By Matthew Harvey
To say that we’re still living in the age of the Internet is to state the obvious to the point of banality. Yet the benefits and detriments of the Internet are subtle and ever changing. Yes, the Internet is an awesomely convenient way to watch viral cat and/or toddler videos. Shocking as it may sound, the Internet has more practical benefits. It is the marketing lifeblood of any for-profit and nonprofit corporate entity. Having a proper website is imperative. Unfortunately, developing a polished, professional presence on the Internet can be a time-consuming, technically demanding, frustrating undertaking. This is where Atlanta-based 48in48 comes into play.
48in48.org reveals the essence of what it does by posing the following question: “Nonprofits spend their time doing good, not looking good. Imagine how much good they could do if they looked good as well?” Gina Gentilozzi, Chief Impact Officer, explains that 48in48’s concept originated from a conversation between Founders Jeff Hilimire and Adam Walker, two Information Technology professionals; Hilimire specializes in gaming and app technology, Walker in web development. “They had a conversation [along the lines] of, ‘If we gathered our friends together, could we help a nonprofit in a weekend?’” As it turns out, they could help more than just one nonprofit. One quickly became five, then twenty, then 48. The first event was held in 2015.
48in48 does not have a monopoly on the website-building industry. There is a plethora of web building platforms – Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, Ukit and Duda are just some of the top contenders as noted by PC Magazine in its Winter 2018 edition. Gentilozzi explains that one key to 48in48’s continued success in this crowded space rests upon the platform they use: WordPress. “It’s easy to use,” enabling even the smallest philanthropy to construct a first website in a compressed timeframe. WordPress is also expandable, through its plug-in architecture; so even the more sophisticated needs of big enterprises, like Habitat for Humanity, can be met. Of course, the real benefit is the professional expertise that 48in48 brings to bear.
It is easy to overlook the value that a bonafide IT professional brings to the website development table because the underlying complexities are numerous and lurking. A perfect example concerns what it takes to ensure that a website functions properly on both a desktop computer and a smartphone. Too many websites fail to meet this obvious objective. Most work fine on a desktop because this is where the website building tools are put to use, but fail on smartphones. Ironically, it is currently estimated that over 52% of all website visitors come from smartphones or iPads; that is to say, websites that aren’t mobile-friendly are defective for a majority of visitors! HTML tables are the most common cause. Table usage is waning because tables don’t display well on smartphones – content is always scrolled vertically, never horizontally. There is also a very nuanced distinction between mobile-friendly and responsive websites, which is too complicated to discuss. For those repressed geeks out there, you can read all about it here. Having a website that is functional on both mobile and desktop is essential. 48in48 places equal priority on both mediums, for any nonprofit wanting an effective online presence. “Every website that leaves us is mobily responsive, so it looks as nice on mobile as it does on the desktop … It is definitely something that is a factor in every site we build,” explains Gentilozzi.
The 48in48 website is swollen with YouTube videos of their ‘alumni’ – young philanthropies who have been helped. Plenty of these same nonprofits have returned in future years to help, either as sponsors or “as a general volunteer, like registration or set-up and break-down” Gentilozzi relates. “A couple of nonprofits actually had some tech skills, and they came and built websites the following year.”
48in48’s appeal has taken off in four short years, and the organization is eager to expand its reach. “Our goal is to grow to 48in48in48. That is, by 2025, our goal is to have 48 events happening simultaneously around the globe.” Since 2015, the team has worked their way up from one event; there will be 10 events this year. “Next year, we’ll do twenty… then 32… we’ll hit 48 events in 2023, and then we’ll work on consolidating them all into one weekend.” In terms of specific locations where these future 48in48 events will be held, Gentilozzi and her team are eyeing more global sites – so far, London is the only current city outside the United States with a 48in48 presence. “Maybe Toronto, Mexico City. We’ve talked about one in Stockholm because our friends in London have business relations in Stockholm.”
In the meantime, the debate rages on as to the Internet’s true value – a debate that will not be resolved here. To all of those philanthropies out there looking to create an internet presence, or improve upon an existing presence, submitting your application to 48in48.org is definitely worthwhile. To the rest of us who view the Internet as merely an abundant source of heart-warming videos, I can provide more than you require, no formal application is necessary.
Matthew Harvey is a 2017 graduate of Davidson College, and a budding philanthropist.