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12 Incredible Female Leaders In Charity

Women make up two-thirds of those working in the charity and voluntary sector in the UK and for decades have played a crucial role in pushing for positive social and environmental change.

But how often are these outstanding women celebrated?

For Women's History Month and International Women's Day, we highlight 12 women leaders in the not-for-profit sector.

From a former trapeze artist to a young volunteer in a refugee centre, these women's stories are compelling and important. Bold, bright, brave innovators and risk-takers who have launched or led organisations to challenge complex issues including dementia, and gender inequality to the destruction of the world's wildlife.

We hope it inspires you to celebrate women in non-profits this International Women's Day and beyond.

Farah Nazeer, CEO of Women's Aid

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We all have a responsibility to call out sexism and misogyny"

- Farah Nazeer, CEO of Women's Aid in an interview with Marie Claire.

Farah Nazeer is the CEO of the charity Women’s Aid.

As a life-long campaigner and political activist, Farah has fought and won campaigns on women’s rights, including human trafficking and tackling violence against women; on access to health including areas like end-of-life care and rare conditions; and on the environment including the use of plastic bags, food waste, and toxic chemicals in Europe.

Her extensive work to bring about change includes working as a Special Advisor on Advocacy for Lumos, an organisation whose mission is to end the institutionalisation of children globally by 2050 to Head of Public Affairs at the Women’s Institute, the largest women’s membership organisation the UK.

Fundraise for Women's Aid through your business sales

Gabby Jahanshahi-Edlin, founder of Bloody Good Period.

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(Image of Gabby Edlin by Third Sector)

I love that giving pads is saying, ‘we’ve got this covered, you don’t ever need to worry about your period when you’ve got so much else to worry about.’”

- Gabby Edlin, founder of Bloody Good Period.

Gabby Jahanshahi-Edlin launched the charity Bloody Good Period in 2016 whilst volunteering at the New London Synagogue asylum-seekers drop-in centre, where most of the attendees were women. It was here that she became aware that period products weren't considered “essential” items.

Thanks to her pioneering campaigning this has begun to change.

Bloody Good Period now provides menstrual supplies for asylum seekers and refugees across the UK, as well as to those who can’t afford them. They also provide menstrual education for those less likely to access it.

The charity are also starting to see demand rise again due to the combined impact of the cost of living crisis and the worsening refugee crisis, only exacerbated by the situation in Ukraine.

In 2022, Gabby stepped down and passed the reigns over to Rachel Grocott, who had been leading BGP’s public fundraising and communications alongside Gabby .

Fundraise for Bloody Good Period through your business sales

Emily Williamson, Founder of the RSPB


Historial female figures like Emily Williamson are rarely talked about. But thanks to her one of the UK's oldest charities, the RSPB exists.

In 1889, before women had the vote, a courageous young woman from Manchester called Emily Williamson, founded the all-female Society for the Protection of Birds (now known as the RSPB).

Between 1870 and 1920, bird skins were imported to Britain by the ton to adorn hats and accessories. At its peak the plumage trade was worth around £20 million a year (approx £200 million in today’s money).

Emily Williamson was horrified by the insatiable slaughter of birds for feathered hats. She asked her friends to sign a pledge to wear no feathers and together they grew her fledgling Society for the Protection of Birds to become, eventually, one of the UK’s biggest conservation charity's: the RSPB.

Fundraise for RSPB through your business sales

Morella Kayman MBE - Co-Founder Alzheimer's Society

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Morella Kayman, set up the charity Alzheimer's Society in 1979 following her husband’s diagnosis of dementia seven years earlier.

At the time, there was no support or information about dementia which was also a misunderstood illness.

Frustrated, she began to write to national newspapers raising awareness of the lack of support. As a result in 1979, the Alzheimer’s Society was formed.

Morella was also responsible for the nationwide Dementia Friends programme and worked closely with the charity Jewish Care. She sadly passed away in 2021.

Fundraise for Alzheimer's Society through your business sales.

Emilia Clarke, Founder of SameYou and actress

When you suffer a brain injury your life is saved by emergency medical services, but in most countries, ongoing recovery care can be hard to find, extremely limited or simply unavailable. We need to change that. It’s why I founded SameYou and campaign for your support.”

- Emilia Clarke, Founder of SameYou and actress

When we think of Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones we don't consider that this young girl was also battling two life-threatening brain haemorrhages.

As a result of her experiences, in 2019 she launched the charity SameYou.

Her goal is to increase awareness that 1 in 3 people will be affected by brain injury and of the gap between the need and the lack of recovery care.

SameYou's purpose is for brain injury survivors to feel they haven't lost the person they were before. So far, the charity has delivered practical help and tangible improvements in recovery.

Fundraise for SameYou through your business sales

Lucy Wisdom, Founder of Sumatran Orangutan Society

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It was her illness that brought Lucy to Indonesia, where she fell in love with the rainforests, the people, and of course, the orangutans. When she was working and travelling as a trapeze artist, she could never have guessed where she would end up using her acrobatic skills.”

- Helen Buckland, CEO of Sumatran Orangutan Society

Lucy Wisdom was a trapeze artist who used her skills to help orangutans. Which is a totally awe-inspiring thing to say!

After surgery for breast cancer, Lucy who had worked in Paris as a trapeze artist found herself in Sumatra where she began to use her own skills to teach young orangutans at a rehabilitation centre, enabling them to cope in their natural environment.

She went on to launch the charity Sumatran Orangutan Society which now works to protect orangutans, their forests and their future.

Lucy was also a champion for environmental education , and in 2018 The Lucy Wisdom School for local children was built with funding from SOS.

Although Lucy lost her battle with cancer the charity continues its vital work.

Fundraise for Sumatran Orangutan Society through your business sales

Emily Wheeler, Founder Of Furnishing Futures CIO

Emily Wheeler, Furnishing Futures

As a social worker, Emily Wheeler worked with women and children experiencing domestic abuse, and multiple disadvantages, and saw the impact that rehousing in dank, empty flats was having on them.

Often social housing is given to families completely bare. Often these are women and children who are rehoused after leaving abusive relationships and then are plunged into poverty.

She decided to combine her social work skills with her love for sustainable interior design to help them and in 2019 she founded Furnishing Futures.

The charity furnishes homes in London with everything a family needs to be safe and comfortable. At the same time combating the issues with waste from the interiors industry.

Fundraise for Furnishing Futures through your business sales

Charley Young MBE - Co-Founder Of The Girls' Network

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Charley Young was a secondary school teacher in North London when she co-founded the charity The Girls’ Network, with her colleague Becca Dean.

Time and time again both Charley and Becca witnessed the multiple barriers facing girls in their classrooms:

  • The pressure to conform to ideals
  • A lack of confidence and self-belief
  • A lack of professional female role models in their networks

They launched The Girls' Network to empowers 14-19 year old girls from the least-advantaged communities in the UK by connecting them with a mentor and a network of positive female role models.

They now provide mentoring programs across the UK to over 1,000 secondary-school age girls a year. Helping them to improve confidence, increase professional connections so no girl's future is "limited by her background, gender or parental income"

Fundraise for The Girls’ Network through your business sales

Carmel McConnell MBE, Founder of Magic Breakfast

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Twenty years ago Carmel McConnell MBE, interviewed five headteachers in East London for her first book, Change Activist. They told her that many of their pupils arrived at school too hungry or malnourished to learn.

Carmel started buying and delivering breakfast food to these schools, with remarkable results as children's concentration, behaviour, punctuality and educational attainment significantly improved.

As demand for her help grew, Carmel took out a loan and time out from her business, registering Magic Breakfast as a charity in 2003.

Today under the leadership of it's Chief Executive Lindsey MacDonald,  Magic Breakfast provides healthy breakfasts to around 170,000 children in England and Scotland during normal term time. Unfortunately the charity is facing incredible challenges and now in 2022, there are 4 million children at risk of going hungry every single morning in the UK.

Fundraise for Magic Breakfast through your business sales

Lizzy Hall, Founder of The Hygiene Bank

Basic hygiene goes to the core of self-worth, self-respect, confidence and dignity. With hygiene poverty comes isolation, exclusion and shame and these impact our ability to participate in society and therefore what it means to be human."

Lizzy Hall, Founder Of The Hygiene Bank.

In August 2018, after watching the Ken Loach film ‘I Daniel Blake’, Lizzy Hall was somoved by a scene where a single mother is caught shoplifting for basic toiletries that she messaged her friends saying she was collecting hygiene products to take to her local foodbank.

It was after this she set up The Hygiene Bank.

In a time when people are caught between being able to heat their home, pay their rent, or buy items to keep clean, The Hygiene Bank provides essential help. The charity sorts and distributes hygiene basics, beauty and personal care essentials to those who can't afford them, via Community Partners such as schools, local government authorities, and charity and voluntary organisations.

Fundraise for The Hygiene Bank through your business sales

Katie Sparkes, Founder of Flamingo Chicks

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Katie Sparkes founded Flamingo Chicks after becoming frustrated at the lack of inclusive opportunities for her daughter Poppy, who has cerebral palsy. She created the charity to give disabled children and those with illnesses like cancer the opportunity to explore movement alongside their friends.

Now over 20,000 children have danced with Flamingo Chicks!

Katie has won multiple awards for her contribution to the global community including Outstanding Young Person of The World, a Point Of Light Award from the Prime Minister and the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

She also made the Independent Newspaper’s ‘Happy List’ of people who make the country a better place.

Fundraise for Flamingo Chicks through your business sales

Alex Wallace, Founder of The Mintridge Foundation

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“You can be a kind leader, kindness and collaboration is really at the core of me and I never want this to change.”

- Alex Wallace, Founder Of The Mintridge Foundation

Wanting to channel her both positive and negative experiences of sport, Alex Wallace (Paske) founded The Mintridge Foundation in 2015. The charity harnesses the power of sporting role models to help and influence young people.

The Mintridge Foundation assists young people of all ages, abilities and physical capabilities to develop confidence and resilience, and creates awareness of the importance of mental and physical wellbeing through sport.

Their team of Ambassadors includes Olympians, Paralympians and other professional sports stars who work with young people in schools, clubs and academies across the UK.

Fundraise for The Mintridge Foundation through your business sales

Inspired by these incredible females in leadership?
Help continue their legacy by using your business to fundraise for any of these charities through your sales. Find out more about Sales Fundraising on our 'How It Works for Business Page' . Or fundraise for a
charity specifically supporting women and girls such as Women's Aid, Refuge and The Girls Network.