On Thursday, April 9th at 8:00 am, we kicked off the tenth Annual Day of Service at NTEN's NTC which was a resounding success! Over 110 volunteers worked with almost 60 local Atlanta-based nonprofits sharing their wisdom and expertise on a variety of techie topics.
In order to pull off this event, we need not only need enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers, but strong local partners who serve as our bridge to the local community of nonprofits. We were lucky to work with the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, IfPeople, and TechBridge. I knew the day was going to be magic when Kathleen Kurre from TechBridge inspired us with stories about the generosity of techies and Chris Johnson shared why Atlanta is known to have healing properties.This annual event started over a decade ago in Kansas City as a way for nonprofit techies to give back to the local community by volunteering their expertise for a day. My colleague, Cheryl Hanback, has been involved since the beginning and I'm lucky every year to host the Day of Service with her.
The very first Day of Service was back in the days when nonprofits were very new to the Internet and most (particularly smaller organizations) did not have IT expertise in-house and, some, computers. I remember a hot consulting topic was how to get your database off those 3x5 cards into an excel spreadsheet or how to mail merge in Outlook to send out an e-newsletter.
In the early days, the event offered a small selection of consulting, on-site training, or actual hardware or local area network auditing projects. The volunteers went out to the community and worked in the offices of local organizations. We also offered workshops back at the conference location to handle the overflow demand. I remember always being stressed out about whether or not we'd have enough volunteers. We always managed.
In 2007, we revamped the event so that volunteers no longer left the conference for the day and did two-hour strategy consults in the morning. The main reason was that the Day of Service used to be the only pre-conference event, but as the community grew - additional opportunities were added - such as affinity group meetings, WeAreMedia trainings, and this year an un-conference.
The design of the strategy consults made it possible for local organizations to pick a consult on a wide variety of topics and for our tech volunteers to pick the type of organization and project they wanted to work with. This year, Cheryl has a brilliant idea of organizing the consult tables by topic so that in the event we had a no-show, there would be someone else at the table with the knowledge. It worked!
Over the years, the idea and spirit of going out into the community has been a constant. Every year, we include a large group hands-on project where an army of 30 techies help with computer recycling or install a wireless network with parts generously donated by Cisco. These projects don't require deep technical expertise and are always a lot of fun.
This year we have over 120 volunteers who worked with local nonprofits on strategy consults or ventured out to the Clarkston Community Center under the capable leadership of Johanna Bates (our Day of Service "mom") who made sure that all the volunteers signed their waivers before climbing tall ladders and go off and on the bus and back to the hotel!
Now that Twitter is being used by so many people in the nonprofit technology space, we were able to follow the progress of the wireless installation through special hashtag for the event.
We were lucky that David Krumlauf, winner of the NTEN person of the year award, did not let a broken leg keep him from getting on the bus.
This year, several volunteers, used whrrl a mobile app that lets you and your friends collaborate on creating a story through photos, maps, and updates at a particular location. Michaela Hackner, a talented photographer, was on hand to document the Day of Service on Flickr.
While the wireless volunteers were hard at work crimping wires and climbing ladders, the ballroom at the Omni was filled with nonprofit technology professionals sharing their expertise with local organizations on online fundraising, telephony, social networks and more. There was a lot of energy in the room.
I love how both volunteers and organizations are so very grateful for the experience. Glen Kendell was so thrilled to do some consulting with Push Theater that he took notes during some of the subsequent conference sessions to share with them!
And, I saw a few thank you tweets from local organizations in Atlanta too!
Thanks to all who participated and helped make this year's Day of Service a huge success. See you in 2011 in Washington, DC.
Lydia Mann - Flickr