One of our readers would like to raise funds for a friend that is diagnosed with cancer.
A very good friend has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He's been denied disability and claims to his insurance as well. My family and I need to raise money for him or he will lose his home and all the necessities of life since chemotherapy have made it impossible to work. Can I just request donations on his behalf? Or is there some legal process I need to go through first? Are there laws that would get me in trouble if I just start raising money on my own on the web for him? I am afraid to start and get sued because I was "unaware" of the consequences. Thank you for your help!
Thanks for writing to us. Our friend Sandra at StepByStepFundraising.com has some great information about fundraising for individuals:
Raising Money for Individuals with Health Concerns >>
5 Tips for Fundraising for Individuals >>
She sent me some extra comments for you:
"What you are raising funds for might be a factor on what you can legally do. I haven't researched or found anything by state. The first thing for them to do would be to go to the your states website, possibly the attorney general.
When people make donations to individuals they are considered gifts. The donor has no rights to the gift afterward, to claim a tax deduction (as the article mentions) or claim any legal grievance. For most people, friends and family they will trust that the money is going to the right place. But when you ask for a gift from people you don't know accountability becomes more of an issue because people don't know the recipient.
So if they need to raise funds for a significant amount it is better to go through a charitable agency related to their situation if at all possible. If that's not an option at the very least they should set up a separate bank account for all donations, designate a treasurer and follow up with people who contribute to let them know how their contributions have helped."
Anna, there may be a local organization or foundation that can help you, either to administer the fund or take on the cause. If you don't know where to start, here are a couple of organizations that may be able to help or connect you with someone else who can:
American Pancreatic Association
American Cancer Society
In summary, we are not aware of any legal restrictions, but people may be more inclined to support you if you are raising money in conjunction with a non-profit that has the ability to issue receipts for tax exemptions. For the laws pertaining to your state, please check with your Attorney General's office.
If you choose to go on your own, there is a great site called Chipin.com that allows you to create your own fundraising page and widgets that you can post on Facebook, Myspace, Wordpress etc to get donations and track the progress.
Hope this helps - let us know if you have more questions and definitely let us know how you decide to proceed.
The USAFundraising Team