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Seeking to create greater opportunities for their children and families, many parents and caregivers join initiatives to expand their capacity to be community leaders, organizers, and advocates. Through leadership and organizing, parents fight for justice on key issues their families face—lack of access to quality early childhood education, substandard schools, toxic environments, poor health services, crowded and dilapidated housing, and limited opportunities for personal and economic development. A robust literature documents the many ways these groups make a difference. They bolster the confidence, mental health, civic engagement, and networks of parent leaders (and their families) and build sustainable power for much needed systemic change.

Yet, there is limited knowledge about the span and range of parent leadership and organizing groups across the U.S., which have tremendous potential to lead to such widespread social change. Although our research team has decades of combined community-engaged research experience alongside parent leadership and organizing groups, at the start of this project unanswered questions remained: How Cover many parent leadership organizations are there? Where are they located? How do they support parents? Who are parent leaders? What issues do they work on? What makes parent leadership organizations distinct from other leadership development or community organizing groups?

What results do they achieve? And last, how might the children of parent leaders benefit from these groups? The Parent Power and Leadership Survey begins to answer these questions. This report shares findings from the first ever landscape analysis of parent leadership organizations across the U.S., including a survey and five focus groups with parent leaders, staff, and members of the philanthropic community. We explore two main questions:

1. What is the landscape (i.e. geographic scope, spread, aim, and content) of parent leadership and organizing groups throughout the United States?

2. In what ways and to what extent do these initiatives engage the children of parent leaders? We focus on parent leadership and organizing groups that develop leadership skills and knowledge to work collectively toward racial, social, or economic justice.

These initiatives are non-profit, faith-based, district-based, or state-based. Some of these initiatives engage children directly in parallel leadership development, while others include children in celebrations or accommodate children through childcare while parents meet. 


We designed the Parent Power and Leadership Survey in collaboration with parent leaders, staff from parent leadership and organizing groups, and funders who support these groups across the country. We are grateful to the dozens of contributors who helped us to craft the language and content of the survey with the goal that findings would be useful for the field of parent leadership and organizing. We also created the Parent Power Map and Directory, which includes organizations that opted in sharing their organizational websites, social media accounts, and other core organizational components for potential future connections.

First we created a list of parent leadership and organizing groups (our sampling pool)., which we compiled through keyword searches in GuideStar (nonprofit database), Google, and Facebook, using terms such as “parent leadership,” “parent organizing,” and “family engagement.” We also referenced affiliate lists from national organizations including United Parent Leaders Action Network (UPLAN) and Faith in Action (formerly PICO National Network). We included organizations that appeared from their website to a) work toward social, economic, and racial justice, b) work with parents/families, and c) have leadership development. When in doubt, we included the organization. This process yielded a list of 699 organizations, casting a wide net of organizations, both large and small, which we reached by email or phone. A total of 182 organizations ultimately took the survey in late 2021 and 2022. While this means our overall response rate is 26%, when we consider the organizations that we identify as explicitly working with parent (e.g., they indicate this in their name), our response rate is 83%

The Who, What, Where of Parent Leadership Organizations

Most of the organizations surveyed identified themselves as doing family and community engagement, advocacy, leadership development, and as community organizing groups, while about one-third also identified as service providers. The majority of organizations (n+104( were founded by parents. For membership-based organizations (n+48), the median number of members was 225. The median number of parents who participate in leadership development per year was 40. Alsom half of the organizations have existed for more than 20 years, while only 10% have existed for 0-4 years. Additional findings include:  

  • Large geographic spread. There are parent leadership groups operating in every single state across the USA, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico. Although not always proportionate to state populations, these groups are spread across urban, suburban and rural areas, and they vary in size and scope from local neighborhood groups, to city-wide, to multi-county to statewide and national.
  • Strong racial and linguistic diversity. Black and Latinx parents were the most highly represented racial group. The overwhelming majority of organizations were multi-racial, and most organizations engage parents whose first language is not English. Thus, parent leadership organizations offer opportunities for cross-racial and cross-linguistic solidarity.
  • Women make up the largest base of organizations. The overwhelming majority of organizations engaged mostly women (disproportionately Black and Latina women), with 19 organizations exclusively engaging women. Conversely, only one organization engaged only men, 17 engaged no men, and 102 engaged only a few men. Most organizations worked with very few parents who identify as non-binary or transgender.

What Do Parent Leadership and Organizing Groups Offer?

"Our parents worked closely with community members, county commissioners and the health department starting a campaign to reduce lead in homes. We demanded elected officials to fund our children.” Parents for Healthy Homes 

On average, organizations offered 35 hours of leadership development to parents in the past year (this figure may have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic). They work in an intentionally relational way, prioritizing authentic relationships among parent leaders and staff, for example one-on-one conversations and mentoring. Additional findings included:

  • Multi-issue focus. The leading three issues were K-12 education, early childhood education, and racial equity. Most organizations worked on multiple issues including immigrant and refugee rights, housing and homelessness, criminal justice, and disability rights — on average, organizations reported working on five issues.
  • Emphasis on racial equity. Racial justice was by far the most commonly emphasized issue in leadership development training and facilitation, and the third most common issue area organizations worked on. Many campaigns and policy wins were also related to racial justice.
  • A range of policy wins. Organizations have accomplished major wins affecting children and families, through improved legislation, local policies, budgets, funding, juvenile justice, social benefits, mental health, and government operations.
  • A broad set of leadership development opportunities. Consistent with traditional leadership development and political organizing, groups most often supported parents in meetings with public officials and public-speaking engagements. Additionally, many organizations offered mentoring and healing-centered activities.
  • Holistic, whole-person, whole-family supports. Organizations offered myriad additional support to parents. These included parenting and educational support, guidance on their children’s academic development, and translation and interpretation as needed. Many groups also offered support with meeting participants’ basic needs, including financial and mental health support.

How do Parent Organizations Operate?

  • Shared decision-making. In most organizations, staff and parents shared decision-making in key aspects of the work, particularly around issue areas, programming, and organizing strategies and tactics. The least shared decision-making happened around organizational budgets and hiring.
  • Small budgets. In general, parent leadership organizations have small budgets, with about 20% reporting a budget of less than $100,000.
  • High reliance on foundation funding. Foundations were the most common source of funding for organizations, followed by individual donors, and then government contracts.

How do Parent Leadership Organizations Engage the Children of Parent Leaders?

"I’m so proud that my six-year-old is watching her mom and watching all the beautiful [parent leader] family that we have when she’s sitting in on calls and she’s learning and she’s using her voice to tell teachers what she needs.” –—Sara Morrison, Parent Leader with Choice for All and UPLAN

  • Building intergenerational power. Most of the organizations engage children and youth in some way; most commonly, children attend events with their family members. Over one-third (n=55) offer leadership development for young people, along with their families.
  • Benefits for children from their parents’ leadership. In focus groups and the survey, parents and staff remarked how children follow their parents’ examples to become advocates for themselves and others, increasingly use their voice for the common good, and engage in direct actions alongside their parents.
  • Desire to do more to engage young people, but obstacles remain. Many organizations wished to do more to engage children but lacked funding and staff capacity. Many were also still recovering from losing membership and in-person engagement during the Covid-19 pandemic.


  • Robust leadership development includes multiple forms of support. Survey findings support existing qualitative literature, illustrating how parent leadership organizations not only strengthen civic engagement and democracy but also support participants and their families. Contrary to notions that providing services and multiple forms of support can be at odds with community organizing work, most parent leadership organizations exercise holistic engagement either providing direct support or referring participants to other groups who can assist.
  • Parent leadership organizations are a critical part of racial justice movements, and must be resourced accordingly. By focusing on racial justice, parent leadership organizations can build power to dismantle racist systems and imagine new possibilities for justice. However, organizational racial justice work is challenging and often comes with intragroup conflict and external resistance. These efforts thus need adequate funding, time to take root, and support and training for those leading them.
  • Opportunities exist for parent leadership organizations to engage more youth, men, and LGBTQ+ communities. Focus groups and open-ended survey data illustrate a strong desire to engage more young people in leadership and organizing activities, as well as beliefs that doing so would yield increased benefits. The gender imbalance could be an equity issue for both men who may feel excluded and women who are overtaxed. Additionally, given harmful anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, policies, and violence — particularly toward LGBTQ+ communities of color — providing safe spaces for LGBTQ+ communities and building allyship can be a critical next step for justice-oriented organizations. Additionally, young people, men, and non-binary and transgender people are underrepresented in parent leadership organizations who took the survey.
  • Parent leadership development should continue to be recognized and resourced as a movement led by women of color. First, we recognize long-term, flexible sources of funding are necessary for the longevity of parent leadership and organizing. Truly parent-led organizations require funding that spans across issue areas with a wide range of eligible activities. Second, our findings hint that deeper geographic representation may be needed, with some states having more or fewer parent leadership organizations proportional to their populations. Last, based on the overwhelming response we received about the potential of creating a networking tool, we developed the Parent Power Map and Directory as a starting point, which enables searching by state, issue area, demographics, and key words. However, we recognize the need for more robust convenings of these groups and across issue areas.
  • Authentic parent leadership requires more flexible funding opportunities. Parent leaders shared that they would like the freedom to work on the issue areas that matter most to them, rather than being bound to funders’ priorities. Families’ experiences transcend narrow issues and siloed systems, and parents often find that their community organizing begins with one issue then quickly ripples into other related issue areas. Certain funders noted adapting their approaches accordingly.


This landscape analysis illustrates the collective power and reach of justice-oriented parent leadership organizations that are mostly composed of, and often found by, women. We hope this report sparks increased partnerships among parent leaders, organization staff, government agencies, researchers, and the philanthropic community to ensure that parent leadership organizations: gain more resources for social, economic, and racial justice; can engage the children of parent leaders, potentially include more men and LGBTQ+ communities; form and sustain coalitions and networks; increase their geographic diversity; and access more flexible long-term sources of funding.


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