Looking to reward your community for the support they give you? Rewards offered by community leaders differ drastically depending on the community, which makes sense: After all, the dynamic behind a non-profit organization is hardly the same as what motivates a cryptocurrency community.
Even so, we’ve noticed 17 rewards that crop up frequently in the communities that use Patreon as a hub for collecting pledges and fostering tight-knit relationships. But because of the diversity of community types and leadership styles, not every reward will motivate your audience or be reasonable for you to pursue. It’s up to you to decide what rewards mix is the best for you and your audience.
What do your followers all have in common? You, and the hobbies or interests that prompted them to find and follow you. Those shared interests mean you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting in your community. Often, your followers are eager to exchange knowledge and support each other. That’s why access to an exclusive community is one of the most popular rewards offered by community leaders.
Many creators offer full community access to their patrons, while others create groups based on support tiers. As a leader, you can choose from a number of platforms that help you maintain private communities.
You could set up a series of chat rooms using the Patreon Discord integration to manage your patrons and non-patrons alike.
You could set up an online forum like MCrider does to manage discussions and learning materials for over 2,000 patrons. He uses the Patreon Discourse integration to keep track of patrons’ access levels automatically. Patrons at the $3/mo tier gain access to his field guide; full access to the forums starts at $5/mo.
Or, you might set up a patrons-only Facebook group like Autistic Not Weird. For now, Chris manages access manually, but there is a Zapier integration currently in beta to connect Facebook Groups and Patreon. While all his followers can access Autistic Not Weird’s Facebook page, only patrons can access the group, which he described as "the friendliest place I've ever seen on the Internet."
If you have 500 patrons, it’s not realistic to send thank-you cards or handwritten notes to all of them — at least, not on a recurring basis. Some community leaders send out thank-you cards to new patrons only; others send handwritten notes every month to their most dedicated supporters.
It’s worth considering who you want to send mail to and at which tier those rewards start.
For example, Rancho Relaxo starts sending one holiday card per year to $25/mo supporters; Barn Sanctuary does the same starting at $50/mo. BraverMountain sends postcards from their travels at various intervals throughout the year to all $10+/mo supporters. The husband and wife duo behind Paranormal Scholar send handwritten mail to say thanks to their $25/mo patrons. And the Kyrgyz Space Program sends $16+/mo supporters postcards signed by the girls in their program who are working on Kyrgyzstan’s first satellite.
What would you do for a patron who supports you beyond your expectations? Some community leaders provide an in-person visit, a fun time for the patron plus a few friends, or one-on-one time via a livestream application.
But weighing the value you’re offering and the time it would take you against the tier pledge required is a challenge. What’s the magic number for you? Would your patrons get their reward right away, or would you release rewards on an anniversary?
For Rancho Relaxo, someone who supports the animal rescue at $250/mo is entitled to a once-per-year meet and greet with the animals. Up to five friends can tag along. GameAttack offers a private game session for $125/mo patrons. Patrons at the $30/mo level have the chance to be on-set extras when Wong Fu Productions is filming (but are responsible for their own transportation). $50/mo will get you access to an exclusive Discord and the ability to have one-on-one conversations with AutismFather, who runs a Minecraft server safe for children with autism.
There are two kinds of behind-the-scenes offerings:
- Content that sheds light on your process
- Content that sheds light on your life.
Depending on your audience, either or both may be appropriate. It’s up to you to decide what you want to share and how often. If your followers have asked you to share more about what you do, that’s a sign this would be a good low-tier reward (although some creators do provide extremely in-depth, informational behind-the-scenes content which pushes value to higher tiers).
Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin of #ResistanceLive offers $5/mo patrons exclusive behind-the-scenes videos. C&Rsenal reserves outtakes and bloopers for their $10/mo supporters. Blizzard Watch and Kati Morton make all behind the scenes content available for $1+/mo patrons.
One reward you can offer your most dedicated supporters is increased priority whenever there are more requests for something than you’re able to easily fulfill. For example, you might:
- Give patrons priority during Q&A sessions
- Prioritize customer service or support for patrons
- Prioritize communication with patrons
- Prioritize patron content requests.
It’s not difficult to put into practice, but it makes a big difference in how rewarded your patrons feel.
The Gauntlet offers RSVP priority to $7+/mo patrons who want to snag a spot in their online games. Atulya Bingham, who creates content about building mud homes and off-the-grid living, answers emails from $2+/mo patrons first.
How much of your content do you want to be free? Is there anything you would make specially for patrons? If yes, then bonus content is a great way to motivate pledges from the people who already enjoy your work.
One of many McMansion roasts produced by Kate Wagner. Roasting non-McMansions is an activity she reserves for patrons.
It could be more of the same, but it could also be something easier and extra fun. For example, #ResistanceLive periodically releases book lists on relevant topics to $25+/mo supporters. McMansionHell releases a bonus roast of non-McMansion architecture to $10+/mo patrons every month. Many animal rescues and sanctuaries post exclusive photos of the animals they care for. McSweeney’s Internet Tendency shares a patrons-only ebook every year for $20+/mo; all $5+/mo patrons get access to a special column, McSweeney’s Recommends. And Not Forgotten shares video updates, photographs, and other content with supporters in tiers ranging from $25/mo to $250/mo.
Sometimes, your patrons just want to know what’s happening.
Blizzard Watch sends all patrons a content roundup, since new articles hit their site every day. Cryptocurrency Member sends news updates to $5+/mo patrons; upgrading your pledge to $7.99/mo means that members get trade alerts via Telegram.
But action alerts don’t have to be limited to cryptocurrency: you could also send breaking news updates, sale alerts, or "gameday alerts" like the Fantasy Footballers do.
If you choose to send updates via an email newsletter to your patrons, it doesn’t have to be difficult to manage: Patreon has an integration with Mailchimp powered by Zapier. It will automatically curate your list based on whose pledges are active.
Martin Berkhan posted a silly photo of his cat as part of his way for showing thanks and motivating patronage.
Bragging rights — and feeling good about supporting someone you follow — are a powerful motivator. Sometimes, all you need to do to motivate patronage is to say "Thank you."
- Tweet thanks to higher-value tier members
- Maintain a Wall of Fame on your website
- Send a certificate of appreciation to patrons
- Put patron names at the end of your book/course/videos/etc.
- Give patrons a shout-out on your show.
And those are just a handful of possibilities. There’s no end to the creative ideas you can use when showing your patrons how much you appreciate them.
Rancho Relaxo starts sending certificates of appreciation at the $50/mo mark. IndigenousX starts sending Twitter shout-outs at $30/mo. All patrons of McSweeney’s get their name memorialized in a wall of fame.
If you’re leading a community, there’s a reason. Chances are that you’re a subject matter expert. And if you weren’t when you started, you’ve probably become one.
If your community is interested in learning materials you create, why not offer them as a reward? Irshad Karim’s entire Patreon campaign is built around offering lessons and other learning content. Leangains offers educational content to all $10/mo members. $10+/mo supporters of Fantasy Grounds College can request a lesson on their topic of choice; higher-paying patrons receive one-on-one instruction.
Mailing merch to your patrons is a great incentive for pledges. That said, it’s also a lot of work. If you’re up for the challenge, there are plenty of options to choose from. You’ll need to decide if you want to provide recurring shipments, merch based on milestone (such as six months of patronage), or one-time access to merch in the hopes of getting new patrons.
Community leaders on Patreon offer items such as…
- Bumper stickers
- That book you published (or are going to publish)
- Coupon codes
- Surprise box every month
- Coloring books.
Ted-Ed sends printable coloring books to patrons at the $3+/mo tier. IndiginousX sends $50+/mo patrons a T-shirt and a sticker. $50+/mo supporters of BraverMountain get their book. Twist of Fate Sanctuary gives their $10+/mo an eco-friendly tote bag.
As you probably know by now, being the leader of a community means everyone comes to you for questions. And while you may have some awesome members who pitch in to answer questions, sometimes your followers just want to hear from you.
If that’s the case for you, then hosting regular Q&A or AMA ("Ask Me Anything") sessions would make a great reward for patrons. You can answer questions live, post an article, or record a video; it depends on what makes you comfortable.
Wong Fu Productions does a monthly Q&A video for $5+/mo patrons. McMansionHell also offers a Q&A session for $5+/mo patrons, but does it using the Patreon Crowdcast integration. Ariane Arsenault runs an AMA post where $10+/mo patrons can comment with their questions during a 24-hr time span.
Early access is a reward that doesn’t take a lot of effort but still helps your patrons feel rewarded for their support. In fact, Patreon has an early access tool to restrict post access based on time so that only patrons of the appropriate tier see it before everyone else.
Ted-Ed gives early access to new "secret shop" items to all patrons, and $4+/mo patrons get sneak peeks on upcoming content. Liz Gipson shares sneak peeks with $3+/mo supporters. The Paranormal Scholar shares previews of content with all $1+/mo patrons.
Sponsorship isn’t for everyone, but some community leaders gather significant support from sponsors. As long as you’re able to remain independent and unbiased, most of your community will be happy to see that you’re being compensated for all your hard work.
Take IndigenousX, for example: Their platform offers recognition to $1000/mo sponsors. But you don’t have to "go big" to snag a sponsor. BraverMountain lets $100/mo patrons “sponsor” one of the Huskies on their dogsled team. And Nathan Rabin lets patrons sponsor individual articles for $27+/mo.
If you run ads on your website, then giving your patrons an ad-free experience is a great way to say thanks.
For example, Universe Today thanks $3+/mo patrons for their support by removing ads from the site. Funnyjunk covers hosting costs by offering anyone who ever pledges $10/mo to their Patreon campaign a lifetime ad-free experience. And $3+/mo supporters of the Sox Machine experience their podcast without ads, along with some bonus content.
Ad removal can even work as an advertisement for your Patreon. As shown above, Universe Today advertises their Patreon campaign (and the opportunity to remove ads) in their sidebar. To make that easier, Patreon offers a free integration with Wordpress that lets you provide an exclusive experience for patrons visiting your site.
Not every hangout and live chat is an AMA (although it can be, if that’s your style). While some community leaders use them to answer questions, others use them as a chance to hang out with followers, dish on what’s been happening, or present extra content.
Hangouts and webinars can be rewards for lower or higher value tiers, depending on the experience you want to curate. If you’re appealing to a large audience, a lower bar of entry makes sense. If your offer is for a handful of super-dedicated supporters, a higher price is more appropriate.
RMNB, a hockey community, offers a once-per-month hangout to all $10+/mo supporters. Oshay Jackson of The Negromanosphere offers a hangout for all $20+/mo patrons, but reserves one-on-one calls for $100+/mo supporters. The Lighthouse Project opens up a one-hour long session with Diana and other members at the $50+/mo level.
Voting is a great reward to offer if you want input from your most dedicated followers on what you should do next. Most creators on Patreon find success by giving patrons a list of pre-vetted options to choose from (i.e., no open-ended questions). Whether it’s voting on the next merch release or on what topic you’ll cover next, it’s helpful to know what your patrons think. In the meantime, they love that their opinion matters.
Voting is rarely a standalone reward; it’s often combined in a tier with several other benefits. Chipperish Media makes it a $1+/mo entry-level reward along with Discord access and a Patreon-only news feed. Patrons of Language Transfer get votes according to the dollar value of the tier they chose. And voting is just one of five rewards that the Riley Family Farm Rescue offers to $1+/mo patrons.
Offering rewards is often a better business strategy than simply asking for support. But in rare cases, it makes more sense to offer emotional incentives rather than concrete rewards. For example, the DNA Lounge runs a Patreon to support its continued existence. Patrons don’t receive extras, but each tier has a compelling description that compares the monthly tier price to something club-goers would buy regularly without hesitation.
While a no-rewards strategy isn’t a great fit for most Patreon campaigns, it’s always a good idea to have colorful descriptions and good homepage copy for your campaign.
The usefulness of the rewards above depend heavily on why you’re a community leader and what kind of content, if any, you create. But if you select a handful that make sense for your schedule and your audience’s interests, you’ll be well on your way to a strong campaign.