July 2020 Board Summary

During this time of a worldwide pandemic and economic uncertainty, the SIA Board remains committed to our next Big Goal of investing in the dreams of half a million women and girls through access to education by 2031. The Board and staff have streamlined our operations to provide the best possible support to our regions, clubs and members, and the women and girls who need us now more than ever.

During the July 2020 SIA Board meeting, the Board in partnership with the SIA headquarters staff agreed to focus on our core in FY20/21. These are the essential things we do that directly contribute to a healthy organization working to increase our collective impact. The Board in partnership with staff also committed to testing and pursuing new strategies to modernize and diversify financial support of our mission. This is critical for our long-term survival and growth. Specific strategies include:

1. Acknowledging the important strategic direction-setting decisions made by previous SIA Boards that are the springboard to our future.

In December 2011, the SIA Board decided the best way to achieve our goals was to tell a simple, compelling, global story of our impact. That means all SIA clubs working together to achieve a shared goal and establishing a global brand represented by our Dream Programs. Subsequent Boards have confirmed this vision, with each Board building on prior decisions, based on member input and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Since 2011, the SIA Boards have adopted several measures and strategies to solidify our direction including defining our:

  • Leadership philosophy
  • Organization type
  • Value proposition/discipline
  • Characteristics
  • Target population
  • Vision and mission
  • Key performance metrics
  • Principles for planning and budgeting strategically
  • Theory of change
  • Global programs
  • Digital marketing recognition strategies
  • Membership development
  • Fundraising commitment
  • 2021-2031 Big Goal

These strategies continue to guide the Board in their decision-making role.

2. Enabling clubs to report on local projects that support our next Big Goal.

Many clubs throughout SIA work on local projects that provide women and girls with access to education leading to economic empowerment. Although these projects are not conducted through the Dream Programs, they most certainly support our next Big Goal of providing half a million women and girls with access to education. The Board has agreed to recognize and count these projects toward our 2021-2031 Big Goal.

3. Restructuring headquarters staff and reducing expenses for greater efficiencies.

Staff teams at SIA headquarters have been restructured to promote greater cross-functional work, leading to streamlined processes and coordinated work products. The changes resulted in the reduction of 6.5 staff positions, or 20 percent of staff, which will greatly reduce payroll and associated fringe benefit costs. In addition, SIA will give no merit or cost-of-living increases, and fund only the required 3 percent 401K safe harbor contribution during FY20/21.

Other expense reduction measures include pausing Soroptimist Club Grants while they are revised to align with our 2021-2031 Big Goal; converting Best for Women from a twice-yearly printed piece to a fully translated monthly digital e-newsletter; reductions to all functional support including program, membership development, leadership development, fund development, member services, meetings, marketing and communications, translations, technology, finance, and governance including in-person Board and Fundraising Council meetings.

4. Adopting a deficit budget supported by our unrestricted or “rainy day” reserves.

The pandemic is having a major impact on SIA’s revenue. The FY20/21 budget projects decreased contributions from individuals, corporations and clubs, decreased membership having an adverse effect on all member-related revenue, and reduced product sales as a result of fewer face-to-face gatherings and new club charters.

These conditions have necessitated adopting a deficit budget for FY20/21. SIA continues to work diligently to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, including focusing on our core while making many significant expense reductions. The deficit is expected to be offset by Unrestricted Reserve Funds or “rainy day funds.”  The purpose of having “rainy day funds” is for use in times like these, allowing operations to run at a reduced level of service, while using our reserves to close the gap.

5. Prioritizing the SIA Board responsibility for fundraising as we embark on our next Big Goal.

The SIA Board members reviewed their position description and made fundraising a higher priority, recognizing how important fundraising is to carry out our mission and achieve our next Big Goal. SIA Board members will:

  • Communicate the importance of our Dream Programs by supporting them with donations
  • Be an advocate and ambassador by listening and seeking out opportunities to share our mission and the need for financial support
  • Identify potential donors and encourage them to invest in our Dream Programs
  • Secure financial resources for our Dream Programs 
6. Revising the Live Your Dream Awards region funding to encourage clubs to provide the award to more women.

Reaching our next Big Goal requires changing the way we work, including the way region Live Your Dream Awards funding is distributed. In the past, we have distributed additional $3,000 awards based on the number of clubs participating in the region. In preparing for the next Big Goal, the Board has agreed the region award funding should be based on the number of awards given rather than the number of clubs participating. This new funding model will encourage clubs to give more awards to more women, which will help us achieve our 2021-2031 Big Goal. This strategy will make the region award competition fairer because the number of awards will be based on the number of women who received a club-level award, not on the number of clubs participating.

7. Suspending Soroptimist Club Grants for Women and Girls while being revised to support achieving our 2021-2031 Big Goal.

In February 2020, the SIA Board agreed to align the Soroptimist Club Grants for Women and Girls with our 2021-2031 Big Goal of investing in the dreams of half a million women and girls through access to education. The grants would provide one of the key supports clubs need to achieve our next big goal: financial support. In FY19/20, we were forced to suspend club grants totaling $75,000 when our projected contributed income declined $1.5M due to COVID-19.

Due to projected continued suppression of contributed income, the SIA Board agreed to suspend Soroptimist Club Grants for FY20/21 as well.

In FY20/21, program staff will focus on revising the Club Grant materials for a relaunch in FY21/22 when the grants will focus on supporting the Dream Programs or other local work to support our 2021-2031 Big Goal. A small budget is available to translate the revised grant applications and supporting materials.

8. Focusing on member engagement leading to loyalty, member retention and eventual member growth.

Strategies include:

  • Member Retention—Phase three of The Diamond Campaign: Shining Our Way to the 2nd Century, was launched on June 1, 2020 with the following goals:
    • 85% or better member retention rate.
    • A coordinated effort by all regions to charter 15 new clubs across the federation.
  • Member Engagement—Engage our members through member care calls and partner with region membership chairs to achieve region membership goals. Staff will support the region leadership by helping them to develop plans to address retention and declines in membership in support of the Healthy Region membership criteria.
  • Member Growth—Staff will begin to explore new membership models/categories and likely benefit offerings. Staff will continue to support regions in their new club charter efforts. As support to the Strengthening Soroptimist in Japan Task Force staff will develop a new club model for Japan to attract younger members, with plans to pilot in FY21/22.
  • Member Loyalty – No late fee or member reinstatement fee in FY20/21.
9. Supporting regions struggling to maintain the board policy of 300 members with a goal of 20 clubs. 

The Board agreed to keep the current policies in place while also acknowledging the challenges regions are facing during the pandemic. The Board believes it’s important to keep the focus on increasing membership, and the necessity of a region having at least 300 members to recruit leaders to key positions.

The Board reviewed all the regions deemed unhealthy and approved improvement plans and taskforce assistance to support them in their efforts to regain a healthy status. Currently 22% or 6 regions are considered unhealthy, at risk or of concern.

10. Evolving leadership development for regions and clubs.

Last year, barriers were identified in the area of leadership and volunteer engagement. Key initiatives in FY20/21 to strengthen these areas include:

  • Evolution of the Governors Round Table. The model will be expanded to reach region and club leaders, and to generate revenue for SIA.
  • Leadership and Volunteer Engagement Opportunities. Engagement is valued now more than ever during this critical time. In FY20/21, staff will implement the following to engage members:
    • Soroptimist Forward: Online Training on Doing Business Virtually. Region and club leaders require tools on how to fundraise, run our brand-unifying Dream Programs, engage members, and manage their operations virtually. In September 2020, we will offer an online training to support this need.
    • Governors and Governors-elect Town Hall Meetings. The governors and governors-elect valued the first Town Hall Meeting we hosted in May 2020 and desire this type of ongoing engagement. Staff also values this type of engagement as it gives them the opportunity to understand regions’ needs and informs the future. Two town hall meetings will be planned during the next fiscal year in October/November 2020 and February/March 2021.
    • Volunteer Recognition Framework. Volunteer recognition is important to the volunteer and member experience. There are redundancies in how we recognize volunteers, and staff is not sure if volunteers would value other forms of recognition. This initiative will examine how we can improve volunteer recognition and streamline our internal processes.

Other board business addressed the board’s review of their February 2020 board meeting evaluation, annual evaluation of the executive director & CEO, review of our 28 Region’s health, update on the Electoral Area Taskforce whose charge it is to make recommendations for a balanced board, strategic conversations regarding our short term and long term plans as well as our measures of success. Other business included the duties and responsibilities of board members, approval of club dues and fee waivers, suspension of the dues late fee for clubs and suspension of the $10 fee assessed to former members being added to or returning (reinstated) to membership in club year 20/21.

The FY20/21 Strategic Plan was approved.

As we move forward in this new environment, we anticipate material reductions in contributions and membership during FY20/21. While that means we will all have to work harder and smarter, there’s no doubt we can and will strengthen our support of the deserving women and girls who depend on us.

By working together toward a brighter future, we can strengthen and modernize our organization, and support the women and girls we economically empower through access to education.  Soroptimist Forward!


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