Charlottesville and Central Virginia have an excellent network of nonprofit organizations doing important work for our communities. The impact of these organizations cannot be overstated. But no one starts a nonprofit wanting to wrangle with the inevitable technology problems: managing websites, dealing with databases, putting together mailing lists, and so on. Sometimes the tech breaks and a nonprofit can get stuck on a tech issue. And that leads to a tough choice: either assign people to learn enough about the tech to solve the problem, which diverts resources away from the primary mission of the organization, or hire a tech firm, which is rarely in the budget.

Code for Charlottesville can help. Code for Cville is a local chapter of Code for America, which brings together volunteers with tech, data, design, research, and community-building skills to work on projects to benefit area nonprofits and local government. The group held it’s 2021 kickoff event via Zoom on Monday, Feb 22, 2021 with nearly 90 attendees!  

Since launching last year we’ve worked on projects with the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Charlottesville Fire Department, and the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights. But to this point, we’ve had to prioritize projects that we can work on with large volunteer teams. Going forward, we also want to take on projects that we can complete with more agility with a dedicated team of 3 or 4 volunteers.

Our new project, The Shop, is a pro-bono IT consulting and problem-solving service for nonprofit organizations in Charlottesville and Central Virginia. We will assign small groups of volunteers to work directly with someone at a nonprofit to solve a specific issue with tech, data, or web design. We hope that we can be helpful to nonprofits in our community, and this project also helps us keep our volunteers engaged with a steadier stream of projects to tackle.

We are putting these projects under the umbrella of The Shop to draw on experience to complete projects more quickly and more successfully. We need to learn about the common roadblocks that nonprofits face and we want to share our knowledge about what’s worked to get past these blocks for other organizations.

As part of this project, we will build a library of templates for web pages, databases, and other tech systems that meet modern standards for accessibility. Templates make future projects easier, and we will build templates that are ADA accessible and easily translatable to other languages.

If you would like to volunteer to be part of a small team working to help a nonprofit with a specific tech need, learn more and come to our events on Meetup. We are launching The Shop with three pilot projects for The Haven, Kid Pan Alley, and Blue Trunk.

If you run a nonprofit and would like to participate in this program, let us know by filling out this form. We are hoping to move from our pilot program to a full project launch this spring and we’re eager to get the ball rolling working with you.

We are thankful for CBIC, a community partner of Code for Charlottesville, for championing our efforts, encouraging its members and followers to get involved, and promoting Code for Charlottesville to increase our visibility.

About the Author
Jonathan Kropko
Author: Jonathan KropkoWebsite: https://www.codeforcville.org
Assistant Professor, School of Data Science at the University of Virginia
Jonathan Kropko is an Assistant Professor in the School of Data Science at the University of Virginia and volunteer lead of the Charlottesville chapter of Code for America. Code for Charlottesville brings tech and non-tech volunteers together to work on community service projects. For more information see https://codeforcville.org