About Us

The Youth Engagement Fund (YEF) aims to increase our funding partners to ensure the youth civic engagement sector is adequately resourced. To this end, YEF aims to 1) increase funding support to strengthen and expand the ecosystem of youth-led organizations advancing civic engagement efforts via state and national youth collaborations, focusing on organizations in the South and Southwest, and 2) support state-based issue-based advocacy that fosters conditions for governing power led by and for young people, centering Black, Indigenours, and youth of color, and their communities. YEF has been investing in building a culture of full civic participation among voting-age young people since 2007 to ensure that their perspectives, issues, and solutions are part of democratic governance. Between 2007 and 2019, YEF provided more than $20 million to youth engagement organizations.

 Led by young women of color former organizers under the age of 35, YEF is the only donor collaborative focused on deepening and expanding youth civic engagement led by and for young people of color. Young people are transforming our democracy as highly motivated and engaged civic participants. They also facilitate engagement of their familial, community, and social networks. In 2019, 85% of YEF’s grantee cohort was led by Executive Directors of color and 50% of those were women of color. We are uniquely positioned to catalyze and facilitate greater philanthropic investment in building political participation and civic activism among young people of color to accelerate progressive social change. YEF provides a leadership role in the philanthropic universe that ensures the voices of youth-focused organizations are heard and are advancing leading civic engagement efforts, especially Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and historically disenfranchised communities working towards activating their youth peers and communities into civic participation. YEF works with state-based organizations, state tables, foundations, organizational and donor partners, and highlights the importance of emerging youth leaders of color in a continuously shifting political landscape. YEF provides monetary grants, serves as a connector and convener, engages in capacity building and technical assistance to ensure youth-led groups are equipped with the tools, relationships, and structures for success.

 In 2018, the YEF leadership –composed of staff and the donor committee –completed a 5-year strategic plan to guide the new phase of the fund from 2019 through 2023. The guiding principles of this plan call for a philanthropic leadership model that: 1) demonstrates commitment to racial equity; 2) supports the advancement and power building of Black, Indigenous, and youth of color and their communities; 3) adds value to building local infrastructure in the geographic areas in the South with concentrations of BIPOC youth; and 4) expands resources for BIPOC youth led efforts that create vehicles for youth and communities of color to become life-long civic participants. YEF aims to work with and support partners that are moving forward strategic efforts to build a multi-racial democracy led by and for BIPOC youth and communities of color.

YEF unites institutional and individual donors working across issues, and in varied regions to enable collaborative grant-making towards the common goals of a more reflective and inclusive democracy. YEF invests in state-based youth-focused social justice organizations that engage youth of color and marginalized young people in civic engagement, including non-partisan voter engagement and issue-based campaigns. We envision young people from all life circumstances recognizing the power of their civic engagement and leading the transformation of American democracy and society.

In This Section

Our Team


Alejandra Ruiz

Executive Director

Liz Dupee

Impact & Learning Analyst

Renata Teodoro

Program Officer

Karla Vazquez

Donor Organizing Officer

Fiscal Sponsor

NEO Philanthropy  is a national leader in innovative philanthropic solutions. NEO Philanthropy leads large-scale collaborative grantmaking funds on a range of social justice issues; provides fiscal sponsorship and management to projects and campaigns; and develops organization and field-focused capacity building initiatives. Serving as both host and fiscal sponsor for the Youth Engagement Fund, NEO Philanthropy provides day-to-day management, fiscal and legal oversight, budget planning, fundraising, and administrative support to ensure peak operational efficiency.

Guiding Circle

Our Guiding Circle are the members who make up the YEF donor collaborative. The YEF Guiding Circle provides thought leadership and financial sustainability that advance our goals. 

Guiding Circle members are wise and trusted thinkers on civic engagement, movement-building, labor organizing, development and philanthropy, organizational development, and building organizations and leadership of youth and historically disenfranchised communities.

Manuela Arciniegas


Allison Barlow


Lori Bezahler


Tessa Callejo


Angela Cheng


Julie Fernandes


Anna Lefer Kuhn


Gabby Seay


Ian Simmons


Bill Vandenberg


Luna Yasui


Anonymous (1)

Anonymous (2)

Alejandra Ruiz

Executive Director

A native of Colombia, Alejandra migrated to the United States at the age of seven with her mother and younger brother. She was raised in Jackson Heights, Queens, and became an immigrant rights advocate as an undocumented high school student. As the Executive Director of the Youth Engagement Fund, Alejandra aims to expand and strengthen funding resources and capacity building to the youth civic engagement sector to increase civic participation among marginalized and youth of color in the United States. 

Prior to joining the Youth Engagement Fund, Alejandra was the Director of Donor Organizing and Advising for the Movement Voter Project (MVP) where she engaged donors to support groups advancing work at the intersection of grassroots organizing and electoral politics. Previously, Alejandra served as the Development Director of United We Dream (UWD), the nation’s largest immigrant youth-led network. During her time at UWD, Alejandra was instrumental in developing strategies to build relationships and infrastructure for long term organizational sustainability, and supported local groups in advancing their fundraising plans. She also coaches youth on fundraising, career, and workforce development. 

Alejandra has worked as an education organizer at Make the Road New York, served with AmeriCorps VISTA, was a leader of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, and is a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs. She holds a B.S. in Urban & Regional Studies, a B.A. in Spanish Area Studies and concentrations in Inequality Studies, Latino Studies, and Latin American Studies from Cornell University. 

As the Executive Director, Alejandra is responsible for the overall management of the Youth Engagement Fund. Alejandra’s main areas of work include: fundraising, governance, relationship building, management of Guiding Circle (donor committee), staff management & leadership support, consultant supervision, and direct working relationship with NEO Philanthropy staff to ensure good standing on the areas of human resources, budget and finances.

Liz Dupee

Impact & Learning Analyst

Liz Dupee is a movement leader and policy advocate with a decade of experience in direct service, fundraising and development, policy analysis, and community organizing. She learned first-hand from her experiences with childhood poverty, discrimination, and her father’s immigration journey that the American Dream is not accessible to all. Liz has degrees in Human Resources Management from Joliet Junior College and African American Studies from Western Illinois University. She earned her J.D. from Seattle University School of Law in 2017. Before joining the Youth Engagement Fund, Liz was the Director of Research & Strategy at Win|Win Network in Seattle, WA, where she founded and led the Washington Democracy Hub, the policy advocacy and movement strategy arm of Win|Win. Before focusing on civic engagement and democracy reform, Liz has also organized for housing justice, sustainable design, food access, agricultural reform, and economic justice.

As Impact & Learning Analyst at the Youth Engagement Fund, Liz will focus on the youth civic engagement sector to uncover best practices, trends, patterns, and research to increase investment and support of BIPOC youth led organizations across the South and Southwest. Analyses and reports will also inform YEF’s grantmaking and organizational strategy.

Renata Teodoro

Program Officer

Renata Teodoro brings to this role a wealth of experience in the fields of advocacy, organizing and fundraising. Her journey into social justice and immigrant rights began in 2007 after her home was raided by Immigration Customs Enforcement. As a result of the raid, her older brother was detained and the rest of her family was forced to sell their home and return to Brazil. Soon after, she joined the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM) in Massachusetts. As an undocumented leader at SIM, Renata helped with coordinating a local team, fundraising, and was part of a campaign to hold the governor accountable for his promise on in-state tuition for undocumented students. In 2009, SIM faced an enormous organizational challenge that put the organization at risk of closing. Renata took the initiative to rebuild the organization by spearheading efforts on fundraising, hiring staff, helping coordinate leadership and campaigns, and representing SIM nationally within the United We Dream Network. Under Renata’s leadership as the Lead Coordinator, SIM grew to become a stable youth-led organization with 

full-time staff and chapters across the state. 

Renata was an integral part of Operation Butterfly in the summer of 2013 as one of the three leaders who partially reunited with their mother at the US-Mexico border to bring light to family separation. Operation Butterfly was featured on the cover of the New York Times, CNN, and other major media outlets. Most recently, Renata served as the Student Advocacy Coordinator at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she played a leadership role in the creation of scholarships and other resources for undocumented students and supervised student-run cultural centers.

As Program Officer at the Youth Engagement Fund, Renata builds and maintains relationships and partnerships with movement partners (grantees), supports the development of YEF’s giving strategy, and advances programming that builds the capacity of movement partners, and local and state infrastructure centered on Black, Indigenous and people of color leadership.

Karla Vazquez

Donor Organizing Officer

Originally from Mexico City, Karla Vazquez has lived in Nashville, Tennessee for the last 17 years where she now lives with her partner, one-year-old baby, and two beautiful dogs. Karla has spent the last decade as a resource mobilizer, fundraising and building for the immigrant rights movement at the local and national level. She most recently served as the Senior Manager of Institutional Giving for the United We Dream Network (UWD), the first and largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. Additionally, Karla worked for the Tennessee Immigrant Rights Coalition (TIRRC) as their Community Relations Manager, leading the organization’s grassroots and online fundraising efforts. In 2019, Karla was selected to be a part of the inaugural cohort of the Resource Leaders Fellowship at the Rockwood Leadership Institute. Karla proudly uses her fundraising and systems building knowledge and skills to build and grow sustainable organizations.

Karla started her youth organizing and activism in 2009 through her leadership with JUMP (Jovenes Unidos por Un Mejor Presente – Youth United of a Better Present), the first organization for immigrant youth in the state of Tennessee.  As a first generation student in her family she also founded the STUDY Foundation (Scholars in Tennessee Uplifting the Dreams of Youth) in 2010, a program created to help first generation students achieve higher education and helped raise funds for scholarships given to first generation students in Tennessee. Karla graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and Management with an International Business Concentration from Lipscomb University in the fall of 2012. 

As Donor Organizing Officer at the Youth Engagement Fund, Karla’s got her eyes on all things fun-draising! She designs and implements engagement strategies and infrastructure for resource building and organizational sustainability, supports relationship building and organizing with philanthropic partners. She is also involved in the development of YEF’s grantmaking strategy and ensuring deadlines don’t fall through the cracks. Most importantly, Karla’s role is the core that keeps the YEF team and all work streams connected.