It was February 2nd, 2018 at 2 PM when I got a call from Jake Reilly, the founder of Kapaa High School’s Hack Club, our first chapter in Hawaii.
As the director of Hack Club, a non-profit network of high school computer science clubs, I regularly field calls from club leaders, helping them organize and promote their events. But, this time was different — Jake was frantic. “They won’t let us spend the money,” he said.
They had spent months securing $10,000 in donations to bring their club on a trip to the Bay Area. They had their spots confirmed at a hackathon led by a fellow Hack Club, they had already secured commitments from Facebook, Google, Sourcegraph, and others for office tours, and they even got written up in the local newspaper, but now it wasn’t clear if the event was going to happen at all.
The only person who had access to the bank account was the principal, but nobody knew where he was. 24 hours later, Jake and I were on the phone with the vice principal who was also left in the dark. A week later, the principal showed up in Tokyo and the money was still completely restricted. They missed the deadline for purchasing the flights and the trip was cancelled. What the hell happened?
Kapaa High School isn’t an isolated case. In fact, high school students in general have no way to safely store money for clubs and non-profit activities. Schools, banks and local organizations lack the infrastructure to give students access to safe, tax-free and fee-exempt bank accounts. To do it yourself, you must incorporate and seek non-profit status which can take over a year and thousands of dollars in the United States.
This puts students in a tough spot. Sure, you can secure the money to run a hackathon or an event with your club, but where do you put it?
Today, I’m proud to share the launch of the Hack Club Bank. Students running events can now choose to store their money with Hack Club and get the full benefits of the backing of a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
Here’s how it works. Students who choose to store their money with Hack Club get access to a dashboard where they can see a financial overview of their event.
From the dashboard, event organizers can do three crucial things:
- Account balance: See the event’s real-time account balance and transaction history
- Invoice: Collect payments from sponsors via debit card, credit card, domestic wire transfer, and even ACH
- Debit cards: Issue pre-loaded debit cards to fellow team members
When designing Hack Club Bank, one of the things most important to us was automating as much as possible. You should never have to wait for someone from Hack Club to find out your account balance. You should never have to wait for someone to issue an invoice for you. You should never have to go through a lengthy human-managed expense reimbursement process.
That said, some things are inevitable. There’s nothing worse than needing something last-minute and having the person managing your financials go dark.
As part of Hack Club Bank, every event gets a dedicated point-of-contact and a best-effort 12 hour response window with a pre-defined escalation policy. Hack Club will never go dark on events.
Here’s a full list of everything provided as part of Hack Club Bank:
- An underlying bank account with 501(c)(3) status, so donations to events are tax deductible
- Invoicing software that allows sponsors to pay via debit card, credit card, wire transfer, and even ACH
- Pre-loaded debit cards that can be issued to team members. No more waiting for lengthy reimbursement processes.
- G Suite accounts for each team member, so everyone gets a custom email address like email@example.com
- Pre-written liability and photo releases for attendees
- Best-effort 12 hour response window and a dedicated point of contact
- End of year tax filings, so events can focus on running a great event and we can take care of the backend
While we’re still in the early days, we’ve already signed on four upcoming high school hackathons with combined budgets of over $50,000.
To start, we’re allowing students already working with Hack Club to invite new events to Hack Club Bank. Down the road, we’ll be offering access to Hack Club Bank to the public through an open application process.
Go to https://hackclub.com/bank to learn more about how to get started.
Hack Club started three years ago with the goal of empowering students disillusioned by our education system to build projects and achieve their potential.
In the time since, we’ve had the privilege of seeing this crazy idea become reality. As the world’s largest nonprofit network of computer science clubs, Hack Club now spans hundreds of high schools across dozens of states and nearly 20 countries. Thousands of students are being impacted each week during the school year and thousands more have had their lives changed by events ran by our clubs.
With Hack Club Bank, we’re excited to help our clubs elevate to the next level. In the near future, having a hackathon in your community — regardless of location — will no longer be the exception, it’ll be the standard.
It just doesn’t make sense that you can’t run an event or build something awesome with your club because there is no simple and reliable place to put your money.
The world may not have been built for ambitious teenagers, but they exist, and Hack Club’s mission has always been to make sure that they have the tools and support to fulfill that ambition.
We hope you’ll join us on that mission. One of the best ways to get involved is signing up for a monthly donation— every $3 given supports a student for a month.