Best way to give money to people anonymously?

I couldn’t get all of the details in the subject, so here’s the idea: let’s say you have extra money and want to distribute it to people (probably family members), but:

  1. You don’t want anyone to know it is you giving it to them.
  2. You want to greatly discourage them from trying to find out who is giving it to them.
  3. You expect to give money every year to them (for the foreseeable future).

Also assume:

  • the donor is a terrible liar and if one of the receivers asked directly, the donor wouldn’t be able to successfully lie his way out of it.
  • You have to give it to them in a way that doesn’t sound like a scam. Sending them an email saying “An anonymous donor has given you $1000 on PayPal.” wouldn’t get past their bullsh*t filter and would simply be ignored.

So you can’t just write them a check every year. They’ll know the money came from you.

How would you do it? (I’ve got a couple of ideas, but I don’t want to prejudice your response.)


Use the Great Expectations method; use the services of a lawyer otherwise unconnected to you to pass on the money anonymously. (In Great Expectations, Abel Magwitch used the lawyer Jaggers to send money to Pip, the protagonist of the story, who believed the money swas coming from someone else.)

Cash in an envelope pushed under their door. Be sure to include a note saying it’s from an anonymous donor, so they don’t turn it in to the police.

I would just set up a trust. The trustee would send a check from the trust with a letter explaining what’s going on (i.e., “The enclosed check is from an anonymous donor. The trust does not know the identity of the donor and is prohibited from responding to your inquiries about the donor’s identity or making any such inquiries itself.”)

Send them Amex (or similar) gift cards loaded with the amount you wish to donate. Send them via a handwritten envelope (so they don’t get junked) and a card explaining the anonymous nature of the gift. Send one to yourself so as to deflect suspicion (“I got one too!”). Have a friend you trust address the letters if you fear your handwriting will be recognized. This allows for a safety net should something go wrong (you can void a card if it gets tossed).

Yeah, but if that happened to me, I’d start asking around to see who else was getting it. That would lead to a hypothesis about who the donor was. Asking that person would then expose the donor (see the “terrible liar” confession above).


Lots of good ideas here. Sending yourself one is a great idea. I hadn’t thought of the gift card idea.


In a cow costume complete with bell, in the early morning at milking hour, moo at the door of your intended, and upon their opening of it throw handfuls of unmarked bills, then run away. Leave only your calling card, “The Cash Cow milks but one day a year in perpetuity. May your cup runneth over.”

I agree with Giles. Use a lawyer as a third party. Your confidentiality comes as part of the service.

Here’s the best way.

Mail the cash to me with a list of recipients and amounts to be dispersed.

I’ll take care of it from there.

I pledge complete anonymity to the point that even if you ask me if I received the cash, I’ll deny it!

Another problem solved.

I would have to go the “cash under the door” route. All the people I would want to give money to are too suspicious to cash a check from an anonymous donor–even if it came from a lawyer.

Mail the cash to me with no return address on the envelope.

I don’t need a list of recipients

It depends on how much you give and how close you are. To be really anonymous if you were close enough you could just throw an extra ten dollars in their wallet once a week. They might not even notice the extra money.

What is the financial status of your intended recipients? How much money per are we talking?

Because while the gift card idea is easy and definitely anonymous, it would tend to encourage the recipient to go out and spend the money. Which might be what you want - letting Aunt Mabel try out that new spa while Cousin Kate gets the IPhone and your brother takes her girlfriend on a weekend getaway or whatever other added luxuries would add to their life.

OTOH, if your recipients are experiencing tough times, or have built up debts, having five thousand dollars on an AmEx gift card when they’re scratching around to keep the mortgage up to date and the electricity on might be frustrating.

For the trust fund, could you invent a mythical deceased relative? (Definitely include yourself in the beneficiaries.) And added bonus is that you could let them know ahead of time what they’ll be getting and for how long.

It could make a great deal of difference in how they use the money.

If we’re talking very large sums of money, there are tax implications and each person should be notified beforehand so that they can invest it in a way to minimize any gains. That would involve hiring a third party to notify the donees and disperse the funds.

If we’re talking a few hundred bucks, then I second the gift card idea. Each Christmas, I give a few hundred bucks to some neighbors who I know could use a boost by enclosing gift cards to local stores along with a Christmas card signed by Santa.

The problem is that if you give to your relatives, they may talk and figure you out. That may ruin your plans of anonymity. And you really should remain anonymous because otherwise your relationship with these people will change because whether you want them to or not, they’ll feel as if there’s an imbalance.

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. Also, once you’re known as “someone who gives away money”, every Tom, Dick, Harry, Achmed, Rosa, Tomiko, Igor, and Sven will start asking for money. I would absolutely HATE that.

So how would you keep people from comparing notes and figuring out who I am?


Impossible. People will talk. It’s in their nature.

I kind of need to know this too - anyone in the UK with any ideas?

here’s an idea:
if you know the people well enough to know their financial problems, dont give the money to them directly—instead, pay off their debts for them.Though bureacracy may make this impossible, or at least make it hard to stay anonymous…
But could you set up a bank account (through a lawyer, for anonymity), which would transfer payments directly to ,say, the mortgage bank of your loved ones? Or the electric company, or your city’s property tax department. ? Then notify the people that they need make no more payments for the next year.

I do have one idea, though it only works when the donor is going to make repeated gifts over time. As part of the gift, make it known to each receiver (individually) that ANY disclosure that they are receiving these gifts will result in them forfeiting all future gifts. This probably works best when the gifts are given through an intermediary lawyer or trust.

Anyone have any other ideas?