Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, has announced he is to retire after 25 years in the role.
Etherington, who had been widely tipped to step down from the position in 2019, the NCVO’s centenary year, confirmed in a statement today that he would leave the umbrella body later this year.
Membership of the NCVO has grown from 400 when Etherington took up the role in 1994 to more than 14,000 today.
In 2015, he was appointed by the government to lead the review into the self-regulation of fundraising in the wake of the Olive Cooke case, which led to the creation of the Fundraising Regulator.
He was knighted in 2010 for services to the voluntary sector.
Peter Kellner, chair of the NCVO, said Etherington had made a "truly invaluable contribution" to the umbrella body and the wider sector during his time in the role.
"He has guided the NCVO from strength to strength during even the most challenging times," he said.
Kellner said one of Etherington’s great skills had been in adapting the NCVO to meet new challenges.
Etherington, who began his career has as a social worker, was chief executive of the RNID, now Action on Hearing Loss, before joining the NCVO.
His departure date is not yet set and will depend on when his successor can take up the role, but the NCVO expects he will leave in the autumn.
He intends to pursue a classics diploma and write radio plays in retirement.
He also hopes to spend time volunteering locally in Greenwich, south-east London, where he lives.
Etherington said it had been a "huge privilege" to have worked in the role.
He said the "pace of change in the sector has been phenomenal over the past 25 years, and this is a trend I am sure will continue".
An open application process for the role, which is being managed by the executive search firm Green Park, has been launched today.
Kellner said the umbrella body would be looking for a successor who could bring fresh ideas alongside "sharp strategic thinking".
He added that it was seeking somebody with an "unimpeachable track record of standing up for integrity and transparency, and a clear commitment to valuing and nurturing difference and diversity".
The salary for the new chief executive will be set at £141,400 for the 2018/19 financial year.