Des Moines Charity Hack 2016

Event Schedule

Registration & Social Hour - March 3, 6:00pm
Opening Pitches - March 3, 7:00pm
Hacking - March 3 through March 5
Final Presentations - March 5, 5:00pm



Making a difference in the community.

Designers and Developers. Connect today.

You are awesome. Thank you for being part of something big! You'll learn new skills, meet new people, and know that you've done something great for the community. Use your talents to make the Greater Des Moines community shine brighter.

Helping these amazing nonprofits!


Hear about the experience!

Thanks to all of the non-profits that submitted a project!

FAQ for Nonprofits

What is dsmHack and why should our nonprofit participate?

The Des Moines Charity Hack (dsmHack) is a two-day event that brings together an incredible range of technology experts to help advance your organization’s mission. If you have had a website, database, or other technology problem but lacked the skills, money, or time to get started with a solution--well, your dsmHack team will knock your socks off with how much they can help.

What kind of projects can we submit?

dsmHack offers your nonprofit two days of service from an incredible team of talented tech pros--for free. We encourage you to dream big and submit the project you’ve always wanted to see happen.

Example projects include automating paper processes like volunteer registration or creating web forms to use instead of paper forms. Your team could help improve and modernize your organization’s website. They could help clean up your organization’s database of donors, or or use it for a new purpose, like sending e-newsletters.

They can also help create new ways to engage your donor and client communities. Last year, one team developed an innovative e-card solution, and another team developed a fun game to educate donors about the organization’s mission.

At the event, everyone’s goal is making sure nonprofits leave with a successfully completed project they can use right away. The dsmHack organizers do our best to admit nonprofits whose project ideas can be reasonably accomplished in the 48 hour timeframe of the event, and we may suggest you consider alterations to your project to boost its chances of being a success. We’ve also found that once you meet your team, you’ll be able to agree with them what’s reasonable with the time and talent available.

So what actually happens during the event?

First of all, you’ll build your team. When tech participants arrive at dsmHack, they are not already on a team, and they may not have heard of your nonprofit. That’ll change quickly. Nonprofits are invited to give a short presentation (5 minutes or less!) introducing your work and your project. Then, participants divide up around the room to form project teams. The dsmHack team helps make sure each nonprofit is able to pull together the best team possible for its project.

At the end of the event Saturday, nonprofits gather and your tech team presents its completed work back to you. For some nonprofit participants, this may be the most exciting and gratifying experience you’ve ever had with technology.

Does it cost anything to participate? What’s required?

There is no cost to nonprofits to participate in the dsmHack event. At the same time, your organization is responsible for software, equipment, web hosting, and similar costs associated with your project.

Your tech team works incredibly hard for you during the 48 hour event--and they actually pay for the privilege of working for you. As a result, participating nonprofits are expected to follow certain guidelines for participation.

Therefore we ask nonprofits to have a representative on-site for the first four hours of the event Thursday, Friday and Saturday over the lunch hour, and for the last two hours of the event Saturday. (You are welcome to stay longer!) It’s also necessary to have someone from your nonprofit on-call to answer questions from your team throughout as much of the event as possible--yes, even in the wee hours.

The dsmHack team does our best to admit nonprofits whose projects can reasonably be completed in the 48-hour time frame of the event, and your team will do everything they can to make it happen. However, we are not able to guarantee follow-up support for projects after the event. It will be your responsibility to agree with your tech team whether they are able to continue their volunteer service after the event.


DsmHack is a not-for-profit organization working to elevate and strengthen the community by building software, learning from each other and giving back.
The organization centers around the idea of “Build.Learn.Give.”, which includes building technology solutions and relationships throughout the community, learning new skills or thought processes and giving time and skills to those non-profits who need, but cannot afford it.
The 48-hour hack-a-thon is planned by a committee of representatives from various companies throughout Des Moines and is not tied to a single organization or sponsor.
More information about dsmHack can be found by emailing

Why was dsmHack created?

There is a wealth of technology talent in the Des Moines area and amazing nonprofits that continue to help Central Iowa win awards as one of the country's best place to live. In an effort to team technical resources with the nonprofits of this community, we've created this event to bring the best of both worlds together.

From February 26-28, these two groups will come together to build and implement tools to make the area's nonprofits operate more effectively so they can continue to focus on doing good. Through this event, we will learn a significant amount about the needs of local organizations and how we can work together to make this community stronger!

Why should my non-profit organization submit to be involved?

With organizations constantly operating on a tight budget and with limited talent to work with, processes often become paper-heavy and labor intensive. We want to help you change that. Submitting your non-profit for this event will provide the opportunity to work directly with technology professionals that are always creating efficiencies. Great tools will be built or improved for your organization and you will learn a tremendous amount!

What happens during the event?

Technology professionals will arrive on Thursday night to mingle and hear the pitches from nonprofits about what needs they have. From there, teams will form around the needs of the organizations. Over the next 48 hours the participants and organizations will hack their hearts out! There will be food served, snacks, beverages, great camaraderie and a tremendous amount of learning/building. The event culminates on Saturday with presentations of what the teams created and then a post-event happy hour!

What are some example projects?

Digitize paper processes:

  • automate volunteer registrations
  • move paper forms online
  • build web based system to track clients Improve website:
  • accessibility of the site
  • create a landing page for an organization
  • create responsive redesign
  • migrate website to a new hosting provider
  • SEO help for existing web pages
  • upgrade website to newer version of Wordpress / Joomla / Drupal etc.
  • integrating tools into a website


  • create online and / or mobile giving portals
  • donor management
  • centralize database

Improve existing systems:

  • make CRM more effective
  • streamline calendar functionality
  • streamline board communication

Database improvements:

  • build a staff development database
  • centralize database information
  • create a database search functionality
Will the projects be finished at the end of the event?

dsmHack's goal is to have all projects completed by the end of the event.

Why should I participate as a developer?

The tagline for dsmHack is "build.learn.give". We want to use this time for our developers, designers, project managers and business minds to apply their existing skills to people who need them. The event will provide food, beverages (caffeine + beer), a cool t-shirt and a great chance for tech minds to work with other peers in the community and learn new skills.

This should be a great opportunity to learn and apply some new technology that you "just didn't have time to explore" in the past. You can even deviate from your typical tech stack if you want.

Why is there a $20 cost to participate?

There is no cost or commitment needed from the non-profits other than a little bit of time. We've got some wonderful sponsors who are going to cover the expenses of this event. We may be in a position to contribute some nominal funds to help sustain the solutions as well (i.e. web hosting).

There is a nominal cost for you to attend. It's $20. This is to ensure you have some skin in the game. We want to make sure participants sign up and show up. The $20 covers a t-shirt, food and some tasty beverages! Our great sponsors are kicking in a lot more than that for all the fun treats you'll indulge in over the course of the event.

Please contact us if the cost is prohibiting you from joining. Email and let's chat.

Can I come with a pre-existing team?

Absolutely. Just let us know at the event.

How should I ask for the day off?

Tell your team lead or supervisor that you're giving back to the community and the time is being spent to support 501c3 organizations. Many companies offer time off for volunteer efforts. Use that time! This is also a great time to learn something new which may be used at your job in the near future. Many companies struggle to find learning opportunities for their devs. This is a win-win which will make great use of your time at almost no cost.

What if I can't participate during the day on Friday because of work?

No worries! We still ask that you come Thursday night to join a team and pick a project that will work with your time schedule. We understand there will be participants joining around lunch on Friday and after work on Friday. For the sake of doing good, anytime is a good time.

What if I can't code? Is there a role for non-developers?

Absolutely! We will need designers, project and product managers, business minds and any other creatives to work with the organizations to make sure their needs are not met - but exceeded! You will add substantial value to any team.

Do we have to build something from scratch or can we implement pre-existing tools?

We encourage both! Some organizations are needing a new solution created, while many are using pre-existing software and they need help implementing or optimizing it to continue being productive.

What coding languages will be allowed?

Anything and everything! Don't hold back. Use what you know or explore something completely new.

Anything else?

Shoot ideas to us at

Check out the awesome organizations that are making dsmHack possible.


Here are the people, helping the people, help the people that help people.

James Clevenger
Max Farrell
Matt Hauge
Jodi Jones
Alex Karei
Kevin Shannon
Kerri Sorrell
Dustin Thostenson
Kim Wall