Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca, has announced he will retire in March next year.
Curley, who has been head of the local infrastructure umbrella body since 2003, said the position was his "dream job".
He said he planned to spend more time working with the two charities he chairs and hoped to "play a part at national level in defending the independence of the local voluntary sector".
"Leading Navca is for me the dream job," said Curley, who will be 60 in February. "This is a great social movement – always speaking up for local voluntary action and supporting citizens who want to make their communities better places to live."
Before joining Navca, Curley led councils for voluntary service in Hull, Derby and Charnwood in Leicestershire, interspersed with a spell as chief executive of the brain injury association Headway and two stints at the volunteering organisation VSO, including four years in Tanzania.
Mike Martin, chair of Navca, said: "Under Kevin’s leadership, Navca has become a highly respected national charity that speaks for and effectively supports local charities and community groups."
He said the organisation would begin the process of recruiting a replacement "without delay", with a view to the new person taking up the position in March 2012.