I never went to camp as a kid. The only camping I’ve done has been with my husband and boys (and I try to get out of that whenever I can). So when I heard about “Give Camp” and saw the logo with the tent-theme, I’ll be honest, I was a little concerned it would involve having to sleep in the woods and make my own fire.
Happily, that wasn’t the case. Rather, Give Camp turned out to be one of the most inspiring, creative and productive (thankfully, indoor) weekends I’ve experienced in a long time. Give Camps are organized by hi-tech development professionals who give up an entire weekend of their lives to address technical needs of selected 501c3 nonprofits. These professionals are people with lives, with families, with things to do. But they sign up and show up at Give Camp, some from across the state or other states, laptops in hand, ready to take on the near-impossible task of creating a full product in less than 48 hours.
The selected nonprofits for the Ann Arbor Give Camp were primarily small, underfunded, labors of love (like DADB). Needs ranged from needing a first website to needing a better website to custom database solutions (like ours). Opportunities like this are priceless for small NPOs — most of us are already stretched to our limits time-wise and have close to zero budget so the chances of getting our hands on custom-built applications are slim-to-none. One of the organizers at the end said they estimated that over 1,400 hours of development were put into the projects over the weekend, which would have equated to well over $100,000 in consulting fees. The database project for our Diaper Bank was completely built from scratch and our development team had, at times, over 7 members busily coding away (and 2 designers dropped in). This entire project is a huge gift and those of us on the receiving end are deeply grateful.
Speaking of gift/giving — I asked the members of our team if they wanted tax receipts so they could write off their time. They each just looked at me, shrugged, and said “nah, that’s okay.” They don’t even claim the time they donate as an exemption! I mean, I’m always happy to donate toys, clothes, etc., but come on, if I can write it off, I do! It just didn’t even seem to be on their radar screens as something they’d thought about. They were just happy to help because they can. Now THAT is the true spirit of GIVING.
My deepest thanks goes to the organizers of the Ann Arbor Give Camp (and for the review committee that accepted our proposal!) And my even deeper thanks goes to the OUTSTANDING group of talented, generous, fun, funny, and TIRELESS developers who gave up so much of their time (and sleep!) to build an incredible, custom, much-needed, web-based, high-speed, awesome, scalable database for a little Diaper Bank in Southeast Michigan: Jamie Wright, our team lead, along with Amber Conville, Sean McMillan, Hilary Robinson, Len Smith and Tim O’Connell. There were other developers and designers who popped in to help at different times throughout the weekend and I’m grateful to them, too.
Computer people, if you want to have one of the best, most rewarding weekends of your lives, keep an eye out for Ann Arbor Give Camp 2011. You will have a great time, do a lot of good, probably sleep less than you have in a long time, but you’ll be so glad you did it in the end. Nonprofits, if you need any kind of technical help, make sure to get a proposal in for consideration next year. You’ll feel like you won the lottery if you get chosen to participate, just like we all did this year.
To wrap up, I thought I’d share some things I learned from our development team and being in the development world over the weekend:
1. Developers don’t like IE. No, let me clarify, they HATE IE. After being thoroughly briefed on the subject by my team, it did not escape my attention that every developer who opened a browser to show their project at the end opened Firefox.
2. Developers are quiet, focused and INTENSE when they’re working. It’s an amazing energy when you walk into a development room, especially when there’s a team of people hip-deep in code and making things work.
3. Developers are fun to be around – they’re smart and seem to have dry-tending-toward-sarcastic humor, which I find enjoyable.
4. Developers have cool stuff and know how to make stuff work.
5. Developers laugh if they see a “visitor counter” on a website.
6. Despite what you’ll hear from PR-type professionals that it should be banned and never used, developers couldn’t care less if you have Comic Sans on your site or not. In fact, one developer told me he wouldn’t care — or notice — if you had 3 different fonts on your site.
7. Developers like ink. I’m pretty sure I detected at least one tattoo on each member of our team. They are also the only people who can wear those clever “techie” t-shirts and get away with it.
8. Developers speak to each other in a foreign language. If you’re in a room with developers hashing out a project, even if you know a modicum of l33t-speak, it’s likely all you’ll hear in your head is Charlie Brown’s teacher. So just nod, smile, agree when they seem to agree and try to look busy on your own computer – they’ll let you know when they have a question or need your input on something. But until they do, just sit there playing solitaire or surfing Facebook and realize that you are completely out of your depth and technical league. And be glad there are people in the world that know it, love it and are generous enough to share the product of it with the rest of us.
I made a trip to this nursing home again this week and remembered I’d written this note on Facebook after my very first trip up there. I’m so pleased they contact the Diaper Bank now as soon as they have diapers donated and know we can get them out to people in need. In fact, the diapers I picked up from them at the beginning of the week have already been distributed to one of our partners working with seniors. I thought it was worth re-posting the original note here:
I’ve mentioned previously an additional benefit a Community Diaper Bank can provide – REdistributing valuable resources like diapers and incontinence supplies that might otherwise go unused or to waste. But today it came right back around to center stage with me again so I had to re-post about it.
A wonderful woman named Joelle who works in a nursing home emailed me a week or so ago. She’d heard my interview on the Craig Fahle show (thank you again, WDET!) and was excited to learn about the Diaper Bank.
They’d recently received a large donation of adult diapers and supplies, but their company’s regulations don’t allow them to accept or use those donations. So Joelle contacted me and I happily drove up to retrieve them.
But while I was there, she told me something that compelled me to come back and share this again — a woman from corporate was in the office, saw the full donation bags and told the staff they couldn’t have them there and they had to ‘get rid of them.’ She literally told them to go out back and THROW THEM IN THE DUMPSTER.
Realizing the absurdity of that idea, Joelle refused, and said she’d put them in her car until I got there if she had to.
When I got home, I opened the bags to find mostly COMPLETELY SEALED, BRAND-NEW packages of diapers and bed pads. There were a few open packages, but even those contained either sealed personal pads inside or were like-new packages missing only a diaper or two. The idea that these perfectly good, valuable and much-needed resources would have just been tossed into a dumpster like garbage is appalling.
Unfortunately, I know it happens a lot. And it’s why education and awareness that this area now has a Diaper Bank is crucial. I’ll be pushing ‘awareness mailing’ closer to the top of my ‘to do’ list and I ask that if you know anyone in any kind of health or caretaking facility that may receive donations, that you just let them know that the Diaper Bank exists. Some facilities can use donations they receive, many can’t. Either way, the more people and institutions we get familiar with us, the more resources we can save and put to their proper use. Please help us spread the word! And if you know of a facility we should be talking with immediately, please send their information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for all of your support!
We’re excited and grateful to be one of the charities selected for this year’s Ann Arbor Give Camp, happening the weekend of September 17th. Give Camps are organized around the country by technical professionals who donate a weekend of their time to create technical solutions for participating charities. Developers volunteer to spend one weekend (and they do stay there – many stay up – the ENTIRE weekend) creating software/technical solutions for chosen charities. Their tagline, which I love, is “geeks giving back”.
The proposal we submitted for the Detroit Area Diaper Bank was for a database/information collection/management system to allow us to more easily track diaper deliveries to partners and parse the data. It may be something really basic (but surely better than the Excel spreadsheet currently in use) or much more high-speed and web-based — it all really matters first, on the kind of developers who volunteer and what their skill-sets are, and second, how much they can really do in 48 hours.
Regardless, we’re thrilled we get to be a part of it and we’ll happily accept some free, custom, proprietary software any day! Thank you to everyone at Ann Arbor Give Camp!
We were excited when we learned that GoodSearch was planning to feature the Detroit Area Diaper Bank as its “Charity of the Day” yesterday, but we were beyond thrilled when we realized the benefits it brought. Besides the traffic to our site, it brought requests for information for publications and DONATIONS. Most significantly, donations from outside of Southeast Michigan. WAY outside.
I asked one donor who donated all the way from sunny New Mexico how she’d heard of DADB. Here is part of the response she sent me:
“Well, I try to use Good Search or Good Shop to benefit the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary here in NM and when I went to Good Search today your charity was highlighted on the left side of the site as the Charity of the Day. It caught my attention immediately and that’s how I found you guys.
I’m so glad to help because I know how expensive diapers were when my girls were babies! And I know how expensive Depends are because a friend’s mom uses them and they stock up when Costco has the coupons. I know Detroit has been hit hard by this bad economy and I just wanted to do something to help. I feel that those of us that can help others should and those that can’t might be able to help others later – and who knows, we might be the ones they end up helping.”
Another donor, from San Antonio, TX, said she’d grown up in Metro Detroit and still has family here so “a donation was an easy decision” for her.
We value ALL of our donors, of course, but to know that we resonated with these donors to this extent and from that far away is really fantastic. We’re grateful to GoodSearch/GoodShop and to everyone who took note of our logo on the site yesterday and clicked through to find out more. And most of all, if you’re here reading this right now on our little blog, we’re grateful for YOU. A community diaper bank can only be successful and sustainable with the support of caring, interested individuals and organizations, and we value every single supporter we have. Thank you!
We’re grateful for this opportunity — we’ve received contacts, donations and inquiries from places far away from Southeast Michigan, it’s such great exposure!
GoodSearch/GoodShop is a fantastic way for people to support the Diaper Bank with their every-day online activity. We receive $.01 per search and varying percentages of purchases when you click through GoodSearch/Shop and have chosen DADB as your charity of choice. We also have a customized toolbar you can download that will give you immediate access to the yahoo search bar to benefit us and will know when you’re shopping on a site that supports Good Shop. You literally won’t have to do anything, you do your normal shopping and DADB will automatically get credit! You can download our toolbar here.
Back on July 30th, this is how I announced this year’s fall diaper drive on our Facebook page:
Gearing up – 2 days until the Detroit Area Diaper Bank’s Fall Diaper Drive launches!
August 1st launches our 2nd Annual Fall Diaper Drive. As I considered what goal to set for this year, I reflected on last year — our first drive, we were just a few months old and set what was an ambitious goal for us at the time, 30,000 diapers (or funds to buy them) by Thanksgiving 2009. With great support from our community and donors, we ended up collecting over 54,000 diapers!
An expected move would be to double last year’s goal and shoot for 60,000 this year, right? But we’re all about the UNexpected here at the Detroit Area Diaper Bank so we’re not just aiming to double last year’s goal, we’re hoping to double our TAKE.
So our 2010 Fall Diaper Drive’s goal is 100,000 diapers by Thanksgiving!
Think we can do it? Yeah, me too. So get ready!