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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

Blazing trails and creating social change is nothing new to Soroptimists. For more than 90 years it has been a part of our DNA. And yet, as times and needs change, so must our organization.

Two years ago our board adopted Shaping Our Future an internal change management model to evolve and advance our organization as we prepare to advance our mission in the next century.

Shaping our Future is about:

  • the Board identifying barriers to organizational success, providing greater clarity to Soroptimists,
  • ensuring our core programs are measureable, sustainable and in alignment with our direction and values,
  • generating an evidence base that effectively tells about the impact we make achieving the social transformation of women and girls, so they have the education and training they need to live their dream,
  • leading to greater recognition for SIA, and
  • resulting in greater resources for the federation to use in its now 20 countries and territories
  • to positively effect the social and economic empowerment of women and girls by providing them with resources and opportunities to reach their full potential.

These are the changes we want to make to Shape our Future. It is what success looks like to SIA: a financially healthy organization with a strong base of engaged, fulfilled members and supporters working together to improve the lives of women and girls through programs with measurable impact. We began Shaping our Future by gaining clarity about our direction to better focus our clubs and members on the service they carry out.Over the last two years, the board has provided that clarity. They have fine-tuned our vision, our mission, our core values and our organization-wide strategic plan to keep us moving toward a successful future.

Soroptimist measures its success by following our Strategic Plan, which guides the work and focus of our organization. It defines how we work toward our vision of a world where women and girls have the resources and opportunities to reach their full potential.

Today, our strategic goals are:

  1. IMPACT: The entire organization will collectively provide a sustainable impact on the lives of women and girls.
  2. ENGAGEMENT: Members and supporters will find value through engagement with the SIA mission.
  3. RECOGNITION: SIA is recognized for its efforts to improve the lives of women and girls.
  4. PHILANTHROPY: Members and supporters of SIA will financially support federation programs.

All our goals are meant to accomplish our 10-15 year goal – or BIG goal of “increased collective impact. “  And these goals should be the regions’ and clubs’ goals as well.

Now that we have reviewed the internal organization-wide change of Shaping our Future, let’s look at the external change we are trying to make – that of Increased Collective Impact

What does Increased Collective Impact look like?
Increasing our collective impact looks like a cohesive effort throughout our federation –members, clubs, regions, board and staff –working together to make a sustainable and measurable difference in the lives of women and girls by providing them with access to education and training and – strengthening our organization – our financial resources, the number of people engaged in our mission, and the number of women and girls’ lives we improve.

Yes, it’s that simple:

  • Strengthen our organization (increased)
  • by working together, (collective),
  • providing women and girls with access to education and training to make a sustainable and measurable difference in their lives (impact). 

This is what our BIG goal, Increased Collective Impact, stands for.

Today, SIA wants to continue to carry out its mission and be well-known for the social change we make. But to do that, we have to know what our Soroptimist brand stands for, because if Soroptimist stands for too many things, we stand for nothing at all.

At the very heart of what Soroptimist stands for are:

  • Women and girls
  • Education
  • Empowerment

We focus on women and girls because in every country in the world, both developed and developing, women and girls face discrimination simply because of their gender. As a women’s organization, we are uniquely qualified to break down those barriers so women and girls can lead fulfilling and productive lives.

Education is the greatest equalizer. Knowledge provides wisdom and understanding, breeding the power to take charge of one’s life. That’s the power we refer to in our mission...improving the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. Our club projects should be supporting our brand and our core value of women and girls deserving to lead full and productive lives through access to education.

Another core value of our organization is for women and girls to be free to act in their own best interest. This is key if women and girls are to achieve their goals in life. But there’s another aspect to this quality that applies to us, the members working on behalf of other women and girls.

True empowerment begins in our own lives by transforming our limited beliefs…creating change on the inside to create change on the outside. If our organization is to transform, we must perform, first by creating change within ourselves, then within our organization … much like the way we enable the women and girls we serve.

As a group of 33,000 passionate members in 1300+ clubs, we work broadly on women’s issues. But we are diluting our power by working on every issue that might affect women and girls. I ask you to stay true to our brand and keep our heart—our brand identifiers of women and girls, education and empowerment—at the forefront of your club actions. 

Are you with me? Are you able to make the change within yourself to help our organization make the transformation it needs to carry on its legacy? I think you are!

Over the last two years we have had some very satisfying successes.  I’d like to share them with you because they give a sense of how far along we are and how well we are doing in our transformation journey.

ONE. Clarity. As I shared before, we clarified and fine-tuned our direction. By clarifying what and how we want to achieve the world we envision, we can better focus our strategic efforts — coupled with a strong accountability system — to make it our reality. Feedback on our fine-tuned vision, mission and core values has been very positive.

TWO. Programs. We placed more emphasis on measuring and using our program outcomes. The most consistent and effective way we’ve done this is through our Live Your Dream Awards program, formerly the Women’s Opportunity Awards. Last year we commissioned a report from the Fels Institute of Government, a research and consulting organization based at the University of Pennsylvania, to study the effectiveness of our cornerstone program.

The FELS impact study concluded the program helps women in four key areas: quality of life, building confidence, strengthening self-determination, and multiplying the cycle of growth.

How do we know all this? Because your headquarters staff keep in touch with our region award recipients. Three years out, we survey them; collect, compile and measure the impact and then report the outcomes. That is what it takes to measure our impact. As we expand to collecting information on all award recipients, we need your help to make sure headquarters has their contact information and the recipients know headquarters will contact them.

Recognition. We have been telling our story of measurable and sustainable social change. Did you know we get almost 350,000 visits to our SIA and LiveYourDream websites each year, and that our Live Your Dream online community will have more than 50,000 supporters by the fall of 2014? Did you know that through our Live Your and SIA websites we are building awareness and conducting a two way dialogue in 25 countries? 

Because digital strategies have proven to be effective for our federation, over the last three years we have focused our marketing dollars and efforts there.

Through the Live Your site we also  implement the at-large Live Your Dream Awards program component; engage a new pool of volunteers; generate revenue through corporate sponsors, new donors and product sales; and continue to increase recognition of Soroptimist, its mission and programs.

FOUR. Resources. We are leveraging our goodwill for greater resources. We are excited to have our first major corporate sponsors, Royal Neighbors and Happify along with our loyal, long time sponsor Janney Montgomery and Adrienne Horen. We have been awarded a $10,000 ASAE Innovation Grant for, and a $120,000 annual Google Grant that helps extend its reach.

And thanks to your efforts, we have increased club giving by 21 percent over the last biennium. That’s the power of our collective impact! 

I am thrilled to know 714 clubs are giving at least 10 percent of what they raise locally to global federation programs. That’s 67% of all clubs giving who embrace Soroptimist as their cause of choice.  This is the kind of change we are talking about. It demonstrates working together and can truly help our organization increase its collective impact in the 20 countries and territories it serves. 

FIVE. Impact. Lastly, and most importantly, the impact we have had in positively changing conditions for women and girls, locally and globally. Participation by clubs in our Live Your Dream Awards program  increased to 80% of clubs participating.

This means we have been able to award 2,474 women totaling almost 3.4 million U.S. dollars in grants during the past two years.  Our at-large awards program grew from granting 10 awards last year to 28 $1,000 USD grants this year. One of these at-large recipients went on to receive a region and federation award.

More clubs participating, more awards and more money disbursed to help women turn their lives around by getting the education and training they need to succeed. And it’s all because of your contributions!

39/  \\ Clarity, \\ programs, \\ recognition, \\ resources, \\ impact …we ARE making progress with the changes that will led us to our organizational success. Although our transformation has just begun, our results are not only heading in the right direction, they are strong.

Why is this transformation so important?  You see, as a global organization, we cannot fail to help women and girls beyond our own communities if we are to demonstrate the power of being united in making a measurable and sustained difference throughout our federation.

If you think about a wave, every wave has both a peak and a descent.  The key to our transformation is being able to paddle together in the dip of the wave so that we are ready to ride the next crest.
The philosopher Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  I am confident our organization will ride the new waves of change and lead the way in building a better, stronger and more vibrant organization. 

Each and every one you has a part in building Soroptimist. We share common goals, and a common vision. We may have joined together for many different reasons, but our goals are the same, to be best for women - both the women and girls we serve, and ourselves.  

We have talked today about the changes we are making and need to make to increase our collective impact. We live in a constantly changing world. Organizations that don’t keep pace do not survive.  We must transform to perform, which requires teamwork, focus and commitment.  We have worked too long and too hard to let it slip away.

Whenever we talk about change and what we must do to stay strong and relevant, there is one thing we must ALWAYS keep in mind: the women and girls we help. They are real. And they need us.

Thank you for everything you do to help women and girls. And for your commitment to making change and keeping our organization strong, even when the change may be uncomfortable.

There’s an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Let’s go far. And let’s do it together…making change throughout our organization a reality.




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