Surviving to Thriving

Supporting Youth During & Beyond the Pandemic

This spring, SIF’s Network Engagement Department hosted its first event, Surviving to Thriving: How Nonprofits are Supporting Youth During the Pandemic and Beyond. SIF’s newly formed department brings together its Alumni & Nonprofit Network program together with its Funder Education program, and events such as this one seek to bring together nonprofit staff and funders to learn from one another and to make more meaningful connections. 

This event centered youth and was held at More Than Words, a 2009 Social Innovator and an organization that empowers youth who are in the foster care system, court-involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.

Moderator: Jenna Nackel, Director of Network Engagement, Social Innovation Forum


In order to promote further collaboration at this event, after the moderated panel, attendees engaged in small group discussions at their tables to generate dialogue with one another and to vote on additional questions to ask the panelists.

Many lessons emerged from the discussions that took place; lessons learned to better serve youth following the pandemic and lessons learned to better support nonprofits who are committed to doing this work. One key shift that emerged due to the pandemic was the importance of engaging with families and meeting young people and their support system where they were, especially as the pandemic brought programming into their homes through virtual means.

There have been some challenges, such as overcoming a digital equity barrier when access to technology is not a guarantee, overcoming the language access barrier to engage with more Black and Latino families, and having flexible scheduling to engage family members with various work schedules. Both Boston HERC and Young Man with a Plan have noted the importance of family engagement to their work. 

As nonprofits have navigated through these changes, funding partners have explored changes to support the needs of organizations, mainly flexibility and sustainability.  A funder in the room shared that they want to follow up with this learning and also think about what they would want to do with that learning. There are additional concerns for the future as we re-acclimate to some new post-pandemic norms include re-transitioning to being in-person with youth and maintaining physical safe spaces as the cost of expansion in the city increases, while still continuing to bridge the digital divide to provide students with the resources they need to go even further.

Although all the solutions aren’t yet clear, there seem to be two emerging themes:

  • The first is to continue to center the youth voice. Mike speaks to the importance of incorporating the youth voice and their input into philanthropy.
  • Second, is making a stronger commitment to collective action and ways to tackle these challenges collaboratively, including adding value that goes beyond funding alone. This event will be one of many aimed at bringing together nonprofit staff and funders to learn from one another and make meaningful connections."

This event is the first of many more to come, aimed at bringing together nonprofit staff and funders to learn from one another and make meaningful connections.