Did you know that today is #GivingTuesday? It’s an American tradition that Canada should ACTUALLY adopt. Last year, New York’s 92 Street Y started a campaign to kick off the holidays season with doing some good through philanthropy. It comes right after Thanksgiving and two days of unbridled consumerism, the infamous Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But for Bitmakers, we have another way we can give, through our newfound awesome coding skills!
Nonprofits and ‘social good’ causes aren’t the best at adopting new technologies, even though it would make their work both more efficient and accessible to both those they are helping, as well as to their donors. Which is a shame because the inspirational work that many of them do can and should be done and showcased better.
I joined Bitmaker with this purpose in mind. Before moving to Toronto, I was living and working in the international development and nonprofit world in New York City. I was surrounded by a myriad of inspirational causes and goodwill. Being a creative person and tech junkie at heart, I would immediately begin imagining up new applications that would both make the work be done faster and their impact reach more people. Those ideas would have a short shelf life though, as my limited knowledge of the practicalities surrounding actually making them would fall far, far short of my expectations. There’s only so much HTML can do. It was frustrating! Which is why moving to Toronto and finding Bitmaker Labs had a touch of serendipity for me. It was such a relief to finally find a practical program that would give me the foundation I need to tangibly contribute to these causes.
And, more web developers should think about doing so as well. Here are some excellent reasons why:
- There’s a lot of need. In my experience, I’ve seen many nonprofits take up new technologies in backwards order: they make the product fit their line of work, rather than the other way around. A lot of apps out there have been created primarily for the for-profit sector, for businesses to be able to gain access to their consumers and be able to sell them more things. Nonprofits, while they do have to ‘sell’ their cause to donors, don’t really fall into this model. What’s worse, the amazing stories that are what capture your attention and tug at your heart-strings are often lost in these rather cold applications that were never really meant to serve this sector.
Amazingly, the millennials generation, those born in the 80s and 90s and a majority of Bitmakers, are looking to find meaning, rather than happiness, in their life and work (when compared to Gen X).
So, there’s clearly a need and smart, talented programmers to supply this sector with customized solutions that… ‘fit’.
- The idea is there, you just have to make it better. One unfortunate trend I’ve found in this sector is the oversaturation of the space by the proliferation of causes, a lot of whom do similar good. A lot of times, this comes as a result of the frustration with already-established causes not moving quickly enough into the digital age. So, social entrepreneurs come in with shiny ideas, technologies and apps to make change. But, when you look closely at it, you see both do the same thing.
Now, you might say, “Hey, this is a good thing - More people care!” Yes, this is true, but only to a certain extent. It’s has one major downside: public apathy. As more and more causes try to get their message out to potential donors, they become more and more desensitized and, as a result, are less willing to give. So, when this space becomes crowded with so many voices, change becomes more difficult to accomplish.
Social entrepreneurs (Bitmakers included) should make a more concerted effort to persuade already-established causes to adopt new technologies to make the work they do better. This not only reduces the noise, but helps give social entrepreneurs access to the amazing legacies and networks that many of these nonprofits have worked so hard to build over the years.
- Yes, you’ll probably get paid less, but think of what you’re getting in return. If you are interested in doing some social good through coding, realize that you need to temper your expectations around salaries. Sorry, but it would be ridiculous for you to charge the rates you normally would charge to clients. Think of it this way, the more money nonprofits spend on you, the less money goes to the cause. Realize that you can certainly make a living working for this sector, but don’t get greedy.
That being said, think about what you’ll be doing. What you create will help make a difference. You’ll be gaining some serious good karma, and, if it’s important to you, you’ll be building a legacy. I always think of it this way: if I’m at my retirement party many, many years from now, and my grandkids ask me what I’m most proud of, I think they’d be more inspired if I tell them of the app I created that has made someone else’s life (or, hopefully, many people’s lives) a little easier, safer, healthier and more productive.
So, Bitmakers, tech junkies, and entrepreneurs, for #GivingTuesday today go and donate to your favourite causes. Then, for the next 365 days, think of ways of giving code to those same causes that could make an even bigger change, either as a side-project, by taking nonprofits as clients, or even moving into the sector full-time.
By Arya Iranpour