A good friend of my family, let’s call her Abby, who has a good heart came up with this event. She decided to host a spaghetti dinner to raise money for her FIL who has Multiple Sclerosis . The money raised would go to the foundation he belonged to so nothing collected from the dinner would actually go to her or her husband or to her FIL. She thought this would be a fabulous idea to raise money. She would cook a spaghetti dinner for all of her friends and invite them over on 2 consecutive Saturdays and ask people to either donate via the foundation’s website or there would be a place to donate money at the dinner. There was no set amount for the donation so realistically her neighbors could show up with their entire family in tow, all have their fill of the spaghetti and donate $5. As far as I know, she was buying all of the food and doing the cooking herself. Her house is lovely, but not large and could only accommodate a limited amount of people who would need to sit at a table in order to eat spaghetti.
She also intended on having silent auctions where the guests would bid on items that others had donated. For example, my sister, who is a hairdresser donated a free haircut to the dinner. People would bid on the haircut and the highest bid would pay to get the haircut. My sister called me up to discuss Abby’s plans and we both thought it was a mistake to hold a charity dinner of this nature at her home and impose or obligate all of friends (including all of my family) to come and donate to her FIL’s cause. We suggested selling hoagies, candy bars, etc. but Abby thought the spaghetti dinner was just such a good idea and she couldn’t be swayed. I know her FIL very limitedly. I don’t have many occasions to socialize with him and while I agree the cause is a good one, I’m not exactly bursting with enthusiasm to donate my money and to spend an entire evening eating spaghetti for it. I have other causes that I willingly donate my time and money to. I would have probably bought a hoagie from her, or several candy bars without batting an eyelash but even I didn’t want to attend the dinner and she is a dear friend. Email invitations went out and she told everyone to RSVP quickly since seating is “limited.” Abby is like our family, and has done many wonderful things for my family over the years. None of us felt we could say no. Almost immediately, 6 couples RSVP’d that they could not attend. Abby actually thought it was because they all had scheduling conflicts with the original dates she chose so she emailed everyone again to say she mixed up the dates and sent out the invite again. Save from my family, the 2nd email had produced zero RSVPs.
Last I heard Abby was thinking of canceling the dinner. It wouldn’t be much of a charity event if only the 5 people from my family attended but I haven’t received an email canceling the event as yet. In my estimation, her heart was in the right place but she was going about this all wrong. All of the food should be donated by others that are willing to support the cause and get advertisement for their establishment or business for free in return. She should have found a venue that was willing to donate an afternoon, evening or day and then advertised around town for everyone to come for the dinner to support MS. In that way she could have many people come and raise money instead of the limited people (i.e. her friends) she invited to support the charity. 0327-14
So, she is a “dear friend” who is “like our family” and “has done many wonderful things for my family over the years” but when the tables are turned and you and your sister have an opportunity to do a “wonderful thing” for Abby’s family, you are weighing the cost to you and your families and finding it too much of a burden.
There are times in our relationships when we support friends and family even when we think they are making a mistake, particularly a well-intentioned, goodhearted attempt to try something new or different that we have a strong suspicion might not be the best idea. You have to give people the chance to try and maybe fail and learn from it. From my seat in the peanut gallery, Abby is at least doing something proactive whereas you are only offering her negative feedback about how to host an event you wouldn’t host yourself. You could have viewed Abby’s dinner as a beginner’s trial run which teaches her better ways of fundraising or prepares her to host even larger events. I’m a big advocate of beginning with small steps which gives a foundation of success for larger steps.
You submitted the story to cast Abby in the role of the etiquette clod but to be honest, you and your sister come across as thinking only of how this affects you.