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The giving season

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Each team competing in this year’s MBA Challenge for Operation Santa Claus (OSC) has one overriding goal. That is to raise as much as possible for the annual charity campaign before the end of December, using whatever combination of special events, donor appeals and online initiatives best helps them achieve that target.    

To that end, the three- to six- person teams of current MBA students and alumni can obviously make good use of sales, marketing and PR strategies learned during their respective courses at Hong Kong’s top business schools.  

But crucially, they also start out with seed money of between HK$3,000 and HK$10,000 generously provided by major sponsor Haitong International Charitable Foundation.

The sum varies since it also represents the first key stage of the competition. The teams put forward initial business plans and video presentations for review by the panel of judges who, based on the merits of each proposal, decide how much to award.

With cash in hand, the teams can then throw themselves into the next phase of their various fund-raising projects. Past precedent shows that most are likely to have an online element to draw on social media contacts.

But it is also worth noting that the teams which generally do best are those which get out and engage directly with potential donors and the public. Typically, this has involved things like record attempts, family-friendly activities, performances, and selling OSC-themed merchandise at street booths.

“For us, deciding to sponsor OSC’s MBA Challenge was quite easy,” says Dr Lin Yong, deputy chairman and chief executive officer of Haitong International Securities Group. “Supporting future business leaders and helping them realise their fund-raising plans fits well with our corporate positioning. We regard ourselves as a youthful Chinese financial institution led by a team of passionate and energetic professionals. As such, we also see the importance of backing innovative programmes which increase social awareness and help to make a better life for those in need.”

Lin’s general advice for the participating teams is to ensure their plans can “connect” with the public. They should think out of the box, but not neglect the more traditional methods and channels. Along the way, they should do research to understand the ongoing work and financial needs of this year’s 23 OSC beneficiaries. And, of course, they should make sure to have some fun.

“This is a great opportunity for the contestants to learn more about different aspects of business, but also to contribute in a meaningful way to the local community,” Lin says. 

Haitong International’s own involvement doesn’t stop with their donation of seed capital. They are also organising a charity hike on December 3 to raise additional funds for OSC, and the foundation will top that up with a 1:1 matching donation.

The 10-km hike will go from Ma On Shan to Sai Kung, with each employee taking part pledging to contribute at least HK$500 to the cause. At the same time, this is also seen as an effective way of building teamwork, encouraging staff to look beyond their immediate roles, and perhaps inspiring other CSR initiatives when volunteers hear what the MBA teams are doing. 

“We always believe the aim of a charitable foundation or CSR programme should not just be to focus on material goals or money, but also to give people new hope and be more positive,” Lin says. “When establishing our foundation in 2014, we wanted to identify humanitarian organisations and enterprises who share similar values and to develop long-term charity projects which can change the lives of those in need. Operation Santa Claus does exactly that by supporting a diverse group of charities and promoting greater community outreach.”

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