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Competing for a cause

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Operation Santa Claus, hosted by SCMP, gives MBA students the chance to prove their mettle while raising funds for the needy, reports John Cremer

Getting Hong Kong’s top business schools involved in the MBA Challenge for Operation Santa Claus has proved to be a masterstroke. Over the past three years, the participating teams have raised more than HK$1.3 million for the annual charity campaign. And with preparations already well under way for this year’s contest, all signs point to another highly successful outcome.

This time around, the basic format remains essentially the same. In a spirit of friendly competition, teams of three to six MBA students and alumni are set the task of raising as much money as possible during a 50- day period from mid-November to the end of December. The event’s sponsor, Haitong International Securities Group will provide each team with seed money of between HK$3,000 and HK$10,000 once the judges have reviewed their initial business plans and video presentations. From then on, it is up to the teams to refine their strategies, put their sales skills and marketing know-how to work, and show the necessary innovation and ingenuity to really make things happen.

Along the way, they will be expected to spread the word about Operation Santa Claus, its general objectives, and this year’s 23 beneficiaries. When it comes to arranging and running their fundraising activities, teams can recruit additional volunteers. They can also look to the organising committee for help with practical issues, such as acquiring permits for events held in public venues. Fringebacker, which is offering free online fundraising platforms, will be providing additional assistance for the event; while Swire Properties will give teams a venue to set up booths and sell themed merchandise, and perhaps put on performances too, at their popular White Christmas Street Fair in Quarry Bay in early December.

Commenting on what it takes to excel in such a limited timeframe, Ellen Yeung, SCMP’s project director for Operation Santa Claus, offers a few hints. In particular, she notes the importance of making a quick start, good teamwork, tapping into school and personal networks, and an effective follow-up. She adds a word of caution about not relying too much on the power of social media. While it always plays a big part in the promotion of any campaign, successful fundraising is also a matter of getting out and impressing potential donors by talking to them directly. “In previous years, many of the teams have made good use of contacts with alumni, the companies they work for, clients, friends and family,” Yeung says. “This helps to spread the message, and we know that people want to hear what their donations will go towards and how they will make a difference.”

Overall, teams are competing for the Top Fundraiser Award, which will be presented to the winners after a wrap-up presentation meeting in January. But there will also be three awards for “Best Santa in the Community Contribution”. The judges will assess this based on a combination of funds raised, hours volunteered, initial business plan, and final presentation. “The spirit of Operation Santa Claus is all about bringing everyone together for a good cause,” Yeung says. “I know that each team cares about social issues and is keen to help the needy in our community. I am sure too the Challenge will be an unforgettable experience for all the participants and an exciting part of their MBA journey.”


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