Overnight Website Challenge gives people ‘faith & hope that there’s still good in society’


When Todd Hinz, a board member of Friends of Fort Snelling, first heard about the Overnight Website Challenge he immediately thought about what a golden opportunity this could be for his organization.

“Offers like this don’t come along every day, so I knew we had to hop on it as soon as I read about the contest in MinnPost.org,” Hinz said. So even though there was a little trepidation on the Friends’ part, because Hinz was so new to the board, they still jumped into the Challenge headfirst.

Hinz said he thought their chances for being selected as one of the twelve nonprofits who get a website in 24 hours was slim to none. “We figured there would be a lot of great organizations with wonderful causes applying, but our attitude was ‘what do we have to lose?'”

“The original site was a great effort by one of our volunteers and it helped immeasurably to get a presence on the web,” he said. But the original site lacked a cohesive design and many features people expect to find on modern websites, RSS feeds, online registration, and an activities list.

So with those needs in mind, Hinz and the Friends of Fort Snelling were hooked up with Team Inetium on the day of the webchallenge who created a new website for the Friends.


The entire organization is very proud of and excited by the new site, Hinz said, and he’s been pleasantly surprised by Team Inetium’s dedication.

“Even after the contest was over, our team went above and beyond the call of duty to finish details on the site and train us on how to use it,” he said. “They also built us a back-end database to keep track of membership details and donations.”

Hinz chalks up the whole experience as a success. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was a blast! The contest is a unique way to build a website and have a great time doing it.

“Seriously, what a cool way to not only help nonprofits in need, but give web designers the opportunity to give back to the community,” Hinz said. “This whole project gives a lot of people faith and hope that there is still good in society.”

YEA Corps gets pie in the sky from Overnight Website Challenge

“My team finished in 23:30 minutes — under budget,” Mary Helen Franze, the Founder and Executive Director of YEA Corps, said. “They totally nailed it. I got pie in the sky. There was not one thing I didn’t get.”

Franze and her organization, YEA Corps was one of the twelve lucky Minnesota nonprofits who won a new website during this year’s Overnight Website Challenge. On the morning of February 28th, 2009 Franze was teamed up with The Mighty Polymorphin Power Rangers: Extra Awesome to build the YEA Corps website from scratch.

There was nothing to redesign, no content to plan around, YEA Corps was starting fresh. In fact, it was only a matter of months since the nonprofit started. “Building a nonprofit from scratch at the speed of light in three months is really quite amazing,” Franze said.

Franze chalks it up to cosmic synergy

Finally starting the nonprofit after years of research, electing a board, and getting chosen for the web challenge, all synergy. “The credibility of the judges and the professionalism of the people at Sierra Bravo really was, to me, the world saying, ‘yes, this is it.'”

With a background in business and marketing, Franze fully understood the importance a good website would have in her brand-new nonprofit. She also knew that quality might come at a high price.


“A first impression is a lasting impression,” Franze said. “Getting a professional website free just brought me to my knees.”

Franze described her experience at the web challenge as both trying and fun. “I have honestly never had so much information come into my head in a twenty-four hour period,” she said. “I can’t say enough about these people I worked with. Most of the guys on my team were Sierra Bravo people, and they kept telling me that this doesn’t end today. ‘We’re going to help you.’ I might be the webmaster, but they’re going to be my help desk.”

David Simmer, one of the non-Sierra Bravo volunteers on Franze’s team, designed card and letterhead for YEA Corps. “He did all this design work pro-bono,” she said. “We’re so set now, I don’t even know what we’re going to do.”

What they’re going to do is empower youth to implement their ideas through community connections for job preparation by offering youth an entrepreneurial experience through projects they conceive and image providing framework, material, and training to execute youth-generated enterprises.

Franze who is excited to get the ball rolling with her new website and nonprofit is just as excited by her whole Overnight Web Challenge experience.

“I can’t say enough about the fact that Sierra Bravo has identified a need in the community that most people don’t recognize,” she said. “Most nonprofits are just working hard to get their pennies in, they don’t think about the ROI of a website because they can’t. That you [Sierra Bravo] have given this gift of a website, is beyond the call of duty of any tech company. It’s going to create more movements than you know and trickle down to the good of society.”

“Plus,” she said, “You were fun every step of the way and so professional.”

Pretty pumped about Phizzpop

Phizzpop is a web design and development competition put on by Microsoft that travels to seven cities throughout the country pitting the best and brightest designers against each other to create some amazing websites and apps using Microsoft’s Expression Studio and Silverlight. This week Phizzpop has landed in Minnesota and the teams are already at work coming up with creative solutions to their challenge.

But that’s not what’s got us so pumped. What we’re really digging is that a couple of our nerds are helping out two of the agencies in town. Afterall, it’s kind of what we do, help out ad agencies when they need it. First, we’re teaming up with Zeus Jones, our longtime friends who we’ve worked with in the past.

Second, Microsoft asked us if we’d be willing to help out a team from Gestalt by providing them with a little programming muscle. We were, of course, more than happy to oblige. Plus, we effectively doubled our chances of being on the winning team. Go nerds!

All the teams are busy working away on their projects, and winners will be announced Thursday. If you are so inclined you can get tickets to the final event which is going to be held at Solara in Minneapolis.