Matchmaker: Website Connects Nonprofits With Free Tech Talent

14 Oct 2013 12:23 PM | Louise Stokes
An Australian software developer recently launched a website that helps companies give back by offering free technology services to charities and other organizations in support of social causes.

Looking for a way to give back to your local community?
You could write a check.

Money always helps. But that’s assuming the organization or the charity you’re donating to has the resources and the staff talent to put your cash to work.

Australian software developer Atlassian is exploring the philanthropic power of another asset: human capital. Playing off its reputation as a serious software developer with a social conscience, the company recently launched MakeaDiff.org. Rather than collect donations toward charitable endeavors, the site employs a crowdsourcing model to match charities and other nonprofits with technology experts to help them achieve their goals.

“It’s almost like a Match.com that connects technology volunteerism with charities and causes,” Atlassian President Jay Simons recently told VentureBeat when interviewed about the site. “Imagine if charities could get engineering help from Google, Facebook, or Atlassianundefinedthat’s what we’re hoping to provide.”

Crowdsourcingundefinedfor the Greater Good
Cash donations are appealing to charities and nonprofits for obvious reasons and working at the local food bank can be personally fulfilling. However, Atlassian executives say their employees would much prefer to use their knowledge and unique skill sets to confront societal issues at a higher level.

“The amount of money I could donate would probably be pale in comparison to a few hours of my time spent a week or a month or whatever,” says Sam Day, an Atlassian software developer in a video about the project.

The feeling is mutual.

“The charities like our money, but what they really want is to solve problems,” Atlassian cofounder and CEO Scott Farquhar told VentureBeat.

How it Works
Participating nonprofits (all groups are vetted before approval, according to the website) are invited to list technology-related jobs and projects on the site. Listings run the gamut, from basic web design to project “road-mapping” and data analysis, reports Atlassian.

The company says its employees, each of whom get five days of leave a year to use toward volunteer projects, are currently working on gratis assignments for three different educational organizations.

Once the opportunities are posted, technology volunteersundefinedfrom developers to designers to project managersundefinedcan log onto the site to look for an assignment that appeals to their sense of social responsibility.

Though the site is live, it’s still very much a work in progress, with a focus on local projects. The company says it’s planning a wider launch in 2014, with an eye toward taking the site international in the near future.
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