Junior League aims to boost nonprofits

Wendy Webster
Wendy Webster

Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — They provide an estimated 26,000 hours of volunteering a year.

Their focus is on working with agencies and projects that help children who are at risk or may need extra support.

And this year they will be focusing on helping local nonprofits strengthen their internal operations.

They are the members of the Junior League of Raleigh, which is creating a Center for Community Leadership at the new headquarters building it purchased two years ago at 711 Hillsborough St.

“It’s all about capacity-building,” says Wendy Webster, who on June 1 began a one-year term as League president and also serves as director of psychiatry clinical services for Duke University Hospital, Duke Private Diagnostic Clinic and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University.

“We want to give those skills and tools to members and agencies so they can further their organization,” she says.

Members of the League, which was formed in 1930, have contributed over one million volunteer hours and over $4.8 million to education, health and other services for women and children in Raleigh.

The League operates with an annual budget of roughly $2 million and a staff of five people working part-time.

It generates over $200,000 from its annual Shopping Spree, nearly $16,000 from its annual Showcase of Kitchens, $20,000 from its annual fund drive, and nearly $119,000 from The Bargain Box, its shop in Cameron Village that is over 50 years old, sells second-hand clothing and household goods, and donates $65,000 worth of vouchers a year to people who need them.

Serving as the core of the League’s workforce are 800 active members, including a board of 10 women, each of whom devotes 20 to 25 hours or more a week to League work, says Melissa Ross Matton, a lawyer who now is a full-time mother and just completed a year as the organization’s president.

The League, which has a total of 1,900 members, including roughly 150 who are provisional new members, also counts on another 80 women who lead teams responsible for a range of activities such as organizing League fundraising events, coordinating training programs for League members, and handling communications and strategic planning for the organization.

More than 250 League members work directly with 13 agencies that focus on improving the lives of children, such as Avent West Children’s Mentoring, Brentwood Boys & Girls Club, Girls on the Run, SAFEchild and StepUP Ministry.

The League’s mission is to develop the potential of women, promote volunteerism, and improve communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.

A key to the League’s capacity-building focus will be its new facility, the former headquarters for Capitol Broadcasting Co., which the League purchased two years ago for $4.2 million and has named the Center for Community Leadership.

The League has launched a capital campaign to raise $2.4 million to pay for renovations at the 28,000-square-foot center.

The League will occupy part of the center’s first floor and provide the remainder of that floor at discounted rates to other nonprofits for meetings and training sessions.

It also is looking for tenants for the building’s second floor.

Webster says the League this fall will launch a new initiative that will provide intensive leadership training for league members and for women from other nonprofits.

Other League community programs include Community Connect, a series of four to six breakfasts a year for nonprofits featuring speakers on topics like fundraising and communications, and Quick Impact, an effort that mobilizes volunteers for nonprofits.

“This year,” says Webster, who also is president-elect of Presidents of Large Leagues for the Association of Junior League International, “will really be focused on investing in the community.”

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