Make Corporate Philanthropy Personal—and Competitive—to Succeed

UPDATED: May 21, 2024
PUBLISHED: October 29, 2014

If you have a hard time getting your team pumped about corporate community service, try making it personal and add an element of competition while you’re at it. That’s what the Super Service Challenge, a national competition in its fourth year, is doing.

“We know it’s important to work at a giving company,” says Dave Lindsey, founder of the challenge and CEO of DEFENDER, in a video preview. “But we might have it wrong sometimes because we say, ‘The company’s going to give here, so be excited,’ instead of going to the employee and saying, ‘What are you excited about? Where’s your heart?’”

The Super Service Challenge started with one company, DEFENDER, and its community service incentive. “We told [our employees] to serve where their hearts led them,” Lindsey says. “Immediately we transformed from a giving company to a company of givers—individuals who are choosing to serve the community and be part of that change.”

Exit the “company sponsored” days of serving—days that can feel more political than inspiring—and enter passion for participation.

“During that time at DEFENDER, our productivity spiked, and we had some of our highest sales and fulfillment rates,” Lindsey says. “We changed the water cooler conversation from gossip and negativity to giving and serving.”

So not only do companies who give gain in community reputation, but they also gain in culture—employee morale, teamwork, motivation and efficiency, Lindsey says.  “When any group of people serves together, be it friends, families or even co-workers, a deeper bond is formed.”

The challenge grew into a national phenomenon last year, with more than 700 companies and 2,000 teams from 42 states participating in a total of 50,000 hours of logged service. So far, $3.5 million has been donated to nonprofits involved. It’s still evolving, on track to go worldwide. And the momentum is strong with this year’s focus on business.

In partnership with the Brees Dream Foundation, Super Service Challenge now has two aspects, with national and internal contests. Here’s how you can participate:

Get together in a group of two or more people who are committed to serving the community, and pick a nonprofit—any registered 501(c)(3). When you volunteer at the local charity, don’t forget the camera! You’ll need to capture the experience on video to create a short film, two minutes or less, that answers these questions: How did you serve? What impact did serving together have on your team?

Then it’s time to share, on Facebook and Twitter, and ask friends to vote for your video—and the more the merrier, because you’ll get an extra entry for every 25 votes your video scores. In a lottery drawing, Super Service Challenge awards $1 million to multiple winners’ favorite nonprofits—the prize amounts ranging from $500 to $50,000.

Companies are encouraged to hold their own internal challenges as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts. Multiple teams of employees from the same company can serve and create videos to be entered in both an internal judging and the national competition for funding.

The individual company must decide on a sum of money to donate to the winning employees’ choices of charities—and Super Service Challenge will match 50 cents on the dollar, up to $50,000.

“Our goal with the Super Service Challenge is to inspire a greater purpose in our work than just earning a profit,” Lindsey says. “The essence of the challenge is to empower people to go out and serve their communities and have positive, rewarding experiences while doing so.”

Now it’s your turn to fan the flames of the movement, and you better get going—you have until Nov. 30 to submit your video. So, how will you serve?

Did you know volunteering is one of 16 rich habits that’ll help you reach and maintain your wealth potential? Check out the other 15.

Jessica Krampe is the digital managing editor for A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, Jessica has worked for news, entertainment, business and lifestyle publications. Outside of the daily grind, she enjoys happy hours, live music and traveling.