Thinking about supporting writers

[This started as a status update on my personal facebook page, but I realized I was interested in getting as many opinions as possible and that it might help to post it here. Please do comment if you have anything to share, and hopefully there will be more interesting content up here in the next day or two.]

Question: How many people donate to favorite internet writers through “tip jars” or voluntary “subscriptions”? Do you do it regularly, or only when particularly inspired? When you’re inspired, is it because you’re feeling rich/generous, or because the author is struggling financially, or both? Are you ever insulted by the presence of a tip jar/donate button on a blog/website? What about direct requests for cash?

Personally, I think I would have to produce a lot more content and post more regularly before I could feel comfortable doing this sort of thing, so that’s not the main reason I ask. I ask mostly because I have donated to more bloggers than usual lately. Not much, because I really need to be pinching pennies at least until my employment situation is more stable, but a few dollars here or there.

And I’m kind of wondering what inspires me to do this. If I were being rational about this, I would make a budget for this sort of thing and portion it out on a regular basis (monthly?) based on some objective criteria–posts I really liked, bloggers in particular need, SOMETHING. But really I tend to do it spontaneously, when I’m feeling relatively secure about money (looking good on my budget for the month, getting positive feedback in the jobs arena, been really good about discretionary spending like eating out/coffee lately) when a blogger happens to make a request or write a really fabulous post.

This process kinds of rubs the rationalist in me the wrong way, and feels a little capricious. I mean, why should these people’s income from their work be more determined by my whims (and current psychological state re: money) than by some kind of objective criteria? But that seems to be holding myself to a rather absurd standard. “Tips” are USUALLY made somewhat irrationally, and very small expenses. And anyhow, if I can impulsively buy an itunes game or a fancy cup of coffee every once and awhile just because I feel like it, isn’t it just as reasonable to toss $3 or $5 at a writer whose work I really appreciate and who could use the cash, just because it makes me feel good?

It feels a little weird to give ‘donations’ sometimes when frankly I could use them myself… but frankly I think that’s part of why I do it. Because I want to live in a world where people can make a living by producing awesome content ‘for free’, and because I hope that if I write stuff as meaningful and valuable to others as some bloggers’ stuff has been for me, that they’d be willing to toss some change in the tip jar too. Which is probably why I’m donating more lately (as in, I think I’ve spent $10 this way in the last month, woohoo Ms. Moneybags!). I know how much of myself I put into my posts, and I want to show my appreciation for other people who do the same.

Anyhow, I started this as a question, and I really do want answers. Thoughts?


  1. I was going to write an answer to your questions but honestly it would just be a repeat of everything you’ve said. I’d love to be able to afford to pay subscriptions fees to all of the blogs and podcasts I love, but it’s not really feasible for me, so I mostly just throw money out when asked, dependent on how much I have at the time.

  2. I think it’s great that you donate, given that the content is ‘worthy’ in your opinion. You follow the mindset of ‘treat others how you want to be treated’ which is a great lesson for all bloggers to learn early on. Because without readership and support, our blogs are nothing more then words strung together in cyberspace. I totally agree with you.

  3. Awww Keely!
    1. You write things that make me smile
    2. You are an exceptionally nice person

    I’m almost ashamed to say that I’ve never donated to a blog before. I’ve considered donating to Captain Awkward in the past, and I definitely would have purchased Hyperbole & a Half’s book, if it had come out like it was supposed to. But I’ve never donated to anything really….EXCEPT I did pitch in $10 for the Veronica Mars movie just the other day, which was awesome.

    I’d be very interested to hear more solid reasons for why people donate, although I suspect most answers will correspond quite closely with yours. Unless there are bored millionaires out there searching for blogs to donate to, in which case they should check out in addition to this blog here! (WINK WINK!).

    What blogs have you donated to in the past, Keely? I’m really curious. And beyond the scope of “great content”, do you think you gave more to the bloggers that seemed to need it more? Or did you just award the cash based on content-merit alone?

  4. In the past, I’ve donated to Greta Christina, Natalie Reed, Shakesville, CaptainAwkward… and others that are not popping to mind at the moment. One of these days I’ll get a blogroll up, or at least highlight some favorite bloggers in a post.

    And yea, beyond content, I really do try to give to people who “need it more”, but not in a very strict sense. Which is to say that the person doesn’t have to be in dire need (major life catastrophe, illness, etc) for me to feel they “need” money. For people who primarily support themselves through writing, and who write really high-quality stuff–especially really unique stuff that I feel no one else is doing, and that has been personally meaningful TO ME–I feel that they have earned some support from me, and I give it (even if only in token amounts) when I can. Greta Christina is a great example–she’s the only blogger I’ve ever spent a substantial amount on a subscription for ($5/month for a year)–but that’s because she writes amazing stuff that has been really meaningful in my life, and over the course of the time I’ve been reading her I’ve watched her transition to writing full-time and seen her content get even more awesome, so I want to support that. Seriously, I’ve been reading Greta for SEVEN YEARS.

    I also am more inclined to donate to people who I feel are providing a service of some kind, like Shakesville and CaptainAwkward, which both provide amazing safe-space [highly-moderated] commenting communities and some feminism/social justice 101 in their own ways. Those people aren’t just writing in order to think out loud or amuse themselves or entertain (although those are all completely fine reasons to write and I sometimes donate to those types of writers too)–they’re trying to build communities and that’s hard work that often takes far more time than ‘just’ writing posts. And I know that if people don’t receive some kind of support for that, they WILL burnout sooner rather than later. The vast majority of people do not have the means to just donate 20, 30, 40 hours/week to the world via their blogs without ANY compensation, and those who do it anyway and provide things that I think are truly valuable, deserve a little show of appreciation, at the very least.

  5. Hm. I don’t have a lot of extra money, so it rarely really occurs to me to donate. However, when bloggers specifically ask for help because of things they’re going through/dealing with, I often help out. I’ve done so for Greta Christina, Natalie Reed, and others.

    Maybe once I have disposable income I’ll do it more regularly; I would like to. But right now it’s really a case-by-case thing.

    • I know how that goes. I still don’t really have much “extra” money exactly… I have a little credit card debt and student loan debt to pay down, my income isn’t very high, and I don’t have much in the way of savings. But I certainly do have MORE disposable income than I did during undergrad, and like I said, I do treat myself to some indulgences.

      It’s a strange balance really, and I think where I land has a lot more to do with relative feelings of wealth than with an objective view of my financial situation. For instance, a month-ish ago I was really, really anxious about job prospects and how I was going to support myself after April (which is roughly when my grad school money will run out), and I was very anxious about spending money on almost anything. My actual situation hasn’t changed that much since then– I still don’t have a full-time job lined up, just a tutoring gig that should let me scrape by if I get enough hours and might eventually become fulltime work if I impress my bosses sufficiently–but I’m FEELING better about money. I’ve had some hopeful experiences with job hunting (getting more callbacks/offers than I expected), the response to my writing here has been an ego boost that has made me slightly more confident about what I have to offer, and I’m working on dealing with feeling okay about potentially needing to rely on my family or friends to help support me in the very short term if it comes to that. Basically, I’m more hopeful now, which makes me more likely to allow myself a cup of coffee or a meal out, so I feel like it should also make me more likely to help out others.

      But then, all of that might say more about how very fucked-up my relationship with money is than about the original question in the post. I have so much guilt and shame surrounding issues of money and debt… it’s a problem. I’m working on it though. :-/

  6. I finally, specifically set up a paypal account so I could donate to CA and another bloggess whose work I love. I donated to CA because she and her team of supporters are worth every damn penny and I’ve been following her work avidly since about a month or two after she started up.
    The other blog I donated to was because she specifically posted about financial worries and I had the means to do something about it.

    I don’t find either tip jars or specific requests offensive at all, not when it’s a ‘small’ i.e. not corporate affair.

    I find the charity thing in general kind of weird these days, mainly because after you’ve spent 5 years or more putting money in the collection plate every Sunday, to not be expected to give money to a charitable cause on a regular basis is softly guilt-inducing. I feel like I *should* be budgeting for charity, and I’m not. So giving to bloggers who make the world better through their writing is a way of saying thanks.

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