Written by Rachel Morris

Request a Reasonable Scope – ask for something that will get you past a hump or technical sticking point, or which will set your organization on the path to larger plans. This might be as simple as “We need to be able to accept credit cards for donations on our website” or as complex as “Our WordPress site hasn’t been updated in 5 years so it’s been hacked. We need it cleaned up before we can update it.” We would love to give you the moon – we’d love even more to provide a successful end result.

If you’re not sure your request is right for GiveCamp, consider proposing two or three things that would have an impact, prioritizing them in terms of need. This also helps the staff match up resources – if it turns out your first choice project would need a programmer type we don’t have, your second choice may be the perfect fit for our design team, instead.

Have Realistic Expectations – be aware that even with a straightforward request, your project may not be or feel “complete” by the time GiveCamp ends, and that you will need to pick up the reigns wherever it leaves off. Remember, the volunteers are committing to just this one weekend’s work. Many of them would love to give more time to you and your causes, but when you find people as talented as you will at GiveCamp, you’ll also find they tend to be majorly overcommitted already. While they GiveCamp work some major miracles during the weekend, some projects need more than two days’ thought and development – after all, if it were easy, you’d have gotten it done already. Besides, if you come in with pie in the sky expectations, how will we wow you by doing even better than you anticipated?

Come Prepared – This is the most critical aspect of getting the most out of GiveCamp. If you haven’t been here before, it’s hard to realize just how much we want to hit the ground running. The more you can do to be able to say “Yep, I’ve got that…” when your project manager asks, the faster your team will get to the heavy duty work on your project. Hopefully you and your Project Lead will have a chance to talk enough before the weekend that you have more specifics about what to bring, but here are some basics that will be useful for almost any project:

  • Bring your own laptop with wireless – we will put you to work!
  • Bring a thumb drive with key images, documents, copies of your website content, etc.
  • Include high resolution images of your company logo(s)
  • Have a Word document with all your key business contact information – address, how to make out donation checks, key contact names, board members’ names and contact information – pretty much any basic details you’d hand over to a potential big donor who was asking about your group
  • Phone numbers and emails for you and anyone we may need to contact on short notice during the event, including your technically minded people, if you have any. This is especially critical if someone empowered to make all decisions for your group is not staying on site all weekend.
  • Passwords for your website or other tools if we’ll be working on them
  • Copies of any databases or other files we’re supposed to be improving, if that’s the kind of project we’re doing for you.
  • Concept notes you may have made about your project – for example, do you know what you need to have on your new website? Types of content? Sense of mood? Colors relevant to your themes? If these things aren’t critical to your project, or if you are totally open to anything, this is less important, but it saves us time if we know things such as “you can design any logo you want for the website, so long as it’s in our existing color palate of neon pink and goldenrod!”
  • A copy of your mission statement – maybe multiple copies, one for each member of your assigned team. We want to know what the goal is at the highest level, so we can support it with all our development might!

Participate! – Someone from your organization should be on site for as much of the event – this single item will go the furthest towards a successful GiveCamp experience for the charity. Your team will be working almost around the clock for you, and it would be a big waste of time to have them held up waiting for an answer, or have you come back on day two to have you say “Oh, that’s not what we were looking for…” If you can’t have an on-site representative for the majority of the event, please at least have someone who can make decisions and get critical answers available by phone, between 10 am and 10 pm or more. It also means a great deal to the developers if you are “in the trenches” beside them…preparing content, mapping out plans for post-GiveCamp maintenance, and so on. Don’t forget, there are also some great panels you can attend during the event.

Plan a Post-Camp Transition– You’re going to get something as a result of our intensive weekend of work. It may only be a shell of a completed project – your new website may be set up but lacking in content. The database may be modeled but not have all the user names in it yet. You may need to take the new logo you’ve been given and get it printed on business cards and letterhead. It could feel a little bit like someone’s just handed you a new baby and said “Here! We don’t have an owner’s manual, but you know, it’s a kid…just take care of it!”

If you work with your Project Lead closely, however, you can come up with some action items for you and your staff to make the most of what comes out of a GiveCamp weekend. As you get towards the end of the weekend, be sure to sit down and make a list of the technical details you need to know. New passwords, new service providers, web addresses that are important to you, software that may be unfamiliar to you. Possibly ask for some help finding good resources to learn more about the new software – does your team need to take a WordPress class? To watch some videos about how to administer the new CMS your site uses? Perhaps you’ll need to find a developer to pick up where GC developers left off. Be sure to get advice as to what kind of skill set they should have, and what you’ll need to hand over to them to keep your project moving.

Be Ready for a Tiny Bit of Post-GiveCamp Letdown – GiveCamp is adrenaline pumping. It’s intense and exciting and feels like you’re leaping forward past obstacles like they were nothing. We’ve had charities tell us things like “We were considering closing down before we came to GiveCamp – you’ve changed all that in a weekend.” At the same time, there could be a little post-even let down. You realize the web site isn’t quite as finished as you’d hoped – you have lots of content cleanup still to do. It’s not as easy for you to take over maintenance as it seemed when you had someone next to you, guiding your work that weekend. You have questions but not enough answers and don’t know where to turn. Maybe some of your team even said “Just email me if you have problems…” but you may or may not be getting timely replies. (Remember, as much as we’d like to keep helping out year round, there’s a reason this kind of intense but limited commitment giving appeals to many of us.)

Instead of looking at what didn’t get done, remember to look over what did. In one short weekend, your charity has had help equivalent to literally thousands of dollars’ work in the “real world.” (Based on industry consulting rates, one of the projects from last year would have billed out at about $20,000 between staff and software donated!) Hopefully, a more solid foundation has been laid down for whatever you next need to do. Go over your post-camp transition plan and work it. If the project really isn’t complete enough, look into getting either volunteer or paid local developer help to keep it moving. If it’s not what you really wanted, or it doesn’t work as planned and you can’t afford to finish it now, don’t feel obligated to use it or keep the work just because it was a donation. If it’s most of the way there, but there’s not a rush to finish it, think about coming back to next year’s GiveCamp and asking for a continuation of the work. Lots of our participants are repeat requestors, either for new or ongoing projects. Ultimately, do what works best for you – Your charity’s needs still come first, and that’s ok!