Home Feature Atlanta’s 48in48 Scales Its Skills-Based Volunteer Organization As Non-Profit Needs Grow

Atlanta’s 48in48 Scales Its Skills-Based Volunteer Organization As Non-Profit Needs Grow

by Maija Ehlinger

What started as a weekend for tech employees to give back has grown into an international movement to bring non-profits into the digital space.

As the name implies, the non-profit organization 48in48 aims to build 48 websites over the course of each 48 hour-long hack-a-thon. Sima Parekh, the group’s Executive Director, told Hypepotamus that helping more non-profits create a strong online presence has become even more valuable during the pandemic. 

“If you have an improved digital presence, that will bring you more donors. That will bring you more volunteers. So I’m kind of teaching you to fish, as opposed to giving you that fish.” 

Now, volunteers are preparing to build their 1,000th website for organizations in need. 

The milestone is set to be reached over the weekend of April 9, when the organization will host its Women’s Build Event. Parekh said 48in48 already has over 350 female volunteers ready to bring their skills as professional developers, designers, copywriters, and digital marketers to teams. 

This is one of the three build weekend events scheduled over the course of 2021. The April build will be followed by a Social Justice-focused weekend in June and the organization’s global event scheduled for October. 

The website build is free and 48in48 will host the website for one month. Selected non-profits must be available during the hackathon weekend and complete necessary pre-work to help volunteers build an appropriate website.  

The team estimates that building these 1,000 websites has saved non-profits upwards of $25 million.

 

The state of skills-based volunteering 

 

Like many of the non-profits it looks to serve, 48in48 took a financial hit over the course of the pandemic as traditional sponsorships slowed. 

But Parekh said that hasn’t deterred the organization from finding new ways to connect technology professionals with local organizations. 

It has required more behind-the-scenes logistics work, Parekh admits. Teams are put together two weeks before an event, and additional volunteers are needed to make sure teams can be complete during the build weekend. 

All three events scheduled for 2021 will use a new virtual conferencing service to make collaboration easier. Parekh said this will allow improved virtual collaboration. “You can have your room, and then you could click into someone else’s room and go, Hey, what’s going on over here? Or can I borrow your writer? Can I borrow your designer?” added Parekh.

Even though 48in48 is looking to safely get back to in-person networking in the future, Parekh says they will likely embrace a hybrid model to be more geographically inclusive. 

48in48 was founded by Atlanta-based Jeff Hilimire of Dragon Army and Adam Walker of TechBridge. Parekh was an early volunteer after IHG, where she serves as Director of Operations Strategy & Programs, sponsored the first hack-a-thon style event. Since then, Parekh set up the organization’s event strategy, program structure and trained project managers in order to scale up and ensure they could support as many non-profits as possible. 

Parekh said the pivot to virtual events has opened the door to build websites for organizations across the world, but also recruit skills-based volunteers from any location. 

In the last global event, 48in48 pulled in 400 volunteers from 15 countries, as far away as Australia and Singapore. 

The 48in48 team is actively recruiting volunteers, non-profits, and sponsors for upcoming 2021 events.  

 

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