When we volunteer our time, we often want to do it not only for causes we are passionate about, but also in a way that uses our best skills. For instance, teachers or parents may want to volunteer to help immigrant children learn English; writers may want to tutor students; doctors may want to travel to help in clinics around the world.
But what about technologists? Many organizations need IT, coding, or website help, and that's only going to increase as technology redefines the nonprofit world. Let's look at some ways techies can get into volunteering and use those great computer skills to help others.
Join a community
Finding others who want to use their tech skills for good is a great place to start. One possibility is Catchafire, a platform that matches talented people with causes they are passionate about. Basically, you pick a topic you care about, like "black male achievement," "maternal health," or "animals," and then pick what you're good at. It could be "data analysis, "digital marketing," "engineering," "web development," or a range of other fields in technology. Catchafire helps you find a project to work on from there. It may be remote or in person, one-day long or several months long. It shows you how much money you're helping save by donating your technical skills, and you get to practice those skills in the process.
Find a charity
Hashtagcharity is a relatively new platform that allows small or large nonprofits to list their IT needs, and then find talent to assist them with various projects. The company matches the nonprofit with the appropriate IT team, and once volunteers commit to solving the problem, hashtagcharity helps support the project while it's in the works. They find new talent if volunteers leave, and they offer tips and advice during the process.
Another example is MakeaDiff.org, which crowdsources tech talent instead of money to get organizations help with their IT needs. It's currently in its pilot phase, but you can sign up for the newsletter to be notified when it goes live.
Attend a hackathon
Reallocate is an organization that provides a community for people who love technology to come together and use their skills to build a better world. The organization hosts hackathon events called "Hacktivations," which are for building technology to help social ventures and nonprofits. Last year, they had one called "Hacktivation for the Homeless," which brought together nonprofits with volunteers to address technical challenges that they would not otherwise be able to afford. Reallocate also has a platform for organizations to post projects they need technical help on, so they can collaborate with individuals looking to give their time.
There are also other events every year that allow people to hack for social good. Check out Codeniti, which runs out of India, organizations that hack for charity, or conferences throughout the year that have hackathons for social good, like SXSW every March or the Social Good Summit Mashable hosts in the fall.
Check with your employer
Earlier this year, Microsoft launched Tech Talent for Good, which matches Microsoft employees with technical expertise with nonprofits that often lack adequate staff and tech training. The program also donates $25 for every hour an employee volunteers.
Not long after Microsoft's announcement, Apple decided to launch its Global Volunteer Program, alongside the matching donation campaign that the company has been running for years. And Intel has Intel Involved, which matches employees' technical talents to various projects around the world that they can help with.
Ask your employer if they have a program similar to these, and you may find that you can donate your tech talent to a good cause.
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Lyndsey Gilpin has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Lyndsey Gilpin is a former Staff Writer for TechRepublic, covering sustainability and entrepreneurship. She's co-author of the book Follow the Geeks.