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Filed under: Personal Finance Panhandling in the Information Age – Ask for Money Online!

by on Jun 16th, 2011

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So, most of us have seen them – the sad, grimy, down-on-their-luck types – perhaps holding a sign saying, “Will work for food,” or “Homeless Vet.” (One of my favorites – yes this was an ACTUAL sign and a web search will turn up pictures of it – is “Ninjas killed my family – need money for karate lessons.”)

No matter how we feel about begging for money, it happens all around us. And as unbelievable as it may seem, people can actually make a very good living panhandling. A television news crew in Memphis recently reported on several local panhandlers who make $150 a day, just by asking for it. One beggar follows groups of tourists and hits up friendly-looking couples with nothing more than a smile… and averages $200 per night doing it!

In the information age, “virtual panhandling” is slowly becoming known as an option for anyone who needs money for any reason. Examples of cyber-begging, as it’s come to be known, can be documented as far back as 1998. During the summer of 2002 it became widely known when a woman in Brooklyn, New York, started her web site asking people to save her from her credit card debt. She wanted to raise $20,000, and in a mere 20 weeks her website received over two million hits and her debt was paid off! 

Since then, there have been countless other examples of cyber-begging – successful and not. People are trying to raise money for everything from plastic surgery to divorce to house payments to vacations – and a significant number of them achieve at least a modest level of success! 

Now, I’m certainly not encouraging anyone to give up their day job and hit the street – physically or virtually! But if you have a financial need, and can present it online in a compelling manner, it may very well be worth it to you to ask for money online! You don’t even need any experience creating your own web site. 

If you’d like to capitalize on already existing website traffic and search engine rankings, simply sign up on one (or more) of the available sites that have sprung up to help people ask for online donations. On most of them, you will pay a minimal monthly charge (with a few upcharge options for things like links that are bolded or shown in a different color, or preferred positioning for better visibility), and you are given your own page to tell your story and ask for money in whatever manner you choose. They will also provide you with a personal link straight to your page; this is very helpful if you wish to generate some extra publicity for your cause on an online forum, website classifieds, or even your local newspaper.

If you choose to go this route, you will want to carefully examine the site you choose to post on and the image it projects. Some sites definitely offer a more professional, caring, and welcoming design, while others offer a more cheesy/sleazy bent. While there is undeniably some room for “cheese” if you are trying to raise money for breast implants, you may want to project a more sympathetic appearance if you need money for medical school tuition.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and technically savvy, go ahead and set up your own personal cyber-begging site dedicated just to you! There are several places online that will allow you to set up and host your own site for little or no cost. In most of these cases, you can also choose to purchase your own domain name for your URL, or stick with the subdomain the host assigns to you. However, using this method, you need to be prepared to wait a bit longer for the donations to start rolling in. You will need to submit your new site to the search engines, optimize it for search keywords, and publicize it to drive people to visit it. That’s definitely do-able, but will take a great deal more time and effort.

Either way you go, a PayPal account is a must. Using a PayPal account, you can receive donations from your new online friends anonymously – no one needs to send cash to your address, or a check to your name. PayPal makes it anonymous for the giver as well, freeing them from worries that you may contact them later to hit them up again! 

So, next time the money blues hit – whether you lose your job, want to finance your next vacation, or simply need a bit extra for that little pick-me-up – consider asking for money online. Who knows; the rewards could be, well, rewarding!


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