Backers vs Patrons


Kickstarter and Patreon are two platforms for independent artists to find support from their consumers. Both are based on similar principles, where a crowd of people each contribute a small sum to fund a larger goal. However, I propose that Patreon and Kickstarter are both fundamentally different from each other when it comes to WHY people choose to part with their cash.

As creators, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of a consumer. We should examine, share, and compare why we lend our financial support to one campaign, but not another. Comparing notes will help everyone using crowd funding deliver a better experience to the supporters they’re trying to woo.

To get the ball rolling, I’ll share with you my observations of my own buying habits. How do your experiences compare? Share with us in the comments below!

My behavior as a backer vs a patron

I’ve been a backer for lots of Kickstarters, and I’ve become a patron of a few folks too. Here’s what I’ve observed about my behavior for each platform:


–  Impulse buying
–  Want a physical product (I never go for strictly digital goods)
–  Want to help the creator for a specific goal
–  Rush of being part of an event, part of a group
–  I’m feeling financially stable enough to afford larger purchase


–  Support for personal reasons, and often have been a fan of the person for a very long time
–  Often feels like I contribute as a thank you for past work that mattered to me
–  Sometimes feels like an investment in future projects
–  I’m feeling financially tight, so chipping in $1 or $2 a month doesn’t feel so overwhelming as committing to a one-time $25 – $40 expense.

My Conclusions

If I had to boil it down, when I’m a Kickstarter backer, I’m supporting a project.  When I’m a Patreon patron, I’m supporting a person.

With Kickstarter, the product matters a lot to me, whereas I’m not nearly as interested in a specific product with Patreon.  Kickstarter rewards are material.  Something I can hold in my hands and say to myself, “I was part of making this happen.”  With Patreon, the rewards are immaterial and transient.  It’s a quiet “Thank you” or “Good job” or “Keep going!” to the creator.  Which oddly enough makes it feel both more personal and more distant. 

What about you?

– Why have you supported Kickstarter or Patreon campaigns?
– What do you think your readers want out of your own campaigns?

Robin Childs is addicted to storytelling, with specialties in world-building, character crafting, and language making. You can find the results of her storytelling pursuits at! Or drop a line on Twitter at RobinofLeyLines. If you are struggling with your own storytelling troubles, she offers a variety of developmental editing services!

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  1. Another big difference between Kickstarter and Patreon is that, from a business perspective, Kickstarter is basically letting people pay the start-up costs for the creation of a product. With Patreon, on the other hand, you can basically ask people to give money in exchange for content that would have otherwise gone on Tumblr for free: FAQs, character art, “free” wallpapers, behind-the-scenes sketches, and whatnot.

    (I’m trying to knock Patreon by saying that. Creating that content takes work, and it’s great that webcartoonists can monetize that & have a better chance of cartooning full time.)

    • Exactly, which is why I feel the motive behind supporting, and the experiences and feelings one gets by doing so, must be somewhat different. It is for a different outcome, with a different (if related) goal. What, exactly, the difference is from a consumer perspective is what I want to figure out.

  2. I think my reasoning for kickstarters is pretty similar to yours! Though impulse has less to do with it– most of the kickstarters I’ve backed have been for projects I was already aware of (webcomics I already followed, say, or a studio whose work I already loved trying to get together funding for a new project). There’s definitely a certain amount of a rush to it as well, especially if the project goes well and new stretch goals and things arrive. And of course, finances are also a factor….

  3. Everyone I’ve talked to who has used Kickstarter has said that it’s great for fundraising but lousy for fulfillment. I’ve found Patreon to have a relatively streamlined fulfillment process, whether uploading files, posting updates, or emailing patron rewards. Patreon’s big problem right now seems to be discoverability. Its search functionality is vastly inferior to Kickstarter’s.

  4. Patreon vs Kickstarter?

    I have sworn off kickstarter for a number of reasons.
    1. One webcomic creator, whose second kickstarter print book (Volume 2) I helped to fund, tried to force me to give my information to a third party in order to have their book delivered to me. The Volume 1 of his Kickstarted book series I helped to fund arrived with no problem. (I wrote them an email asking for them to send the book directly. My concerns were trivialised and the reply was basically “if you want the book this is the only way to get it.”) So, since I don’t know this company, and don’t want to waste MORE time researching them, I refuse to be bullied into using a service outside of kickstarter. $35US wasted and a sour taste in my mouth whenever I think about it.
    2. That came on the end of three kickstarters for books, and games that I had lost interest in by the time they arrived. The print books were often printed too dark to really see what was going on (too much use of black for the shading, especially on glossy papers) and the games were either uninspiring or after two years are still not fulfilled. One game i helped to fund got tens of millions and is still fundraising and also selling addon packages for the game to backers before the game is even finished. I find this disturbing.
    3. Other disappointments. A calendar that looked good online, but was unreadable when it arrived, even though the creator did his best to let me see a preview, so no fault to him. A film I helped to fund is selling extras from their filming, and advertising to me to purchase them. I feel like there is a lot of extra money-grabbing going on with successful kickstarters. I resent that the filming we helped pay for is not freely given to backers. For right or wrong, it bothers me.
    I helped to fund a revolutionary gaming device, only to have the creator sell it with in a month or so, lock, stock and barrel, to SONY.
    4. I ended up spending a lot more than I can afford because I was excited to support the people involved, or the project as stated. I hate getting caught up in the hype and parting with my limited resources, and then being disappointed. So, caveat emptor where kickstarter is concerned.

    Patreon, in spite of its horrible non-searchability, lets me find the PEOPLE who create the content I appreciate and support them financially, albeit in small amounts.
    The only problem I have there is that I cannot support all my fellow/sister wonderful comic creators I have met, interacted with, and come to like very much. So only a dollar here or there on Patreon, just so they know I care.
    Because I believe Patreon is the better platform for people to support their favourite artist people, I have my own Patreon page in the works, and I hope that those that can afford it will also support me in my webcomic/graphic-novel and art creation. Cause I could sure use some help with my website.

    That said, I’m concerned that putting content behind a paywall will always result in fewer people having access. And if we’re giving away our webcomic freely online anyway then why go that route?
    I’ll answer that: Money is the currency of recognition that can put bread on the table and/or pay the monthly internet and web hosting bills as well as art supplies and equipment. It’s heart-warming and encouraging to be paid in some way for the product of those skills we’ve spent a lot of our lives honing.
    Clunky as it is, Patreon seems to be the best we have right now. Hopefully we won’t simply be a group of artists whose support we get from Patreon, simply ends up all being put back into supporting other members of the group on Patreon. :`}

    • Your experiences definitely highlight the issues of product versus person. With Kickstarter, if the product is a disappointment, the entire experience is tarnished. And I think people often forget that customer service is a part of the experience.

      Regarding pay walls, I think it’s a valid concern to evaluate. On the one hand, it’s important as a creator to make someone who is financially supporting you feel valued and special. On the other, keeping something behind a wall can be somewhat exclusionary. At the same time, if the bulk of the content remains free, is it the same as a paywall, or more like a special members area? Bit of a sticky wicket to sort through.

      • “Special Members Area” is still locking people out who can’t afford it. So yes.”Sticky Wicket” I go round and round about this in my own head like a dog chasing its own tail.
        Example: Plumber. You want service but you have no money. Do you get service without money? Not unless you can come to some other kind of agreement with the plumber, which is possible if the plumber is someone you can actually get to talk with, or maybe knows you well enough to take a chance on getting the money later. Then, think about it this way: If no one pays the plumber, the plumber won’t be able to pay for her needs!
        yes I know I took that to an extreme, but that’s my mind’s path of least resistance. :`)
        However, art is considered a luxury. Novels, cartoons, music, dance, graphic novels, movies, comic books… (did I miss any?)are all considered forms of entertainment, even when their benefit to society is as great as that of putting food on the table. Since it is a luxury, not a necessity, then money should not be spent on it. (just thinking out loud here, sorry) um… there fore it should be free? Or exclusive to those who can afford it? Hmmm…
        But what if we, using Patreon-style crowdfunding offer only a time based exclusivity. For instance, Patreon patrons can partake of an interactive event, say a recorded creating session with chat and/or Q&A, if they are a higher tier (donating a premium amount)member, but it will be published freely to the general public a week later, or a month later, regardless. These could be stepped down. 1. Top Tier participates. 2. middle tiers view 1 week later, 3. General public a month later, or whatever.
        I’m thinking really hard about this because I would like to open up my Patreon, but I don’t want to exclude people entirely who can’t afford to donate to the cause.
        And at the same time I don’t need to add another burden of giving my work away for free, when my only source of income is from that work.
        “Sticky Wicket”, indeed! ;`)

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