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Time to Show Up: How Philanthropy Can Help Get Out the Youth Vote

Friday, September 11, 2020

by Peter Martin & Alex Rojas, Tides

At age 19, Davonte Johnson is already a five-year veteran of issue-based organizing in Detroit. From the “Fight for $15” to the fights against police brutality and the school-to-prison pipeline, he’s been on the front lines in activating young Detroiters to work for social justice and vote for their values.

Now, he’s working with the grassroots group Detroit Action, a project of Tides Advocacy, to make sure his peers vote in November. “Young people are waking up now that we need to end racism,” Johnson said. “And if that’s something you value, then we’re saying ‘you need to show up.’”

In communities across the country, groups like Detroit Action are using phone banking, social media, and other outreach to educate young people about issues and how to register and vote in November. While the COVID-19 crisis has put a lid on door knocking and other in-person strategies, if you talk to enough young organizers, you get the idea they aren’t going to let a global pandemic stand in the way of their work. With so many critical offices and issues on the ballot this November that will directly impact young people’s lives for decades to come, this election is just too important.

Young people involved in this work also will tell you that successful youth organizing can’t be done on the cheap. Groups like Detroit Action need support from funders to hire more organizers, beef up their technology and infrastructure, strengthen their culturally relevant messaging, and stay in front of young people during election seasons and in the years in between. “This work doesn’t just happen,” Johnson said.  

Youth in the lead

Through the Healthy Democracy Fund, Tides is joining with philanthropic partners and movement leaders to invest in organizations and networks that are working to increase youth voting. We’re doing this because young people have shown time and again how they can be a powerful force for progressive change.  

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