Coding for Charity

I’m definitely getting away with something here.

I code for fun. (I also code for work; it’s a good life.) On any given weekend, I’m likely to be developing software, pushing on some new technology, plugging bits into breadboards, you know how it is. Turns out, this hobby is highly valuable to charitable organizations. I can spend the weekend doing what I was going to be doing anyway, and meanwhile get credit for Doing Good Works.

It’s a karma racket. You can get in on it, too.

Multiplying your reach

GiveCamp is a great venue for exercising your skills for good. If you’re in my neck of the woods, please sign up for the Central Texas GiveCamp, October 18 to 20. If you live elsewhere, check for a GiveCamp near you, or use the resources on their website to start one.

Last year’s CTX GiveCamp was the highlight of my year. My team built a time-saving data collection form for TexVet, an organization that connects military veterans with support services and mental health resources. I have long felt that our nation under-serves our veterans, fails to help them come home and climb back into a normal life. Lets them down. A weekend of my time hardly makes up for it, but it was something. It was something I could do, something only a very few of us have the skills to do. Something that matters.

Because here’s the thing. You know how easy it is to set up a WordPress site? Well, it’s easy because you live on the internet every day, you eat and breathe this stuff. It is intimidatingly opaque to most people. You have rare skills. Valuable skills. Conservatively, say your time could be billed at $100/hour. Your GiveCamp time is a Friday evening, a Saturday, and some of a Sunday, plus a little meet-and-greet with hors d’oeuvres ahead of time—maybe 20 hours? So that’s a donation of $2,000.

But wait. Because GiveCamp is a coordinated event, not just a cash donation, you’re combining the talents of a whole team of developers. Four of you? $8,000. But it’s more than that, because the GiveCamp organizers have met with the charities ahead of time, to frame and scope the projects to set you up for success. And it’s more than that, because you’re doing work for something you care about, and you’re awesome.

Walkathons, 5Ks, and donation drives provide important benefits to the charities who organize them, and I’ve participated in these. But I’m happier when the time I spend on a thing has a direct benefit. Habitat for Humanity and the Green Corn Project let me make something tangible to help people in my community. But I’m a pretty incompetent carpenter. Websites, on the other hand? That, I can do. That I can do like a champ.

Coding for charity is where my donation has a blossoming, multiplicative, lasting effect.

Altruism shmaltruism

Number 6 on this list of scientifically proven ways to be happier is to help others. So there’s that.

Join us

There’s room for you on our GiveCamp team. If you’re wondering if your skills are applicable, they are. Most people don’t live on the web the way we do. Even when you have to Google for answers, you have the foundation that lets you understand the answers. Last year my team of four C#/ASP.NET developers muscled our way through building a custom Drupal plug-in. (There might even have been a bit of “writing C# to emit PHP.” C’mon, we only had a weekend!)

CTX GiveCamp needs designers, developers, web people, quality assurance engineers—passionate nerds of all stripes. We’ve got a spot for you. Please sign up.

About Sharon Cichelli

I am a Principal Technical Lead at Headspring, developing enterprise-changing software and coaching teams to deliver value without death marches. I am a .NET developer, open-source contributor, user group organizer, technical blogger, pinball fan, and Arduino enthusiast.
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  • Perry Jefferies

    You’re really good with this framing thing, you know?

    • scichelli

      Aw, thank you, I’m flattered. Y’know, I was just gearing up for a slightly nerve-racking conversation with a potential client, back in one of our conference rooms, and sitting there is the framed letter from you, praising my work on the TexVet project. Just the atta-girl I needed before that phone call. :)

  • I very much want to do the CTX GiveCamp event. But I am not entirely sure I will be able to make this date as we are doing a major release around that time frame. I am 80% sure I will be able to commit to this event. So my question is – is this a once a year thing? Or do you / can you do this more often? I feel like there should be a routing system for programmers to get routed to those companies whose sole purpose in life is doing good. Say howdy to Alonso for me!

    • scichelli

      Thank you for being interested and for being so thoughtful that you would only commit when you were sure. (I know, in your head you say, “But, of course!” Nevertheless, thank you, that’s awesome.)

      I checked in with the CTX GiveCamp organizers, and they would be delighted to have you join us! We have plenty of work, and room for more devs. If you want to wait to sign up until you’re more sure, you could probably delay that decision until October 11. They’re just trying to plan the right amount of food.

      Other possible events:
      Check the list on Looks like there’s a Houston event on April 4.
      VolunteerMatch, to search for all kinds of opportunities:
      KUT’s Get Involved list:

      I’ll wave at Alonso for ya!

  • Neha Bollepalli

    Hello Sharon,

    I am interested in contributing at the Give Camp, but not sure if I will be able to commit the entire weekend. Is it possible to contribute if I can attend only on Saturday.


    • Sharon Cichelli

      Hi, Neha. I’m so glad you’re interested in contributing. Since teams are forming up and making plans ahead of time, it might be difficult to jump in in the middle and duck out before the end. But if you’d like to visit on Saturday, to see what it’s like and cheer people on, you’re very welcome to stop by.