Drive-By Patronage

I’ve had a problematic new trend arise, and I’m interested to see if other people are experiencing it as well. Twice in as many weeks, I’ve had a new patron pledge $10, then within hours or even minutes, delete their pledge. One had the decency to respond to the exit survey by saying he only intended to pledge for a limited time (very limited, I guess), but the other has not responded, at least not yet.

First off, I’ll acknowledge that my Patreon campaign is set to charge new patrons the moment they sign up, and again at the beginning of each month. So I have benefited from these two “patrons” to the tune of my one-time $19ish share of their pledges. But that’s not really the point.

At this stage, anybody signing up for a pledge of $5 or more will have access to hundreds of photographs. That’s the idea, of course - you get to see every photo in each photoset I publish if you support me at $5/month or more. But I have the suspicion that these two guys each ponied up their $10 in order to have immediate access to everything, and view everything right away (perhaps even download everything by right-clicking on every single photo, though that may be a bit of a stretch), then get out quickly so they wouldn’t get charged again.

Again, I’ll acknowledge - that is technically an option for every patron. I’m grateful for every patron who sticks around, because it helps me assess my “reliable” income from the project. But the entire point of Patreon is to stick around and support my work on an ongoing basis.

I’ll also acknowledge that my project isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s possible they made their pledge, then decided they didn’t care for my work after all. But I do think there are enough free “Preview” posts that people should have a sense of both my mission and my aesthetic by the time they give their credit card number (not to mention that most people find my Patreon via my Twitter or Instagram feeds, which have tons of free previews as well; as a “NSFW” Patreon, you can’t find me via Search). So I tend to doubt this is what’s happening.

My only other working theory is that $10 patrons are finding that the monthly “Behind the Scenes” post at that sponsorship level isn’t worth the additional $5/month - but in that case, I would think they’d simply lower their pledge to $5, which I could at least understand.

Has anybody experienced something similar? If so, how have you approached it? I’m tempted to make a post that addresses it somehow, though I’m not sure how yet. Maybe I can edit my welcome/thanks message to suggest that if new patrons are disappointed in what they find, they should contact me and let me know before simply dropping out? That might make more sense than a post.

I would love to have other creators’ thoughts on this. Thank you!


You’re right that Patreon is intended for people to make regular donations. However, many people do genuinely just want to give a single donation, much like a traditional crowdfunding option, and the only way to do that on Patreon is to make a pledge for the amount they want to donate and then delete it once their first payment has gone through.

This is actually a much-requested feature, so much so that there’s an article on it somewhere in the Help Center.

Bear in mind that many people don’t have a lot of spare cash lying around, but still want to help out. As you say, they both donated twice as much as they needed to in order to get access to those photos, so I don’t think it’s a cynical ploy just to download them and then cancel the pledge or they’d have paid the minimum $5.

I don’t have the “charge up front” option; I had one Patron cancel immediately after their first payment went through when, if they’d wanted to cheat somehow, they’d have cancelled it 24 hours earlier. It’s quite a common thing.

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Thank you, I appreciate the perspective, and it’s good to know that the negative conclusion to which I’m jumping may be unjustified.

Or they don’t want the patronage to show up on their page as something they’re supporting.

I actually encourage this behavior:

I post monthly downloadable images sheets for my $3 patrons. Since I’ve been doing this for over two years, I have two dozen plus sheets, just sitting out there, not working for me.

So, I tagged all the monthly posts with image sheets in them, and periodically, I add a blurb to the email I send out to my newsletter subscribers, telling them they can grab a couple dozen image sheets by pledging $3 or more—and then, they can stay for the remainder of the month, to see if they like the other perks patronage offers. I tell them if they like it, they can stay, and become a monthly patron, but if they don’t, they can bail out any time before the last day of the month, and not get charged again.

I pick up a handful of people each time I do this, and more stay than leave. It’s no big deal to me if they look, and decide they don’t want to stay. At least they’ve left me a few dollars in exchange.