As The Nerdery Foundation prepares to mark a decade of Overnight Website Challenges in the Twin Cities, the organization is expanding its mission to help nonprofits with NerdKind, a service that matches “nerds” of various specialities with nonprofits that need their services.
Since 2008, the Nerdery Foundation’s Overnight challenges have matched technologists with local and national nonprofits for a 24-hour-long tech marathon of coding, building and problem solving. Local nerds have donated their time and services to more than 200 nonprofit organizations over the last 10 years, according to Nerdery Foundation executive director Ginger Bucklin.
It’s a popular event for nerds and nonprofits alike, but faces two keys issues: organizers of the challenge receive around five times more applicants than they can serve, and not every skilled, able-bodied nerd wants to sit in one place and work for 24 hours straight.
In order to meet these demands, The Nerdery Foundation built NerdKind, a platform for tech pros to donate their services pro bono to a cause or organization they support. Nerds can lend their expertise to small tasks, like adding a social media button, or larger projects such as building a portal for donations and volunteers.
“The nonprofits are just amazed that this is available,” Bucklin said. “The most frequent question we get from them is ‘Are you sure it’s ok I can sign up for this?'”
Bucklin pitched the idea at Minnedemo during Twin Cities Startup Week in October. The site is in currently in beta, and made its first official nerd/nonprofit match earlier this month. A more formal launch is planned for the spring to coincide with the yearly Overnight challenge.
NerdKind has the same core mission as the annual event, but with several key differences. One is a greater variety in the pool of nonprofits. Historically, the Overnight Website Challenge has placed restrictions on the types of organizations (usually eliminating those with specific religious or political affliations) invited to participate in the event.
The idea behind this, Bucklin explained, was to prevent participants from feeling concerned about donating their services to a cause they didn’t support. But with NerdKind, users choose which organizations they work with, allowing a greater variety of nonprofits to sign up.
NerdKind also features 15 different categories of high-level skills, including social media and email marketing. Nearly one month after launch, Bucklin said that there are nerds in every category, with around five to 10 signing up every day.
“I’m excited that we built NerdKind not just for that core technology community, but for digital agencies and marketers who have traditionally had an ancillary role at events,” Bucklin said.
Despite full-time jobs and busy schedules, Bucklin said that, in her experience, most technologists are willing to donate their time and talents to a cause they support.
“A lot of times these technologists want to give back to the community in some way, but may not have skills to do certain types of volunteering,” Bucklin said. “They aren’t always interested in extroverted activities like working at a soup kitchen.”