She embraced kindness, dignity and equal opportunities for all
Tributes have been paid to Donna Mackinnon, a stalwart and friend of Scotland’s voluntary sector, who has died after an illness.
Donna took early retirement from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) in October 2019 after nearly 25 years where she served as a director of employment services.
Joining the organisation in 1995, her first role was national networks development officer, tasked with strengthening the infrastructure of the voluntary sector in Scotland.
She became assistant director of development and programmes in 2002 before an organisational restructure made her director of employment where she remained until she retired.
Responsible for the hugely successful voluntary sector option of New Deal back at its inception in 1998, Donna was instrumental in developing other successful third sector employment programmes, including Community Jobs Scotland and Future Jobs Scotland which provided the pathway for thousands of young Scots with barriers to employment to successfully find work.
She also worked on programmes such as Third Sector Internships Scotland, Skillseekers, Progress to Work and Training for Work.
As a lifelong Labour supporter, Donna cut her political teeth as president of the NUS from 1989-1991 where she campaigned against student loans and successfully lobbied for better and more secure student accommodation as well as campaigning on Palestine and against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Alongside her NUS colleagues, she hit the headlines in the late 80s after showering the South African Airways office in Bath Street, Glasgow, with paint in protest against the country’s regime.
Latterly she was former Labour MP Jim Murphy’s election agent. He said on Twitter: “Terrrible news Donna Mackinnon has died. A friend, a mentor, a critic, a travel partner and brilliant election agent. A campaigner, a leader, a feminist, a socialist.”
In a poignant tribute, her friend of 40 years, Gordon McDougall, said Donna’s sheer generosity of spirit, decency and integrity made a difference to the lives of many.
“Donna was a loyal friend who would be there for you no matter what,” he told TFN. “Decency was hard-wired into her DNA. I saw that from our earliest days in the NUS, through her time at the Labour Party and all through her tenure at SCVO.
“You couldn’t find anyone who would have a hard word to say about Donna. People saw in her someone they could trust. Across the political divide she was respected and liked. Alongside her breadth and depth of knowledge, Donna embodied a decency that is very rare.”
Archie Graham, former SCVO colleague and ex-deputy leader of Glasgow City Council said: “Donna's commitment to the voluntary sector, and indeed to the Labour Party, was an inspiration to me and many others besides.
“Her underlying principles were fairness and equal opportunities for all.
“I had many happy times working with her at SCVO. Two memories in particular stand out. One when she sent me to recruit a busker to provide entertainment at a third sector event and the other is of a brainstorming lunch she organised with Martin Sime and myself aboard the Nolly Barge on the Forth and Clyde canal.
“May she rest in peace.”
Dame Anne McGuire, who worked with Donna at SCVO, tweeted: “She was a woman of undoubted talent, commitment and energy and she will be sorely missed. RIP.”
And NUS Scotland tweeted: “We are sorry to hear of the death of Donna Mackinnon, NUS Scotland President, 1989 to 1991. We would like to express our condolences to Donna's family and friends.”
David McNeil, SCVO’s director of development, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear the news that Donna has passed away. Having worked at SCVO for almost 25 years, those who worked closest with Donna remember her as a brilliant leader who was full of love and kindness.
“She was passionate about social justice, with a huge commitment to supporting the most vulnerable.
“She leaves behind a considerable legacy, not least for the 10,000 young people that got supported into jobs in the voluntary sector through the Community Jobs Scotland programme she led over the past decade.
"Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time."