IT workshops for charity: the how and the why
I don’t always run public open trainings, but when I do, I try to run them as charity events. I believe this approach is meaningful and necessary. In this article, I will explain why I find it useful and important. However, let me begin by outlining some rules.
Feel free to adopt this idea if you find it appealing.
When running an IT charity workshop, I establish the following rules. It is crucial to adhere to all of them, as disregarding any could lead to complications.
- Participants should RSVP as “will come” (e.g., using Meetup) as their first step.
- Within 24 to 48 hours, they must provide proof of a charity donation they made; otherwise, their seat will be released back to the pool of available seats.
- Proof of donation should be submitted in advance and cannot be presented at the door when the workshop starts.
- The donation must be made to a legally recognized organization (ideally state-recognized, if applicable). In Poland, for example, we have a list of officially registered foundations/NGOs. It should not be a donation made to just anyone to cover personal expenses. Our intention is to assist those in genuine need, rather than supporting dubious causes.
- The donation should be of a minimum amount, usually around 10 EUR (even students can afford the equivalent of two or three beers or coffees). However, there is no upper limit, and that’s the beauty of this approach (and trust me, people often donate more).
- The workshop’s webpage should not provide a simple button to “send ten bucks with PayPal to organization ABC.” Each participant must:
- Find someone who needs help.
- Send money directly to them via bank transfer or the organization’s website.
- Submit proof of donation to the workshop organizers.
- Sponsors can provide a venue, drinks, and other support, but they should not cover the cost of tickets. Each participant must bear the expenses themselves. No one, including sponsors, employers, or training budgets, can pay on behalf of participants. Each individual must contribute their own funds.
- I’m not a rock star who can give a charity concert. The closest thing I can do, related to my professional activities, is to run a workshop where all the “fees” are donated to those in need, while I cover my own expenses.
- Knowledge is not free. While you can visit a library and read a book “for free,” someone had to print that book. Someone has to pay the librarian. Someone had to build the library building. Someone had to manufacture the table where you sit to read the book. The same applies to “free YouTube courses”; they were created by individuals who invested their time (and trust me, it’s not easy-peasy). When there is a small cost involved, it serves as a reminder of the effort behind it.
- IT professionals are generally in a privileged position. Some even consider us part of an IT aristocracy. I see no reason why individuals in such an above-average position couldn’t be encouraged to help those who genuinely require assistance.
- In non-commercial workshops (i.e., free workshops), I have often witnessed all seats being booked, with people on the waiting list. However, when the workshop begins, approximately one-third of the seats remain empty because some individuals simply clicked “yeah, I wanna come” but didn’t show up, wasting venue capacity and the trainer’s time. Since there was no commitment required on their part other than clicking “reserve your seat,” those who genuinely wanted to attend were unable to do so because the “low-committers” didn’t bother to update their RSVP. It pains me to see this happen.
- Furthermore, even if they do attend the workshop, they may not value it as much because it was free. They may skip pre-work or arrive late because they feel they have nothing to lose. The mindset of “I paid for it, so I have to take it seriously” works effectively.
It should require effort to search for someone in need and then visit the bank’s website or the foundation/NGO’s page to send the donation. People learn best through hands-on experiences. If they discover that they don’t need volunteers to show up at their door on a Saturday morning but can independently find someone to help and send money directly themselves, this knowledge is more likely to resonate with them. Who knows, perhaps next time they will consider donating their time to a charity foundation?
This is actually the aspect that potential participants find most challenging. After attending the workshop, they admit with laughter that this is the most demanding part of the entire process. If there was a simple button, like those found in major e-commerce sites, saying “take my money and let me in,” it would be easy. However, the fact that it requires effort to help and participate serves as a valuable lesson, teaching them that a) they can help others in a similar manner, and b) the trainer’s time and knowledge are not free.
Picture by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.