Dining for Women
Podcast #108 — Aired October 31, 2016

It all started with a group of friends, pooling funds to support women and girls in developing countries. Today, Dining for Women is the largest giving circle in the world. This week on BetterWorldians Radio, we’re talking with Dining for Women co-founder Marsha Wallace about the story behind Dining for Women, a non-profit that connects people in creative, powerful ways to promote gender equality around the world.

 

 

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Marsha Wallace
Co-founder, Dining for Women

One of the leading change agents transforming women's and girls' lives across the world, Marsha Wallace is the co-founder and most public face of Dining for Women. An obstetrics nurse and educator for 20 years, Marsha, a mother of four is a leading proponent for the idea that anyone, right where they are, can powerfully ease poverty, HIV-AIDS, sex trafficking, illiteracy, and other issues that impede the progress and threaten the security of women and girls around the world. In 2014, Marsha was named an Everyday Freedom Hero by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Marsha lives in Greenville, SC.

 

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Hi, welcome to Better Worldians Radio! Better Worldians Radio is a weekly broadcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place. I'm Ray Hansell joined today by my co-host, MarySue Hansell. Better Worldians Radio has brought to you by A Better World Foundation and is co-hosted by the family team that created the popular game on Facebook called A Better World. A Better World rewards players for doing good deeds while helping to raise money and awareness for charities. To date, over 40 million good deeds have been done at A Better World by more than 4 million people in over 100 countries. Today at Better Worldians radio we're talking with Marshall Wallace, co-founder of dining for women. A nonprofit with a unique approach that inspires, educates and engages people to invest in grassroots programs that make a meaningful difference for women and girls living in extreme poverty in developing countries. That upstart Turks nurse and educator for twenty years, Marsha is a leading proponent for the idea that anyone, right where they are can powerfully poverty, HIV AIDS, sex trafficking, illiteracy and other issues that impede the progress and threaten the security of women and girls around the world. In 2014, Marsha was named an everyday freedom hero by the National Underground Radio Railroad Freedom Center. Hi Marsha.

MarySue Hansell
Hi Marsha, thanks for joining us today on Better Worldians radio.

Marsha
Its my pleasure.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah, can you tell our listeners how you came up with this fabulous idea for dining for women?

Marsha
Well it was in 2002, I read an article in Real Simple magazine about the group of social workers who would get together, and just to stay connected, and they would have a potluck dinner, and each person would donate what they would have been, if they had eaten in a restaurant and then they would take that collective amount and give to an underprivileged family in their community, which made perfect sense for them since they were social workers, and I remember thinking what a great idea that was, and then I promptly forgot about it. And you know how we filed things away in our mental filing cabinet, and months later, I was meditating one morning, and I had this bolt of lightning experience, where it occurred. It just hit me that I wanted to have a potluck dinner to raise money for women and children in developing countries. For my upcoming forty third birthday, and so I had a birthday party, slash potluck, slash fundraiser and we raised about seven hundred fifty dollars that night, and we couldn't sleep. I was so excited and energized. We had such a great time that we decided to start meeting once a month and make it a regular practice, and eventually, you know, we created the nonprofit status and all of that but it really started with a birthday party and that lightning bolt experience. That was so profound.

MarySue Hansell
And what a bolt of lightning that was? yes you get these great ideas from meditation, I've gotten some similar ones too not nothing that's great but this is fabulous. Now how did the idea grow from there?

Marsha
Well, you know we started meeting every month, and then I realized the leverage that we could have if we could have other groups, in other places. Raising money also, but for three years nothing happened, until we were included in a national study on giving Sacco. Technically, dining for women is a giving Sacco, in fact we're the largest giving Sacco in the world. And when the study was published, in 2005 by New Ventures in Philanthropy, they pulled out a few organizations, and giving Saccos to highline in greater detail and we were one of those and as a result of that, journalists wanted to write about giving Saccos as a trend in philanthropy, and so we started getting unsolicited media attention from the New York Times and Good Morning America, and it was very remarkable, actually. And then we just took off and our very first chapter, we call them groups, that met outside of South Carolina was in New Lisbon Wisconsin, in January of 2006. And now, we have over four hundred chapters all across the country.

MarySue Hansell
Well are there any chapters internationally?

Marsha
We do have some chapters internationally, we've as we've grown we've put a hold on those for liability and risk reasons, but the ones that were already meeting with grandfather Dan.

MarySue Hansell
Wow! Great! And how many countries, do you help?

Marsha
We have donated to projects in over fifty countries around the world.

MarySue Hansell
Now can you tell our listeners about some of these organizations, and how you support them and how you choose?

Marsha
Sure, we focus our mission is exclusively focused on U.S. based nonprofit organization,s that have projects around the world, exclusively for women and girls. And we focus on funding projects in areas that health care, education, economic development, the security, sex trafficking, environmental sustainability. All the different issues that are significant challenges and impact the lives of women and girls. So, for example one organization that we have funded multiple times is called One Heart Worldwide, and they do training, birthing attendant and skilled birthing attendant in Nepal. And in the areas where they've worked maternal and infant mortality has decreased over eighty percent, so it's a been amazingly effective organization. Another one called starfish is an organization that supports indigenous Mayan girls. With educational support and peer support in training in Guatemala. And they're having remarkable results in getting girls to be able to go to school, and stay in school and now they're looking at the first generation the girls that they're going to help get a university education, which will completely transform the culture, for women in Guatemala. Another example is an organization called Boma, and they work with helping women in Northern Kenya, which is a desolate area, people who at one time were nomadic. But because of famine and drought are less trick to move around less than they used to. And Boma, help women create groups of five, and together they create businesses that Promote economic self sufficiency, that these women can support their children and pay for health care, and education and lift themselves up out of extreme poverty. They're doing amazing work. [09:58 -crosstalk].

MarySue Hansell
Now what are some of the some of the values Marsha that dining for a woman is based on today?

Marsha
Well, you know, we value collaboration we collaborate, we see ourselves as collaborating with the organisation that we support. Education is huge. Education is included in every single program that we offer all of our chapter meetings have an educational component and we provide all of those materials, about the organisation about the project we're funding, about the country that they're in, so the end in fact the educational component is as important as the fund raising, and generate the sense of connection that women have with the women around the world And that leads to inspiration. Because when you feel like you can make an active different and you can see that difference, then that is incredibly inspiration. And freebies inspiring leads to transformation we're transforming the lives of women and girls around the world that we ourselves are transformed in that process. So, it's this never ending Sacco that feeds upon itself and it's really really profound, from something as simple as a potluck dinner.

Raymond Hansell
We'll talk more with Marsha about dining for women in a moment, but right now I'd like to take a brief break, and tell our listeners a bit about our game on Facebook called a Better World. A Better World encourages habits of goodness, positive mindsets and giving to social causes to make a positive difference in the world. Players actually do things like express gratitude, share acts of kindness, sent get well notes to real world sick children and many many more. Each month, we partner with a different charity and challenge our players to do a certain number of good deeds within the game. When they do, we release funds to our charity partner of the month, and we're excited to announce that dining for women is our charity partner of the month, for November. When our players reach our do, good goal will release funds for grassroots projects, in developing countries, to empower women and girls and promote general gender equality. You can find out more at abetterworld.com. Now let's get back to our conversation with Marsha Wallace, founder of Dining for Women and my co-host MarySue Hansell.

MarySue Hansell
Marsha, just so interested in about how all these donations work, I thought I had read that the average donation is thirty-five dollars yet you're giving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to these grantees. Tell us more about that.

Marsha
Well, if you think yes our average donation is thirty five dollars, you know that with the idea being that people donate what they would have spent in a restaurant, and the power of the model at the collective giving model, is that we're pooling, these individual donations and so when we have over 400 chapters, that meet and all of these individual groups of women, are learning about and donating to the same project, the collective amount of money that we can raise is truly inspirational and impactful.

MarySue Hansell
Well can you give our listeners an idea about how much you give each granted, and say how much every year, and to date what's the total donations have been from women around the world.

Marsha
Look, to date, we have given or raised almost six million dollars to eight million dollars for grantees and. Our average grant, is between 35 and 50 dollars per month and that is what we called the featured program. So, I'll just give you an example of how a chapter works.

MarySue Hansell
OK.

Marsha
So if you and Ray, had were part of the chapter once a month, everyone would get together and you would take a dish or you know wine or appetizers or whatever you do, and at this gathering, you would learn about that featured program for the month, and there would be a short video presentation, and somebody would do a brief educational presentation about the country, and the project and how women they're specifically impacted and what the budget for the project is, in exactly what we would be funding. And then if you imagine that same scenario in over four hundred chapters around the country, that 1000s of donations, that we are receiving that collectively make up the grants that we give. So, in addition to the featured grant, every month there's another smaller grant that we give to an organization called the sustained grant, that we give to organizations we have funded in the past. And collectively, those two grand total around seventy thousand dollars a month on average. So, the amount of good that we can do, from a simple potluck dinner, is truly exciting, and it is, we call it democratizing philanthropy, and in other words, we take donations as little as five dollars, or as much as one hundred fifty dollars with thirty-five being the average.

MarySue Hansell
How can our listeners help support Dining for Women?

Marsha
Well, our website dining for Women dot org has a place where you could express an interest about finding out about a chapter near, you or you could start a chapter with your own friends, is easy and fun and incredibly rewarding and if you're not interested in attending a meeting or being part of a chapter, you can always donate online directly, and be a friend of Dining for Women in that way.

MarySue Hansell
Well, that sounds great. I think we should all do that we really need to support women around the world. I've read some of the statistics, on your website that seventy percent of the world's over a billion poor women live on less than a dollar a day. I was just startled by that and this this is making me feel so good that there is an organization,that's trying to eradicate that poverty and also educate the women.

Marsha
One of the main causes of global poverty, is gender discrimination. And so that is at the root of our mission is addressing global poverty for women and girls five promoting gender equality, and that's why the education is so important, and why we focus on projects in developing countries. Because gender discrimination for women worldwide is unheard of in this country. We don't have equal equality here yet, but it's nowhere near as bad as it is in places around the world in the countries that we are reaching.

MarySue Hansell
Do you have a favorite story that you can tell us how this has impacted certain lives around the world?

Marsha
Oh, I do. In 2010, Dining for Women had a trip to Kenya, and we learned about an organization called the Maasai Growth Education Fund. And met one of the student that got a scholarship from this organization. Her name was Caroline. And Caroline was not able to attend school, being a girl. Her brothers got to go to school but she didn't. And she would follow them to school and sit outside the school window and try and learn what she could. Finally, she convinced her dad to sender, and she rose to the top of her class immediately, and when it came time for secondary school there were no funding available for her, and the Maasai Growth Education Fund stepped in and Caroline became the first girl in her village to graduate from high school. Imagine that all the little girls in this village never seeing another girl graduate from high school. So she became a role model, and then delayed marriage she refused to get marriage at the typical age of twelve or thirteen, which is also under her [18:04 -crosstalk]. And has gone on to become a college graduate and she's a nurse and she is truly truly breaking barriers and changing the idea of what's possible for women and girls in the Messiah culture.

MarySue Hansell
That is such a wonderful story. You probably have many many more and I'd love to read about them and I encourage our listeners to check out your website.

Marsha
Thank you.

MarySue Hansell
What have you leant Marsha about how to starting something small can make such a big difference.

Marsha
You know, passion and inspiration and education really can lead to transformation, and thats what excite so many of our members in Dining for Women is realizing that, they with their individual gifts are part of this greater movement. We really do see the impact that we're having as a movement and every movement in history was made up of individuals doing their small part. And it's probably one of the most profound ways to create change that I can think of. So, you never underestimate what a group of people can accomplish together. And it only starts, it starts small. But has done for women, has become something much larger than I ever envisioned. So don't be afraid to take that first step.

MarySue Hansell
You know, I think I saw one of your YouTubes, where you said something like if I would have realized how big this would have gotten I might have been afraid to do it. Something like that.

Marsha
That's exactly. [laughter] I wouldn't, I'm a nurse by training and I had no experience in fundraising or organizational development or philanthropy or anything. I would have been terrified if I had thought of anything more than just that first birthday dinner.

MarySue Hansell
I think that's very inspirational in itself, that you know let's just start something small. Don't be afraid where it all go and it'll just get there and so that's wonderful. Now Marsha how do you hope Dining for Women is helping to make the world a better place for girls and women around the whole world?

Marsha
Well, you know with our individual grants, we are impacting the lives of individual women and girls, and our bigger vision is to actually change the way the world works for women and girls. So, that the level of discrimination they face is fundamentally altered and that the world becomes a more equitable place. Because studies have shown, that in the countries where equity for women and girls is higher, those countries have less violence and less corruption and they are more peaceful. So literally, it is no exaggeration to say that empowering women and girls leads to a more peaceful world, and that's what we hope to accomplish.

Raymond Hansell
And that's a magnificent wrap up for this wonderful segment today, in Dining for Women. I have to say, the, it's very inspirational. You know, we've seen other situations that are similar but not necessarily focus one hundred percent for women and girls, which I think is really needed more than perhaps almost all the programs that we work with, but we have seen a lot of people start small like Miracle Foundation did, and like cancer Schmidt's or Fran Drescher is a program and the next thing you know it's just begins to take on a life it takes on a mission that really begins to spread. So, it's very inspirational to see the work that you've done there. I congratulate you on this very sincerely. It for being a great Better Worldians.

Marsha
Thank you Ray. I just hope some of your listeners would be inspired to check us out, to join us and become part of the movement.

Raymond Hansell
Absolutely. For our listeners, you can learn more about Dining for Women at diningforwomen.org Marsha thanks again for joining us today at Better Worldians Radio.

Marsha
Thank you.

Raymond Hansell
Better Worldians is brought to you by Better Audience Foundation, a five in one C 3 nonprofit, whose mission is to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone. We believe it is as important to plant flowers as it is to pulling weeds. We focus on positive thinking, positive values and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the better world in everybody, so that we can all make it a better world. But we cant do it without your help, donate to support our Better Worldians radio to support Better Worldians radio podcast as we as go toward due features like articles, videos, blogs and more. Go to better Worldians dot com and become part of this important mission. And until next time, as I say each week, please be a Better Worldians.