The Powerball Ticket That Always Wins

Tammy Tibbetts
3 min readJan 12, 2016

So many people are buzzing about the $1.4B Powerball lottery (although the winner will actually take home much less after taxes — even so, they’ll net millions of dollars, and given how excited I was for raising one million at She’s the First, that’s a big deal).

But every time there’s a major jackpot, I can’t help but remember how the lottery is one of the main metaphors for the reason She’s the First exists. Nicholas Kristof has frequently called poverty versus privilege the “lottery of birth.”

Our society is so transfixed by the fantasy of winning the lottery and how we’d spend our winnings— and I get that, I grew up watching Yolanda Vega call out the New York lottery numbers in a commercial during Wheel of Fortune, and I’d try to guess what the numbers were before she said them. One time, I even “won” by predicting the numbers, granted I was too young to have a ticket.

Now, working in the non-profit sector gives me an even bigger, crazier type of fantasy about the lottery: What if the hundreds of millions of people buying $2 tickets (440 million were sold in the last drawing) donated instead to She’s the First (or any education non-profit, local or global)? Or if that’s too idealistic, then what if the people who won the jackpot decided to donate it all to education, and it was tax-free?

In the fundraising world, it’s too easy to get caught up in, and discouraged by, whimsical what ifs of how people could spend their money differently. I’m not saying you should feel bad for buying a lottery ticket. I buy lottery tickets from time to time — the scratch-off ones are fun to put in birthday cards. You’re allowed to have a guilty pleasure.

My point is to remind us all that the resources to create education equality do exist in this world. That’s why I go to work every day. Because I know a future in which there are no more first-generation high school graduates is possible.

The difference between buying a lottery ticket and donating to an education non-profit is this: Every ticket out of poverty is a winner. I have so many examples of this. If you have time, read STF Scholar Maheshwari’s story on Medium. Born to uneducated parents in India, she’s on her way to becoming a successful geneticist and having multiple degrees to her name.

Maheshwari, and all our Scholars, remind me every day that unlike the Powerball lottery, where we entertain what if fantasies that we don’t expect to come true, when we invest in education, we’re creating a reality driven bywe can!, we should!, and why not? We can expect the best, and the most unlikely things, to happen. Last year, one of our Scholars in Ethiopia, Tizita, even starred in an award-winning film produced by Angelina Jolie (and DVF blogged about her). Why not? With an education, anything is possible.

Should this blog post find its way to the winners of the Powerball, let’s talk about philanthropy! But more realistically, since it’s found its way to you, there’s a good chance you’ve already donated to She’s the First to help more girls win at life even if they lose the birth lottery. For that I thank you so much! And if you’re brand new to She’s the First, then I’d love to invite you into our world of girl power.



Tammy Tibbetts

Co-Founder/CEO of @shesthefirst. I'm all about gender equality, girls' education, and goal-setting.