IT opportunities for the common good

With the current economic climate and the collective stress that it brings, volunteering for charity may be the furthest thing from our minds given the number of hours we already work.

But while some of us are working longer hours to make up for lost manpower, the sad truth is that we all know somebody with IT skills who is out of work at the moment. And given the current state of the economy and the scandals rocking Wall Street, more people are likely to be out of work soon.

But there are organizations that desperately need the skills of trained IT professionals. Unlike powerful corporations, however, they can’t afford to pay anybody. The organizations I am referring to are non-profit charities that need to set up IT infrastructures to support their cause. In this issue, we profile a number of CTOs who have decided to give of themselves to organizations such as Save the Children, The Sierra Club, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. If you can find time to donate to similar organizations, we applaud you. But barring that, we encourage you to tell any friends you have who are looking for work to volunteer their time at any organization for which they feel an affinity.

In addition to helping that organization, they would gain invaluable experience working inside a group that has to depend more on creativity and experience than budget dollars. And when they do go looking for work, that kind of community service resonates well with hiring managers across the country.

We here at InfoWorld don’t endorse any specific charity, but we have gone out of our way to give a home in our offices to Tech Corp California (TCCA) , a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting volunteer IT support staff to K-12 schools. TCCA is a relatively new chapter of an organization working in 30 states (, trying to build a base of volunteers that it can then connect with school systems throughout the state. On a national level, Tech Corps is partnered with vendors such as Cisco, Compaq, and Intel.

It is the relationships that IT people have with vendors that can be of the most help beyond donating their time. The U.S. government recently accelerated depreciation time, so now it’s easier to give relatively modern equipment to charities, as opposed to five-year-old equipment that is virtually useless for running today’s software. And beyond that, vendors themselves are more willing to donate equipment to charities because, frankly, there is just a lot more unsold equipment and software sitting around on warehouse shelves. But navigating the Byzantine processes of a major company is a daunting task for a charity, so the experience that IT professionals bring to the acquisition process could be invaluable.

For an IT professional, it’s all about making an impact. The good news is that impact more often than not can be greater outside your own organization.

Michael Vizard is editor in chief of InfoWorld and Contact him at