Knowledge Hub:
For Philanthropic Partners

This section is dedicated for members of the giving community to access knowledge and tools to further the understanding of the youth civic engagement ecosystem. We hope the information contained on this page will help inform your philanthropic leadership and grantmaking strategies as we work together to build and strengthen youth civic participation. 

We love talking and connecting all things youth civic engagement! For more info on fundraising and how to be part of YEF’s philanthropic partners circles please email Karla Vazquez at



Young people have paved the way for progressive movements that have led to transformative conversations their elders may have shied away from, reversed narratives about guns, climate, reproductive justice and the direction of education, and driven record voter turnout levels. Many have been playing a leadership role in supporting their communities through the COVID-19 pandemic, and engaging in organizing, mobilizing, and education efforts that center Black liberation and the dismantling of white supremacy. As a philanthropic partner, the Youth Engagement Fund trusts, follows, and funds the leadership of Black, Indigenous, and youth of color.  


The global pandemic, the uncertainty of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in the Supreme Court,  the uprisings in defense of Black lives, and the expected recession have elevated the importance of the role of young people of color in a key election year that will be defining for the progressive movement and will transform the structures and face of U.S. democracy for years to come. We are in a moment of transformational solidarity and engagement where we need to get behind the leadership and innovation of youth led and focused organizations and leaders who will be harnessing the energy of their peers and their communities into civic participation via local elected offices, the primaries, and the general election. This is a pivotal time for the future of the youth vote in a moment of deep political consciousness and engagement that must not be overlooked and must be resourced robustly.

Who We Fund

If we believe that youth of color are key stakeholders in leading us towards a dignified and just democracy, we must fund in the South.

  • Arizona Coalition for Change
  • One Arizona
  • Chispa Arizona
  • Intertribal Council of Arizona
  • Poder in Action
  • Rural Arizona Engagement
Texas Youth Power Alliance Texas Youth Power Alliance (TYPA) is a coalition composed of four leading youth focused organizations in the state: Jolt Initiative, MOVE Texas, and Youth Rise Texas, and Texas Rising (a project of Texas Freedom Network).
New Mexico
  • Café New Mexico
  • Native American Voters Alliance
  • New Mexico Dream Team
  • Georgia Shift
  • SPARK Reproductive Justice Now!
  • Women Engaged
  • Dream Defenders
  • Florida Student Power Network
  • Ohio Student Association
  • Power California
  • NAACP Empowerment Programs (formerly known as NAACP Youth + College Division)
  • Campus Vote Project at Fair Elections Center
  • MPower Change
  • March for Our Lives
  • Sunrise Movement
  • Future Coalition
  • HeadCount
Research Partners
Training Partners
  • Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE)
  • re:power
  • Momentum

2020 Grantmaking

YEF and our partners are dedicated to building a generation of Black, Indigenous, and young people of color in the South who are activating their communities into civic participation by engaging philanthropic and organizational decision-makers to join us in: 

Build State-Based Youth Civic Engagement Capacity & Infrastructures: Invest in BIPOC youth focused organizations to maintain the capacity and talent invested between 2018 – 2020 and continue year-round nonpartisan civic engagement of first-time youth voters, immigrant, LGBTQ, low-income and working class marginalized youth and their communities. Provide an added level of support so that organizations have the capabilities, infrastructure, tools and staff for digital and tele-commuting engagement to reach, educate and activate a new wave of politicized young people during moments of uprisings and crises. Geographic focus of this support prioritizes the states of Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Georgia, and Florida. YEF aims to support youth civic engagement leadership and infrastructure in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama as we enter this new decade of power building.

Grow and Diversify Civic Leadership Development Pipelines: Build the leadership skills of cohorts of BIPOC youth to work with peers and other civic actors on the issues that impact them. Provide strategic programming opportunities to build movement partners; knowledge, leadership, and organizational strength.

Increase Funding for Youth Voter Engagement and Civic Leadership: Increase philanthropic investments in the centrality of young people’s voice and agency in building progressive governing power that advances democracy, equity, and justice. YEF helps to shift and educate other philanthropic leaders and funders on the best practices to support sustained youth civic engagement across the country with an emphasis on BIPOC youth in Southern states. 

2020 Core Movement Partners

Across the country, rates of youth civic engagement have increased steadily each election cycle. The highest increases come from south and southwestern states – especially among young people of color. Further, Census Bureau data shows that young people of color make up the majority of the youth population in the south. However, civic participation is disproportionately low among young people of color who are most at risk for the bad policy and extremist politics often present in the South. Due to population increases and the historic gaps in youth of color voter turnout, YEF centered its geographic focus on South and Southwestern states that are seeing the highest population and civic participation increases – Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. 

 The South is a region that has traditionally lacked significant financial resources for civic engagement until 2018, especially in youth of color led efforts. The persistent climate of xenophobia, racism, and misogyny that disproportionately criminalizes and dehumanizes communities of color, coupled with a growing consciousness rooted in intersectionality among Generation Z and Millennials, creates opportunity for philanthropy to ensure year-round nonpartisan civic engagement efforts led by and for BIPOC youth and their communities. YEF supports groups that are actively working to reverse several key barriers to civic participation among youth of color in the South and Southwest including negative perceptions of youth’s authority, educating new voters, institutional commitment to advancing civic education in the k-12 and college curriculums, lack of engagement from traditional civic engagement champions, and discriminatory data sets that exclude young people of color. Local youth-focused organizations are best positioned to overcome the barriers because their positions as trusted leaders allow them to successfully inspire and motivate youth to take action to create change in their community.

Youth Vote Power Up!

Black, Indigenous, and young people of color have untapped potential to influence the future of civic life in the U.S. However, the impacts of systemic racism, white supremacy and implicit bias places barriers in the way of their leadership and engagement. Many decision-makers do not see youth and emerging BIPOC youth leaders of color as worthy of investment. The long-term goal of YEF is to shift the culture among decision-makers so that they think about young people of color as leaders in their communities. With redistricting reform, the census, and other issues at stake for communities of color, there is no greater time to shift the culture of decision-makers so that they fully value and invest in Black, Indigenous, People of color youth of color.

 The U.S. is a representative democracy and it is therefore critical for individuals or communities to participate, particularly people and communities of color. YEF is launching a new roadmap for funders aimed at building the civic engagement and leadership of young people in communities impacted by racism, white supremacy and poverty so that they can have an impact on civic engagement outcomes for generations to come. In the next two decades (2022 – 2044), the U.S. is projected to become a “minority-majority” nation as a result of growth among Asians, Latinx, and a slight increase in Native and the Black populations. Therefore, youth civic engagement efforts of the project will engage these communities in order to harness their civic influence through 2022 in preparation for long term infrastructure and power building.

 However, among the young people who are facing the brunt of systemic racism, civic participation is disproportionately low. There are key barriers to youth civic participation within oppressed communities, including the following problems that YEF is working to address:

  • Improving the culture of welcoming and educating new voters about the democratic process; 
  • Young people’s perception of civic engagement; 
  • Lack of institutional commitment from high schools & colleges in promoting civic engagement;  
  • Traditional civic engagement campaigns that overlook young people from marginalized backgrounds because they are disproportionately transient & lack a commercial history or voter file, making them harder to reach via traditional contact methods.                             

 Local youth-focused organizations are best positioned to overcome these barriers because their positions as trusted leaders allow them to successfully inspire and motivate youth to take action to create change in their community. However, youth-focused organizations are strained for year-round resources and technical expertise to reach voters consistently around the issues they care about. Especially, organizations in the South –a region that has been traditionally underfunded. Based on a study by NCRP, foundations only invest 56 cents per person in the South compared 1 dollar per person nationally. YEF exists to fill this resource gap by providing re-granting and convening resources for nonpartisan youth-focused campaigns and organizations, particularly in the South and Southwest.

 Over the past year, YEF and Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) CIRCLE have engaged in conversations that expanded the breadth of the Youth Electoral Significance Index (YESI) to include localized factors that impact elections, and indicators such as infrastructure, and upcoming, an analysis of where specific subgroups of youth can have a particularly large impact. These additional indicators bring to light a list of states and districts where young people are poised to affect elections all over the country, including places like Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. CIRCLE’s most recent youth poll released June 30th, shows that “Youth Are More Active, Engaged, and Committed to Change than in 2016 and 2018”. The impact of the pandemic on communities made vulnerable by a lack of safety net, and the rage of the killing of Black lives prompted a wave of protests across the country that have now continued for almost 60 days to date. And the people organizing, mobilizing, and showing up are by far young people of color. According to a New York Times article that analyses the Black Lives Matter protests through data collected via several polls, it is estimated that as of June 6th, there have been almost 5,000 demonstrations across the country and that “the age group with the largest share of protesters was people under 35.”

 Young people, young people of color have the acumen and knowledge of how issues that impact their daily lives are connected to democracy and the power of the vote. They are deeply aware that they are not only inheriting the world and society we are shaping now, but that they will be the leaders of a shifting demographic, a growing multi-racial democracy, and a transformative democratic process and re-defining ownership of who and what civic participation looks like.

 According to the Census Bureau, the South and Southwest –where YEF’s focus states of Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Georgia, and Florida are located –are where children and youth of color make up more than half the population among their peers. It is a region that has traditionally lacked significant financial resources for civic engagement until 2018, especially in youth of color led efforts. The social and economic climate of xenophobia, racism, and misogyny in American culture that disproportionately criminalizes and dehumanizes communities of color, coupled with a growing consciousness rooted in intersectionality among Generation Z and Millennials creates the opportunity for philanthropy to ensure year-round nonpartisan civic engagement efforts led by and for BIPOC youth of color & their communities. YEF aims to continue to support the growing youth infrastructures across the country and build on the work of philanthropic partners seeking to increase civic engagement capacities in these communities.

COVID-19 Response Action Funding

YEF’s intentionality and due diligence to get to know our movement partners and understand the

different cycles of philanthropy, allowed us to make a deep analysis of how 2020 would look like for the civic engagement sector. Thus, we had the foresight at the end of 2019 to create and advance a Winter Docket. Our analysis of the youth and philanthropic sectors, coupled with our experience as previous organizers, former grantees, and women of color with lived experience of the systems we work in, allowed us to understand the layers of dynamics that would shape 2020. We knew that 2020 was going to be a year of heightened organizing with voter engagement, issue organizing, and census work. We had a deep understanding that it would be

a momentous year and anticipated that there would be challenges that were yet to be identified, and that YEF needed to move significant resources early and quickly in order for organizations to be prepared to respond. Our 2019 Winter Docket provided general grants through January 2021 that were at least double the amounts of the previous grant docket to core partners, including those in YEF key states. As a result of this decision the organizations we funded early and for the entire year were better equipped to organizationally shift accordingly and to respond to the needs of their community as the global pandemic was unfolding.

While great strides have been made  to support immediate needs of movement partners during very uncertain times, we understand that we are still very much in an evolving pandemic. Already we have seen that COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the states where leadership ignored the health implications of the virus in favor of re-opening early, including the states of Arizona, Texas, and Florida. This means that there will still be a great need for additional resources for organizations to be able to support the health and well-being of their communities, continue mobilizing people in defense of Black lives, and to ensure that Black, Indigenous, and people of color and communities made vulnerable are not being left out of the democratic process during an important election year.

The‌ ‌current‌ ‌COVID-19‌ ‌global‌ ‌pandemic‌ ‌has‌ ‌shifted‌ ‌the‌ ‌way‌ ‌our‌ grantees ‌(movement‌ ‌partners‌) ‌work‌ ‌and‌ ‌respond‌ ‌to‌ ‌their‌ ‌communities.‌ ‌In‌ ‌the‌ ‌last‌ ‌month,‌ ‌YEF‌ ‌staff‌ ‌spoke‌ ‌with‌ ‌our‌ ‌movement‌ ‌partners‌ ‌to‌ ‌ask‌ ‌how‌ ‌to‌ ‌best‌ ‌support‌ ‌their‌ ‌organizational‌ ‌shifts,‌ ‌staffing‌ ‌issues,‌ ‌and‌ ‌wellness‌ ‌in‌ ‌light‌ ‌of‌ ‌this‌ ‌new‌ ‌reality.‌ ‌Organizationally,‌ ‌movement‌ ‌partners‌ ‌have‌ ‌told‌ ‌us‌ ‌about‌ ‌their‌ ‌financial,‌ ‌staffing,‌ ‌and‌ ‌strategy‌ ‌shifts.‌ ‌Many‌ ‌staff‌ ‌members‌ ‌are‌ ‌working‌ ‌from‌ ‌home‌ ‌and‌ ‌often‌ ‌balancing‌ ‌family‌ ‌demands‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌full‌ ‌time‌ ‌work‌ ‌schedule.‌ ‌For‌ ‌many‌ ‌organizations,‌ ‌this‌ ‌shift‌ ‌has‌ ‌created‌ ‌a‌ ‌need‌ ‌for‌ ‌increased‌ ‌technology‌ ‌and‌ ‌software‌ ‌subscriptions‌ ‌to‌ ‌stay‌ ‌connected‌ ‌to‌ ‌new‌ ‌virtual‌ ‌teams.‌ ‌Below, we’ve shared findings from our conversations with the organizations on the ground as they navigate the global pandemic.

Immediate Needs

Flexible Funding
Youth organizations are a trusted voice in the community. They are balancing a sense of urgency and responsibility to both lead their organizations, families and community at large.

  • Undocumented community 
  • Lack of access to health care 
  • Unemployment 
  • Sustaining staff through end of 2020

There is a clear need for flexibility on evaluation and metrics during this time of uncertainty.

Digital Amplification 
Organizations are trying to quickly shift into digital workspaces and organizing, and virtual communities. There are a host of digital platforms, tools, training and coaching needed to make these immediate transitions. 

  • Digital Subscriptions
  • Tools and Hardware
  • Content and Messaging
  • Staff Capacity
  • Coaching and Training
  • Stipends for internet and data plans



  • Uncertainty of timelines from state and federal government on activities around legislative sessions and primaries.
  • Campus and school closures.
  • Infrastructure for voter engagement, education and registration.  
  • Census outreach. 
  • Management of creating two plans: 
    • 1) one for this digital organizing moment
    • 2) one for shifting back into in person organizing and engagement in Summer or Fall


Staff Support

  • Ensuring the wellbeing of staff and members.
  • Hiring freezes.
  • Assessing finances to continue to retain staff for with benefits.
  • Staff having to adjust to working remotely, taking care of children, and supporting family members. 



  • Internet and cell service in rural areas.
  • Uncertainty on job security and access to health care. 
  • Difficulty finding webinars, trainings, and information in other languages besides English.


Digital Organizing + Virtual Political Education

  • More people than ever are being engaged online and interested in staying connected.
  • Opportunity for experimentation and creative social media campaigns and tactics.
  • Opportunity to build successful online training and campaigns. 
  • Assessment of online digital tactics that motivated people to vote. 
  • Political education curriculums that reach a broader youth audience.



  • Momentum to advance policies on: 
    • housing
    • worker rights
    • health care
    • decarceration
    • internet as utility
    • mail in ballots
    • online voter registration


  • Arizona Coalition for Change
  • One Arizona
  • Chispa Arizona
  • Intertribal Council of Arizona
  • Poder in Action
  • Rural Arizona Engagement

Read the Chronicle of Philanthropy op-ed by Executive Director of the Youth Engagement Fund, Alejandra Ruiz and President of the E. Hazen Foundation, Lori Bezahler on how youth organizing is playing a key role in transforming the electorate in battleground states like Arizona, Georgia, and Florida; and the opportunity for philanthropy to center youth of color in transforming our democracy. 10/20/2020