Does Patreon Work for Ministries?

I’m going to wear my Content Strategist hat today. I’m going to present a few reasons you may want to consider (or reconsider) your perspective about Patreon, Substack, newspaper subscriptions, or monthly donations to ministries.

First, it’s important to remember that the general population has received “free” content for over a decade through various mediums such as blog posts, email newsletters, podcasts, and free offers or downloads. This has been really nice for the content consumer. However, it has come at a cost. For one thing, it turns out we’re working really hard to create amazing content that isn’t even being used!

“A 2018 Columbia University’s Teachers College study on edX and Coursera courses shows that MOOC Certificate programs have a completion rate of 15% or less. These rates can approach 40%, according to this data from 2015, but they remain largely at 15% on average.”

Elite Content Marketer

Additionally, it’s inaccurate to assume that all the content we viewed, downloaded, and sent to our email was free. So what we did was we handed vital information to Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tiktok, Pinterest, and hundreds of additional apps such as those for fitness, food, and games.

All of our “user data” allowed Google and Facebook to build the most cohesive database of behavior analytics ever assembled. But, unfortunately, our activities have become so predictable that Facebook has algorithms that simultaneously spread hate, make them more money, and make people feel worse about themselves.

For content creators who have traditionally earned income with ad placement on their websites, this presents a host of challenges:

  1. It’s more difficult to find, connect with, and build trust with a target audience, so there is less website traffic.
  2. The volume of digital content has increased significantly. This has increased the competition to retain the attention of an audience as well as to produce original, high-quality content which attracts return readers.
  3. As the competition for readers volume increases content creators have expanded their promotion on platforms like Facebook, Google, and YouTube. These spaces have evolved their algorithms in such a way that many companies must now leverage paid ads to attract an audience.

This is a lose/lose situation for both sides!

Beth Walker

To summarize: Content has never been free. The consumer gives away personal data, and the content creator battles platform algorithms that intentionally suppress their hard work unless they pay for visibility. This is why paywall content such as Patreon is a great choice for ministries in many situations.

What is Paywall Content?

According to Wikipedia, “A paywall is a method of restricting access to content, with a purchase or a paid subscription, especially news. Beginning in the mid-2010s, newspapers started implementing paywalls on their websites as a way to increase revenue after years of decline in paid print readership and advertising revenue, partly due to the use of ad blockers.”

Paywall content may have started with newspapers, but content creators of all types now use it to increase their revenue streams. For example, you may have a favorite podcast that offers a certain number of free podcasts each month for free, and then for Patreon subscribers, there is bonus content.

Or you may participate in a community of some sort that includes professional development training, such as a mastermind group. Substack is another option that content creators use to communicate with their communities. It’s a paid newsletter. Essentially, this is a paywall for blog articles, podcasts, videos, and any other content they want to push out all on one platform.

Why Would I Pay for Something I Can Get for Free?

This is the number one question asked about paywall content. I’ll be honest. It’s taken me a while to come around to the concept of Patreon. But, one thing I’ve come to realize is that there are very few ways we can make a direct impact on the things that fully align with our convictions. One of those ways is by supporting nonprofits and ministries that align with our passions.

Not every ministry has the time or ability to become a 501c3. Additionally, not every ministry wants to be bound by the limitations of a non-profit foundation. Most people take the standard tax deduction anyway, so there isn’t a need to keep track of donation receipts. This gives ministries the chance to think outside the box.

Patreon Allows Communication in a Private Space

Some creators are looking for ways to supplement the loss of ad revenue so they can jump off the social media hamster wheel. One way you can help people in ministry spend more time serving their growing communities is to support them financially. The thing is, every community wants more attention. But not every community is willing to accept that a content creator needs to eat, sleep, and have a roof over their head.

In many ways, Patreon is the best of both worlds. It allows the creator to receive compensation for their work, and the community gets extra attention. And the best part (in my opinion) is that Google and Facebook are not controlling how much money a creator earns.

The Best Things in Life Have Never Been Free

We’ve lived with the myth that the best things in life are free long enough. It’s time we allow reality to reign. The truth is that the best things in life have never been free. Life requires that we invest our time, attention, and effort. The same is true for the best content. If we want to learn from experts in niche areas, we need to be willing to help support them so they have the time to invest in creating excellent content.

If we believe in certain nonprofits and ministries and want them to create content such as podcasts, videos, or written content for the masses to consume, we need to do our part to support their efforts.

When We Value Something, We Should Invest in it

When an athletic team competes, the fans see the results of their hard work. But they don’t see all the practice, film, team meetings, weigh lifting, and coach meetings that went into the preparation for the game. If you’re a business owner, author, podcaster, or speaker, you understand that a lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into the final product.

The reality is that excellence requires financial support. It’s easy for the people in the stands to yell at the athlete who dropped a pass to “catch the dang ball,” but most people yelling wouldn’t catch the ball if given one hundred chances.

It is a human impulse to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. Unfortunately, when it comes to content creation, this is often true. I frequently hear “I could have written that blog post” or “that video looks so easy,” and yet when given the space to create something similar, my clients miss every deadline because they simply don’t have the time or skills to do what I do as a Content Strategist.

And you know what? That’s perfectly fine! Because I don’t have the time or skillset to hunt alligators, run a preschool, complete a commercial real estate transaction or execute probate law. When we respect each other’s skills, we each thrive in our gifts and talents, and our customers are happier too!

So, if you have a passion for seeing something exist, don’t wait for other people to invest. Instead, take the actionable steps to ensure that the content you want in the world is out there for others to learn from and enjoy.

And what better day to support a small business or ministry through Patreon than on Giving Tuesday?!

Here are Three Patreon Recommendations to Check Out Today:

The Pastor and The Professor– This is a show exploring questions of faith, life and ministry…the stuff we talk about every night at dinner. Welcome to our table! We hope you’ll stay awhile.

The Bible Recap– If you’ve ever closed your Bible and thought, “What did I just read?” this podcast is for you! We follow the 1-Year Chronological Plan (free on the Bible app), then recap each day’s reading with a casual summary and highlight reel. You can start anytime! It’s a great tool to help you not only read the Bible but love reading it!

The Holy Post Podcast– I feel like you should just go read this one for yourself.

Still Not Convinced?

Commit some of your funds to elevate the voices of people and ministries that are frequently overlooked.

Jude 3 Project– The primary mission of the Jude 3 Project is to help the Christian community know what they believe and why they believe it. Distinctive in its strong emphasis on equipping those of African descent in the United States and abroad.

AND Campaign – To educate and organize Christians for civic and cultural engagement that results in better representation, more just and compassionate policies, and a healthier political culture.

SowKind– Sowkind exists to cultivate connections that restore hope, dignity, belonging, and meaning in the lives of others through intentional kindness. We believe when touched lives touch lives, the trajectory of individual lives and communities change for good. 

Why Donate to Parachurch Ministries?

While rarely discussed publicly, there is a significant discrepancy in the fundraising opportunities minority and women-led ministries encounter compared to white men. This is something addressed specifically in the book Reflecting God’s Glory Together. Chapter 18, written by Samuel L. Perry says,

Moreover, while some fund-raising challenges related to racial and class diversity are due more to structural factors (i.e., who has disposable income and who does not) fund-raising may also be affected by theological-cultural differences that are defined along the lines of race and gender. For instance, while soliciting donations in order to work for a missions organization or college student ministry may be acceptable-or even laudable-in some ethnic cultures (e.g., white E\evangelicalism), it is often looked upon with suspicion or disapproval by other ethnic groups who may either be unfa­ familiar with such a fund-raising.J.1g strategy (e.g., African American or Latino Protestants) or are culturally offended by the strategy of direct business-like petitions, requesting specific dollar amounts, and soliciting referrals (e.g., Asian American Protestants).

Additionally, there arc differing theological-cultural perspectives regard­ ing the role of women in ministry that may also put them at a disadvantage when it comes to fond-raising. For example, while virtually all evangelicals are comfortable with single men working in ministry at any capacity, some potential donors may be suspicious of a single woman \vorking in ministry. They may be apprehensive that the woman would be placed in some sort of leadership role over men, and thus, more reluctant to financially support her ministry.

Reflecting God’s Glory Together: Diversity in Evangelical Mission (Evangelical Missioloigcal Society Series, 19)

Representation matters. People want to see themselves in the faces of their leaders. More than that, our children what to know their friends will feel comfortable if they are invited to attend an event. “Generation Z represents the leading edge of the country’s changing racial and ethnic makeup. As of 2020 (52%) are non-Hispanic white – significantly smaller than the share of Millennials who were non-Hispanic white in 2002 (61%). One-in-four Gen Zers are Hispanic, 14% are black, 6% are Asian and 5% are some other race or two or more races.”

The discrepancy in the voices our country elevates has a significant trickle-down impact on every area of our lives. Publishers award book contracts based on the largest platforms. Conference speakers are offered contracts in similar situations. Website and social media algorithms push the most visited sites to the top of your feed even if they don’t represent your preferred views.

The best way to push back in a society driven by money is by allowing your money to speak for you.

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