#1 - Zhang Tingjun - Disaster Relief, Volunteering & Fundraising Challenges

Zhang Tingjun is the Executive Director of Mercy Relief and the first female to helm Mercy Relief in its 12 year history. She was formerly the Co-Founder and Director of The Chain Reaction Project (TCRP), a non-profit organization recognized by the President's Office as one of Singapore's leading social enterprises. We chat about how she transitioned from working at a large bank, to starting up her own social enterprise, to taking charge of one of Singapore's leading independent disaster relief agencies. We speak about what it’s like to work at a humanitarian relief agency, skills-based volunteering, how to best help in the case of a disaster and vent about common misconceptions that donors have about nonprofits.


Favourite quote from episode:

“Don’t overthink giving back and be paralysed by the enormity of the world’s problems and how you have no idea of how to be part of the solution … if you break all of that down and you start small and you start with what you’re good at, I think that’s the first step.” – Ting [31:19]


People/ items mentioned in this episode:




Show notes

  • “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to give back… at that time I wanted to be a helicopter paramedic” [04:00]
  • “[In the Philippines] a lot of our work right now isn’t in responding [to disasters] but in empowering communities so that if there is a disaster, they’re able to bounce back a lot quicker – they’re able to look after themselves” [07:53]
  • What is something that people get wrong or have a misconception about what you do in this space? [12:03]
  • Ting and I vent about fundraising for operational and administration costs [15:00]
  • Looking forward, what exciting things are happening in the space – new technology or new ways of doing things? [17:45]
  • “As more people start their own journeys in giving back and get better at it, more effective at it, it can only be good for the non-profit sector” [20:08]
  • Do you have any hacks or tips, or things that you do? Non-profit people are pretty resourceful! [24:30]
  • **laughter in the background** [26:19]
  • “When I was offered the role at Mercy Relief, in the beginning I really worried because I was like, you know, I don’t know if I should take it because I can only do 60% of the role” [26:25]
  • Three Things [30:09]


QUESTION OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Let me know in the comments!