How valuable is Junior League leadership training? As soon as we heard that Mari Ellen Reynolds Loijens, former president (2009-2010) of the Junior League of San Jose was recently named one of America’s Top 20 Women in Philanthropy & Civic Engagement (along with heavy-hitters like Oprah Winfrey), we decided to ask her. Here’s what Mari Ellen – currently the Chief Business, Development and Brand Officer at Silicon Valley Community Foundation – had to say.

You’ve been a Junior League member and leader for many years. How did that prepare you to take on a highly visible role in national philanthropy, as well as in all of the professional roles you played before coming to SVCF?

Junior League conferences provide incredible professional development opportunities. The trainings I received to become president of the Junior League of San Jose apply to many aspects of my life, both professional and personal.

What advice do you have for younger Junior League members who are looking to combine a strong commitment to voluntarism with their personal and professional lives?

Don’t be afraid to try different placements within your League. The Junior League is a safe place to experiment and explore what you are good at and what you truly enjoy – so take risks and have fun!

What advice can you give to Junior Leagues that are looking to develop funding relationships with the philanthropic community?

Be open to the feedback of funders so you can understand what they can fund and wish to fund. Remember, philanthropists have strategies, just as the League does. You will need to find alignment with their strategies in order to be a successful partner.