Overnight Website Challenge Evolving
I’m writing to talk a bit about The Nerdery’s community service approach and to dispel (at least slightly) the myth that Mike Schmidt and I have retired to a life of leisure since turning over the CEO reins to Tommy O last month. In addition to our duties at Prime Digital Academy and The Nerdery, this transition has also given Mike and I more time to think about ways that we can support the organizations with our time. We intend to spend some of this time in 2016 evolving how we build community in development circles while giving back.
Since The Nerdery’s first Overnight Website Challenge in 2008, volunteers at this annual 24-hour community service initiative have freely given more than $6 million worth of professional services to 175 nonprofit organizations in communities where Nerdery Nerds live and work. This a tremendous record, and we’re so grateful for the friendships we’ve formed over these several years of long weekends, and all who’ve supported us along the way.
The Web Challenge is a Nerdery initiative, born and bred within our walls, but one of the things I’ve always found most exciting about it is its ability to mobilize the larger development community — inside and outside The Nerdery — to give back in a way that they are uniquely suited to do. For me, this has been one of the most important aspects of the event. I love that we have been able to give software developers that unique opportunity, and I’m looking forward to many years of continuing to make that possible through the Web Challenge or other Nerdery Foundation initiatives.
A basic website remains tremendously valuable to a nonprofit, but during our Web Challenge’s lifespan The Nerdery has drastically changed. We have evolved into a company whose focus and capacity goes well beyond creating basic websites for smaller organizations, having evolved into a more sophisticated, full-service custom software design and development company. While The Nerdery has been evolving over these years, another big change has happened with the birth of Prime Digital Academy. Now, in addition to all of the great and talented folks here at The Nerdery, we’re also sending 18-22 new software developers into the wild each and every month. Through the success of both companies, we’ve expanded our reach in this industry and are even more connected to the software development community than ever before. The evolution of these two organizations makes me think that it’s time now to explore an evolution of our philanthropic focus as well.
We’re considering piloting new and different tracks at the 2016 Challenge. Perhaps teams will take on a larger-scale nonprofit organizations looking to do more than just build a new website. Or, maybe something completely different than that. It’ll still be about doing good – just more about doing all the things we’ve gotten really good at. To purposely plan this evolution, we’re moving the event from spring to fall.
Over the next few months, Mike Schmidt and I will be working towards both restructuring the Web Challenge event and also formalizing The Nerdery and Prime’s philanthropic arm – The Nerdery Foundation. As part of this process, we’re planning to launch a number of focus groups and a steering committee to help us identify opportunities to make the challenge more impactful for our communities and more engaging for the software developers participating. We’ll have our steering committee in place by end of March and are looking for a few volunteers to help us make these important decisions. But meanwhile, please share your thoughts on how the Challenge could evolve. We can do so much more with our nerdy powers; the “why” is because we should – but what should we do – and, with our new resources and abilities, what can we do now that we never could have done when the challenge was born? Ideas, please. Your thoughts can help more nonprofits level-up in new ways, and help nerds change the game in corporate philanthropy. Again.