Social media

Ancient charity Tung Wah Group uses social media to raise charity cash

Though founded in 1870, the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals is thoroughly up-to-date in its fundraising, using Facebook and YouTube

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 March, 2013, 5:11am

It is not just companies using Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to promote their products and services to the younger generation. The 143-year-old Tung Wah Group of Hospitals is also a fan of social media.

Viola Man Yee-wai, chairwoman of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, has 20 years of experience in marketing international brands and is now using her knowledge to help promote the venerable charity organisation to the younger generation to compete for more donors.

The group, established in 1870, was the first charity organisation set up in Hong Kong with the purpose of offering medical, funeral and other services to underprivileged local Chinese.

Now the Tung Wah Group has grown to a total of 247 units, providing charity services including hospitals, education and rehabilitation.

Man, the youngest of eight children, grew up in Hong Kong in a family which has always supported the group's charity activities.

Her father and brothers are directors of the group, while Man has been a director since 2004 and was elected chairwoman last April.

She was involved in the marketing campaigns of Nestle and Coca-Cola in the 1990s before she joining her husband's health company, PuraPharm, in the 2000s.

Using her marketing expertise, she launched the Tung Wah Group's first image campaign last year, with the aim of standing out from more than 6,000 other registered charities in Hong Kong in the fight for donations and attracting more and younger donors.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post at the Tung Wah Museum, a monument built in 1911 next to Kwong Wah Hospital on Waterloo Road in Yau Ma Tei, she talked about why charity organisations today need to be using Facebook, YouTube and other social media.


How does your marketing background help the Tung Wah Group to attract more donations?

In the old days, we did not need to do any marketing, as the Tung Wah Group had a long history in Hong Kong and we did not need to explain to the public what we were doing. There were not so many charity organisations, so the fundraising was relatively easy. But nowadays, we have many new charity organisations. There are 6,000 registered charity organisations in Hong Kong. We need the marketing campaign to help the public pay attention to what the Tung Wah Group is doing, to compete for donations.


Which group are you trying to target in particular?

Our studies show that many of our donors are between 40 and 60 years old. We want to attract those in their 30s to be our donors.

Besides television commercials and print media interviews, we are also putting our promotional video on YouTube and updating our activities on Twitter and Facebook. The campaign has been successful. The number of clicks in the first few days when the Tung Wah Group TV commercial was uploaded on YouTube was about 30,000. The video coverage was 530,000 on Facebook while the viewership is around 30,000. Meanwhile, the number of fans increased 1,500 and the number of "likes" was 5,000 in the first week.


Will these new channels replace the annual Tung Wah charity TVB show, which is a major fundraising event?

We definitely will continue the annual TVB annual fund raising show.

The show, which started in 1979, has become almost an icon of the Tung Wah Group. The TVB charity show raised HK$90 million in 2012, up from HK$87 million in 2011 and HK$86 million in 2010.

However, we have to move with the times and use additional channels to communicate with the public as well as having the TV show.

This is why we need to use the new social media to promote ourselves.


How do you compare yourself with the other big charity organisation, Community Chest?

Community Chest mainly relies on corporate donors such as the Hong Kong Jockey Club or HSBC.

The Tung Wah Group relies more on individual donors.

We have to convince the seven million individuals in the city to donate, which is a challenging task.


Who is suited to working in a charity organisation?

It needs people who have the passion and not just an eye on money.


What is the difference between managing a profit-making company and a charity organisation?

A company only needs to focus on how to make a profit. But when you are chairwoman of a charity group such as the Tung Wah Group, we need to make sure all our marketing or expenses are value for money and not excessive. We need to take a balanced approach so that the public is aware of what we are doing to help the underprivileged of society, while not spending too much on marketing.


When the economy is down, do you find donations also go down?

The economic cycle has an impact on the amount of donations.

However, there are some people who donate their property to the group and the stable rental income from these properties can support the administration of the organisation.


Do you think it is more difficult to head of a public body like the Tung Wah Group as a woman?

The Tung Wah Group is an organisation with more than 140 years of history. It was dominated by male members and I was only the third woman to be made chairman. But we have seen the changes now that there are an increasing number of women joining as directors and there will be more female chairwomen in future.


Have there been times when you have felt moved by the donors?

Last year, when I visited the Hau Tak Estate in Tseung Kwan O, I found that the residents had handed in their donations to the security guard to donate to the Tung Wah Group. These people have to go to work and they were worried they might miss the collection of the donation box, so they handed in the money to the security guard earlier. This shows they were really keen on giving their money to those in need.