Host your own hackathon for social good

The idea for a nonprofit hackathon originated at a WeWork happy hour. I was brainstorming with a few fellow WeWork members about how to get better exposure for the nonprofits we run using the WeWork community. What we came up with was a new use of “hackathon,” but one for social good.

As founder and CEO of Envested (a platform that connects WeWork members to local nonprofits), I love bringing together WeWork members and the nonprofits they can help with their unique professional expertise. I’ll share how we pulled it off at WeWork Charging Bull, and perhaps you can get inspired to put on your own hackathon.

Prep work

WeWork nonprofits put specific requests on Envested that could be accomplished in three hours or less. We advertised the hackathon through the WeWork network, flyers around the space, and a presence at other WeWork events. We also allowed people to drop in during the event.

Each nonprofit had their own conference room to host volunteer hackers. Envested and WeWork facilitated check-in, food, and drinks in the common area. Members started in the main area, then spent time with the nonprofits they were best suited to help.

The results

The Boaz Organization for Youth walked away with a plan for creating an app to connect unaccompanied immigrant or refugee youth to services and resources in NYC. They even got the first five simulation pages designed and found someone to develop the app for them beyond the hackathon!

Afrika Tikkun met a WeWork member who works just a few offices over that has actually spent time at their center for youth in South Africa. They’re having lunch this week and believe something great is going to come out of that connection!

GlamourGals got a mockup of an interactive map they want to include on their website showcasing where to find GlamourGals chapters.

All participating nonprofits got exposure and awareness with a broad range of WeWork members in their building. And, best of all, multiple WeWork members told us they would come back if we did another hackathon.

Do These 3 Things

Thinking about putting on your own hackathon? Do these three things.

  1. Give them enticements they can’t resist – Go above and beyond basic snacks and drinks. All participants at our event received two drink tickets and open access to an ice cream sundae bar.
  2. Know your audience – Help nonprofits structure their asks according to what members have to offer. Since most nonprofits have a wide range of projects they need help with, why not cater to the skills available? Ask WeWork members what they know and can offer, then share that information with nonprofits to create hackathon projects.
  3. Use your time wisely – Send detailed and specific instructions to volunteers before the event to maximize time spent volunteering. You can also have an “onboarding” session the day before where nonprofits get 30 minutes with volunteers to explain the project and their mission before the actual hackathon.

Happy hacking!

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