This has worked for me.
I’ve only had about 1000 steam accounts connect to my server over the 4 months I’ve had it, haven’t promoted it anywhere (think I put a server post in here a while back, but that got maybe 10 players nothing more), and the average playercount is about 0-3 offpeak, 5-8 peak at the moment, yet on the books I’m still up.
Spent about $55+55+35+35 on hosting = $180
Took in $25+25+25+25+25+20+20+10+5+5+5 = $190
Unfortunately I’ve also spent about 300-400hrs on the server doing admin stuff and mods sooooo yeah it’s still a moneysink in real terms, but I’m not technically out of pocket (even with how expensive Australian hosts are, for something that isn’t shit)
The vast majority of those amounts taken in were no-strings-attached donations, not in exchange for donator perks in any way - they just wanted to see the server survive, and for me to stick around because they appreciated my work, and fair stance on the admin side of things.
Edit: You’ve got Facepunch forums, Oxide forums (assuming you use that), Reddit, Toprustservers, and a half dozen smaller joints if you really want to put in the time - to write a decent post on each for your server. You have mods on any of the major frameworks to provide information in a server welcome message when people join, or automatic periodic messages, to communicate details about how to donate to you or contact you… Just make it easy to get in touch with you (without being annoying about it), and people will throw you some coin if they think you’re doing a good job.
You’re in the service industry here - but you won’t get tipped unless you’re providing very good service. Think non-US tipping