How to Set Up Donations on Twitch

Paypal isn't the only way to accept donations

Illustration of a person holding a gaming console in front of a huge Twitch screen with money floating through the air

Lifewire / Kyle Fewel 

Accepting donations from viewers is a popular way to earn income while streaming on Twitch. Despite its popularity, though, setting up a donation system is more complicated than simply enabling a "donate" button on a Twitch user profile.

Users are required to think outside the box and use features such as Twitch's first-party bits/cheers system or one of the many third-party options that other companies have made available. Here are the four most popular donation solutions for Twitch streamers and how to use them.

Twitch Bits

Bits (also called cheers) are Twitch's official donation system. They're a little more complicated than simply sending some cash to a streamer with the push of a button, though, and they're available only for Twitch affiliates and partners. Bits are essentially a form of digital currency that is purchased directly from Twitch with real-world money using Amazon Payments.

These bits can then be used from within a Twitch stream's chat box to trigger special audio and visual alert onscreen. As a reward for using their bits, users earn special badges that are displayed alongside their names in the stream's chat. The more bits they use, the higher the rank of the badges they earn. The Twitch streamer earns $1 for every 100 bits (1 cent per bit) used during their stream.

  1. Twitch enables Cheering automatically for all new Affiliates and Partners.

    Twitch dashboard

    The settings for Cheering are under Dashboard > Partner Settings > Bits & Cheering.

  2. Viewers can now use their bits in your channel by typing cheer and the number of bits they wish to use. For example, cheer5 would use five bits, and cheer1000 would use 1,000.

PayPal Donations on Twitch

One of the easiest ways to accept donations on Twitch is to use PayPal. A streamer can ask viewers to send money directly by using the email address associated with the streamer's PayPal account. An easier option, though, is to simply set up a PayPal.me link, which streamlines the entire process for the viewer with a clean design and easy-to-understand interface. Here are some effective ways to use a PayPal.me address for receiving donations on Twitch:

  • Verbally mention your full PayPal.me address during a stream.
  • Post your link in your channel's chat. Not only will this get your viewers' attention but it also will be a lot more effective, because the link is clickable from within the chat.
  • Add a donation section to your Twitch Channel page by going to your channel, clicking on the Edit Panels switch, then clicking on the giant + symbol. Fill in the Panel Title and Description fields and add your PayPal.me link to the description, along with a brief message explaining why you think viewers should donate.

Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies

The use of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum to send and receive funds online continues to increase because of their speed, security, and lower transaction fees. Receiving a payment into your cryptocurrency wallet is as simple as sharing your wallet's address with another user. Here's how to make this work with Twitch.

  1. Open up your chosen cryptocurrency's wallet app. Bitpay is a popular wallet app for new users.

  2. Click on the Receive button or link. All wallets have this option regardless of currency or app maker.

  3. You will see a single line of seemingly random numbers and letters; this is your wallet's address. Tap the address to copy it to your device's clipboard.

  4. Create a donation section on your Twitch profile as described above in the PayPal section on this page.

  5. Paste your wallet address into the Description field, making sure to mention what cryptocurrency the wallet address is for. Users will be unable to send Ethereum to a Litecoin wallet or Bitcoin to an Ethereum wallet, so it's incredibly important to label the address correctly.

    While in the Receive section of your wallet app, take a screenshot of the QR code. This code is the QR version of your wallet address, and viewers can scan it to send you money. You can add the saved image of your QR code to your Twitch profile's donation section or even as a media element to your Twitch layout in OBS Studio (as you would a webcam window or other image) so your viewers can scan it with their mobile phones while watching your stream. Don't forget to mention which currency the QR code wallet address is for.

  6. You should now be able to receive bitcoin using Bitpay.

Twitch Donation Page Services

Twitch streamers can connect to their account to a variety of third-party services activate additional features such as donations and alerts. Some of the most popular include Gaming For Good, Muxy, Stream Elements, and StreamLabs. Each of these services creates a unique donation page for your channel hosted on its own server, to which you can direct your viewers to make a donation.

Here's how to set up a donation page on StreamLabs, which has the most features and is the easiest to use for beginners. The steps are very similar for setting up a donation page on the other sites.

  1. From your StreamLabs Dashboard, click on Donation Settings.

  2. Click on the PayPal icon to connect your PayPal account to StreamLabs so that viewers can send donations directly to your PayPal account from the donation page. You also can add other payment options on this page such as Unitpay, Skrill, and credit cards, but PayPal should be the primary method you activate, given its wide usage among Twitch viewers.

  3. From the Donations Settings > Settings, select your currency and minimum/maximum donation limits. Setting the minimum donation to 5 dollars is a good idea to discourage users from spamming your account with small donations.

  4. Select Save Settings at the bottom of the page.

  5. The Settings page will display your donation page website address. It should look something like https://streamlabs.com/username. Copy this address and add it to the donation section on your Twitch Channel page.

Should You Accept Donations on Twitch?

Accepting donations and tips on Twitch is a very common practice, and neither streamers nor viewers frown on it. Donations are one of the few ways small channels can earn revenue. When you gain more followers and become a Twitch affiliate or partner, however, it's important to learn about Twitch subscriptions. Subscriptions on Twitch have proven very effective, earning significantly higher sums than one-off donations and offering the potential to grow over time.

Are Twitch Donations Taxable?

Yes. Despite being referred to as donations, tips, or gifts by streamers, this money is considered a valid source of income, so you should claim it when filing a tax return.

How to Prevent Donation Chargebacks

Using PayPal can be a convenient, trustworthy method of accepting donations, but it does have one major flaw that is occasionally exploited by scammers; chargebacks. This happens when someone who has paid for something online via PayPal files a complaint with the company claiming that they never received the purchased goods or services. When this happens, PayPal more often than not completely refunds the buyer, leaving the seller without their product and no money to show for it.

Unfortunately for streamers, reports are increasing of scammers and internet trolls donating large amounts of money to Twitch channels only to have it all charged back a couple of months later. You can't protect yourself from this sort of scam 100% with PayPal, which is why many experienced streamers prefer to focus on bits (which are protected by Amazon Payments) and cryptocurrency donations (which can't be canceled or charged back).

How to Encourage Your Twitch Viewers to Donate

Most viewers on Twitch are more than happy to support their favorite streamers, but they won't think to donate if they don't know it's an option. Here are five simple ways to remind your audience to donate without coming across as pushy or spammy.

  1. Thank your donors verbally during a stream. This not only reminds viewers that donating is an option but also rewards donors with three seconds of fame.
  2. Add a Recent Donor widget that displays the names of the last few donors to your onscreen Twitch layout. Use the StreamLabs service and the OBS Studio program to do this. This won't be an option if you stream directly from your video game console.
  3. Create a list of donors on your Twitch profile page. This could get unwieldy for large channels, but for streamers with small audiences, this can be a great way to thank donors and encourage those who haven't yet to give it a go. Some streamers also create lists of their top five donors, which can encourage competition among viewers.
  4. Create a goal. Viewers are more likely to donate if they know what their money is going toward. Services such as StreamLabs can create a free progress bar you can add to a stream layout in OBS Studio. This visualization updates in real-time as people donate and can motivate an audience to work toward a goal. You can mention donation goals verbally and within your profile.
  1. Use custom alerts. One of the best ways to reward donors is by customizing your alerts. Alerts are visual and audio cues that trigger during a live stream when a viewer follows, subscribes, donates, or tips with bits. If you've seen a message like, "Thanks for following!!" onscreen, you've already seen an alert in action. You can customize alerts in StreamLabs with any animated gif and sound file. Entertaining combinations tend to encourage viewers to donate again to see the alert.