All they need is 54 hours, and some coffee, to help nonprofits

Aug. 29, 2014

Skills-based volunteering – the practice of matching volunteers’ professional skills and experiences with specific needs of nonprofit organizations – is not a new concept.

But Santa Ana entrepreneur Torrey Tayenaka has re-engineered the practice.

Tayenaka saw that his peers in the advertising and marketing industries had charitable hearts and enormous drives to give back, and he wanted to find a way to harness their collective skills to impact the community.

At first, Tayenaka and his team at Sparkhouse spent six months doing pro-bono marketing work for a local nonprofit. After wrapping up the project, Tayenaka realized the experience was not as efficient as it could have been. In fact, he calculated that he and his team could have compressed the six months of work into a much shorter time frame – 54 hours, to be exact.

Thus, he created Forge 54, an annual event in which for one intensive weekend, Orange County creative professionals converge to donate their time and talents to a designated nonprofit organization.

And the 54 hours is no joke. The group of advertisers, designers, developers and other marketing professionals hit the ground running on a Friday afternoon and eat and sleep on location in order to complete their projects and meet the deadline at the end of the weekend.

Tayenaka explains that the 54-hour time frame works well because it capitalizes on natural human tendencies when dealing with urgency.

“With a rapid 54-hour format, all hands are on deck and we can really get things done,” he says.

At its inaugural event last year, Forge 54 produced and donated to the OC Food Bank a new logo, website, slogan, commercials, mobile app, a giving portal, a public relations campaign, a social media strategy and more – amounting to $160,000 worth of pro-bono marketing services and materials.

The receiving nonprofit is not the only beneficiary. Dalip Jaggi, digital team leader for Forge 54, says the experience allows team members to challenge themselves and develop valuable skills related to their careers.

“It brings us satisfaction to not only do good for a nonprofit, but to see our members advance their skill sets and have fun while doing it,” hesaid.

This year’s Forge 54 event will take place Sept. 12-14, and all marketing services will be donated to Playworks Southern California, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.

Even though Forge 54 is a nonprofit (fiscally sponsored under OneOC), it needs funds to run its weekendlong event. Forge 54 is holding an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for food, drink and coffee for its group of about 50 volunteers. The funds also will help cover equipment, work supplies and printing costs.

To learn more about how you can support Forge 54, visit its IndieGoGo page at


Contact the writer: Chau Vuong is the marketing and communications specialist at OneOC, a Santa Ana-based 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is accelerating nonprofit success through volunteer, training, consulting and business services.