5 Great 20-Something Social Good Community Managers

20- and 30-something community managers: Amy Sample Ward, Michaela Hackner, Wendy Harman, and Danielle Brigida at SxSW 2010.

Most nonprofit community managers are in their 20s. In many ways this is a result of budget, and that the role is a tactical line job rather than a senior manager’s role.

Look at all the negative hooplah from social media experts dismissing Cathryn Sloane’s claim that 25-year olds and younger should lead the profession. A nonprofit community manager may think they can’t succeed.

Don’t believe it. Young people can and do succeed frequently in this role. Here are just a few examples!

Carie Lewis

me and carie lewis
Carie Lewis and Beth Kanter

In 2006, Carie Lewis started at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) at the age of 25. In the six years that have passed she has built what has become widely recognized as one of the best continuing social good communities online.

Her department of seven digital communicators continues to lead the charge at HSUS. Perhaps most impressive, this department is self-supporting through their own fundraisers. I was honored to feature Carie’s work in Welcome to the Fifth Estate.

Amy Sample Ward

Amy Sample Ward
Amy Sample Ward

In 2008, Amy Sample Ward started working at TechSoup at the age of 25. She had been working with nonprofits on tech projects or in charge of internet communications for five years at that point.

During her time with TechSoup Amy helped build what became the nonprofit equivalent of the Social Media Club, the NetSquared Community and became known as one of the primary voices for social good on the interwebs.

Holly Ross recruited Amy to the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) in 2011. Amy continues to develop the NTEN community, and is also in the process of publishing her first book with Frogloop Blogger Allyson Kapin.

Danielle Brigida

Allison Fine (@afine) & Danielle Brigida (@starfocus)
Networked Nonprofit Coauthor Allison Fine and Danielle Brigida

One of our favorites on this blog, Danielle–a.k.a. @starfocus on Twitter–started at the National Wildlife Federation in 2006. She was 22 at the time, and has literally led the nonprofit into the social era.

Now part of a larger team, Danielle continues to lead and forge NWF’s digital strategy. Like Carie and and Amy, Danielle is regarded as one of the leading voices in nonprofit social media.

Pete Cashmore

Pete Cashmore
Photo by Lisa Bettany

What’s this guy doing here? Yeah, Pete Cashmore started Mashable, arguably the most successful social media news outlet to date in 2006 when he was 20. But he has also has a penchant to act as a do-gooder.

Pete started the Social Good Summit in 2009 when he was just 23, and has continued to use Mashable as a forum to highlight social good works. I should know, I was one of his nonprofit bloggers for a year.

Gloria Huang

American Red Cross Digital Operation Center Powered by Dell

Gloria Huang started at the American Red Cross in 2009 when she was just 23 as a social media engagement specialist. She is a great community manager who has to deal with all sorts of terrible natural calamities through the course of the year. Her work includes helping those who are in distress, losing home and family.

She made a mistake on Hootsuite one night in 2011, mistakenly crossing her personal and the official Red Cross account, saying she was getting slizzerd on dogfish beer. What has become known as the case study on how to recover from an online error, this moment and the great response from the Red Cross social media team turned into an incredible fundraiser and publicity driver for the Red Cross.

Today, Gloria continues in her role with the American Red Cross. I intentionally highlighted Gloria because she demonstrates that you can overcome errors on a national stage.

Full Disclosure: Gloria and her boss Wendy Harman were clients of mine in 2010.


Young community managers can and do affect change for communities. Don’t let the old social media experts drag you down! Who are some of your favorite young community managers?

12 thoughts on “5 Great 20-Something Social Good Community Managers”

  1. Geoff – thank you so much for including me here! The age debate recently, spurred by the Sloane piece, has been really interesting to follow and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was I wanted to say about it. In my experience, I’ve found it SO much harder to be taken seriously if/when my age is known (looking young isn’t the same as when someone knows a number). Whether it was in the UK or the US, my years in this sector have taught me not to divulge or even make associations with things that would reveal my age; and when I do, I then spend time regaining trust or confidence with the person or the group before we can move forward. I very much believe it is the work and ideas and experience that matter, so am always so perplexed why age triggers such doubt.u00a0nnFor example, I leading a workshop and speaking at a conference along with one of the Social by Social co-authors in London. When I arrived, I asked some of the people from the organization hosting the conference (whom I had met before) where it was I needed to check in or otherwise go set up for the training. They instantly assumed I was an intern, and one they hadn’t met, and told me that I didn’t need to be doing anything right then but I could find my manager in a bit to ask if I could attend the session. I just smiled and let them finish before explaining that I was the speaker, thanks.

    1. Oh wow, though that’s pretty funny Amy! It is tough to be taken seriously when you’re in your 20s. The assumption sometimes is that we’re not willing to learn, and it’s just the opposite; we’re looking for mentors to encourage us, let us build our ideals into reality. You’re a rock star, Amy, one of the good ones in my book! Thanks for what you do.

      1. Oh gosh, Ifdy – thank you! That means so much to me :)nnnAnd I do agree that part of the issue I’ve heard especially in the push back on the Sloane piece is certainly the idea that those in their 20s are finished or think they are finished learning. If you really want to work in the social tech and social change place, things are never the same very long so you will always be learning. From the old saying “always be selling”, I really do say to those I work with “always be learning”.

        1. Yes! I don’t think we’re ever, ever done learning, at whatever age. And one thing we’re good at as millennials: we don’t let things get in our way of trying. People–whoever they are–can become obstacles, but we are wired to look for a way around. Now, how is that not a hot commodity? 🙂

          1. I hope I always remain teachable to the day I die. A healthy sense of curiosity is good!

    2. I learned quite a bit about community management fromnyou. I’m glad I never dismissed you as “young.” You’re never to young to have a natural talent for a skill set!

  2. Great post, Geoff, deservedly recognizing a set of young professionals who are making a difference.u00a0One thought about your comment re: budget. The social sector has lost a lot of very talented community managers over the years as they’ve shifted or been recruited into the for-profit world. Then there are agencies, where the hard work and impact of talented social media strategists is often diluted among many, many different clients. So one killer facet of these folks’ success — and perhaps their biggest legacy to the sector — is the leadership that experience and longevity bring.

  3. Geoff – thank you so much for including me amongst these rockstars. These past 6 years have been a wild ride, but I’ve learned so much. I really enjoy sharing that information with others, and that’s what I love about the nonprofit community.

  4. Malaka Gharib at ONE Campaign. We’ve grownu00a0immensely on FB,Twitter, and other accounts and our blogs have a great voice/curation process. She’su00a0fantastic.u00a0nnhttp://one.org/blog/author/malaka-gharib/u00a0

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