MBA students get to work on the business of charity

Future boardroom leaders roll up their sleeves and compete to promote the annual fundraiser, with a team from HKU carrying off the top prize
Judges and guests pose for group photo with participating teams from HKUST MBA, HKU MBA, CUHK MBA and Manchester MBA, after prize presentation ceremony at 2013 Inter-School MBA Charity Challenge.

Some of the brightest minds from four leading business schools have put down their textbooks to get their hands dirty and help Operation Santa Claus.

Four teams of MBA students entered a competition to produce the best business plan to promote the Operation Santa brand in the community and raise funds without blowing their limited budget.

And the teams of future boardroom leaders didn't just write their strategies - they rolled up their sleeves to put them into action, doing everything from shifting garbage to pushing heavy machinery around in a bid to raise money for charity.

A team from the University of Hong Kong was named as the winner on Tuesday after raising more than HK$74,000 from a street carnival in Causeway Bay and other events held in the past two months.

"We determined that organising a carnival in the streets was the most effective way to infiltrate Operation Santa into the community," said team member Adriana Chan Chi-on. "It proved worthwhile as it enabled us to meet many people."

Each team came up with their own strategies for promoting Operation Santa, from holding money management workshops for children to staging seminars for corporations. The South China Morning Post and RTHK, organisers of Operation Santa, set up the competition to leverage the help of the MBA students to raise funds and awareness for the 18 charitable organisations that will benefit from the campaign. Between them, the four teams raised more than HK$190,000.

The HKU team made full use of their networks - including schoolmates, friends and families - to roll out the street carnival on December 21, reaching out to members of the public including more than 1,000 who donated to Operation Santa.

The three children, wife and maid of team member Angus Cheng Wing-hong helped to sell T-shirts and blow up balloons.

In preparing for the carnival, Cheng took out bags of garbage for a cleaner so that he could borrow her cart. Another member, Angus Au-Yeung Wai-kwong, borrowed an electric generator from a sponsor and had to push it up a steep slope as the transportation budget was limited.

Sean Ferguson, director of MBA programmes at the University of Science and Technology, said that MBA students were often accused of being indifferent to the community's needs. The contest provided a good opportunity for students to contribute.