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Future Leaders
Fundraising Challenge –

Teaching leadership through experience.
A group of MBA students smile into the camera. One man has a large silver trophy while two women next to him are holding a large cheque in the sum of over €71000 for Save The Children

Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge

The Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge is a one-week leadership course at the outset of WHU’s MBA Program. It is designed to teach leadership through experience, to introduce topics covered in the MBA Program, and instill in students a lasting sense of leaders’ social responsibility beyond their organizations. The students work in teams and face a different challenge every day. The ideas and the funds that the students raise during the week benefit children's rights organizations. Since its inception in April 2016, MBA students have raised almost €600,000 for charity.

The Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge was launched at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management in 2016 as an innovative way of teaching leadership in the MBA Program. The key drivers of this initiative were to:

  1. Provide leadership experience.
    We were dissatisfied with the way that leadership was taught. We felt that theoretical discussions and hypothetical case studies helped students to analyze and cognitively understand leadership challenges, but that they were removed from the emotional and relational reality of leadership in organizations. We believe that this problem contributes to the knowing-doing gap: business school graduates may know how they should act as a leader, and yet when they have to do it they often fail. Under pressure they draw on long-standing habitual behavioral responses rather than on the effective leadership behaviors that we teach them in the class room. 
  2. Motivate the learning of leadership skills.
    We felt that we needed to more strongly motivate our students to invest time and effort into building their leadership skills and take to heart the contents delivered across all courses in the MBA program. We therefore wanted our students to learn early on in the program how difficult leadership really is and what they lack in knowledge with respect to the contents of the MBA program.
  3. Raise awareness of social responsibility.
    Given the frequent moral and ethical failures of business leaders in today’s organizations, we wanted to find a more effective and lasting way of imbuing our students with a sense of social responsibility.

The five-day leadership course takes place at the beginning of the MBA program. Working in teams of 4-5 students and accompanied by an MBA alumni mentor, the students face a new real-life challenge each day.

A new leader is chosen for every challenge, ensuring that each student steps up as leader once over the course of the week. After completing the challenge, students first take time to reflect on the leadership and team process. Then, moderated by their mentor, they meet to discuss the learnings of the day in order to improve leadership and team dynamics.

The challenges feature core topics of the MBA program: product development, marketing, strategy, negotiations, and logistics/product distribution. All challenges are extremely demanding - students work under enormous time pressure, in fierce competition with the other student teams, and with team members that have diverse experiences, strong personalities, and differing cultural backgrounds. Each morning, the students receive input for that day’s challenge from an expert on the subject, and they are judged on their performance by a panel of experts in the evening. One team is declared the winner of each challenge.

The Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge supports the work of children's rights organizations, such as Save the Children and Welthungerhilfe. As part of their challenges, the students create concepts or raise funds for these organizations.

The Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge has a profound impact on students. They experience what it means to be a leader within their first week of the MBA program. They realize that leadership is as much about structure and careful analysis as it is about making relationships work, handling team dynamics, and setting the right emotional tone for the team to succeed. Through experience, guided reflection, and mentoring, the students learn first-hand how to lead a team effectively.

In their reflections, students have described how difficult leadership is, and that they wish to expand their expertise in core areas taught in the MBA Program. These insights give them a motivational boost to build their leadership skills and develop business acumen from the very beginning of the program. As a result, we expect the students to be more successful leaders in the future.

By working for an entire week for a children’s rights organization, students develop an understanding of societal challenges and the responsibility they bear as business leaders. Through their work on the challenges, they make a difference to the lives of children across the globe by developing actionable strategic concepts, and by raising an amazing total of well over €200,000 for children's rights organizations.

The Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge has been so successful that WHU now runs it twice a year. The media coverage brings reputational benefits to WHU.

Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge – September, 2022.

A successful start for the new MBA cohort!

The newest intake of MBA students collects €71,203.68 in less than five days for Save the Children Deutschland e.V. to help the Children's Emergency Fund (CEF).

Three smiling MBA students are holding up their Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge certificates. The young woman on the left is holiding a silver trophy.
Looking back, leading forward!
Watch all videos!

Experience the Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge –


Since its inception in 2016, the Future Leaders Fundraising Challenge has been inspiring students of the WHU MBA program.

Take a look at the videos of our past events to find out more about this innovative way of teaching leadership!

You will find more videos in our video playlist. 



We gratefully acknowledge the support of our sponsors:

Would you like more information? – Get in touch.

Recruiting Team MBA

Chun-Rong Chen
Sabine Noe
Alexandra Ionescu-Isar
Selina Flick
Lars Weber


+49 (0)211 4470 9144

Contact WHU MBA Recruiting Team
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