Awkward: How do you support your friend’s GoFundMe without any funds?

By Summer Hoagland-Abernathy, Copy Chief

Savanna Steffens

You’ve just finished planning out your weekly budget, and it’s tight. You’re going to have to clip some coupons, but you have just enough to get by until your paycheck comes in next week.

But what’s this? A link to a new GoFundMe just popped up on your Facebook feed—your friend Charlie from yoga class needs a new prosthetic leg, which won’t be cheap.

Their friends and family are helping, but the leg costs $7,000, and they don’t have enough yet. You really want to help, but what do you have to give right now?

You might have more to offer than you think. The Chronicle spoke with relationship and etiquette experts to help you help your friends in need.

Sylvia Mikucki-Enyart, relationship researcher and assistant professor at the University of Iowa, said to let your friend know that you would like to help.

“You could let the person know, send them a text message or talk to them and just say, ‘Hey, I saw your GoFundMe. I’d love to help you, but I just don’t have the means right now. What else can I do?’” she said.

Even if others are donating hundreds of dollars, just giving a small amount, like $5, would help them toward their goal.

However, there are other ways the person might need support as well, she said. Small favors could ease the stress of their day. Be specific when you ask what they need, said Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette, a social and business etiquette consulting agency.

If your friend is in distress, they may not have time to take care of everything else around them, so you could offer to make meals, take their kids on a playdate or run errands for them.

“My example is one of my friends who recently got COVID and is still in the ICU,” Tsai said. “Their family, friends and everyone around them started meal trains, which allowed everyone to show their support, like, ‘Hey, on Monday, I’ll show up with lasagna,’ and the next person will show up with a casserole, … the mom could do her job and take care of the kids and maintain their house, while her husband was intubated in the ICU.”

Irene S. Levine, psychologist and friendship expert, said visiting your friend may be a nice way to show support, but in order to respect boundaries during the coronavirus pandemic, you could put work into the fundraising campaign online as well.

“I would say, ‘I really want to help out, but my budget is tight right now. Is there some other way I could help, either perhaps recruiting other supporters or managing the page?’” she said. “There’s work entailed in maintaining a GoFundMe campaign.”

And at the very least, Levine suggests showing compassion with phone calls and texts to let your friend know that you’re thinking about them, care about them and are rooting for them.