Dallas GiveCamp Handbook

What you need to know to be successful at GiveCamp

Lessons Learned by a PM from Bootcamp, Kickoff, and GiveCamp weekend.

Contributed by Kasandra Bell

RULE #1 GiveCamp is a REALLY SHORT weekend, the more planning and prep you can move from “during the weekend” to “before the weekend” the better the weekend will go. Prioritize as you go.


  • It is very fast paced. It is Agile based as well, instead of 30 day Sprints the Sprints are three hours. Meals and snacks are loosely timed to align with this schedule.
  • It is not Waterfall. Some documentation is good, online is better.
  • Reprioritize throughout the weekend as needed.
  • Bring a laptop
  • There will be lots of food
  • The team you start with may be completely different GiveCamp weekend. It’s ok.
  • Your GiveCamp coordinator is super helpful and experienced! Always let them know what is going on and ask for help if you need it!
  • The website, DallasGiveCamp.org, has a lot of great information! The most important tabs are Charities, Volunteers, and Resources.
    • “Charities” is organized by year and has the writeup for each charity and a link to their website.
      • Charity FAQs
      • Event Recap presentation videos, similar to the Retrospective. These are huge files and can take a while to download. Remember, some people had very little sleep.
      • Event Recap presentations in PDF format.
    • Volunteers
      • Basic overview of the three main role areas; Developers/Designers, PM/BA, and Event Staff
      • Volunteer FAQs
    • Resources - GiveCamp Handbook - Bootcamp/Kickoff Recordings and PowerPoint
    • Bookmark AND READ the Handbook! It’s a living document so check back for updates.
      • It’s a good idea to review all the sections of the handbook to get a feel for what is going on.


  • This is a high-level overview of what to expect from GiveCamp.
  • We learn about expectations for each role; Project Managers, Business Analysts, UI Designers, and Developers.
  • They will introduce GiveCamp Event Staff; coordinators, tech ninjas, social media gurus, security experts, etc.
  • They will introduce charities and potential teams. Charity reps do not have to attend this meeting.
  • You may request a charity if you want to at the end of this meeting. 

When Charity is Assigned

  • Review both of their applications. Know what they think they want.
  • Some reps are very knowledgeable, others can barely turn on their computer so this technical stuff is very scary! If you have a preference about their knowledge level you can talk to the coordinator at Bootcamp or send a follow up email.
  • Reach out to your team when you receive your roster. Introduce yourself and find out if they have any questions or concerns.
    • Find out their availability and communication preferences.
      • I had some teams that wanted to meet in person for work sessions several weekends prior to GiveCamp. Since everyone agreed that is what we did.
      • Others just want video conferences and cannot do more than an hour a week.
  • As a PM reach out to your charity separately. Introduce yourself and ask about their questions or concerns.
    • This is when you get to know your charity rep a bit and can get a sense of whether they want to “shoot for the moon and do as much as possible” or they have other commitments and want a smaller scope. Either is fine, it’s just their preference.
    • You also need to determine their availability and communication preferences.
  • Some people have religious constraints or other commitments so it is important to know this as quickly as possible since it can impact scope.
    • If several people will be out for church Sunday morning then everything might need to be complete Saturday night since code lockdown is at noon Sunday.
    • I’ve had other commitments come up too. It happens, you just need to plan around it.
  • Sometimes team members sign up and cannot do it, they may not tell you. It’s ok, just tell the coordinators.
  • The handbook has a countdown timeline to four weeks out so I am not going to review it here. It is very important information. Yes, I still review it every year and plan accordingly.
  • Plan as much as possible prior to that weekend. For planning purposes, you have 12 hours with five people to complete your project.
  • Sign up as soon as you receive the Slack and Trello invites. Encourage your team and charity to sign up too.
    • If you are not familiar with these go online and play with them so you can answer your team’s questions.
  • I let my team know that after a certain point I will only communicate with them through Slack. It ensures everyone is on the same page and can be accessed from anywhere.


  • This is when you meet your team face to face, unless you’ve had working sessions prior to GiveCamp.
  • I prepare a table tent card with my charity’s name and logo on one side and team member names listed on the other side.
  • There is a team work session afterward to lock down scope and other details.
  • We use Responsive technology so it’s a good idea to have an iPhone, Android phone, iPad, and Android tablet for testing. I check with the team during this meeting. I do have and bring all but the iPhone so you can test with mine if you need to.

GiveCamp Weekend

  • Do have as much of the planning done as possible before Friday.
  • This weekend is exhausting and exhilarating and intense! Though it may not feel like it in any given moment.
  • You may have a completely different team than the one you had at Kickoff or before that.
  • Take photos throughout the weekend. There will be a team photo competition.
  • When you arrive Friday and get settled in take another look at the scope and requirements. Prioritize them and establish the preliminary timeline.
  • There is food. And snacks. Lots of food.
  • I highly recommend getting a hotel room close by if you have to drive more than 45 minutes each way, unless your charity has a smaller scope.
    • Some years I worked a full eight-hour day then was at GiveCamp until 1 am. Drove home to Denton and was back at GiveCamp at 8 am Saturday. Stayed until 1 am again, back to Denton, and back to GiveCamp at 9 am Sunday. Finished at 5 pm Sunday. Exhausted.
    • You may not need do this but it is possible. PMs are the last team member to leave.
    • When developers get in the groove they do not want to go home. Send them home at a reasonable hour, they need sleep too.
  • Some people get 8 hours sleep the whole weekend. It is a good idea to work only part of the day Friday, it is better to take off the whole day if possible. It is even better if you can take off Monday as well. If you have to choose, Monday is the better day to be out. At least Monday morning.
  • You may have to “force” your team to leave Friday and Saturday. Do not let them stay too late. Conversely, you may have a charity that puts home life first so they reduce the scope. I’ve had both extremes.
  • The facility has Wi-Fi, however, Friday night everyone is trying to download so it gets very slow. I have unlimited data on my cell plan so my phone is a Wi-Fi hub for my team Friday night.
  • It is a good idea to have everything from the charity on a thumb drive, cloud drive, or slack.
  • Be flexible.
    • I don’t code but one year we had to create a lot of content – I coded. My tech lead gave us specific instructions to build web pages. I rounded up as many people as I could to help build pages. We built 90 pages that year and could have built more.
    • Sometimes whole teams end up missing that weekend so developers from other teams (your team even) may be reassigned.
    • It’s possible that your team will need help from a guru on another team or vice versa. Make sure the scope will allow for that.
  • Use Trello and Slack throughout the weekend. Updates, raffle winners, templates, and help requests all go through Slack.

Friday Night

  • Everyone is hyped and excited! Confirm the plan and get to work.
  • Take beginning screen shots to include in your presentation.
  • Possible evening snack.
  • I do my first Scrum around 9 pm
  • Do make the team leave go home at a reasonable hour.


  • We usually have wapples (aka waffles). If not, there will be some kind of breakfast at 8 am to encourage everyone to get a good early start.
  • People will be tired but enthusiastic. Use this to keep them motivated.
  • Morning Scrum to start Saturday Morning. Confirm the plan and get to work.
  • Lunch is around noon. Make your team leave your room – they need the brain break.
  • After lunch Scrum to start Saturday Afternoon. Back to work. There may be concern at this point about getting stuff done. Reprioritize if needed.
  • Snack around 3, maybe. There will be a very sufficient supply of snacks that you can go raid at any time for your team.
  • Dinner between 5 and 6. It’s yummy! A very good hot meal. Make your team leave the room for dinner.
  • Scrum again to start Saturday Evening. Reprioritize as needed. This is basically the last full work session so take a bit of time to see where you are; ensure that you can finish, add stretch goals if appropriate.
  • This is also the time to finalize what will be done Sunday morning.
    • Code has to be locked down by noon.
    • Charities must learn how to maintain their new software.
    • You, as PM, will create your team’s presentation. Ensure you have before and after screenshots.
  • Final Saturday Scrum for Saturday Night. This is a good time to start talking about finishing up and leaving for the day. Some years I’ve been out as early as 6 pm, right after dinner. Other years I am forcing the team to leave at 1 am.
  • 10 pm Ice Cream maybe.


  • People are feeling the sleep deprivation. May be a bit cranky but don’t want to admit it.
  • There will be a light breakfast.
  • Morning Scrum to start Sunday Morning. What can be done, final assignments.
  • Write the documentation for the charity to maintain their shiny new product. They will think they have it figured out and may say they don’t need it. They do. They will forget the first time they try to log in to their software.
    • Be sure to include a list of all the websites, passwords. Hosting, Domain, Social media, etc.
  • Start your presentation. What you started with. What you built. Your team. There is a template that will be sent to you via Slack.
  • Lunch and code lockdown.
  • Developers finalize knowledge transfer and documentation with the charity.
  • PM completes presentation and submits to coordinator, preferably by 1 pm if not sooner.
    • Coordinator then combines all presentations and adds other metrics so they need time to do this before our Event Recap.
    • It’s cool to see what everyone accomplished. Encourage your team to stay for this part.
  • Room clean up. Leave it cleaner than you found it. Notify event staff if there are issues (My charity rep’s toddler drew on the wall right before Event Recap last year so we had to get it cleaned up quickly!).
  • Enjoy Event Recap. There will be a group picture at the end.