Web Hackathon to Benefit Nonprofits
Web Hackathon to Benefit Nonprofits

Webspec, a consortium of online services professionals based in Urbandale, Iowa, is holding “What the Hack,” a “hackathon,” or weekend-long gathering. During the weekend, volunteer software and web designers, developers, content writers, search engine optimization experts and other tech specialists will donate their efforts to solve a variety of online needs for select Des Moines metropolitan area nonprofits, as well as provide digital marketing strategy advice.

The hackathon will take place during the weekend of Sept. 24-26.

The upcoming weekend marks the inaugural effort of what the company hopes will be an annual event. “I can’t think of a better way to commemorate 20 years in business. We are very excited to finally see this charity event come together and give back to the community!,” said Webspec Founder and CEO Jeremiah Terhark via a statement.

Qualified organizations were selected from 501(c)3 applicants that submitted descriptions of the types of web tools and help they desired. The developers and nonprofits will not be meeting blind on the weekend of the hackathon: in the weeks leading up to the event, each nonprofit was asked to devote six to eight hours to meetings with Webspec representatives to further flesh out their needs.

Webspec is in the process of winnowing down participants for the hackathon. Current plans call for three or four finalists to join a team of 20 developers, marketing strategists and content providers, Webspec Director of Marketing Glenn Martin told The NonProfit Times. Potential finalists include a few nonprofits in the mental and public health sphere, as well as one in the public arts arena, Martin added.

The event will take place at Webspec’s office. As part of the 48-hour marathon, the organization will open its kitchen, offices, conference rooms and lounge spaces to the developers and a roster of representatives from already-selected nonprofits. Webspec will be supplying food and drink throughout the weekend. The teams will showcase their solutions at the end of the event.

The organizers are guardedly optimistic the event will take place despite rising coronavirus concerns. “Depending on how things look closer to the event, we will make a final call,” Martin said. “We are fully capable of holding the event remotely. Our first concern would be the nonprofits’ [representatives’] health and safety — if they are uncomfortable coming to the event, we’re happy to do things over Zoom. But we are planning on having at least some employees working in the office, as we do currently.”

While representatives from the various nonprofits who do choose to attend will not be required to stay for the entire event, plans currently call for the tech consultants, as is appropriate to hacker culture, to work either late into the night, or to pull at least one all-nighter.