One thing the MBA Challenge for Operation Santa Claus (OSC) proved conclusively is that when business students turn their marketing skills and general ingenuity to raising funds for charity, they can achieve very impressive results.
Inspired by the chance to help others and spurred on by the spirit of friendly competition, the combined efforts of the four teams who battled it out over the last few weeks generated the outstanding total of just over HK$191,000. This will go to the beneficiaries of 18 nominated charities providing much needed assistance for less fortunate people in different parts of the community.
In planning and running their various campaigns, the four teams - representing CUHK, Hong Kong University, Manchester Business School and HKUST - threw themselves wholeheartedly into the endeavour and applied all their business savvy and initiative to rope in support, boost sales of merchandise, and generate donations.
Along the way, plans were adjusted and lessons learned about how best to tap into the reservoir of goodwill and generosity which undoubtedly exists in Hong Kong.
Judges (L-R) Mark Michelson, Chairman, Asia CEO Forum, IMA Asia Senior Counselor, APCO Worldwide; Bryan Curtis, RTHK Head of English Programme Service; and Anne Wong, consultant at the SCMP, deliver comments during the 2013 Inter-School MBA Charity Challenge.
Initially, team members called on the support of faculty members, alumni and personal contacts to get their various projects up and running. But, in December, they also took to the streets, setting up stalls and organising activities at the Swire Properties White Christmas Fair in Quarry Bay and getting out and about to raise funds, whether through networking, approaching corporate donors, setting up a fun charity carnival, or arranging “Little MBA” classes for kids.
Importantly, doing all this also gave an opportunity to spread the broader message about Operation Santa Claus and its aim of helping perhaps lesser known charities with targeted support for specific projects, which can transform lives.
In the final review and round-up of everything achieved, the MBA Challenge teams gave a series of slick presentations, setting out their objectives, methods and outcomes. The three judges - Mark Michelson, chairman, Asia CEO Forum, IMA Asia, and senior counsellor for APCO Worldwide; Bryan Curtis, head of RTHK’s English Programme Service and host of Radio 3’s “Money for Nothing”; and Anne Wong, a consultant with the South China Morning Post – had plenty to contemplate. But in the end the HKU Mass team stood out and deservedly took home both the Top Fundraiser Award for their HK$74,393 and the Most Successful Marketing Plan Award.
Commending the overall level of enthusiasm and achievement, the judges noted the breadth and scope of what the teams had done in such a comparatively short time - while also working and studying.
While praising the “heart and soul” put into each project, they expressed the hope that participants had some fun raising money for a good cause, but had also learned more about the beneficiaries and what the donations would be used for.
Ideally, this could pave the way to further long-term involvement with OSC - or other charities and NGOs – and inspire more individuals to see that the business sector has a responsibility to effect positive change in the community.
“Raising awareness is a very important part of the MBA Challenge and will benefit people OSC serves in the future,” Michelson said. “We still want to connect with members of the larger Hong Kong community, who may not have heard of OSC, and to get them involved.”
In general, he was impressed by the teamwork, promotional efforts and energy that went into all four projects and hoped that this would lead to an ongoing commitment by the individuals concerned and their respective universities.
(Back row in the middle) Three judges and Sean Ferguson, Associate Dean of Master's Programs & MBA Programs Director, HKUST MBA, pose for group photo with participating teams at the prize presentation ceremony sponsored by HKUST MBA Business School.
“It would be great to get more schools involved next year,” Michelson said. “We might even think of going beyond business schools to invite other international programmes based in Hong Kong to take part as well.”
Reflecting on the success of his HKU “Mass” team, Wesley Wong noted that they had enjoyed applying their business skills for such a meaningful purpose and had learned a lot about needs in the local community.
“When we explained OSC’s aims in our different events and spoke about the charities being supported, people were very generous,” Wong said. “The team hopes to continue with charity work; we see this as just a beginning.”
Fellow HKU team member Adriana Chan added that learning about the beneficiaries and their financial needs was a key part of the initial research. For instance, she had not previously realised how much difference even one specially equipped “rehabus” can make in helping people get around town.
“We also met representatives of the charities at the Swire Street Fair and spoke about helping out as volunteers in future,” Chan said.