The Geeks for America program delivers young, aspiring technology professionals to nonprofit organizations across the country.  Program applicants, typically recent college graduates, are awarded 1-2 year fellowships to work with a nonprofit and address its information technology needs.

The Geeks for America program can be broken down into the following four phases:

Recruit --

The recruiting phase begins each fall when GFA and its partners collaborate to find highly-qualified technology fellows, nonprofit host sites, and high-tech volunteers for the following year. 

Place --

Once all of the Nonprofits applications have been received, a list of potential host sites are posted on the web for review by the potential geeks.  As part of the geek application process, geeks will indicate their preferred choices of nonprofit host.   During the final review process, geeks and nonprofits will be matched together based on the nonprofit’s requirements and the geek’s preferences.

Train --

The training program begins with an introductory “boot camp”.  Nonprofit technology planning, project management, basic troubleshooting, and networking are a few of topics that will be covered during the initial training.  Additional online and classroom-based courses will be available throughout the fellowship. 

Support --

Fellows receive additional support and guidance during the fellowship through communicating with the volunteer mentors, connecting with other nonprofit technology professionals and regular contact with the GFA staff.  Geeks will also have access to an online collaboration and support portal complete with message boards, calendars and email. 

The combination of resources from TechFoundation and its other nonprofit technology initiatives with the resources of the Geeks for America partner organizations provides a unique offering to aspiring technology fellow and nonprofits.   The GFA partners, a collection of educational institutions, social service organizations, nonprofit technology experts, and high-tech companies, play a significant role in all of the four phases of the Geeks for America program.  The educational institutions and social service organizations are heavily involved in the recruiting and placement of fellows and nonprofit hosts.  The initial boot camp and ongoing training is provided in part by custom classroom courseware developed by the TechConnect program and nonprofit technology experts.  Much of the GFA technology infrastructure such as the GFA online collaboration and support portal with an e-learning component is made available through high-tech companies associated with TechMarketplace. 

Nonprofit Hosts
• Unique, low-cost solution to the shortage of competent technical support professionals
• Tech support in both major office applications and basic networking environments
• Standardized approach to completing technology projects
• Program staff work with nonprofit hosts to customize each assignment to their individual needs
• Fellows supported by nonprofit and corporate technology experts

• Salary/Stipend (variable dependant on sponsoring organization)
• Training program consisting of instructor-led and online classes
• Online collaboration, research, project management tools
• Medical/Health Insurance during the fellowship
• High-tech corporate and/or peer mentors provided for your assistance

• Opportunity to use their expertise to serve the community
• Ability to work with a talented pool of young, aspiring technology professionals
• Join a team of highly motivated individuals working to decrease the Digital Divide

Geeks for America's Pilot Year

With an initial grant from the Boston Foundation, TechFoundation selected Jason Wilson, who was placed in a three-month pilot fellowship at the Media and Technology Charter High School (MATCH) in Boston.  Jason supported all of the information technology activities of the school.  As intended, the pilot program gave TechFoundation the opportunity to revise the program structure, finalize the recruitment strategy and build a technology-training program. 

Building on the success of the pilot program, TechFoundation launched the first full-year Geeks for America program in Boston. During this year’s first round, we explored different models of site placements, including placing more than one Geek at sites with multiple information technology needs and having Geeks work at more than one host site.  Our first Geek, Jason Wilson, stayed on and was joined by five additional Geeks:  Norman Eng, Marie Charpentier, Nuno Meireles, Sharon Huang and Anselmo Ribiero. These six talented fellows worked full-time at four nonprofit host sites throughout Boston.  At each site, the Geeks are becoming fully integrated into the organization’s technology operations and spearheading a variety of pre-determined projects. 

At Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion (a community development corporation in South Boston), Geeks assisted with the Villa Tech project to wire 884 low-income housing units to provide intranet and Internet access to residents.  Geeks also maintained the IBA technology infrastructure which included a community computer lab as well as a Cisco Systems designed cable modem network

At Boys and Girls Club of Boston, Geeks maintained a wide area network linking the computer systems of the five Boston-area clubhouses in addition to supporting the computer-based educational programs at the clubs as well as the finance and administration departments at the downtown Boston headquarters 

At the McCormack Institute – Center for Social Policy housed at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Geeks were involved in providing support and training on CSPTech (Connection, Service, and Partnership through Technology), a networked computerized record-keeping system that allows more than 100 homeless service providers across Greater Massachusetts to collect uniform client information over time.  In addition to CSPTech, Geeks also evaluated software for the Homeless Service Tracking System funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

At the Media and Technology Charter High School (a charter high school in Boston) Geeks supported the entire technical infrastructure for the school, including three computer laboratories and a roving laboratory consisting of laptops and wireless access cards.  In addition to the technical support, Geeks taught courses on Beginning Web Design and Internet Basics to MATCH students.

Geek Selection Process

The high demand to participate in the Geeks for America program offers TechFoundation and our partners the opportunity to select the best geeks from a large pool of talented applicants.  The selection process begins with ads posted online and in print directed to high quality colleges and universities.  Potential geeks apply to Geeks for America with a resume, cover letter, and transcript.  Upon receipt of the applications, Geeks for America staff and partners read through all of them to determine a selection of the best candidates to match with the pool of nonprofit host sites.  Based on the resume, cover letter, interview, references, and the criteria listed below, the best applicants are selected and awarded fellowships. 

Geek Selection Criteria

Geeks are selected according to the following criteria:

• Overall application quality.  We seek geeks who are serious enough about the Geeks for America application that their cover letter and resume are of the highest quality.

• Academic excellence.  Geeks must have completed a college degree from an accredited university and demonstrate academic excellence through their transcript. 

• Technology skills.  We select geeks that have either majored or minored in computer science, MIS or a related field.  Those whose academic history does not reflect a technology bias must show other proof of serious, high-level technology skills.  We give special consideration to individuals who have experience in a help desk or computer lab. 

• Commitment to community. Preference is also given to applicants with volunteer or nonprofit experience or the ability to clearly demonstrate their commitment to their community. 

• Diversity and depth of experience.  Geeks for America seeks to work with interesting, committed, diverse people.  We want each geek to be a valuable addition to the nonprofit host and the program.  We look for applicants that demonstrate that they are a person of substance and integrity and have a wide array of experiences to bring to the program. 

• Skills match.  Geeks for America seeks geeks that are most appropriate for our host sites.  We hope to find geeks whose skills match the needs of our nonprofit partners. 

• Able to work legally in the United States.  We are unable to sponsor work visas for non-U.S. citizens. 

The Mentor Program

A key component of the Geeks for America program, the Mentor program engages professional volunteers to advise geeks in matters of information technology, nonprofit support, and career planning.  Mentors make a commitment to offer time each month to advise geeks in any of five ways.  Geeks for America works directly with individuals or builds mentor programs with corporate community outreach departments.  Partnering with Geeks for America offers professionals an excellent opportunity to use their skills in service to the community.  

Types of Mentors

  • Help-Desk Mentors offer online and phone support to geeks on topics of their expertise.  
  • Onsite Mentors provide onsite technology support through short-term or ongoing projects.
  • Career Counselor Mentors give guidance to geeks on their individual career paths through meetings and phone support on an as-needed basis.
  • Instructor Mentors teach on-going or one-time courses in areas of their expertise to geeks as part of Geeks for America’s ongoing training program through formal lectures, seminars, or ongoing classroom-based training.
  • Site Manager Mentors provide project management, strategic assessment, and evaluation for a nonprofit site. 

Nonprofit Host Selection Process

The Nonprofit Digital Divide has implications for a large number of nonprofits, many of which would be eager to host a Geeks for America technology fellow.  Because Geeks for America cannot service all the nonprofits that might want a geek and due to our commitment to finding the highest quality hosts for our geeks, we have created a rigorous selection process. 

In selecting host nonprofits, Geeks for America endeavors to partner with worthy nonprofit organizations and offer the fellows an environment that is conducive to learning and appreciative of technology skills.  We ask each nonprofit to fill out a simple application form, and then we consider all applicants according to our criteria.  After narrowing the field of nonprofit applicants, the Geeks for America program staff conducts site visits and or phone interviews with the finalist nonprofits to survey the environment and discuss the program details with the Executive Director and prospective Site Supervisor.  With a better understanding of the needs and facilities of the finalist nonprofits, the Geeks for America program staff will be able to determine the best pairing of host sites and geeks. 

Nonprofit Selection Criteria

The criteria we have established for the selection of nonprofit host sites for our geeks are:

• Location and accessibility.  Nonprofits have to be in within the city limits of city in which the GFA program is located.  They also need to be easily accessible via public transportation. 

• Organizational quality.  Techfoundation seeks to introduce the geeks to the essential work of the nonprofit sector.  We endeavor to partner with nonprofits that demonstrate the best of the nonprofit world through their mission, integrity, efforts, and accomplishments. 

• Site supervisor.  We ask that nonprofits ensure a means of keeping the geeks’ efforts and knowledge in the institutional memory of an organization.  Nonprofits must designate a supervisor who will oversee the geek and commit to maintaining technology implemented during the fellowship.  If not already versed in technology, the supervisor should be willing to be trained.  Site supervisors are also responsible for providing regular feedback on the geek’s progress.

• Financial contribution. Nonprofits must be willing to contribute a portion of the overall costs of their assigned technology fellow.  This will include but is not limited to the geek’s salary, benefits, and training fee. 

• Full-time need.  Nonprofits must have a scope of projects that will last the duration of the fellowship.  Typically, a geek is only assigned to one nonprofit organization and it is very important that geeks do not feel underutilized.  In their application, nonprofits will designate the type of projects, both ongoing and short-term, that they expect a geek to accomplish during their fellowship. 

• Project level.  Nonprofits’ expectations of a geek must be appropriate to the level of technology expertise of an individual who is just out of college. 

• Appreciation for the strategic value of IT.  We look for nonprofits that value technology, appreciate its potential benefits, and are open-minded about technical learning.