The crazy conversation that led to $33M in impact, and 3 things I learned from it

The Crazy Conversation

Nine years ago, I got a crazy call. It went something like this:

Jeff: Hey, Adam, I have an idea. Could we host an event to build a nonprofit website over a weekend?

Me: Yep, sounds fun; let’s do it.

Jeff: Could we build five websites?

Me: Sure, when are you thinking?

Jeff: Could we build 15 websites?

Me: OK…

Jeff: How about 30 websites?

Me: if we had enough volunteers, I think we could pull it off.

Jeff: How about 50 websites?

Me: I mean… I think so, but you have to stop there.

Jeff: OK, we’ll build 48 websites and call it 48in48.

Me: How soon do you want to do it?

After that insane call, Jeff and I started planning. We got together a volunteer meeting to try to talk our friends into helping us. Up to this point, I was all in, volunteer number one. Then, the meeting started; Jeff introduced himself and then introduced me as his Co-Founder, instant promotion!

We spent the next few months working on this project. Jeff worked on getting the funding and volunteers (he has excellent connections) while I worked on the technology and operations side. Finally, the day came. Hundreds of people showed up. It was beautiful chaos. And we built 48 free nonprofit websites in 48 hours.

The following year, we decided to host two events, one in Atlanta, where we had friends, and the other in New York, where we did not. Both were a success. It was four events the next year and has grown every year since.

This weekend, 48in48 held its Global event with teams worldwide building free websites for nonprofits. I’m pretty sure I did some support for a team in Nepal Friday morning; how great is that? We built around 51 websites (overachievers here) and have around 400+ volunteers from 20+ countries. This weekend will make a global impact!

To date, 48in48 has held 32 events, helping 1,300+ nonprofits with the support of 7,500+ volunteers, providing a total value of more than $33M

3 things I’ve learned

I’m glad you’ve made it this far! Let’s dig in.

  1. People rally around bold vision. If Jeff and I had tried to get people together to build five websites in a weekend, a few might have said yes. But, it never would have gone global. Part of the appeal of 48in48 for volunteers is the sheer audacity of it and their own rebel desire to be a part of something like that. A bold vision goes a long way.
  2. Your network often dictates your success. It’s not fair, but who you know matters. If Jeff hadn’t been able to pull in some essential initial volunteers, or if I had missed one conversation with an acquaintance that changed my direction, 48in48 might never have existed. Knowing a lot of people, and ideally having them like you, opens up more opportunities to be bold. That’s what community is: a network that lifts you higher than you would go otherwise.
  3. Good systems create magic! 48in48 requires massive and complex technology and operations systems to work. When you talk about 500+ volunteers from all over the world building 48+ websites, simultaneously, without systems, it would fail. Creating solid, repeatable systems is one of the best things we have done for the organization.

How you can help

If you have gotten this far, please hang with me another second. Through the end of the year, 48in48 has a matching gift of $10,000. For every $1 donated, we get another $1, making every individual donation have double the impact! 

Having seen our impact above, I’m asking you to be a part of it as well. Will you give $48 or more to this campaign? And, after giving, will you share this post on social so we can reach our goal of raising $10,000?

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