When my friend, Adam Walker told me about his buddy Jeff Hilmire’s plan to build 48 websites in 48 hours for nonprofits, calling it 48 in 48. I wanted in. From Friday 6pm to Sunday 6 pm, a mass of volunteer designers, developers, writers and WordPress ninjas would crank out websites to help nonprofits.
When the call for developers went out, I signed up right away. But as the 48 in 48 weekend neared, ambivalence crept in. Three days before, it wasn’t sounding like such a great idea. I had a litany of excuses, real excuses, but excuses nonetheless. My husband would be at a triathlon in Florida and I would have to manage the dogs, the birds and a full house of bed and breakfast guests.
A hackathon was impossible. I hated to write Adam to tell him I couldn’t make it.
Adam pushed back ever so perfectly. He called and told me he really wanted me to be there. Could I just come to the start on Friday night? That seemed doable, but I remained so ambivalent that when I showed up I had “forgotten” my laptop.
So what happened? Within the first 30 minutes, I knew I was going to stay for the duration. Not spend the night, but definitely to stay and play. I got my laptop delivered and joined up with two random guys I had just met, to build a website for the Georgia Farmers Market Association (GFMA). Enrique Ramirez was our designer, Patrick Brock a developer and I was the team WordPress ninja.
The organizers had required the nonprofits to submit content, logo, images and their wish list, so we would be able to jump right in. We took a look at what our client had sent in, got a good idea of who they were and what they needed and got to work.
We agreed on a WordPress theme that would work well for what the GFMA wanted its site to achieve. I worked with Patrick getting the site set up while Enrique searched through the files for images to tell the association’s story on the home page.
The GFMA was a new organization and had started a rudimentary site. But they realized, like many nonprofits, needed its website to handle more functions than a typical website. If you want to get my next post on how to supercharge your non-profit website, sign up here to have it sent to your inbox next Wednesday. For the GFMA to get started, they needed:
- Their applicants to fill out a form and apply and pay for a membership based on role (farmer, vendor, farmers market, farmers market manager or other related organizations)
- A membership site that allowed specific content on their website to be visible only to members of a specific type.
- A clear and easy way for people to make donations.
- A robust event management system and calendar where they could add farmers markets and other events of interest to their members.
My team found a nice spot at General Assembly, a coding school who had donated the venue, and worked side by side, finally calling it quits at 1:30 am. I went home, walked the dogs, hopped in bed, got up on a few hours sleep, made breakfast for the guests and by 10 am I met up with my team.
It was such a blast that a good number of people stayed all night with sleeping bags and gear. It didn’t hurt that there were drawings held every four hours for people who were there to win prizes. The hackathon attracted a lot of sponsors, and we really appreciated their generosity of the prizes plus free food, drinks and other amenities. While we worked, volunteers brought us coffee, snacks or whatever we needed to keep going.
We checked in a couple of times with our client, the GFMA director to make sure we were on the right track. She was so excited to hear about what we were up to. The website, looking great with a ton of special functionality, was completed the second night by 1:30 am.
Sunday morning, I was assigned to do the design work on another site and got it in pretty good shape by quitting time at Sunday at 5 pm. In the main room where we gathered to close the session, I looked over and saw a big long wall of all of the before and after screenshots of 48 nonprofit websites. I was so proud to have played a role in this event. The websites all looked amazing! That and all the functionality involved would have been out of reach of most of these organizations since it would have cost them a pretty penny.
But they were free because we believed we could make a difference for nonprofits that work to make our city a better place. They were free because the chance to jump in on a creative, collaborative project, to work with and learn from talented professionals, was too fun to pass up.
I loved that I stayed and played.
I am glad I recognized that my reasons to not take part were just excuses to sit on the sidelines and play it safe. I am grateful that Adam pushed me to come out anyway. I am glad that I did.
I continue to be reminded how much I grow when I say yes and get out there when the easier, softer way is to avoid doing things outside of my comfort zone.
What a difference it made for 48 non-profits that so many of us stepped up and said yes that weekend. And by the way, my dogs and the guests got along just fine for 48 hours.
Note: The new sites will all be going live later this month.