Dr Helen Stephenson, the Charity Commission’s longest-serving Chief Executive, has announced her decision to step down from her position.
Charity Commission Chief Executive, Helen Stephenson, has announced her decision to step down at the end of her term in 2024, after seven years at the top of the organisation.
Dr Stephenson, who will be the Commission’s longest-serving Chief Executive, took up the post in July 2017, following an extensive career in senior roles across the public and voluntary sector.
Helen has led the organisation – and wider sector – through a series of challenges, from ensuring meaningful change following safeguarding and other scandals in 2015-18, which drove public trust in charities to an all-time low, through to a global pandemic, ‘culture wars’ and lately the cost-of-living crisis.
Under her leadership, the Commission has become a better, more professional organisation and ever more effective regulator. She has overseen a firmer grip on casework, with historic backlogs managed down, hard-hitting inquiries undertaken, and wrongdoing tackled head-on.
At the same time, Helen has championed support for charities to ‘get it right’, transforming the Commission’s offer to trustees, including through the introduction of the popular ‘5-minute guides’.
During the unprecedented times of the pandemic, Helen sought out closer and more regular ties with sector bodies so the Commission could better understand events in the sector through their eyes. More widely, she has overseen the development of a stronger intelligence function for the Commission, supporting it to identify and tackle risks in the sector as they emerge.
Next year Helen will leave an organisation that is not only on a firm footing but one which also enjoys cross Government confidence in its ability to deliver value for the public in its regulation of the sector.
Dr Helen Stephenson CBE said:
“I’m exceptionally proud of my time at the Commission so far and will look back with great satisfaction at the challenges we have overcome, the improvements we have delivered and the expert organisation the Commission is becoming.
“It is, of course, with some sadness that I’ve decided to draw this chapter to a close next year, but I know the Commission is well-placed to take the next steps in its long and proud history. There is a strong, skilled leadership team, dedicated, enthusiastic staff and a thoughtful, supportive Board – all committed to overseeing the work of our dynamic sector and achieving excellence in all they do.
“There is plenty still to do, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Board and our staff, building on our achievements to date, and setting a new strategy, while the process of appointing my successor takes place.”
Orlando Fraser KC, Chair of the Charity Commission, said:
“I want to put on record the immense gratitude of the Board for everything Helen has achieved.
“Helen’s warm leadership has built a strong and respected Charity Commission, and her clear-minded approach and deep understanding of the sector has ably steered the Commission through successive challenges and headwinds. She is respected and trusted by our team and has led an organisation that truly reflects its values: being rigorous in our scrutiny but balanced in our support.
“I also want to express publicly my own personal thanks to Helen. She has truly been an exceptional Chief Executive and we will miss her.
“I was part of the Board which appointed her in 2017, when she was the outstanding candidate for the job, and I was thrilled therefore to come back as Chair in 2022 to work alongside her. Since then, Helen went out of her way to help me hit the ground running in my own role, as well as run the Commission as Chief Executive so expertly.
“Helen will bequeath to her successor a Charity Commission that is on a strong footing, and we look forward this autumn to welcoming applications to follow her as Chief Executive in 2024.”