NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures | Awards to NCSL Programs

8/30/2021

Award Descriptions for the 2022 Fiscal Year

Center for Ethics in Government—$247,500

The Center for Ethics in Government is the premier source for state legislatures on ethics and lobbying issues. The center provides tailored assistance for legislatures, ranging from workshops to committee testimony. The center’s mission is to restore trust and confidence in representative government by promoting responsible behavior in legislatures and educating the public on the importance of the legislative process.

The center’s work addresses a critical, fundamental and far-reaching problem facing state legislatures: the loss of public trust and confidence in representative democracy. The center strives to be a leader in restoring this confidence in government by promoting ethical behavior among state legislators, staff, lobbyists and advocates. It designs and leads training programs on values-based ethical decision-making. The center provides expertise, consultation and analysis of state ethics and lobbying laws and rules. It writes about trends in ethics and tracks ethics laws on a comprehensive website.  

Center for Legislative Strengthening—$220,000

The Center for Legislative Strengthening is NCSL’s hub for consulting, projects, training and research in service of the legislative institution. This Foundation award will add to the center’s capacity to provide legislatures with analysis and expertise on enduring and emerging issues impacting legislative operations, legislator pay and demographics, legislative human resources issues and the separation of powers. 

Challenge and Innovation Programs—$198,000

For over a decade, the Foundation has awarded funds designed to motivate and inspire the NCSL staff to create new programs to serve legislators, legislative staff and Foundation partners. Through a competitive process, NCSL staff submit ideas for smaller grants to the organization’s executive director. Microgrants are selected for seed projects that allow NCSL staff to complete critical work that might not have resources available and to explore new areas that might lead to expanded projects. Typically, grants range from $5,000 to $20,000. NCSL staff are strongly encouraged to think creatively and strategically about how to invest these small awards so that they might lead to discoveries about new products and services to meet the needs of NCSL’s members. 

Enhance NCSL Presentation—$27,500

This award is sought so that NCSL can invest in staff development specifically on communications. By providing additional specialized training, NCSL hopes to improve the ability of the staff to communicate complex subject matter more effectively. NCSL will use the award to explore different presentation modalities and develop internal training programs on presentation and facilitation planning and skills. 

Grant Identification—$66,000

This funding allows NCSL to hire a contractor, through a competitive process, to help support grant fundraising. Foundation and federal grants currently support much of NCSL’s legislative strengthening work. Maintaining and growing this funding to ensure the work continues is a primary concern for NCSL as well as exploring relationships with new funders, especially in democracy, strengthening the legislative institution, elections, civil discourse, environment, infrastructure and more. This funding will bolster a focus on identifying and developing new funder relationships and will help in evaluating the impact a consultant may have on NCSL’s grant portfolio and fundraising bottom line. 

Jobs Summit—$33,000

NCSL is seeking a $33,000 Foundation award to support the 2021 NCSL Jobs Summit. The summit is a biennial convening of private sector partners and state legislators interested in policy issues related to job training, creation and retention. It is a collaborative effort among several NCSL programs including Children and Families, Education, Fiscal, and Labor and Retirement.

The 2021 Jobs Summit will be held Dec. 8-10 in Las Vegas in conjunction with the NCSL Education Chairs Meeting. The agenda includes sessions on the future of work and the changing nature of jobs and benefits. Participants will discuss apprenticeship programs, career pathways and barriers to employment, among other job-related policy issues.

Support for the summit is being provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Mastercard, Microsoft and other partners.   

Legislative Staff Management Institute—$82,500

Since 1990, the Foundation has supported the operation of the annual Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI). The Institute is the nation’s premier program for developing and enhancing management and leadership skills for America’s leading legislative staffers. The Foundation’s assistance enables NCSL to discount the tuition for senior legislative staff attending this executive management program. The FY’22 award will support the 2021 LSMI program, which will be Aug. 20-27, 2021 in Sacramento, Calif. and an alumni program, either at the 2021 Legislative Summit in Tampa, Fla. or online.

Legislative Staff Services—$110,000

NCSL’s Legislative Staff Services Program provides strategic, programmatic and administrative support to the professional staff associations of NCSL, carries out the priorities and project for NCSL’s staff chair and the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) and delivers many of the professional development programs designed specifically for legislative staff.

This award supports NCSL staff time in the development and execution of key professional development program for legislative staff. These programs include the annual Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI), professional development and networking for staff directors and chiefs of staff and the online Legislative Staff Certificate Program, designed for staff that are new to the legislative profession.

Legislator and Legislative Staff Data—$13,200

This award funds a subscription to the KnowWho database, which provides comprehensive data on all state legislators, their leadership assignments, committees and legislative staff. The data is used to supplement NCSL’s internal association management system data.   

Legislator and Legislative Staff Engagement—$236,500

Engaging state legislators and legislative staff is one of NCSL’s most critical functions. The organization works year-round to build constituent awareness of NCSL services, from policy information and expert assistance to networking opportunities and professional development. The messages in NCSL’s print and digital communications are supported by the work of its staff liaisons to each state and the state coordinators, legislators who serve as the organization’s ambassadors in their chambers.

Funding will support several engagement areas, including:

  • Travel to capitols for policy assistance, professional development training and relationship-building.
  • Hosting Legislative Staff Week twice a year.
  • Producing dedicated content for legislative staff and highlighting NCSL resources.
  • Welcoming newly elected legislators.
  • Designing, printing and sending out the 2022 NCSL calendar to all members.
  • Evaluating NCSL’s branding across platforms, including a comprehensive review of its brand colors.
  • Developing new content and strategies for engaging members throughout the year.

Legislator and Staff Data Collection—$27,500

This award will enable NCSL staff to survey legislators in person and electronically about how much time they devote to legislative service and ask follow-up questions about the type of legislative activities in which they engage. This data aids in the formation and updating of NCSL’s longstanding Green, Gray and Gold categories of legislatures and other research. It also provides crucial insight into the demands on NCSL’s members, which in turn will help NCSL and the Foundation learn how best to target services, professional development and resources. 

New Legislator Orientation—$22,000

This award will support the NCSL Legislative Training Institute, to provide legislators with specialized training services to prepare them to successfully meet the challenges of the legislative environment. Specifically, this new award will allow NCSL to create materials and trainings and devote more staff time to one-on-one outreach to legislators newly elected in 2020 and 2021. Lastly, it will provide NCSL an opportunity to conduct a legislator orientation survey to determine gaps NCSL could potentially fill in new member programs. 

Our American States—$35,200

This award provides funding for NCSL’s “Our American States” podcast. The podcast, which is produced three times a month, provides legislators, legislative staff and Foundation members with focused, bipartisan conversations on key public policy issues, leadership and the business of legislators. In fiscal year 2022, NCSL will maintain a strong focus on timely topics and issues that members face. Podcast episodes on redistricting and the census, college affordability, transportation and infrastructure are prime examples of diving deeper into issues and talking directly to policy experts. Later in the year NCSL plans to package two to three podcasts that will complement the sessions being discussed at the Legislative Summit. Lastly, NCSL is planning a continued focus on how states are coping with pandemic recovery.

“Our American States” continues to have a loyal following, with an audience of up to 2,000 listeners per episode. 

Professional Development—$137,500

NCSL seeks to engage legislator staff directors, who are the top staff decision-makers and leaders in either a centralized agency or legislative chamber, by providing professional development and opportunities for networking. This award will support a professional development program for the directors at the 2021 Legislative Summit in Tampa, Fla. as well as an experiential leadership development program in late Spring 2022.

Program for Legislative Leaders—$192,500

This award supports the NCSL Leaders’ Center, which provides legislative leaders with specialized products and services, including high-caliber training, timely public policy briefings and innovative ideas to effectively lead legislative chambers. Specifically, the award supports two symposiums, one leadership experience, outreach to leaders, and the development and delivery of programs for targeted groups of leaders. For fiscal year 2022, NCSL is planning two major leaders-only symposiums (in October and June), a leadership experience in Normandy, France, and outreach activities throughout the year. 

Quad Caucus and Women’s Legislative Network—$187,000

NCSL provides staff support to the Women’s Legislative Network and the Quad Caucus. The networks and relationships supported in both groups increase diversity in legislatures and promote NCSL’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The Women’s Legislative Network represents a record 2,259 women—30.6% of all state legislators.

The Quad Caucus refers to the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators, and the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators. The Quad Caucus represents approximately 1,300 legislators of color, or 20% of NCSL’s members. Support to both groups continues to offer a unique opportunity to strengthen NCSL’s virtual programs, policy research and response to increasingly diverse legislatures. The Women’s Legislative Network will hold a business meeting and sessions at the upcoming NCSL Legislative Summit.  

Recycling Partnership—$11,000

Given the absence of a federal recycling law, state and local governments are responsible for their own requirements and have taken various actions to address the many nuances of recycling in their communities. At the same time, industry is looking to more sustainable materials and designing products for easier recycling. Not only are states and industry acting, but Congress is also beginning to dip its toes into the recycling space, drafting legislation that could have broad impacts for the aforementioned groups.  

This award creates a partnership with legislators, legislative staff and Foundation sponsors to address the current generational shift impacting America’s recycling environment. The partnership plans to follow the life cycle of products and explore policy initiatives and innovative strategies to address the challenges brought about by shifting economic conditions, trade policies and consumer behavior.

Research Database—$66,000

This award provides NCSL staff with access to the LexisNexis products State Net and Lexis+ and to Quorum. These online tools include laws and related information from the states, territories and U.S. Congress along with other beneficial information. These tools:

  • Allow NCSL staff to search and filter current session and archived legislation, state statutes, ballot initiatives, case law, news sources and more. These capabilities are used by staff to respond to research requests submitted by legislators and legislative staff, Foundation members, the media and others. From July 1, 2020, through June 24, 2021, NCSL staff responded to 3,499 research requests from members, media and others.
  • Assist staff in creating up-to-date analysis, identifying trend information and providing 50-state comparisons for legislative reports, LegisBriefs, State Legislatures News articles, blogs, webpages and other media.
  • Power NCSL’s publicly available legislation databases, which track, categorize and analyze legislation on various topics. The databases average 59,000 visits monthly and are among the most visited NCSL webpages, allowing users to access legislation summaries, bill status and links to up-to-date bill text.

The Bill Information Service (BIS), powered by State Net, is NCSL’s bill-tracking tool for members. Through NCSL’s website, legislators and legislative staff can search for legislation in all 50 states, the territories, D.C. and Congress. The BIS webpage was visited 20,324 times in the last year, and over 300 legislators and legislative staff registered for monthly trainings. NCSL is committed to looking for new ways to integrate the benefits of these research tools into services for our members.  

Revenue Benchmarking Survey—$27,500

NCSL’s recently completed strategic plan encourages the conference to explore new revenue to support activities that meet the organization’s mission. This grant will fund a consultant to collect data from similar organizations, including the other members of the Big Seven state/local groups, about revenue-generating options. The consultant will also research other nonprofit associations and the literature to identify as many funding-stream options as possible for NCSL’s Executive Committee to consider. 

Seminar for Emerging Leaders—$82,500

This award supports NCSL Leaders’ Center efforts to develop and deliver programs, services and materials for new and emerging leaders throughout fiscal year 2022. The main deliverable will be an event in December to bring emerging legislative leaders together for experiential professional development to prepare them for future leadership. We will follow up with the attendees to keep them engaged with NCSL and aware of additional opportunities and learning programs. 

Strategic Plan Materials—$14,300

The NCSL Foundation funded the strategic plan over the past 18 months. As NCSL prepares to roll out the result of that work, the organization’s goals need to be publicized over the next three years. NCSL believes it is important for state legislators, legislative staff and supporters to have a complete understanding of the organization's direction and to understand how NCSL will meet the constantly changing needs of legislators, staff and others.  

This award allows NCSL to create compelling and easily understood materials and graphics to convey the goals and tactics of the strategic plan and how NCSL will accomplish them. The document will be shared widely with all NCSL stakeholders so that progress on the four primary strategic goals and tactics can be monitored by everyone. The materials will be ready before the 2021 NCSL Legislative Summit.

Website Platform Upgrade—$137,500

The award will provide resources to upgrade NCSL's website platform. The current system is showing strains of its age and must be moved to a higher-level platform, which will allow for greater capabilities to display data and communicate information to members.

Objectives and Goals

Interactive and Engaging Website. NCSL seeks to change its web platform to include an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that allows website visitors to find information quickly and easily regardless of the device they are using. The solution should also be easy for NCSL staff administrators and content creators to maintain. It should streamline business operations and increase productivity. 

Research-Based Design. NCSL seeks a platform that meets the unique needs of its community. A vendor will employ a strategic research-based and data-driven process to gather input, define expectations and design a consistent, user-friendly navigation framework for the website that meets the needs of all users. 

Responsive Site. A wide variety of devices are used to access websites, including desktop computers, tablets and smartphones. NCSL’s new platform should automatically detect the screen resolution of any device and respond with a view of the site that is optimized specifically for that screen. This will ensure that all users will be able to use the website effectively.

Accessible Site. The new website should comply with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (Level AA compliance) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In addition, the vendor should follow best practices, voluntary standards and guidelines developed by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and train NCSL staff in creating accessible content.

Evolutionary SaaS Solution. The vendor’s hosted Software as a Service (SaaS) content management solution should be in a state of constant evolution and improvement. The annual subscription fee should cover ongoing support plus monthly updates and improvements to existing features of the CMS and incorporate new enhancements and features over time. This will enable NCSL to adapt to an evolving marketplace and for the site to continually meet customer needs.

Simplify and Streamline Administration. The solution will:

  • Simplify website administration, allowing users of all skill levels to update assigned sections of the website.
  • Streamline business operations and reduce the amount of time IT spends on enhancing and maintaining the site.
  • Allow for the easy creation and posting of maps, graphics and videos.

Young and New Professionals—$16,500

This award supports the Young and New Professionals (YNP) ancillary group, which is composed of legislators and legislative staff who are either young (40 and under), newly elected and/or otherwise new to the legislative environment. The YNP mission is to engage, educate, and support the state legislative leaders of tomorrow through targeted professional development, networking opportunities and recognition. The group seeks to provide opportunities for networking, professional development and learning for its members. Award deliverables will be a networking reception and professional development session at the 2021 Legislative Summit in Tampa, Fla. and webinar, or webinar series.

Total Awards: $2,191,200