News and analysis
March 31, 2015

HashtagCharity Looks to Connect Tech Pros With Nonprofits

Improved technology resources rank high on many nonprofits’ wish lists, but digital projects can be especially difficult to finance through grants and donations. Starting April 9, the new company HashtagCharity hopes to forge connections between organizations that need assistance and technology professionals eager to use their skills to do good.

"We would love to see a world in which, every day, technologists can make a tangible and direct impact on causes they care about most," said Franziska Becker, who manages business development and marketing for HashtagCharity.

Jozsef Czapovics, director of engineering at the presentation software company Prezi, founded Hashtag­Charity after organizing a successful collaboration between a group of volunteer engineers and a nonprofit that needed a new website.

The organization joins others that in recent years have started to match skilled professionals with nonprofits. The Taproot Foundation manages pro bono projects that rely on individual volunteers and corporate teams, like creating marketing materials, improving financial reporting, and migrating data. Sparked and Catchafire similarly pair nonprofits with what Sparked refers to as "expert volunteers."

But HashtagCharity says its technology focus and custom project-management software platform distinguish it from other systems. It seeks to take advantage of the fact that "a lot of engineers have weekend projects to keep themselves updated on their skills," Ms. Becker said.

A self-described "not-just-for-profit" company, HashtagCharity is still developing its business model, having received $250,000 in venture capital from Austrian firm Fiedler Capital. Based in Budapest, Hungary, it plans to work with nonprofits based in the U.S. and Britain.

HashtagCharity uses a mathematical formula to determine the interests and skills of its volunteers based on information gleaned from their LinkedIn profiles and matches them with relevant projects submitted by nonprofits. The feature is intended to increase volunteers’ commitment to projects, Ms. Becker says.

So far, HashtagCharity has recruited 600 volunteers and seven inaugural nonprofit partners ahead of its April launch.

"Receiving donated, high-quality IT service would greatly assist our online efforts in fundraising and outreach as well as communicating with the community we proudly serve," said Christopher Cosentino, director of marketing and communications of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, which is working with HashtagCharity.

Andrea Tamburini, chief executive of HashtagCharity partner nonprofit Action Against Hunger-USA, said he was pleased with the hunger-prevention program-overview presentation HashtagCharity created for the hunger-relief group. Volunteers also are working with the organization’s logistics team to create an application that will increase the efficiency of delivering and tracking food.

"They’ve been instrumental in helping us," Mr. Tamburini said of the volunteers. "We are very excited about the potential at this stage."

Small nonprofits could stand to benefit greatly from the program. 1girl, a two-year-old nonprofit in Columbus, Ohio, that provides leadership opportunities to girls in middle school and college, also signed up to be a HashtagCharity featured partner in the hopes that the company’s volunteers would help create PDF infographics to display the charity’s work and a mobile application that would serve as a digital community for its own volunteers.

"Being a very small and new organization, we don’t have the resources to necessarily hire freelance help or staff to do this kind of work," said Shelby Kretz, executive director of 1girl. "There are a lot of people out there with those skills who want to do something meaningful."

Even though Action Against Hunger rarely collaborates with volunteers, the partnership has been smooth so far, Mr. Tamburini said.

"We didn’t have any reluctance in giving it a shot," he said "The relationship was so easy from the beginning that we didn’t have any question marks about our ability to work together."

Send an e-mail to Rebecca Koenig.