Citizen University



Seattle, WA

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2020):

Revenue: $716,957
Expenses: $893,963
Assets: $644,997


Activist Training Organization




Eric Liu

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Citizen University is a left-leaning activist training organization based in Seattle, Washington. The organization was founded by Eric Liu, an official in the Clinton and Obama administrations and a well-known liberal author and public intellectual. Citizen University aims to promote a culture of liberal activism, providing training and mentorship to activists around the country. Its main program, “Civic Saturdays,” emulates religious services to promote local activist networks in the Seattle area.

Founding and History

Citizen University was founded in Seattle, Washington in 2012 by Eric Liu, a son of Chinese immigrants and official in multiple Democratic administrations. 1 Liu previously worked in the Clinton administration in speechwriting and advisory roles, and was appointed to the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service during the Obama administration. He also runs the Citizenship and American Identity Program for the Aspen Institute, is a fellow at Ashoka, and has written a variety of books on his Asian identity and liberal theories of democracy. 2

Liu began Citizen University as an annual conference in Seattle, adopting the name and the focus on civic engagement in 2012 and gaining nonprofit status in 2014. It founded its “Civic Saturdays” program in response to the election of President Donald Trump. Since then, it has expanded to multiple national programs. 3


Citizen University operates a variety of programs to promote its concept of citizenship. Its most prominent program, “Civic Saturdays,” emulates church services, complete with hymns, readings, and sermons focused on civic engagement. 4 The gatherings, which Citizen University calls “civic rituals” and “a civic analogue to a faith gathering,” promote activism, especially left-leaning activism, as a source of community and personal meaning in lieu of traditional religion. 5

Citizen University has also expanded to nationwide programs of activist trainings, youth mentorship, and conferences. 6 These programs focus less on specific policy outcomes and more on promoting activist culture and teaching effective activist techniques for liberal causes. 7

Funding and Affiliations

Citizen University has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the National Philanthropic Trust. In addition, its board of directors includes Kristen Campbell of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE). 8 Citizen University describes itself as working within a network of similarly-minded organizations, including New Pluralists. 9


  1. “Our Story.” Citizen University. Accessed December 22, 2022.
  2. “Bio for Eric Liu.” Citizen University. Accessed December 23, 2022.
  3.  [1] “Our Story.” Citizen University. Accessed December 22, 2022.
  4. Sarah Ruiz-Grossman. “If Sunday Is For Church, This Group Wants Saturdays For Activism.” HuffPost. March 20, 2017.
  5.  “Our Story.” Citizen University. Accessed December 22, 2022.
  6. “Programs.” Citizen University. Accessed December 23, 2022.
  7. “Our Task.” Citizen University. Accessed December 23, 2022.
  8. “Citizen University.” Cause IQ. Accessed December 23, 2022.,464270721/
  9. “Our Task.” Citizen University. Accessed December 23, 2022.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 2014

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Jun Form 990 $716,957 $893,963 $644,997 $99,038 N $711,923 $0 $0 $155,208 PDF
    2019 Jun Form 990 $1,120,372 $1,018,354 $728,865 $5,900 N $1,108,940 $559 $0 $128,458 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $1,157,335 $732,496 $638,876 $17,929 N $1,152,398 $0 $0 $161,280 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $784,141 $549,026 $388,701 $528 N $712,376 $69,495 $0 $99,525 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $460,966 $380,435 $156,484 $3,426 N $329,600 $128,547 $0 $87,583 PDF
    2015 Jun Form 990 $312,826 $244,196 $80,651 $10,174 N $275,067 $37,759 $0 $10,000 PDF

    Citizen University

    Seattle, WA