The MBS Class of 2014 Gift: Establishing a Culture of Giving at CBS
As Josephine Leung (class of 2014) progressed through the Master of Buddhist Studies (MBS) programme, she wondered how she could support Buddhism once she graduated. She also wondered how she could adequately express her love for the Centre of Buddhist Studies (CBS) programme through her actions. As she discussed this with fellow students, a plan to address her concerns began to take form. What if a reliable stream of student donations could be raised to assure that the CBS and its MBS programme would continue into the far future? Not only would the programme that Josephine and her classmates love be available to future students, but through its continued teaching, the Dharma and Buddhism would also be kept alive.
During a student trip to the Dunhuang Caves, Josephine described the idea to her travel companions. To her amazement, not only were they in agreement with her, but they pledged $800,000 to her plan. With this type of encouragement, Josephine and her friends began to add details and organize a more formal fundraising campaign.
With the approach of graduation, it was decided to tie the fundraising campaign to graduation. Fresh graduates would fully understand the value of the MBS programme and would also welcome a way to stay connected to the programme and their classmates as alumni. Building on this, the fundraising campaign was organized with the graduating year of 2014 as its driving theme. Its aim was to raise a class gift from the 2014 MBS graduates based on individual pledges of $2,014 per year for the following ten years. This would assure that the graduates remained connected to the school for the next ten years and that their pride in their class year would be fully reflected in their gift amount.
Josephine next turned to fellow classmate Allen Chan (class of 2014) for help with the logisitcs. Allen had a wealth of experience with philanthropic endeavors so was familiar with the charitable giving standards that governed gifts to educational institutions. He suggested that the class gift be directed through the HKU Foundation with the specific restriction that it be allocated entirely to the CBS (which the foundation allows through ticking a box on its donation form). This would allow donors to enjoy the benefits of being a member of the HKU Foundation (such as invitations to special HKU events, lectures, and concerts) and assure that the recording and reporting of the donations were professionally administered by HKU staff.
The funds would then be available for the sole needs of the CBS. Not only would they help fund the centre’s research, teaching, and library, but they would be available to help support the MBS programme which, unlike undergraduate programmes, receives no government funding. As student paid tuition covers roughly half of the MBS programme’s expenses, funds from the class gift would play a critical role in covering the remaining half and, thus, supporting the programme’s future survival.
As the MBS Class of 2014 gift was launched, other graduating classes took notice. The class of 2012 was particularly interested as Arnold Hui (class of 2014) shared the gift’s details with his sister Cynthia who graduated in 2012. As, in Cynthia’s words, CBS opened a “Wow” door for her, she not only organized an MBA Class of 2012 gift but also used her professional skills to design and source – free of charge – a HKU MBS travel mug to be given as a thank-you gift to those who donated.
To date, the MBS Classes of 2014 and 2012 have raised over $1.5 million pledged from 46 donors over the next ten years. The MBS Class of 2014 gift qualified it for voting rights as a member of the HKU Foundation and after it exceeded the $300,000 threshold, the class was honoured as Danapati, the Lord of Philanthropy, and recognized on the CBS Honour Roll. Most important, the Class of 2014 and Class of 2012 gifts have newly established a culture of of giving for future and previous classes. An act certainly in line with continuing on the Buddhist path far after graduation.
Kathie Barna Allderige