One of the simplest ways to start earning passive income right away is to request donations. Just invite people to give you money.

The Kindness of Strangers

In rare situations donations can really take off. Consider the recent case of Karen Klein, the New York bus monitor who was filmed being bullied by students on the bus. A guy named Max Sidorov started a campaign to raise money for her to take a vacation, via the site Indiegogo, with a goal of raising $5000.

As the abuse video went viral, racking up millions of views on YouTube, and news of this campaign spread, donation pledges came pouring in. Last time I checked, Karen’s donations were well in excess of $500,000, and there are still 28 days left in the fundraising campaign.

On top of that, someone started an Indiegogo campaign to raise some “love money” for Max as well, perhaps to reward him for coming up with the idea. The initial goal was to raise $2500 for Max, and that campaign is already past $4400.

Before this is over, Karen Klein could very well be a millionaire. And she didn’t even ask for this.

Apparently Karen’s normal salary as a bus monitor was $15K per year. At the rate her donations are increasing, she’s probably earning a year’s salary in a few hours now.

Ask and It Is Given

My results with donations are nowhere near as explosive as Karen’s, but I do invite and accept donations as one of many passive income streams. Donations are one of my smallest streams, but they can add up over time, and this stream is very easy to maintain.

I first began testing donations in 2005. I’d been blogging for several months but wasn’t really making money at it. I started getting emails from people telling me they wanted to pay me something for all the value they’d received from my free content. One of them asked if he could PayPal me some money. I said sure, and he gave me a donation.

Others encouraged me to make it easier for them to donate, and taking their advice actually saved me time. Otherwise people would have kept asking. So I put up a donations page with a PayPal link. PayPal can automatically generate the HTML code and donation button for you, so this is very easy to do.

The amount of money I’ve made from donations has varied over time. At its peak several years ago, I would see $1-2K in donations per month. These days it’s around $500-700 per month on average. Although it’s not a major income stream, donations still bring in thousands of dollars in income per year.

If you already have a website that provides some decent value for free, I encourage you to at least try putting up a donations link and see what happens. If at least a few people want to pay you back in some small way, why not make it easy for them?

I’ve received many donations for $100, $200, and even $300+. It’s nice to receive this extra financial support, especially when providing so much content for free.

Effectiveness of Donations

Donations help, but I wouldn’t suggest basing your entire income strategy around donations unless you’re creating a non-profit enterprise and you have someone in charge of fundraising, or if you have a truly massive audience like Wikipedia. For a normal web business, donations can provide a nice little income stream, but I wouldn’t count on them to cover all of your expenses.

On the other hand, if you have the ability to create a major viral campaign around your fundraising efforts like Max Sidorov did for Karen Klein, then a donation-centric strategy may be worth a try.

If you want to start generating some passive income, meet the universe halfway. Ask!