MBA Challenge proves a successful fundraiser for Operation Santa Claus

MBA Challenge proves a successful fundraiser for Operation Santa Claus
Winners and judges of the MBA Challenge, part of Operation Santa Claus, are pictured at an event held at Swire Properties'' Blueprint office space in Quarry Bay. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Participants in the MBA Challenge for Operation Santa Claus proved they really are the business, with the contest proving a resounding success in terms of both fundraising and spreading awareness about the annual campaign's aims and beneficiaries.

Competing teams, which represented some of the top MBA programmes in Hong Kong, were given the task of putting together a business plan to secure donations, and then implementing it over an action-packed two months. By raising a total of HK$767,000, the teams surpassed all expectations, and the challenge let them put their business and marketing skills to very practical use. But it was also a steep learning curve, great fun and, most importantly, a chance to make a real contribution to improving the everyday lives of less fortunate members of society.

The judging panel consisted of Mark Michelson, senior counsellor for APCO Worldwide; Hugh Chiverton, head of the English programme service for RTHK; Michael Chu, South China Morning Post's director of strategic marketing; and May Lam-Kobayashi, head of public affairs for Swire Properties, which generously provided seed capital for each team and hosted this week's round-up event in their new Blueprint office space in Quarry Bay, which is dedicated to supporting start-ups.

And while the judges had their work cut out with competition tight for two of the main prizes, there was no doubt at all about the winner of the Top Fundraiser Award. That went to the V Care team from Manchester Business School, in Causeway Bay, who raised a remarkable HK$300,324 and won dinner with the chief executive of Swire Properties.

They took a gamble by devoting the majority of their efforts to one signature event rather than steadily accumulating donations from alumni dinners, merchandise sales, online campaigns and activities around town.

Their strategy was to get the Guinness world record for building the world's tallest cupcake tower - and they succeeded in Tsim Sha Tsui on Christmas Day. Funds were largely raised from corporate sponsorships and, once the record was ratified, the cupcakes were distributed to beneficiaries of Operation Santa Claus.

"This has been an eye-opening experience for all of us and we plan to get more involved in charity events in the future," said V Care team leader Ajay Singh, of the annual fundraising drive organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

The Best Presentation Award went to the Santa's Wish team from HKUST, who summarised their campaign in the style of a punchy TV news report with two anchors and on-screen links to "special correspondents", including Santa Claus. And Team Hitchcock from CityU won the award for Most Successful Marketing Plan for the HK$150,000 they raised and their outreach to donors on the mainland.

John Cremer