Southern Maryland Give Camp Recap


On Friday, March 19th, 102 geeks ascended to Southern Maryland to help 19 non-profits use technology to promote and grow their organization.

How did you hear about Give Camp?”

This is a question I was asked numerous time throughout the weekend.  Jim Pendarvis, is a friend of mine, and fellow user group leader in the Mid Atlantic region.  The idea of give camp in the Mid-Atlantic started a little less than a year ago.  Several of us had heard about the success of give camps in other regions, namely Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.  In fact, there was a conference call between all interested community leaders to work together to bring give camps to our respective areas.  Those plans, as most do, went by the wayside.  Jim didn’t wait.  He continued his plans, and last week it all came together.

My Charity

I had the pleasure of working with the Spring Dell Center.  They were lucky to already have a web presence, but the issue we saw was that the page was difficult to maintain and expand.

My partner, Mike Thomas, and I sat down with Thomas Hoffman from the Spring Dell Center and hatched out a game plan.  We equipped ourselves with a copy of SiteFinity from Telerik.

Here's a video of our presentation:

What We Did Right

Using a CMS

I would say that choosing a CMS over custom building was the best decision we made.  Another group at the Give Camp decided to custom build a solution from the ground up.  It’s a notable effort.  By custom rolling an application, you can provide exactly what the customer wants.  However, no matter what your skill level is, the custom solution is not feasible within 48 hours.

On the same note, I was brought on to assist the group during the final hours.  They had made progress, but in the end didn’t have a product the charity could sit down and start working with.

If you’re looking to volunteer at a GiveCamp, bone up on several CMS solutions.  You’re going to be most likely using one.

Scope control

Our charity had a decent list of things they would have liked to have seen in the end product, and I would say we hit 95% of the list.  Near the end of Saturday, we came to a request for an online employment application.  SiteFinity does not (currently) have a form builder built into it, so the process would have to be custom.  However, looking at the employment application (all 6 pages of it), we identified that it would be a bit much to tackle in the weekend.  Thanks to some consulting from Andrew Duthie and Jim Pendarvis, we convinced the charity that this wasn’t a solution we were comfortable attempting.

What We Could Have Done Better

Preparation

We used SiteFinity, but I had never used it until the first day of Give Camp.  It took us about 3 hours to get something to start working with.  Then I walked around to help other groups get SiteFinity up and running on their machines.  This was time that we could’ve just been working.

Know the Product

SiteFinity is a great product.  My lack of knowledge of the feature set of the product kept me from being able to solve really simple problems.  It took until the second day, and chatting with other groups to realize the potential of the product we were using.  The truly best projects from the weekend were by people that knew the product well enough to just use it.  This gave them more time to spend of customization and enhancements.

What Was Awesome About Give Camp

The Food

I have never seen so much junk food in my life.  You would have though Jim hijacked a Little Debbie truck, and rerouted to Give Camp.  We had a supermarket-worth of soda and water.  I drink a ton of water, and there was enough to last until lunch on Sunday.  Catered breakfast, lunch, and dinner each night added to the awesomeness.

The Volunteers

Who wants caffeine?” was a common question asked during the weekend.  Volunteers routinely went to get us sodas or 5 Hour Energy’s.  The prepped breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The cleaned up after us.  The volunteers made it easy for us to do our job, and we couldn’t have done it without them.

The Haircuts

Enough said:

Conclusion

Give Camp was the most rewarding experience of the my professional career.  The looks and emotions of some peoples faces during the end presentations made it worth the drive and the sleep lost.  I will definitely be back next year, and I encourage everyone to attend a give camp that is near you.  Can’t find one?  Ask me and I’ll help you find one or help you start one.

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