THE BLOG
11/02/2014 08:05 pm ET Updated Jan 02, 2015

Super Service Challenge Gamifies Giving for Businesses

I've said it many times: games can bring out the best in people.

In case you haven't noticed, gamification has become an important revenue tool that helps companies hook employees and customers into real, addictive engagement. Which is why Gartner analysts predict that by 2015, more than 50 percent of organizations will gamify their innovation processes.

Increasingly, nonprofits are learning the same lessons about the glories of gamification. Heard of the ALS ice bucket challenge, anyone? Or Movember's month-long challenge to grow a lovely mustache for charity? I recently wrote about this trend, noting that highly social, accessible, low barrier to entry games can go a long way towards getting employees engaged and keeping them captivated.

Nowhere is this equation more evident than in the national Super Service Challenge. Just four years after launching, this national contest has spurred 800 companies to engage more than 94,600 employees into service for 1,100 charities, with more than $3 million awarded to winning nonprofits.

With the motto "Transforming business through service," the Super Service Challenge invites employees to form teams which can serve the nonprofits that mean the most to them. Teams document their activities in a brief video, then share their video to earn votes, which wins their nonprofit more entries for prize drawings. The Super Service Challenge, which this year runs from September 1 to November 30, draws randomly from all entries in order to award cash prizes for use of the nonprofit chosen by winning teams.

This corporate giving challenge was launched in 2011 by Dave Lindsey, founder of DEFENDER, an Indianapolis-based service company. Through his own experience of steering DEFENDER's resources towards nonprofits chosen by employees, he found that giving back together changed the way employees viewed each other and had an extremely positive impact on morale. He believes that the "employee relationship completely changed" and notes that the company went on to enjoy its best quarter ever, transforming DEFENDER "from a giving company to a company of givers." Lindsey was so moved by this experience that he decided to start the Super Service Challenge to let other companies, employees and nonprofits enjoy the same benefits that he observed.

The contest graduated from a local challenge that drew participation from 80 teams in Indianapolis, with $200,000 given away to nonprofits, to a more regional movement when New Orleans Saints player Drew Brees partnered to take the challenge to New Orleans. Over 250 teams participated in New Orleans and $1 million was given away to nonprofits. Now the Super Service Challenge has become a national phenomenon, with more than 2,200 teams from 700 companies from 42 states participating last year, and $1,600,000 awarded to nonprofits.

As the spokesperson for the contest and the person whose foundation cuts the checks for winning nonprofits, Drew Brees continues to play an important role in the Super Service Challenge. Strategic partners include pro bono leaders such as Points of Light and A Billion Plus Change, as well as the organizers of 9/11 Day, the nation's largest annual day of charitable engagement.

Super Service Challenge wants to eliminate all obstacles for businesses to participate. So they've created an app and website that make the video upload process fast and simple, and the organization insists that all videos must be short in length and not professionally shot.

The results have been tremendous, with companies like Eli Lilly and Company, Wells Fargo, Astoria Federal Savings and Walt Danley Realty winning $25,000 each for their chosen nonprofits. Take a look at the videos submitted by these companies and you'll see what employee engagement and community impact look like in action. It's inspiring stuff, and obviously rewarding for everyone involved.

Do yourself and the world a favor: get your company involved in this national challenge. Get the word out to your employees. Play the game.