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NORMAL — In an always-online world, web presence is important.

Nearly 250 tech-savvy volunteers from Bloomington-Normal used their skills to polish websites used by local nonprofit agencies during a 48in48 event hosted by United Way of McLean County and State Farm.

The volunteers from State Farm, Afni, IBM and Twin City colleges formed teams at Rivian Automotive on Friday evening, spending 48 hours revamping the websites for 48 organizations.

Bruce Clark, HTC global services operations coordinator for State Farm, worked on a team to recreate a website for Faith in Action of Bloomington-Normal.

“We’re trying to not only give them a cool-looking website, but produce something that actually functions to support the efforts of their agency,” he said.

Clark and his teammates shared a rough draft of the website with Faith in Action leaders Saturday, explaining the brighter page contrast, larger font and easy-to-navigate layout.

“In today’s economy, your digital presence speaks more loudly than your physical presence. If the first impression is positive, it enables you to reach a broader audience,” he said.

“We’ve all been frustrated by websites where we aren’t sure where to click. Being able to find what you’re looking for quickly could be the difference between someone volunteering and not volunteering,” said Lanchester.

“Our old website was very outdated,” said Doretta Herr, director of Faith in Action. “It was hard to read and hard to maneuver. This will definitely be an improvement. It will help people with the ease of donating or signing up to volunteer.”

“It creates a robust, digital platform in a 21st century world for these nonprofits to really be able to meaningfully connect with their volunteers, donors and clients in ways a lot of traditional methods don’t allow,” said Taylor.

Each agency will leave with a fresh website hosted through 48in48 for 30 days. After the trial, agencies can choose to transfer the website to their own host provider.

“The new website is looking better than I ever imagined. It looks smooth. It has a nice flow. This is going to make a difference for us. It’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own and it will get the word out about who we are,” said Coonce.

As a national organization, 48in48 has completed similar events Atlanta, Ga.; Boston; New York; and soon, London.

The Normal event marked the first small-town “hack-a-thon.”

"Being able to impact our local community has been an amazing opportunity," said Emily Schneider, business analyst for State Farm and project manager coach for 48in48.

"Bringing it to a smaller city turns it into friends helping friends." 

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Contact Julia Evelsizer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer

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