It can be a crapshoot looking for the right agency to hire, especially if you’re a cost-mindful nonprofit. As an agency catering to these audiences, how can you stand out amongst the crowd without spending inordinate amounts on advertising?

Free Range Studios has a winning formula that has kept them flush with customers for 10 years. Instead of spending money on the potential sinkhole that is advertising, they decided to do something good with those marketing dollars: they donate thousands of dollars in their services each year to non-profits and socially responsible businesses as part of their Youtopia promotion.

By leveraging UserVoice feedback forums to handle the selection of these organizations, Free Range can focus on generating new customers through the contest instead of developing a voting system or fighting fraud.



A Simple Concept

The Youtopia contest is brilliantly simple: organizations submit themselves into one of 19 categories (via separate UserVoice forums all available from to compete for Free Range services. Anyone can then spend up to three votes selecting who they think should get the services. 20 finalists are selected based on votes and then an internal panel of judges determines who gets the actual grant.


Built-in Promotion

The beauty of the promotional value of this type of contest is of course that the advertising for your company is built in. Youtopia generated multiple levels of promotion for Free Range:

  • Companies that won and received free services are likely to become return customers
  • Everyone who entered the contest gets lots of exposure to Free Range’s work, making them likely to request their services later
  • The participating organizations encouraged their members to vote for them, exposing those members to Free Range as well (31,000 people participated this year)
  • Using UserVoice’s custom design option exposed people to Free Range’s design skills from the first moment on the forum
  • Free Range gets to add the free work they’ve done to their portfolio

Case in point:


Social Media Promotion

Free Range knows the value of social media and took full advantage of UserVoice’s custom design feature this year, adding a “Share This” widget to the bottom of each page (in addition to the standard share features built into each idea). People want to share, and Free Range Project Manager Simon Nurse says it helped a lot: “You can definitely tell the difference of a year – Twitter is huge now, and we saw a lot more engagement.”

Non-profits are fully on the social media bandwagon at this point, so allowing them to easily share their entry allows them to keep their followers engaged – and expose all of those followers to Free Range Studios in the process.


Maintaining Legitimacy

Simon cited legitimacy as being a big concern when running such a promotion. “If people feel like it’s rigged, you’re not only going to lose their interest but probably generate bad will”. Being able to give the site a custom design helped create this legitimacy, making it feel like a true part of the Youtopia experience instead of a random forum.

UserVoice’s advanced fraud detection helped Free Range avoid gaming of the contest by restricting, limiting votes and users by IP. UserVoice’s pre-moderation tools ensured that all entries into the contest were legit and family-friendly.


Continuing Improvements

With UserVoice’s continuing enhancement of the feedback system, Simon says that applicants noticed a big difference this year. The simpler sign-in system allowed people to participate more easily, and the continued polishing of the Admin Console interface has made it easier for the Free Range employees to handle the feedback.

“It makes my life as project manager easier, it makes applicants lives easier, and it makes it really easy for the voter.”

Between these changes and Free Range’s social media promotion, they saw the number of votes in the contest triple this year to 93,000 votes, despite the fact that there were less entries.



The formula is simple:

Give relevant services or products away +
Get your target audience and their members involved +
Build your product or services into the contest so participants are naturally exposed to them +
Encourage social sharing
= doing good, saving money, and getting new clients.

That’s an equation anyone can appreciate.


Interested in using UserVoice for your contest or organization? Our Sales rep, Daniel, is waiting for your call at +1 (888) 840-0280. Or check out our plans at