Frequently asked questions

Who can volunteer?

We welcome programmers, designers, database administrators, IT experts, security experts, everyone with software development skills and experience.

Recent graduates, or those with less experience are welcome, but participation will be limited to projects where an established technical lead is willing and able to support them.

What about volunteers with little or no experience?

Volunteering can be a fantastic way to gain experience, and we encourage volunteers at any and all levels to participate.

We also acknowledge that most projects will naturally seek first to engage a volunteer with more experience. Once projects are established there may be room for additional, less experienced, volunteers.

How long do projects take?

As you might expect, the duration of a project is a function of how many features are required, the complexity of the project, and the amount of time volunteers are able to give.

To give you a rough idea, the average Social Coder project usually takes upward of 2 months.

Some projects are much quicker, and some are much longer.

How much experience does a volunteer need to participate?

Projects always involve at least one experienced and qualified volunteer.

Less experienced volunteers may be invited to team up on a project to gain experience and assist as they are able.

Why do programmers volunteer?

Apart from the opportunity to support a cause they care about, volunteers can expect

  • Real-world experience to add to their CV
  • A professional recommendation from the charity
  • Mentoring from a SocialCoder mentor, as and when helpful
  • Development opportunities such as communication, time-management, planning skills
  • Networking opportunities
  • We hope the experience will be personally fulfilling, we also hope volunteers will have fun

How is project value calculated?

Project value is based on an average expected time that a volunteer will spend working on a project, multiplied by contract rates for a developer in the UK. To make this calculation we use market rates from

Some projects require a high level of specialist knowledge or experience, and for those projects the contract rate can be much higher. For instance, the rate for a website penetration test can be twice the daily rate for a contract developer.


If a project is expected to take between 5 and 20 days of volunteer time we calculate as follows

Rate for a contract software developer: £375 per day

Minimum: 5 days × £375 = £1,875

Maximum: 20 days × £375 = £7,500

Average = (£1,875 + £7,500) ÷ 2 ≅ £4,500

How much does it cost

  • It's free for volunteers.
  • It's free for charities.

If volunteer projects are free, why do we care about project value?

We show project value to emphasise the value of volunteer contributions, and what a project might cost on the open market.

What support is available after a bespoke software development project is finished ?

Experience tells us that the greatest cost of bespoke software development lies in support and maintenance after the initial product is developed. The cost of ongoing support can be many times greater than the cost of initial development.

We feel it is our professional responsibility to ensure that charities and non-profit organisations are not inadvertently burdened with this cost.

Where a bespoke development project is proposed, we will work to ensure a viable support plan is created before the project ends.

We will never agree to a project that, in our judgement, would create an unsustainable support and maintenance burden.

Can any non-profit organisation participate?


Can for-profit organisations participate?


Can unregistered charities participate?

No, not unless your project is sponsored by a registered charity or not-for-profit organisation.

We also welcome collaboration with established open source projects.

Who coordinates a SocialCoder project?

Volunteers with solid experience of leading projects and teams may be invited to act as project coordinators.

I want to support this work but I have no coding skills

There might be other ways you can help. It's a misconception that software development is purely about coding. Send me a note by email and we can chat about it.

If you want to donate, our support page is here.

I have an idea for an app, can I get volunteer help?

You can, provided you meet the following criteria

  • You represent a registered charity or an established open source project
  • You have a specific audience waiting for the app

Our motivation is to assure volunteers that the projects they work on have a good chance of longer term success.

Who is behind this?

Ed Guiness, an independent software developer. I've managed software development teams on and offshore since 2004. In 2013 I wrote Ace the Programming Interview. I'm on Twitter as @KiwiCoder.