Comic Relief appoints new chief executive

Samir Patel has spent the past eight years at the digital media and comms agency Blue State.

Comic Relief has appointed a digital and creative expert as its next chief executive. 

Samir Patel is head of insights and innovation at the strategic communications and marketing agency Blue State, where he has worked for more than eight years, including a three-year stint as its UK managing director. 

Patel, who has dual UK and US citizenship, previously spent almost 10 years running his own multimedia agency in London and New York. 

Comic Relief said Patel had overseen major brand updates, helped charities innovate in fundraising, and led digital initiatives to engage and mobilise communities for high-profile global NGOs, charities and commercial organisations, including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Google and the UN’s Refugee Agency.

Comic Relief’s previous permanent chief executive, Alex Reid, stepped down in March after just three weeks in the role so she could return to be with her family during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Ruth Davison, who is in her second stint as interim chief executive of the charity, having also covered the role before Reid joined, will leave the charity after Red Nose Day on 19 March. 

Davison, who was previously the charity’s executive director of impact and investment, gave up that role as part of a cost-cutting restructure of the charity in the summer

Aleema Shivji joined the charity last week in the equivalent of Davison’s substantive post, having been chief executive of the disaster relief charity Humanity & Inclusion. She will lead Comic Relief’s social change strategy and global philanthropic funding.

Eric Salama, chair of Comic Relief, said Patel had impressed the charity with what he had achieved and his vision for the organisation. 

“To be able to achieve our goals, alongside our relationship with our partners and the BBC, we need to become digital in everything we do – from the content we create to the way we engage with the UK public and the way we partner with organisations we fund,” said Salama. 

“We also need to continue our growth and development to remain a brand our staff and our partners are proud to be associated with.”

Patel said: “Like many, I’ve experienced the magic of Comic Relief first-hand through its unique events and shows.

“This brilliant charity inhabits a special place in the UK's consciousnesses and is truly a unique, powerful force, using humour and entertainment for good. 

“Digital innovation, strategy and storytelling are all part of my DNA and I look forward to learning and evolving with the organisation to elevate the charity’s vital work to even greater heights.”

He is expected to join the charity by March. 

A version of this article first appeared on PRWeek sister title Third Sector

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