Lifestyle & Seasonal

Patio party with a purpose: Combine a celebration with helpful giving

Spring is the time to break out the patio party gear. Graduation, wedding showers, and birthday parties all are more fun outside. A garden party is a great time to share and give back. Why not combine your celebration with an activity that gives back? Here are a few events you can host during your celebration.

Clothing Swap

A clothing swap is a unique way to get rid of the old and bring in the new (to you). Guests are invited to bring 2-12 (or more) pieces of clothing, accessories or unopened makeup, to donate to the swap. In return, they can bring home things they will love. Combining a clothing swap with another party like a graduation guarantees the clothes will come in a variety of sizes and age ranges. A good clothing swap is either limited to one kind of clothes, e.g., adult women size 2-20, or all kinds of clothes for any age and size. The first type of party, limited range, is good for a smaller guest list. The latter is better for large gatherings of family and friends.

Send out invitations along with explicit instructions. While many people are familiar with clothes swaps, it may be a new thing to others. Write a list of rules on the back of the invitation, e.g., The clothes must be clean and in good shape and arrive early enough to sort your contribution  into the appropriate groups.  If you are looking for a specific type of clothing like prom dresses or formal wear, indicate that on the invitation (bridesmaid or prom dresses can be donated to banks that cater specifically to high school girls in need).

At the end of the instructions, add the charity to which all leftover pieces will be donated. Big Brothers, Big Sisters or PurpleHeart are a few organizations you can call to arrange pickup at your home. Set the pick up date for the day after the party.

Can Drive

When you host a picnic, guests often call to ask, “What can I bring?” This time you can answer, “A can!” Food banks have been running low lately and could use a boost. Plus, giving to a good cause is a gift in itself; Your guests will thank you for the opportunity and for a simple way to get off the “what can I bring” hook.

On the invitations, make a note of which particular food bank you will be donating to. If the party is in honor of someone, like a birthday for an adult, you can note on the invitation that canned goods will be warmly appreciated in lieu of gifts. Your guests will love helping you bring in a big box of supplies to those in need, because they know doing it will make you feel great. Everybody wins.


Mixing fundraising business with pleasure can be tricky, especially if you mean to host a party with a purpose on your own patio. This idea works best if the invitees are either involved in the organization (as in a Little League team) or if they know someone who is in need of a specific service, like raising funds for a wheelchair-bound neighbor.

To make it fun, pick a theme and have games around that theme. Bingo, mahjongg, and board game marathons are a few formats for fundraising fun. If little kids are involved, set up games like a DIY Plinko board (a peg board, shelf pegs and some 1×2 boards for a frame) for kids to send their pennies bouncing down. You can get dollar store prizes to hand out for lucky drops. Have a coin toss game with dixie cups. Each cup can come with its own prize. Set up jars labeled with the message “Your change can make a difference.” It may encourage the adults to drop in the few nickels rattling in their pockets.

A personal party combined with fundraising can be fun for all ages. To be polite, make it clear on the invitations there will be fundraising games, and indicate what the money will be used for. After the party, always remember thank your guests and tell them the final amount they raised.

Giving back is a gift

As they say it is better to give than to receive. Give your guests a chance to feel the warm glow of good wine and good giving, and host a party with a purpose this spring.

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