Bring your nonprofit organization to Des Moines Charity Hack

Do you have a problem or barrier technology can solve? dsmHack needs you! dsmHack’s annual Charity Hack event benefits 501(c)3 organizations throughout Iowa by connecting them with technology professionals who have the skills that they need. Have you ever wished a developer could program a new database for you? A designer could have a hand in the look of your website? You’re in luck.

Des Moines Charity Hack 2022

When: Thursday, June 2 – Saturday, June 4, 2022 Where: Blue Compass West48

Nonprofit applications are due April 29th, 2022!

Click here to apply!


Have questions? Want to learn more about what dsmHack can do for your organization? Register for the dsmHack information session on March 10th. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can dsmHack help my nonprofit organization?

You know the story: nonprofit organizations are constantly operating on a tight budget and with limited time, making many operations and processes inefficient, paper-heavy, and labor intensive. We want to help you change that. Submitting a project will provide the opportunity to work directly with technology professionals that are experienced helping nonprofits realize their technology goals. Great tools will be built or improved for your organization and you will learn a tremendous amount! The goal for every project is for it to reach full completion by the end of the 48 hour event.

This sounds great! What will I be responsible for?

The Des Moines Charity Hack event is free of charge for nonprofit organizations to apply for and attend. Ahead of the event, our nonprofit team leaders will work with each organization to prepare them for the event and guide them in organizing the materials they will need to bring to the event.

What’s the time commitment?

Developers working with your organization will be at the Charity Hack for most of the 48 hours. Although all nonprofit representatives don’t need to be present for the entire 48 hours, the more accessible you are, the more successful the project will be! Nonprofits will need to be available Thursday evening for the event kick-off and should plan to be available to their team in-person periodically during the day Friday and Saturday. During the times a representative from your nonprofit is not present, someone should be available by phone to answer any questions from your team. Our event typically follows this schedule:

  • Day 1
    • 5:30pm – Participants and nonprofit reps will be checking in and mingling
    • 6:30pm – Kickoff presentation and nonprofit “speed dating”
    • 7:30pm – Let the hack begin!
  • Day 2
    • Meals will be served at 8am, 12pm, and 6pm (or so)
    • Teams will be coming/going all during the day.
    • We’ll have a couple of checkins throughout the event to get a feel for how the teams are progressing. Times TBD.
  • Day 3
    • Meals will be served at 8am, 12pm, and a buffet during the wrap event.
    • 6pm – Closing presentations
    • Mingle
What sort of projects can I submit?

Here are some examples of projects that would be candidates for submission: Update and/or improve your organization’s website, including:

  • Functionality limitations
  • Accessibility concerns
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Hosting challenges
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


  • Create online and/or mobile giving portals
  • Donor management (but see our note below — “When will you say ‘no’ to a project?”)
  • Help combine or merge databases

Education, outreach and advocacy

  • Build mini-site or educational platform to educate users on your mission
  • Showcase publications, research or other expertise in your organization
  • Projects involving maps or data visualizations
  • Basic assessment tools that help people navigate your programs (for example, a tool that lets people see volunteer opportunities near where they live, or educational programs based on the age of their children)

Improve existing systems:

  • Move paper forms online
  • Build web-based system to track clients
  • 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
When will you say ‘no’ to a project?

Here are the things that make us say no to a project:

  • We cannot accept any projects that involve confidential client data or information protected by HIPAA or other regulatory frameworks. We can help you find a local professional development team who serves these needs if you contact us.
  • We are not a replacement for purchasing accounting software, or a commercially available donor database. We are not a replacement for products like QuickBooks, Volunteer Local, Raisers Edge/Nationbuilder/Salsa (or the hundreds of other donor database options out there), MailChimp, Eventbrite, or Constant Contact.
How do you decide what nonprofits to choose?

Last year, we had about 30 applications for 10 slots. So how are we going to pick who gets in? It’s simple, really: we love variety, realistic expectations and community impact. Variety: We try to admit nonprofits who work in a variety of areas, and we are looking for unique, fun project ideas that will give our developer participants a chance to showcase their skills. Realistic Expectations: We want you to leave with a successful project, so we think a lot about what can be accomplished in the 48 hour time frame of the event. If you have questions or concerns about how much time your project will take, contact us at Charitable purpose & benefit:  We also consider the potential impact to the community and the nonprofit from completing the project. Will the project really help people? Will it make a complicated task easier? While we admit plenty of groups who mostly need a better website, it’s no secret that unique challenges (such as dealing with databases, communication tools and application development) are engaging for our volunteers and will give you a better chance of being admitted. So throw us a curveball! You’d be surprised what we can do.Contact us for help figuring out what project ideas will be a good fit (

We applied or were admitted before. Can we submit again this year?


We have more than one idea. What should we do?

Nonprofits are welcome to submit multiple project ideas, and will need to fill out a complete application for each idea you want to submit. In the past, we have worked with nonprofits to combine multiple proposals into one project, given that the scope of work is realistic for the hackathon timeframe.

What do I need to apply?

Before you submit an application, you’ll need to prepare information about your organization and project. We’ll need:

  • Contact information for the person applying, and anyone from your organization planning to be available during and/or attend the event
  • Organization information
    • Website & social media URLs
    • Financial information, including budget figures
    • EIN number (if applicable)
  • Your logo
  • Project information
  • Project description
    • What is the problem you would like your dsmHack team to help you solve?
    • What does your project need to accomplish for you to consider it successful?
    • How will completing your project advance your organization’s mission?
    • If this project requires additional funding (ie: web hosting, system support) what funds or resources are in place to support this?