Cleveland GiveCamp celebrates ten years of helping nonprofits

On Friday, July 19, 188 volunteers flooded the Burke Lakefront Airport for Cleveland GiveCamp’s tenth year in the city, ready to rebuild 18 nonprofits’ websites over the course of one weekend. Some volunteers even opt to take the title literally and pitch a tent.

Although GiveCamp is a national organization, it did not exist in Cleveland until 2010. Inspired by Ann Arbor’s GiveCamp, Jim Gorjup, Jon Stahl, and Andy Craze set up shop in LeanDog and Burke Lakefront Airport and welcomed over 100 volunteers to the first annual Cleveland GiveCamp. Ten years later, the strong volunteer base holds steady, attracting a wide variety of local talent, the majority of which are just starting their careers, offering a way to gain experience in the field.

Ty Evans, a first-time volunteer, talks about the advantages Cleveland GiveCamp offers for both volunteers and nonprofits: “It’s been a great opportunity to meet new folks and network a bit, and also to partner with some of the local organizations. To really understand what they do, how they help in the community, and be able to provide assistance to them.”

The view from LeanDog for Cleveland GiveCamp's 10th AnniversaryEvans’s group revamped GardenWalk Cleveland’s website, a nonprofit that offers free tours of gardens in Cleveland neighborhoods such as Fairfax, Old Brooklyn, and Slavic Village. “Nonprofits are here to serve the  community in some capacity, so it’s nice to take the local resources and expertise and provide free resources,” Evans says.

Quite a few volunteers who attended the first Cleveland GiveCamp have attended all ten years of its existence in the city. Stuart O. Smith, Jr. and his son, Michael, attended Cleveland GiveCamp back in 2010 because they thought it sounded interesting. When they arrived, they “found out that Cleveland GiveCamp organizers at the time had so many volunteers that instead of just being on the LeanDog boat, which was actually a smaller facility at the time, they had to call the city of Cleveland and [get] permission to use the [Burke Lakefront] Airport,” Smith says. After that first year, Smith joined the Cleveland GiveCamp steering committee and now donates his time year-round.

Cleveland GiveCamp has helped about 200 nonprofits over the 10 years it has been in town. From arts groups to homeless advocacy organizations, the camp has seen all types of Cleveland nonprofits come through, including Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, SPACES, and Lake Erie Ink. Although most nonprofits opt for a website rebuild or refresh, Cleveland GiveCamp volunteers have built games, completed database projects, and even designed mobile phone applications.

One of the nonprofits receiving assistance this year – The Cutting Board Academy – focuses on educating children, their families, and communities on food literacy and nutrition education. Cleveland GiveCamp volunteers redesigned their website and added search functionality to the recipes page. Founder and Executive Director Tiffani Sutton was grateful for the Cleveland GiveCamp experience. “GiveCamp showed me things I did not know I needed in terms of awareness for our organization,” Sutton says. “Meeting the people alone – meeting those experts – is absolutely invaluable.”

The Cutting Board Academy was also one of the recipients of the Craze eCool Award, a cash prize given to select nonprofits in honor of one of the Cleveland GiveCamp co-founders, Andy Craze. The yearly award was created after Craze and another volunteer, Jim Evans, passed away.

Smith points to the strong nonprofit sector in Cleveland as one of the main reasons Cleveland GiveCamp is so sustainable. Moving forward, he says one of their main goals is to attract nonprofits who do not know Cleveland GiveCamp exists, including some with no Internet presence. The steering committee continues to urge nonprofits to tell other founders to spread the word as this yearly event grows. “You take [Cleveland’s] strong technology community, marry it with the volunteerism history of this community, and GiveCamp was born gloriously with the largest turnout for a first-time GiveCamp in the nation,” says Smith. “From looking at what other GiveCamps have shared on social media and their websites, we believe we continue to be the largest GiveCamp.”

With Cleveland GiveCamp’s tenth anniversary in the books, the organization is looking forward to many more years helping nonprofits in Cleveland. “We have the greatest volunteers and greatest donors that make it possible,” Smith says.

Read more articles by Rebecca Ferlotti.

Rebecca Ferlotti is a freelance writer and was the project editor for FreshWater's On the Ground - Fairfax series.