Atkins was previously director of strategy and comms at the National Housing Federation (NHF), a role she left at the end of October.
She takes up the role on 15 January and is aiming ‘to make the voluntary sector’s voice louder’.
She joins the umbrella body as director of public policy, taking charge of a 45-strong department and reporting to chief executive Stuart Etherington.
The NCVO has a membership of more than 4,800 voluntary organisations, ranging from large national bodies to community groups.
Atkins said: ‘Over the past ten years there has been a massive increase in the number of small charities, and these are often undervalued by both society and government.’
Her remit includes campaigns, media relations, policy, research and partnership work. She said: ‘I intend to use my experience to ensure the NCVO has more effective partnerships with local and central government.’
She replaces Campbell Robb, who left in October after eight years with the NCVO to become director-general, Office of the Third Sector, in the Cabinet Office (PRWeek, 20 Oct 2006).
The NHF has hired Ruth Davison as director of campaigns and neighbourhoods – its top comms role – reporting to CEO David Orr. She is a former acting head of comms at the National Patient Safety Agency and Audit Commission head of press.