Just as many people are inspired to succeed in the business world, others look to make a difference in a totally different field. Josephine Wong, senior manager, corporate marketing and fundraising, WWF Hong Kong, is a shining example.
After graduation with a degree in sociology, Ms Wong quickly decided that she would use her knowledge and skills for a good cause. "All through the course of my studies, I learned to see things from a social perspective. This has strengthened my analytical skills, which has helped my career development," she says.
Working at a non-governmental organisation entails a great deal of hard work but in return provides immense satisfaction. The diversity of the work also makes Ms Wong's job an exciting one.
"Although WWF Hong Kong is a part of the global WWF network, we are wholly responsible for raising our own funds within the local society for our conservation and environmental education projects in Hong Kong and Southern China," Ms Wong explains. "Since WWF Hong Kong is not a social welfare group, we cannot obtain direct funding from the government for our expenses. For some conservation and education programmes we have financial support from relevant government organisations, such as the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. However, to cover operational costs for the long-term management of the offices and facilities as well as the continuation and expansion of our conservation projects, we have to rely on generous donations from different parties in the community."
"A small positive change ... can make a big difference"
WWF Hong Kong was established in 1981. The charitable organisation strives to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment, conserve biodiversity and build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption as well as ensuring sustainable use of renewable natural resources.
Ms Wong and her team members work with Hong Kong's business community to achieve conservation objectives. The main programme is a corporate membership programme — an income stream to support WWF's projects and programmes, and a platform for business and industry to keep abreast of environmental challenges and new opportunities as they arise. "When the programme was launched in 2000, it had only about 35 corporate members. That figure has increased to nearly 100," Ms Wong says. "We have seen many changes since the corporate membership programme was launched. We now have a greater extent of partnerships with commercial organisations that set corporate social responsibility as a priority. This is the result of the joint effort of our chairman, CEO and trustees, and the remarkable contribution of our colleagues."
When the corporate membership programme first started, it was purely a fundraising event. Today, in addition to financial contributions, many corporate members offer channels for promoting WWF's campaigns to their staff and customers. Some even actively participate in volunteer programmes.
Besides her usual five-day office work, Ms Wong takes corporate members to visit WWF Hong Kong's facilities, including Mai Po Nature Reserve, Island House Conservation Studies Centre and Hoi Ha Wan Marine Life Centre, during weekends. This allows more people to learn about what the organisation is doing and thus encourages them to be actively involved in saving the planet.
Unlike other charitable organisations, which offer immediate medical or social assistance to their recipients, the effect of WWF's work is generally not as tangible. "The harm done by pollution is hardly visible until the problem reaches a critical stage. The hardest part of my job is to convince people that if we don't take action today, we will suffer in the future," Ms Wong says.
Calling for urgent participation by every member of the community, WWF focuses on educating the general public, especially young people, about conservational awareness. WWF Hong Kong delivers seminars and workshops for both local and Shenzhen teachers, aiming to build their capacity to deliver education for sustainable development in schools.
"As the poor air quality in Hong Kong becomes more obvious and the government advertising campaign is arousing public concern, I believe people are more willing to take part in making a greener world," Ms Wong says. "Every cent we receive from our donors is spent on protecting our home. Everyone living on the planet is a beneficiary."
Since the number of self-fundraising organisations in Hong Kong is continually rising, WWF Hong Kong faces increasing competition for donors' attention. Ms Wong says a big part of her job is thinking of innovative marketing strategies that can help to get the best possible share and raise the necessary funds.
"Calling for voluntary action is always difficult, whether you're asking for monetary support or seeking to facilitate behavioural changes. We must bear in mind that a small positive change from an individual can make a big difference in our living planet," Ms Wong concludes.