2018 NAGDCA Award Recipients

The Leadership Recognition Awards recognize excellence and innovation in retirement plan design, participant education, technology, and/or effective communication methods in government defined contribution plans.

Projects and campaigns from NAGDCA government members were eligible for nomination. NAGDCA’s Awards Committee served as judges to review 50 submissions across the Participant Education and Effective Communication, Plan Design, and Technology and Social Media categories. NAGDCA’s Participant Engagement Committee served as judges to review 9 submissions across the two National Retirement Security Week categories. The 2018 award recipients and details about their projects can be found below.

Participant Education/Effective Communication

Bay Area Rapid Transit

BART IPC Retirement Plan Enhancements

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Investment Plans Committee (IPC) partnered with ICMA-RC, third-party record keeper, to make improvements to the BART 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan (voluntary contributions) and 401(a) Money Purchase Pension Plan (employer contributions). The enhancements were designed to make investment choices easier for participants using three investment paths, offer participants more diversified investment options within the second tier “Help Me Do It” path, increase transparency of plan fees and investment expenses and provide education about the expanding options to help participants understand changes.

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Fall Enrollment & Increasing Contribution Campaigns

CalSTRS Fall Enrollment and increasing contribution campaigns primary goal was to increase participation and contribution rates in Pension2® to help put CalSTRS members on a better path to retirement security. Getting our members to save for the future isn’t easy, especially when they automatically contribute to their defined benefit pension plan. In addition, school districts have numerous voluntary savings plans to choose from, making it even harder for Pension2® to stand out. To assist members with this process we developed our campaign to be fun and engaging with the theme “Pension2® can take you where you want to go” using images of people enjoying retirement activities. We will look to build off the momentum by continuing to communicate with our membership to educate them on the need to save for retirement and how Pension2® can help them reach their retirement goals.

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Common Wealth of Massachusetts

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Stay the course. Stay SMART
In May 2017, the Massachusetts 457 Deferred Compensation SMART Plan sought to educate and encourage employees who may not be aware of their option to retain their retirement accounts at retirement or when changing employment. The campaign objectives were to reduce the amounts of full withdrawals and encourage consolidation of outside retirement accounts into the SMART Plan by highlighting the advantages of the SMART Plan, such as potentially lower fees, access to local advisors and personalized service, a variety of investment options, and valuable online resources. To promote this, the Commonwealth launched a multi-channel campaign featuring a variety of communication tactics, including a website banner, an email, a newsletter article, and an educational flier. Overall, the initial results included 124 fewer distributions (full or partial withdrawals) and over $7,662,293 less money leaving the SMART Plan compared to the same three-month period from the previous year. The email campaign also yielded an open rate of 47.2% and click rate of 7%, both above industry standards.

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 Employee Retirement System of Texas (ERS)

Texa$aver 401(k) / 457 Program – Texa$IZE Your Retirement Campaign

In an effort to bring attention to the summer enrollment period (June 21 – July 26, 2017), ERS created and launched a custom, educational, informative and unique campaign to encourage both contribution increases and automatic contribution increase elections. The Texa$IZE campaign inspired participants with the idea that “bigger is better” in Texas; not just for boots, hats and toast, but also for retirement planning and saving with the Texa$aver 401(k) / 457 Program. The campaign demonstrated to participants how over time, things like families and financial responsibilities tend to get bigger, so their retirement plans need to keep pace with their growing needs. The campaign also showed that if participants want a retirement as big as their Texa$IZED dreams, they should increase the amount they save in the Texa$aver program above the 1% or $20 minimum and set up an automatic contribution increase to ensure their savings get Texa$IZED through regularly scheduled increases and compound growth. To make the Texa$IZE Your Retirement campaign even more relevant to participants, the targeted campaign tactics were created with different illustrations for men and women so each gender could envision how their dreams and retirement savings could become Texa$IZED with the Texa$aver program.

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State of California

Targeted Increase Campaign – Driving Account Action Through Generational and Seasonal Messaging

Savings Plus executed a targeted, generation-specific increase campaign that drove an overall response rate of 21.57%, generating over $16.5 million increased contributions, equating to over $192 million in annualized increases. This increase campaign targeted participants who recently received pay increases, and to enhance response rates, further segmentation included generational and seasonal breakdowns. The creative used in these tactics included imagery and copy that portrays a fun, active, and exciting lifestyle California participants enjoy.

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Technology & Social Media


403bCompare Website

403bCompare.com is an online tool created and maintained by the CalSTRS Retirement Readiness Division. CalSTRS Retirement Readiness Division aims to educate our membership on assessing their complete retirement picture. California’s public school employees are burdened with an overwhelming amount of 403(b) options that typically carry egregious fee structures and are aggressively marketed. 403bCompare is the only comprehensive 403(b) resource for California public school employees providing them with the information and knowledge they need to make informed investment decisions.

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State of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Deferred Compensation (WDC) Program – Personalized Roll-in Emails and Videos

On December 14, 2017 and February 16, 2018 the Wisconsin Deferred Compensation (WDC) Program – in partnership with Empower Retirement – educated participants on the benefits and importance of rolling in outside assets to their WDC account using technology and digital communications. The personalized and targeted roll-in emails and videos were co-branded with both the WDC’s and Empower’s branding to provide confidence and security for current WDC participants. The targeted demographic consisted of participants who had not rolled in outside asset into the WDC since enrolling. Each email was personalized with the participant’s name in the subject line and body of the email copy, and the email linked to a personalized video with participant-specific information, such as their name, date of enrollment, estimated years from retirement and their estimated income in retirement. To further project the benefits of a roll-in, the video also provided a projected income in retirement if an outside asset was added to their current retirement savings in conjunction with the power of compound growth.

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Maryland Teachers

Expo Mobile Application

MSRP’s annual Financial Savings Expo featured a new mobile app to enhance the expo experience by providing: a map of exhibitors and seminar locations; the seminar schedule; remote access to expo educational content; website and contact information for all exhibitors; the ability to schedule consultations on the day of the expo (or at a later date); notifications before, during and after the event; one-click MSRP account access and a theme supporting Maryland tourism.

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RetiremenTrack Redesign

In 2011, MO Deferred Comp teamed up with ICMA-RC to create the award-winning RetiremenTrack calculator. This tool is specific to the state of Missouri and uses an employee’s personal information to develop a custom savings forecast that takes into consideration their pension, social security, the deferred compensation plan and other savings. After 7 years of use, deferred compensation plan staff decided it was time to upgrade the calculator with a new look and simplified design. After a year’s worth of work by MO Deferred Comp, ICMA-RC, and the calculator vendor, the once multi-page calculator has now been condensed into a single page, is responsive/mobile friendly, includes detailed help icons and explanation pop-ups, and uses MO Deferred Comp’s updated branding.

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State of Hawii

Custom Site Redesign with tablet Functionality + Aging Booth Experiment

Launched a re-design and upgrade to State of Hawaii’s custom plan educational website with access and functionality for Mobile/Tablet viewing – included a new integrated login to streamline account access. Participants can bookmark the web page which adds the website icon (similar to an app) for instant access to the custom website. PLUS, Aging Booth Experiment: It can be hard to imagine ourselves in years to come, so we treat our future selves as strangers. The good news is, now that we understand this tendency, we can do something about it. Participants at a recent Benefits Fair took the time to see their “future self” at the fair by using the Aging Booth Experiment to show how they might look in 30-plus years.

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Plan Design & Administration

Active Choice Implementation

The City and County of Denver 457 Deferred Compensation Plan implemented an “Active Choice” enrollment process for both new employees and as part of Open Enrollment for current employees. In addition, we made contributing to the Plan the default selection, which meant the employee would have to make an “active choice” to not contribute to the Plan. Finally, we made the content on the 457 Plan election page more aspirational and positive. These process tweaks helped the Plan to realize a 56% increase in our average monthly enrollments and gain 8.5% of the non-participating employees in one Open Enrollment period.

During 2017, the City of Milwaukee Deferred Compensation Plan (“Plan”) conducted automatic enrollment for new hires. This was the first full year of conducting automatic enrollment for new hires, which began in October 2016. If an employee took no action, they would be automatically enrolled at a 3% pre-tax contribution rate, invested in an age-corresponding target date fund. In addition, building off of the success of the City’s first re-enrollment campaign in October 2016, conducted as part of the Plan’s transition to Voya Financial®, the City conducted a second re-enrollment campaign in 2017. An Account Elections and Enrollment Period was held from October 9, 2017 to November 10, 2017, during which default provisions would apply, including: automatic re-enrollment at 3% of pay and automatic contribution increases to 3% of pay for those saving below 3%. Employees and Plan participants could make changes to these elections if they did not want to be impacted by one or more of the new Plan defaults.

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VIP Retirement Dinner

The Monroe County Deferred Compensation Plan launched its first annual VIP Retirement Dinner to engage high-balance separated plan participants. Data analysis identified that a significant portion of plan assets were held by high-balance separated/retired participants over the age of 50. To mitigate the risk of asset roll-out the plan designed and hosted a VIP dinner for this target audience to educate them on the benefits of the plan and to show their continued participation is valued. The event was well received and helped contribute to a 17% decrease in roll-outs, a 33% increase in roll-ins and a 10% growth in website views.

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San Mateo County

San Mateo County – Investment Diversification

San Mateo County evaluated their plan data and noticed there were a large number of plan participants invested in the stable value fund. We decided to implement a strategy to help participants move their investments out of the stable value fund into more diverse investment options (such as target date funds). The program was a huge success – we witnessed a decrease in stable value holdings and broadened diversification among plan participants.

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Optional Retirement Plan Online Election

The Virginia Retirement System’s (VRS) Defined Contribution Plans department worked in partnership with VRS’ Technology, Training, Customer Relations and Public Relations departments to develop, communicate and educate select employers and newly hired eligible employees on a new online tool for choosing between a defined contribution 401(a) optional retirement plan and the applicable VRS defined benefit plan, including the Hybrid Retirement. The goal of the ORP online election enhancement is to create a secure and robust online experience that provides a newly hired employee with appropriate tools and resources needed to assist in making an informed decision about their retirement plan options. Launched in December 2017, the secure online election feature was designed for newly hired political appointees of Commonwealth of Virginia state agencies offering the defined contribution Optional Retirement Plan for Political Appointees (ORPPA) and faculty employees of institutions of higher education offering the defined contribution Optional Retirement Plan for Higher Education (ORPHE). The successful launch of the ORP online election process had a positive impact on plan administration for the employer and VRS, as Plan Sponsor. The online election process also significantly benefits eligible employees as the enhancement provides online tools and resources that can be accessed 24 hours/7 days a week, including a plan comparison calculator to view projected retirement income based on choice of retirement plan options, a provider comparison tool, a compare plan feature based on answers to key questions and select plan functionality that automatically interfaces with other VRS enterprise systems and third-party provider platforms.

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National Retirement Security Week – General Campaign

City of Austin Deferred Compensation Plan NRSW/Increase Contribution Campaign

Starting October 15 through November 19, 2017, the City of Austin Deferred Compensation Plan combined their open enrollment period with National Retirement Security Week (NRSW) as a way to educate and inform participants that being enrolled in the deferred compensation plan and increasing their contributions could get them closer to their retirement income goals. The timing and reasoning behind combining these two major events was crucial as many City of Austin employees would be receiving a pay raise in December 2017. During the time period of open enrollment and NRSW, the City launched an increase contribution campaign to encourage participants contributing at the minimum level to take advantage of the raise in their paychecks by increasing their contributions in the plan. Open enrollment meetings also informed eligible employees of the importance of being enrolled in the deferred compensation plan as this could help them bridge the retirement savings gap so they could reach their retirement readiness goals.

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Retirement Expo ’17 presented by PERS and OSGP

To celebrate National Retirement Security Week (NRSW) 2017, the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and Oregon Savings Growth Plan (OSGP) hosted an all-day event at the Salem Convention Center and then traveled across the State for “road shows” to state and local government employees. The Convention Center event featured informational sessions to educate attendees on saving, retirement, Social Security, ID theft protection and more. The local events focused on bringing greater awareness about PERS and OSGP to attendees. The events combined to present to more Oregon employees during NRSW than ever before.

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State of Florida

National Retirement Security Week

The State of Florida Deferred Compensation Plan celebrated National Retirement Security Week the entire month of October at 28 benefit fairs and through emailed and mailed flyers split into 3 age groups. The Plan also provided promotional items at these events.

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National Retirement Security Week – Your Whole Story

National Retirement Security Week: Your Whole Story

This campaign leveraged NAGDCA’s National Retirement Security Week 2017 Campaign during and leading up to National Retirement Security Week (Sunday October 15 – Saturday, October 21) to promote the San Francisco Deferred Compensation Plan via a multi-touch strategy that includes: emails, flash cards and a promotional poster.

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Wyoming Retirement System – Your Whole Story campaign

In October 2017, Wyoming Retirement System (WRS) began a participant communications campaign that leveraged NAGDCA’s “Your Whole Story” theme and materials. The goal was to use National Retirement Security Week (NRSW) to drive improvement in participation and deferral rates. The campaign lasted for a week, and employees received messages each day with actions to complete, as well as opportunities to attend in-person events. The campaign was very successful and drove higher participation and deferral rates.

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NAGDCA Media Award

NAGDCA Media Award


The National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators, Inc. (NAGDCA) is pleased to announce The Morning Pulse as the recipient of the 2018 Media Award. The award recognizes the digital media company for its outstanding cumulative coverage of pension and retirement issues affecting the defined contribution community. NAGDCA established the Media Award in 2001 as a way of recognizing members of the media who demonstrate a dedication to reporting pertinent news content that is of interest to its members.

“NAGDCA is first and foremost a community, sharing information among its members to improve retirement programs throughout the United States. The Morning Pulse seeks to be an extension of that community, providing news and content daily so that readers can make the best decisions possible in the roles that they currently serve. This award is shared with everyone in the community: the Board, the members, all of the The Morning Pulse subscribers, my colleagues past and present and my fellow contributors in the media and on The Weekly Pulse podcast for their tireless commitment in working toward ensuring public employees and all Americans have the ability to achieve financial freedom and independence at retirement,” said Jeff Snyder, Founder and CEO.

The 2018 Media Award was presented to The Morning Pulse during NAGDCA’s annual conference, held on September 23-26 in Philadelphia, PA.