Calculating your donation's value following Patreon's fee changes

Published 2019-05-06 on Drew DeVault's blog

In January 2018, I wrote a blog post which included a fee calculator. Patreon changes their fee model tomorrow, and it’s time for an updated calculator. I’m grandfathered into the old fees, so not much has changed for me, but I want to equip Patreon users - creators and supporters - with more knowledge of how their money is moving through the platform.

Patreon makes money by siphoning some money off the top of a donation flow between supporters and creators. Because of the nature of its business (a private, VC-backed corporation), the siphon’s size and semantics are prone to change in undesirable ways, since VC’s expect infinite growth and a private business generally puts profit first. For this reason, I diversify my income, so that when Patreon makes these changes it limits their impact on my financial well-being. Even so, Patreon is the biggest of my donation platforms, representing over $500/month at the time of writing (full breakdown here)1.

So, for any patrons who are curious about where their money goes, here’s a handy calculator to help you navigate the complex fees. Enjoy!

Note: I don’t normally ask you to share my posts, but the Patreon community is too distributed for me to effectively reach them alone. Please share this with your Patreon creators and communities!

Note: this calculator does not include the withdrawal fee. When the creator withdraws their funds from the platform, an additional fee is charged, but the nature of that fee changes depending on the frequency with which they make withdrawals and the total amount of money they make from all patrons - which is information that’s not easily available to the average patron for using with this calculator. For details on the withdrawal fees, see Patreon’s support article on the subject.

One question that’s been left unanswered is how many times Patreon is going to charge patrons for each creator they support. Previously, they batched payments and only accordingly charged the payment processing fees once. However, along with these changes, they’re going to charge payment processing fees for each creator, but they haven’t lowered the payment processing fees. When we take a look at our bank returns in the coming months, if Patreon is still batching payments internally… hmm, where is the extra money going? We’ll have to wait and see.

What are founding creators?

Creators who used the Patreon platform prior to 2019-05-07 are “founding creators”, and have different rates. They have different rates for each plan, and lower payment processing fees. Founding creators are also not usually lite creators, but were grandfathered into the pro plan.

What does charge up front mean?

Some creators have the option to charge you as soon as you join the platform, rather than once monthly or per-creation. This results in higher payment processing fees for founding creators, as Patreon cannot batch the charge alongside with your other creators.

How do I know what plan my creator uses?

We can guess which plan our creator uses by looking at the features they use on Patreon. Here are some giveaways:

  • If they have different membership tiers, they use the Pro plan or better.
  • If they offer merch through Patreon, they use the Premium plan.

You can also just reach out to your creator and ask!

2

  1. This is supplemented with my Sourcehut income as well, which is covered in the recent Q1 financial report, as well as some consulting work, which I don’t publish numbers for. 

  2. This is an assumption based on public PayPal and Stripe payment processing rates. In practice, it’s likely that Patreon has a volume discount with their payment processors. Patreon does not publish these rates. 

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