By Mary Teresa Bitti
Some of Darrel Pink’s earliest memories are of stuffing envelopes in the Red Triangle Room of the YMCA in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
“My parents were very involved in our community,” says Pink, executive director of Nova Scotia’s Barristers’ Society in Halifax.
In fact, his father’s volunteer efforts earned him the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, and his 92-year-old mother is still giving back, knitting, sewing and making candy favors for the local hospital gift shop.
“For me and my family, volunteering has been part of our life, our whole life,” he says.
In addition to his frontline volunteering doing whatever needs to be done to help, Pink has put his professional skills to work on a variety of nonprofit boards.
He was chair of the United Way of Halifax while the organization revolutionized its fundraising and allocation processes in the late 1990s.
He served as president of the Children’s Aid Society of Halifax, as executive member of the Canadian Jewish Congress and was part of the Task Force on Family and Children’s Services.
And as the chair of Volunteer Canada’s national board, he has helped the organization set strategic direction and transition through a shift in mission and changes in leadership.
He also helped the organization downsize from 27 to seven staffers when federal funding dried up, and he laid the groundwork for a high-functioning board.
“Darrel is like our statesman, he has always been a voice of reason,” says Ruth MacKenzie, president of Volunteer Canada. “Under his leadership we now have comprehensive, and what I would say is a best-practice board-governance framework.”
That includes solid board-governance policies that articulate the role of the board and the expectations the board has of the president, she says, as well as a comprehensive and transparent board nominating process with supporting tools in place.
Overall, Pink has set the stage for a board that can have difficult and challenging dialogue to ensure issues are examined from all sides, MacKenzie says.
“Darrel’s term as past chair ends in June and I’m looking at our succession plan and feeling really sad that he’s going to be leaving the board,” she says. “It’s going to be a real gap.”
For his part, Pink says he gets more out of the experience than he contributes. While volunteering at that level is exciting, challenging and personally rewarding, he says, he believes that is true of volunteering at every level.
“Whether organizing a fund raiser or slinging burgers somewhere, you get the chance to work with wonderful people,” he says. “You get the chance to give time and share your talents and that’s what being in a community is all about.”