People are so perplexing sometimes.
This past Friday night we went to the big annual fundraiser for Delaney’s middle school. It’s a charter school, which means they get part of their funding from the state, but not all, and there’s no charge to attend. Toby went to the same school for three years, making this our sixth Frolic. It’s the social event of the year for the school community–alumnae, parents of alumnae, prospective students, extended families; all are welcome.
The admission fee includes dinner, entertainment for younger siblings, a DJ-ed dance for the middle schoolers, and a silent auction. Raffle tickets are available for purchase, as well as wine and beer, and there are various other ways to funnel money to the school. The organizing committee wants every family to work a volunteer shift (Lee and I supervised the pizza table in the room where the dance was going on–a good way to get a foot in that door).
I don’t really get involved in the auction–that’s Lee’s bailiwick. I like to spend the evening catching up with other parents I don’t get to see very often. I always think, in my introverted way, that I don’t want to go, but then I always wind up having a great time. Lee runs around checking the status of his bids, and doing his best to strategically drive up prices.
Over six years of going to this event, we’ve had time to both hone our strategy, and observe the behavior of others. Lee has learned to narrow his focus–he picks two or three entries that we really want, and then he’s all in. He keeps bidding until the auction closes, and he gets his items. He refuses to be outbid.
But that’s where things get perplexing. While we see this as a fun way to donate to the school (we do, after all, feel like our kids have gotten a private-school-quality education at no cost to us), other parents, with very few exceptions, seem to see this as a chance to do some bargain-shopping. I don’t really understand that. We feel obligated to give to this school. It’s our responsibility. If the parents aren’t willing to support a charter school, who’s going to?
But time and again, the bidding starts off frenzied and exciting, right up until it hits the retail value of the item. Then it just stops. People seem to forget that the point is not to get a good deal; it’s to give to the school. It doesn’t really matter what the item is worth; what matters is whether the school will get enough money to buy fifteen video cameras, or bring in that brass quintet, or rent a performance space for the talent show.
So when Lee decides to bid on a gift card, or a hotel room, or a carpet cleaning, he fully expects to pay more than what it’s worth. The thing itself is really sort of irrelevant–as a matter of fact, there have been some items over the years that we never did use, or that we never really wanted/needed to begin with. What mattered was the donation to the school.
Really, sometimes I think people just don’t understand the concept of charitable giving.