For David Matthew Fong, who leads the Strategic Partnerships and Volunteer Management team at St. Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC), International Volunteer Managers Day 2023 marks his first as a Volunteer Manager (VM) Champion.
An initiative by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), VM Champions seeks to groom young VM practitioners into leaders in the social service sector. Appointed in August 2023, David is part of the NCSS Peer-Mentoring Programme; he has been paired with a mentee, with whom he will share essential knowledge and skills.
David has worked in various agencies for more than 10 years but insists (albeit gently) that “I’m actually very low-key.” In 2021, he joined SAAC, which serves more than 450 people with moderate-to-severe autism every year through education and training programmes and residential care.
“I’m here to learn to love those whom I don’t comprehend, who are wired differently from me, who don’t love and show affection in a manner that I’m accustomed to,” he says.
At SAAC, he steers its volunteer strategy, from recruitment to training and activation. Volunteer hours have increased from last year, he lets on. At the mention of the SAAC volunteers – a thriving community comprising individuals, as well as corporate, community and school groups – David breaks out into a smile.
“We salute and appreciate the selfless love and service from all our regular volunteers at SAAC who have joined us in this walk of a lifetime with our students, clients and residents,” he says.
Read on for David’s thoughts on volunteer management (spoiler alert: it is all about love and service).
“What is the measure of effectiveness? Record numbers of new volunteer deployment? High rate of recurring/returning volunteers? Low volunteer attrition? Significant cost savings in manpower with volunteers augmenting the work of staff and providing value-added services at little or no cost?
“Is it about doing good well; doing it right; such that the maximum good can be enjoyed by the most number of beneficiaries, in a consistently sustained manner, with proper governance and at relatively low or no cost and high social capital?
“Or more importantly doing all with pure love and deep respect for the dignity of the human person?
“IVMD isn’t about me as a volunteer manager although I appreciate the tribute and recognition accorded to all of us in this collective mission. Beyond the science and art of volunteer management; at the very heart and essence of it is love and service.
“So we should be thankful for the many willing hearts and the generous giving spirit of all who come forth to love and serve.
“Whether a Volunteer Manager Champion appointed by National Council of Social Service or Head of Strategic Partnerships & Volunteer Management at St. Andrew’s Autism Centre (SAAC), my joy is in creating and catalysing avenues, opportunities and platforms to love and serve and paving the way for greater and sustained loving and service in SAAC and the community.
“I believe when one’s intentions are pure, all the difficulties/hardships/imperfections are secondary.
“Of course, we know people want to know they have made a difference, that they have contributed, they’ve not wasted their time and their efforts are not in vain. And sure, there are lots that can be done to ensure the whole volunteer experience is pleasant, positive and purposeful. To install and provide the best infrastructure to facilitate the process of doing good.
“But the question remains ‘Why are you here?’
“If true love drives you here then we know you’re here not for your own self-interest because to love is to will the good of the other.
“And love is blue; just look at our frontline teachers, coaches, care staff and therapists – regardless of the colour of the sky or the mood they are in, they continue to give all in service, doing so with love, in love and for love.
“We also salute and appreciate the selfless love and service from all our regular volunteers at SAAC who have joined us in this walk of a lifetime with our students, clients and residents.
“I spent the early first half of my ‘career’ persuading people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have … it’s time I channel my energies and what I’ve been blessed with for social good. It’s a sojourn …
“I’m now here at SAAC to learn to love those whom I don’t comprehend, who are wired differently from me, who don’t love and show affection in a manner that I’m accustomed to. To gain a fresh perspective on humanity and community.
“At the end it’s not about forging a career in volunteer management; it’s just simply learning and growing to be a better human person.”
Find out how you can become a volunteer with us here.