Kirstine Knox, who led the MND Association between 2005 and 2012, has spent the past seven years at the University of Oxford as associate director of development and latterly director of development at the Blavatnik School of Government.
The philanthropy directorate is one of five that form the BHF’s fundraising department, which is led by Amanda Bringans, fundraising director and chair of the Institute of Fundraising.
Knox will look take responsibility for areas including major donors and trusts and foundations.
The position that she will take up when she joins in September has been restructured because it used to also have responsibility for corporate partnerships, but that has been allocated to another director.
The charity said it had identified philanthropic fundraising as a priority in its new strategy, which seeks to raise funds to support more than £1bn of research into heart and circulatory disease over the next 10 years.
This will require the charity’s net income to grow by 25 per cent in the next five years.
The BHF had an income of £328m and expenditure of £330m in the year to the end of March 2018, its most recent accounts show.
Knox stepped down from the MND Association because her husband was seriously ill, she said at the time.
The BHF was unable to reach Knox for an update last week because she was overseas.
Bringans said in a statement that the charity’s philanthropy team would be "central to the delivery of our ambitious new strategy to 2030".
She said: "While it’s a challenging time for fundraisers, we see huge potential to leverage our world-leading research portfolio to attract donations from people and organisations that want to see their investment translate into improved treatments for people with heart and circulatory diseases worldwide."
Knox said in a statement: "I’m looking forward to joining the BHF at such an exciting time in its history.
"Its track record of helping to cut heart disease deaths in half, combined with its ambitious strategy for the future, create the perfect environment for attracting greater philanthropic support.
"I’m relishing the challenge of telling the BHF’s story to people and organisations with the potential to fund transformational research, and I’ve no doubt that I am joining a team with the culture and capability to inspire even more support for the BHF’s fantastic work."