Employees representing 23 Leagues came to New Orleans from all over the country to learn and network at the Presidents of Larger Leagues Leadership Staff Conference. Held from July 20 through July 22 at Junior League of New Orleans Headquarters, this was the sixth annual Leadership Staff POLL iteration.

“Whenever you get to showcase your home League it is always exciting. It can be a little like having your favorite yet highly exacting aunt visit,” said Maria Pardo Huete, JLNO President and host for the POLL Conference. “You want everything to look just so and nice but welcoming. We have so many things to be proud of as a League, and you want all of it to be seen to its best advantage.”

The chance to visit other Leagues headquarters is an exciting draw for POLL Conference Participants.  

“I love the opportunity to visit a new city each year and to experience different League headquarters and operations,” said Mikael Bristow, Operations Director for the Junior League of Boston and a member of the steering committee. “It’s so fascinating to me how each League has such different spaces and uses them in a variety of ways.  

The POLL Leadership Staff Conference is different from other POLL meetings held each year because Leadership Staff Conference invites Junior League staff to participate in the training.

“Each year, the senior staff of the Large Leagues holds a conference to gain knowledge, skills and resources that enable them to better help their Leagues and their members,” Carrie Moulder, JLNO Communications and Operations Administrator, who was part of the steering committee for the Conference.   

The Conference included a presentation from the president of Digital Cheetah. “This year, we added half a day at the beginning of the conference, in order to have Digital Cheetah staff more involved than in the past,” said Lisa Holloway, Chief Operating Officer for the Junior League of Birmingham and member of the steering committee for the Conference. “Each year they have sponsored our conference financially, provided one-on-one time during our hospitality times each day, and this year added a session and scheduled one-on-one time throughout the week for each staff person to talk about issues they are having at their Leagues and get instruction from them. Most of the Leagues use Digital Cheetah now, and it is so beneficial to have them present for us.”

One key element of this year’s meeting was a discussion of member obligations, which Digital Cheetah representatives attended as well.

“Large Leagues are struggling across the board to make the member experience an engaging and connected one while still making sure that we are fulfilling our missions and meeting the needs of the communities we serve,” Maria said. “So different membership models are floating around with different variations, such as a points system, no designated placements, leadership tracks to assist in nominations and tenure rewards such as fewer meetings to name a few. We will be looking at how well we are walking this line of member needs and community needs this year and hope to make recommendations for change.”

The Conference also included a Marketing and Communications Panel, networking/breakout sessions and networking lunches. Jane Dufour, Communications Council Director, was a participant on the Marketing and Communications Panel on Friday.

“Being a panelist for the discussion on Marketing and Communication was a great way not just to share the work that the JLNO Communications Council has accomplished, but also to hear about the marketing and promotional efforts of other Leagues,” Jane said.

Presidents of Larger Leagues is a designation the Association of Junior Leagues International gives to presidents of Leagues that have 300 or more members. Each year, ALJI holds conferences to allow members to share information between similar Leagues.  

“This is the only time during each year that Leadership Staff have the opportunity to come together and talk about our experiences, programs, fundraisers, staff and all components of our jobs that allow us to be as knowledgeable and experienced as we can be,” Lisa said. “This conference is significant in helping us all provide the best support we can to our volunteers so they can have an incredible impact in our communities.”