Giving with a Strategy — Dinner with Jean Sung, Head of The Philanthropy Centre, Asia at J.P. Morgan Private Bank

Jean Sung has helped us raise 172 volunteer hours ️

Sometimes the most meaningful and inspiring conversations happen over casual meals. The Time Auction Blog is a snippet of our meetings with people who have found passion in their life and career.

Even the smallest of actions can make a world of a difference. Whether you consider yourself a friend, a local community member or part of any group, a strong sense of communal belonging brings out the altruistic sides of us. If someone or something we care about needs our help, our first instinct is to take action — listening to friends, volunteering our time, voting, etc.

Jean Sung, Head of The Philanthropy Centre, Asia at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, tells us there’s another way to approach this — through data and strategy:

“When dealing with something that is part of human development, you’re gonna have to write up statistics and quantitative points that are not really qualitative.”

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Her view comes from years of managing philanthropy initiatives of in 13 different countries; working with philanthropists from all over Asia; and dealing with large budgets, ambitious KPIs, and tight timelines.

Her work has demanded a focus on economic development, financial empowerment and workforce development. She knows that maximising the impact of every dollar is crucial and the only way to do that properly is to develop a strategy backed by numbers.

“…because I love my work, I feel like it also gives me the continuous learning curve, because nothing is too big or too small.”

The Importance of Quantifying Issues

When talking about social issues in Hong Kong, the thing that frustrates her the most is the slow pace of improvements for even the most basic social issues. For example, issues related to education for girls/young women or the elderly population have not seen much change over the years.

And this is despite the fact that many individuals within these groups have given many years of their lives to the community. She insisted on data being essential in conversations and the need to continue on the path of showing evidence.

“Elderly care. Let’s say, if I can approach a philanthropist and say through evidence, ‘There’re 152,000 people living in half a bunk bed, no savings, no family, and they need to have a gracious living. Would you help and provide a more gracious lifestyle for them if you’ve already got a hospital?’”

Evidence-based research allows us to gauge the scope of help needed, approach the right people and provide a clearer picture of how much a donor needs to commit for a critical social issue.

“It’s not to giveaway blindly, but to giveaway with intent and purpose.”

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Volunteers being absolutely captivated by Jean’s wit and charm

Change Takes Time & Support

To help the less fortunate is to recognise that there are those who have been unjustly excluded. That’s why helping communities involves all things welfare, including conversations about inclusivity.

She recalled the very first LGBT parade 7 years ago.

“We were one of the first ones to join them. There used to be a couple hundred of people. But now, there are thousands of people.”

It’s this experience that taught her that change takes a hell lot of time. It’s also something that took Jean herself a while to learn:

“I wish I would be better at time management because there’s so much that I wanna do at any given day. So subsequently, I don’t have enough time to do what I really wanna do.“

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Be More Mindful of the Injustices that Surround You

Before our meeting came to a close, she gave us some food for thought.

A shopkeeper is selling eggs, $1 each. I said, “C’mon, I’m buying six eggs, $5. You can do it.”

He said, “Okay, I’ll sell you 6 eggs for $5.5.”

I got a bargain. I saved 50 cents, right?

Then I go and have lunch, and the lunch was 900 dollars. But it was a nice restaurant, we had a nice lunch, the bill came, so I gave 1,000. I gave 100 dollars away as a tip.

Where’s the justice in that?

That’s why it’s worth examining your actions and choices, and reflecting upon them.

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Thank you so much to Jean for helping us raise 172 volunteer hours and all the volunteers who dedicated their ours for the greater good! We would also like to personally thank photographer Alan from KaChick and our venue sponsor the Hive Wan Chai! To see our next experiences, head to our Time Auction website!

This article originally appeared on our blog on Medium:

Updated on 8 April, 2021
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