An Expandable Explanation into Hackathon Organizing

By @sampoder

Tuesday, 13th December

As a :hackathon organizer, there’s always hundreds of different things on your plate. As I was organizing :Assemble, I wrote in my journal:

I've got 500 things in “the back of my head”. I just keep stuffing things to do back there! Running a hackathon, there’s no one telling you what to do and when to do it like there is in school. Now that’s great and all, but it means I’m stressing about forgetting things and feel like absolute chaos all day every day.

Organising Epoch was even more chaotic, as shown in this BTS video:

Anyhow! The goal of this post is help you cover the basics of your hackathon – food, venue, sponsorship etc. – and give you more time to focus on making the experience unique and magical.

👋🏼 Starting Out 👋🏼

Getting going can be a daunting task, you’re priority in the first few days of organizing a hackathon should be getting yourself setup to be successful.

The Three Ws

You’ve probably heard of the four Ws before: who, what, when and why? At the moment, don’t worry about the what, just ask yourself:

📌 Nail These Down Early

To help get the ball rolling, nail down these tasks in the first few days:

📍 Finding a Venue 📍

Setting off to find a venue is one hell of an adventure, it’ll lead you to all sorts of places but in the end you will find one.

To get going, try your hand at the following:

  1. Draft a two paragraph email that pitches your hackathon to prospective venues. Cover the basics, who, what, when & why, in a succinct manner. Here’s the email we used :for Assemble & :for Lion City Hacks.
  2. Create a list of twenty spaces in your area that could serve as venues. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, most spaces can be :converted into a hackathon venue from stadiums to cinemas!
    1. At this stage, also consider if you know anyone who could help you with a venue or has a friend who could. Take advantage of any connection you have, who know where it could lead.
    2. Look around, where are the other tech events in your city being hosted? Browse to see if there are any common venues and add them to your list.
    3. Ideally, your venue will have: a large room for ceremonies, smaller rooms for workshops, open space (with chairs, tables, couches etc.) for hacking and a space to serve food.
  3. Send your email to each space on your list. Do your best to personalise it but don’t spend more than fifteen minutes on each.
  4. Keep your eye on your inbox over the next couple of days. Don’t get anything back? Send follow-ups and repeat the steps above. If your emails aren’t working, get feedback from others (#hackathon-organizers is a great place) and iterate on them.

Finding a venue is tough and stressful. Trust me, you’ll be able to make it work. Just keep trying and don’t be afraid to try something crazy, someone will say yes and all the work will pay off.

Once you have heard back from someone and they’re interested, jump on a phone call to :iron out the details. And you’re all set, well done on getting a venue secured and ready to go for the day!

💸 Raising Money 💸

Hackathons need money and as we all know, money doesn’t grow on trees. Instead, hackathon organizers raise money through sponsorships from local businesses, startups and larger technology corporations.

Lion City's Hacks Transparent Hack Club HCB Finances

Lion City Hacks's transparent finances on HCB.

Assuming you’ve got :HCB setup (apply if you haven’t!), the first step of this sponsorship process is to create a :prospectus.

Here are a couple of great examples. As always take inspiration from them, but, don’t copy them verbatim, your event is unique!

Once you’ve got a :prospectus, the process is similar to finding venues: draft a meaningful email, create a list of folks to reach out to, send them emails as personalised as possible and then follow up / repeat the process.

Expect it to take a while for money to show up in your account, likely weeks but maybe months. As I said earlier just keep trying and once you’ve lined up sponsorships, make sure to express your :full appreciation (sponsors love photos!).

Collecting waivers and drafting safety policies isn't as fun as the rest of the organizing process. However, in the unlikely case of a problem, doing so now will help you a lot down the track.

📝 Waivers

To send out waivers and media releases (you’ll need these to stop yourself from getting sued and so you can take photos), set yourself up on a platform such as DocuSign and use Hack Club’s pre-drafted legal form. Two weeks before, send out waivers to participants and their parents. Keep track of those who sign wherever you’re storing registrations (Airtable is my personal recommendation).

🧸 Code of Conduct

You’ll want to adopt a code of conduct to ensure all your attendees feel safe, comfortable and supported. I recommend forking :Hack Club’s Code of Conduct, adapting it your needs (eg. change out the reporting method) and then publishing it on your website. Make the CoC visible in your opening ceremony and make sure your attendees know who to go to if they don’t feel comfortable.

🦠 COVID-19

With COVID-19 still spreading, draft out a set of guidelines for how you’ll be reducing spread during your event to reassure and protect attendees. :Assemble’s is open-sourced, as are many others on the internet. Fork one and adapt it to suit your needs and your region’s ongoing regulations / recommendations.

Prepare for the unexpected, so if something goes wrong, you can handle the situation and ensure everyone attending is safe.

📦 Stocking Your Event 📦

Ok… back to the fun stuff! Shopping! Some of you may find that fun, normally I wouldn’t, but shopping for a hackathon is amazing.

Photo of food bought for Assemble

🛠 Supplies

A hackathon needs a lot of supplies, for example plates to serve food on and Arduino boards for workshops. I recommend creating a procurement sheet with everything you need and where you’ll buy it. Then go out with your :HCB card and buy it! Don’t know what to buy? You can take inspiration from the supplies we brought at Assemble.

🌯 Food

Food is where you’re going to be spending most of your cash. Do your best to cover each major meal (breakfast, lunch & dinner) and provide snacks and drinks at anytime.

For lunch and dinner, try to spend $10 and $12 respectively per person. Work with both local restaurants (preferable, but slightly harder) and chain restaurants to find the best food within your budget. If you can get a restaurant to sponsor a meal that’s great, though difficult.

For breakfast, snacks and drinks, head to a nearby Costco (or the local alternative) and buy a bunch of items in bulk. Bagels, muffins and cereal all work for breakfast. I’d buy around 300ml of beverage per person per large meal being served and one snack per person for every four hours of your hackathon.

✨ Swag

I’d encourage you to get creative and make the swag at your event unique, that said, finding supplies for swag can be a challenge. I highly recommend StickerMule, they’re slightly expensive but reliably deliver high quality swag. They also have hackathon sponsorship options. From friends I’ve also heard good things about SmartyPass, BrandMakers and StickerHD.

📢 Marketing Your Event 📢

Every hackathon needs attendees, you could have 15 attendees, 50 attendees or 175+ attendees. I've run hackathons with each of these attendee counts. Larger isn’t always better. Small hackathons, when done right, can be incredibly special for both attendees and organizers. As you start to market, set yourself a target for how many attendees you’d like at your event.

Marketing is then, essentially, trial and error. Try :different methods of getting your hackathon in front of prospective attendees. Ask yourself, if someone wanted to market an event to me, how would they reach me? The answer to that question is most likely the marketing strategy you should be pursuing.

Around 50% of people who register will show up on the day, keep that in mind as you plan out numbers.

🤝 Leading A Team 🤝

By far and away the toughest part of organizing a hackathon a team. Everyone’s counting on you and the buck stops with you. At the same time, somehow you’ve got to keep track of everything.

Here’s what I’d recommend, based on what I’ve found works and what I’ve previously failed to do (we’re all learning!):

Leading has been a personal struggle of mine for years. Remain authentic and kind, never stop learning / improving, and set an example for your team. With those three characteristics, you’ll do amazing.

🌟 A Smooth Day-of 🌟

You’ve done the hard yards and you’re finally here. Congratulations, now let’s make this day run as smooth as possible so you and your attendees can have a great time.

📜 Run of Show

A run of show is a breakdown of your event in fifteen or thirty minute blocks. What’s happening when? Here is Assemble’s to base yours off.

Creating a Run of Show helps with two things:

🐝 Team Delegation & Communication

You’ll also want to make sure that everyone knows what they’re going to be doing on the day. Don’t pile everything on yourself, spread the load out. You’ll enjoy the event more if you get an opportunity to chat with all of your fabulous attendees.

For larger events or events with larger venues, set up a threaded Slack or Discord channel to communicate with your team. WhatsApp can also work if your team is small. Some friends swear by walkie-talkies, you may want to try those out but be warned of long term hearing loss.

🪄 Creating a Magical Experience 🪄

You’ve got the basics covered, now go make this hackathon amazing. The best hackathons aren’t copied from a template but instead carefully crafted by the organizers, I’ll spare you of a lecture on my views on what makes a great hackathon, instead, I leave you with a set of questions to use as you plan out your event. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out Assemble’s open source writeup.

That’s a lot, but if you break down and work through the list slowly, things will begin to come together. As you do so, ask yourself: is this something that I, as a high-schooler, would want to do?

From there, I’ll hand over the controls to you. Go forth and create magic. I’m always around to help in #hackathon-organizers on the :Hack Club Slack, or through email:

Best of luck & enjoy the process!


A hackathon is a social coding marathon where teenagers come together to build projects in a short amount of time and share them with the world.



Authentic motivation is the main ingredient of an amazing hackathon. Without being too much of a downer, if you don’t deeply care about your event and the story behind it, your hackathon likely won’t pan out too well.


Consider when’s best for your target audience as well as yourself. organizing a hackathon during exam week is tough, I say from experience. Make sure to give yourself at least two months (ideally three months) to prepare everything for the event.

Diminishing Returns

the benefits gained from a new team member will be smaller the more team members you have.


HCB is financial software used by clubs, hackathons, and student-organized nonprofits. We act as their backing financial and legal entity, allowing you to leverage our 501(c)(3) nonprofit status to receive donations and use our beautiful in-house software to manage and spend their funds. Learn more ➚

Hack Club Slack

The Hack Club Slack is the best place to be as a technical teenager on the internet. Have a coding question? Looking for project feedback? You’ll find some fabulous people to talk to in our global Slack (Discord-style online groupchat) with 17,000+ members, active at all hours. Join the Slack ➚

Assemble Email

Subject: Bringing Together Hack Clubbers @ Figma SF?

Hey Dylan!

Sam & Belle, here, we work with Christina Asquith & Zach Latta at Hack Club. Every summer Hack Club runs something special. In 2020, we ran Summer of Making and in 2021, we traveled across America on The Hacker Zephyr. This year we want to combine Summer of Making’s scale / impact and The Hacker Zephyr’s IRL magic at Assemble, Hack Club’s 2022 summer event.

Assemble will bring together 150 high school hackers from around the globe for a three-day magical hackathon in San Francisco this summer. You can expect the traditional Hack Club antics and more. For example, we’re looking at having a life-sized dinosaur robot (that hackers can hack on over the event) rove the event! Not only will Assemble be a magical hackathon, it’ll also set the gold standard for future high-school hackathons. Our goal is to redesign the blueprint for future hackathons: every component of Assemble will be open sourced (similar to The Hacker Zephyr repository) and carefully documented for future organizers to bring to their own communities.

Assemble needs a home in San Francisco and we were wondering if Figma could host us for a weekend (Friday 6:00pm to 12:30pm on Sunday) in late July / early August at your office in SF?

I remember hearing about your rapping at the Figma Variety Show during the Hack Club AMA, that’s the exact vibe we’re going for at Assemble! Alongside the photos we’ve seen on social media and us all using Figma on the regular, the Figma office is shaping up to be the perfect venue for Assemble.

Thank you for considering our request and we look forward to hearing from you! We would love to jump on a call to answer any questions or iron out details.


Sam & Belle

Lion City Hacks Email

Subject: Bringing Together Teenage Hackers @ RedHat

Hey Harish,

Sam here, I'm a 17-year old student in Singapore. Last month I organized Assemble, the first in-person high school hackathon in San Francisco since the start of the pandemic. My team & I brought together hundreds of teenagers from 12 countries and 20+ US states for a magical weekend. I was so inspired after coming home from the event, that I've decided to organize a hackathon for teenagers here in Singapore.

To make this happen, I've brought together a team of secondary school & JC students passionate about technology and raised just under $10,000 for the event. There's only one thing left to make the event a reality, the venue and that's where I need your help. I was wondering if you could help us find a way for RedHat to host us for a Saturday (8:00am to 9:00pm) in late November / early December?

I'd love to jump on a call to answer any questions or discuss details.Thank you for considering my ask!



CodeDay Venue

We hosted CodeDay Singapore in a retro cinema (that was formerly a disco dance floor), for example!

Venue Details


In layman’s terms, a two-three page document that tells the story behind your hackathon, why one should sponsor your event and lastly, how they can.

Assemble Thank You

After Assemble, we did the following to thank Figma for the kindness:

In general, after the event, make sure to show your venue just how much you appreciate them!

Hack Club Code of Conduct

View the CoC on GitHub ➚


Why have a Code of Conduct?

Hack Club's community includes people from many different backgrounds. The Hack Club contributors are committed to providing a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment for all, regardless of age, disability, gender, nationality, race, religion, sexuality, or similar personal characteristic.

The first goal of the Code of Conduct is to specify a baseline standard of behavior so that people with different social values and communication styles can communicate effectively, productively, and respectfully.

The second goal is to provide a mechanism for resolving conflicts in the community when they arise.

The third goal of the Code of Conduct is to make our community welcoming to people from different backgrounds. Diversity is critical in order for us to build a thriving community; for Hack Club to be successful, it needs hackers from all backgrounds.

With that said, a healthy community must allow for disagreement and debate. The Code of Conduct is not a mechanism for people to silence others with whom they disagree.

Where does the Code of Conduct apply?

If you join in or contribute to the Hack Club ecosystem in any way, you are encouraged to follow the Code of Conduct while doing so.

Explicit enforcement of the Code of Conduct applies to all official online Hack Club groups, in-person meetings, and events including:

Other Hack Club groups (such as hackathons, conferences, meetups, and other unofficial forums) are encouraged to adopt this Code of Conduct. Those groups must provide their own moderators and/or working group (see below).

Hacker Values

These are the values to which people in the Hack Club community should aspire.

People are complicated. You should expect to be misunderstood and to misunderstand others; when this inevitably occurs, resist the urge to be defensive or assign blame. Try not to take offense where no offense was intended. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Even if the intent was to provoke, do not rise to it. It is the responsibility of all parties to de-escalate conflict when it arises.

Unwelcome behavior

These actions are explicitly forbidden in Hack Club spaces:

Moderation & Enforcement

Please understand that speech and actions have consequences, and unacceptable behavior will not be tolerated. When you participate in areas where the code of conduct applies, you should act in the spirit of the "Hacker values". If you conduct yourself in a way that is explicitly forbidden by the Code of Conduct, you will be warned and asked to stop, and your messages may be removed by community moderators. Repeated offenses may result in a temporary or permanent ban from the community.

This procedure only serves as a general guideline for moderation & enforcement of our community conduct. Under all circumstances, the Working Group or Hack Club's staff members may take any action we deem appropriate, including immediate removal from the community. Being banned from the Hack Club community may also prevent you from participating in our community events, including but not restricted to: local club meetings, hackathons, or challenges.

Please understand that we will not restrict your ability to contact the Code of Conduct working group under any circumstance. If you have any questions or concerns about our decision, please reach out to us directly. If your Slack account is under suspension, email us directly at

Working Group

The Working Group is responsible for handling conduct-related issues. Their mission is to de-escalate conflicts and try to resolve issues to the satisfaction of all parties. For all projects related to and/or maintained by Hack Club HQ, the Working Group is made up of the Hack Club staff team and Community team. The specific team member(s) handling each violation depend on the location and nature of the issue.

Reporting Issues

If you encounter a conduct-related issue, you should report it to the Working Group using the process described below. Do not post about the issue publicly or try to rally sentiment against a particular individual or group.

Note that the goal of the Code of Conduct and the Working Group is to resolve conflicts in the most harmonious way possible. We hope that in most cases issues may be resolved through polite discussion and mutual agreement. Bannings and other forceful measures are to be employed only as a last resort.

Changes to the Code of Conduct should be proposed by creating an issue or making a pull request to this document.


This was adapted from Go's Code of Conduct. It is to be noted that many parts of Go's Code of Conduct are adopted from the Code of Conduct documents of the Django, FreeBSD, and Rust projects.

Assemble COVID-19

View this policy on GitHub ➚

Below is the COVID-19 policy we adopted at Assemble. It was written to keep attendees safe whilst also being practical enough for us to implement. To the best of our knowledge (after contact tracing), there was no COVID-19 transmission at Assemble.

Documentation and implementation is handled by the COVID working group. If you have any questions, or need to contact someone about these docs, please reach out to them.

Before the Hackathon

Vaccination Requirements

All attendees will be required to submit proof of full vaccination including additional boosters that may become available and recommended before August. Attendees may be asked to show proof at a pre-event check-in and at the entrance of the venue, so attendees should bring their proof of vaccination.

Covid Test Documentation

We require all attendees & organizers produce the results of a negative antigen test within 24 hours of the event or (if flying) before you leave to travel.

Travel Stipends

Recipients of travel stipends flying in to attend will need to take their tests before boarding their plane.

At the Hackathon


Rapid tests will be provided in the open for anyone to use and hand sanitizer will be located throughout the venue.

Masks are not required at the venue, but will be available for anyone who wishes to wear one.

Self-report Response

If an attendee or organizer begins to show symptoms and/or has a positive test, they must isolate and leave the event. They are responsible for coordinating housing and rebooking travel if needed.

We will send a notification email to attendees with exposure details if there is a positive test.

After the Hackathon

Reporting post-event positive-tests

If an attendee or organizer has a positive test within 7 days of the event, they should report the possible exposure to self-report link.

To ensure attendees and organizers remember to self-report after the event, a scheduled text message will be sent with the self-report link.

Marketing Methods

Some common strategies used are:

An expandable explanation by

Hack Club

Open-sourced at hackclub/expandables.