Unemployed developer? Like helping non-profits? Want VS Ultimate with MSDN?

no-free-lunchEvery so often, Microsoft provides “special opportunities” to folks that have been received the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award.  Recently, one of the opportunities arose and I received some certificates redeemable for Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN subscriptions to distribute however I like.  Wow! 

Now that makes you think.  What is the best way to distribute these with the most impact on the Community.  While I was mulling this over I came across a blog post by Arnie Rowland (MVP – SQL Server Development).  He was having the same problems I was except that he came up with a brilliant solution. 

For those unaware, a MSDN Ultimate subscription allows the subscriber to download and own full featured versions of Visual Studio Ultimate, as well as most any Microsoft software. The license is for development use, and is not transferable. And it has a retail value of approximately $12,000.

A couple of years ago, when I had a similar opportunity, I struggled with what to do. It seemed too much to just hand out to friends. I asked myself why I would give someone $12,000 if they were not deserving or contributing anything in return. I then considered offering the subscriptions as raffle items at user group meetings. But that caused me some concern, for there would be no certainty that the winner would value the product or put it to good use. Or perhaps the winner would be inclined to attempt to sell or barter the subscription. (I had on a previous occasion been contacted by the winner of a similar product who had no use for it and was attempting to get some value from the prize.) That would not coincide with what I considered in the interest of the larger software development community.  And I just didn’t like the possibility of knowing that such a valuable ‘gift’ would be not be put to societal gain.

So, I gave out the subscriptions to folks that committed to volunteering at least 100 hours to develop software projects for several non-profits. On one project, there were excellent benefits from a group of folks learning to work together as a distributed development team. We all learned quite a bit. Other non-profits gained excellent software at no cost.”    – Arnie Rowland

Arnie and a few other MVPs, myself included, have pooled their MSDN subscriptions and then added tools and training from a number of other sources.

“This year, I will be seeking proposals from unemployed (or under-employed) developers that would use the tools to improve their skills with .NET, SQL Server, and Windows 7 Phone. The proposals should be for a project for a non-profit -either a new project or an upgrade to an existing project.

The idea is to provide the recipient access to all of the tools needed to improve his/her skills, an opportunity to gain practical experience, the potential to earn a recommendation and/or referral –and to positively contribute to society as a form of ‘give-back’. No free lunch, just sweat equity –the kind that makes us all feel good for the effort. ”       – Arnie Rowland

To read the entire post, review the Guidelines or submit a Proposal, Please read: While you don’t get a ‘Free Lunch’, you will get your just desserts…