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I see lots of "Donate" buttons on websites which are not donations to charity as such, but of the form "Donate to this website in order to help keep the website running" or "If you like this website, please donate some money". For example, Tineye has

Has TinEye been useful to you? If so, please donate!

I confess that I have never donated to any. I also don't feel like my website is a worthy enough cause to display a begging bowl. Does anybody actually make money off their "Donate" buttons? Specifically I mean those sites where it says "Please donate some money to the author if you like this website" rather than "Please donate to a worthy cause" (e.g. Red Cross, Unicef etc.)

Hard data please!

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I wonder if you'll have to assign the answer to the non-answer :) –  JasonBirch Jul 10 '10 at 8:29
    
There'll probably be more answers after the weekend or when the beta goes public. –  delete Jul 10 '10 at 9:10

5 Answers 5

It works for Steve Pavlina: http://www.stevepavlina.com/

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I think it depends entirely on how much you emphasize the "Donation." From what I've seen a passive "Donate" button with no emphasis, and no regular mentions of it, say on home and landing pages, or in blog posts or news items, and they don't get particular attention, and thus not much money. About 10 years ago I put a donate button on my site at lab.artlung.com with a suggested amount of $1, and in that time I've made maybe $150. So, no, it's not paying my rent. :-) But I also never highlighted it, never put up an intrusive popup, never solicited for it other than the button being present.

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It really depends on what the cause/person is.

I've seen a donate widget raise about $2000 in a week, but the cause was very specific and the word was spread with twitter as well. (It was for a guy that organized an event and got some stuff stolen) The donate thing was only on for a limited time though.

So yes, donate buttons can work, but in most cases they probably don't because the cause/person for the donation is usually not worthy.

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Yes, I'm sure "Donate to Unicef" will get donations, and I have donated to those things myself. However, I'm thinking more about those "Donate to the author to help keep this site running" type of things. I've clarified the question thanks to your input. –  delete Jul 10 '10 at 13:53

This isn't evidence either way, but Flattr is an interesting new service focused on making donations easy/more common.

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You wanted hard facts - have a look here: tim.geekheim.de/2010/07/02/flattr-zweiter-streich Tim Pritlove, one of Germany's most successfull podcasters uses Flattr since two months now. He gained 208 EUR in the first month and 875 EUR in the second month. Don't forget, Flattr still is in private beta and has a very limited userbase. All in all of course the quality of your content will ultimately eventually provide you with some income but you will probably only be able to make a living from it when you work very very hard for delivering high quality content - which is only fair imho.. –  mbrochh Jul 10 '10 at 16:01
    
Thanks for the info! FYI, I realize now I worded my sentence incorrectly - I didn't mean there isn't evidence of Flattr working. Not completely sure what I was trying to say by that, honestly. –  tnorthcutt Jul 12 '10 at 3:06

I'd venture, that No, unless you are really, really lucky (or guru) and have some other business running on the side. Especially during this year as economy is in a slump...

Few references, didn't find any good statistics, but food for thought: http://www.copyblogger.com/no-money-blogging/

But then again, the whole microfinancing business seems to be succesful http://www.microfinanceusa2010.org/blog/

Good question, hoping that someone would have some hard statistics, whether donations would work or not.

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The question is too broad/vague for any meaningful hard stats IMO. There are sites that get practically 0 donations, and there are those that get enough regular donations to pay for all bandwidth/hosting and staff costs. To get hard stats, you need to narrow down the question with some qualifiers, e.g. How much does an open source project with a userbase of 2000 receive in donations on average? Otherwise, it's like asking How long is a piece of string? –  Lèse majesté Feb 14 '12 at 23:46

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