Make a Mark is a 12-hour
design and development
marathon benefitting local
humanitarian causes.

For 12 hours, let's make — for good.

Some of our community's biggest problems are solved entirely by volunteers. Problem is, most non-profits don't have the resources to design and develop the kinds of things it takes us a day to create.

For 1 day, we gather the best designers and developers to work on projects for the most impactful organizations in our area.

How it works

Applications

Both non-profits and makers submit applications 2 to 3 months in advance. Non-profits do not have to be 501(c)3. Makers are developers, designers, film makers, illustrators, and more. Due to capacity restrictions, not all who apply will not be selected to participate.

Selection & Team Formation

4 to 6 weeks before the event, non-profits and makers are selected, notified, and assigned teams. Each team has one non-profit project, and is usually composed of 3-5 makers.

Planning Meetings

2 to 3 weeks before the event, we will schedule a 60 minute planning meeting for selected makers and non-profit representatives to meet the rest of their team. The non-profit representative, all makers, and Make a Mark representatives all attend the meeting to lay the groundwork for the project to be completed at the event. Because of the success of these meetings, they are required for everyone to attend in order to participate in the day-of event.

The Marathon Event

Makers work on their projects starting at 8 AM. After lunch, non-profit representatives stop by to have a brief check-in with their teams. This is a good time for makers to present drafts to the non-profit representatives and get any remaining feedback or resources needed to complete the project.

In the afternoon, non-profit representatives may have the option of attending a non-profit speaker series. These speakers, as chosen by our selected non-profits, discuss some of the most pressing topics impacting their work.

At the end of the day, with the non-profits back in attendance, each team presents their work. Following demos, we have a reception to toast to the big day!

Event Pictures

Make a Mark Roanoke - Blacksburg 2017
2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Planning committee members Alex, Sarah, Holly, and Michael celebrate a successful 2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Make a Mark Founder and Executive Director Sarah Obenauer is interviewed by Patricia Martellotti for WSLS during the 2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Planning committee member Holly surprises makers with smoothies at the 2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Make a Mark Founder and Executive Director Sarah Obenauer coordinates a food truck lunch with Ben Harder of Till & Grill at the 2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Make a Mark's Social Media Philanthropist, Megan Dodds, chats with makers at the 2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Make a Mark cookies were handmade and donated by T. Cupp Cookies for the 2017 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Make a Mark Chattanooga Huddle
Assistant Director Alex Obenauer leads a discussion with the maker community of Chattanooga on the future of Make a Mark Chattanooga
Founder and Executive Director Sarah Obenauer leads a discussion with the nonprofit community of Chattanooga on the future of Make a Mark Chattanooga
Founder and Executive Director Sarah Obenauer kicks off a discussion on the future of Make a Mark Chattanooga
Make a Mark Chattanooga Huddle
Make a Mark Executive Director Sarah Obenauer and Assistant Director Alex Obenauer at the Make a Mark Chattanooga Huddle
Assistant Director Alex Obenauer kicks off a discussion on the future of Make a Mark Chattanooga
Make a Mark Roanoke - Blacksburg 2016
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Make a Mark Founder and Executive Director Sarah Obenauer chats with nonprofit representatives during the 2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2016 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Make a Mark Roanoke - Blacksburg 2015
2015 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
The Make a Mark founding team preps for the inaugural Make a Mark Roanoke-Blacksburg
2015 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
2015 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon
Make a Mark Founder and Executive Director Sarah Obenauer is interviewed by Duke Carter for WSLS during the 2015 Roanoke-Blacksburg Make-a-Thon

Sample Schedule

Each make-a-thon has lots that makes it unique. However, they all follow this general schedule. This is only to help give a picture of what Make a Mark looks like. For a specific event's schedule, please navigate to that event's page.

2 to 3 weeks before — Planning Meetings

A 60 minute planning meeting for you to meet your team is held. The non-profit representative, all makers, and Make a Mark representatives all attend the meeting to lay the groundwork for the project to be completed at the event. Because of the success of these meetings, they are required for everyone to attend in order to participate in the day-of event.

The Marathon Event

7:30 am — Check-in Opens

After you check in, fill up on some breakfast to get the day started on the right foot!

8:00 am — Kickoff

During the morning, you have access to as much coffee as you can drink, snacks, and plenty of space to take a break whenever you need to unwind your mind.

10:30 am — Morning Break

If you're new to Make a Mark, you should know that you'll be well-fed. Our morning break will feature a nice spread of snacks to keep the energy up!

12:00 pm — Lunch

Lunch will be provided, usually from a local favorite.

1:00 pm — Non-profit Check-in

Non-profit representatives stop by to have a brief check-in with their teams. This is a good time for makers to present drafts to the non-profit representatives and get any remaining feedback or resources needed to complete the project.

2:00 pm — Non-profit Speaker Series

Some events feature speakers as chosen by the selected non-profits to discuss some of the most pressing topics impacting their work. Attendance is optional.

3:00 pm — Stretch Break

Beat the afternoon slump with a stretch break.

5:45 pm — Slides due

Slides showing your work from the day are due in your shared folder to be presented during demos.

6:00 pm — Dinner

Non-profit representatives join their maker teams as we all grab dinner.

6:15 pm — Presentations

Each team introduces their non-profit to the group, and shows everyone what they worked on during the event.

7:30 pm — Cocktail Reception

Grab a local brew, wine, or soda, and mingle with others in the Make a Mark community as we unwind from a big day.

Common Questions

Do I have to be a 501(c)3 to apply as a non-profit?

No! Each year, we have had charitable and community-focused organizations that are not registered 501(c)3 take part in Make a Mark.

How big does my portfolio have to be to apply as a maker?

It doesn't matter — the more we can see, the better we can place you on a team, but if you're just getting started as a designer, developer, or other creator, just let us know and we can pair you on a team with a mentor who has been in your industry.

What if I can't make it to the planning meeting in February?

Because of the success of the planning meetings, they are required. Only those who attend their planning meeting will be able to participate in the marathon event.

How are teams selected?

We carefully select teams based on the various strengths of the makers, and the needs of the non-profits. If you already have one or a few people that want to be on a team together, just be sure to all indicate that in your applications. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to put you on the same team to fulfill the needs of a non-profit, but we will try our best.

Connect & Contact

Contact

If you have any questions, email Make a Mark Director Sarah Obenauer at hello@letsmakeamark.org

Keep in touch

Sign up for the Make a Mark newsletter to stay in the know on all things Make a Mark. We send out 1 email each month.


Get Social

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Makers

All creatives, makers, and builders are invited to apply. Whether you're a designer, developer, film maker, illustrator, photographer, or anything else, a deserving non-profit in our area may be able to make use of your strengths, skills, and altruism.

Your application also helps us decide what project to put you on, so be sure to share all of the work you love to do in your portfolio or elsewhere in the application.

We carefully select teams based on the various strengths of the makers, and the needs of the non-profits. If you have any requests on who you want to be on a team with, be sure you (and they!) note it in the application. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to put you on the same team to fulfill the needs of a non-profit, but we will try our best.


Applications open for each event about 2 to 3 months in advance. Please see your local event's page to apply.

Non-profits

Applications are open to any community organization, not just those registered 501(c)3. While we receive lots of great applications every year, we usually only have enough space to accept half. Please know that if we do not have space for your organization this year, we may in future years — so keep in touch!

The most competitive applications expand beyond just the mission statement, and discuss the activities a non-profit runs as well as its significance and impact in the community, including how many can be served and/or impacted.

If you aren’t sure which among a few projects you have might be the best fit, feel free to submit more than one application for your organization! We’ll figure out what this year’s makers will be best suited for to help you.


Applications open for each event about 2 to 3 months in advance. Please see your local event's page to apply.

Outstanding Community
Partner Award

Presented annually to a for-profit company in our region that has shown examplary commitment to contributing their resources to support its communities.

2016 Recipient: Rackspace Blacksburg,
presented to Jarret Rhyner.

2017 Recipient: Qualtrax,
presented to Amy Ankrum.

Kathy Graham Sullivan
Community Impact Award

Presented annually to a not-for-profit organization, team, or leader that has had a sizeable impact on a meaningful problem for the people in its communities.

2016 Recipient: Micah’s Caring Initiative,
presented to Jennie Hodge.

2017 Recipient: Kathy Graham Sullivan,
presented to Bill Sullivan.

Previous Event Sponsors Include


Want to be a sponsor? Get in touch.

About the Organization

  1. Team
  2. Philosophy
  3. Brand
  4. Subscribe

Connecting creatives & the non-profits that serve our community.

In Make a Mark founder Sarah Obenauer's work at a non-profit that helped reduce teen fatalities on Virginia roads by 50%, she saw the impact of good design, but also the difficulties faced by community organizations that can’t afford to hire someone or pay a staff member. She decided that there had to be a way to bridge the gap between design professionals and the nonprofit community.

From that, Make a Mark was born. Make a Mark started as a 12-hour design and development marathon benefiting nonprofits. This event started with 12 nonprofits and 40 volunteers in 2015. Since, the event has connected over 100 volunteers with dozens of nonprofits, completing 45 projects worth over $100k. In 2017 and beyond, the make-a-thon will grow beyond its initial Virginia location, popping up in many of the most creative and community-minded cities in America.

The organization has grown beyond just the event. Most notably, it runs the Non-profit Roundtable, which brings together local non-profit leaders, that are engaged in a diverse range of work, to discuss the challenges facing today's non-profits, and how to solve them.

The Make a Mark Team

This team runs Make a Mark year-round, supporting new and growing make-a-thon events, and providing non-profits with new resources like the NPO Roundtable, trainings, services, and more.

Sarah Obenauer

Founder & Director

Alexander Obenauer

Asst. Director, Make a Mark

Founder & CEO, Mindsense

Megan Dodds

Social Media Philanthropist, Make a Mark

Make a Better World

Our purpose is simple: to provide resources and foster an environment where community organizations and visual communicators can engage with one another to better our world.

We are driven to achieve this purpose, never wavering on these core values that shape the fundamentals of our approach.

  1. Be authentic
  2. Be passionate
  3. Be generous
  4. Be creative
  5. Be collaborative
  6. Be committed


Our new logo represents Make a Mark as a larger organization — each group (Makers, Nonprofits and Local Community) represents a circle in a venn diagram and the place where these 3 circles meet is where Make a Mark lives. We could not exist without all 3 of these groups - the creativity of the Makers, the servitude of the Nonprofits and the generosity of the Community.

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