Saturday, May 27, 2017

Leadership in Bloom: Kristen Soltis Anderson

Meet Kristen Soltis Anderson, a JLW member who founded her research and analysis firm, Echelon Insights, authored “The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials are Leading America and How Republicans Can Keep Up,” and was named as one of TIME Magazine’s “30 Under 30 Changing the World” in 2013, among other national accolades in the last few years. Read on to learn about her challenges, how much she values female mentors, and some clutch advice for any other aspiring business owners.

You’ve had such a successful professional life – even before you started Echelon Insights. Was it hard getting your business started?
The first struggle was the fear of not feeling like I even knew how to get started, like what are the things you need to do to start a company? Get a Tax ID number, pick a name…and then what? I didn't want to jump in until it felt like I had a firm grasp on every little thing involved in running a business.

How did the experience help you grow as a leader?
I had to learn to let go a little – to be diligent and responsible – but be willing to take risks and to venture into territory where I didn't have experience already.

As a mentor to other women who aspire to start their own business, what advice would you give?
Talk to others who have done it before, and find at least one person to whom you can pose questions that you are too embarrassed to ask anywhere else. I had many questions early on that I thought, "Oh, surely, everyone already knows the answer to this, and asking will just make me look dumb," when really, you're not alone.

How has your League involvement benefited you personally or professionally?
Being involved in the League helped me build relationships with women in a variety of different industries and to learn about fields I knew very little about! I also learned a lot about nonprofit board service. Serving on the JLW Board was one of my first experiences learning the ins and outs of the duties of serving on such a board and helped prepare me for roles on other boards.

What does it mean to you to have strong female role models?
It is so helpful to not feel alone, and strong female role models help you see that you're not the only one facing this or that struggle, question, or issue. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Leadership in Bloom: Samantha Brainard

Meet Samantha Brainard, a JLW member whose life changed forever when her sister was diagnosed with Synoval Sarcoma at age 23 in 2013. Ever since, Sam has been involved with the Ulman Cancer Fund as a volunteer. This spring, she took on the near-herculean challenge of participating in the Key to Keys bicycle ride from Baltimore to Key West to support her sister and raise funds and awareness for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, which helps young patients navigate the medical system. Think that sounds hard? Well, Sam only just bought her first bike in January. A serious force of nature, nothing is stopping Sam from rising to this challenge.

Watching your sister battle cancer must be heart-wrenching. What have you done to get involved?
I started volunteering with the Ulman Cancer Fund after my sister was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma in 2013 at age 23. Their staff and volunteers have been by her side throughout her cancer fight, and they have helped to connect her with other young adults facing cancer too. They provide patient navigation services for young adult cancer patients in local hospitals in the DMV, scholarships, cancer to 5K training programs, and so much more.

The bicycle ride sounds difficult to say the least. What impact will it have?
I participated in the Ulman Cancer Fund's Key to Keys bicycle ride from Baltimore to Key West from April 22-29. Over the course of a week, our team covered 1500+ miles to raise awareness of the young adult cancer fight and to support the work of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. This amazing organization works to provide support for young adults, and their loved ones, impacted by cancer.  

Your dedication to the cause is so admirable. Besides the family connection, what motivates you?
I did this ride in honor of my sister and in honor and memory of all young adults who spend their 20s and 30s fighting cancer instead of living a "normal" life.

Challenges like this are such a tangible symbol of strength and support for the cancer community. Where do you get your strength?
I would not be the woman I am today without strong female role models in my life. I'm blessed to be surrounded by strong women who inspire me to pursue my dreams personally and professionally. My grandmother was a member of the Junior League, and she encouraged me to join so I could find like-minded women in the Washington, DC, area. Through my League membership, I'm able to meet women who continue to inspire me every day.

I've made friendships in JLW that will last throughout my life. In particular, I know that I wouldn't have been able to do this ride if it weren't for my dear friend and fellow League member Kelly Hunter who has helped me to train and been my rock throughout this process! We met through the League, and I'm so thankful to JLW for bringing us together!

Friday, May 19, 2017

JLW by the Numbers: A Budget Snapshot

The Junior League of Washington supports over 2,300 members and over 20 community partners on nearly $1 million. How do we make the most effective and efficient use of our funds to support the League’s members, mission, and our community? Let’s run the numbers!

Above: JLW revenues come in mainly through membership dues and our fundraisers. The League also generates income by renting apartments located on the top floors of our Headquarters, as well as our investment accounts (House Fund, Emergency Fund, and Impact Fund). The revenue numbers shown here are net any expenses associated with that line item. For example, Dues and Fees includes both the New Member course fees and membership dues, minus the New Member Committee expenses for the programming. Building – Apartments revenue is net maintenance expenses, and Fundraisers are net their expenses.

Above: Our expenses are broken out here according to a tenet of JLW’s Mission, “developing the potential of women”, and our 3 strategic priorities: building community impact, building an internal sense of community, and building JLW’s brand. Committee budgets are categorized into one of these four buckets:

  • Because we believe in developing the potential of women, we are spending over $100,000 in training, which includes Leadership Institute and Development & Training programs, as well as AJLI-sponsored training, in 2017-2018.
  • Because we believe in building community impact, we are spending $55,000 in programming support for our members who volunteer in the community and are giving over $100,000 in grants and scholarships.
  • Because we believe in building an internal sense of community, we support the Membership Development Council, as well as our Sustainers. 
  • And because we believe in building JLW’s brand, we allocate over $20,000 toward the Communications and Public Relations Council.

A fifth bucket – supporting the work of JLW – reflects additional Headquarters-related, personnel, and administrative (phone system, cloud, internet) expenses.

The League has budgeted for a net surplus of just over $6,000 for 2017-2018.

Above: This chart is another way that the League has compared its expenses over time.  In this 2014-2018 analysis, Headquarters, personnel, and administrative expenses were allocated to the committees based on membership placement in those committees. Tracking this information over time will continue to help us understand where we are investing more and less each year. Please note that this includes expenses only – no revenue.

Above: In 2016-2017, the Board of Directors discussed beginning the budget process later in the year. Such a shift is only possible if the budget is no longer a part of the Annual Ballot approval process. As a result, a question was placed on the ballot to remove budget approval from the ballot moving forward; the measure passed with a majority of votes in April 2017. Effective 2017-2018, committee leaders will have more time and information, as well as the right people, with which to develop more meaningful budgets or plans for the coming year. It will also leave budget decisions in the hands of the Board members, the slate of leaders elected by the general membership to make these informed budget decisions and on whom fiscal responsibility rests. The budget will remain accessible to the entire membership via

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Connecting the Dots: Learning More about Our Members and Mission through JLW’s Annual Survey

Each year, the Junior League of Washington (JLW) polls our members to gather feedback on important topics. In addition to the standard, year-over-year questions regarding member satisfaction, placements, reasons for remaining active, and training opportunities, etc., the Strategic Planning Committee also develops new survey questions based on current initiatives, including findings from the 2015-2016 Membership Task Force, as well as themes under consideration for the League’s new 5-Year Strategic Plan (2017-2022). Based on these results, JLW takes steps to improve both the member experience and our footprint in the community – such as creating new placements (e.g. Leadership Institute and A Wider Circle Committees), implementing targeted Annual Plan tactics, and taking on special initiatives (e.g. Women’s Leadership Luncheon and Day of Service), to name a few.

For 2016-2017, JLW is excited to report that 679 members participated in the Annual Survey, representing a 35% increase compared to last year’s 503 participants. Especially important to note was a spike in Sustainer participation – up 126% from last year. Through these results, we are able to gain valuable insight into members’ experiences.

Let’s explore how the survey fits into the bigger picture of JLW:

·        There was a 7% increase in members who selected “Very Satisfied” compared to last year’s survey
·        28% of participants are more satisfied with their JLW experience than they used to be, and 53% are just as satisfied with their JLW experience
·        55% of participants are very satisfied with leadership; up from 52.4% in 2016 (a 2.6% increase)

Top 3 reasons why members remain active in JLW:
·        Volunteer opportunities in the community
·        Leadership development and training
·        The professional network that JLW offers

Top 3 choices for training opportunities:
·        Time management
·        Managing resources
·        How to become a leader in the community

Strategic Goals
·        Overall, survey participants strongly agree with JLW’s goals as reflected in the Strategic Plan.
·        A new question on values was added to this year’s survey to help support the Strategic Plan. Here is what members value most:
o   League friendships and networking
o   Giving back, making a difference, and improving our community
o   Volunteer opportunities
o   Leadership and development training (for personal and professional growth)

As always, we look forward to hearing from each JLW member about her League experience and how we can continue to improve. Contact us at, and keep an eye out for the unveiling of the new 5-Year Strategic Plan this summer to see how your feedback has been incorporated!