GiveCamp Memphis Demonstrates How Vibrant Memphis’ Tech Community Is

This weekend, GiveCamp Memphis—a weekend-long event where local developers and designers get together to build software for non-profit organizations—was held at CoWork Memphis in Cooper Young. This marks the event’s sixth year and the second year I’ve had the honor of participating as a volunteer. Seven non-profit’s, including Volunteer Odyssey, The Overton Park Conservancy, and Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, applied for help and saw amazing results in the form of software developed for them by some of the best software developers and designers in the city.

Volunteers develop software for non-profits at Give Camp Memphis 2016 - Photo by Brad Montgomery
Volunteers develop software for non-profits at Give Camp Memphis 2016 – Photo by Brad Montgomery

Volunteer Odyssey’s mission is to “connect volunteers with their ideal volunteer experiences and to tell those stories.” A core component of that mission is an interactive on-line opportunity-calendar that was developed last year at GiveCamp Memphis. This year, Volunteer Odyssey returned prepared with some new feature requests based on feedback from the people who use the calendar. The entire original team re-assembled to work on the project despite the fact that one member was in China and one was in Japan; they were in the room all weekend via video-conference. It’s also worth noting that one of the star developers on the team is only 17-years-old. All of the new requirements were implemented beautifully—and then some—and the city is better for it. Countless volunteer organizations and volunteers rely on this software—well, countless until now: one of the new features that was added to the calendar this year was comprehensive analytics that Volunteer Odyssey can use to track all sorts of information about how the calendar is used.

Representatives for Citizens to Preserve Overton Park (CPOP) were interested in developing an app based on a botanic study that was conducted in 2009 that recorded all the plant life in Memphis’ first park. Surprisingly, Overton Park Conservancy (OPC), which had applied for help with a completely different project, shared a similar interest and actually had some existing work that could be used for the app. The result was a really cool app that maps plant life in the park and allows users to submit their own encounters through an existing open source dataset. As a big fan of the park, seeing GiveCamp provide such an awesome opportunity for CPOP and OPC to work together was a personal highlight. GiveCamp delivered for OPC, as well; a new scheduling application will allow the OPC to manage reservations of park amenities—its primary source of income—paperlessly and much more effectively than before.

The team I was on worked with a non-profit organization called People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws (PERL) to completely overhaul a WordPress site that was originally built on an IPad. PERL is a “public policy, advocacy, and communications organization dedicated to ending institutional practices that effectively decriminalize sexual assaults, and on reforming the criminal justice system to prevent further injustice.” In addition to a complete site redesign and with tons of enhancements and optimizations under the hood, PERL got a new visual branding identity, with a collection of new logos, and professional advice about content structure and strategy. Prior to GiveCamp, the site owners had lost control of the site hosting but we were able to clone the site and secure-hosting through RackSpace is now being provided for free by GiveCamp. We also threw in MailChimp and Google Analytics integration and training so the site administrator can hit the ground running.

Other projects included a paperless gift card referral management system for the Cancer Card Exchange, that will completely change how the program is managed; and a tenant management system built for Midsouth Sober Living.

As a volunteer, I enjoyed spending the weekend with other techies doing what we all love for a good cause fueled by great food and an endless supply of candy, snacks, and caffeine. The best part, though, was listening to the representatives from the non-profits sharing their experiences during the final presentations. Each non-profit was amazed by what had been accomplished in just a couple of days, thrilled with the results, and grateful the software that will empower them to better serve their purpose.

At the end an organizer mentioned that one of the challenges they faced is bringing in applications from non-profits because it seems too good to be true: How can we get custom software in a couple of days for free? What’s the catch?
As one volunteer pointed out, “this is what we do for fun.”

GiveCamp Memphis would not have been possible without these awesome Sponsors
rht      capital-c-logo   MTF      rackspace   COWORKLogoSmallRedDotweb2003oobbq PAAY-logo2

If you are interested in other events like GiveCamp or you would like to find out more about the local tech scene in Memphis, visit Memphis Technology User Groups on Meetup.com or visit the Memphis Technology Foundation Website.