Susan Chavez: Building Community within the Junior League

The moment I saw that #CMGRClass students were to interview a community manager for our final assignment, I knew who I wanted as my subject.  I first met Susan Chavez in May 2011 when I attended a conference of The Association of Junior Leagues, International (AJLI), a nonprofit community impact and leadership development organization.  I later attended ’s AJLI’s fall 2011 conference to continue with AJLI’s social media curriculum.  As a member of the Junior League of Syracuse and one of over 150,00 Junior League members worldwide, I value the work that Susan does to advance the AJLI mission and was looking forward to understanding more about her work.

Susan Chavez

Susan Chavez, Nonprofit Social Media Consultant. (Photo from LinkedIn.)

Susan Chavez, Nonprofit Social Media Consultant, on LinkedIn

A New York City native, Susan attended school in upstate New York, earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Cornell University in 2003.  While in Ithaca, she became affiliated with the Cornell Public Service Center and following graduation, worked in its New York City office as a literacy educator furthering programs aimed to bridge the gap in summer education to underserved populations.

Susan’s work with the Public Service Center sparked her passion for nonprofit organizations.  After working with several New York-City-based not-for-profits in event planning, fund and grant development, and web development, Susan joined AJLI in 2006 as a Marketing and Communications Specialist.  Susan continued in that capacity through June 2010 when she relocated to San Francisco to become a nonprofit social media consultant.

Since then, Susan has continued her work with AJLI as a consultant.  Among the AJLI projects to which Susan has contributed are the establishment of an internal community on the AJLI website, where members can complete profiles, connect with other members, and join discussion forums; the creation of external communities on Facebook and Twitter; the development and execution of strategy for the Junior League blog, Connected; and the development and delivery of training via AJLI conferences and webinars.

Final Reflections

Jessica Murray and Susan Chavez. (Photo by author.)

Jessica Murray and Susan Chavez at AJLI’s fall conference in 2011. (Photo by author.)

Interviewing Susan was a fitting end to #CMGRClass, providing another real-world look at the life of a practicing community manager.  So, what did Susan reinforce for me?

  • Community managers wear many hats.  Susan reports that while she spends considerable effort to content planning, listening, and measurement, most of her time (35%) is devoted to content creation.
  • To a community manager, planning is key…  Susan estimates that she spends 25% of her time setting community strategy and planning content.  The creation of and adherence to a content calendar allows Susan and her teammates to develop content aligned with AJLI’s goals and work plans.
  • … but so is flexibility.  As important as the content calendar is, some flexibility must be retained for content coming from other sources.  This could be in the form of previously-unknown information just coming to light, announcements from partners or members, or major news affecting AJLI or a Junior League organization.
  • Measure what matters.  While it can be relatively easy to look at followers, mentions, and retweets, what does that contribute to a community’s underlying goal?  For Susan, as much as mentions and retweets indicate that content is being shared within members’ networks, AJLI’s primary objective is expanding the audience receiving their training.

How does Susan keep her skills fresh?  Which of her personal traits makes her well-suited to be a community manager?  Hint: be a lifelong student (vociferous reading helps), get social (go to conferences and local events), and be a cultural anthropologist (conduct research into the culture of communities).  Check out the entire interview in this YouTube interview (also embedded below).  Read more about Susan at her LinkedIn profile here.

What advice do you have for aspiring community managers?  What is your greatest reward as a community manager?

(Featured image, a word cloud of this blog post created by the author, generated using

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