Sir Stephen Bubb to lead new excellence drive – standing down as ACEVO CEO

After one of the most troubled years that charities have ever experienced, sector champion Sir Stephen Bubb today (17 May) announces an important new programme within the charity leaders’ network, ACEVO.

Following a period which saw the collapse of Kids Company, select committee inquiries into that and the fundraising question, and the publication of countless other charity-centred media stories, it has become clear that the sector must respond positively and creatively. The Charity Futures Programme (CFP) is that response

The aim of the CFP will be to examine how the capacity of the sector can be supported by the development of leadership and governance. It will have a view to identifying changes to help deliver greater long term sustainability in an era of rising social need.

The CFP will focus on the challenges faced by the sector’s governance, leadership and management and will also consider how philanthropists and other large-scale donors can maximise their long-term impact.

Sir Stephen Bubb will lead the programme, moving from his existing position as Chief Executive to head up the CFP. ACEVO’s Director of Public Policy, Asheem Singh, will assume the Chief Executive’s role while the organisation recruits Sir Stephen’s successor.

The CFP will examine all roles in the sector from donors and grant-makers, trustees and executive teams. The potential contributions to the sector of academic research and teaching will also be considered with a view to establishing lasting structures and support on which charities can draw to deliver gold standard governance.

The CFP has been made possible by a generous philanthropic gift. The gift has been driven by the donors’ private commitment to improving governance and leadership in the sector, it is not driven by any wish for publicity.

Sir Stephen said:

“I am proud to have spent the last fifteen years leading ACEVO into the 21st Century. Proud to have been a robust voice speaking truth to power. Much has been achieved in driving a modern professional third sector. But we all know that the negative attention of recent times has made us look at whether our leadership and governance is as good as it must be. It is now time for me to focus on this, the most important strategic issue facing the sector.


“The ‘Golden Rule’ of charity funding is that frontline delivery begins in the back office. No charity can deliver effective services at the front line without a strong and professional team at the top. To make that rule a reality, we need to build the leadership and governance support our sector needs but which funding does not always support.


“I will now lead this new Charity Futures Programme to ensure that we can drive stronger governance in our sector”.

ACEVO chairman Paul Farmer said: 

“CFP’s search for lasting solutions represents a tangible demonstration of the pledges made to members in our three year strategy, Leading the Charge, which promised every support in driving forward excellence in leadership.


“Sir Stephen’s extensive experience and passion makes him the ideal person to lead this ambitious enterprise. The end of his tenure as ACEVO’s Chief Executive is the end of an era. He has already made a huge contribution to our sector, and will continue to do so in this new role.


“ACEVO’s vital work continues, supporting Chief Executives and ensuring our voice is strong. I welcome Asheem Singh, who as ACEVO’s Director of Public Policy is fast developing a reputation as one of the most exciting of a new generation of young advocates for our sector to the role of Chief Executive in the interim.”

ACEVO Director Public Policy Asheem Singh said:

“ACEVO is a unique organization, the UK’s biggest and most influential network that nurtures and sustains social leaders across the UK. It has been a privilege to work with Sir Stephen and it will be a privilege to lead ACEVO at the beginning of this new and exciting era.


“Our members, whether they lead charities, social enterprises, educational organisations, mutuals, social tech hubs or any other part of the rapidly-expanding universe that is the third sector are the driving force behind our work, and we will work tirelessly to support, represent and help them drive social change in their communities. I look forward to getting stuck in, listening, learning and working with leaders everywhere from across the ACEVO movement in the months ahead.”

Editor’s Notes

Sir Stephen will begin his work from July, and will hand over to Asheem Singh in June.


  1. The Charity Futures Programme will research and develop new ways of securing strong governance and leadership in charities.
  2. The programme will be led by Sir Stephen Bubb and will run initially for two years. It is hosted by the charity leaders’ network ACEVO, with funding from philanthropists whose commitment is to civic society and not publicity. 
  3. The aim of the initiative is to explore and then build solutions with lasting impact, so the first stage will be a process of research and enquiry with a wide range of people and institutions supportive of charity excellence.
  4. The more detailed scope and focus of the programme will be determined by the findings of this first stage of work.  Areas for exploration and development are likely to include the role of philanthropic donors; the contribution of academic research and teaching; and the quality and accessibility to charity trustees and executives of support and learning around governance and leadership.

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