DSM Charity Hack Nonprofit FAQ

Guest post by Matt Hauge, Communications & Marketing Director at Community Housing Initiatives, Inc.


The Des Moines Charity Hack is back, with a second 48-hour event planned for February 26-28, 2015, in a new location at the Gravitate co-working space in Des Moines.

The event supports greater Des Moines’ non-profit sector using the “hackathon” concept to create solutions for all sorts of technology challenges organizations face. Participating non-profits start the event by describing their technology challenges to a team of about 80 developers, designers and project managers. Then the participants divide up to form teams of about 8-10 people who will spend the next 48 hours intensely working to build a solution for the nonprofit.

Applications are now being accepted for participating nonprofits at the dsmHack.org website through February 13.

Below the jump, Matt Hauge, who serves on the board of Urban Ambassadors, an organization that participated in 2014’s hack event, has answered some questions about participating in the event. We also recommend checking out this great report from Kristin Huinker, another participant in last year’s event.

What is dsmHack and why should our nonprofit participate?

The Des Moines Charity Hack (dsmHack) is a two-day event that brings together an incredible range of technology experts to help advance your organization’s mission. If you have had a website, database, or other technology problem but lacked the skills, money, or time to get started with a solution–well, your dsmHack team will knock your socks off with how much they can help.

What kind of projects can we submit?

dsmHack offers your nonprofit two days of service from an incredible team of talented tech pros–for free. We encourage you to dream big and submit the project you’ve always wanted to see happen.

Example projects include automating paper processes like volunteer registration or creating web forms to use instead of paper forms. Your team could help improve and modernize your organization’s website. They could help clean up your organization’s database of donors, or or use it for a new purpose, like sending e-newsletters.

They can also help create new ways to engage your donor and client communities. Last year, one team developed an innovative e-card solution, and another team developed a fun game to educate donors about the organization’s mission.

At the event, everyone’s goal is making sure nonprofits leave with a successfully completed project they can use right away. The dsmHack organizers do their best to admit nonprofits whose project ideas can be reasonably accomplished in the 48 hour timeframe of the event, and they may suggest that you consider alterations to your project to boost its chances of being a success. Also, once you meet your project team, you’ll be able to agree with them what’s reasonable with the time and talent available.

So what actually happens during the event?

First of all, you’ll build your team. When tech participants arrive at dsmHack, they are not automatically assigned to a group, and they may not have heard of the participating nonprofits. That’ll change quickly. Nonprofits are invited to give a short presentation (5 minutes or less! no slides!) introducing your work and your project. Then, participants divide up around the room to form project teams. The dsmHack organizers helps make sure each nonprofit is able to pull together the best team possible for its project.

For a surprising amount of the event, nonprofit participants are able to sit back and relax. Yes, your team will have questions for you, but as long as you’re available to help them out and offer encouragement, they’re hard workers, and they stay focused. At the same time, it’s really fun to get to know your team a little bit and find out what drove them to choose to help out your organization.

At the end of the event Saturday, nonprofits gather and your tech team presents its completed work back to you. For some nonprofit participants, this may be the most exciting and gratifying experience you’ve ever had with technology.

Does it cost anything to participate?  What’s required?

There is no cost to nonprofits to participate in the dsmHack event. At the same time, your organization is responsible for software, equipment, web hosting, and similar costs associated with your project.

Your project team works incredibly hard for you during the 48 hour event–and they actually pay for the privilege of working for you. As a result, participating nonprofits are expected to follow certain guidelines for participation.

Nonprofits are asked to have a representative on-site for the first four hours of the event Thursday, over the lunch hour Friday and Saturday, and for the last two hours of the event Saturday. (You are welcome to stay longer!) It’s also necessary to have someone from your nonprofit on-call to answer questions from your team throughout as much of the event as possible–yes, even in the wee hours.

The dsmHack organizers do their best to admit nonprofits whose projects can reasonably be completed in the 48-hour time frame of the event, and your project team will do everything they can to make it happen. However, the organizers are not able to guarantee follow-up support for projects after the event. It will be your responsibility to agree with your project team whether they are able to continue their volunteer service after the event. That’s why taking time to get to know your project team members and talk about their interest in the organization is so important.

Have more questions or want to sign up?  Head over to dsmHack.org for more information or to contact the organizers.

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