GeekCause, which matches Nashville’s most talented techies with community partners in need of their services, has a new home at Hands On Nashville! GeekCause provides a low-cost platform for agencies to solve tech-based challenges through the support of skilled volunteers.
Monica Weiss-Sharp, HON’s GeekCause project manager, took some time to answer questions about the program.
What’s your background and how did you get involved in GeekCause?
For the past five years, I was the Practice Manager at a veterinary hospital in Franklin. I oversaw all areas of daily functioning (patient care, customer service, staff support), and helped guide the practice through tremendous growth, from two to six full-time veterinarians. At the practice, I had the opportunity to learn about and troubleshoot all sorts of tech solutions, from digital X-ray systems to practice-management software.
For four of my five years at the veterinary practice, I was also pursuing a master’s in social work with a focus on Organizational Leadership. During the final year of my degree program, I had the opportunity to intern with Hands On Nashville. I worked on many different projects, including some initial research and planning around how to bolster skills-based volunteerism.
My strengths definitely lie in the realm of guiding ideas toward becoming a concrete realities, and I’m looking forward to applying those strengths to support the successful completion of GeekCause projects.
How does GeekCause work?
GeekCause connects talented tech volunteers with nonprofits who need their support. Then I serve as a guide for both throughout the process. It is super easy both for volunteers to sign up and complete their skills profile and for nonprofit organizations to submit projects to us. From there, I review the project to make sure it’s a good fit for a volunteer to work on, and make a match with a volunteer whose skills line up with the project’s needs. I remain connected with the project from kickoff to close-out to help ensure success. In the end, the nonprofit gains a new capability and the volunteer has the satisfaction of knowing that they have helped strengthen their community.
Why might an organization need a GeekCause volunteer?
There are so many possibilities here! It could be something as simple as needing a consultation to discuss possible tech options and solutions. It could be training on systems or software. It could be reviewing an organization’s website to maximize search engine optimization or developing a data-security and backup strategy.
What kinds of techy projects are a good fit for volunteers?
The key here is making sure that an organization has done the prep work to ensure the project is truly ready to move forward. This means meeting with all the right people ahead of launch to get clarity about the project’s goals, define the project scope, lay out the timeline and milestones, and establish a plan for maintaining the deliverables of the project. It is also crucial to have a staff member in place to serve as the volunteer’s point person throughout the process.
There are a few other good rules of thumb to keep in mind:
- Find ways for the volunteer to do a large chunk of the work remotely.
- Make sure you have enough flexibility in the timeline of a project so that it is realistic for a volunteer to successfully meet deadlines while still working a full-time job.
- Break large-scale projects into smaller, more manageable pieces to prevent fatigue for both the volunteer and the organization.
What kinds of geeks are needed?
As with the types of projects, the possibilities are just about endless here! We are looking for folks with many different areas of expertise. Maybe you have deep knowledge about a particular piece of software (for example, QuickBooks or Excel), or you’ve got database admin skills, web development experience, or you know programming languages. When volunteers sign up, our system will allow them to indicate their proficiency in 15 different areas, and this is the information we will use to match them with projects.
What can a GeekCause volunteer expect to get out of the experience?
We want our volunteers to have fun while making an impact in their community. These projects may offer them a new way to flex their tech skills, and they will walk away from each project knowing how they helped a great organization better fulfill its mission.