The Big Hire - Tanya Steele

After 12 years leading fundraising at Save the Children, WWF-UK's new chief executive takes charge at another charity with a global influence

Tanya Steele
Tanya Steele

Although many in the voluntary sector will know Tanya Steele primarily as a fundraiser, she will take considerable wider expertise to WWF-UK when she moves into the chief executive's chair at the conservation charity in January.

Steele might have spent the past 12 years leading Save the Children UK's fundraising efforts as the charity's executive director of marketing, fundraising and communications, but she has also gained significant experience of leading a major charity after spending nine months as Save's interim chief executive this year.

Steele, who before joining Save in 2004 spent more than 13 years working in marketing for companies in the technology sector, including BT and Siemens, will take over a charity with an income of about £60m a year and 333 staff spread across offices in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. She also inherits a position that is significant in the global WWF network.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, says he has always been impressed by the leadership provided by Steele, who has had two spells as an IoF trustee. "She has done an amazing job at Save," he says. "You can just tell when you walk into the charity's offices that the fundraisers are enjoying their work and doing a great job."

Lewis says Steele, who has also chaired the IoF's standards committee, is not only a highly skilled fundraiser, but also an excellent leader and strategic thinker.

She is passionate about her work, says Lewis, but also reflective and unafraid to be challenging "in the right way".

Steele, who is a trustee of the human rights charity Reprieve, completed her first three-year term as an IoF board member in 2012, but cut short the second spell after 18 months in January this year when she took on the interim chief executive role at Save.

She was unavailable for interview, but said in a statement when her appointment was announced that she considered it a privilege to take up the role at WWF-UK.

"WWF has an urgent and truly global mission for a planet where people and nature can thrive in harmony," she said. "Now more than ever, with huge pressures on habitats and more species facing extinction, WWF needs to play an integral role in enabling long-term change towards sustainable living, and the need for nature - on which we all depend - must be front and centre of our efforts."

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