Monday, September 21, 2009

Embrace The Geeks!

image via Joey Devilla

I'm a geek.

Being a geek is not something you can become, it's just something you are by temperament. When I was a teen, we were called "nerds." But that was before the great computer revolution and the growing phenomenon called the "internet." Now a lot of those who used to be called "nerd" are called "boss" and "geek" is a badge of honor, not an indicator of social ineptitude.

Geeky Gatherings

A great many geeks gather regularly outside of A/V class rooms to share our passion for information. In Santa Cruz, I found a newspaper notice of a basecamp being sponsored by a local geek group (called Santa Cruz Geeks, what else?) and attended. Finding them came at a great time for me; I was unemployed and craving geek conversation. And contrary to some peoples' expectations, we don't talk just about code development or applications (not all geeks are computer geeks); like most other folks, we talk about what's important to us - politics, the environment, healthcare, etc.

In any gathering of geeks, you're likely to find people who compose, paint, volunteer for beach cleanup, or raise money for their kids' schools. They are an available source of help to your small nonprofit.

How Geeks Can Help Small Nonprofits

There are organizations out there that help - Tech Soup comes to mind, but what about the individuals in your own community? The ones who may already be embracing your mission by helping you stuff envelopes or clean up after an event?

Maybe you need help evaluating your current tech platform - the operating system you're on, the machines you're using, the way your network is set up - and you can't afford a consultant. Maybe you need help with your database and the way you pull reports or the way you manage your volunteers, your workplans, your goal tracking. Maybe you need help with your telephony or you want to set up voip and you don't have an idea where to start. Maybe you'd like to learn more about open source and how it could free you from the tyranny of Redmond, Washington. Maybe you'd like to know more about social media tools, what's available and how you could use them.

These are all things your local geek community could be helping with, if only you'd ask.

How to Find Geeks

Start with your own volunteer page on your website - you DO have a volunteer opportunities page, right? Don't stop at looking for bodies to stuff envelopes or hang decorations at events - ask for specific help.

Ask Volunteer Groups for a matchup. Groups like the Volunteer Center can help you match to your specific needs.

Check out local Geek Groups. Use Facebook or tools like to identify geeks in your geographical area and ask them about local groups. Keep an eye out for announcements of geeky events or gatherings or contact the public relations department of your local tech companies who might be able help you. Some of them even sponsor groups and a local employer might be willing to partner with you in finding you assistance.

Lack of Geekitude

Most nonprofits suffer from a dearth of geeks in their own ranks. I know I've often been appalled at the lack of geeky knowledge and the antique software and hardware my favorite small nonprofits have to work with. But it doesn't have to be that way. You don't necessarily have to hire a geek to have the benefits of geek expertise.

Geeks love to share what they know. All you need to do is ask.

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