Begging on the Main Line

Fundraising is as frequent as the daily mail service, and the invitations are piling up

An invitation has just arrived in the mail. It’s the third one this week and the gazillionth so far this year, and we’re only halfway through. Invitations to local events and fundraisers stack up faster than I can rsvp—or toss them, anyway. It seems everyone I’ve met since I moved to the Main Line is on a committee or knows someone who is on a committee for something.

The remote place I used to live didn’t have daily mail. Well they did, but that didn’t mean the postman actually came daily. More like weekly. Or bi-monthly. And when I would get mail delivered, it would be a small stack of bills. Not the massive pile of catalogs and various and assorted items I get here that come with your name being sold around like a ten-dollar hooker. And I hardly ever received actual paper invitations to anything, unless they were for my child’s friends’ birthday parties.

Now, not only do I receive enough mail weekly to paper around the earth, I get one lovely hand-written envelope after another. Gorgeous professionally printed invitations with accompanying rsvp cards, inserts, parking instructions, corporate sponsorships, silent auction information and pre-printed reply envelopes. Except for the corporate sponsorship and auction portions, they are the type of invitation packets that usually come when someone is getting married. When you live in this upscale suburb, they’re just normal mail.

Today’s invitation is for a fundraiser for the Franklin Institute. It came with a nice note jotted inside from the only person on the impressively large committee that I have ever heard of. We’ve only met a few times, but having done some fundraising myself and knowing the pressure put on the invitations committees to produce names of people to send them to, I gather she must have had to search the depths of her address book to find my name. The invitation was particularly impressive, and the event (cocktails, dinner, preview of an exhibit) did sound fun. For a moment, I actually pondered whether or not to go. Which brings us to the problems with these invitations.

The first problem is the price of attending these fundraisers. At first, getting these invitations was such a novelty I wanted to go to everything. I love dressing up and it’s always nice to support a good cause, but after a few of these things in a row you realize how fast they add up. Pretty soon you’re supporting every institution, but you’re broke. Okay maybe not broke, but it is expensive. And when you get into the committee loop you meet more people on other committees that put you on those invitation lists. And so on…

The next problem is nobody wants to go with us. I have lots of friends that fall into two categories. Category One is the “there’s no way in hell I’m spending that kind of money on cocktails and dinner plus a babysitter.” Category Two is the “I’ve been there, done that and am too tired to be bothered dressing up to schmooze.” I understand both of these camps, but it still leaves us with nobody to go with. I don’t mind sitting at a dinner table with some strangers, but it’s just weird if it’s all strangers. Like you’re the misfits at a wedding.

Now I’ve had to resolve to only attend things that I either am on the committee for or have been invited to by really good friends that are on the committee. That way I get to dress up once in a while, and we’re guaranteed to know people there. Now if only I could find people to fill my table for the Pennsylvania Save the Spotted Owl Society gala …