Charity Hackathon Underway in Des Moines

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- At around 7 p.m. Thursday night, 10 local nonprofits received their biggest gift of the year, a more efficient way to connect.

The 3rd annual dsmHack Charity Hackathon provides technology solutions for area nonprofit organization at no cost. It helps them restructure their websites and organize their networks to run more efficiently.

The participants this year include Des Moines Public Schools, Animal Rescue League, and Iowa Public Radio.

“This can be a game changer for these nonprofits selected,” said Kim Wall, President of dsmHack.

Organizers connect the nonprofits with a group technology specialist for 48 straight hours. In that time, they work as a team to solve their technology issues. In the past, they have developed apps, revamped websites, and improved networks.

Projects can vary in cost but every year they estimate that $100,000-$150,000 is donated in labor cost. Last year dsmHack brought together over 80 developers, designers, and innovators throughout the weekend to help.

Mary O’Connor with Teens Against Human Trafficking was a participant last year and before she was selected her website was struggling.

”Well it was made by a mom. So the mom thought it was awesome but it wasn’t really resonating with the teens. The teens are our demographic, that’s who we are trying to reach,” said O’Connor.

Before her group was selected for the Hackathon, she priced out getting her website revamped and it ranged from $8,000-$15,000.

Many of the volunteers will continue to work with the non-profits after the event is over but it’s not required.

“Our site was designed and built completely during the hack. Also, they created an electronic produce log app for my mobile devices,” said Ralph Chiodo, Forrest Avenue Outreach. “The team is still working with me on some things. Also they designed all new logos for us at the hack! It is a great event for both the techie volunteers and the nonprofits. Everybody wins.”

The improvements made during the Hackathon are ones that change the long term prospects of the nonprofits.

“So a donor looks at your website or potential investor looks at that and says, ‘Well, maybe I’ll just give this another year. Maybe, we’ll catch up with this organization and see if they are still around in a year,’” said O’Connor.