Third Sector Awards 2017: Rising Chief Executive - Jonathan Spiers, Autistica

Third Sector Promotion Markel

Awarded to the chief executive who has made an outstanding contribution to his or her organisation, or the wider sector, during their first two years in post

Jonathan Spiers
Jonathan Spiers

What challenges did he face?

When Jonathan Spiers joined the autism research charity Autistica as chief executive in July 2015, it had been without a chief executive for five months. Income was falling and its six-strong team was looking for strong leadership.

What has he achieved for the charity?

Under his leadership, the fundraising team generated more than £3.4m this financial year, almost five times the previous year's income, according to the charity. It says he personally secured gifts of £1.65m this year, including the charity’s first-ever £1m donation, and led the pitch process that resulted in a £2.5m partnership with Deutsche Bank.

Spiers is credited with introducing measures such as flexible working, new office equipment, performance-related pay and a bespoke employee benefits programme.

What else has he achieved?

Working with the charity’s director of science, Spiers oversaw a national consultation to identify the autism community's top priorities for research. He led an international campaign around early death in autism, including drafting an influential policy report, briefing ministers and travelling to the US to influence the major autism research funders.

As a direct result, funders announced new investments in this virtually unresearched area, the UK government and the NHS implemented a raft of Autistica's policy recommendations and the issue of early death is now high on the autism agenda.

What did the judges say?

"What an amazing achievement in such a short time!" said Caitlin Dean, chair of Pregnancy Sickness Support. "Jon sounds like an inspirational leader and savvy chief executive – definitely a rising star."  

Highly commended

Stephen Hale, Refugee Action


Dominique Airey, Khulisa

Ginny Lunn, Beanstalk

Jonathan Pauling, Alexandra Rose Charity

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