Foundational Changes for Overnight Website Challenge – Here’s Why and What’s Next

Changes coming to the Overnight Website Challenge

tl;dr: Web Challenge coming/iterating; Nerdery Foundation evolving; Ginger Bucklin’s role

I’m writing with an update on our community service through our Overnight Website Challenge and The Nerdery Foundation, including our addition of Ginger Bucklin as Executive Director of The Nerdery Foundation. For the immediate future, The Nerdery Foundation is focused on the next Web Challenge event, but in time the Foundation will take on other initiatives that support its mission to activate the passion and skills of technologists to better our world.

In Mike Derheim’s blog post, he forecasted change ahead for the Challenge and openly asked for advice from past participants – because the Challenge is a community-driven event, by the community and for the community. The Foundation’s focus for the past few months during our “listening tour” was to gather and analyze feedback, define our Web Challenge objectives and make sure they aligned with the Foundation’s mission, and determine next steps.

Listening tour
We held multiple town-hall discussions at The Nerdery and got feedback from non-Nerds at MinneBar and through surveys and many other conversations. Some of the ideas we heard will make it into the next Overnight Website Challenge events, while other ideas may blossom in other future events or as other Nerdery Foundation initiatives. Our “listening tour” has now defined the general direction for 2016, but we still welcome insights from throughout the community and help as we finalize details. Based on feedback, here are some of the key takeaways.

What we heard
Past volunteers and nonprofits told us they believe the Web Challenge has generally been well executed and fun, check. Most agreed that having a time-constrained event serves a practical purpose, although many expressed a desire to serve without having to stay up all night or work 24 hours straight. We heard consensus that focusing on local nonprofits and local community impact is essential, as is service to organizations that otherwise would have no means to afford the level of service we can provide. We heard consensus on the desire for more planning and strategy with the nonprofits, pre-event. Also, people want more ways to participate as volunteers, including roles for more kinds of subject matter experts (SMEs) – and a broader overall focus on technologies beyond just websites. People told us they’d like to see more events in more markets. We heard that competition isn’t what volunteers sign up for or keeps them coming back; they just want to make a difference.

That’s a lot of actionable feedback, and we’ll soon announce the specific next steps we’ll take for the Challenge. We’re grateful for every piece of advice we got from so many people from both inside and outside The Nerdery, including nonprofits and volunteers who’ve participated in our Chicago and KC events.

Foundational steps
The Nerdery Foundation’s Executive Director Ginger Bucklin has played just about every role a person can play at the Overnight Website Challenge. During year one, she and the late Luke Bucklin were general volunteers helping us run the logistics of a first-time event. Ginger expanded her general-volunteer role several more times, but she’s also served as a volunteer on a web team, and another year she advised her nonprofit client (KFAI) before, during and after the event. Most recently, she served as a Web Challenge judge. Luke was a founding board member of The Nerdery Foundation. Through the Overnight Website Challenge, volunteers in communities where our Nerds live and work have donated more than $6 million in professional services to 175 nonprofits  – but in my memory’s ear I can hear Luke still calling this “a good start” just as he did in the humble beginnings of our first few Web Challenge events. Here’s to another good start – a new start – this time with Ginger leading our way.

So that’s what we’ve been thinking, and we’re eager to get back to the actual doing. Stay tuned for the when and where on rebooting our nerdathon for nonprofits, coming soon.

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