You’ve considering implementing donations on your WordPress site — as a tip jar. Should you use a PayPal button, install a donation plugin, or put content behind a membership paywall?

And, perhaps this is an evolving debate. Does a podcaster need a tip jar if he has sponsors? Does a freelancer who blogs need a tip jar?

Good thing we’re talking about WordPress. Therefore, it’s up to you. But here’s the thing. People who are invested are more, well, invested. Those who feel like they have helped you are more likely to be loyal to you as well. They’re more concerned about sharing your content and ensuring your success.

Why use a Tip Jar?

You’re a writer, podcaster, photographer, artist. You’re a teacher. You bring value. Why not install a tip jar? Maybe someone read your latest blog post and is thinking, wow — that just changed my life. They may want to help you out. Even $5 covers a soy latte, right?

“Not every WordPress site has products to sell. Although many can turn their blogs into a revenue stream by offering goods and services somewhere in the mix, there are various reasons you might not be in a position to do so. …Donations are one of the most common ways to do just that, and they can sometimes even be more effective than ads or sponsored posts.” Tom Ewer, Elegant Themes

One of my favorite long-form blogs is by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings. She is a consummate reader and her writing brings together ideas you’d never imagine together. Though she isn’t a Give user (yet), she effectively uses a tip jar — notice the prominent position.

Though, Brain Pickings isn’t a Give user (yet), she effectively uses a tip jar .
Though, Brain Pickings isn’t a Give user (yet), she effectively uses a tip jar .

How to use the Give donation plugin as a Tip Jar

Out of the box, Give works with PayPal Standard. Set up your PayPal account, install Give, and create your online donation form. Of course, we highly recommend that you have a SSL certificate and you can learn more about that here.

One more time: We highly recommend that you have an SSL certificate installed and forced through your site.

When you set up the form, be sure to suggest donation amounts and leave a blank amount for custom donations. Once your donation form is created, you can use the Give Shortcode to embed it in a sidebar widget, footer, or wherever your heart desires.

“The Give plugin, and any campaign using the Give plugin is only as effective as its promotion. Considerable effort must be put into getting the word out, telling your story, and inviting your audience to contribute.

Advantages to platforms such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter, etc., include that the platforms’ own audiences may come across your campaign. Not so with Give, unless you can inspire members of your own audience to share and promote your campaign extensively.

So there’s more work that must be put into campaigning utilizing Give on your website. But then, you own your campaign and with that comes the logistical and financial pluses that make Give ideal for the committed fundraiser.” Kari Leigh Marucchi

That said, it shouldn’t be difficult for people to find a way to help you. I’d suggest also putting the shortcode on your about and/or contact pages, too. You’d be surprised how many people want to help you out, especially when you’re providing great resources.

Who can use a Tip Jar?

Anyone with a WordPress site and a payment gateway (PayPal, Stripe, etc) can use Give as a tip jar. Most popular tip jars are seen on sites for artists, bloggers, and podcasters.

Of course, if you’re concerned about tax implications, consult your accountant. As of 2016, you are responsible for paying personal income tax on amounts over $14,000. That number may change annually.

“The annual exclusion for 2014, 2015, and 2016 is $14,000.” IRS

Also of note is that if you are not a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit, donations made to you are not tax deductible for the donor. Tip Jars fall under the “personal gift” category.

“Making a gift or leaving your estate to your heirs does not ordinarily affect your federal income tax. You cannot deduct the value of gifts you make (other than gifts that are deductible charitable contributions).“ IRS

If you’re outside of the United States of America, consult your own local authorities.

Examples of Give as a Tip Jar

Two great examples of tip jars using Give come from photographer Kari Leigh Marucchi and fine artist Uriél Dana. They both offer explanations on the purpose of the tip jar.

Uriél is using the sidebar widget prominently located at the top left of her site. She offers a giveaway to donors, as well.

“Thank you for your patronage! All patrons who contribute over $1000 will receive a drawing. From time to time, I will also pull a name from the tip jar. Much like a raffle, a small treasure will be mailed to that person as an expression of my gratitude.” Uriél Dana Fine Art

Fine artist Uriél Dana uses Give for her tip jar.
Fine artist Uriél Dana uses Give for her tip jar.

Kari Leigh, a photographer who is working on curating WordCamp photos, uses Give in her Coffee & Glass Campaign.

“I started my Coffee & Glass fundraising campaign using the Give plugin to support my work with the WP Photo Project. That includes doing comprehensive photography for WordCamps around the world, and building a central archive for WordCamp photographer submissions.

This work has been partially sponsored by generous companies in the WordPress space, but it’s not been enough to run the project effectively. I love that when I travel to shoot a Camp, because of the Coffee & Glass donations that supplement the sponsorships, I’m literally community funded.

These donations tell me that my work is valued, and to keep doing it. They help support the expenses and time it takes to document WordCamp history — an effort I’m deeply in love with.

I called my fundraising campaign “Coffee & Glass” in reference to travel expenses (I’m a sucker for a great cup of coffee, expensive when traveling and yet so comforting), and photography equipment. Portions of the funds raised have gone to improve my kit a bit, including one lens (known to photographers as “glass”) so far. It’s a bit inside-baseball, but incredibly evocative for me. Every time I get the ping of a donation notice, I’m heartened, and strengthened, and moved to do better and go further. Being able to run my own donation collection machine, ongoingly, has been an incredible blessing.

As a “tip jar”, the Give plugin is perfect for what I do. The photography I do at WordCamps is a gift to the community, I do not charge for it. But I often am asked, “Can I pay you for my photo?” The answer is always, “No, but thank you, my work is a gift to you as an attendee/speaker/volunteer/sponsor.” But the reality is that there is sometimes a very strong desire to give back, to thank the person who gave you value and for some, giving a tip is an ideal way to say thanks.

I’m careful about bringing it up, there must be zero impression of any quid pro quo, and often I just don’t unless pressed. So I’m very grateful to all of my friends who talk about and mention my Coffee & Glass campaign.

With all the love I have for the work I do photographing the faces of the WordPress community, the tips in my Give plugin donation jar are received with my promise they will be paid forward.” Kari Leigh Marucchi

She has cleverly labeled the donation levels from “$5 springing for comforting cups of coffee” to “$50 getting me to the gigs on time” to “$1000 time for a properly modern camera, seriously.” She believes that her morale has been boosted knowing that people are sending what they can when they can. She is reinforced in her vision to continue on with this archival project.

Kari Leigh, a photographer who is working on curating WordCamp photos, uses give in her Coffee & Glass Campaign
Coffee & Glass Campaign by Found Art Photography

What’s stopping you?

Maybe a tip jar is the right move for you. Do people often offer to send you money because you helped them? Why not make it easy? Install Give on your WordPress-powered web property today.

Bridget Willard

Bridget is co-host of WPblab, co-organizer of Women Who WP Meetup, and Team Rep for the Marketing Team for WordPress.org.

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