3 Things We Learned from Building a Charity in Hong Kong

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XGD Media sponsoring our presence at LKF

2017 is a big deal at Time Auction. We’ve just gotten our first full-time employee, our charity status (read: you can now donate money to us and pay less taxes), an office (read: 1 desk) and raised funding to go all in on our mission.

Things just got real. We’re now officially a charity.

For 2.5 years, Time Auction has been a side project outside of our day jobs. We worked during lunch, on weekends, in gym changing rooms and on the MTR. What made this possible was a genuine love for what we do and the most understanding bosses.

Here’s what we’ve learned from building a charity in Hong Kong.

How to get started, legally

Once we had the idea, we registered Time Auction as a non-profit society which basically tells the government your organization exists. This simple process takes about a week, where you have to submit your organization’s info and minimum 3 members (the 2 founders and one of our moms in this case).

If you want to take in donations and register as a charity, you can apply for section 88 Charity Status.

Here’s a guide. It takes at least 6–9 months where you have to submit things like your Plan for the next 18 months, Company Articles and Financials. This is similar to college application in a way that involves lots of late night drafting and re-drafting documents as you’d want to get this right.

Disclaimer: We’re not lawyers (surprise!) so seek your own legal advice. JTC Solicitors has been incredibly helpful for us and if you’re looking for pro-bono lawyers, check out Pilnet.

How not to help a charity

We’re thrilled to have our 8 core team members, made up of entrepreneurs, professionals and 1 high-flying student. Truly, nothing means more to us than them believing in Time Auction.

This process has brought light to a mistake many people make in helping charities, even with good-hearted intentions. Here’s what often happens:

Volunteer: I’d love to help. I think you should do this marketing idea.

Time Auction: Great idea!

Volunteer: I’m glad I helped!

The reality is that the idea will never get executed as the charity has no additional capacity to do it. Here’s what the best people do:

Volunteer: I think you should partner with this organization.

Time Auction: Great idea!

Volunteer: I’ll schedule a call with them this week. I’ll loop you in if they’re open to next steps.

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Charities operate like lean startups where every minute and dollar is used most efficiently and effectively. Don’t just give advice, give executional help.

Social Enterprise vs Charity?

Should Time Auction be a charity or a social enterprise was a question we debated with for a long time. In the early days, we wanted to be a social enterprise (wouldn’t it be nice to make money while doing good?). Eventually we decided to become a charity and here’s why.

Legally (in Hong Kong anyway), there is no difference between a business and a social enterprise.

From a funding perspective, charities can fund raise from donors while social enterprises may not. Being a social enterprise means at times we have to prioritize either revenue or social impact (do we charge ticket sales or keep them free for underprivileged students?). Being a charity allows us to grow with a single focus — creating a world where everyone pays it forward with time, talent or resources to ultimately empower the next generation.

Time Auction is a charity that connects you with inspiring mentors while encouraging volunteerism. You can meet and dine with Hong Kong’s most brilliant minds just by volunteering 10 hours to any charity.

Since inception in 2014, over 8,000 volunteer hours have been raised featuring mentors including Allan Zeman (Godfather of LKF), Jim Thompson (Founder of Crown Worldwide Group), Ray Chan (CEO of 9GAG) and many more.

This article originally appeared on our blog on Medium: https://medium.com/time-auction/3-things-we-learned-building-a-charity-in-hong-kong-9a33cf6931c7

Updated on 8 April, 2021
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