Supporting Innovation with Capital One

This month, I had a really unique opportunity to attend Capital One’s third annual Gift the Code HACKATHON. The event brought together over 200 of the country’s foremost charity leaders and young digital experts. Leaders from technology companies like Microsoft and Facebook, as well as like-minded peers and experts, shared knowledge in an effort to help non-profit organizations understand the tools available to help advance their digital journeys. The six charity partners that attended this year’s event were Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, Camp Quality, The Centre for Mindfulness Studies, Kids Help Phone, The Movember Foundation and Toronto Cat Rescue.


The room was filled with young, smart, passionate coders that came together for one common goal: to help Canadian charities solve some of their most pressing problems. Over the past year, I’ve been so lucky to attend a handful of Capital One’s tech events, and learn how the company is influencing Canadians to #UseDigitalForGood. There are many charities in Canada that lack the funding and resources to help them keep up in an ever-changing digital world — and that’s where Capital One aims to help!


In my opinion, the best part of Gift the Code is that all code created will be available open-source on public code repositories to provide other charities with the possibility to leverage and further develop the solutions. So, even if you weren’t one of the charities attending the event, you’ll still have access to coded solutions that can be personalized for your charity!


Over a full weekend, coders came together in teams to listen to their respective charity partner’s problems, and identify a solution! At the end of the weekend, teams had five minutes to present their solutions to a group of judges in a science-fair style set-up. *AND* I had the opportunity to act as a judge for the coding teams that created solutions for the Toronto Cat Rescue!


After chatting with the Toronto Cat Rescue team, they told me that their charity faces three main problems:

  1. They needed a fluid, user-friendly, enjoyable adoption process for adopters and an easy to use, one-stop-shop, frictionless system for adoption managers.
  1. They needed a living, comprehensive and user-friendly solution to store, analyze and utilize information about their cats (basically, they needed a cat database!).
  1. They needed a solution for how to manage the transportation of their cats in an efficient, safe and user-friendly way that can be accessed by their many volunteers and fosters.

Think about it… all these problems had little to no digital solution just one decade ago. Within just a handful of years, our digital world has made it possible to solve these problems; but yet, how do charities, with a growing lack of funds and resources, access these solutions? That’s why an event like Gift the Code is so vital for Canadian charities.


Also, my team of judges were SO interesting. Admittedly, I was the least qualified to be judging coding-based solutions — however! I think I was able to bring a valuable perspective on judging the visual & eye-catching qualities of the coders’ projects, since I have experiencing building social media platforms for my audience. While I’m not the most tech-savvy person, I’d like to think I have an eye for effective solutions that are visually pleasing; which, if you take a look at the charity’s three main problems, is part of their difficulty.


After careful deliberation, we awarded a group named Catalist (I love a good pun!) as the winning team for the Toronto Cat Rescue. They created an online database for the charity’s cats that auto-filled a Google Spreadsheet, allowing Toronto Cat Rescue to always have a master list of their cats’ information. I thought it was a genius approach, as many charities need a safe place for their information.

On top of the winning team’s coding solution, Toronto Cat Rescue (and Canadian charities alike) will have immediate, open source access to countless codes for their charity to use. Now THAT’S a way to #UseDigitalForGood!

Until next time,


Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Capital One Canada. All opinions are my own.

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