Techies and creatives pool their talents to help 19 nonprofits at GiveCamp

Since 2010, coders, developers, graphic designers and social media experts have come together on the LeanDog barge for a summer weekend. They gather for Cleveland GiveCamp – a nationwide program to help non-profits with the technical projects – websites, apps and development jobs -- they couldn’t otherwise afford to do.
This year, on July 17-29, 200 volunteers came out to complete 19 different projects. “We did a lot of websites,” says organizer Amy Wong. “A lot of non-profits can’t afford $10,000 to $15,000 for a website. Absolutely no one gets paid to do this. It’s probably one of the most organized, professionally done events around.”
There is an organizing committee, project troubleshooters, project managers for each project, general volunteers and social media pros making sure each challenge is met by the end of the weekend.
All of the 19 projects help worthwhile causes, says Wong. But two particular projects stood out this year. Veggie U, an organization that teaches nutrition education to elementary school students, wanted to develop a game to teach third graders healthy living education. Nineteen GiveCamp volunteers, including a 3D animator and five people with game development experience, developed Veggie Worms.
“As a small nonprofit we would never have been able to afford the expertise required for a specialized application like this, as our funds are required for operations and getting our program into elementary and special needs classrooms,” says Vicki Jenkins, Veggie U marketing manager. “It's always been a goal of ours to involve parents in our program and let them know what their children are learning in school. We felt a game that could be played together and discussed at home would be both fun and educational.”
Jenkins was thrilled with the game and the volunteers. “GiveCamp was an intense, exhilarating experience. I personally learned quite a bit and met some amazing professionals,” she says. “Without their help we never could have considered a custom game.”
Volunteers for a project for the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, which encompasses 29 gardens and eight gardens in development along MLK Boulevard and East Boulevard in Rockefeller Park, built an app for visitors to navigate the gardens. The app uses GPS to help users to find a particular garden and then provides information about it.
“The app is terrific,” says Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation (CCGF) board member and GiveCamp volunteer Dan Hanson. “It lets anyone with a PC, tablet or smart phone access the map and plan a trip in advance or, if at the Gardens, use GPS to determine location and where they want to go next. Once we have all the data entered, a visitor will be able to stand in front of a statue and the app will use GPS to let them know which Garden they are in, which statue they are looking at and some details about each. “

Hanson says GiveCamp was quite an experience. “The three days were long and intense but working with the GiveCamp volunteers was a blast. They were tremendously talented and dedicated. The app they created is not just for the CCGF – it is for the entire city and region. Locals and visitors can all now maximize their visit to this unique destination.”
Eight developers and a geo-mapper worked on the CCGF project. As an all-volunteer organization, the Gardens would not have been able to develop the app without GiveCamp.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.