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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

Where are we headed? Help us decide!

Now that the new club year has started up, it feels great to be back in the Soroptimist swing of things. How we approach the new club year and beyond will make a difference to our future. And that’s why I need your club’s feedback.

In January 2015, your federation Board directed the organization to look into what it would take to transform our organization; transform it to focus our future in two areas.  They are:

  • GROW ENGAGEMENT IN OUR MISSION—Reverse the decline in club membership and develop and grow alternate ways to engage people to carry out our mission
  • SCALE-UP OUR PROGRAMMATIC IMPACT—Develop our next big goal to take Soroptimist into its second century to support our scaled-up impact.

Grow Engagement in Our Mission
The Board reviewed a number of data points to come to the two focus areas above. One of them was your feedback in the barriers and solutions exercise from last year. The exercise asked the following two questions of clubs:

  • What do you see as the biggest barriers SIA faces in increasing its collective impact?
  • What support do you think would be most useful to overcome these barriers?

The overall top barriers identified are membership, public awareness, financial and culture. The overall top solutions mentioned include membership, public awareness, financial and communication.

Membership as a barrier outdistanced the second and third barriers mentioned by nearly twice as many and out distanced the fourth barrier by almost three times. Statistically, this provides a clear indication that membership is the number one area clubs want SIA to help them address. 

The overall common concerns with membership include declining, aging and retaining membership; the lack of commitment and involvement by members; and the meeting times and locations.

The solutions mentioned for membership ranged from more district and federation involvement; to recruiting younger members; focusing on S clubs; and reinventing Venture.

Your federation Board looked at these results and being very mindful of the membership numbers decided to take action by creating a full-time senior director of membership. The position is focused on helping the organization grow its membership, improve the member experience and streamline the club process. Sue Haney, formerly of Lions International, was instrumental in developing the Lions Family Membership Program, Women’s Initiative, and other target-marketing initiatives to develop membership among younger people and special interest groups. She joined SIA headquarters on June 9, 2015.

Yes, to some of you, that may sound like more overhead, but to those who know the only way to grow a business is by investing in its growth, this is considered an investment in our federation’s growth…and our future!

In addition to this “investment” strategy, we created a new recruitment campaign that started September 1, 2015. Called “All Aboard the MemberSHIP,” it has us working together to grow the number of people engaged in our mission.

Solutions also pointed out the need for that elusive younger member. Yes, young members are by definition the future of any organization. And we have to remember that younger people are making engagement choices in a world very different from the one in which our organization has historically operated.(1)  I think you know, if our federation creates engagement models based on historical assumptions and their experience with historical audiences, these models will be less effective. 

A recent study about engaging younger people in an organization’s mission tells us: “It is critical for organizational strategy and mindsets to adapt to engage young people in an organization’s mission.” Makes sense.

Soroptimist has a strategy to engage young people in our mission. It’s known as Live Your Some of us don’t understand it, some of us don’t want resources used to incubate and develop it, some of us want headquarters to hurry up and replicate it in every part of the federation. 

With such disparate thinking, one thing is clear—we have to change our mindset and embrace another way forward to engage more people in our mission—a way that is relevant to the generation we want to attract.

It doesn’t mean the club model is going away or is any less important. In fact at some point we will try to integrate the club model with our new online model for recruitment. And that requires concentrated resources. Our senior director of membership will be leading this charge.

YES, we heard you! Your feedback helped the Board decide we need more focus on the development of membership Now that is the power of participation! Thank you to all who took the time to give us your thoughts. But that’s not all….

Scale-up Our Programmatic Impact
You have another opportunity to participate in setting our federation’s longer term strategic direction … to help our federation scale-up our programmatic impact. 

In October 2021, SIA will celebrate our 100th anniversary and gear up for what we can do in our next century. Can you believe 2021 is just six years away?!

Your federation Board has asked itself, how can we best participate and make the most of our organization’s impact in the global community working to ensure economic and social empowerment for women and girls? To address this, the Board directed we begin exploring our next big goal to transform the organization’s impact to something greater. Determining the scale of what is something greater requires a S.M.A.R.T. big goal—that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound.

This direction sets in motion our strategic focus for the beginning of the next century.  But it will be 2021 before we take on a new SMART big goal. We will need the time to prepare and to begin the changes our organization needs for this future focus.

Right now, as we begin the steps toward a new future focus, we want to hear what you think our next big goal should be. Our organization’s big goal today is to increase our collective impact. We’d like Soroptimist to enter its second century with a SMART big goal that clubs are eager to support locally and globally.

Each club president has been sent a discussion guide to facilitate your club’s exploration of the options for our next big goal. Please be sure to support this discussion in your club and provide your feedback by December 28, 2015. Everything you need was in the September 2015 email sent to club presidents. Should you need another copy or help with the materials, just contact

So please, help us decide where we are headed! Participate in the future of your organization by giving us feedback on the next big goal. I hope you know we are listening and using your feedback to move our organization into its second century.

(1) Engaging Young Association Members, Association Laboratories, Inc., May 17, 2015, pgs 22 – 24.






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