Someone you know is in an unfortunate financial situation, and you want to help. You can’t provide all the necessary help yourself, so you’re thinking about starting a GoFundMe on their behalf.
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While this can be a quick and easy way to raise the necessary funds, you’re a bit conflicted.
In most cases, a GoFundMe is created for someone in a challenging situation they weren’t expecting, so the last thing you want is to cause drama by starting a fundraiser.
Maryanne Parker, founder of Manor of Manners, an etiquette consulting firm based in San Diego, said it’s OK to start a GoFundMe for a family member or very close friend who needs financial help — typically after getting their permission to do so.
“If there is an unexpected death in the family and the person affected needs financial assistance, after a genuine discussion we can proceed further with the GoFundMe account,” she said. “When the person who needs the assistance is injured or sick and cannot seek assistance on her own, we can go ahead and start a GoFundMe fund.”
Of course, there are many different reasons why someone might need a GoFundMe. Even if the person is technically capable of starting their own fundraiser, Parker said it’s sometimes fine to do this without first consulting the recipient.
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For example, she said if a friend’s child needs to attend an important sports camp that could impact their future, but you know they can’t afford it, surprising them with a GoFundMe fundraiser is perfectly appropriate. She said it’s also acceptable to start a GoFundMe for your best friend if their pet is sick and you know they don’t have the money for a necessary procedure.
As for when it’s not appropriate to start a GoFundMe, Parker advised against doing this if you’re not really close with the person who needs help.
“This can be perceived as being intrusive,” she said. “The GoFundMe account has a strong personal element and we might be out of place by starting one.”
Additionally, she said if the reason for the GoFundMe isn’t particularly important, starting one can be perceived as greedy and unthoughtful. She said some people are also not interested in showing the vulnerability that comes with being the recipient of a fundraiser.
“Organizing a GoFundMe campaign may damage our relationships and might cause distress to our friend or a family member,” she said. “Some people have a strong pride and dignity, and unfolding a very personal situation in front of the world might be rather uncomfortable.”
Before proceeding, Jodi RR Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, agreed it’s important to make sure the person wants your help. After confirming they do, she said you’ll need to get permission to share certain information publicly.
“Be sure to know exactly how much of their private affairs you are allowed to share,” she said. “Even if this is your spouse or child, you will need to consider their feelings before moving forward.”
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She said you’ll also want to think about the amount of time and effort you’re willing to devote to the cause.
“Is this a one-time, limited duration situation or will this be on-going?” she recommended asking yourself. “Are you willing and able to pursue sustained attention to the fundraising?”
Additionally, Smith said you’ll need to review any personal ramifications you might face. She said you’ll want to consider factors like the bank account the funds will be transferred into, keeping track of the money and disbursements, who has access to the funds and what they can be used for and any tax implications from the GoFundMe.
“Take the time to speak with an attorney and an accountant to make sure your act of kindness does not turn into a financial nightmare,” she said.
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Additionally, she said you’ll want to be aware that starting a GoFundMe for one person could invite calls for more in the future.
“By starting a fund such as this for one friend or relative, you will be opening yourself up to requests from others in need in the future,” she said. “Know your boundaries so that you know when you will, or will not, coordinate such an effort again.”
Starting a GoFundMe can be a much-appreciated gesture, but think it through first. While every situation is unique, it’s always appropriate to make sure you’re not overstepping or oversharing when it comes to someone else’s personal situation.
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