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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

Historically, Soroptimist clubs have focused primarily on raising funds and granting those funds to further the work of OTHER organizations that support women and girls. Yet members are telling us they want a change – they want to carry out programs and projects themselves, under the name of Soroptimist. Members want the fruits of their efforts to be recognized as Soroptimist’s efforts. Members want our federation to increase its collective impact – to strengthen our organization (increased), by all of our clubs working together (collective), to provide women and girls directly with access to education and training to make a sustainable and measurable difference in their lives (impact).

Your federation Board of Directors evaluated how best to increase our federation’s collective impact. They evaluated options using knowledge-based decision-making. They determined the best way was through our federation–wide programs – so clubs have the opportunity to participate and their efforts tracked and our collective impact reported.

If our federation is to realize our potential, clubs must carry out our federation-wide programs. Federation-wide programs address a local need, but when carried out together, they reflect the impact our 28 regions can have on changing a social condition. This is how we shall realize our potential.

Together, we are making progress toward realizing our potential. As a federation of regions and clubs united by advancing our mission we now have 80 percent of clubs participating in the Live Your Dream Awards: Education and Training Program for Women. That 6 percent increase over last year enabled our federation to collectively serve a total of 1,277 women or 3 percent more women. With more clubs participating we were able to award recipients a total of $1.74 million for a 7 percent increase over last year. That’s remarkable. It’s almost 1/12 of what we have been able to accomplish over the last 30 years.

One third of our 1,277 award recipients received additional support in the form of mentoring, job training and child care with additional in-kind awards valued at $71,000 given by clubs. While these are all very impressive numbers reflecting our progress in increasing our collective impact, they are not nearly as important as the program’s outcomes—how the recipients’ condition and those of the lives around them change as a result of the Live Your Dream Awards.

Our outcomes for the Live You Dream Awards program include increases in standard of living, self-esteem, self-confidence and serving as a role model for the recipients’ dependants.

The actual outcomes, the change we made possible as a result of our collective efforts, achieved 85 percent of region recipients increasing their standard of living; 100 percent of region recipients increasing their self-esteem and self-confidence. And 94 percent of region award survey respondents report serving as a role model for their dependents.

These outcomes reflect our collective and measured impact to improve the social and economic conditions of women through our Live your Dream Awards program. It’s tangible, it’s measured. It’s real and sustainable change for the recipient and those around her.

Our outcomes:

• affirm our federation-wide program is making the intended impact
• help Soroptimist tell our story at the United Nations of the impact we make
• inspire and motivate donors, engage sponsors and other financial supporters
• identify any needed improvements to the program
• market the program to the public to raise awareness about Soroptimist and what it accomplishes for women and girls
• attract more people to help advance our mission.

I would like to share the words of one award recipient from Japan who earned her degree, experienced increased self-esteem, pay-level, and standard of living, and now serves as a role model for her children: “The award boosted my ability to believe in myself. I learned that any experience could become a positive asset. Even after gaining the certificates, I continue to learn and take seminars to increase my professional knowledge. My children often say that ‘You really like to study, Mom.’ I tell them that I continue to learn because I like my job and am interested in the topics, not because I have to work as a single mother or because I need a job with a good salary. I hope that I can show them an example of doing something I like and enjoy working. I want them to have a positive view on working women.”

This award recipient reaped the benefits of Soroptimist delivering service directly to her in the form of a cash award. Soroptimists members reaped the benefit of helping this woman, empowering her to change her conditions for her and her family. This is only one example among almost 1,300 women last year where our federation-wide Live Your Dream Awards program had impact. When we unite our efforts, we realize our potential as a global organization.

Our new girl program, Dream It Be It offers the same opportunity to make change—but in the lives of girls. By giving girls a head start through Dream It Be It: Career support for girls, Soroptimist can further support our mission to improve the lives of women and girls.

Educating women and girls—who make up 70 percent of the world’s poor and earn only 10 percent of its income —is one of the fastest ways to alleviate poverty around the world. Our federation–wide programs will help educate and empower women and girls and lift them out of poverty.

But you see, while other organizations have been working to help women and girls achieve a primary and now secondary education, Soroptimist’s focus has been on women who have had a difficult life, are heads of households, who can benefit from a college degree and who need someone to believe in them; help them; empower them.

We all know an educated woman’s household is more likely to have greater economic stability and security. On average, those women who have a college degree earn almost twice as much as those who do not. That’s what our federation-wide programs do—improve women and girls’ economic standing through education.

Some of you may be thinking how can we possibly add another program and still maintain all the initiatives we do to help our community? Clubs don’t need to “do it all!” But Soroptimist clubs should contribute to the collective impact our federation-wide programs create.

Performing a Club Assessment can help your club right-size its initiatives; bring them in line with our mission; ensure they are measurable; that they are recognized as Soroptimist programs not another organization’s program; and that they contribute to the federation’s collective impact.

In March, more than 100 members from our federation attended the United Nation’s 59th session for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 59). This session involved 1,100 organizations working toward new sustainable goals (post 2015 development agenda) to advance the equality of women and girls worldwide.

Although you may not have been present, never forget how important it is for your local efforts to align with our federation’s mission and contribution to women’s equality. Your club’s initiatives form the foundation of our federation’s measurable impact and our brand image.

How our organization is perceived locally and globally will only be as strong as our unity and focus. When we work together, delivering measurable programs aligned under the Soroptimist name, Soroptimist is the organization credited with making the difference for women and girls. This is how we spread Soroptimist’s global recognition and stand out among the 1,099 other organizations working on women’s equality.

By using the funds we raise locally to carry out Soroptimist branded programs, Soroptimist is recognized not for giving money to another organization to achieve that organization’s mission, but for the measurable, collective impact we realize. That’s the power of uniting and focusing on delivering our federation-wide programs. That’s how we will realize our potential.

The time of year is changing and with it, the opportunity to refresh our club’s approach. Please join me as Executive Director and member of the SI/Center City club in Philadelphia, in refocusing your club’s service in carrying out federation-wide programs for increased collective impact. Together, we can measurably demonstrate to the world the value and the effectiveness of our organization.

Thank you for all you are doing to advance Soroptimist. May your conferences have provided you the fun and support you need to continue to Shape Our Future., Clinton Foundation.






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