In an earnest attempt to prevent FOMO from our upcoming event (which you can still RSVP for), we asked the Portland Indie Game Squad (or PIGSquad) to share some of their biggest Patreon learnings with us. Here is some advice on how a non-profit is using Patreon for hosting live community events.
Q+A with Will Lewis from PIGSquad
In your own words, what’s PIGSquad?
The Portland Indie Game Squad (or PIGSquad) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the health and continued expansion of game developer communities in Portland, the Pacific Northwest, and online. We do this through meetup events, workshops, game jams, and networking activities for art and technology creatives to make lots of Portland gamedev connection possible!
How did you get your start in game making?
I had always wanted to make games when I was little. I’m on the art/writing/music side of things but didn’t know how to program or who to ask about programming a game with me. I figured a lot of people had the same problem, so I started PIGSquad as a way for anyone to plug in and find what they needed for game making!
You’re earning over $1,200 a month on Patreon from over 150 patrons! What are some things you’ve done to grow your community over time?
- Being consistent about our interactions with people, growing that consistency into larger events, then using those events to reach out to people in different areas of interest has been a great way to grow the community. Like participating in events like the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, Design Week Portland, the Mini Maker Faire, and XOXO Fest have given us some great reach. These partnered events help us reach out to folks outside our community, and we’re able to welcome more creatives and game makers out to future meetups.
- And of course, game jams – short-term game-making competitions (usually only 48 hours) have been a great resource for the community. Since I’ve run 21 of them at this point, it’s become a huge, unique part of our culture!
At what point did you decide to develop your creative passion into a business?
More resources became available after our community began to grow, and I felt it was finally possible for PIGSquad to become an official nonprofit (which requires commitments from a board of at least three people in Oregon). If our Patreon and event sponsorships continue to grow, we’ll be able to get down to business even more by hiring someone to help more consistently outside of volunteer hours!
What has been the most effective monetization method for you the last year?
Strategizing our Patreon rewards has been a great way to increase our sustainability and give everyone something awesome at the same time! We did t-shirts as a special Patreon perk last year. Despite breaking even cost-wise, it got a ton of people into our Patreon that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Lots of these people mentioned that they’d been meaning to support us anyway, or that they used their Patreon commitment as encouragement for them to come out to more events, so the t-shirt drive ended up leaving us with a lot more sustainable backers in a short amount of time
What is the greatest challenge you face right now as a creator?
Our current challenge is that all our time spent with PIGSquad is on a volunteer basis! That means our organizers aren’t getting paid and have to balance other work to make everything happen. We think we can change that in the near future with a bit more sustainable funding, and I believe our Patreon play a vital role in making that happen.
How have your fans helped you throughout your creative career?
Working with the community and incorporating their feedback into PIGSquad’s events and activities has helped me learn a lot about people, the game development process, and creativity in general. My skills have grown immensely because of this. We also have tons of regular support from members – if we ever have a problem or need help with anything, there’s always someone in our community who can lend a hand!
When did you decide to launch on Patreon, and in what ways has it affected your goals?
When costs got high enough to where I couldn’t pay out of pocket anymore, Patreon provided a great structure for accepting “unofficial membership dues.” Now, we’re covered for large and small events alike, ranging from booking venues and purchasing equipment for our big Drink ‘n Draws, to grabbing snacks and drinks for workshops.
What does Patreon mean for artists, creators, and nonprofits like you?
Patreon makes our job easier! It allows us to consolidate and share our branding and message in a fun way via videos, gifs, and other content. Patreon is also a great way for us to keep people updated, send teasers in posts, allow community feedback via polls, and process payments all in a single place.
If you could challenge creators to do one thing that worked for you, or was transformative in your experience, what would it be?
Be consistent and share your Patreon page everywhere! It’s not enough to complete your profile – talking about what you do, sharing with everyone you can, and creating & maintaining feedback channels are essential! Share what you’re working on through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and do so regularly. Maintaining a constant schedule of updates and perks was tough for us when we started out, simply because running events and doing the things we love is a lot of work. Creating accessible updates makes it more enticing for people to back your page, and you also get a ton of practice talking about the things you love along the way!
What’s next for you? Are there any exciting projects or big goals you are working towards?
Next up, we have our annual Drink ‘n Draw (this year, hosted with Patreon!) We line the walls of a venue with games and invite artists, animators, & comic illustrators to draw “fan art” of games. We’ll also be announcing new goals & patron tiers as we prepare to fulfill a new PIGSquad schedule of four big events per year in the midst of the smaller meetups, game jams, and workshops that keep us going almost weekly.
Want to say hey? Reach out to PIGSquad here: