The Canadian Pension & Benefits Institute (CPBI) celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, a fact that Kevin Press, assistant vice-president, Canadian marketing, with Sun Life Financial in Toronto, is proud of. “Any organization that reaches that kind of an anniversary clearly has an awful lot of support.”

That support comes in the form of its volunteers, of which Press, this year’s recipient of Benefits Canada’s Volunteer award, is one. “[The CPBI is] made up of volunteers from all aspects of our industry, working hard to provide quality educational content and to present networking opportunities to the industry.”

Press—currently chair of the organization’s national board of directors—first became active in the CPBI when he was editor of Benefits Canada. Paul Williams, then publisher of the magazine, encouraged him to participate in the association. “It was the best piece of advice I received as I was learning about the business, because the people I met through the CPBI, and the work I was able to do, has been very, very beneficial to me.”

Press’s involvement with the CPBI has been beneficial for the organization, too, particularly his work on the rebranding and relaunching of its national conference in 2007. The regional conferences were doing well at the time, Press explains, but the national conference was too similar. “It wasn’t complementary.”

Engaging various stakeholders across the country, Press led the charge to create a distinct national conference. “There was an opportunity for the regional conferences to focus on local and national content and for the national conference to focus on national and global content.”

When he joined the CPBI in 2004 as the Ontario representative on the national board, Press began work on updating the association’s “dated” governance structure. “It really needed a refresh, and that’s what we did.” Press says that the CPBI is “now at a stage where governance is a process. We talk about it in the context of, ‘Are we adhering to our structure? Are we doing things the way we’ve committed to doing them?’”

After four years as the Ontario rep, Press became vice-chair and then chair of the board in November 2008—all while holding down a busy job at Sun Life and tending to his family. (Press has two young children, ages three and five.)

But he’s unfazed by the commitment. “It’s manageable,” he says, adding that the strong leadership and structure in the CPBI head office make it possible. “You get engaged on calls, there are meetings every quarter or so, but when your time is being used as well as it is, in my experience as chair, it’s an easy sacrifice to make.”

And while Press shies away from being recognized for the award (there are so many others, he says, who have worked just as hard or even harder), he does love that the recognition validates the idea that professionals looking to give back can volunteer for industry associations.

“Anybody who asks me for advice about how to learn about an industry, I recommend participation in the industry’s associations. That is hugely beneficial.” Press has one more year as chair, then a term as past-chair and admits that he’ll likely be involved in a conference planning committee at some level.

“I’ve sort of done this backwards,” he laughs. “A lot of people do the association work later in their careers. I haven’t, so there may be an opportunity for me to become more involved in my community.”

Backwards or not, his community will definitely benefit.

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© Copyright 2010 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the December 2010 edition of BENEFITS CANADA magazine.