Then and Now (and Next): Lutheran Services in America

Independent Sector’s members represent the variety of ways that working toward the common good happens in our country, and they reflect an array of visions for making a better tomorrow.

Each month, we get to ring in a number of member-versaries, but some anniversaries are so big that they deserve a special celebration. This summer marked 15 years of IS membership for Lutheran Services in America, one of the largest health and human services networks in the U.S.

To celebrate this milestone anniversary, we connected with Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO to learn more about Lutheran Services in America’s work.

IS:  Lutheran Services in America joined IS in 2004. What would you think has changed the most over the history of Lutheran Services in America? What do you think has stayed the most constant?

CH: In terms of a constant, I’d say our shared mission and values that recognize and embrace the inherent value of helping all people grow, thrive, and live independent, productive lives. This is the case regardless of where people were born, their income, their gender, the color of their skin, their faith, or their ZIP code, and it’s always played a huge role in our efforts to help strengthen communities.

In terms of progress, our national network today is made up of over 300 health and human services organizations. By unleashing the power of our national network and working collectively, we are moving the needle on critical challenges facing our nation. Whether helping change the life trajectory for so many children and youth, or creating and deploying national solutions that improve the lives of so many seniors, we’re able to speed up innovation and accelerate the pace of change. Given the shared trust ingrained in our network, we’re really able to hit the ground running in successfully implementing multi-state, forward-leaning initiatives.

Lutheran Services in America President and CEO Charlotte Haberaecker (R) with U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr. (center) and Junia John Straker, CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands (L), at the Frederick Lutheran Church, the oldest Lutheran Church in the Americas.

IS: Is there a hero or champion of your work in the organization’s history that you’d like to recognize?

CH: Without hesitation I’d say the dedicated people who comprise our national network. Their reach is immense. Collectively we’re active in 46 states and over 1,400 communities, which translates into helping improve the lives of one in 50 people in America every year, ranging from children and families to seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. And our range of services is so broad; our national network is active across the spectrum. Whether efforts are tied to healthcare, senior services, housing or disability services – or disaster response, refugee services or children, youth and families – the passionate, dedicated people who make up our network act as the voice for so many vulnerable people in America.

IS: What’s coming up for Lutheran Services in America in the near future that you are most excited about?

CH: Expansion of our Results Innovation Lab, whose moonshot goal is to dramatically improve the trajectory of 20,000 children and youth by 2024 so they can grow up to be healthy, productive adults. Already through Lab efforts our national network has demonstrated tangible improvements in the lives of over 6,000 children and youth across the country. For example, this has meant improved outcomes for youth of color exiting homeless youth programs in Minnesota, as well as over 700 youth of color in South Dakota avoiding re-arrest.

IS: What opportunities and challenges on the horizon for the broader charitable community do you think could affect your work?

CH: When you consider how dramatically the health and human services landscape is changing, we recognize these shifts involve challenges, but also present a sizable opportunity for Lutheran Services in America to act and to lead. Because of how well-positioned our national network is across the services spectrum, this is the case whether we’re talking about the shift in payment models from fee for service to value-based payments, new health care payers, or the need to control health care costs. In particular, our network has been deeply involved in helping meet the unmet social determinant of health needs across populations whether they’re related to social isolation, transportation, food insecurity, behavioral health or other factors. There is now greater awareness of the value of these services, and the opportunity for national solutions that can be deployed on a grassroots level across the country to keep people out of the hospital and living independently at home and in their communities.

IS: Over the time that Lutheran Services has been a member of IS, is there a connection you have made or an event, resource, or learning you have found through your membership that has been meaningful?

CH: Dan Cardinali, Independent Sector’s president and CEO, certainly has been an influence for us. In particular, his insights shared during our 2018 CEO Summit on building champions and connectors on organizations’ boards of directors were so valuable for our national network’s many CEOs. His thinking really helped make a difference when it came to helping our member organizations inspire and rally their respective boards toward common goals.

Learn more about Lutheran Services in America at

Visit our members page to learn more about our members.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Health and Human Services, IS Member, Religion