48in48: A weekend working for a great cause

All the 48in48 volunteers at General Assembly

Everybody’s Working for the Weekend

On October 21, a swarm of eager designers descended on General Assembly, Atlanta. Volunteers from design and development shops of all shapes and sizes had signed up to donate their weekends, and it couldn’t have been for a better cause.

48in48 was founded two years ago with the deadline-direct mission to build 48 nonprofit websites in 48 hours. Judging by the volume of volunteers and quality of the work, it certainly seems to be turning into a staple event for Atlanta’s booming philanthropic tech community.

“Nonprofits spend all of their time doing good, not looking good. Imagine how much good they could do if they looked good as well?”

With a brief like that, how could you not be fired up?

The weekend was immensely productive, resulting in 48 brand spankin’ new sites. Our team built 2 of the 48, and had just enough time for some hijinks and #ninelabshenans on the side.

As I prepped for the event on Friday evening, a slew of questions ran through my mind:

How many dev teams will be dressed exclusively in zip-up hoodies?

How will my hair hold up?

How many Dr. Peppers will Keri drink?

Will Jenn sing the entire soundtrack to Mulan over the course of the weekend?

How could J be dressed more casually than he is on weekdays?

Will Katherine manage to QA WordPress bugs while taking a stationary cycling class?

Will Annabel see any dogs?

How many times will Charline image search cute animals for inspiration?

How’d the team fare? Read on to find out.


The Pre-game: First Things First

As told by: Keri – Project Management

Prepping for the event actually began months before the big weekend.

Selecting Our Non-Profits

48in48 held a kick-off meeting with the Project Managers where we selected our Non-Profits (NPs). Our team reviewed the list of NPs available and tallied up the ones that peaked our interests. We ended up being placed with Green of Hearts and Hope Family Ministries!

Collecting Information

Once the NPs were confirmed, introductions were made and I began collecting information about our partners so we could be as ready as possible to hit the ground running for the main event.

Final Steps Before the Weekend – Organization!

In the week leading up to 48in48, our team did initial research on both NPs to ensure we had our bases covered going into the weekend. To ensure we stayed organized throughout the weekend, we packed our company’s favorite essentials: lots of sticky notes and every color Sharpie known to man.

Stickies + Sharpies = The Kanban Board

With all of this preparation, we felt confident we were ready to take on the weekend!


Day 1: And We’re Off

As told by: Katherine – UX

Once the “ready, set, go” was given, all teams were off to the races to start our first night of website building. Elbow-to-elbow with other teams sporting the same tech startup uniform (hoodies and jeans for days), we settled into our workspace in a back classroom of General Assembly. Of course for us, getting comfortable means sticky notes on the walls, and the GA tables felt like home thanks to our home office’s open layout and coworking vibe.

Since it was Friday night and time to let our hair down, everyone’s personalities were immediately present, with Devin and Jenn doing marketing research in step with their choreographed lyrical outbursts; Keri making sure we had everything we needed — markers, water, AND assignments; and the designing duo of Annabel and Charline selecting fonts and creating color palettes while talking dessert strategy (we had local ice cream from High Road to fuel those creative juices).

The team is working hard on new websites for two great non-profits. #48in48

A photo posted by Nine Labs (@ninelabs) on

Despite being a few hours into a 48-hour challenge with a lot of work ahead, the “we got this” attitude was palpable. By the end of day one, we had wordpress themes installed, plug-ins activated, glimmers in our eyes, and a meeting time for coffee and content construction in the morning.


Day 2: Ooh, We’re Halfway There

As told by: Annabel – Design

Day two. Our Kanban sticky notes had stayed on the wall overnight, which was a good omen.

We were lucky enough to chat with our clients about their charities and get a feel for what they were all about. Devin and I met with the lovely Marcia Atkins of ‘Center of Hope.’ Marcia had just come back from intense training in the mountains to become a Level 1 Certified First Responder to natural disasters. Her level of passion and dedication was inspiring as she described her process of designing life-saving products for children, the elderly, and the homeless. Each demographic had specific needs and Marcia considered them all as she designed.

After our conversation, Devin and I were humbled and given a clear vision of what we needed to accomplish with the website redesign. Marcia’s goals were simple and straightforward: protect and inform those who are the most vulnerable during a natural disaster.

We came up with our strategy and got straight to it. We worked well into the night, fueled by coffee and ice cream. The work was challenging, and very rewarding.


Day 3: It’s The Final Countdown

As told by: Charline – Design

It was hard to get up on the last day. We stayed up late the night before to make sure most of the design layouts were done before going to bed. I didn’t feel rested, but I was excited about giving the best I had left for this final lap.

As soon as we came back to work and walked through the door, we got warmly cheered by the volunteers. They were giving us some extra motivation for the last hour. And some cute little muffins that were screaming my name gave me even more power to get through it.

The closer we got to the end, the more I had to decide to not get stuck on nitpicky details. We needed to finish up the big picture correctly and make sure the site functioned well.

I can’t count the number of times I changed tiny details on the new Green of Hearts logo to make sure it was both bold and understandable. We all had a different opinion about it. Do you see the house hidden under the trees? I am sure that there is a psychological meaning of whether or not one sees it. It was a lot of stress and frustration because I really wanted to give my best to Green of Hearts and the idea of giving them a buggy, imperfect product was just inconceivable.

The evolution of our 48in48 logo design for Green of Hearts

But when we finally got everything done, I felt accomplished. I had given 48 hours of my time with my awesome team to help change the future of a nonprofit and its ability to make an impact. It was a challenge like no other, not motivated by any price. We celebrated this fruitful weekend with a Reformation beer and big plans for next year.


48in48: In a Nutshell

As told by: Jenn – Strategy

It’s hard to adequately express an event like 48in48. There’s such a mixture of excitement, pride, exhaustion, and anxiety that take place, all jumbled together. If I’m being completely honest, there were moments where I wondered why I decided to work through a weekend, after a long week, soon after being really sick. But there were also a lot of energizing, inspiring moments that made it worth it.

My single favorite moment was when we got to show Bo and Barb, our clients from Green of Hearts, the logo and site design we had in progress for them. They were so excited, had the biggest smiles on their faces and couldn’t stop talking about how much they loved the design and direction. That, all on its own, made every minute of the weekend absolutely worth it. We gave these amazing women the digital tools they needed to build their non-profit, and in doing so, we’re able to help them change lives. If that’s not a worthy weekend endeavor, I’m not sure what is.


The 48in48 nonprofit partners with the Nine Labs design team