Friday, February 6, 2009

Using Nerdy Powers for Good

Does it get any better than this? Website development company, Sierra Bravo, selects 12 nonprofits and teams them up with website developers for an overnight website development challenge! Which makes me wonder how many other Sierra Bravos are out there...

Using Nerdy Powers for Good

by Mark Malmberg
Sierra Bravo Communication Manager

Remember when Ed McMahon would show up at peoples’ doorsteps to tell them they’d hit the jackpot? I got to be like him a couple days ago, minus the camera crew and big cardboard check. My “McMahon” moment graced its recipients via email.

A couple days ago I had the unique pleasure of telling 12 nonprofits that they’d soon have a team of 10 dedicated web development professionals at their service for 24 hours. In a row. At the reasonable rate of a good night’s sleep.

Before you think I’m some eccentric philanthropist type, I’ll come clean. I just happen to work for a web development company with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to having web nerds who make no distinction between work and play. This is just one reason why Sierra Bravo created the “Overnight Website Challenge.”

At last year’s inaugural Overnight Website Challenge, volunteer web developers donated well over 2,000 hours of professional services to 11 nonprofits – with a real-world street value of about a quarter-million dollars. Check out some of nonprofit video testimonials here.

Fast forward to the last day of this month, Saturday morning, when 12 Minnesota nonprofits are about to see their economic outlook improve overnight as 120 volunteer web pros lose sleep building 12 websites. As the 24-hour countdown begins, nonprofits will meet development teams – otherwise perfect strangers – for the first time, unburdened by budget constraints.

Anyway, my recent Ed McMahon moment was shared with these nonprofits:

Access Press
Athletes Committed to Educating Students
Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project
Caring for Kids Initiative
District 202
Friends of Fort Snelling
Global Citizens Network
Hopkins Minnetonka Family Resource Center
Karen Wyckoff Rein In Sarcoma Foundation
Resource Center of the Americas
Students Today, Leaders Forever
YEA Corps

“Picking the top 12 out of 46 eligible nonprofits was tough – all do good work and all are deserving of this opportunity,” said Sierra Bravo Overnight Website Challenge judge Dan Grigsby, founder of multiple startups and tech community organizer. “It’s amazing to see what 120 web developers can accomplish in 24 hours.”

Other selection judges:
· Christine Durand, Communication Director, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
· Robert Stephens, Founder, Geek Squad
· Chris Wiggins, Creative Director, Fallon

These same judges will award bragging rights to one team at the end of the 24-hour event. That’s right, bragging rights – that’s the grand prize – a far cry from the aforementioned big cardboard check from Ed McMahon.

So who, you ask, would volunteer for a gig with such strange hours and no pay? Most of Sierra Bravo’s web development staff and folks from ad and design agencies we work with though our Partner Program. The rest are well-meaning insomniacs from the interactive community at large. From this deep pool of web development talent, we cherry-picked these teams of volunteers.

Sierra Bravo’s Overnight Website Challenge is supported by New Horizons of Minnesota, which donates computer training to each nonprofit, and VISI, which gives each nonprofit a year of free web hosting. Our 24-hour marathon meeting of the needy/nerdy is fed through donations from Buffalo Wild Wings, Bruegger’s, Chipotle, and Umbria Pizza, and Peace Coffee and Red Bull kicks in when the midnight oil flickers out.

Every party – and every person – involved in this event shows up to simply do what they do best – particularly the nonprofits. And when you consider the collective impact these nonprofits make in our community, losing some sleep to help them work smarter online – and further their mission – seems like a wise investment.

Like I said, we have our reasons.

“Sierra Bravo is committed to this event as long as there are good nonprofits whose websites could be better, powered by nerds,” said Luke Bucklin, president of Sierra Bravo.

And with that, we look forward to many, many more Ed McMahon moments. And as Sierra Bravo continues to partner with ad, design and marketing agencies in markets beyond our Twin Cities’ Nerdery, perhaps our Overnight Website Challenge will one day be at your doorstep.

Mark Malmberg, Sierra Bravo Communiction Manager, email Mark at

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