There are fewer than 48 hours now until the start of GiveCamp, and with my first run to BJ’s Wholesale Club behind me, I officially declare us in the home stretch! Unless I’ve forgotten something incredibly vital, this will be the last mass e-mail before we convene on Friday evening.
Please do read (or file away and read) this in its entirety before you make the trek to the event; and, if you find you can’t make it after all, please let us know with a quick e-mail to email@example.com.
In no particular order, some items to be aware of:
1. We’ll start registration at 5:30 p.m. That doesn’t mean you need to be there at 5:30 p.m. sharp. There’s typically a bit of congestion both with the arrival of our campers and the conclusion of other events in the space. Food should arrive about 6 p.m., and we’ll get ‘officially’ started around 7.
2. Remember there is free parking in the building (1 Memorial Drive) and ‘free’ starts at 4 p.m. on Friday evening. The closest public transportation stop is the Red Line Kendall/MIT station about 2 blocks away.
3a. If you’re coming in early and would like to lend a hand setting up, there will be host of random tasks to do beginning at 11 a.m. If you do plan to, just drop me a quick note with a rough estimate of when you’ll be around (firstname.lastname@example.org).
3b. If you’re coming in early and would rather take in a few sites in the area, please do so! If you have gear you’d like to drop off, you can bring it to the 1st floor of 1 Memorial Drive and then explore.
4. There are shower facilities on site for those of you staying overnight (or those of you who just like to feel clean and fresh ). There is NO TOWEL SERVICE, so bring your own or prepare to drip/spin dry.
5. Repeat campers know we have some fairly nice raffle prizes at the end of the event. This year will be no different; however, while everyone attending will get one ticket, we will be SELLING additional tickets (at $1 per ticket) with 100% of the proceeds going to your choice of The One Fund or MIT’s Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund.
6. Flexibility is key! While Kelley and I try our best to accomodate everyone’s strengths and preferences for the weekend from projects they want to work on, to people they want to work with, to food allergies, we’ve yet to do it perfectly, so do ask that you go with the flow and we’ll make every attempt to address things that come up.
7. If you have ANY questions between now and the event, please send a note to email@example.com and I’ll answer as soon as possible. I will be out and about for the next two days with last minute details, so if it’s really urgent, give me a call on my cell (ed: redacted phone number so Jim doesn’t get spammed mercilessly; check the email you got).
You’re going have a blast and make an incredible impact for some amazing organization this weekend! The best thing you can do to prepare is get some rest – because that ain’t gonna happen after 5:30 on Friday
Safe travels to those from both far and near!
Jim O’Neil (and Kelley Muir)
New England GiveCamp co-chairs
I struggled over the opening of this e-mail for well over an hour, as if I somehow needed to acknowledge the shock, sadness, and disbelief we’ve all experienced and even to apologize for the mostly mundane details that follow in this note. There’s no easy way to get back to “normal” here, but of all the events that I’ve been involved in, I can’t imagine one more meaningful and timely than what you will be participating in this weekend.
Before I get into the some of the logistics of GiveCamp, I want to let you know that we are working on some ideas to pay our respects as a group to the victims of last week’s tragedy. I’m aware too of the Last Mile in the works for 2 p.m. on Saturday. A number of you have mentioned you’ll be there, and I suspect quite a few of your fellow attendees will be heading over to Kenmore Square as well. If one or more of you have additional ideas or want to coordinate our presence at Last Mile, let me or Kelley know.
Now for some of the logistical details:
0. If your plans have changed, and you can’t join us for the weekend, do let us know as soon as you can by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you know of others who might be interested but are ‘on the fence’, we definitely have room for additional volunteers!
1. The project leads for each of our non-profit organizations have been named, and many have already been in touch with the organization they will be helping. If that hasn’t happened yet, it should within the next day or two.
2. For the designer and technical volunteers, we hope to announce assignments late Wednesday, but do have patience in both timing and the assignments themselves. As we get close to the date, some registrants have to withdraw because of conflicts, and we’ll often get a few others sign up a day or two ahead. “Flexibility” is key here, and will be all weekend!
3. We are planning to start registration at 5:30 p.m. at the venue – 1st floor of One Memorial Drive, in Cambridge, and there will be food! The formal program doesn’t typically start until 6:30 or 7 p.m. though, so for those of you just leaving work or facing rush hour traffic, you don’t need to stress about getting there right at 5:30.
4. There will be free parking in the garage at NERD, One Memorial Drive, all weekend, but the free parking does not begin until 4 p.m. on Friday. You’re welcome to park in the garage before then, but the normal charges for the day will be in effect (daily parking is $27 and, of course, most of that gets put up front for the first hour or two).
One Memorial Drive is on the corner of Memorial Drive and Main Street in Cambridge, right on the Charles River by the Longfellow Bridge. The entrance to the garage is to the left of the building on Memorial Drive. If you are coming East on Memorial drive you will need to exit left off of Memorial Drive (at the Kendall Square exit sign) – BEFORE the Longfellow Bridge – onto Wadsworth Street and loop around onto Main then back onto Memorial Drive westbound to enter the driveway to the garage.
5. Some of you have asked about helping set up before the event. I can definitely use extra hands, but will put out a separate note in a few days, once I get a better idea of what needs to get done on Friday.
6. For those of you staying at NERD overnight, you’ll have access to shower facilities in the gym as in the past; however, there is no towel service, so be sure you bring your own.
7. I’ve received a few requests for hotel recommendations. The closest, about a block or two away, are the Boston Marriott Cambridge and the Kendall Hotel. The Royal Sonesta, Hotel Marlowe, and Liberty Hotel are within a 15 minute walk. There are numerous other options further out (and typically cheaper the further from Cambridge you get). The Hyatt on Memorial Drive has traditionally had fairly reasonable rates (for the area) and is about 1.5 miles away.
If there are other questions you have as you’re making your preparations for the weekend, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at email@example.com or call at 508.517.3668.
See you soon,
New England GiveCamp co-chair
We are excited to announce the organizations that will be present at the 4th Annual New England GiveCamp:
- Tutors for All, Boston, MA
- Third Sector New England, Boston, MA
- CareerVillage, Boston, MA
- Rock & Roll Library, Boston, MA
- IPV Tech, Walpole, MA
- Children’s Charter, Waltham, MA
- Transition House, Cambridge, MA
- Emerge, Cambridge, MA
- The Needham Community Farm, Needham, MA
- The Esplanade Association, Boston, MA
- EV (Earthen Vessels, Ins.), Cambridge, MA
- Community Voice International, Dover, NH
- Catching Joy, Inc., Brighton, MA
- GreenShare Technology, Hartford, CT
- Call and Response Foundation, Montpelier, VT
- Seacoast Educational Endowment Dover for 21st Century Learning (SEED), Dover, NH
- Seacoast Local, Dover, NH
- Sustainability Guild International, Dorchester, MA
- Future Chefs, Boston, MA
- Charles River Conservancy, Cambridge, MA
- Generation Citizen, Inc., Boston, MA
- GVNGTogether, Brookline, MA
- Learning InSync, Cambridge, MA
What I had envisioned as an energizing and upbeat e-mail as we lead up to GiveCamp weekend is now tempered and steeped in sadness given the horrific events today in Boston. As Bostonians and New Englanders we are all profoundly affected, and I do hope that each of you, your friends and your family are safe and sound in the wake of the tragedy.
As the events of the day have sunk in for me personally, they have strenghtened my own personal resolve that we can and must make a difference, and I do hope that you too will continue in your plans to join us at New England GiveCamp on April 26-28th.
We have just over two dozen area charities that will be benefitting from your expertise, and we are still seeking a few more volunteers. As a registrant, you’ll be receiving a few more emails over the next two weeks to keep you updated on the event.
Each of those e-mails will also include a reminder (like this!) to please let us know if/when your plans change and you cannot attend. We will be making initial staffing assignments for each of the teams over the next week, and as part of a small dedicated team it’s important we have an accurate roster of those attending. A ‘no-show’ profoundly affects the team to which that volunteer was assigned, so if you do need to cancel, it’s ok, but do just send a quick e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or go into EventBrite and cancel your ticket.
If you have any questions as the event draws near, email@example.com is the place to ask! I’ll be putting out some more specific and logistically focused e-mails as we draw near – regarding things like parking (yes, it’s free all weekend and in the building), arrival times, overnight options, etc.
I’m looking forward to reuniting with past campers, meeting new ones, and most of all experiencing the tremendous positive energy that we all so sorely need at this moment.
New England GiveCamp co-chair
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!