Crowdfunding and channel memberships
You can seek support for your channel by setting up a crowdfunding campaign on an approved 3rd party crowdfunding site. Alternatively, YouTube channel memberships (available to select channels) allow you to engage more deeply with your biggest fans who make recurring monthly payments in exchange for badges, emoji, and access to creator perks that you offer and deliver.
How does crowdfunding work?
Crowdfunding can help drive awareness and support for your channel, fulfill creative potential, and start new projects.
In general, crowdfunding lets people support your channel or a specific initiative with either a monthly (recurring) payment or one-time payment. In turn, project backers may receive something in exchange for their payment. For example, you could choose to offer a shout-out in your next video for a small contribution or something more substantial, like branded merch for larger support.
Monthly, recurring crowdfunding can help you raise a little extra to keep doing what you’re already doing and drive awareness to initiatives on your channel. YouTube has an on-platform version called channel memberships.
Project-based crowdfunding is typically used to make a specific initiative happen like raise money for charity, experiment with long-form content, and even publish books.
- If you’re not sure where to start, do some research on similar channels (in subscribers and genre).
- Public data can show you how much money certain campaigns make and help you estimate your funding target.
Setting up a crowdfunding campaign
Some effort and time are required for setting up a crowdfunding campaign. Remember, these are just suggestions and tips--the details of how you implement are up to you. Here’s an example of what the process could look like:
- Pick the right platform: There are vast differences between crowdfunding platforms, such as whether they allow recurring or project-based campaigns (or both), the costs to host your campaign, time frames for raising money, moderation policies, monetization tiering options, types of rewards you can offer, etc. If you plan to promote your campaign from your channel, you must choose from YouTube’s list of approved crowdfunding sites. (You’ll be able to link to them from your channel banner, cards, and end screens). If eligible, consider whether channel memberships could be a good option.
- Design your campaign: Convey what’s motivating you to use crowdfunding and decide on all of the details like selecting payment tiers and what rewards you’ll offer. Consider producing a video to pitch your idea on your channel—many platforms allow you to upload a video to the campaign. Building the initial buzz before it even launches is a great way to get your audience excited.
- Kickoff your campaign and promotion: There are lots of tools on YouTube you can use to promote like cards, calls-to-action, teaser videos, and linking out to the campaign in video descriptions. And don’t forget to use social media and ask other creators to promote your campaign.
- Give your audience updates: Once you’ve started the campaign, you can keep the momentum up by giving status updates and thank you’s. If you’re doing a project-based campaign, it could be important to remind your audience of the end date.
- Deliver and thank: Be sure to deliver on what you promised and try to find ways to show gratitude for the support you’ve been given.
What can you offer your audience?
Consider these tips when determining what to offer:
- Consider what’s realistic for you to deliver in exchange for their payment within a specific timeline. Try to make it affordable for you but valuable to your audience. It shouldn’t cost you much, but your viewers shouldn’t be able to get them anywhere else.
- Ensure they’re scalable. So that the time it takes to deliver remains relatively the same as your number of paying audience members grows.
- Make sure they don’t alienate viewers who have not decided to contribute.
- For campaigns with recurring payments, remember, what you offer in return should keep them engaged, month after month—after all, their payments are not one-off.
- If you’re using channel memberships, be sure that everything you offer complies with the guidelines.
Remember, the point of crowdfunding is to drive awareness to your channel or initiative rather than selling merchandise. Crowdfunding may not be beneficial if all of your time and money are going more towards rewards than anything else.
Suggestions of perks you can provide members:
- Videos: personalised videos, early access to videos, behind the scenes, rough cuts & bloopers, exclusive live streams
- Engagement: members-only posts in Community tab, members-only chat on live streams, extra engagement in private chat room/group
- Other digital content: scripts (including rough drafts), wallpaper, GIFs
- Status: custom badge, custom emojis, credit/call-out, polls for content request, ability to submit content for a video or designs for merch
- Physical goods: stickers, apparel, discount codes for merch
Not sure where to start?
- Ask what your fans would pay for with a poll card, Community post, or in the comments.
- You can use the Community tab to deliver your perks by using the drop-down menu to make a post visible only to your members. For example, if sharing members-only videos, make them unlisted and post the link in the Community tab.
See it in action
Rewarding your audience through channel membershipsMarkiplier uses channel memberships to help fund his channel, including the videos that are more expensive to create.
Promoting your campaign
It’s vital to make an announcement video on your channel. Now, it’s understandable if you’re nervous about asking your audience to pay for something, but the best way to explain what you’re doing and why is by tackling it head-on and a video is a great way to do this.
It’s a good idea to make a promotional video in advance of launching the campaign to get your audience psyched (and for channel memberships, publishing it right after you turn on the “join” button.)
And don’t stop with the announcement video! To keep growing you’ll need to regularly remind your viewers about your crowdfunding initiative in your videos and on other social platforms—just like you remind them to comment, like, and subscribe. Don’t forget to use the Community tab to promote too!
For channel memberships, it’s key to continue to deliver on what you’re offering to your paying members.
Tips for an effective announcement video:
- Explain why you’re launching a crowdfunding initiative.
- Describe what you’re offering.
- Discuss how you’ll deliver perks they’re buying.
- Reassure viewers who choose not to participate that nothing will change for them on YouTube.
See it in action
Announcing your campaign on YouTubeThioJoe uses this video to clearly explain what he’s offering his audience who become channel members.
Promoting your campaign beyond YouTubeAdrian Bliss not only got his audience on YouTube excited about the launch of his Kickstarter campaign, but he also used social media to promote it.
The fundamentals of YouTube’s channel memberships
With channel memberships your members can make monthly payments in exchange for badges and emoji that you can design, and to get access to perks that you decide on and deliver.
Check to see if your channel qualifies for memberships and then start planning out the perks, badge, and emojis for your members. Note: Everything you plan to offer to channel members must be approved before you can turn on the “join” button so be sure they comply with YouTube Community Guidelines and channel memberships policies.
- With channel memberships, we’ve seen that creators who make announcement videos convert many more of their viewers to members than those who don’t.
See it in action
Channel memberships can be a key driver of revenue from a dedicated audienceTowards the end of this video (8mins 35), Wintergatan thanks their members. With the added support from the most dedicated part of the audience, Wintergatan can make better videos for everyone that watches the channel.
Creating awesome badges and emoji for channel memberships
Badges and custom emoji are exclusive benefits your audience receives when they become members of your channel.
- The badge appears next to their username in comments and live chat on your channel to indicate they’re a member. You can upload up to six different badges, which will reflect how long they’ve been a member.
- Emoji are fun graphics that your members can use in live chat or on your channel. The more members you have, the more emoji you can create. These are fun ways that your members can visually stand out.
- Badges should make your members feel connected to your channel and proud to be members, whereas your emoji should help them express their emotions, reactions or share inside-jokes.
For inspiration, think about what you commonly say in your videos. What reactions do you expect people to have to your videos? Visualizing these could be great emoji to make! You could also ask your viewers what kind of emoji they’d want to use.
So, get your creative juices flowing and make the most of these features! Just remember to comply with YouTube’s Terms of Service, Community Guidelines and channel memberships policies and don’t violate others’ copyright or privacy rights.
Some creators hire a designer and some make emoji themselves—it's up to you. There are many contract design websites and apps with experts in emoji design, such as fiverr, upwork, or freelancer. The cost of an emoji design can vary depending on the skill level and seniority of your graphic artist. Try to have all your emoji designed by the same artist: this will help ensure that the set looks consistent.
Be sure to check out the other sections of this lesson for more tips and tricks on how to make crowdfunding through channel memberships work for your channel!