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Maryland Today | Website help for the helpers

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Hack4Impact-UMD group photo

Lack of funding is a major obstacle for nonprofits looking to expand their online presence. According to Salesforce, nearly three-quarters of nonprofits say digital transformation is a “need-to-have” or “must-have,” yet only 12% perform well on Salesforce’s Nonprofits Digital Maturity Index, a measure of how well Nonprofit organizations use this well from technology and data.

To address this deficit, Hack4Impact, founded in 2020 at UMD as part of a national organization, is working to understand the unique needs of nonprofits applying to work with the group, be it a full website, a new one Volunteer management portal or dashboard Help employees track their tasks.

The approximately 100 bachelor's students, mostly computer science and information science students, work in the group in five project teams consisting of designers, engineers and product managers. Throughout the process, which can take about one or two semesters, each project group meets with a nonprofit client once a week.

According to computer science student Sheldon Padgett '25, project sourcing director at Hack4Impact, the group looks for organizations that are making measurable impact in their community and then provides technological tools to achieve new levels of effectiveness.

“Now this [nonprofits] “If they have these websites and things to organize, they can spend more time actually going there and accomplishing the mission that they set out to do,” Poremba said.

For example, for Team River Runner, a charity for veterans and their families, Hack4Impact improved its online reporting system to help national leadership track projects and identify areas to focus resources and support.

“Our organization’s mission is to provide health and healing to our nation’s military,” Joe Mornini, executive director of Team River Runner, said in a testimonial presented to the group. “The Hack4Impact team members assigned to our project have been incredibly supportive and focused on helping us achieve our mission.”

Every semester, Hack4Impact hosts a boot camp for students interested in joining. In one semester, the newcomers not only learn software development, but also the communication skills required to work with customers. The group is looking for more than just experienced programmers, including students with other skills who are eager to help nonprofits through their work.

“We don’t just want people who want to put this on their resume,” Poremba said. “[We] We want people who truly care about what we do and who we know will stay with us even when the project gets difficult.”

Last year, Hack4Impact raised about $5,500, with funding coming from the College of Information Studies and corporate sponsorships from Workday, Geico, AARP, Uber, CodePath and Bloomberg. Since the group's founding four years ago, it has helped more than 20 nonprofit organizations.