Bringing on Support for the 2018 Legislative Sessions

I’m excited to announce that Miles Watkins, a fellow member of the Open States core team, will be working on the project professionally during 2018’s most legislatively-active months. Between now and late March, Miles will dedicate most of his work week to supporting Open States, especially by improving scraped data quality and building out the infrastructure of the new openstates.org and the geospatial components of the API.

Open States had no paid development staff in 2017, and our success relied on over a thousand volunteer hours from Miles, myself, and the rest of our contributors. Having Miles on board for the flood of work that comes with the 2018 legislative sessions will be huge for our users and the overall health of the project. Dedicated staffing means that bugs, user requests and feedback, and our big upcoming system enhancements will all be dramatically accelerated. In contrast, at the start of the 2017 legislative sessions, all scraper fixes and data corrections had to be performed on personal time, outside of our day jobs, and in some cases lagged much longer than we would’ve liked.

Miles will be providing the core team with daily status reports, conferring weekly with myself regarding our project-wide plans, and sharing regular retrospectives on this blog between now and the end of March.

Funding and sustainability

Miles’s time, as well as our continued existence through 2017, has been made possible by our many donors. Additionally, we’ve received an infrastructure grant from Amazon, a Google Summer of Code scholarship, and office space from the WeWork Creator Awards. We’re grateful for all this support, and always encourage community members like yourself to contribute on our website at any level you’re able to.

However, Open States still lacks the funding to sustainably hire any staff, much less seasoned developers.

Miles left his full-time job to help ensure the success of Open States during the 2018 sessions. But frankly, we’re not able to pay him a living wage, much less a salary comparable to developers at other nonprofits. Open States lacks the finances to sustain any staffing at even this greatly discounted rate for more than a few months in a row.

While we’re truly excited we’ll be able to have Miles working on the project for a few months, we do need a long-term solution to sustainability. Open States’ leadership has been actively searching over the past year and continues to do so. In a coming blog post I’ll discuss our thoughts on ensuring Open States’ sustainability (while keeping our data and tools free to users!), but in the meantime, reach out! If your organization would be able to help fund Open States, you have contacts who might be able to, or you have experience with fundraising or foundation outreach, we’d love to hear from you! Shoot us a quick email at funding@openstates.org, and we can start a conversation.