Virginia21 empowers college students and young Virginians to be engaged citizens and advocates for issues important to them and Virginia’s future. Founded and led by young people, VA21 envisions a well-educated, prosperous, and civically-engaged Virginia.
Virginia21’s premier student leadership development program attracts community-minded young people who are ready to begin the rewarding process of defining their identities as leaders. Virginia21 provides quality programming featuring elected officials, business leaders, citizen advocates, as well as access to one of Virginia’s largest nonpartisan political networks.
Our work ensures that the collective voice of our young people is heard in our local communities, campuses, the state capitol, and beyond.
Source: Strategic Plan FY20-FY25
Virginia21 was founded in 2002 at the College of William & Mary as a student organization. Over the years its tax status has evolved, but the spirit of the mission has remained largely the same: to engage Virginia’s young adults in state and local politics. For the first decade of existence, Virginia21 largely focused on higher education issues including college affordability, textbook reform, and campus safety. At all times, the organization has focused on young person civic engagement including voter registration, voting access, and leadership development. In recent years, Virginia21 has recognized the need to represent all young adults and as such began expanding programming to more broadly address the needs of young people aged 18-35.
Virginia21 Action, a 501(c)4 affiliate to Virginia21, will work closely with Virginia21 to help implement and advocate for these policies. Based on policies researched and developed by Virginia21, advocacy recommendations will be made to Virginia21 Action. Additionally, Virginia21 and Virginia21 Action will share certain resources and staff time within the terms of the shared services agreement between the two organizations.
In FY18-19, Virginia21 collected feedback via survey response from current students, junior board members, and the Board of Directors. In addition to this, the Board of Directors and staff met several times for brainstorming and planning sessions. The following plan is the result of those efforts. Through the identification of these goals and the implementation plan below, Virginia21 will become the paramount organization representing young adults across the Commonwealth with a clear vision for success.
Virginia21 currently serves young Virginians aged 18-35. According to US Census Data, this age group makes up about 33% of Virginia’s population.1 Virginia21’s primary program components are:
1. Student Program
2. Policy Efforts
3. Professional Development Programming
The organization currently has 16 active chapters, of which 11 are public, four are private, and one is a community college. Exact numbers of student members are not currently known. These chapters organize and implement campus-wide programming to promote a culture of civic engagement. These students also participate in a year-round leadership development program provided by the organization that includes skill building in advocacy, communications, organizing, and networking. Attendance at leadership programs has been inconsistent over the years due to internal and external factors including an increase in hyper-partisanship following the 2016 election, increased civic engagement groups on campuses, and staffing changes.
Source: Strategic Plan FY20-FY25
Virginia21 empowers college students and young Virginians to be engaged citizens and advocates for issues important to them and Virginia’s future.
Virginia21 envisions a well-educated, prosperous, and civically-engaged Virginia.
Virginia21 will make young adult Virginians the most civically engaged and politically influential age demographic in the Commonwealth through targeted leadership development and civic engagement programming. An educated and empowered young population will result in positive policy outcomes in the areas of higher education and workforce development, shared economic prosperity, and good government. It will make Virginia21 a stronger, more sustainable organization that will continue working towards the fulfillment of our mission and realization of our vision long into the future. Virginia21 will leverage its position as Virginia’s only statewide young voter advocacy organization to fully realize its potential to impact the Commonwealth.
Lines of Effort
For the purposes of this plan, all the major work that Virginia21 does has been divided into major “lines of effort.” Each goal will be accomplished through one or more of these lines of effort.
Includes all major administrative duties of the organization to ensure that Virginia21 is fiscally sound and legally compliant at all times, including bookkeeping/accounting, budgeting, payroll, bills, database management, and staffing.
— Leadership and Professional Development
Includes all work to develop young Virginians into future leaders and preparing them for successful lives and careers.
Includes all the major policy work of Virginia21, such as policy research and development, policy education for organizational constituents, policy communications, and strategic partnerships with policy allies.
— Organizing and Advocacy
Includes student engagement, young professional engagement, mobilization of both groups, and other field work to civically engage young Virginians and empower them to advocate for Virginia21’s policy agenda.
Includes managing the financial health and proper board function of Virginia21 including all fundraising, development communications, board management, and organizational growth.
Virginia21 will strive to create a broad culture of civic engagement, with a focus on the state and local level, among young Virginians. The organization will work across the entire spectrum of R.E.A.L. civic engagement: voter Registration, Education, Activation, and Legislation.
Virginia21 will develop policies that increase voting access and ensure that there are no undue burdens to registering to vote and casting a ballot and policies that support a culture of civic education and engagement at Virginia’s K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. Virginia21 will encourage Virginia21 Action to advocate for such policies.
▸ Policy: policy development through research, an analysis of the current political atmosphere, and seeking strategic partners with shared policy goals
▸ Organizing and Advocacy: educate young Virginians about this policy area and amass them to effectively advocate for the policies that we propose
▸ Leadership and Professional Development: develop effective young organizers and advocates for our cause .
The lynchpin of Virginia21’s programming, this process will be ongoing. Success will be defined through the passage of every law that eases the voting process from registration to ballot casting, as well as measurable increases in civic engagement from young Virginians through voter registration, engagement with informational material in the leadup to elections, and events held on college campuses and other locations throughout the state meant to foster civic engagement.
Through its leadership, Virginia21 will see that Virginia has the highest participation rates in the country among young people in every election.
KEY AREAS OF FOCUS
▸ Policy: provide young Virginians with the policy resources to be informed voters
▸ Organizing and Advocacy: field efforts on campuses and elsewhere around the state to disseminate informational resources and encourage/facilitate voter registration and participation
▸ Leadership and Professional Development: develop effective campus and community leaders and organizers to spearhead our civic engagement efforts
Success will be defined by achieving the highest turnout rates in America as measured by exit polling, precinct data, and other available surveys. Virginia21 expects to complete this goal within three to five years
Virginia21 will provide ample opportunities for young people to interact with and hear directly from elected officials, candidates for office, and other government leaders.
▸ Policy: cultivate relationships with important political leaders
▸ Organizing and Advocacy: organize forums, panels, and other events on campuses and in communities around Virginia, with organizers ensuring their peers are made aware and given opportunities to attend
▸ Leadership and Professional Development: give young leaders the opportunity to interact with and learn from important political leaders to grow their own leadership skills As an existing piece of Virginia21’s programming, work on this goal has begun and will be ongoing indefinitely.
Success will be considered on an annual basis and will be considered achieved when each student chapter is either hosting or participating in at least one event with officials present per year.
Virginia21 will provide young Virginians with clear and easily accessible information on candidates, ballot initiatives, issues, and whatever else is needed to ensure that they are well-informed voters.
▸ Policy: provide young Virginians with the resources to be informed voters, seek strategic partnerships to ensure that all materials provided by the organization are information forward, nonpartisan, and thorough
▸ Organizing and Advocacy: field efforts on campuses and around the state to disseminate informational resources ▸ Leadership and Professional Development: develop effective campus leaders and organizers to spearhead our civic engagement efforts This goal will be ongoing, with an annual focus each election season.
Virginia21 will consider this goal achieved based on reach and opportunity, ensuring that young people across Virginia all at least have reasonable access to voter information.