Remember how fun it was to make new friends? You shared glue with a girl once and all of a sudden you were invited to her birthday party for the next decades? Your parents organized play dates, you met other kids on your local soccer teams and school was full of potential friends. But then, after high school or college, things got hared. Was it okay to be friends with colleagues at work? Did you want to be? Are you still close to your college friends or have you spread yourselves far and wide? Are you and your high school friends all in different stages of life–some of you single in the city, some married with two kids? Well, trust me, I know that post-grad friend making is exhausting. It can be confusing, hard to maintain, and awkward at times.
There are ways to save yourself the struggle. Adult social organizations–like Junior League, Daughters of the American Revolution, The Deltas, League of Women’s Voters, etc–are great ways to get to know your community, make new friends who share your basic interests but will represent a diverse field–and you can give back to the world in unique ways.
This is the beginning of a new mini-series on some of these social organizations that can help young women find friendship and community post-grad, and today we’ll be talking about the Junior League, a philanthropy-based social group for women that has chapters all around the country.
I spoke to three women who are members of the Junior League around the country. They’ve revealed their experiences within the Junior League just in case inquiring minds want to know.
How long have you been a member of this organization?
“1 year provisional, 3 months active”
What initially drew you to this organization?
“The chance to volunteer in my community and connect with other philanthropic women”
“I grew up volunteering quite a bit and was looking for a way to volunteer when I first move to DC. I didn’t appreciate how competitive volunteering is here in DC. Waitlists, graduate degree requirements, etc! Joining the Junior League of Washington attracted me because they have established relationships with many non-profits in the area, and therefore plenty of volunteering opportunities. It was my way in! That’s why I initially joined, but learned very quickly that the Junior League had a great deal more to offer. “
“I wanted to be around likeminded women who wanted to better the city of Louisville “
What are the requirements for membership?
“Pay dues and participate in chapter activities”
“You are required to fulfil your volunteer placement, which amounts to about 50 hours a League year (August-May). You also must donate $50 worth of rummage donations in support of one of the Junior League of Washington’s largest fundraisers — Tossed & Found. Then, you also must pay annual dues and fulfill two “membership credits”, which can be obtained by joining development trainings. “
“Dues, attend quarterly meetings, ~10 hrs of committee work each quarter”
What was the application or membership attainment process like?
“Application was easy, but there was a year long new member process that had more requirements than a regular member”
“All prospective members must submit their online application by December together with a $35 fee. The applicant must have a sponsor in order to apply. The sponsor can be a friend that is a League member. If the applicant does not know of a current League member that can serve as their sponsor, one will be assigned to the applicant. After the application deadline, all applicants are invited to attend a membership orientation to get a better understanding of the membership commitment. At the end of the orientation, all applicants will be asked to sign a commitment form. Those that have signed the form are automatically added to the membership lottery for that year. New Members for the Junior League of Washington are selected via a lottery because we receive well over 500 applicants every year, and can only accept between 250-300. The lottery is typically held in April, and new members are notified of their acceptance by May. If an applicant is not accepted, they are invited to apply again the following year and their application fee is waived. “
“I attended a meet+greet then got invited back by a Board member. I was then asked to apply for provisional seat. Then, I had to have a JLL member recommendation and 2 community recommendations “
What’s your favorite part about being a member of the organization?
“Meeting women a little bit older than me so I can see a clear life path of how they balance work and family”
“There are a variety of reasons I love being a part of the Junior League of Washington. Everything from the diverse volunteer opportunities, to the financial support we provide the community, to the leadership development the League provides its members. It’s a fantastic organization and a great way to get involved in the community, “
“I love getting to work on fun projects in the community with women who are just as passionate about the work we are doing. “
What is your favorite event that you’ve participated in as part of this organization?
“I loved my League’s Miracle on Main Street, which sets up a Christmas store for low income families to “shop” for their families for free “
“The National Book Festival! The Junior League of Washington has provided nearly 90% of the volunteers needed for the event since the event’s inception in 2001.”
“The Gildas Club Halloween party – the provisional class has to plan a party each year for children at the Gildas Club who may not be able to celebrate otherwise. “
If you could give one piece of advice to a new member, what would it be?
“Really analyze your local chapter’s membership before joining. AJLI has pushed some “non-partisan” ideas that could certainly be seen as partisan. (I.e. Racial Equity Challenge)”
“Get involved! You get out of the experience, what you put in. “
“It really is what you make it – JUMP IN! Do the boring work and the tedious tasks. By being participatory, you will make great friends, gain mentors, and grow as a leader.”
What are the financial costs associated with membership?
“It depends on the League (chapter). My first League’s dues were $180 and my new League (I transferred) had $375 dues. Some Leagues have dues in the thousands. “
“Dues are collected annually and cost between $150-$320, depending on membership status — provisional, active, or sustainer. “
“I had to pay $200 for my provisional dues and then $175 for my full member dues.”
What are the time commitments associated with membership? How often are you involved?
“It also depends on the League and if you’re a new member. New Members do have more mandatory requirements. I’ve noticed my new League (I transferred) is on an “opt-in” model where you can participate as much as you want to. My old League had yearly requirements for the number of meetings, volunteer hours, and social events. “
“I serve in a high-ranking leadership position so my time commitment is significantly higher than most members. I average 25-30 hours per week as a member of the Junior League.”
“You are required to be on a committee and fulfill ~10 hours per quarter. You have to attend the quarterly meetings and participate in some fashion with the Little Black Dress Initiative. I am the VP of Fund Development, so I am highly involved within the League. I plan our fundraising initiatives, work with finance on the budget, and sit on the Executive Management Team. “
How has the organization shaped you as a young woman? Have you made friends in the organization? Has it changed your relationship to your city?
“I really enjoyed the connection and friendship I gained in my first League to other women a few years older than me. It functioned as a “post-grad” sorority in a sense. I just transferred to a new League and since it’s all been virtual (thanks, Covid), I can’t say I’ve connected as well.”
“I attribute a lot of my career success to the development the Junior League has provided me. In fact, my firm now pays my Junior League membership dues because they too see it as an investment in my leadership development. I have created such a wonderful network of women by serving as a volunteer with the League and the DAR. Arguably, we have decided to stay living in DC much longer than we would have if it weren’t for the League. “
“It has definitely helped me to grow as a leader. I have had to plan meetings, network with other League EMT members, and take on projects that I knew nothing about. I do not have a fund development background so this year has been tough navigating the waters especially with COVID. And I have made really awesome friends and mentors by being in the organization and by taking chances on running for different positions. “
Were you in a sorority in college?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“TBH the national and our League can be liberal seeming. Like they put a big picture of Kamala Harris on the newsletter for the anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Between that and the “racial equity” initiative to combat “systemic racism” I’m really keeping a close eye on these “non-partisan” organizations. I always thought JL was more like Emily Gilmore’s DAR. I will say, my first League wasn’t as heavy on the politics, so it must depend on your location. “
“The League is definitely not what everyone things of. Articles tell you its like a grown-up sorority, but I really don’t think that is a fair assessment. This is a group of women committed to making a difference in their communities. Of course there are wine nights, galas, and dinner parties, but those are all just perks of being in the League that help to build relationships. “