Suits, Jobs, and Training

Joi Gordon is grooming thousands of women for career success

in the organization’s mission and its track record of deliverables. “Nonprofit leaders must be competent in capacity building, diversifying funding streams, and effective marketing of their programs.”

In 2003, Gordon’s re — branding efforts included a new look as well as new logo and tagline: Suits to Self — Sufficiency, which focuses on the more — than — suits platform. In 2006, DFS introduced a new Website and is receiving roughly 35,000 page hits a month, with more than 86% being new visitors.

Since heading the organization, Gordon has implemented a variety of support systems and technology for tracking affiliates and measuring their success in key performance areas. “Our newest affiliates are stronger than ever, and I know that is because they go through a rigorous business plan process. We reject as many applicants as we approve. The same business acumen you need to grow a small business is exactly what you need in the nonprofit sector.”

Gordon’s plans and assessments have paid off. According to the 2005 evaluation of Dress for Success Worldwide, the organization has been rated four out of four stars three years in a row by Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog that independently analyzes charities for potential donors.

“We rate charities by evaluating two broad areas of financial health: their organizational efficiency and their organizational capacity. Our ratings show givers how efficiently we believe a charity will use their support today and to what extent the charities
are growing their programs and services over time.” According to Charity Navigator’s latest report of the agency’s $4.97 million in revenues, Dress for Success utilized 90.6% on direct services to its clients. DFS’ fundraising expenses and administrative costs, which can consume much of an agency’s resources, were only 9.4% of its budget, and its increase in revenues from 2004 to 2005 was 45.7%.

It’s this type of managerial track record that encourages the support of donors such as Vivian Behrens, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of the national retail chain dressbarn Inc. — one of more than two dozen DFS corporate sponsors. “It is quickly evident that Joi is a woman with intense conviction, unrelenting dedication, and high expectations that she applies to herself, her organization, and the women that she serves,” notes Behrens. Since March 2002, dressbarn alone has donated close to $2.5 million worth of suits. The Jaffe Family Foundation, formed by dressbarn’s founding family and DFS board member Roslyn Jaffe, privately donated more than $130,000 to support the charity’s national and local initiatives.

Gordon’s marketing strategies have extended successfully into engaging celebrity partnerships with television personality Star Jones — Reynolds, fashion icon Iman, music legend Gladys Knight, and celebrity makeup artist Bobbi Brown (who also sits on the board of directors). O’Neale observes that the organization has grown exponentially over the last three years in terms of the number of sponsors, product placement, and the number of DFS locations. “We are showing up in the most incredible places, like the online auction for [the movie] The Devil Wears Prada.”

Yet with all of the organization’s growth and

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