Charity leaders recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours 2020

12 Oct 2020 News

Charity leaders from UK Youth, the Himalayan Trust and Royal Voluntary Service are among those to have received awards in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours. 

Nearly three-quarters of the 1,495 recipients were honoured for their community work, the Cabinet Office said.

This year women make up 49% of recipients. Meanwhile 13% of the successful candidates come from a BAME background – the highest proportion yet. 

The awards are normally announced in the summer, but this year they were delayed to enable people’s contribution during the coronavirus pandemic to be recognised. 


Graham Wigley, chair of Himalayan Trust UK, was knighted for services to international development. 

He has worked in the sector for over 30 years and co-founded the Himalayan Trust UK in the late 1980s.

He said: “I am deeply honoured and humbled by this award. I have been privileged to work with so many dedicated and brilliant colleagues and partners all over the world during the last 30 years, in particular the Himalayan Trust.”

Geoff Mulgan, former chief executive of the innovation funder Nesta, was also awarded a knighthood. 


The British Empire Medal (BEM) was awarded to 537 people.

The award was revived by David Cameron when he was prime minister as a way to honour people in for community work who are overlooked by the traditional honour system. 

Hera Hussain, a social entrepreneur and founder of Chayn, global volunteer network addressing gender-based violence, was one of those to be given the honour. 

On Twitter she said the award was “bittersweet” due to the word empire. 

“The word ‘empire’ is like a stake in the heart,” she explained. “I keep thinking about how much this would mean to my grandparents who grew up in the horror of the partition of India & Pakistan, and could probably not have imagined their granddaughter (پوتی اور نواسی) would get this.” 

This summer a group of charity leaders who had previously accepted honours called for the word “empire” to be replaced with the word “excellence”. 


A number of charity leaders were made Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). 

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, received the award. Adam Sharples, chair of the Money Advice Trust, said: “She has been an outstanding chief executive for the Money Advice Trust for more than 10 years and has worked tirelessly to help people and small businesses to deal with problem debts. 
“The honour is also a tribute to the achievements of the wider team of staff she leads at the Trust, who have risen to the extraordinary challenges posed by Covid-19 and continue to deliver our services at time when they are needed more than ever.”

Elsewhere, Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the National Literacy Trust, was recognised with a CBE for his services to literacy. 

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, received a CBE, and said: “It comes at a time when heritage is facing the greatest challenge in my lifetime, and I would like to pay testament to everyone in the heritage sector, and in particular my colleagues at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, who have worked so hard to respond quickly and effectively to the Covid-19 crisis, ensuring that important heritage is saved for future generations.” 


Some 260 people were made Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

They included: 

  • Ndidi Okezie, chief executive of UK Youth.
  • Sacha Romanovitch, chief executive of Fair4All Finance.
  • Fran Perrin, founder of the grantmaker Indigo Trust.
  • Kathy Mohan, chief executive of Housing Justice. 
  • Nicki Norman, acting chief executive at Women’s Aid.
  • Chris Hindley, chief executive of Youth Fed
  • Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the British Asian Trust and a former head of Scope.
  • Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK.
  • Graham Duxbury, chief executive of Groundwork UK.
  • Peter Cardy, former Macmillan Cancer Support chief executive.
  • Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
  • Sanjiv Nichani, founder and chief executive of the children’s cardiac surgical charity Healing Little Hearts. 


Over 500 people became Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Rebecca Kennelly, director of volunteering at Royal Voluntary Service, was given the award for services to the Covid-19 response.
She has led Royal Voluntary Service’s delivery of the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, the largest volunteer mobilisation effort since the Second World War. NHS Volunteer Responders have delivered over 900,000 tasks in the last six months.

Other recipients from the charity sector include: 

  • Lisa Johnson, manager of direct services at Women’s Aid. 
  • Sufina Ahmad, director of the John Ellerman Foundation.
  • Kunle Olulode, director of Voice4Change England.
  • Rebecca Kennelly, director of volunteering at the Royal Voluntary Service.
  • Sandra Meadows, chief executive of Voscur, which supports voluntary sector organisations in Bristol.
  • Andrew Lord, chief executive of the homelessness charity Alabaré. 
  • George Rawlinson, former RNLI operations and safety director, and current volunteer chair of the UK’s National Water Safety Forum.
  • Simon Morris, former chief executive of Jewish Care.
  • Alison Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust.
  • Denise Yates, former chief executive of the gifted children’s charity Potential Plus UK.
  • Yvonne Lawson, founder and chief executive of the young people’s development charity the Godwin Lawson Foundation.
  • Colette McKeaveney, director of Age Concern Luton. 
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