Are Hackathons the Future of Nonprofit Branding?

Hackathons are events where computer programmers and others come together to collaborate on projects.
IMG: HackNY via Flickr

Where do budding nonprofit organizations look to when trying to build their brand? Graphic and web design can be a costly investment, for emerging, penny-pinching charities and established ones alike. Many design firms have a longstanding history of offering pro bono services as their way of giving back to charitable organizations. A newer trend however, and one that is rapidly gaining popularity, is known as a “hackathon.”

Matthew Scharpnick, the strategy officer at Elefint Designs, says that there are many ways nonprofits can gain access to great design for little or no cost, but that lots of firms are stepping up and getting creative about their giving. A “hackathon,” sometimes also known as a “designathon,” is an event that pairs designers, developers, and nonprofit organizations so that the nonprofits receive professional design services at a lower cost. A growing trend, hackathons have been hosted by design studios, universities, and even government agencies; some newer companies such as even specialize in organizing these design events.

Putting computer programmers, graphic designers, project managers, and innovative thinkers in one room to collaborate on a nonprofit’s image is a speedy, cost-efficient means of acquiring design. Hackathons serve as great networking events, in addition to the design services shared. Elefint Designs, a San Francisco-based design and marketing company, is working hard to follow this trend to provide nonprofits with great design services, and fast. Elefint’s new event, “Design.It Tahoe” will bring two nonprofits to Lake Tahoe and surround them with a team of six senior designers from the leading firms. Over the course of one long weekend, the nonprofits can take advantage of the skills and services from these designers, who they can consult and strategize with free of charge, says Scharpnick.

The hackathon, or designathon, is an event that benefits all participants. Nonprofits receive compelling, professional design services at little to no cost, designers are able to contribute to charitable causes while utilizing their skills, and everyone gets the chance to network. Hackathons are productive, effective, events that will surely continue to impact the nonprofit sector.