Celebrity Birthday Bashes as Charity Fundraisers: Yay or Nay?

By Patrick Coffee Comment


Those interested in attending Leonardo DiCaprio‘s 39th birthday celebration last month were expected to arrive with open wallets. We’re not talking about the generous bar tab; the actor’s party doubled as a fundraiser for his humbly named environmental charity, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

The New York Post reports on a (supposedly) growing trend involving celebs who charge the guests attending their hoity-toity soirees with required donations at the door. The “fees” may be as little as $20, but one particularly blunt birthday boy tells the Post that this can be something of a problem:

“If they don’t cough up the money, it’s more about them. When you’re talking about terminally ill children, it says more about your character.”

We get the fundraising strategy: tying your celebration to your charity of choice with a “don’t give me presents, donate instead” sentiment is a great idea, and no one can fault Rachel Roy for raising $20,000 for Charity Water. But “etiquette experts” call the practice problematic because the very concept of mandatory donations is a bit of a contradiction. What if your guests don’t support the goals of the particular charity? And aren’t the people you invite to your birthday supposed to be your friends? We have a feeling Peter Parker, aka Tobey Maguire, has already donated plenty of money to Leo’s shark fund.

This might just make for a good ethics debate.