Etherington, who has led NCVO since 1994, received the honour "for services to the third sector".
Born in Dorking, he started his career as a social worker. He was appointed director of public affairs at the RNID in 1987 and chief executive of the same organisation in 1991.
Etherington described the knighthood as an unexpected honour.
He said: "Our sector makes an immense contribution to the lives of individuals and communities, making a positive difference to society.
"For me, this knighthood is recognition for all those whose hard work, dedication and commitment we sometimes hear too little about."
Other sector figures to be honoured include Sylvia Wear, chief executive of disability charity RCV , who receives an OBE.
Bryn and Emma Parry, co-founders of Help for Heroes also receive the OBE.
Further OBEs were awarded to Joe McVey, chairman of the Northern Ireland Volunteer Development Agency, Ken Olisa, chairman of homelessness charity Thames Reach, Jane Hanna, director of Epilepsy Bereaved and Sharon Palmer, chief executive of voluntary sector support body Regional Action West Midlands .