Foster MBAs Make a Community Difference via Challenge for Charity

Competition and collaboration. Strategic thinking and leadership. When it comes to the MBA Challenge for Charity, Full-Time MBA students at the University of Washington Foster School of Business do it all for free year after year.

Challenge for Charity (C4C) is a cornerstone of the Foster School's MBA experience and demonstrates Foster students’ commitment to making a difference in community. Each year, UW MBAs donate hundreds of hours and raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Special Olympics Washington and the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County through an auction and other fundraising activities. Since 1986, 9 West Coast MBA programs have competed annually to obtain the coveted “Golden Briefcase” through volunteering, fundraising and participation in a sports weekend.

The Challenge is just one way the Foster School connects to its community via relationships that benefit not only students but also charities, non-profits and minority businesses. With dozens of regional and international internships, mentorships, and consulting projects, including those offered to minority-owned businesses through the Consulting and Business Development Center, Foster makes a difference.

Competitive for a cause

How does Foster fare against other C4C competitors such as Stanford, Pepperdine, USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC Davis and the University of San Francisco? Of the past 12 years that Foster MBAs have competed in the Challenge, they have won – or brought home the Golden Suitcase – seven times.

Real winners are the charities, children and our community. Over 12 years, Foster MBAs have volunteered more than 15,000 hours and raised more than $1,000,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County and Special Olympics of Washington. Foster MBAs take a Northwest spin on how they raise money with a winter polar plunge and summer Mt. Rainier climb in addition to tutoring kids, sorting food at a food bank, chaperoning middle school dances and more.

Philanthropy aside, how competitive can this charity event really be?

“I can tell you right now,” said Ann Greeley (MBA 2002), a past president of C4C who serves on its advisory board, “the alumni are constantly asking the current MBA leadership, ‘How are you going to get that briefcase?’”

“We’re MBAs,” added Zachary Collings (MBA 2010), another past C4C president. “We’re competitive, especially with other business schools.”

Impact on the Foster MBA experience

How do MBAs convert strategic thinking and leadership learned in class to community service?

Many MBAs point out that organizing activities and raising $100,000 or more at the annual auction takes a great deal of strategic thinking, leadership, team-building, networking and raw hard work – all in addition to the rigorous MBA curriculum.

The final sports weekend held at Stanford each spring includes a slew of team competitions - battle of the bands, cheerleading, a dance off, football, volleyball, tug-of-war.

Greeley said C4C also sets the Foster MBA apart, “because it embodies the idea that your education is there to improve you so that you can improve the community around you."

Foster MBAsThe Rainier factor
Foster MBAs climb Seattle’s iconic volcano for challenge, charity and camaraderie.
"Everyone wants to feel they are giving back to the greater good and doing something outside of themselves, and C4C provides an easy, fun and impactful way to do that."

Zachary Collings (MBA 2010)
Past Challenge for Charity president