How to Find A Little Charity (For Yourself)


Ryan Ong



Asking for money is something we’re uncomfortable with. Hell, we’re Singaporean; we’d rather boil our shoes and chew the leather. It’s about pride: We’ve been raised to act independent, like miniature versions of North Korea. And when we’re starving, we don’t know how to get help (without nuclear threats). Well in this article, I address that sensitive issue:

It’s Not About Entitlement

Asking for charity is not about being entitled. I’m not saying it’s okay to be lazy or defeatist. If you are convinced your case is hopeless, that you need charity forever, that the entire universe has turned on you like you insulted its mother…then Google some other site.

I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. I can help the people who are momentarily down on their luck. People who just need a little bit of help, and are sure they’ll be back on their feet. People who don’t like living on charity, and don’t intend to stay that way.

I can guide them on:


Welcome sign reads: Explore Experience, Enjoy. Please donate.
I really think we should go back to the “Public toilet, 20 cents” sign.


How Do You Ask For Money?

Calling your friends and begging is a terrible idea. It only works once; then they’ll avoid you like a used enema in a bowel irritation clinic. If you need to raise money for yourself, you should:

  • Couple your request with a time plan
  • Stay in touch with helpers
  • Use peer pressure
  • Use positive description


1. Couple Your Request With a Time Plan

When I asked “Do you help friends who ask for money?” I got some common answers. They’re all variations of the same thing; see if you can spot the trend:

Depends how much. I usually I say I am broke. If not they will keep asking.

No. If I say yes, they will keep calling me.”

I will make up some excuse. Otherwise they will ‘aim’ me as the target from now on.


Burning house
Of course I burned my house down. I needed a reason for not lending money.


Those answers aren’t selfish, they’re right. Because when you ask for money without a time plan, you’re threatening to become a permanent charity case. I spoke to Muhd. Ismail, a senior counsellor:

When you ask for moneyyour friends become wary of your calls. It’s not because they’re bad friends; you would feel the same in their shoes. But if you must ask for monetary help, do it in two steps. First, you say:

‘I want to be honest. I may not be able to pay you back. I am asking for help, not a loan.’

You must make that very clear. Then you sit down with your friend and say:

But I want you to know I’m going to try my best. This is my plan for fixing my financial problem. Maybe you can help me go over it, and we can see when I might be able to repay the favour.’

Of course, this means you must have some kind of plan to show them. That is something you do before you even start asking for money: Always keep in mind that charity is a hand helping you up, not a crutch to lean on forever. 

If you can show that’s your thinking, more people will be willing to help you.”


2. Stay in Touch With Your Helpers


Friends season 2
I have lots of Friends. The whole second season even.


Remove the dread of the “follow up call”. Let your friends know, via Facebook or the occasional call, how things are going. Don’t call just to ask for money. You can say: “Hey, just so you know, things are picking up. I got this aid grant, etc.”

Part of this is psychological; it reminds you of your game plan. It reminds you there’s a way out your financial dungeon, and life isn’t a meaningless whiskey binge (all whiskey binges should be meaningful). By keeping friends on board, you ensure a steady source of advice and encouragement.

Ismail also says:

You want to ask for help without damaging your relationships. You don’t want your friends to be dodging you from now on.

And you’ll find that, if you don’t just call to talk about money, your friends will be a great help. They will refer you to job postings they’ve seen, or they will even enquire at charities on your behalf. They will do all this without you even asking. 

Use your network of friends as a source of strength. This is the only way people tolerate being used.”


3. Use Peer Pressure


Giant trophy
Thanks for the donations. That said, I used all the money to get you these awards.


Don’t just tell a few friends quietly. Try starting a blog, or even discussing your issue on forums.

This builds peer pressure. If I thank one friend on Facebook, for example, others will get in on the act. Just writing “Hey Henry, thanks for the donation” will cause one or two other friends to ask “What donation? Hey, do you need help?”

When the entire group sees it happening, peer pressure causes them to donate more. That’s why charity events have the big “donation counter”, where they track the dollars going up. Or the “top donors” list; it’s not so much to reward the biggest donor, but to tell people “Hey, everyone’s giving. You should too.”

You want to give the impression that “everyone’s doing it”. And once you get the first five or six donations, the others will come in hard and fast. Just remember point 1, and don’t get used to living on it.


4. Use Positive Description


This is a great drink, it’s a wonderful day, everything is perfect. Also, I have no money to pay for this.


People are more willing to help the confident. If I had only one spot on the ambulance, it’s going to the guy who screams “I wanna live”; not the one who’s sobbing and saying “It’s all useless, I’m dead anyway”.

When you approach someone for help, explain how you’re working things out. Don’t break down and start delivering an alternate plot for Winter Sonata. You want to say:

  • I’m down right now, but here’s how I’m going to fix things. I hope you can help me with XYZ
  • I know I can get these bills paid with a little help
  • Help me with some money, I can fix this mess a lot sooner

No “oh woe is me” stories. Right away, let your positive attitude set you aside from the whiny freeloaders.

Image Credits:
herval, HowardLake, Morgali Photgraphy, HowardLake (third image), Rad Jose, goodiesfirst

Have you ever had to ask for charity? Comment and tell us about it!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.