Back in February of 2016, we were introduced to Lead4Change by Patrick Foster of USA Today. At the time, they were in a crisis: They had spent a significant amount of time and resources building a contest management system for their leadership program, but it was failing at crunch time. Teachers were unable to submit their entries, entries that were submitted were missing data, and more. Their current developers were struggling to fix the problems and growing less responsive.

They needed us to review their system and try to patch the immediate and most pernicious bugs. We contracted for 10 hours to audit the existing system. What we found was not pretty: messy code, security vulnerabilities, and a system so unstructured that solving simple bugs was inordinately difficult. We soberly reported that the current system was not worth salvaging.



In May 2016 we started building their new system. We leveraged their existing designs, while building a completely new theme and backend system to manage their contest entries. We strove to make their new system modular and robust so that small data issues would not cause big problems system wide. This meant consolidating how customer data was stored, developing flexible systems for handling data and data states, as well as building flexibility for future changes.



Customer data was stored in various places throughout the system, with no clear pattern or authority.

Customers need the ability to manage multiple teams, with each team entering the contest separately.

Contest restarts every year so user data needs to be archived safely at the beginning of each school year.

User data becomes stale over time.

Customers do not receive emails.


Our new system stores all user data in the WordPress user meta system, which acts as the system of record.

Extended Ninja Forms saved submission system to key each submission to a particular key and retrieve the correct one for the current team context.

Key all contest records to a contest ID, which when advanced effectively resets the system without removing any data.

Require annual profile update before entering contest.

Use Mailgun for robust email delivery.

“This note is not enough to express my gratitude and appreciation for your excellent work. We are almost a year into Objectiv's management and continued development of our website. The website works like a champ! I am very thankful that you are so good at what you do — your team listens and interprets customer needs & ideas and focuses on simple, sensible solutions!”

Linda Sphar, Program Manager, Lead4Change


After a successful launch of the new contest entry system, we were contracted again to digitize their contest entry judging system. The current system relied on print outs and packets mailed to various judges across the country.

We built a lean system for viewing the contest entries for the current contest year, pre-sorting them to eliminate contest entries that do not comply with the rules, and assigning them to one or more judging panels for independent scoring.


We would love to help. To get started drop us a line via our contact form.