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Manchester MBA students win fundraising challenge

With a genuine wish to reward society with their professional knowledge, the fundraising team Ginger Heart from The University of Manchester applied what they had learnt on the MBA programme to win three awards in The MBA Challenge for Operation Santa Claus.

Successful entrepreneurship is not just about profit-making – it’s about creating values for the society at large through professional knowledge and business acumen. Sharing the same values on social responsibility, five MBA students from The University of Manchester East Asia Centre in Hong Kong formed the Ginger Heart Team to join The Operation Santa Claus (OSC) 2017 Inter-school MBA Charity Challenge and scored with flying colours. The team of aspiring entrepreneurs were Dennis Shi, the team leader, Eric Zhang, Michelle Sun, Olivia Fong and Tina Macdonald.

A meaningful and aspiring annual fundraising campaign, OSC 2017 encourages Hong Kong’s future business leaders to utilise their business skills and give back to society through creative fund-raising activities, including online crowd-funding on the internet platform Fringebacker. Contestants were given 50 days from mid-November through to the end of December to raise funds for the 14 beneficiary organisations supported by OSC.

On such a tight schedule, the Ginger Heart team managed to raise a considerable amount of HK$100,800 – a sum more than any of their rivals from other top business schools such as HKU and HKUST. They won all the top three honours; the “Top Fundraiser Award”, the “Fringebacker Outstanding Online Fundraiser Award” and the “1st Runner Up of Best Santa in Community Contribution Award”.

Learning by doing

The Ginger Heart team invited distinguished speakers to share their frontier insights about their professions at two charity social event in two Lan Kwai Fong restaurants, set up a donating booth in Thai Festival, threw out a Christmas party to connect the alumni, and organised a charity basketball challenge. Donations were made from the participating individuals and sponsoring corporations.

“The two LKF events were to bridge the fine restaurants with their potential customers to achieve marketing effects. We gathered influential professionals under one roof in the donors’ venues and conducted talks of intriguing topics, such as FinTech and Human Design. It’s a win-win solution for both parties because the restaurants reached their target customers precisely and the participants enjoyed a night hanging out with like-minded people,” said Shi, explaining the plan. With complimentary service, drinks and venue provided by venue sponsors, the Ginger Heart team managed to keep the cost of organising the events to a minimum and keep all of the fund raised from the activities for those in need.

“Corporate donors contributed a large sum of our fund. While the donation range of individuals usually lies within the hundreds, corporate donations start from ten thousands and can escalate higher if they see the business values our events bring. In fact, all of our corporate partners returned with positive feedback and requested us to organise more of these events,” Zhang added.

The success of the events meant that their efforts in securing corporate sponsorship paid off, as the team struggled to bargain with restaurant owners. They were also able to implement the practical “Manchester method” learnt on the MBA programme. This includes utilising the specific strengths of each team member, and putting into practice theories and business principles.

“To put our plan into reality, we applied the lobbying and negotiating skills acquired from the MBA programme. On one hand, we made sure the corporate donors knew that our participants are highly-educated, affluent professionals who have great influence among the society; while on the other hand, we negotiated with other potential corporate donors to maximise our chance and bargaining power,” Shi added. With concerted effort and a lot of legwork, the team eventually confirmed the corporate sponsorship and wrapped the events in success.

A supportive network of alumni

The Ginger Heart team’s success would not be made possible without the generosity and charitable support from the East Asia Centre in Hong Kong and its extensive network of alumni too. Special thanks are dedicated to Christina Siu, Regional Director of East Asia Centre, and the winner of OSC 2016 for their assistance and advice.

“The winner alumni of last year’s Ginger Heart team told us a lot about their winning experience and gave us useful suggestions on the strategies and fundraising methods. And Christina was the bell-ringer – she connected us with students of different intakes and the graduated alumni by broadcasting the invitation through the Centre’s website and social media platforms,” Fong revealed.

In return to their efforts, the team’s two other ideas – the Christmas Party and basketball challenge turned into precious opportunities for alumni and current MBA students to leverage their connections. “The activities were well-received among the University’s network. We have created a supportive network, in which like-minded individuals grow together, learn from each other, and give back with their knowledge, experience and time to the society as well,” she stressed.

A memorable learning experience

Reviewing the fundraising campaign and the MBA programme, the team agreed that the learning experience was rewarding. They all told their own story of how the learning experience has helped them manage their thoughts and ideas, enhance their business and even change the way they perceive the world.

“The MBA programme opens a door for you to see the world and connect with students from different countries. Not only did I acquire knowledge from the courses here, I learnt from my classmates who come with different professional backgrounds and specialties and made friends who share same aspiration and values,” Macdonald comments.

“We are so proud and honoured to have won the awards and contributed to charity. As we really see the values of connecting like-minded people, we are seeking ways to extend the network and will continue to run activities to sustain the relationship. The OSC MBA Challenge has been a memorable learning experience as it shows the knowledge and skills we acquired are the benefit of society at large,” she concluded.