There's another type of party that we've traded in the "invite your friends and have a good time" party for: the auction party. Many of our local public school districts raise money through private non-profit foundations, and one of the annual money-making events is the silent auction. I believe in quality public schools. As a former board member of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation, I understand that our schools have suffered from diminished state funding, and I've been very happy to donate so that children across the community can continue to benefit from art, music, and physical education classes.
But I've never been able to get behind the "auction party," even though I've supported my fair share of them (even recruited hosts for them) over the years. Parties can be for adults or children. They are supposed to be open to everyone, but actually they are only for the kids in the class whose parents can shell out the ticket price (as high as $60 per child). Occasionally I buy my daughter a spot so that she won't feel left out, but I often think about the kids whose parents can't afford it. I think about the kids who overhear conversations at school and know they won't be going.
Then there are the adult parties. These are over-orchestrated, high-stress affairs where the only link between the guests is that we coincidentally got pregnant during the same decade, live in the same community, and paid the same price for admission. They almost always devolve into heavy drinking to ensure that we all get good value for our donation.
Why do we stand for exclusive parties for children and (frankly) bad parties for adults? And if we all want to support the schools, why must we insist on getting something in return for our charity?
I don't plan to host or attend future auction parties. Instead, I plan on throwing good parties, lots of them. This fall, join me in hosting a real party, just for fun. Don't break your back and over-plan it, don't charge anyone to get in - just bring your friends together and open up your home. You'll know it's a good one if people linger too long, the kids are hyped up on sugar, and your friends break out their silliest dance moves.
Support the local schools too. Write them a check and buy your own drinks.