Celebrity Birthday Bashes as Charity Fundraisers: Yay or Nay?

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.