Our Work


When Two Dev Teams Become One

By Samantha Kyrkostas on May 26, 2015
Drupal MadCamp 2015

Gwen and Samantha representing our two Dev. departments at Drupal MADCamp in March.

We've spent quite a bit of effort distinguishing between our two Development teams (the fundraisers and the techies) of late. At first, it just seemed like one of those cumbersome distinctions that we had to make to be clear, but when we took a step back, we realized that our two Dev teams could work together like a well-oiled machine if we just followed a few simple rules. We are still exploring how powerful this cooperation can be, but we've got a few tips right off the bat for how your two Development departments can work together to achieve more.

1. Find a Common Language - every profession has its own maelstrom of jargon and misappropriated terms whose meanings are only clear to a select few. If you want to work together, drop the department-specific semantics and get back to basics. One of the most critical elements of our collaboration is that we are willing to take the time to talk about what we're doing.

2. Find a Common Code - Again, we're not talking about a programming language here. We mean making a commitment to keeping an open ear to the work of your colleagues. That means that the fundraisers have an obligation to understand what platform you've chosen to build in and why. It likewise means that your tech team should understand what potential investors (donors, foundations, in-kind services) want to know about the (software) development process.

3. Share Your Turf- Be open to learning from each other and crossing into each other's domain. Gwen: I've written grant proposals, edited them, drafted letters of support, and brainstormed fundraising ideas with our fundraising "development" team while Samantha has installed Acquia's Dev Desktop, spun up her own site on Drupal, created blocks and menus on IllinoisLegalAidOnline.org and attended MADCamp this spring. We've both taken steps to understand what each other does and how each other's development works; Sam has taught me to be a better grantwriter through her countless edits of my work and hopefully, I've taught her just enough HTML and Drupal to be dangerous. Samantha: that's right, just enough to be dangerous... so watch out folks!

It is easy to put up a wall between the people who are building and the people who are raising the funds to pay for the construction. Samantha: One writes grants, the other writes code. One engages donors, the other engages with that deep wormhole at the end of the internet - right, Gwen? ;-) Gwen: But it's a really bad idea to put up such walls, Samantha. The technology folks have to be willing to step up and engage people as well, whether it is the rest of the staff to hopefully educate them on the technology process and costs or relaying to funders the benefits of thinking about technology as a vital component to every project. How can I expect you or Lisa or Teri to be able to raise money for projects if I can't articulate the technology components? And on the fundraising side, how can anyone expect the fundraising staff to be able to understand the complexities of building an elaborate new system without talking to tech? Samantha: not only talking to tech but "talking tech." If us fundraisers want to have any kind of success in securing funds to build technology, we've got to get comfortable in the tech world.

We think there's a lot of truth in this statement by Peter Campbell, CIO at the Legal Services Corporation on taking a non-profit tech job:

"That said, if you don't like to talk to people, and you don't think that marketing should be part of your job, think twice".

For both development departments, marketing and communication are key parts. For techies, it's not just about sitting behind a giant iMac screen banging out code.

We are not advocating for the total merging of the two Development departments. But we do think that both departments work better when engaged and supporting the work of the other, especially at smaller non-profits like ours where they are likely to be one or two person shops at most. A little bit of solidarity can go a long way. And so can a good team outing every once in a while. So, we're skipping out early this Friday to watch the Cubs play the Kansas City Royals. Keep an eye out for us on the jumbotron (yes, for better or for worse, Wrigley has gone digital.)

Stay tuned for more!

- Gwen + Samantha