Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge: Needy-meets-nerdy science experiment continues March 24-25
February 27 application deadline for volunteer web pros (nerds) and nonprofit organizations
Who: The Nerdery seeks like-minded web professionals to join in giving their time and talent to help nonprofits create websites they couldn't otherwise afford at The Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge
Who Else: Eligible nonprofits (501c3-registered organizations in Minnesota) can apply by February 27 by articulating how nerds could help them do what they do – only better – online.
When: March 24-25, 2012; 9 a.m. Saturday - 9 a.m. Sunday
Where: Continuing Education Conference Center, U of MN St Paul Campus, 1890 Buford Ave
How: Volunteer teams self-organize with at least eight and as many as 10 people. Team captains recruit peers covering these skill sets: front-end development; back-end development; project management; strategy; UX; graphic design; copywriting; QA. Nonprofits apply by articulating their vision of how nerds could further their mission through better use of interactive technology. Fans of nonprofits post online testimonials on why the organization they support - or benefit from - should get a new website for the price of a good night's sleep.
- February 27 - Application deadline for nonprofits and nerds (volunteers)
- March 5 – Announce selection of nonprofits and nerds (volunteer teams)
- March 15 – Needy/Nerdy mixer; speed-dating exercise at behest of matchmakers
Why: Considering the collective good nonprofits do, losing sleep to help them is a wise investment – they pay it forward many times over by better serving our communities.
Who Else: Sponsors: Benchmark Learning; VISI. In-kind supporters: Arthouse; Peace Coffee. The Nerdery welcomes like-minded companies as event supporters of this nonprofit nerdathon, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877-OMG-NERD.
Who's The Nerdery? The Nerdery has offices in Minneapolis and Chicago where about 300 self-proclaimed nerds/web professionals partner with creative minds and big thinkers to envision and execute their interactive projects, including websites, mobile apps and social media. During the first five years of The Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge, volunteers have freely given more than $2 million in professional web development services to 66 nonprofits. In 2010 and 2011, The Nerdery ranked #1 on the Best to Work list published by Mpls-St. Paul Business Journal. The Nerdery was honored in 2010 with The Quality of Life Award and The Jefferson Award for its record of corporate philanthropy through The Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge. In addition to Biz Journal’s Fast 50 list, The Nerdery has made the Inc 5000 list of fast-growing privately owned companies for four consecutive years.
Considerably more about The Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge
Application, selection, judging
The application/selection process for volunteer teams is simultaneous with that of the nonprofits, and the number of nonprofits invited selected is based on having a sufficient and corresponding number of qualified volunteer teams. Volunteers register individually and are encouraged to build teams on their own and include all the representative skill sets required to create a website. We recruit volunteer judges from outside The Nerdery to form a committee that selects nonprofits from a pool of applicants. These judges later come to the Challenge to assess development teams’ work. We use judges from outside The Nerdery because several of our Nerds compete as volunteers – we remove any possible Nerdery bias from affecting judgment on which team’s pro bono work is deemed the winner of The Challenge. Independent judges also rule out Nerdery bias in selecting nonprofits. Some judges come from the nonprofit world and some from the interactive marketing world. Judges rate applications based on nonprofit needs and how well they articulate their vision for a better website, if given this opportunity. Along with the nonprofit’s current website, or lack thereof, judges onsider an org’s vision for how they believe that an enhanced web presence can actually help them better fulfill their mission and help their staff/volunteers work more efficiently and effectively. Testimonials posted by constituents, such as volunteers, staff, board members, service providers and recipients, and friends of the organization, etc, provide judges with a more representative, 360-degree view of nonprofits beyond just the voice of person that submitted the application. A simple online scoring system does the math for the judges and automatically creates an overall ranking.
Prior to the Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge, representatives from selected nonprofits and volunteer teams gather to prep for their 24-hour experience. This mixer/meeting includes group Q&A and brief advisory remarks from volunteers and nonprofits with previous Challenge experience, followed by a sort of speed-dating exercise during which nonprofits stay put while volunteers make the rounds to meet with each group. Preparation is crucial for The Nerdery Overnight Website Challenge; while it’s a fun event, it’s also a significant working commitment for all participants. And while web teams won’t know which nonprofit they will work for until moments before the 24-hour countdown begins, as event organizers we want volunteers to use the pre-Challenge mixer to get familiar with what the nonprofits wish to accomplish. And, while no team can choose which nonprofit its volunteers will serve, as matchmakers we take into account feedback from volunteers on how they think their team’s skill-sets match each nonprofit’s organizational needs.
Event day, night, morning after
The actual Overnight Website Challenge event always begins on a Saturday morning and concludes 24 hours later on Sunday morning. Volunteers arrive about an hour early to set up their workstations, and a few minutes before the 24-hour countdown clock begins, event organizers inform the volunteer teams of their assigned, designated nonprofits. During the first hour or so, web developers and designers learn more about their designated nonprofit’s mission and objectives and begin planning a course of action. Nonprofits are instructed to expand upon the website-wish-list they created in their application and to come to the event with a clear vision of what they want, but also an open mind to what their development team can offer. Nonprofits are asked to bring: source materials on a CD, flashdrive or laptop, including: logo and graphics high res images in .jpg files), existing or new (edited) web content, print collateral, marketing materials, and any other materials that touch their audience. For example, we encourage nonprofits to bring in any forms they use, as this can give their team ideas for how to automate some of their processes and help them work more efficiently. We ask nonprofits to bring at least a sketch of a sitemap, and to come with a list of “must haves” and “nice to have” features/functionality requests for the new site. We also encourage them to bring links to websites or pages they like and want to emulate, and while they may not know what is realistic or not to ask their team to tackle, we ask that they rely on the advice of the web professionals at their disposal. We advise the nonprofits that, if their volunteers push back on a request that they don’t feel can be delivered overnight, let it go. Volunteers’ role is to serve a designated nonprofit to the best of their abilities, and, to manage their expectations regarding what’s possible. Whether you’re a nerd or a nonprofit, please don’t try to do too much in 24 hours.
It should be noted that while handsome trophies are bestowed upon the team of volunteers that, in the judges’ opinion, has after 24 hours made the biggest difference to their designated nonprofit, the volunteers are essentially competing for bragging rights. As for the nonprofits, they’ve essentially already “won” just by being one of the nonprofits selected for the opportunity, among a larger pool of aspiring applicants.
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Cell: (612) 850.3178