A couple weeks ago, several employees from Bloomerang participated in Indy Give Camp, a weekend-long event to provide area nonprofits with custom software solutions. The event is a chance for Indianapolis-area tech professionals to donate their time and skills to help out organizations that otherwise couldn’t afford to replace their aging websites or address other software needs.
Team Bloomerang worked with Outside the Box, an organization that helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. After some recent staff changes, OTB didn’t have anyone with the knowledge needed to maintain and update their existing website.
Working with designer Joel Smith from Design on Tap, the team discussed the needs of the organization and brainstormed ideas for a new website that would be clean, easy to maintain, accessible on mobile devices, and provide easier access to the information needed by visitors. Then we set to work installing a new site, designing and customizing it for OTB’s needs, and moving content from the old site to the new one.
Friday night was mostly spent creating the site’s layout and moving the initial set of content from the old site to the new one. By Saturday the basic structure was in place and we got to work customizing it to match the look of Joel’s design and starting work on “nice to have” features like an event ticketing module and online donation widgets. (Unfortunately, Outside the Box doesn’t use Bloomerang, so they couldn’t simply generate a donation widget in our system.)
By Saturday night, we were feeling pretty good, with only a little polishing left to do. We decided that the time had come to replace OTB’s old site with the new one, so that we would have time on Sunday to sort out any problems related to the transfer. Unfortunately, we got a nasty surprise when one of our team accidentally misspelled the new site name during the transfer process, making it impossible for us to login to the new site or the old one! The team was under a bit of stress as we looked for a workaround, but we eventually managed to manually edit the site’s configuration files in order to fix the problem.
All of us were a bit groggy on Sunday morning after our late night working on the site, but our spirits rose over the course of the morning as we rushed to finish the site in time for the final demo. We even had an exciting down-to-the-wire finish as we fixed a bug related to the site’s mobile version just seconds before the coordinators called “time!”
Indy Give Camp was a great experience for us as developers and for all the organizations involved. It’s really amazing what can happen in a short time when a group of people gets together and really focuses on a single problem. It also goes to show that donations of time can be just as effective as financial ones, perhaps even more so. Over the course of one weekend, the various programmers and designers involved with Indy Give Camp donated services that would have been valued at over $50,000 if they were freelance contracts. That’s money that can now be used by the organizations to pursue their actual missions!
Give Camp is not an Indianapolis-only program, either. I would highly encourage any organizations in need of custom tech solutions to look for a Give Camp in your area. And if you happen to be a philanthropically-inclined geek, try volunteering for a weekend. It’s an intense, tiring experience, but it’s well worth the effort!