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Coding for Charity @ CharityHack ‘09

22. September 2009 by Dave Hawes 5 Comments

I signed up for this Paypal event 5 weeks ago when I first saw it on Twitter - CharityHack. I thought it was going to be a couple of days of workshops where Paypal show developers how to use their new Adaptive Payments API…. how wrong was I!

The penny only dropped about what the event was really going to be like last Thursday morning, 2 days before the event. I was reading their website and reading the “What to bring” section and it included a sleeping bag, I had never been to a workshop like this before.

See PayPals lets talk page for a more detailed run down (plus a video which I get a couple of seconds in!)

The event was in fact an opportunity for Paypal, JustGiving and MissionFish to talk to developers about their new APIs then us developers were given 24hours to create an application that could raise money for charity (preferably using the APIs we had been told about).

The idea I came up with in the hour after the penny dropped was to create an application that local volunteers can log their expenses when doing charity work on a website. The charity that they work for would then approve the expenses and they become visible to the public to pay on the charities behalf. If at the end of the month the expense had not been paid then the charity would have to settle up as they are obliged to do.

A member of the public would be able to donate with just a few easy steps:

  1. Search for volunteers in their area with a postcode / radius search
  2. Select the volunteers they want to pay
  3. Click “Donate” and make a single payment to the charity for the amount.


Using the new Paypal adaptive payment API it is possible to split the donation behind the scenes and distribute it to the individual volunteers automatically, which is really cool. This is called a “Chained Payment”.

Our team name –

Redbull and Coffee

redbull-can cup-of-coffee

I teamed up with one of the only other .Net developers in the room of over 100. His name was Lee Mallon and immediately struck up a great working relationship. Lee has a great idea as well around allowing skilled professionals to donate their time to charity, however after discussing it further we felt that idea was just too big for a 24hour effort.

The Paypal venue was great and the Paypal team kept everyone very well fed and watered through the 24hours. There were lots of ideas being developed and a really nice feel to the whole event. Lee and myself were on a roll and before we knew it we had spent 16hours straight working on the application and it sort of worked! Other attendees were also hard at work, the LovePie team had even resorted to getting their sweatbands out.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Lee and I then spent another 7 hours making it look sort of presentable and testing that it all worked. After 23hours and 30mins we had finished out “Local Volunteers” charity application! We were very very chuffed.



I must state again how great the Paypal team where. The had flown their key personnel over from the American who were on hand through the night to help when we had questions and even helped me debug a rather tricky error which turned out to be a copy and paste error by me :s (sorry Rob – it was 2.30am). There were also techies from JustGiving and MissionFish on hand as well.

After 24hours all the teams were invited to present what they had achieved in the previous 24hours. There were many ideas which can be found on the Charity Hack wiki. I got a particular buzz when Musaab At-Taras, the Director of PayPal Platform commented that we had done “a really great job”.

There was one team that had worked on a particularly good idea, called CharityFrag, which I feel will have great appeal to a largely untapped community by charities. It was a mod for a First Person Shooter game. Players pledged money to charity before entering the game and picked their own charity. When they killed someone in game they took some of that persons money for their charity, equally when they were killed some of their money went to their opponents charity. This was all fed to a website keeping a real-time tracking on who had donated what charities – it is a truly great idea I hope their prize of a trip for San Fran to attend the Paypal conference there is the springboard required to get this idea into a production quality solution.

Lee and I were told we came a close second and got a special mention for our effort, which means a lot. Talking to Lee afterwards we both agreed that the best team had won.

So my hacking weekend cherry is broken and I would strongly recommend developers should seek out and got to these sort of events – it is a great social event and you can learn lots of new skills. My goal is to do one every 6 months.

I also plan to get our Local Volunteers application live in the next 3 weeks and hope that it will be a useful tool for raising money.


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Cristiano Betta
United Kingdom Cristiano Betta said:

One every six months? Wow! It's conference season so I'm doing one almost every weekend. This weekend is Over The Air (a Mobiel Hack Day), the weekend after is HackNorth, and then soon after there are a lot of awesome BarCamps. You can find most of these "geek events" on this website:


United Kingdom davehawes said:

Thanks Cristiano, I would love to get a pass every weekend but I have a 15week old baby which puts a stop to that idea!

Thanks for the website link, i will definately use that to find a good event.

(Loved your Facebook app btw!)

charities.justgiving.com said:

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JustGiving for charities:   Charity hack weekend – what got built

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