OF young people.
BY young people.
FOR ALL people.

From the Executive Director

Of Young People

Infusing American democracy with a multitude of Millennials: Big. Diverse. And AWESOME.

Voter Registration

We bring young Americans into democracy with style, sweat, and swagger.

When you turn 18 in America, you step into a voting system that wasn’t built for you. Needless barriers. Toxic, intimidating politics. So the Bus is here to help, wherever you turn: from campuses and transit stop to bars and lines for festival port-a-potties.

From affiliate programs like Pink Bunnies & VoteBots that give thousands of young voters a delightfully memorable first touch with democracy, to coordinating thousands of nontraditional partners for National Voter Registration Day, the Bus gives voter registration a fresh taste that young’ns just can’t resist.

The Prettiest Payoff

The Bus works to turn young Americans into reliable young voters year in and year out.

24/7. 365. 100%. Which doesn’t just make voter registration rolls big and strong, but straight up revolutionizes participation in those communities.

And it transforms voter turnout. Most impressively, in Boulder, CO, and Bozeman and Missoula, MT, three towns where we’ve relentlessly engaged young voters in local, city, and state elections since 2010, turnout increased significantly in between mid-terms. In Montana, our two target counties saw an increase of thousands of votes cast (a significant number in a rural state), even as turnout was basically stagnant statewide.

After hella voter registration, the Bus turned up to turn out.


By Young People

Forging great civic leaders of tomorrow by making them hands-on leaders today.

The Bus is run by young people. From our interns, to our staffs, to our boards, the Bus is where young people call our own shots & build power of our very own.

We run a different breed of leadership development. At the Bus, 20-year-olds don’t make people coffee. They make plans to pass social justice policy, organize, and make it happen.

The product? A legion of leaders addicted to organizing and committed to being in the driver’s seat. And along the way, they gain access to a vibrant network, and change the policy landscape. All before the age of 30.

young leaders
graduated in 2014:


Bus Leader Spotlights

De’Jaun Jackson

From Organizing in Chicago to Leading Chicago Organizers

De'Jaun Jackson grew up on the west-side of Chicago, and understands first hand on how it feels to be disconnected from the political process. He watched how no one cared about our black and brown youth’s lack of resources or access to making change. After a lot of research and life experiences (including traveling the world as a youth, college, and semi-pro basketball player) De'Jaun decided to help end that disconnect and became a worker-organizer in the Fight for $15 and Action Now. In 2014, he joined Chicago Votes as a Democracy Organizer, helping the team register over 15,000 young people to vote. After honing his field and management skills, he became Chicago Votes Field Director, leading and mentoring a team of 6 young organizers to bring our youth together and get them informed about the people that make decisions on our lives.


Amy Kessler

From Montana volunteer, to Colorado Fellow, to Montana Organizer, to Oregon Staff

Amy Kessler attended Montana State University where she worked on two congressional campaigns and volunteered for Forward Montana. Although she gained tons of experience, it was not until her fellowship with New Era Colorado that she realized she could help make tangible change. With a new sense of empowerment, she returned to Montana and further honed her skills as a Bozeman organizer for Forward Montana. Then Amy jumped across the network to lead the PolitiCorps program of the (Oregon) Bus Project, giving new young leaders that same sense of empowerment she's gotten across the Bus Federation.

Amber Phillips

Turning a PolitiCorps Fellowship Into Movement Leadership

Amber J. Phillips grew up in Columbus, Ohio (with a few Ohio Student Association founders). While studying at Chatham College for Women, Amber became a PolitiCorps Fellow with the Oregon Bus Project, where she learned organizing and campaign skills she calls "comparable to none." After graduation, she came back to help run PolitiCorps as a staff lead. Since returning east, she has served as Field Organizing Director of the Equality and Culture Project at UltraViolet and Manager of Campus Organizing at Advocates for Youth. Currently, Amber is a member of Echoing Ida, a project of Forward Together that amplifies the voices of Black women around critical social justice issues. She also serves on the board of directors of SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.

Bringing Up Buses

The Bus incubates new vehicles for change driven by local young people, in new states every cycle.

We don’t start new chapters of a national thing. We help a community’s young leaders grow their own organizations, with local brands and local flavor. And local power, getting stronger every day.

When young Chicago reformers got together to start a nonprofit, they dreamt it would someday transform the civic landscape in America’s Second City. Turns out that someday is now.

Where they are now

Three years after meeting the Bus, Chicago Votes has led coalitions to pass Same Day Voter Registration and Online Voter Registration, helped pass ballot measures supporting the minimum wage and an elected school board, registered over 18,000 young people to vote, and grown their staff from 0 to 5 full-time (with a team of 20 during elections).

High school friends-turned college organizers + a bold plan to change Texas starting with their hometown + a dash of Bus love = MOVE San Antonio. In barely a year, this multiracial crew of gifted young leaders (nearly all of whom are under 25) built a civic powerhouse.

Where they are now

Fresh out of the gate, they gathered hundreds of public comments to pass a citywide LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance. Then they held the largest campus National Voter Registration Day in America, in back-to-back years. They’ve already registered over 4,500 people to vote and are just getting started.

Born of the Occupy movement, melded by the murder of Trayvon Martin, and built by #BlackLivesMatter, the Ohio Student Association weaves social and racial justice action tactics with the irreverent youth engagement that has defined the Bus for 10 years.

Where they are now

Their responses to the murders of young black Ohioans John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and Tanisha Anderson brought their work to the (inter)national stage, and their work toward a saner justice system shines a light on how we can build a better, more just nation together.

For All People

Passing policies picked by Millennials that make progress for our whole communities.

Big Wins

In a really tough year, we won a bunch of things.

Voting Rights

In Montana...

Forward Montana helped lead a diverse coalition that defeated a ballot measure that would have repealed Same Day Voter Registration, the reform most connected to increases in turnout among traditionally under-served populations.

In Illinois...

Chicago Votes built on their 2013 online voter registration victory twice, first helping to pass a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to vote in the state constitution and then bringing statewide Same Day Voter Registration to Illinois (a feat thought unimaginable just a few years ago).

Abortion & Women's Health

In Colorado...

New Era Colorado registered, engaged, and educated tens thousands of young Coloradans on critical issues on their ballot, culminating in helping to defeat a ballot measure that would have taken the right to choose away from countless women.

In Illinois...

With Congress, the Supreme Court, and state legislatures hotly debating the availability of safe birth control for America’s women, Illinois and Chicago Votes did something about it, passing a ballot measure advising the state legislature to ensure birth control is included in health care plans around the state.

LGBTQ Equality

In Montana...

Tragically, LGBTQ Montana still lack statewide protection from being fired or losing their houses simply for being themselves. Forward Montana did something about it, leading a coalition that gathered thousands of public comments and passed a trans-inclusive LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance in the City of Bozeman.

Economic Justice

In Illinois...

Chicago Votes took a key role in a vibrant coalition to raise the minimum wage in Illinois. After registering thousands of voters and educating thousands more on the state of jobs and wages in Illinois, we helped pass a statewide advisory measure to raise the minimum wage, which prompted the Chicago City Council to raise the minimum wage to $13 per hour.

In Washington...

Seeing cuts to bus service that low and middle income Seattleites rely on, the Washington Bus teamed up with a local transit ballot measure campaign (run by a Bus alum), they made a boatload of education and get out the vote phone calls and won, helping to restore service across the city.

Safety & Justice

In Washington...

As Congress fumbles around with the politically safest way to do nothing on America’s gun death epidemic, the Washington Bus teamed up with advocates from around the state to do massive voter education and get out the vote and passed a statewide ballot measure to expand background checks for gun safety.

In Oregon...

After inhaling tons of information about Millennial’s opposition to backward, racist drug laws (for reasons ranging from racial and social justice to overall culture shifts), the Oregon Bus Project took to the streets, the doors, and the phones and helped pass a ballot measure to legalize marijuana and upend the trend of young people of color being locked up for tiny amounts weed.

Big Progress

Making real strides on some of America’s stickiest problems.


In 2014, much of the nation woke up to the chronic oppression and criminalization of black lives in America, from massive economic inequities to the nearly daily deaths of black and brown youth at the hands of police. After the murders of John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and Tanisha Anderson, the Ohio Student Association made national headlines with their passionate and high-profile responses. Now, more Bus affiliates from Texas to Illinois have joined the fight, with ever-louder & more organized demands for increased police accountability and citizen oversight.

Impounding the Carbon

As the planet’s carbon situation gets increasingly dire, the Bus is working aggressively to adopt solutions at the local or state level that can serve as models for the nation. In Oregon and Washington, Bus organizations are working toward carbon pricing plans. In Colorado, we continue to work toward municipalization in Boulder while addressing oil and gas issues and carbon pollution more broadly.

Because, Student Debt

Student debt in America has reached genuine crisis levels, saddling over 40 million people with nearly $30,000 of debt a piece. This problem has multiple roots: states cutting taxes on the wealthy instead of adequately funding higher ed, greedy lenders and processors pushing ever-bigger loans, and for-profit colleges getting rich off students & taxpayers. New Era Colorado, Forward Montana, and the Ohio Student Association have been fighting back, through social media narratives, injection of the issue into big elections, and policy development for legislative sessions.

Shall Not Perish

This bus is built to last

With seven independent Millennial-owned organizations growing stronger every day, and an ever-diversifying stream of rollicking revenue, the Bus is making moves to become more sustainable, financially and fundamentally.

Financials At a Glance

the price of printing & shipping more than a literal ton of National Voter Registration Day stickers & posters to over 2,000 partners across the country
share of Bus Federation's network-wide budget spent directly by local organizations
in operating reserves established by the Bus Federation's board

83% of the entire Federation's $2.8million was spent on locally determined priorities by our affiliates. The rest went to run our national programs, invest in training and capacity building, and help with fundraising and management.

Statement of Activities     1/1/2014–12/31/2014






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Balance Sheet     As of 12/31/2014


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These Folks Make the Wheels Go ‘Round


Alki Fund

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees


Communication Workers of America

desJardins/Blachman Fund

Douglas Beck

Educational Foundation of America

Faye and Sandor Straus

Ford Foundation

Generation Progress

Hull Family Foundation

Ian Simmons

National Education Association

Neighborhood Centers, Inc.

Next Generation Climate America

Orange County Community Foundation


State Infrastructure Fund

United Food and Commercial Workers

United Steelworkers

Wallace Global Fund

The WhyNot Initiative

The William B. Weiner, Jr. Foundation

Youth Engagement Fund

Board of Directors

Alexandra Acker Lyons | Consultant

Jefferson Smith | Founding Chair, Oregon Bus Foundation

Liba Rubenstein | Director of Strategy & Outreach, Tumblr

Mary Manuel Tobin | Senior Advisor, McKay Foundation

Mollie Ruskin | Designer, United States Digital Service

Nathaniel Parks | Consultant

Nelini Stamp | Co-Director, Rise Up Georgia

Pat Sweeney | Executive Director, Western Organization of Resource Councils

Rahna Epting | Deputy Executive Director, Every Voice

Saul Ettlin | Operations Manager, Tides

Our People

Bus Federation Civic Fund

Chicago Votes Education Fund

Forward Montana Foundation

MOVE San Antonio Foundation

New Era Colorado Foundation

Ohio Student Association

(Oregon) Bus Project Foundation

The Washington Bus Education Fund