Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coding for Charity- New England GiveCamp

by Sarah Cortes. One Cambridge nonprofit got a new free website. Another got an overhaul of its database. Last year, over thirty local nonprofits got technical projects implemented for free, completed, delivered and tied up with a bow in 48 hours, thanks to New England GiveCamp at Microsoft. Over a hundred technical professionals from all over the East Coast will gather by the Charles River again April 29-30 for Microsoft Cambridge's New England GiveCamp 2011. They will sleep on floors, camp out in conference rooms and halls and mainly, donate their skills and time to local nonprofits and deliver new websites, databases and other technical projects in a 48-hour whirlwind.

Four nonprofits who benefitted from free projects last year and/or who hope to will participate this year talked about what the experience was like for them and their organizations. David Adams and Katherine Vetne from Emerge, a Cambridge nonprofit, Jessica Brayden from Respond, Jay Sun from The Goodness, and Sean Hewens from Smallbean liked the fact that while participation is concentrated in 48 round-the-clock hours, at that point a project is entirely finished and delivered. A more conventional approach might spread the work over smaller pieces of weeks or months.

Jim O'Neil from Microsoft is one of the Robin Hoods organizing this concentrated transfer of technology wealth from the skill-rich to non-profits who have few resources to pay for an increasingly essential service element for nonprofits, their technology. What he sees is the intense friendships that develop over the weekends confined in close quarters with sometimes frenzied focus on technology delivery. Many technical professionals continued to donate their time and skills to "their" nonprofits for weeks and months after GiveCamp closed, supporting their creations and their new friends and causes.

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