David Emerson to step down as Association of Charitable Foundations chief

He will formally leave the chief executive's chair in November, after more than 14 years at the helm, but will stay on for one day a week to support his replacement


David Emerson, the chief executive of the Association of Charitable Foundations, is to leave his role in the autumn.

Emerson, who has led the ACF since the beginning of 2003, will formally step down as chief executive at the ACF’s annual general meeting in November, but will stay on in a part-time role to provide support to his replacement, working one day a week.

He will also work with foundations on a part-time basis, Emerson told Third Sector.

Emerson, who is 65 and earned between £80,000 and £90,000 according to the ACF’s latest accounts, said he felt it was a good time to leave the organisation, with the ACF coming to the end of one strategic plan and preparing to begin another.

"I’ve been there for 14 years," he said. "Although I love my job, I think that is quite a long time for any organisation. It’s a wonderful job, but I feel it is time for ACF to have new leadership and new vision.

"To work with funders over all that time has been such a privilege, and I shall miss that hugely. But you can’t go on forever, and now is the right time to hand over to someone else."

Charitable foundations represent approximately £2bn in assets and £2bn a year of investment in the charity sector. Emerson said they had raised their profiles in the past 14 years, which he saw as one of his biggest achievements.

"I’m just pleased that ACF is recognised as a significant body, which means that foundations are recognised as significant and important contributors to civil society," he said. "I think that is a significant achievement.

"We have enabled a lot more sharing of experience between foundations. Foundations are now much better at sharing knowledge, reviewing how to do things. Collectively, they are feeling more confident."

Emerson started his career in rural community development, then became deputy head of the rural department at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Before joining the ACF, he worked in professional theatre in London’s West End and internationally, as well as on television.

He is also the chair of Action with Communities in Rural England and the music theatre group nitroBEAT.

Emerson is married to Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, the chair of the Lords Select Committee on Charities, and received a CBE in the 2014/15 New Year’s Honours.

The search for a new ACF chief executive is under way and is being led by the recruitment firm Saxton Bampfylde. Applications close on 12 September.

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