DSM Charity Hack FAQ

The Des Moines Charity Hack (June 12-14) will support our social sector using the “hackathon” concept to benefit the social sector. A Hackathon is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.


Local nonprofit organizations seeking a tech solution to their challenges are encouraged to submit a proposal by June 1, 2014. Projects will be selected by June 3 and the event will take place June 12-14 at Startup City.

We asked the organizers if they could provide a few more details about the event and some examples of projects nonprofits could request.

Here’s the F.A.Q. via Dwolla’s Max Farrell:

Why was dsmHack created?
There is a wealth of technology talent in the Des Moines area and amazing nonprofits that continue to help Central Iowa win awards as one of the country’s best place to live. In an effort to team great companies, their resources and the nonprofits of this community, we’ve created this event to bring the best of both worlds together.

From June 12-14, these two groups will come together to build and implement tools to make the area’s nonprofits operate more effectively so they can continue to focus on doing good.

Through this event, we will learn a significant amount about the needs of local organizations and how we can work together to make this community stronger!

This is the first year we are putting on the event. We are all learning as we go.

Why is there a $20 cost to participate?
There is no cost or commitment needed from the charities other than a little bit of time. We’ve got some wonderful sponsors who are going to cover the expenses of this event. We may be in a position to contribute some nominal funds to help sustain the solutions as well (i.e. web hosting).

There is a nominal cost for developers to attend. It’s $20. This is mostly just to make sure they have some skin in the game. We want to make sure participants sign up and show up.

Why should my non-profit organization submit to be involved?
With organizations constantly operating on a tight budget and with limited talent to work with, processes often become paper-heavy and labor intensive. We want to help you change that. Submitting your charity for this event will provide the opportunity to work directly with technology professionals that are always creating efficiencies. Great tools will be built or improved for your organization and you will learn a tremendous amount!

Why are developers participating?
The tagline for dsmHack is “build.learn.give”. We want to use this time for our developers, designers, project managers and business minds to apply their existing skills to people who need them. The event will provide food, beverages (caffeine + beer), a cool t-shirt and a great chance for tech minds to work with other peers in the community and learn new skills.

What if I can’t code? Is there a role for non-developers?
We will need designers, project / product managers, business minds and any other creatives to work with the organizations to make sure their needs are not met – but exceeded! You will add substantial value to any team.

What happens during the event?
Technology professionals will arrive on Thursday night to mingle and hear the pitches from nonprofits about what needs they have. From there, teams will form around the needs of the organizations.
Over the next 48 hours the participants and organizations will hack their hearts out! There will be food served, snacks, beverages, great camaraderie and a tremendous amount of learning/building. The event culminates on Sunday with presentations of what the teams created and then a post-event happy hour!

Will the projects be finished at the end of the event?
dsmHack’s goal is to have all projects completed by the end of the event. Depending on sponsor contributions, we hope to have funds allotted to provide limited support to projects that need it.

Do we have to build something from scratch or can we implement pre-existing tools?
We encourage both! Some organizations are needing a new solution created, while many are using pre-existing software and they need help implementing or optimizing it to continue being productive.

What are some example projects?
Digitize paper processes
-automate volunteer registrations
-move paper forms online
-build web based system to track clients
Improve website
-accessibility of the site
-create a landing page for an organization
-create responsive redesign
-migrate website to a new hosting provider
-SEO help for existing web pages
-upgrade website to newer version of WordPress / Joomla / Drupal etc.
-create online and / or mobile giving portals
-donor management
-centralize database
Improve existing systems
-make CRM more effective
-streamline calendar functionality
Database improvements
-build a staff development database
-centralize database information
-create a database search functionality

And anything else! Shoot ideas to us at [email protected]

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