Membership FAQ

General:

What is the Soroptimist mission?
To improve the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world.

How do members/clubs support the Soroptimist mission?
Soroptimist members belong to local clubs, which determine the focus of volunteer work in their communities. Club projects can range from renovating domestic violence shelters and providing mammograms to low-income women, to sponsoring self-esteem workshops for teenage girls. In addition, Soroptimists participate in organization-wide programs offered from the federation (more details below).

Membership:
What benefits do members receive?
In addition to intangible rewards such as friendship and personal fulfillment, members also receive the following benefits:
•    Opportunity to participate in Soroptimist’s life-changing programs
•    Subscription to our award-winning Best for Women magazine
•    Subscription to our email newsletter, the “Soroptimist Summary”
•    Access to numerous documents and tools available on the SIA website
•    Leadership development and networking opportunities at club meetings, region conferences, the biennial convention and other meetings
•    Opportunity to provide feedback, offer suggestions and voice opinions through the Soroptimist
•    Snapshot online surveys and other market research activities
•    Invitations to take advantage of special offers and discounts through our partnering organizations.

Who is eligible for membership?
According to the SIA bylaws, to qualify for membership, a candidate should be:
•    working in a profession or business or in an occupation of comparable status or responsibilities to those of a person working in a profession or business; or
•    recently retired from or temporarily or permanently out of work from a profession or business or an occupation of comparable status or responsibilities to those of a person working in a profession or business; or
•    embarking on a career in a profession or business or occupation of comparable status or responsibilities to those of a person working in a profession or business.

Many clubs specifically ask for clarification of the phrase “profession or business” as used in the bylaws. It is understandable why clubs look for guidance in this area, because determining what constitutes a profession or business is not a black and white issue. Even if it were possible to generate an all-inclusive list of titles and occupations that are considered to be part of the profession and business category, the list would be out-of-date almost immediately as women enter new and diverse fields and their professional lives evolve. Additionally, titles continue to become more and more unique to the industries they serve, not always falling into standard categories and rarely articulating the true meaning of a woman’s responsibilities and capabilities.

Therefore, because it is so difficult to provide a concrete definition of “profession or business,” SIA empowers clubs to be inclusive in their interpretation of this phrase (and the related “occupation of comparable status or responsibilities”) rather than exclusive. Instead of focusing solely on title and occupation, clubs are encouraged to look closely at the actual work a potential member does and how her attitude, enthusiasm, ideas, and skill sets would add to the club. In other words, the primary focus of recruitment should be on specific contributions a woman can make to the club and to Soroptimist.

What are the membership types?
Regular Member
•    Definition: Those working in a profession or business or in an occupation of comparable status or responsibilities.
•    Do they have to be assigned a classification code? Yes.
•    What are the 2011-2012 annual federation dues and other mandatory payments? $52.00 federation dues; $5.00 SI dues; and $2.00 liability insurance (United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Guam only).
•    Do dues include a subscription to SIA’s Best for Women magazine? Yes.
•    What is the required number of regular members needed to maintain a club charter? 15.
•    Can a regular member hold office at the club, district, region and/or federation level? Yes, regular members can hold office at all levels.
•    Can a regular member qualify as a delegate at district, region and/or federation level? Yes.

Retired/Unemployed Member
•    Definition: Those recently retired from, or temporarily or permanently out of work from, a profession or business or an occupation of comparable status or responsibilities to those of a person working in a profession or business.
•    Do they have to be assigned a classification code? No. However, if a retired/unemployed member reenters the workforce, she will need to change her member type to regular and be assigned a classification code.
•    What are the 2011-2012 annual federation dues and other mandatory payments? $52.00 federation dues; $5.00 SI dues; and $2.00 liability insurance (United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Guam only).
•    Do dues include a subscription to SIA’s Best for Women magazine? Yes.
•    Do retired/unemployed members “count” toward the 15 members needed to maintain a club charter? No, 15 regular members are required to maintain the charter.
•    Can a retired/unemployed member hold office at the club, district, region and/or federation level? Retired/unemployed members can hold office at the club level if the club bylaws allow it. They cannot hold office at any other level.
•    Can a retired/unemployed member qualify as a delegate at district, region and/or federation level? Yes.

How much does membership cost?
Soroptimist members pay dues at three levels—club, region and federation. Club administration, projects and programs are financed through club-level membership dues, which are set by each individual Soroptimist club. Each Soroptimist region also determines its own dues and fees based on region-level activities and projects.

The 2013–2014 dues are $125, which includes:
SIA federation-level
•    SIA Dues (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012) = $52.00*
•    SIA New Member Fee = $7.50
•    SIA Liability Insurance Fee = $2.00 (Required for members living in U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico & Guam)
•    SI Dues = $5.00
•    Founders Pennies (optional) = $5.46
•    Total federation-level dues per person: $71.96 (Outside of the US: $69.96)

* Members inducted January 1 through June 7, 2013 (or the annual dues billing for the upcoming year) pay $26.00. Sierra Nevada Region (SNR) level

Club level
What other financial obligations do members have?
Aside from dues, there are no other required financial obligations. However, one of the main obligations of Soroptimist clubs is to raise money to support our programs and events. Here are a few examples of potential financial obligations you will want to consider:
•    Cost of meals for club meetings. There is currently no set meal fee, however we do meet at a restaurant for our business meetings once per month. Each member is responsible for her own meal, if she wishes to order.
•    Contributions to fundraising events. Each year we set a minimum we request of all members for ticket sales to our fundraising events. Members may sell the minimum number of tickets or purchase them. For 2013 the minimum number of tickets requested was 10 (at $25 per ticket). Members may also contribute event prizes or supplies to help support such fundraisers.
•    Cost of club events. Our annual club Installation Dinner, and/or any other club gatherings are all at members’ expense.  For 2013 the Installation Dinner cost was $28.
•    Supporting club programs. Many of our club programs are supported by our fundraising efforts. However, occasionally additional community needs arise which the club votes to support an members contribute at a level comfortable for them. In the past, this included contributing money to buy diapers for a diaper drive for a local shelter, purchasing Solar Cooker Kits for a regional initiative supporting women in Darfur, and purchasing miscellaneous items to include in our “Comfort Kits” which we donate to women escaping domestic violence.
•    District, Region, and/or Federation events. Throughout the year, members are invited and encouraged to attend conferences, conventions, and other meetings at the District, Region, or Federation level. The club budgets some funds to assist members attending these events, however those funds are limited and members must cover the costs of any of these events in which they plan to participate. These meetings, conferences and conventions can range in price from $20 to $400 (not including room and board for destination events). None of these events are mandatory, however they are wonderful opportunities to learn from other clubs and gain valuable skills all clubs need, including leadership.

What is the difference between a new member and a reinstated member?
New Member:

•    Someone who has never been a member of Soroptimist.
•    A former member who has not been a member for a year or more is considered a new member.
•    A former member who has not been a member during the same club year (July 1-June 30) is considered
a new member.

Reinstated Member:
•    A member who is re-joining within the same club year (July 1-June 30) is considered a reinstated member.

Why must clubs maintain 15 regular members, and why do the other membership types not “count” toward this requirement?
The 15 member rule has been part of the Soroptimist International Constitution since the 1930s. In 2001, SI created the embarking and retired/unemployed membership categories in response to a poll of the membership in each federation that revealed that members thought there were many potential members who were just starting in careers or who were currently not working who could not, according to the law, be invited to join Soroptimist. Before the addition of these membership categories, members had to be actively engaged in a profession or business to be invited to join. By adding the new types and opening membership to these women, SI hoped to expand the pool of potential members. However, SI strongly supports that Soroptimist is an organization of working women, and that the core of its membership and leadership should continue to be “employed” business and professional women. Therefore, the SI Constitution states that only regular (i.e., working) members will be counted toward the 15 needed to maintain the club charter.

What about meetings—when, where, how long, how formal or informal, etc.?
Club members should decide the best day, time of day, and location of their meetings. They should be held at the convenience of the majority of the members, considering work and life obligations. How often a club meets should be determined by the clubs’ goals and how frequently the members should assemble together in order to accomplish the mission of Soroptimist.

A good rule of thumb is that a meeting should last about one hour, allowing some unscheduled time before and/or after for socializing. The meeting itself should combine club business, education, fellowship, and fun.

A suggested parliamentary procedure and sample business meeting agenda are available on the SIA website for clubs wishing to use such a process. Keep in mind, there is no requirement to use the Soroptimist pledge, prayer, grace, or song.

What are the attendance requirements?
As written in the SIA Bylaws, Section 5.02 Entitlements: (a) All members whose participation meets the requirements set by the club bylaws may hold office, speak, make motions, and vote. Clubs shall not require attendance at meetings as a condition of retaining membership in the club.

Do SIA clubs have bylaws?
Clubs are free to adopt bylaws that will aid in effective operation, provided they are not in conflict with the SI Constitution or SIA Bylaws or Federation Procedures. Club bylaws should be submitted with the club’s charter application. A sample is available on the SIA website that can be adapted by a chartering club.

What is a classification code?
Classification is the four-digit numerical code assigned to a member’s occupation. The Classification Guide (available from the SIA website) includes instructions for determining the classification code. Regular members require classification codes, as do embarking members who are working.

Miscellaneous:
What programs are Soroptimist clubs required to participate in?
Currently, there are no program requirements at the federation level. Participation in SIA’s signature project, the Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Awards, is strongly urged. This award was established to assist women with primary financial responsibility for their families to obtain the skills training and education necessary to improve their employment status and standard of living for themselves and their family. When clubs participate in SIA programs, they become part of an international effort to improve the lives of women and girls.

Other programs that SIA administers, which clubs can participate in if they choose, are the Soroptimist Workplace Campaign to End Domestic Violence, the Soroptimist Violet Richardson Award, the Soroptimist Club Grants for Women and Girls, the Soroptimist Ruby Award, and Soroptimists STOP
Trafficking.

Clubs are also encouraged to participate in the Live Your Dream campaign, which is a fundraising and public awareness activity that encourages all women to live their dreams while helping others to do the same. In addition to selecting one or more programs offered by the federation, local clubs may choose to work on community-based projects that benefit women and girls.

What is the SIA convention?
Held during even-numbered years, federation conventions provide education, networking, and socializing opportunities for clubs and members throughout the federation. In addition to inspiring speakers and workshops, the meeting also offers an opportunity to participate in the federation decision-making process and meet Soroptimists from around the world.

Producing a convention involves certain fixed costs. These costs are divided over the number of clubs equally so that the burden is evenly distributed, resulting in a mandatory convention fee to be paid by clubs every other year. This fee is addressed in Federation Bylaws under Article XI, Fiscal Matters, Section 11.02 (f).