When I was in Nepal, there was a crowd gathered on the side of the road. As we got closer, we could hear a man chanting. Closer, we could see he was blind and on his blanket before him was an abundance of coins, loose rice, fruit and flowers. Our guide said he was an "official" beggar. I asked:

Why is he official? Because he doesn't ask.

Why doesn't he ask? He doesn't need to. He's official.

What's the difference in an unoffical beggar? They're shameful. They ask for money.

Wouldn't this official beggar get more if he asked? No. He also collects their respect.

What's he chanting? Thanks.

Though our guide talked circles, it occurs to me this was the perfect model of patronage: People reward you for not asking. Why? Because we don't have to beg. We don't even need to ask. As the patronage economy for content creators grows, we just make the opportunity to support us available and make it as obvious as possible.

The stigma of asking.

For some of us, asking a stranger to buy us a coffee is not an easy task. We were likely taught not to beg when we were kids. While begging works, it often involves guilting people to give to you. That can be a negative experience and a turn off for your audience. You really want people to have a good feeling associated with buying you a coffee. And really, you don't have to stoop to begging or even asking for support.

BMAC: The name makes the ask for you.

The beauty of Buy Me a Coffee is that the name of this service does the hard lifting. "Buy Me a Coffee" in the text of the link or button makes the ask for something small and gives your audience an easy way to support you.

Adding the "why".

Just adding a BMAC link or button to your content space may not inspire many in your audience to give. In our "What's in it for me?" world, many people want a reason why they should support you. When you answer that, it's a powerful thing that encourages more coffees. It connects a benefit for them with buying you a coffee. Essentially, it's an exchange. Here are three ways you can show a benefit:

  • The "I've given you something" approach. I regularly let people know if they find the content I've given them of value, they can feel free show support by buying me a coffee. So I'm not asking for something for nothing. I also link my audience to more content in a similar vain, like more recipes or more how-to articles. The hope is if they don't buy me a coffee on the first post, perhaps they will on the second or third when they see I have a lot to offer them.

  • The "You're supporting future content" approach. I'll mention to my audience that buying me a coffee is what keeps content like this coming. If they want to see more, supporting me will encourage that.

  • The "I actually care about you" approach. In my article on on Getting Your Crowd to Fund You Without Selling Your Soul, I point out steps I've taken to improve my audience's experience. These include removing affiliate links (so they know my reviews are from the heart and not from the wallet), not relying on annoying uncontrollable third-party ads in my content and removing tracking links from my blog in an effort to protect their browsing privacy. I really do care since I pay for services like web and video hosting that I control and I'm losing revenue without affiliate links and third-party ads. I point this out in my footer on each blog page: "Why buy me a coffee? No third-party ads, no affiliate links, no tracking cookies. Just honest content. Thanks." You'll notice there that I didn't ask. I just state the facts and let them decide.

The importance of thanks.

The fact that the official beggar was chanting his thanks even before people gave hits me as a big part of the success of the patronage economy. While I think saying thanks is necessary, it can sometimes come off as insincere, especially if you just thank your audience as a whole. I think it's important to thank everyone individually. I try to do this on my BMAC page by replying to each gift of a coffee. Occasionally I get anonymous coffees. But I also usually get notification from the payment service of that donor's email and I send a brief note of thanks.

Even better than saying thanks is showing your thanks. Prove it. Give them something. If you're an author give them a digital book. If you're a musician give them a download of your EP. These are thank-you gifts that don't really cost you anything. Genuine gratitude will go far in building a relationship with your audience.

My take.

Even children who had very little themselves were tossing that official beggar rice, a coin or even a cookie onto his blanket almost like it was a wishing well. One of the most fascinating things was that there was plenty that had been given to him, perhaps even more than those who gave had in their own kitchen or wallet, yet they came and gave more. That didn't seem to matter to them. It almost seemed like it was their duty to give. But it went beyond duty: The smiles on the faces indicated they felt they were getting the better end of the deal.