Is it creepy to donate to charity with ulterior motives?
November 10, 2011 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Is it creepy to donate to charity with ulterior motives?

For whatever reason, lately I can't stop thinking about a girl I had a big crush on in high school (5+ years ago), who is now a teacher. I was poking around on Donors Choose today and found a project she'd listed for her classroom. (Okay, I pretty deliberately searched by the state/city where she teaches to see if I'd find anything.)

Would it be creepy to donate to her project? I should mention that she lives in another state, so the likelihood that I would have just stumbled onto her listing on the site seems pretty remote (i.e., I don't have the excuse of coming across the listing while looking through listings for classrooms in my own city), so I'm worried about coming across like a stalker. She and I were friends back in high school but haven't spoken in years, and the only way I even know that she's a teacher and where she teaches is from Facebook.

Obviously I'm interested in contributing to needy classrooms--hence why I was looking around the site to begin with--but I have to admit if I donate to her class it would be mostly in the hopes of reconnecting with her, which just seems totally sleazy. Is it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yes, it is creepy. Disguising an attempt to reconnect in ANY manner is creepy... romantic comedies would have us believe otherwise, but in real life, friendly directness is the way to go.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:12 AM on November 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

It's not particularly sleazy, but it certainly could be considered a rather roundabout way to try to insinuate yourself in someone else's life. At the end of the day, funds are funds and she can always turn your romantic overtures down.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:13 AM on November 10, 2011

Not sleazy exactly, but creepy and won't get you what you want. If you want to reconnect with the girl, send her a Facebook message. That is what Facebook is for.
posted by yarly at 7:13 AM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

I am pretty sure that if she even sees your name, all she will think is "oh, what a coincidence! I went to school with someone with the exact same name!" and that's about it. Assuming she remembers you. It's not going to reconnect you with her.

On the other hand, far be it for me to discourage anyone from giving money to schools for any reason at all.
posted by griphus at 7:16 AM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Why not donate and send her a Facebook message saying, "I was just thinking about you and found your project on Donors Choose! How have you been? I'm doing ___. Drop me a line sometime."
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:16 AM on November 10, 2011 [33 favorites]

I think you should do it, but I don't think it's going to work. Reaching out on Facebook might be more successful. As long as you're OK with that, donate away!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:17 AM on November 10, 2011

The way you characterize it, yes it sounds a little bit off. But I think "friendly directness" can still be achieved here. If you were already planning to donate through Donors Choose, it seems natural to me that you would look for projects where you have a connection. To me that means either a teacher friend that you have or a local school.

If you were to make a donation, you could follow it up with a Facebook message that explains that you wanted to support classroom giving, found her page, and chose her project because it felt good about having a more personal connection.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:17 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why not donate and send her a Facebook message...

In that order!
posted by griphus at 7:18 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think it depends on what the "ulterior motive" actually is; I mean, I'm sure that a lot of the people who donate to public radio are only trying to get a neat tote bag or something. (My parents recently donated to their PBS station only to get the free tickets to a Pink Floyd tribute concert in Boston.)

I think if you donate to this thing and that's all, that may be okay -- meaning, donate, and then DON'T try to contact her after the fact. Let her be the one to follow up -- "wait, is this the same John Smith who went to Grover Cleveland High?" -- but if she doesn't, then just consider yourself to have done a good deed and leave it. But if you donate something and then write her ("hey, remember me? From chem class?....") that may be a little weird.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:18 AM on November 10, 2011

Why not donate and send her a Facebook message saying, "I was just thinking about you and found your project on Donors Choose! How have you been? I'm doing ___. Drop me a line sometime."

I would not find that creepy, personally. It allows the other person to decide whether to respond, it doesn't put any strings on the gift, and it's low key.

After all, you're giving money because you have a positive memory of her and you want her to succeed. I give money to friends' projects all the time because, out of all the various things I could donate to, the projects are run by people I care about. (Obviously, I wouldn't give money to something I opposed or had serious doubts about.)

The only thing is - if you do this, you get one shot at reconnecting with her. If she doesn't contact you, you just accept and move on. If you think you might be tempted to get all stalky (and honestly, perfectly decent people can get too clingy or intrusive without realizing it) then you shouldn't start.
posted by Frowner at 7:20 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's weird that you're doing this with an end game of reconnecting with her romantically, but you know, what, whatever. Donate, but also say hello. I give it a 98% chance of you two just having a two to three message email conversation and then you just wishing her luck.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:21 AM on November 10, 2011

Do you creep her out? Has she, at any time in the past or present, tried to discourage you from friendship? If so, then leave her alone. If not, then send her a message. Tell her the truth. Tell her you remember her fondly from high school and you see that she is a teacher now. Tell her that you have been wanting to help out a classroom and ask if it can be hers. Otherwise, it is a little creepy.
posted by myselfasme at 7:21 AM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah it's tough to say "Yes this is creepy" because that's not that far from saying "And you are a creep!" which I don't think is the case. You are clearly concerned. So I'd say, really, that if what you want to do is reconnect, actually chitchat or say hi eventually, then I'd start with something that's a lot more reconnecting-like, like saying hi on facebook. If you want to just do a mitzvah with no real thought of escalating or otherwise getting in touch, then yeah, drop some money in the till for her project.

But I think there is a possibility, if you donate and then are like "Hi I gave your kids $50, let's have coffee sometime" for there to be some friction only because historically [and this is not your fault or your responsibility] the whole "I paid for something and now you owe me friendliness/sex/attention" is a sad tired trope of male/female interactions from a less-enlightened age. And so some people still bristle at that, and many people don't. So with the understanding that it might not go your way, if you're comfy with that, I'd say donate, what the hell, but understand the context in which you are operating.
posted by jessamyn at 7:23 AM on November 10, 2011 [11 favorites]

I have to admit if I donate to her class it would be mostly in the hopes of reconnecting with her, which just seems totally sleazy. Is it?


Either find a way to donate anonymously or donate to another class. If I were in her position and I found out about this - "Wait, so, you donated money to my class specifically to see if we could get together?" - it wouldn't be so much a red "flag" that was raised but a giant red banner reading "RUN AWAY."

If your intention is to get together with her and you're already connected on FaceBook, just talk *to her.*
posted by sonika at 7:39 AM on November 10, 2011

The chance that she'd see your name associated with the donation is slim to none, as donations, especially ones online, are handled by a behind-the-scenes clerk. Like me. It might show up in a report after the fact, but even that isn't certain. It's still kind of creepy, though. I'd go with Facebook.
posted by noxetlux at 7:53 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

That depends on exactly what you are expecting to gain.

To be blunt, are you trying to pay for her attention? "Hi, Mrs Teacher, I made a contribution to your charity, that implies that due to the social contract of politeness you are required to give me some attention and be appreciative otherwise you will seem like an ungrateful bitch. Want to chat and possibly date?"

Please understand, I am not trying to be cruel to you. All I am trying to suggest is that you should think very hard about what exactly you expect to happen. What do you expect her to do in response to your donation? Realize that the fantasy outcome in your head may not reflect the actual outcome.

I would not go this route. A simple "catching up" email may be a much better choice.
posted by Shouraku at 8:00 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would avoid donating without saying anything. You are going to come across as creepy or like a stalker and you will put this teacher in a very uncomfortable position. In a sense, it's kind of like you are donating with the expectations that she will feel obligated to talk to you even if she doesn't want to. If you want to donate to a great cause then by all means, do it, just don't donate to her classroom at this point.

Send her an email or Facebook message and say something like: "Hi ______, I haven't talked to you for such a long time and I wanted to see how you were doing. I was browsing the __(name of the website)__ and have donated to some money to a teacher in __(name of city)___. Let me know if you are still accepting donations for your own classroom since I'd love to make a contribution. Hope to hear from you soon!"

I'm assuming that you like this person either as a potential romantic interest or as a potential friend and although the two types of relationships are different, both require you to come across as someone that is not desperate for friends or a romantic interest. If you send a message like the one typed above then it lets the person know that you were thinking about them (without explicitly stating "So, uh...I was thinking about you. How you doin'?"), tells them that you are generally a good person that is looking to help out a teacher or organization in general, and that you would like to donate to her classroom because you know her from high school and because you are interested in getting to know her as an adult. This allows the girl to determine your next steps which makes it easier to avoid seeming like a creep or stalker.
posted by sincerely-s at 8:12 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, it's creepy if you just donate and expect her to find out that way. Glad you asked!

I've had a Donors Choose project. I think if you contacted me via Facebook or something and said, "hey I saw you have a Donors Choose project. I'm going to donate!" that would be ok.

But I would just say, "That's great! Thanks!"

So I don't think it would help you in your potential goal to get closer to this person.

Also, there are other fish in the sea and all that. Don't obsess over one chica.
posted by jander03 at 8:49 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think the "ooh, I was poking around DonorsChoose and found your page! How have you been?" message on Facebook would be totally unproblematic.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:03 AM on November 10, 2011

Man, don't chase after some lady from the past who lives another state like you are in a rom-com. Plenty of ladies in your state, I bet.
posted by Kwine at 11:46 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sleazy? No.
Creepy and cyberstalking and inappropriate? YES.
posted by xtine at 11:48 AM on November 10, 2011

Yes, don't.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:56 PM on November 10, 2011

posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:13 PM on November 10, 2011

Yeah, don't do it -- there's a reason you feel uncomfortable about it.

Do you know how Donors Choose works? She will know it was you who donated: she'll get your name so she can say thanks. If you donate 100 dollars or more, she will be obligated to have her class write you thank you letters. That's normally really nice, but in this particular situation it means that she'd be required to have contact with you whether or not she wants to.

And the power dynamic would be, IMO, really icky. You would be donating to someone you know socially, casually, as a peer, which would make her indebted to you (and therefore no longer entirely her peer), whether she's comfortable with that or not. And Jessamyn is right: the gender dynamic makes it worse, because it could read as an "I bought you dinner so you owe me a kiss good-night" kind of thing.

If I were her, I think I would find this oddly indirect and transactional, which would make me feel awkward even if I had good memories of you. I think you should just ping her on Facebook instead :-)
posted by Susan PG at 3:06 PM on November 10, 2011

Donate an average amount and then write her:

Hey! I was randomly googling people from our high school when I stumbled on your classroom project. Sounds like a great idea! Hope my small donation helps and good luck with the project!

Even the creepiest people I've interacted with: I will take their donations to my causes.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:48 PM on November 10, 2011

Donate somewhere else. Separately, contact her on facebook just to say hi and reconnect that way. That little voice making you ask whether this is a bad idea is trying to tell you something.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:05 PM on November 10, 2011

Donate, and then send her a friendly message. You're probably only going to get friendliness out of this anyway.

I don't think it's necessarily creepy to choose, out of various similar causes, to donate to one that would also be supporting someone you know. I donate to various causes and charities, but it's usually to pledge to someone I know. A personal connection to the cause you're supporting is common. Donate, then send a polite message telling her how happy you are to be able to support the cause of someone you know personally, and then you may add a quick, "So how are you these days". But if in her reply she doesn't seem to want to reconnect with you, let it go. She won't owe you anything.
posted by custard heart at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2011

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