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  Home : Transformation: A View from Spruce Street

Transformation: A View from Spruce Street

Elizabeth Lucas
Elizabeth Lucas, CEO and Executive Director

Every day, Soroptimists in our 1,300+ clubs across our 19 countries and territories are working hard to carry out our mission in their local communities. We have a culture of empowering clubs to do what they think is best locally. Your federation Board wants to continue that kind empowerment while at the same time, encouraging a culture of increased collective impact globally.

What exactly does increased collective impact mean to SIA and to you?
It represents a collective effort of SIA’s clubs, districts, regions, board and staff as we work:

  • to improve the lives of women and girls in our local communities and throughout the world,
  • in using measurable evidence to indicate the level of sustainable improvement made
  • for increasing the socio-economic status of the women and girls we aim to serve
  • to advance SIA’s recognition as an effective global women’s organization, and
  • to attract more resources to further increase our organization-wide impact in improving the lives of women and girls.

I’m often asked, “We have so many volunteers, why do we need staff?”

Soroptimist was established as a federated model over 85 years ago with every level of the organization in many countries working together to achieve the mission. The central organization sets the overall vision as established by the Board of Directors, acts a spokesperson for the cause, and provides for a professional centralized staff (headquarters) dedicated to creating an environment in which clubs can operate legally and efficiently to deliver the mission. The regions ensure the clubs’ initiatives are in alignment with the vision, and the clubs carry out the initiatives in service to the mission. 

In 1988 when the current governance structure was debated, the members and the volunteer leadership requested, as part of the governance change, for there to be more professional support from our headquarters.  The membership no longer wanted to administer our organization; they wanted to focus on advancing the mission of our organization through service, not administration. That’s when the headquarters was expanded.

Since then, the SIA Board of Directors has assigned staff the responsibility to carry out its strategic direction in addition to administering to every level of our federation. Carrying out the strategic direction the SIA Board of Directors established means that while simultaneously working to strengthen our club model, the staff is also testing new ways of engaging people in our mission and cultivating additional forms of revenue. The staff is building new communities online, developing and implementing a sponsorship program, and developing new SIA global programs that help us increase our collective impact and drive our brand recognition. This is all in addition to continuing to service and administer every level of SIA.

The value and support SIA headquarters continues to deliver includes:  

  • Operating under the Soroptimist name—headquarters maintains our nonprofit status allowing all regions and clubs the right to be legally recognized in their respective countries as a nonprofit organization;
  • Working in six languages—English, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese. SIA translates and interprets so our members and clubs in 19 countries and territories are able to participate fully in the Soroptimist experience, and share their accomplishments with and learn from each other;
  • Providing federation programs and tools that enable clubs to deliver measurable and sustainable impact to women and girls in need;
  • Creating and supporting core programs and tools for delivery by clubs and members to help women and girls in need;
  • Marketing SIA and its accomplishments to gain recognition of how SIA makes a difference for women and girls;
  • Gathering and sharing knowledge across our diverse cultures and languages about the gender inequality that provides context and motivation for the vision and mission the organization carries out;
  • Developing and maintaining international alliances and partnerships with Soroptimist International, the federations, and other peer organizations to build our global footprint and impact;
  • Providing leadership development to enrich our members, further developing their skills and grooming members to lead globally, regionally and locally;
  •  Coaching, counseling and supporting the Soroptimist structure—everything from new members to club start-up, club challenges and club successes—while disseminating direction and integrating input received from our members, clubs, regions and board members;
  • Facilitating volunteer meetings to ensure proper oversight, policy development and stewardship.
  • Enabling clubs and members to carry out their service.

The backbone operations are often referred to as administration and require us to:

  •  Develop and maintain a technology infrastructure,
  • Protect our assets including our financial market investments, property, registered trade and service marks, and
  •  Comply with state, and country specific legal and regulatory requirements to maintain our tax-exempt status for SIA, regions and clubs.

All these responsibilities are a tall order, one that needs day-to-day leadership and professional oversight if they are to be executed well.  If we truly plan to ensure our legacy continues, then we must organize through headquarters staff to empower our volunteers to do what they joined Soroptimist to do—to serve locally and globally and reap the joy of giving back.

For more than 90 years, our members—with the support of every level of our federation including staff—have worked tirelessly to support women and girls who need a hand to achieve success and reach their full potential. Working together—as SIA’s clubs, districts, regions, board and staff—we can Shape Our Future for Increased Collective Impact and let the world know it’s not who we are but what we do, together, that counts.



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