Would You Consider “Social Panhandling” to Help You Reach Your Goals?

by Miranda Marquit · 10 comments

I recently read an article about the growing popularity of “social panhandling” among Millennials. This trend is different from crowdfunding and social gift giving — it’s basically asking for a handout, online, to help you reach your goals. You don’t offer anything in return, other than the warm, fuzzy feeling that contributors might get knowing they’re helping you out.

Read on to find out more about this trend (as well as why I probably won’t ever contribute to a campaign).

What is Social Panhandling?

You’ve probably heard stories of young professionals panhandling on corners, or people asking for help via eBay auctions. Social panhandling, though, takes these efforts to the web à la Kickstarter and Indiegogo. There are several web sites, such as GoFundMe.com, that allow you to make a plea for help.

Many Millennials are looking for the funds to move somewhere new, and using a site to raise money online, from friends and strangers alike, is one way to get that money. However, it’s important to note that donors aren’t promised anything in return. If someone has a story that tugs at your heartstrings, you might feel good about donating money to their efforts, but you’re not going to receive anything else.

Social panhandling is basically a way to raise money  — without coming up with a business idea or working at a thankless job, living with your parents, and saving what you can.

The Different Types of Online Fundraising

There’s a difference between social panhandling and raising money in other ways online, such as crowdfunding or social gift giving.

The goal of crowdfunding is to raise money for some sort of venture. With this model, supporters can contribute to a project. As a thank you, the project’s leaders will provide something of value in return.

For example: A few months ago, I finished a crowdfunding project for my book’s editing and design. To those who supported the campaign, I promised copies of the book and other perks.

Social gift giving is another rising phenomenon, with a prime example being the website Betterment. It’s a financial gift registry where you can help contribute to a goal — like helping newlyweds buy a home or go on a honeymoon.

Even though you don’t expect to receive something in return for this type of giving, there’s still a positive reward associated with it. You’re giving a gift for a particular event, such as graduation, a birthday, or a wedding. By giving a gift, you’re helping the recipient reach a goal and progress in life.

Social panhandling is a little different: To me, it’s sort of like dropping money in the cup of a homeless person. Not that I have anything against putting money in the cup of a homeless person; I usually keep bills available just for that purpose when I head to Salt Lake City.

However, it does seem a little “off” to me to contribute to online campaigns for Millennials who are basically looking for a change of scenery.

What do you think? Am I too fastidious? Would you use social panhandling online to reach a goal?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Bert says:

    Since my ID was stolen a while back, I have found it impossible to recover. Perhaps some of you high minded individuals should ask yourselves if there may be underlying reasons for any actions you find demeaning.

    • Ron says:

      I am not degrading anyone for begging, I would do it in a second if I was hungry or my family needed me to supply them food. I was referring to the name of the process of begging being referred to as Social Panhandling. Is silly, just as calling toilet paper – tissue paper or bath paper. I beg you to reconsider calling me high minded. I grew up in a garage, with my 4 brothers and two sisters. We were probably the poorest and most humble folks in town. My mom still gave food to the Social Panhandlers back in the 40’s, but she called them beggars who rode the nearby train.

    • caroline says:

      Thing is Bert, that is a very unfortunate and difficult circumstance to face, but that’s not the topic under discussion. We’re talking about people who, because they can’t afford to climb Everest / afford a house / pay for their honeymoon, elect to ask their friends and random people they know vaguely to fund them. I call it begging, and if that makes me high-minded, so be it. I live in a place where desperate, genuine poverty is a daily reality, we see it each day, and it is entirely and completely different from asking people to fund your dreams for you.

  • Ron says:

    Social panhandling is begging – no different than calling toilet paper “bath tissue”.

  • property marbella says:

    This phenomenon will only create a lot of new internet thieves. The same thing happens in disasters around the world, where many websites with bank account numbers ask you to donate money to help the affected people. It’s pure trickery.

  • Will says:

    I can’t imagine somebody ever giving to one of these social panhandlers unless they actually know them. I’ve had a few friends do them before with varying levels of success. For example one friend funded a trip to South America doing this, but he did provide “value” to those who donated by doing charity missions along the way.

  • Levi Blackman says:

    I think crowd funding is a great way for people to get worthy projects off the ground. If you have a great idea present it to the community and if others agree get funding. It’s not the same as begging and can be a much better alternative than getting a loan from a bank. It’s not wanting something for nothing. You have to build a presentation and have a great idea before strangers will donate to your cause.

    Begging for money for a wedding or amazing trip is a little different. If you are asking friends and family to support you in a cause it is one thing, but begging for money online from strangers is the same as begging on the street. I doubt this works out well for many people.

  • caroline says:

    Social panhandling is begging online, wanting something for nothing. Why on earth would anyone fall for that?

  • dojo says:

    I have built my business on HARD WORK and dedication. I started from zero and am struggling each day to become better and make sure my clients receive the best service possible. I would never resort to such tactics, it’s true that my way is not easy, but at least I know everything that I built is my own merit

    • Karen Woodleigh says:

      Good for you DoJo, and next time you get into a car accident and you spend 6 months to a year in a hospital and your 20% your insurance wont pay for turns out to be $750,000. Then we can talk to me about building your personal finances. Of course we all know that medical bills are the #1 reason why people go into debt, people don’t start begging because they want to, it is because they had to. Especially, when you are 45 or older and you loose your job and you are too old for many of the jobs being created in todays market.

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