Entrepreneur

For 10 Hours Of Volunteering, This Charity Lets You Dine With M'sian Business Leaders

“Sometimes the most meaningful and inspiring conversations happen over casual meals.”

This is what Time Auction, a charity organisation, believes in. It wants to be an alternative to often-intimidating networking sessions.

When you find yourself in a room full of influential entrepreneurs and industry leaders, trying to network as a small fry is nerve-wracking.

How Time Auction tackles this is by organising casual meetup sessions (also called ‘experiences’) where anyone can have a conversation with business leaders. All you’d have to do to qualify for a session is volunteer 10 hours of your time to a charity of your choice.

Born From Personal Experience

Fion Leung and Suet Yi Wong, the co-founders of Time Auction, were working in Hong Kong’s financial sector when they realised that they wanted richer life experiences.

So, they began volunteering, seeing it as the ticket to the experiences they wanted.

Fion, who is also Time Auction’s CEO, told South China Morning Post, “Volunteering is important because that’s how you experience social issues first-hand. They are emotional experiences that eventually encourage you to spread awareness about these issues.”

Fion Leung. / Image Credit: Time Auction Facebook

But simply volunteering wasn’t enough. Wanting more ideas and exposure, Fion and Suet Yi began attending networking events.

There, they found awkwardness in approaching industry leaders, and after one such session, they though up the concept of Time Auction.

The concept presented a win-win situation because not only did it eliminate most of the awkwardness, but it also encouraged volunteerism.

“What if we can meet people who’ve crafted their own path and made a name for themselves, meet them as a friend and ask them anything they want, while making the world a better place?” Fion said, during their fifth anniversary in April this year.

Thus, Time Auction was born in 2014. On how they got the ball rolling, Fion said, “We came up with a list of outstanding people and emailed them. Within two weeks, we had lined up six or seven guest speakers. There was no backing out.”

A Steady, Global Growth

Over the next two years, they managed to host about 50 events, and people had volunteered over 6,000 hours at different charities to join them.

Dinner with Fadzarudin Anuar, CEO of FashionValet. / Image Credit: Time Auction KL Facebook

“We realised that people love this casual way of learning and we also love what we do. So we became a registered charity, did some fundraising, and started growing this properly,” Fion shared.

After 5 years, Time Auction is now present in 7 global cities: Hong Kong, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Kuala Lumpur.

As of April 2019, Time Auction’s global community had volunteered over 50,000 hours. Volunteers also run the overseas Time Auction branches after being trained by the charity.

In January this year, Fave announced a one-year sponsorship for Time Auction Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta.

Some previous guest speakers for Time Auction KL’s organised meetups were Albern Murty, CEO of Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, Derek Toh, Founder of WOBB, and Azran Osman-Rani, Founder of Naluri and AirAsia X.

Casual dinner with Derek Toh, founder of WOBB. / Image Credit: Time Auction KL Facebook

Ongoing auctions in KL include bids for having dinner with Datuk Nicol David, eight-time world squash champion, Timothy Tiah and Audrey Ooi, co-founders of Colony coworking space, and Sridharan Nair, Managing Partner of PwC Malaysia.

Investing Time For Personal Growth

According to Time Auction, joining the experience is easily done in 4 steps. First, you’ll have to sign up to an experience that you like, after which you simply volunteer a minimum of 10 hours at any charity or non-profit organisation (NPO) you support.

Next, you’ll log your volunteer hours on the Time Auction platform. The Time Auction team will request for the organisation’s name where you volunteered at, your volunteer work details, and the contact information or the organisation.

An experience with Azran Osman-Rani. / Image Credit: Time Auction KL Facebook

Once your volunteer hours have been verified, you can join the experience. Time Auction states that your volunteer hours can be spread over several different organisations, so long as it’s a registered charity and NPO.

If you’re not sure whether or not the charitable cause you want to volunteer for will qualify, Time Auction welcomes you to email them. To make things easier for yourself, you could also simply pick one or more of the charities they’ve already listed out.

One thing to note is that, depending on the type of experience you’ve signed up for, you may be required to provide payment. Time Auction states that this payment would cover “relevant costs such as venue, food, as well as the running costs of our programs to promote volunteerism and organise more awesome experiences.”

The team highly discourages cancelling, but if participants must cancel or if they had a sub-par experience, the platform’s FAQ states that they are open to being contacted as well.

There’s Always Time To Learn

What started out as a hobby-turned-side-hustle eventually became Fion’s full-time job.

On the way, Time Auction ran into its own share of challenges too. As they scaled the organisation, finding the right people to join them wasn’t easy.

Dinner with Albern Murty. / Image Credit: Time Auction KL Facebook

“Because we’re a charity, we’re not motivating someone with money. For a charity (and for startups too) you really have to find people who are personally motivated and believe that what the company is doing is their personal mission too,” Fion told Neat.

It took some time to learn who the right people were, but they eventually managed to identify the ideal profiles to look for.

Regarding the future of Time Auction, Fion said, “Ultimately we want to be like a TEDx or Creative Mornings and have a presence in the major cities around the world.”

  • You can find out more about Time Auction here.

Featured Image Credit: Time Auction Facebook

 

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