Introducing Elizabeth Theobald, Partner in Not for Profit

Elizabeth is an experienced Executive Search consultant with a background in HR leadership roles across the public and Not for Profit sectors.

Elizabeth has extensive experience building diverse, effective and highly skilled Boards and Executive teams across a wide range of Not for Profit organisations. She loves the challenge and variety of her work, and is driven by making a positive difference through the high calibre leaders she places.

Elizabeth joined GatenbySanderson in July 2023, bringing a track record of high-profile Chair, Trustee and Chief Executive appointments that include The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Guide Dogs, Save the Children UK, Leonard Cheshire Disability, RNIB, Battersea Dogs & Cats, National Autistic Society, The Royal Kennel Club (Crufts), Myeloma UK and the MS Society.

What brought you to GS?

GatenbySanderson’s values-based approach to hiring was a real draw. The way that GS engaged with me from the start of the recruitment process, and how our conversations continued, was very honest, direct and caring.  The people involved in the recruitment wanted to get to know me as a human being and that was great.

The diversity of the team means a lot to me. I feel at home in a diverse team and inclusive company.

I also saw that GS are very data and evidence led; technologically enhanced as well as hugely professional, warm and welcoming.  The very progressive use of technology and AI is balanced with a very high understanding that we are a people business.

Have there been any surprises since you joined GS?

The biggest surprise is how much time and effort has been invested into my induction; the time and space I’ve been given to settle in and learn the GS way by everyone involved including having an allocated buddy.  It’s been a really positive experience, which links back to our shared values and the inclusive culture I was attracted to.

What about the Not for Profit sector are you passionate about?

The Not for Profit sector fills key service gaps, tackles inequality and makes a positive difference in the world, which speaks to my core values and is why I choose to work in the sector.

The variety and scope of the organisations we work with is also a real draw; anything from placing the CEO of the MS Society to placing the Chair at Battersea Cats and Dogs.

Many people who choose to work in or with Not for Profits have personal connections or lived experience of the charitable cause.  I have experience, as many of us do, of family members with a variety of health challenges, and so adding value through the quality of leaders I place couldn’t be more important and is something I feel truly passionate about. For example, our charity of the year is Alzheimer’s Society, a condition that touches far too many of our lives. I am touched by the fundraising activities at GS, and the range of activities my colleagues at GS are involved in.

What do you think are the priorities for Not for Profit leaders today?

Tackling the cost-of-living crisis, both in terms of supporting communities and also running sustainable organisations, are key priorities.

Also, there’s a need to build greater diversity and inclusive cultures. Addressing inequalities within organisations is a real balancing act for leaders who need to be open and responsive to feedback, whilst also still managing to drive important external goals. We need leaders with the right value set, and who are authentic, to be able to make real progress with integrity.

Not for Profit leaders have to consider the needs of a wide range of stakeholders.  They have to be able to focus where they can have the most impact, as well as always managing the sustainability of the organisation.

What are your main motivations?

I’m passionate about equality and inclusion, and those passions have shaped my career.  I want to see greater equality in all aspects of society; in work, life and through education. We don’t all fit the mould and there are lots of ways we can progress and grow.

I grew up on a Council estate in the London Borough of Lewisham and was a young single parent.  I have very personal experience of people making limiting assumptions about a person’s capabilities.

The hurdles we face can help us build resilience and greater empathy.  I have studied neurolinguistic programming to deepen my understanding of how people communicate in a myriad of ways, including body language, the physical impact thoughts can have, as well as how to overcome limiting beliefs.

I initially chose HR as a career to improve people’s working lives, taking a customer service approach and securing the highest levels of satisfaction from our internal customers. This theme has continued into my current role. I want to improve working lives and outcomes across the Not for Profit sector via the quality of leaders I place, whilst providing the highest levels of customer service for my clients.

I keenly feel the responsibility of executive search. We are the gateway to opportunities.  Our assessments can make a real difference to the progression people make in their careers and it is our responsibility to continually work on ourselves, to challenge our unconscious bias and make these interactions as inclusive and accessible for everyone in all our glorious differences.

What’s important to you outside of work?

I feel lucky to have a lot of amazing family and friends.  Having my son early in life meant that I am a young-ish grandmother to three wonderful grandsons who enjoy the outdoors with me.

I love nature and being outdoors and feel passionately that we, as a species, must make extreme changes to protect our environment.

I took a sabbatical and worked at an outdoor centre, teaching water sports and other outdoor pursuits including climbing and abseiling to children and adults of all abilities.

I am also a social mobility mentor and mentor/coach people to gain their first CEO or board position.

I love helping people realise their unique strengths and build their self-confidence.

If you’d like to speak to Elizabeth about your executive or non-executive search needs, get in touch at or on Linkedin.

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