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WooCommerce and donations: How to generate sales from digital products

There are many digital products out there that are distributed for free because it’s impossible to sell them,

This is generally due to multiple reasons:

  • A free product goes viral more easily than one you have to pay for, assigning a price to it you might run the risk for the product not to get shared.
  • A product made by many people, like an open source software cannot be sold as its own nature is meant for free access.

So what can we do in these cases? Are forced to share our work with no reward other then the one obtained from the ads we are forced to use?

The best solution is actually the one that’s already in use in many website, but it can be made a lot more efficient than it usually is: I’m talking about donations.

Offering the opportunity of performing donations is essential for many websites that encounter these difficulties, but often the PauPal button gets completely ignored and despite the high influx of visits, donations stay low.

So how do we improve this system?

Let’s take two examples and see how and why they should introduce a donation system that’s as simple and intuitive as e-commerce stores are.

Creative and open source software

I could ask you to open your installed programs panel and I would surely find at least one open source program.

This kind of programs owes its popularity to two main elements:

  • Their code is free to edit, offering anybody the chance to improve it and add features.
  • The software itself is entirely free, which is the world’s number one incentive, right after sexual references

Just consider WordPress itself, but also Magento, Mozilla Firefox, Audacity (a free recording and audio editing softwars), Open Office etc…

And just like these big names who became famous all over the internet, there are thousands that are less known but are still used.

But I’m not just talking about full programs there are millions of users who regularly use mods (add-ons created by fans) in their videogames, which cannot be sold but are still users by a huge number of people.

Just like these two scenarios, there is a big number of other products that cannot be sold for a reason or another and that are often unsuccesfully accompanied by the chance of offering a donation.

Another typical example?

Internet access offered the chance to many creators to leave their isolation and spread their content to the public. Everyone cha create their own showcase where they can expose their works, but is it that easy to actually sell them?

Even in this case there are two main reasons why we have this difficulty:

  • Distributing these products for free is demeaning for the talent and competence of the artist.
  • Distributing these products for a price reduces the viral reach for any emerging artist.

Is there an alternative solution?

Yes, and again I’m talking about donations, so let’s see how to effectively integrate this system in order to monetize our content.

It’s a free product, but…

One of the main problems of donation function is often their position: as it’s statistically useless to insert it in the main information page or in the download page, it’s often ignored as users are only interested in downloading their content.

Creating an e commerce store, possibily using WooCommerce due to how easy and versatile it is, allows you to effectively direct users towards downloads and handle a big amount of content.

If this is true, it’s also true that the very nature of an e-commerce store requires sales of products and services. Sure, they could even be all free, but that’s what we are trying to avoid.

Is it possible to add these products as items in a store and ask for a free donation rather than a price to pay?

Yes, you can do that using the YITH Donations for WooCommerce plugin.

This plugin allows you to enter the chance to replace the product price with the “Donate” function, allowing full freedom to set up a minimum amount for the donation before proceeding to the download or making it entirely optional:


So what changes from the usual donation function?

  • This is how you can be sure that all of those who are going to download the content, are going to see the donation request.
  • Entering a very low amount as a minimum donation ($1, for example) is the right middle way between avoiding to lose popularity and still get a reasonable income.

Start monetizing your content right now thanks to this system!

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