus on FLO projects, take no fee, and emphasize ethical and honorable ideals. However, their unilateral regular donations are not a new funding model. The fundamental issues facing the FLO economy, particularly the snowdrift dilemma, are not answered by systems which lack mutual assurance. Also, whereas Snowdrift.coop emphasizes a FLO overall ecosystem, Gratipay relies on third-party proprietary services for their communication (e.g. Google Hangouts, ticketing and code work (GitHub), translation (Transifex), blogging (Medium), and so on. The site login requires the use of third-party log-ins with emphasis on the proprietary sites Twitter, GitHub, and Bitbucket (although they include log-in through the FLO project OpenStreetMap). Of course, most sites have a far longer list of problems, so at least Gratipay makes some effort to respect FLO values, especially in their core platform itself.
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||*|
|Raise5||8%||Non-profit||freelance services for charitable donations|
|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.
|YouTube Fan Funding||flat 5% + 21¢||YouTube videos|
|Tip the Web||tips||online content|
|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|
Flattr: Allocates payments out of a budget based on proportion of “flattrs” (appreciation clicks associated with a creator’s content) granted during the month. Documentation explicitly encourages use of proprietary platforms with Flattr integration and quantity over quality to maximize clicks. On the plus side, Flattr waives fees for select non-profit organizations including the Software Freedom Conservancy. In 2016, Flattr announced a partnership with Adblock Plus called FlattrPlus which aims to apply the Flattr model via an algorithm that tracks users’ engagement with websites so that manual clicking to support is no longer required.
YouTube Fan Funding is Google’s official donation feature for YouTube. Donors must use Google Wallet, and recipients must have enabled monetization partnership and AdSense.
Tip the Web: Similar to Flattr, but allocated as one-time payments, not from a budget.
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!).
Other forms of crowdsourcing
The web can help organize many other types of collective action beyond monetary donations. As a cooperative, we try to encourage positive collaboration wherever possible. Listed below are notable sites for other types of crowdsourcing, with our recommendations indicated.
I Love Open Source: Provides a link that can be added to code readme files and other places. The link goes to a page where FLO projects can add acknowledgement of other FLO projects they use or like and also provide links to how to donate via third-party donation platforms. Thus, I Love Open Source isn’t a donation system themselves but only facilitates, promotes, and organizes recognition and donations.
Kiva Zip: New entrepreneurial crowdlending site from Kiva, a well-known developing-world microfinance organization. Kiva Zip loans are not processed through other institutions like regular Kiva loans but do require a trustee to vouch for the borrower. Helpful when needing startup or expansion capital where a crowdfunding campaign is not ideal and where loans could be helpful.
Sponsor Change: In return for student loan payments, young college graduates provide volunteer labor to 501(c)(3) nonprofits.
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.
FLO Hosting Options
Several FLO options exist for hosting your own crowdfunding campaign or even a multi-project crowdfunding platform:
- Tilt Open (built with Rails framework, forked from older project called SelfStarter) — Tilt offers hosting service (mentioned in listings above) but get the source from GitHub to self-host. Although primarily a threshold system, it can be adapted however one wants. It includes many features such as full admin controls and a subscription option for ongoing donations. Tilt Open used Balanced Payments originally, and that shut down in 2015, so this requires adapting to another payment processor.
- 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.
- Lighthouse (built with Java) is a Bitcoin-based crowdfunding application that anyone can use to collect many pledges of support that will go through once the total reaches a specified threshold goal.
- 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.
- Wordpress options: There are many Wordpress plugins that support simple traditional donations, but we know of no formal crowdfunding campaign plugins that are clearly FLO.
- 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. 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, Bounty Funding, and Gratipay). There are also some defunct sites that have their code available (but unclear about reliability or quality): Spot.us (which is still live but effectively inactive), Beex, Fundry, and Elveos.
Proprietary self-host / whitelabel platforms
We do not recommend these proprietary platforms. 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: some interesting sites use this platform such as WeTheTrees which is dedicated to permaculture and environmental causes.
- Katipult: 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: tries to appeal to institutions, especially universities, but not as robust as other sites. Organized as a Benefit Corp.
- FundraisingScript: 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 also has a Kickstarter clone
- CrowdFund Magic yet another whitelabel with a flashy homepage
- CauseVox is yet another general fundraising service
- Proprietary WordPress plugins: Ignition Deck, Fundraising
- FundraisingBox: German platform.
- Thrinacia 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.
- Towema: yet another whitelabel expensive service
- NCrypted 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.↩
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.↩