A buzz was in the air in Baltimore last week at AJLI’s Fall Leadership Conference, which drew 300 delegates from 175 Leagues and underscored the Association’s road to Transformation. The three-day meeting featured new workshops, engaging dialogue, and a keynote address that challenged the fundamental premise of charity and the nonprofit sector.

The conference opened on Thursday night with a reception at the Charm City’s National Aquarium, where in addition to mingling with fellow League members, attendees could mingle with the aquarium’s resident dolphins and jelly fish.

Friday morning brought an Opening Plenary at which AJLI Executive Director Susan Danish and AJLI Board President Delly Beekman offered welcome remarks before attendees broke out into a variety of workshops including “Rethinking the Role of Sustainers:  Investing in the Future,” “Social Media for Fundraising,” and “Organizing for Effective Advocacy Work.”

Over lunch, members were treated to a performance by the Larks, the Junior League of Baltimore’s chorus, which has been spreading good will through the “gift of song” to the community’s elderly, disabled, and people in need since 1957. Afternoon workshops focused on issue-based community impact and were divided up based on League size.

At Friday’s afternoon service dialogue, several members of the AJLI Staff took the podium to share some of the exciting initiatives currently underway or planned for the coming year, including among other things:

  • the online learning curriculum, including live workshops and self-paced learning modules
  • Webinar Wednesdays
  • the new Help Desk
  • the website redesign
  • website widgets
  • the new All Member Email
  • the new (and free) scheduling tool for online meetings
  • the latest module in the issue-based community impact training
  • a progress report on AJLI’s 13 Action Learning Teams

On Saturday, delegates gathered for a two-part Governance dialogue, which resulted from the work of two task forces convened last year. The first, which was introduced by Laurel Lee-Alexander, the AJLI Board’s Area IV Director, focused on the structure of the AJLI Board.

“The governance dialogue was a great opportunity to learn from the delegates,” said Lee-Alexander, who noted that since the summer of 2010 the Governance Task Force has been examining best practices in nonprofit governance, surveying League members, and analyzing trends. “We enjoyed working with each other in small groups to hear and record feedback about the Governance Task Force recommendations, which is the best method for moving the Association forward.”

The second, introduced by the AJLI Board’s Area II Director Subha Lembach, examined the subject of Collaborative League Engagement and the implications of an association with a collective voice.

Following the dialogue, Lembach said, “When the Junior League members began talking about the collective voice of the Junior Leagues and the power of connecting 292 Junior Leagues and 155,000 women, the energy in the room was electrifying.  To see them discuss AJLI and advocacy was to watch a profound and informed conversation focused on the future.”

Saturday’s seminars included “Enhancing Diversity and Cultural Inclusion in a Junior League:  A Comprehensive Model,” “The Millennial Member:  How to Engage Her in Our Future,” and “Donor Giving Programs—Worth a Look,” among others.

The meeting closed on Saturday night with a banquet and keynote address by Dan Pallotta who gave a compelling talk about the challenges of the nonprofit paradigm and the future of philanthropy, and questioned whether the current system, in which he believes nonprofits are hand-cuffed by misconceptions of overhead as counter to fulfilling a cause-related mission, is capable of solving problems like poverty and disease “on a timeline that dignifies a human life.”

Pallotta, who is the author of Uncharitable, which has been described as the “nonprofit sector’s new manifesto,” continued by saying, “Capitalism creates an inequity, but we refuse to allow nonprofits to use the tools of capitalism to rectify [our problems].”

Also of note, sales of merchandise at the AJLI Boutique set a new record.

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