How do I solicit money for a friend?
September 20, 2010 8:25 PM   Subscribe

I want to solicit donations with a money raised bar and everything to buy a bike for a good friend who just had her bike stolen.

I just moved into the area, and so we do not have any mutual friends. She has a lot of Facebook friends and acquaintances. Would it be okay to get the e-mails from those with public profiles and ask them to put in what they have? I want to be totally transparent with the money received and such.

Just a little history: We met more than a month ago and totally hit it off and have been hanging out and doing stuff ever since. She is one of the most outdoorsy person I have ever met, and so losing her bike, her primary means of transportation, was pretty devastating to her, and she can't afford to buy another one as nice. I want to do that for her.

I was thinking of setting up something where friends can donate and where they can see a real-time bar that shows how much has been donated, similar to what you see for Susan Komen breast cancer walks and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Is there anything like that available for an individual?

Also, is it creepy to ask friends of a friend who are strangers to you?

Thanks so much for your help!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
ChipIn or WePay
posted by sharkfu at 8:34 PM on September 20, 2010

Woops! How do you think outdoorsy new friend is going to react when it appears you have labeled her as a "charity case" to all her friends/acquaintances.

This could so easily be the end of your social prospects with all those people, including this neat new friendly person.
posted by Anitanola at 8:42 PM on September 20, 2010 [8 favorites]

Some people really don't take to being the center of attention and pity in this manner, no matter what the intent is. I know it feels like a nice thing to do, but you just don't know this person well enough to be a good judge of whether it would jive with her personality or not. At the most, you ought to approach one or two of her closer friends and discuss it with them first.

Hey, who knows, maybe it'll be a bad idea but you'll end up making new friends!
posted by griphus at 8:47 PM on September 20, 2010

I'm adding a voice to the choir that this is a bad idea, and adding that this is an unbelievably bad idea. Facebook friends might not be people she's spoken to in years (high school friends, what have you), and you probably don't know the relationship she has with her family (and may not be able to tell who's related and who's not), or exes, whatever, and you're proposing going to them without her permission and saying "hey, [friend]'s having money trouble and needs donations, and isn't even able to ask for it herself, she's having some friend do it." This is super, super not ok, without her direct support and permission.
posted by brainmouse at 9:08 PM on September 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yes, I would find it creepy to be approached by a stranger and asked to buy a bike for a friend of mine. I would find it especially creepy if they even hinted that buying a new bike was in any way, however small, similar to raising money for cancer. I definitely would not give money to a stranger who told me they were going to buy a bike for a friend of mine. And I would absolutely call my friend immediately to let her know about the solicitation. Unless the "friend" in question was just an acquaintance or a business contact or any one of hundreds of "friends" I have on Facebook who are not actually my friends, in which case I'd probably secretly think less of her for having friendships with people who solicit from strangers, but never tell her about it.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is absolutely not a good way to behave. Buying someone a new bike is a really nice gesture. Rounding up the email addresses of strangers whose relationship to the recipient you don't know in order to ask for help buying someone a new bike is creepy.
posted by decathecting at 9:10 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, no don't. This is about making yourself feel good. It's not a good idea, even though it feels like one. You want to replace the bike? Go do it. Ask random other people? No!
posted by anadem at 9:16 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm wondering if you're a straight guy and she's a straight female, and you've got a bit of a crush. Because that pushes this into "creepy, overly grand and familiar gesture" as well.
posted by availablelight at 9:19 PM on September 20, 2010 [7 favorites]

You met her only a month ago, her bike got stolen, and you want to do something nice. You could either buy her a new bike yourself (creepy and too much), solicit her friends on FB (creepy and embarrassing and humiliating), or just ask her if she wants to go bike riding (rentals), your treat. The latter is a nice gesture; the others, a bit off-putting.

Regardless of what you want this relationship to be, keep in mind that you've only known her a month. You seem to know that you two are good friends, but it could come across as clingy--you don't know anyone else in the area--and/or scary.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:28 PM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Agreed, this is a bad idea. Whatever your respective genders, this is a "creepy, overly grand and familiar gesture."
posted by jayder at 9:29 PM on September 20, 2010

Too over the top and bizarre, especially for someone you met just a month ago. She's a new friend, not one of Jerry's Kids.

If you love (or lust after) her that much, and if you really see her a lot and get along very well, and if you think she can't afford to just buy herself a new bike, and if you think it's breaking her widdle heart not to have a bike, you could casually offer to help out with a loan towards buying a new bike. Just make sure it's money you expect to lose and don't expect anything in return. She could hop on that new bike and wave goodbye.
posted by pracowity at 9:37 PM on September 20, 2010

I'd say the only way to help her out without being overly creepy or intrusive is to buy her a bike and have it delivered anonymously.

... now that I write that it seems quite creepy indeed, but you could send her a new bike with a note that said "Hi, I'm your new bike! A friend wanted to help out (and doesn't want you to know who they are). Let's go for a ride!".

I don't know her; perhaps she would see that as creepy. If not, then she gets a new bike and you get to help out a friend. Don't tell her it was you, however, or you immediately invite in all the guilt/shame/whatever that such a gesture may entail.
posted by twirlypen at 10:09 PM on September 20, 2010

I'd consider it extraordinarily selfish to even think of sharing a method of donation used to help cure deadly diseases, with your drive to appear a caretaking nice guy to your new female obsession. Bikes are stolen every day. Their former owners manage without them. Donations should be reserved for those who need them.

How to solicit money for a friend, unasked? You don't.
posted by mnemonic at 10:30 PM on September 20, 2010

Loaning her a bike is about as nice as you can be without venturing into creepy territory. If you don't have a bike to lend there are bikes to be had on Craigslist or estate sales for $20-$50. You could purchase one of these and tell a little white lie about loaning her "your old, beat up bike".
posted by munchingzombie at 11:00 PM on September 20, 2010

she can't afford to buy another one as nice. I want to do that for her

But, this is not what you are proposing to do.

If you are dead set on doing this you need to buy it yourself, not bother people who, as others have mentioned, may be only peripherally acquainted with your friend. I'd be mortified to have my FB friends receive this sort of nonsense. Not only is it a stupid venue via which to raise funds -- this is also not really an appropriate thing to try to raise funds via donation for. People do this in cases of dire need and they are happy to do it, but, for a new bike that is a fancy bike? "Help my friend get a new toy"? Eff no.

Mind. If you do have the money to buy a new bike? First, read about the banjo.
posted by kmennie at 12:54 AM on September 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is less creepy if you're both straight females, but if you're male, no way.

Think of it this way: Your approach would be no different than going to your friend's facebook wall and posting:

"Hi, too bad about your cool but pricey bike being stolen. :( I know you don't have enough money to buy something equally cool--but to all her friends reading this, how about we all chip in to buy her a new fancy bike? I can afford $50 and if only 20 more of you pitch in the same amount, we can make her happy! Paypal the money to"

I think the nicest thing you could do would be to offer a loan (expecting it not to be repaid) that is partially the amount needed to replace the bike.

I have to agree with a comment above, about the "fanciness" of the lost bike, too. If someone owns a luxury version of an essential item--perhaps their only real possession and which they saved and scrimped for--and it gets stolen, friends might pitch in the help them replace it, but no one is going to throw money into a hat to replace the item with anything other than the basic model. Human nature kicks in: "if you can't afford to lose it, you can't afford to own it" or "no wonder it got stolen, you need a beater in the city."

Anecdote: I was approached with a similar request; a friend in dire need was without a job and without transport, and a friend asked me if I wanted to split the cost of a beater but reliable car for the guy so he could widen his search area. I said OK, after some thought...I generally don't give $500 gifts to people not my wife.

But in this situation:

a) Already close friends of the person in need, and it was a genuine need;
b) Was also close friends of the partner in the purchase;
c) We bought the bare minimum reliable car;
d) We presented it without fuss or ceremony;
e) There were no other expectations (ie, social obligations).

Our friend accepted the car graciously, but when he ran into trouble again just a couple of years later, he heavily implied we should help him in a similar way, because, hey, you guys are rich, right? (We're not.)

posted by maxwelton at 2:46 AM on September 21, 2010

I have a couple hundred facebook friends. I talk to maybe 20 of them on a regular basis. If I got an e-mail from a stranger regarding a fundraiser to buy a bike for someone I knew in third grade? I might e-mail the person and let her know that her account had been hacked and someone was trying to scam her friends. I certainly wouldn't donate any money.

It's not that she can't afford a beater bike to ride while she saves up for a nice new one. It's that she can't afford a nice new one right now. This makes me think you might be aiming for something more than a boyscout merit badge here. I wouldn't trust your request for donations if I were this person's friend, and I wouldn't trust your motives if I were the girl with the stolen bike.

(Also, do you know for certain that her fancy bike was not on her renter's insurance? Your question may be moot if she's going to receive a payout for the stolen bike.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:38 AM on September 21, 2010

I would die of shame (DIE!) if I lost something and a friend tried to organize a fundraiser to replace it. And I would seriously judge any friend who let someone else throw a fundraiser for something like that- I'm supposed to give my money so Sally can have not just a bike, but a nice bike? No.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:36 AM on September 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a friend solicit donations on their blog/via mass email to replace a stolen bike. I thought it was incredibly tacky-there are much worthier causes I can give my funds to and I thought it was incredibly presumptuous of him to assume everyone in his address book was willing to perform such a favor for him (full disclosure: former FWB with a sticky end, so I was probably more pissed off than others he hit up).

The people who ended up donating were like, two of his long-time BFFs who he referred to as his brothers, and then his dad bought him the rest of the bike. These are the only people who are willing to chip in on things like that. Not random Facebook friends, not ex fuck buddies.

For the record, I thought it was gauche of him to go around with his begging cup out, but if a girl who was creepily interested in him had emailed me as a total stranger asking me for donations not knowing the nature of our relationship just because we're friends on Facebook? Way, way worse.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:23 AM on September 21, 2010

Change the perspective a little and see what you think. You're willing to contact her Facebook friends privately and ask for solicitations. Would you be equally willing to explain this in person? "Hey, CoolNewFriend, I'm sad that your awesome bike got stolen, so I'm going to email all your Facebook friends with public profiles and ask them to PayPal me so I can buy you an equally awesome new bike. You think that's a good idea, right?" Not only do you run the risk of alienating her from her friends (whom you've never met or even friended on FB), you become someone to whom she owes an obligation, which is conducive neither to amicable interaction nor to potential future sexytimes if that is at all on your radar.

You've only known her a month and you don't know much about her, as shown by her not introducing you to her other friends yet, even though you're new in town. She may choose to replace her bike right now, or not, depending on her actual need and how she chooses to manage her money.

(Or you could buy her a fancy bike lock, which is what some of my Facebook friends might chip in for, but they're (a) sarcastic bastards, and (b) have known me for 20 or 30 years.)
posted by catlet at 7:30 AM on September 21, 2010

Having raised funds for LLS, Komen and a host of other charities, I can say that what you are proposing is not all that similar. Those are charities with accountability to their donors and 501(c) status so that donations are tax deductible.

If you made me a charity case, then I'd drop you as a friend instantly. It's creepy and it violates my privacy. Whether I can afford a new bike is no one else's concern. I wouldn't find it endearing. I wouldn't be charmed. At absolute best, I'd see you as trying to be helpful, but socially clueless. Most likely, I'd be so pissed that I'd block all contact with you.

Bad idea. It's good that you asked the question before you started on this path.
posted by 26.2 at 7:32 AM on September 21, 2010

Do not buy her a bike anonymously, as was suggested above. If I received an anonymous gift of a bicycle, I'd be really skeeved out and nervous about riding any bike anywhere, and I'm a guy who really likes to ride bikes.

If you want to help her our, the following actions would be fine:

--Offer to lend her a bike (as suggested above). This is only a good idea if you already own the bike.
--Offer to drive her to bike shops.
--Offer to go along to check out Craigslist bikes.
--Keep your eyes open for other bikes for sale. Talk to other cyclists. Scope out garage sales, pawn shops and thrift stores. Snapping a photo and IMing her would be fine, but don't buy anything without consulting her.

Be prepared for her to reject all of your offers. Choosing a bicycle is a personal thing, especially to an enthusiast.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:34 AM on September 21, 2010

Oh, oh, oh. Please listen to the other people in this thread re: creepiness and unacceptability. Don't do it. You are soliciting funds from her colleagues, relatives, classmates from 8 years ago that she hasn't spoken to since, et cetera. Not just for a new bike, but a NICE new bike. I cannot explain how low on a list of charity priorities this will be for people. I would be offended if I received an email from you, even if it was my best friend whose bike was stolen.

The chances are very high that your new friend will despise what you have done much more than she appreciates a shiny new bike.
posted by amicamentis at 5:05 PM on September 21, 2010

Yeah, this would come across as creepy and tacky. And really, in most markets you can buy a perfectly fine bike on Craigslist for under $200, road, mountain, or hybrid. She can then replace it with a new shiny expensive $1500 Specialized Xtra Bike Weenie or whatever once she can afford it. No one "needs" an expensive new bike, and if she's a reasonable person she'd probably agree with that assessment. Your overly grand gesture would seem pretty crazy.

Recently I made a friends-only blog post about how our financial situation sucked, and a longtime friend of ours sent us a gift card to a supermarket discreetly. It was a really sweet gesture and incredibly nice of her, but it made us feel odd and guilty, since there are so many people worse off than us and we still are above water financially. If others had done the same, publicly, I would have been humiliated.
posted by kpht at 6:15 PM on September 21, 2010

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