Four MBA teams share one goal – raise funds for OSC
The four teams competing in this year’s MBA Challenge for Operation Santa Claus (OSC) are united by one goal – to raise as much as they can for the annual charity campaign. Each, though, has taken a different approach, showing ingenuity and imagination in devising their business plans and, along the way, learning some valuable lessons about sales, marketing, and the goodwill and generosity of people in Hong Kong.
“Our fundraising events have included merchandise sales at the Swire Properties White Christmas Street Fair, talks and seminars, and corporate initiatives,” says CC Kwok of CUHK’s Charity Union team. “Alumni associations have given us their full support for charity sales and companies like Chevalier Group and Wilkinson & Grist already have made generous donations.”
To date, Kwok notes, the overall response has been very positive, the key being to explain the OSC message clearly, advertise events effectively, find the right person to pitch to when contacting prospective corporate donors, and follow up every sales order or promise conscientiously.
Tang Kam-fai, school external liaison officer of Bethel High School, and CC Kwok, team leader of the CUHK's "Charity Union", pose for a photograph at the OSC booth in the CUHK Alumni Homecoming 2013.
“We found that the word ‘charity’ is very powerful in Hong Kong and that people are happy to lend a hand when they understand the purpose of the campaign,” Kwok says. “For us, there is real excitement and satisfaction in seeing our marketing plans work and, in the long run, we hope it will become a tradition for CUHK students to participate in Operation Santa Claus and give something back to the community by helping people in need.”
The interim report from Wesley Wong of Hong Kong University’s “Mass” team can also be summarised as “so far, so good”. Their initial focus was to raise awareness among specific target groups and then press ahead with a series of fundraising events to generate actual donations. Their next scheduled activity is the outdoor Charity Carnival on 21 December in the pedestrianised zone of Lee Garden Road in Causeway Bay.
“Even though it takes a lot of manpower and resources to arrange everything, this will be a very effective way to reach out to the public, sell merchandise, and increase general awareness,” Wong says.
Overall, corporate sponsorship hasn’t yet gone quite as well as the team expected, mainly because most companies need time to get senior management approval.
The HKU "Mass" team raises funds in the HKU MBA alumni networking event.
“However, after listening to our presentation, a number have shown a keen interest in donating to OSC in future, so I think we have achieved our objectives in this respect,” Wong says. “More generally, every time a donor puts money in the box, we feel our efforts are worthwhile and, as a team, we have put strategies learned in the classroom about pricing, store-front design, customer needs, networking and bundle sales to very practical use.”
Data Fok, spokesman for the HKUST team "UST MBA Elite", which devised and presented “Little MBA” workshops for youngsters as a way of raising funds and passing on some of their business-related knowledge, is similarly upbeat about the results being achieved.
The basic philosophy was to combine two concepts – that of “paying it forward”, or sharing one’s good fortune with other people, and the OSC principle of bringing some extra joy to the world around Christmas time. And the response has been very good, with parents keen to get their kids involved and make donations accordingly.
“The key element is teaching the younger generation something about personal financial management and teamwork in a workshop environment which is also full of laughter,” Fok says. “The positive feedback from both parents and kids after the first session was very encouraging, with some already asking to attend a second session on January 5.”
The HKUST team "UST MBA Elite" members with participants Grata Tang (front left) and Jutta Low (front right).
The team’s initial plan was to target students aged six to 10 years old. However, the level of interest made it sensible to include those aged up to 13 as well and to redesign the course content and logistics to accommodate different needs.
“Some parents have asked us to run the workshop on a continuous basis,” Fok says. “We take that as affirmation of our efforts and, though things ran smoothly in the end, we have also seen the importance of having a plan B to get through various unanticipated situations.”
The Manchester Business School (MBS) team “Merry Business School”, led by alumni association chairman William Chan, has also found that raising money for OSC is an excellent test of strategic marketing, networking and all-round business skills. Recognising that families are the building blocks of a strong society, the team’s main idea was to create a series of fun, family-friendly events to bring people together and encourage them to consider those still in need.
These initiatives have helped to spread the word about OSC, sell related merchandise and collect donations from the university alumni network and at the Swire Fair, as well as at the MBS annual dinner and Christmas party and at a planned BBQ outing for families.
The MBS team "Merry Business School" stresses the value of family in its fundraising activities.
“The MBA Challenge has been a unique opportunity for us to learn about running a campaign for charity,” Chan says. “Responding to requirements and changing conditions has also sharpened our contingency planning and risk management skills.”