How to Use Your Programming Skills for Social Impact

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If you’re interested in giving back this holiday season and throughout the new year, consider gifting your tech know-how. As technology continues to change the social-impact landscape, you’ll find new and innovative ways to lend your tech skills to a cause that speaks to you.

Here’s how to use your programming skills for good.

Become a volunteer developer

Lending your skills as a volunteer developer to an open-source nonprofit project can be incredibly impactful as it can give an organization some much-needed capacity to focus more on mission and less on technological infrastructure.

The spirit of open source—meaning that software is free and available to all and may be modified by anyone—is something that complements the philosophy of the nonprofit sector as a whole.

This was a priority that Quincy Larson had in mind when launching Free Code Camp, a free online coding platform aimed at creating a win-win situation for students seeking experience and for nonprofits in search of affordable tech solutions.

At Free Code Camp, individuals who are just beginning their coding journey can learn programming fundamentals at no cost, earn web development certifications, and then use their skills to help nonprofits. Depending on project need, students may build apps to assist organizations with email campaign management or scheduling meetings and calls across multiple time zones.

In addition to Free Code Camp, there are plenty of other organizations connecting individuals like you with nonprofits that need your expertise. Here are a few more outlets to explore:

  • Not just for software developers alone, Code for Social Good is a resource for matching volunteers of all technical levels with projects that align with their interests and expertise.
  • If you’re interested in contributing to an open source project that improves government services to communities all over the United States, find your nearest Code for America chapter.
  • More seasoned software developers may find a compatible opportunity through Code Alliance, which matches tech professionals with nonprofits who need open source software solutions.

Whether you’re seeking a breather from your day job, you want to marry your tech skills and social-impact aspirations, or you’re building coding skills for the express purpose of helping your favorite cause, there’s an organization that can benefit from what you know.

Teach others how to code

The tech community as a whole is generally a big proponent of sharing knowledge with both informal and formal teams. This emphasis on collaboration helps even the most experienced software engineers continue to learn and improve.

Interested in working with youth? Help young learners get a head start by passing volunteering as a coding teacher or mentor with organizations like Teens Exploring Technology and Girls Who Code. Both groups seek to empower young men and women through technology.

And with the growing number of adults from all career paths embarking on their own coding journeys, you may find a way to impact a peer. You could join the Mothercoders movement and help moms break into technology or find a new career path with newfound tech skills. Or you could lead a class and lend support to women interested in web and software development through a Girl Develop It chapter near you.

No matter the scale, paying forward your own tech knowledge is a perfect way to help others build technical skills for their own professional and personal development.

Use Idealist to code for social change

If you’d like to volunteer your skills to nonprofits on a project basis or find a full-time opportunity for your technical skill set, head on over to Idealist.org to search volunteer, part-time, and full-time opportunities that are remote friendly or in your own city.

Here are some current volunteer or full-time opportunities you may be interested in.

A quick note: Depending on when you read this post, you may find that some of these opportunities are no longer available or have been filled. Don’t be discouraged! Simply use the job titles listed as keywords and key terms in your Idealist search to find the newest opportunities.

Remote volunteer opportunities:

Volunteer teaching opportunities:

Full-time opportunities:

Have you found a way to lend your tech skills for greater good? If you have recommendations for others interested in volunteering their technical knowledge, share in the comments or tweet us at @idealistcareers.

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Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.
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