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Is it OK to ask Facebook friends for money?

A New Yorker is asking her friends to support her U.N. summer program. Worthy cause? Or tacky move?

By Janet Paskin Apr 8, 2010 12:21PM
At Bundle, our contributors are becoming expert in the ways Americans spend, save and earn money. Recently, Greg Spielberg reported the story of a young woman who is asking for money via Facebook:
Two years after graduating from NYU, Tanya Welsh was accepted to a United Nations summer program. Her problem: The program cost $2,500 -- about $2,500 more than Tanya had. Desperate to get to Geneva, Tanya posted a plea on Facebook. If each of her 300 friends gave her $8, she figured, she'd be well on her way to Switzerland. 

“I was definitely wary of asking people for money,” Welsh told Spielberg, but points out that her FB friends are intimate and, contrary to some Facebook relationships, real. “The beauty of only having 300 Facebook friends is that I actually do know most of them personally and have known them for a long time.”

The personal appeal is a time-honored fundraising strategy. Many of us have bought candy for a friend's child's fundraiser, or sponsored a friend racing for the Cure. In fact, many event-based fundraisers -- Team In Training races, multi-day AIDS rides -- rely on people's desire to do something for charity and fulfill a personal goal at the same time. And lately, musicians like Jill Sobule have turned to audience members to raise the money to record independently, outside the strictures of the music industry.
But Tanya's not raising money for charity, nor is she offering donors anything more than a sincere "thank you." She's raising money for herself, as is Emily, a friend of another Bundle poster, who raised $8,000 via Kickstarter to start a two-year sailing trip around the world. Eight months in, she's come back to the Kickstarter community (and family and friends) for another $5,000 to beef up her safety equipment. Top donors get nominal honors, like naming rights to her dinghy. (A low-budget corporate sponsorship opportunity, perhaps?) 

Meanwhile, with Tanya's deadline eight days away, she's raised just $770, and she says she'll give the money back if she doesn't make the full freight. Meanwhile, some of her friends have pledged to give if and when she gets close to her goal -- but not before. 

These efforts provoked mixed reactions among Bundlers. "I remember buying tons of See's candy to support trips like these and I'd much rather see the person get 100% of the proceeds, rather than a fraction," wrote Mike. But Presh found the public aspect of Tanya's campaign to be almost manipulative: "It's too public to be fair."

What do you think? Would you give $10 or $20 to help a friend fund an adventure or enrichment activity?

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