Youth activists have already shifted the momentum and the narrative on why the climate crisis is happening and who is responsible. We’ve pushed back against the fossil fuel industry’s greenwashing campaigns, exposing their false sustainability efforts and their “youth washing” efforts to co-opt youth activists. We’re leading fossil fuel divestment campaigns across our schools and states. When needed, we’ve disrupted and publicly shamed politicians.

In response to our demands, elected officials from President Biden down have responded and finally taken action. Mohammed Barkindo, the late secretary general of OPEC, called climate activists the greatest threat to the oil industry.

But even as we’ve won important victories, the youth climate justice movement has always been on the defensive, fighting against incredible odds. Our organizations struggle to raise funds, and our volunteer leaders—especially working-class youth of color—often juggle school, work, and daily challenges facing our families and communities. Youth activists across the country are underresourced and underserved within the environmental sector—a sector that has historically marginalized communities of color. Now more than ever, we need philanthropy to help fully empower us—and fund us—to organize and build a mass movement.

As young people, we’re deeply impacted by the climate crisis in our day-to-day lives, and our unique experiences and perspectives are pivotal in addressing the climate emergency and holding power accountable. For Sim, a co-author of this article, the hardscape of South Central Los Angeles is too much to ignore. He and his grandma both deal with asthma because of the poor air quality and the toxic environment where they live. Sim organizes for climate justice for two reasons: the survival of his younger siblings and other frontline youth like himself; and the preservation of resources, culture, and life for future generations.

Philanthropy can clearly do a lot more to support young leaders. Over the past couple of months, key youth climate justice organizations in Los Angeles have developed a joint plan to strengthen and grow our capacity as a movement. This process has given us time to strategize in a way and on a scale that we rarely get to do. We’ve also been in national conversation with similar youth-led organizations.

This is an all-hands-on-deck moment, and philanthropy must do its part to build a powerful frontline youth movement at the scale and with the impact the climate crisis demands. Here, we provide seven ways that philanthropy could support youth efforts.

      1. Support frontline youth activists with training, leadership development, and stipends
      2. Support spaces for collective strategy development, visioning, and movement building
      3. Connect us to existing infrastructure and build flexible networks
      4. Create local and national funds that provide fast and accessible grants
      5. Prioritize grassroots organizing in communities of color
      6. Racial and economic justice funders should see climate as integral to their mission
      7. Build bridges with youth leaders and treat us with respect and solidarity

Read the full article about youth climate justice movement by Sim Bilal and Esme Hyatt at Nonprofit Quarterly .