Is asking for donations from users a viable option for a startup?


I know, Evan Williams asked for donations from users while he was running in its early days but that was then. Is a donation button for a web app in beta tactless, in these times? what if theres already 2 ad units per page?

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asked Dec 28 '09 at 16:43
352 points
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  • If it were me: If they donate then they get to skip the ads. Keep track of users who donated - so if you go to a different model they can be be on the "paid" list. – Tim J 14 years ago
  • yes, the idea is to go freemium later on. – Eric 14 years ago

2 Answers


You can always ask, but if you plan on charging for usage, it might be a bad idea. Speaking from my personal perspective, if I used an app that asked for a donation, I might give something, but if a month later they started charging me, then I would resent the fact that I had been hit up for a donation earlier.

If, however, the intent is to NEVER charge the users based on their current usage (which will always be available) and you ask for a donation to help offset your expenses until some other revenue model picks up, then I don't think there would be a problem.

answered Dec 29 '09 at 01:42
4,692 points
  • The plan is to go freemium later down the road. once we have the premium plans up we have no problem giving them back the amount of donation they gave based on the pricing of the plan. – Eric 14 years ago
  • @Eric - I think that would be a problem,trying to give back the donation, but, you could mention that donations now will earn free 1 yr or 6mth membership later. – James Black 14 years ago
  • sorry, i got the wording all wrong, rewarding them back the amount of donation they gave in the form of premium memberships. – Eric 14 years ago


Even if you can ask, imho, donations are kind of pointless unless you have wikipedia scale level of traffic. People simply do not donate.

answered Dec 30 '09 at 06:58
Sam Saffron
432 points

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