The Pepsi Refresh Challenge left the Ann Arbor Skatepark Action Committee worn out and still thirsty–for funds. The soft drink giant has shifted some of its advertising budget to charitable donations, giving out grants ranging from $25,000 to $250,000 every month. The clever marketing twist: to win, nonprofits had to persuade supporters to contact Pepsi on their behalf via e-mail or text message, or online.

The skateboard advocates hoped to win $250,000, and went after the challenge as if it were a political campaign: they put out flyers, talked to businesses, e-mailed, Facebooked, and Tweeted. They even partnered in recruiting online votes with the Saline school district, which was seeking a $25,000 grant for a greenhouse. Their efforts brought in enough votes to finish in twentieth place in December’s balloting–but not enough to win any cash.

Organizer Trevor Staples, a third-grade teacher at Burns Park, considers it “a great result, especially considering who we were up against—national organizations that want to save lives.” Because it finished in the top 100, the skatepark project was automatically reentered in Pepsi’s January competition. But rather than trying to muster another round of votes, the skateboarders have decided to concentrate on other fund-raising events. The Pepsi contest “took a lot of work!” says Staples.