For This Organization, Female Friendship Is The Ultimate Weapon In The Fight Against Inequality

Dining for Women uses collective giving to raise money for women and girls' empowerment organizations around the world.

Through the power of collective giving, one organization is working to change the lives of women and girls around the world one dinner at a time. 

What Dining for Women asks of its members is simple: once a month, instead of going out to eat, donate the money they would have spent at a restaurant to help empower girls and women around the world. Local chapters of the organization then meet over dinner hosted in a member's house to learn more about who those donations are supporting. 



"It's doing something that you do all the time and harnessing it for impact," Beth Ellen Holimon, president of Dining for Women, told A Plus. "You can make a difference without leaving your house. All it takes to start a chapter is four people and a bottle of wine. It's really that easy."

On average, Dining for Women members donate $35, but the group has no minimum donation requirement for its chapters, and Holimon said she knows of one member who donates $3 to her chapter every month. But with 400 chapters and almost 8,000 members worldwide, the organization is able to take an individual's contribution and combine it with what others are able to give to create a huge impact. 

The Dining for Women Houston chapter via Dining for Women
The Dining for Women Houston chapter via Dining for Women

"What this has done is really democratized philanthropy because really anyone can make a difference and because we're taking all these thousands of people, every donation counts," said Holimon.

Between 2003 and 2015, the organization raised more the $5 million that was then distributed through grants to groups working with women in developing countries. A group of rotating members come together twice a year to select six grant recipients — one for each month of the year — in a highly competitive grant-approval process. 

It is these grantees that are the subject of conversation at monthly chapter meetings. Each month, Dining for Women gives chapters information on the featured grantee, that in the past have included a group that brings literacy skills to former nomadic populations in Mali, an organization that trains women in animal husbandry in Niger and a project working to provide shelter for marginalized girls in Cambodia. 

"I think there's some power when we give collectively," Chris King, president of the San Francisco chapter of Dining for Women told A Plus. "There's something authentic there."

Dining for Women's Atlanta chapter via Dining for Women
Dining for Women's Atlanta chapter via Dining for Women

For King, who has been involved with the organization for a year and a half, it's not only Dining for Women's focus that keeps her coming back, but the community she says she feels with the other members of her chapter. She said there's a sense of camaraderie amongst the members, who she often sees outside of the regularly scheduled chapter meetings.  

 "Our small community is part of something that's bigger," King said. "I think there's something that's definitely endearing."

This sense of connection also prompted King and several members of the San Francisco chapter to expand their work outside monthly chapter meetings. The group started collecting feminine hygiene products for local organizations last fall and is planning a trip to Guatemala this year to attend a graduation ceremony for girls who participated in a mentorship program offered by a sustained grantee (an initiative that is supported by Dining for Women for more than one year). 

Members participate in a webcast about the featured grantee at at chapter meeting. via Dining for Women
Members participate in a webcast about the featured grantee at at chapter meeting. via Dining for Women

While a major part of Dining for Women's mission is to partner with and support female-focused organizations around the world, the organization works equally to support the 400 chapters. Educating their members on issues affecting women around the world and fostering the connection between members and grantees is something on which Holimon said the group is continually working. 

Dining for Women is relaunching its travel program to allow more members to meet the women who have been impacted by the organization's grants, but Holimon said she also witnesses this connection between donor and receiver — the transformation between passive donor and becoming an active global citizen — whenever she attends a local chapter meeting. 

"It's like watching synapses fire," Holimon said. "Seeing our members get excited about fighting on behalf of women and girls and seeing the lightbulbs go off in their heads about realizations or connections that they hadn't put together before and taking that passion and acting with it, I just feel that we're this catalyst for action."

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