July 2024: Youth Power Pulse

This year, the Alliance Network has been hard at work with vibrant reminders of the strength of youth power! While all 19 member organizations have been making waves nationwide, here are some standout achievements we’re excited to highlight this time around:

MOVE Texas: So far in 2024, MOVE Texas youth organizers have been passionately advocating for their Texas Youth Policy Agenda. They’ve been registering and educating young Texans on the primary elections, testifying to support DEI programs, hosting legislative training, and supporting student protesters. Now, they’re gearing up for the November elections, growing their team with digital artists, content creators, campus organizers, and canvassers to inspire, educate, and register their community.

New Hampshire Youth Movement (NHYM): As the New Hampshire Legislature nears the end of its session, NHYM is focusing on educating and mobilizing their community about newly passed legislation. They collaboratively advocated for HB 1400, which reduces parking minimums and, in turn, will create more space for housing and green areas. Now, they’re urging the Governor to veto several bills that threaten voting rights (HB 1569) and LGBTQ+ justice (HB 396, HB 619, HB 1205, and HB 1312).

One APIA Nevada: Leading up to the June Primary Elections, and in preparation for the November Elections, One APIA Nevada has been actively registering and inspiring AANHPI community members throughout the state. Their impressive efforts include: knocking on 37,000+ doors, securing 2,000+ voter pledges, registering 900+ voters, making 200+ calls, and hosting four GOTV events with 600+ collective attendees!

Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT): As LIT heads into summertime in Wisconsin they are dedicating energy to recruiting youth leaders throughout their state to participate in three exciting programs: the Civics Black Hogwarts in Milwaukee for the leadership development of young activists and organizers, the Youth Power Summit in Madison for high school students to collaborate on campaigns for Black & Brown liberation, and Fall 2024 Internships for young people to gain hands-on experience in LIT’s various departments.

Minnesota Youth Collective (MNYC): This year, MNYC celebrated a successful legislative session with wins that now protect tenants’ rights to organize, ensure early voting for college students on campus, and require voter registration education in high schools. They’re now dedicated to community engagement and collective action, hosting programs like their collaborative Sex Ed Listening Sessions in which they meet with youth to reflect on their sex ed experiences with the hopes of shaping future policy!

New Era Colorado: During the Colorado Legislative Session, New Era successfully advocated for their top priorities: renter protections against evictions (HB 24-1098) and residential occupancy limits (HB 24-1007). For the June Primary Elections, they focused on ensuring everyone in their community was #VoteReady! From registering voters to marking calendars and explaining ballots, youth organizers were dedicated to getting out the vote throughout their state.

Georgia Youth Justice Coalition: Currently, Georgia Youth Justice Coalition is working with other organizations and educators to hold Cobb County School District accountable for attacks on marginalized students. In June, they filed complaints with the US Department of Education and a joint federal lawsuit against the district. Although initially inspired by ongoing national book bans, these actions are a response from “countless students, parents, and community members standing up to systemic racism, entrenched bias, and a disregard for our community” (Maariya, Campbell HS Alumnus).

Forward Montana: Just days before the second anniversary of the Dobbs decision, Forward Montana & Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights collected 117,000 signatures to get abortion protection on the November ballot–nearly double the amount needed! This historic achievement is the joint effort of 500+ volunteers and represents the highest number of signatures collected for a single ballot initiative in Montana history, with signatures collected from all 56 counties and all 100 house districts.

If the first half of the year is any indication, we can only imagine how amazing Q3 and Q4 will be!

How Local Organizations are Building a Debt-Free Future

We believe that higher education should be free and accessible for all. While we are trying to solve the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis at the federal level, it is critical that action be taken at the local level to protect students. That’s why youth-led organizations in the Alliance for Youth Action Network are fighting to protect student borrowers and ensure higher education at every level is accessible and affordable for all.

Last year, our organizers were making moves in reforming education systems in their communities, so we checked in with them again to see how they’re making equitable and accessible education a reality for all. Here’s how they’re doing it:  

New Era Colorado

2022 Update

In Spring of 2021, New Era Colorado passed both of their priority bills, the Student Loan Equity Act and Financial Literacy Standards! The New Era team engaged 85 different volunteers to mobilize their peers around student debt last year, which resulted in over 1800 young people taking action. In addition, they developed two educational videos on student debt which led to multiple earned media hits including an interview with Elite Daily and an Op-Ed in the Colorado Sun.

New Era has also helped students through the The New Era Colorado Foundation Student Assistance Fund. This program assists students who owe debts to an institution of higher education through individual grants. So far, they’ve assisted 86 applicants, 79 of those applicants being people of color.

This year, New Era’s priority in legislation is around a harmful student debt practice that inhibits the economic freedom of many young people, particularly young people of color: transcript withholding. HB 22-1049, which would prohibit transcript withholding,  just passed the House, and is heading to the governor’s desk very soon where New Era is confident it will be signed into law!

2021

New Era Colorado worked to pass the Student Loan Equity Act—a trailblazing bill that would create protections for private student loan borrowers in Colorado. Private student loans don’t receive many of the basic protections afforded to borrowers of other types of loans. As a result, borrowers are vulnerable to shady loan industry practices, like robo signing and auto-defaulting. The Student Loan Equity Act will protect these borrowers, create greater transparency, and offer better recourse if lenders break the law.

Ohio Student Association

2022 Update

For the last eight years, Ohio Student Association (OSA) has been dedicated to changing the policy landscape for higher education. This year, OSA is fighting to defeat HB 322 and 327, Ohio’s own anti-critical race theory bills, by holding teach-ins, collecting testimonies, and hosting a direct action opposing the bills. They’re also working to get debt navigation programs passed in state legislatures to end Transcript Traps. 

In regards to Black student equity, OSA is making big moves this year! Their Black Student Equity Report will survey Black students’ experiences at colleges and universities statewide. This report will be the first of its kind. It will assess affordability and equity issues that uniquely affect Ohio’s Black student population.

2021

The Ohio Student Debt Association has worked hard to center student voices in these fights and uplift student debt stories. They are working in coalition with other organizations across the state to tackle student debt. Read their report with Policy Matters Ohio on higher education in Ohio. The OSA team met with Senator Sherrod Brown and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur to share student debt stories.

Virginia Student Power Network

2022 Update

Virginia Student Power Network (VSPN) is continuing to protect the progress they’ve made on recent higher education wins, including passing legislation to provide in-state tuition and state financial aid for undocumented students in Virginia! Right now, VSPN is supporting legislation that would increase access and reduce barriers to higher education for students.

On campuses, VSPN organizers at University of Virginia won a tuition freeze at their university, meaning tuition rates on this campus are guaranteed to stay stagnant until the 2024-2025 academic year. Their staff has also done research to increase transparency on campuses around federal stimulus funding for Virginia universities. Throughout the VSPN network, students are demanding tuition freezes, hybrid classes, mask mandates, availability of testing on campus, and funding for mental health resources. 

2021

VSPN has a track record of organizing and winning issue-based campaigns for college affordability across the state. In 2014, they won a campaign to create a $1 million emergency fund at George Mason University for low-income, first-generation, undocumented, and homeless students. For four years in a row, they have mobilized students for annual advocacy days at the General Assembly calling for an end to student debt and free public college. 

During the 2020 legislative session, Virginia Student Power Network worked in a broad coalition and engaged 30 student leaders to advocate for in-state tuition for undocumented students, which was selected by the Governor as a priority bill and was written into law after a 15-year fight. They built upon this work during the 2021 legislative session, and Virginia is now the seventh state in the nation to give undocumented students access to state financial aid!

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they launched a statewide pressure campaign on universities to provide equitable COVID-19 relief to students, staff, and community members. They conducted research on federal CARES Act and American Rescue funding to Virginia schools to illuminate the fact that universities were still profiting from the deadly pandemic while students were incurring more debt than ever. Student organizers at the University of Virginia fought and won a tuition freeze through their “COVID Action Now” campaign. VCU student organizers held a town hall with administration and hundreds of students, faculty and staff to hold the university accountable for mishandling the pandemic. 

Washington Bus

2022 Update

The Washington Bus team spent this legislative session mobilizing on College Equity on House Bills 1659 and 1840. HB 1659 would have expanded Washington’s Higher Education grant program to include more folks to receive the full grant. This bill would have also added bridge grants to recipients for things outside of tuition and fees. HB 1840 was the core of the draft legislation Washington Bus organizers worked on with Communities for our Colleges. This bill would have established the task force on improving equity and diversity at the community technical colleges, and expanded mental health counseling to an additional four colleges.

Sadly both bills haven’t made it into law, but the Washington Bus team is continuously pushing to make bridge grants available to students, stronger equity and diversity initiatives on campuses, and more mental health resources a reality for more students across the state.

2021

The Washington Bus helped to pass the Our Colleges our Future Act! They won a $33 million investment in Community and Technical Colleges (CTCs) in Washington State, with a focus on racial equity and investment in low-income, BIPoC students.  This bill included mandating diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plans for all CTCs in Washington, winning funding for 200 new full-time faculty positions, funding for a pilot mental health counseling program, and funding for outreach and retention program for BIPoC students. The Our Colleges Our Future Act also changed residency requirements to make financial aid more accessible for undocumented students. Community Colleges are the backbone of our higher education system, and the Washington Bus worked tirelessly alongside partners to make sure they are investing in the education of BIPoC and low-income students. 

Join our Dreams Not Debt Campaign

Wanna take action around student debt? Check out our Dreams Not Debt campaign! Millions are putting their futures on hold –  buying a house, getting married, having children – because they can barely keep up with their monthly student loan payments. We’re urging the Biden administration to keep their campaign promises and cancel ALL student debt.

Sarah’s Fearless Leadership

It is with a bittersweet heart that we say goodbye to our fearless leader, Sarah Audelo.

After four incredible years leading the Alliance for Youth Action, Sarah is transitioning out of her role as Executive Director at the end of this month. Sarah led this organization to new heights and now it is time to usher in new leadership.

Before we officially say goodbye, we have to take a moment to honor and celebrate the incredible growth the Alliance has experienced under Sarah’s leadership. And Sarah herself has some parting words of wisdom from these victories.

1 Sarah has successfully led the Alliance Network to expand in more communities centering more young people of color.

Every young person should have access to a community with whom they can organize and take action. Sarah had this opportunity when she was younger and envisions a similar experience for every young person.

  “​​The long-term vision is every young person needs a political home and an organizing home in their communities.”
— Sarah Audelo in Politico

2 Sarah helped push more than $20 million to field organizations and young organizers.

Her parting message to funders is to continue investing in young people because that is how we build real power for the long haul.

“Grant makers who want to see real change should commit to long-term sustained investment in the youth sector. Young people — with their joy, optimism, and innovation — will take it from there.”
— Sarah Audelo in The Fulcrum

3Sarah helped shift the narrative on the youth vote and youth organizing.

Sarah has held the role of hype woman for young organizers across the nation. Through countless interviews, panels, and media appearances, she has driven home that young people are here, engaged, and taking action in their communities.

“There’s so much negative energy and information or stereotypes out there about young people. I love busting through all of that and saying, ‘Let me tell you what young people have been doing.'”
— Sarah Audelo in NPR

4Sarah built an incredible team that continues to innovate, inspire, and drive the work forward all while facing the challenges of being an executive director of color.

Being an executive director of color comes with its own hurdles and barriers. During her time, Sarah has faced these challenges head-on and continues to improve the space for leaders who come after her.

“Any progressive nonprofit serious about dismantling our nation’s inequitable systems should of course consider hiring an executive director of color. But if the organization doesn’t put the pieces in place for that leader to succeed, it will merely perpetuate the inequities it is seeking to overcome.”
— Sarah Audelo in the Chronicle of Philanthropy

Check out the latest articles, opinions, and articles featuring Sarah:

Thank Sarah for her outstanding leadership and send her a thank you note!

Here is What We’re Celebrating from Election Day

Local wins in the Alliance Network

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep on saying it: Every. Election. Counts.

Last week, young people across the nation turned out to vote locally for some of the most important elections in their communities this year. They voted for city councils, for mayors, for ballot measures, and more. 

The organizations in the Alliance Network helped turn out young voters resulting in some of the biggest victories we’ve seen in 2021. Here is how they did:

Turning out the Youth Vote

In addition to electing progressive candidates and winning on key issues, Alliance organizations did what they do best – turnout young voters! Organizers knocked on thousands of doors, distributed voter guides, sent informational texts, drove people to the polls in golf carts, hosted parties at ballot boxes, organized bike rides to the polls, and so much more.

  • Detroit Action knocked on 26,000 doors, sent 90,000 texts, and made  12,000 phone calls
  • Engage Miami canvassed local communities and distributed voter guides
  • Forward Montana organized a door-knocking weekend of action, hosted GOTV phone banks, created voter guides, and chased ballots that were marked undeliverable in Bozeman (10% of ballots in Bozeman were undeliverable) 
  • Minnesota Youth Collective distributed voter guides, drove students to the polls in golf carts, and knocked doors to get out the vote.
  • MOVE Texas created the Deep Cut Voter Guide informing young people about the constitutional amendments on the ballot, helped get out the early vote in six counties, organized a Pedal to the Polls event with bicyclists, and hosted a Party at the Polls for Halloween.
  • New Hampshire Youth Movement knocked on over 1,000 doors to get out the vote.
  • The Washington Bus hosted a Party at the Mailbox for voters dropping off their mail ballots.

Building the World We Deserve: Issue Wins

For months, Alliance organizations have been organizing on issues related to police accountability, community safety, and affordable housing. Last Tuesday, they saw the rewards of this work.

Ohio Student Association has been organizing with the Citizens for a Safer Cleveland Coalition to pass Issue 24. Issue 24 would create a new Community Policing Commission giving civilians final decision-making power in police misconduct cases. After this multi-month effort of canvassing, petitioning, and getting out the vote, they won! Cleveland voters have chosen police accountability and civilian oversight. Check out this amazing video of the Ohio Student Association as they celebrated their victory on election night.

Minnesota Youth Collective worked alongside Housing Equity Now in St. Paul to fight for rent stabilization. This ballot initiative will put a 10% limit on annual rent increases allowing housing in St. Paul to stay affordable., especially for BIPOC and low-income families. After canvassing and knocking on doors for months, the people of St. Paul passed rent stabilization! Learn more about this win here.

Move Texas organizers holding signs against Prop A

MOVE Texas joined the No Way on Prop A coalition to fight against Proposition A in Austin. This proposition would mandate the city spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the police department taking away key funds from firefighters, medics, and 911 call takers. The proposition would also cut services like parks, pools, and libraries and lead to a tax increase for working Austinites.

With the help of MOVE Texas, Austin voters overwhelmingly voted no to Prop A!

Youth Vote Approved: Endorsement Wins

From the city council to the school board, Alliance organizations endorsed a number of progressive candidates who fight for the values and issues young people care about.

New Hampshire Youth Movement Action Fund (NHYM) endorsed 18 candidates in six different cities across the state. They mobilized voters for these candidates and out of the 18, 13 of them won their races! The winners include city councilors and school board members in Dover, Manchester, and Rochester. Two of the endorsed candidates won by fewer than 40 votes! NHYM plans to meet with the newly elected officials and talk with them about affordable housing, education, public transit, and other issues impacting young people.

 Forward Montana Voter Fund endorsed five candidates in local and municipal elections this year. They also knocked on over 1,000 doors in support of these candidates. Out of the five they endorsed, three of them won their races! The winners include city council members in Billings and Bozeman. 

We’re in the business of building young people’s political power and we do it by engaging young people in every election, no matter how big or small. We do this work because when more young people vote, we build a better future for us all.

Want to continue supporting youth power building? Become a monthly donor today!

How the Alliance Network is getting #VoteReady

It’s 2021, and we do not believe in “off-years,”  just odd ones. That’s why Alliance Network organizations have been hard at work getting young people #VoteReady this Civic Holiday season. If we want to grow young people’s political power, we must engage young voters year-round, every year.

Here is how our network is getting young people registered, educated, and ready to vote this year:

Asian Community Development Council

The Asian Community Development Council hosted a “Be the Goat, Register to Vote” event where people could register to vote and play with goats. ACDC also hosted virtual events on Animal Crossing and Pokemon Go to get folks educated about registering to vote. 

Forward Montana

It was impossible to miss Forward Montana on National Voter Registration Day as they registered over 200 young voters at taprooms, cafes, farmers markets, college campuses, and more in different cities across the state. They even hosted a trivia night for prizes.

Leaders Igniting Transformation

Leaders Igniting Transformation hosted four voter registration events on college campuses across Milwaukee and handed out voter swag.

Mississippi Votes

Mississippi Votes took over campuses for a week of voter registration celebrations including voter registration drives and a panel about voting rights.

MOVE Texas

MOVE Texas hosted 50 voter registration events across the state, hosted a Live Stream event featuring local artists, and ended the night registering voters at a local dance club!

New Era Colorado

New Era Colorado hosted six voter registration drives on college campuses across the state and helped young people make plans to vote.

Our network continues to be innovative on the streets and online getting young people registered and ready to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

Now, it is your turn to get vote ready. 

Do you know what’s on your ballot? Do you need to verify your voter registration? Do you have a plan to vote early?  Whether you are voting by mail or voting in person, head to our #VoteReady hub to make your plan to vote early.

Latinx Organizers Powering the Alliance Network

This month, we have celebrated the Latinx youth who power our work from organizers in our network organizations to our very own Executive Director, Sarah Audelo. They all show us that when we bring our full selves to our organizing work, including our culture and heritage, we build a beter world for us all.

Here are the stories of three powerful Latinx and Chicano organizers in the Alliance Network.

Rita Carmona

Rita Carmona

she/her/ella | Chicago, Illinois
Reimagining Democracy Organizer with Chicago Votes

▼ How does your heritage and background influence your organizing?

For me, being Latina influences my organizing because it influences the way that I do everything. It’s a part of who I am and so it’s a part of the way that I live my life. I think that as a person who knows what it’s like to be separated from people that you love, as a person who understands the way it feels when someone sees you and thinks certain things before they give you the chance to show who you are as a person, who has been underestimated, and to feel like I feel I have to prove myself in a way that other people don’t, that’s something that I can relate to and lots of different kinds of people in lots of different kinds and spaces. And I feel like the more that I show up and who I am as a Latina as, you know, as all that I am, the more that I can be in community with others.

▼ What issues do you see as most important for young Latinx voters?

I think for young Latinx voters it’s really important that we get involved in different communities because there is a lot of diversity within Latino/Latine experience and identity. And those different experiences, those different communities are all going to have different needs. So when we can do a better job of educating ourselves on what the community we live in needs and the communities that aren’t as represented in the vote or who don’t have the ability to vote and what is important to them.

▼ What does a loving, safe, just, and thriving future for young Latinx youth look like?

The future that I Imagine for Latinx youth is one that is full of love in action and in practice and in ideology. I think that that world is possible when we are united, when we stand together, when we speak for ourselves, and we speak for our communities, and when we give space for others to speak for theirs. I think anything is possible when people work together. We Latinx people are powerful and we are overwhelming and we are passionate and we are soft and we are strong and we can bring all of those things into every space. And that’s the future that we’re working towards.

Brandi Hernandez

she/her/ella | Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Political Organizer with Leaders Igniting Transformation

▼ How does your heritage and background influence your organizing?

I’m a second-generation migrant farmworker and that very much influences my organizing, who I am, and how I present myself in this world. My grandparents moved here from Cheran Michoacan and they did a lot of migrant crop work all around the country. When my dad moved here he did the same thing. When I was born my parents did that work and I also did that work at the age of 12 along with my brother and my family when we needed to do it. That upbringing and the things that I went through growing up all influence how I organize and why I’m here. I strongly believe that the people who feed us, the people who are out there every single day picking cucumbers, picking all of these different crops deserve a livable wage and that very much influence is how I organize.

▼ What issues do you see as most important for young Latinx voters?

One of the issues is student debt cancellation. The reality is that once Latinx students leave universities, whether that’s a technical school or whether that’s a public/private institution, they leave with a lot of debt. Also Black and Indigenous students in comparison to their white counterparts. Regardless of someone’s race, of someone’s gender, of someone’s immigration status, higher education should be accessible. If we choose to go we shouldn’t be left with this burden of having to pay all this money and barely being able to have our basic necessities be met. 

▼ What does a loving, safe, just, and thriving future for young Latinx youth look like?

A loving, safe, just, and thriving future for Latinx youth looks like having families together. It looks like not having to worry when you’re going to eat your next meal. It looks like having a healthy neighborhood and being able to step outside and not being afraid that something’s going to happen to you. It looks like being able to just live and not be afraid that if you get pulled over by a cop that something bad will happen to you. I dream of the day when all of these injustices is that we see are just no longer here. I know that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and that’s why we have young people like myself, others at LIT, others that work with the Alliance, other in the world that is moving all of these movements so that we can live in a just and equitable world.

victoria sandoval

Victória Sandoval

they/them | South Texas
Field Manager with MOVE Texas

▼ How does your heritage and background influence your organizing?

My community has really taught me how to bring people together and how the nature of being who we are as Chicano people. I think we inherently know how to organize people around an issue around and the things that we need. We always know that there are people who will show up when they see how critical the need has.

▼ What issues do you see as most important for young Latinx voters?

There is so much on the minds of young people in Texas right now but I feel like what’s really taking shape and what people are really organizing around is abortion access, reproductive justice, and ensuring that Congress passes a pathway to citizenship this year.

▼ What does a loving, safe, just, and thriving future for young Latinx youth look like?

The future that young Latinx people deserve is one where we’re able to shape our lives, choose our path, and live the kinds of life that we want without bearing the burden of constantly having to remind our elected officials who they should remain accountable to.

Listen to their stories on our Instagram.

If You Want to Hire an Executive Director of Color, Don’t Set Us Up to Fail

Opinion Piece from Alliance Executive Director, Sarah Audelo

Read the article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy here.

By Sarah Audelo

Four years ago, I became the first woman of color to lead the Alliance for Youth Organizing. I was a 33-year-old Latina and first-time executive director with limited fundraising experience tasked with overseeing a nationwide network of groups mobilizing young voters.

This fall, I am stepping down from that position and taking stock of what I’ve learned about how people of color can succeed at the nonprofits we are asked to lead. 

While less than 20 percent of nonprofit executive directors or CEOs are people of color,  efforts to significantly increase those numbers have recently gained momentum — especially following last year’s massive racial justice protests. But simply hiring more of us isn’t enough. Without intentional support, it’s too easy for executive directors of color to feel like — or be seen as — props or tokens who are set up to fail. 

Over the past four years, I’ve come to understand that the support we need has three main components. It starts with organizations laying the groundwork for change before we are hired and then ensuring that adequate finances and board support are firmly in place. A new executive director of color cannot transform a historically white organization alone. We are not your in-house diversity, equity, and inclusion experts. 

Lay the groundwork. I once got a call from a headhunter who was looking for a new executive director of color who would shut down existing programs and refocus the organization’s work on young people of color. I looked at the senior staff list, which was all white, and wondered why the nonprofit didn’t make these changes prior to the new leader’s arrival.  

“Before a new executive director walks through the door, the transformation into a more equitable and inclusive organization should be well underway. At its core, that means putting the experiences of people of color at the center of the organization’s work and addressing policies and behaviors that perpetuate anti-Blackness so we can begin to decenter white people as the norm and dominant culture.”

Before a new executive director walks through the door, the transformation into a more equitable and inclusive organization should be well underway. At its core, that means putting the experiences of people of color at the center of the organization’s work and addressing policies and behaviors that perpetuate anti-Blackness so we can begin to decenter white people as the norm and dominant culture. Organizations should conduct an analysis of pay equity and personnel policies to understand how people of color are valued — both in hiring practices and in the nonprofit’s programs, issues, and campaigns. 

A new executive director of color should enter an organization that is stable. Her hiring should not be used to solve an identity crisis — or any other kind of crisis. Hiring a new executive director of color is not the way to clean up past mistakes or the magical solution for fixing the harm done to people of color. 

Provide early financial support. A survey by the Building Movement Project found that executive directors of color reported having a harder time raising money than their white counterparts. Despite my very limited fundraising experience, when I came on board at the Alliance for Youth Organizing, I was suddenly responsible for payroll and ensuring my staff could make their rent and student loan payments. Money was on its way, but moving slowly. I was terrified of having to dip into reserves for the first time in our organizational history. 

New executive directors shouldn’t be lying awake at night worrying about how to keep the lights on. Instead, they should spend their first few months learning the job and building relationships. Ideally, the organization should have six to nine months cash on hand before hiring a new leader of color. 

I was fortunate that the Alliance had budgeted for me to work with a management coach, who was herself a former young executive director of color. She provided the guidance I needed as I navigated this new role and encouraged me to seek out help from my small network of connections in the field when my cash flow was tight. 

Almost immediately, that network moved into action. Austin Thompson, the former head of the Youth Engagement Fund connected me to Luna Yasui, previously a senior program officer at the Ford Foundation. That quickly turned into a $100,000 grant. My former boss, Deb Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, connected me to the incredible team at the Compton Foundation and soon another check was in motion. Those interactions helped me develop the confidence I needed to approach other foundations and changed the trajectory of our organization. 

I took the lesson of early support to heart. At the Alliance, we now welcome all new executive directors of our affiliate organizations — mostly young people of color under the age of 30 — with a $30,000 grant. New executive director grants should become commonplace across philanthropy. This can take the form of increased support from existing donors during transitions or support from new philanthropic organizations that see the transition as a moment of opportunity.  

Provide board support and engagement. The decision to hire a new executive director of color should be part of a board’s ongoing work to support the organization’s development and evolution. At a minimum, boards must honor their fiduciary and governance responsibilities so that they do not leave the new executive director holding the bag for past mistakes. That means ensuring the nonprofit has robust reserves and has complied with all relevant laws.

My peers at other nonprofits have been forced to address a mind blowing array of problems in their early months on the job, including dealing with the IRS, addressing pay inequity, and tackling problems stemming from their organization’s racist past actions. New executive directors of color should not have to start their jobs with an apology tour for previous harmful behavior. 

In advance of hiring executive directors of color, the board may need to do its own racial justice work, reflect on its composition, and educate itself about implicit bias and equity. Executive directors of color are hired for their vision, but too often board members are stuck in the past. One of the greatest gifts my board and predecessor gave me was addressing problematic board members before I started. Our boards should be our co-conspirators and greatest champions. 

Any progressive nonprofit serious about dismantling our nation’s inequitable systems should of course consider hiring an executive director of color. But if the organization doesn’t put the pieces in place for that leader to succeed, it will merely perpetuate the inequities it is seeking to overcome.

2021 Annual Alliance Monthly Donor Competition

The 2021 Alliance Monthly Donor Competition is officially here! 

This is our biggest competition ever with twelve of our network organizations from Miami to Seattle participating in this week-long match with the goal of growing their local grassroots sustainer base.

This is more than just a competition. By growing their monthly donors, organizations share ownership of their work with their supporters and have a sustainable revenue stream they can count on. Monthly donors are vital in the longevity and independence of youth-led organizations. Every dollar goes toward year-round grassroots organizing and creating long-term change. This is the strength of people-powered fundraising.

Competition Results

*Last updated October 13th

# of New Donors

177

$ Raised Per Month

$2,255

$ Raised Per Year

$27,064

One-Time Donors Converted

36

Total Calls Made

2,397

Total Non-Staff Engaged

119

Participating organizations competed in two separate leagues. Here are the top three organizations that raised the highest percentage of their budget over the course of the week.

League 1

#1 – Engage Maimi

#2 – Forward Montana

#3 – New Era Colorado

League 2

#1 – NH Youth Movement

#2 – Next up

#3 – VA Student Power Network

Participating organizations also unlocked grants for reaching certain benchmarks or outperforming on certain tactics:

Organizations that grew their number of monthly donors by 20% or higher:

  • Engage Miami
  • Forward Montana
  • Michigan Student Power Network
  • New Hampshire Youth Movement
  • Virginia Student Power Network
  • The Washington Bus

Organizations that converted the most one-time donors into monthly donors:

  • Forward Montana
  • New Hampshire Youth Movement
  • Next Up

Organizations who made the most amount of calls:

  • New Era Colorado
  • Next Up

Organizations who engaged the most non-staff:

  • Forward Montana
  • Michigan Student Power Network

Organizations that grew their monthly income the most:

  • Engage Miami
  • Virginia Student Power Network

Organizations with the best digital engagement:

  • Chicago Votes
  • Virginia Student Power Network

Meet the Players

Here are the 12 Alliance Network organizations competing in the Monthly Donor Competition this year! Want to get in the game? Become a monthly donor today!

chicago votes logo
leaders igniting transformation logo
michigan student power network
poder in action logo
engage miami logo
move texas logo
new hampshire youth movement logo
virginia student power network
forward montana logo
new era logo
next up logo
washington bus logo

Back to School, Deeper in Debt

With millions of students going back to school and the student loan payment pause ending in a few months, it is vital that we keep up the pressure on the Biden Administration and our legislators to cancel student debt. Young people deserve a fair shot at an affordable and accessible education. Help young people live out their dreams, not live in debt. 

Paying for school is one of the largest stressors for students. While the United States has built financial aid systems like FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to lessen the financial burden, these systems fall short. About $1.7 trillion short.

Our current financial aid system for higher education is not working because it was not built for our generation.

A graphic with a photo of Amara next to a quote of her student debt story

Meet Amara, a student loan borrower and Program Director with Forward Montana. FAFSA did not account for Amara’s lived experiences and unique financial situation barring her from receiving financial aid and forcing her to work 60+ hours a week to afford school.

Tell us your student debt story here.

FAFSA, created over 50 years ago, does not account for students who have children, students who do not come from two-parent and double-income households, students who are responsible for supporting their families, and more.

Young people make up the largest, most diverse generation in our nation’s history. We deserve a financial aid system that reflects us.

Amara is one of many youth organizers in the Alliance Network who have been taking action to battle the student debt crisis. Virginia Student Power Network fought and won in-state tuition for undocumented students expanding financial aid access to an often under-resourced community. New Era Colorado passed the Student Loan Equity Act—a trailblazing bill that would create protections for private student loan borrowers in Colorado. The Ohio Student Association is currently working to end the “Transcript Trap”—the punitive practice of withholding transcripts for minor debts to the institution. Learn more about how Alliance Network organizations are building a debt-free future. Young people are showing up in their local communities to fight for students but it is not enough. We need federal action.

How you can take action

Whether you currently have student debt, paid it off, or never had it, student debt is an issue that affects everyone. And we are calling on our community to take action with us. Tell the Biden Administration that we need to cancel student debt, reform the student loan program, and make public colleges free for all. 

Once you sign the petition, please share on social!

Student debt affects our families, our loved ones, and our larger communities. It limits our ability to dream about building the future we deserve. Find more ways to take action with our Dreams Not Debt campaign here.

How People Powered Movements Win

Young people’s impact on the 2020 election was resounding, creating a fervor for progressive change that has continued into 2021. Young people are at the forefront of breaking down barriers to accessing democracy and taking action on issues that matter most in state houses, city council chambers, school board meetings, and more. The Alliance’s network of youth-led organizations have employed a wide array of tools and tactics to build our generation’s political power at scale. From legislative advocacy to holding our elected leaders accountable — this work would be under resourced without flexible funding from individual donors. Putting your resources behind 501(c)(4) organizations, like the Alliance for Youth Action, allows for full-spectrum political organizing and education to enable the greatest impact possible. Take the Alliance Voter Guide for example — our c4 voter guides provide clear, concise, issue-based contrasts between candidates and measures on the ballot to ensure young people have the information they need when it’s time to vote.

Monthly donors, or sustainers, are vital to powering this work and building the infrastructure needed to transform our communities and our country. 

The Alliance launched our monthly sustainer program in late 2019 to build a broad base of grassroots donors who care deeply about our mission. Our monthly donors are one of our greatest assets. Here’s why they are committed to our work for the long haul:  

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Movement Building

Small donors come together to work for change and can see the lasting impact of their gift, no matter how small. Not everyone can volunteer, make calls, or show up in person, but a monthly donation of any size can help bring more people into our movement.

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Sustainability

Recurring support helps keep organizations’ doors open by providing a steady, predictable stream of funding that organizations like ours can rely on every month.

Two young organizers with masks on and clipboards

Grasssroots Impact

Sustainers have the opportunity to support crucial grassroots political and issue organizing to create change in local communities.

Our sustainer program helps to ensure that we are an independent, sustainable and people-powered organization.

Albrecht Moritz, one of our wonderful monthly donors, had this to say about his ongoing support:

“Even “off” years are important, because you still need to use the time to maintain and further build infrastructure and information about voters. Elections happen all the time as well, especially on the local level. Young voters literally are the future of our country”

— Albrecht Moritz, Monthly Donor

Albrecht’s sustaining contribution is helping us build long-term people power that will endure well beyond the next election. Our network of young leaders and organizations are in their communities for the long haul, not like the one-off campaigns that come and go each cycle. Every day, we support the young people that are showing up and fighting for the change we want to see in the world,  and our monthly donors are crucial in this fight. 

Learn more about our sustainer program and start your monthly contribution today.