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23 years in fundraising – how Muscular Dystrophy UK has changed over time

5 September 2022

Charles Horton, Regional Development Manager for Wales, the South West, and West Midlands, retired in August after working with Muscular Dystrophy UK for over 23 years. We caught up with him to find out more about his memories at MDUK.

As a talented fundraiser, Charles has helped supporters to achieve their goals across countless events and campaigns.

He has experienced many changes at Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK), including technological revolutions, a new name for the charity, and a pandemic. But he says the most significant development he has seen, has been the advancement in treatments for muscle-wasting conditions.

How has your role and the charity changed over time?

“I can remember the changes in technology that have made the Regional Fundraising team’s role easier and smoother. Technology has improved greatly. Now we use lightweight transportable notebooks for our everyday connection, rather than the hernia-inducing laptops of old.

“One of the most significant things to happen in my time at MDUK, and the biggest threat to the charity in recent times, was the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation of mass participation events resulted in a huge loss of income from our core supporter base. MDUK took steps to address the issues at a very early stage so that the charity could ride the storm and survive, and with the support of our community found new ways for people to support us – at the same time as we found new ways to deliver the support that people turn to us for.

“The most striking change, however, has been the arrival of treatments for a variety of different muscle-wasting conditions. Back in 1999 and the early 2000s, we asked supporters to invest more in ‘hope’ without a clear timeline of when breakthroughs would happen.

“Today, there are ten treatments covering several of the conditions we support either available on the NHS or going through the appraisal process to become so. Research that MDUK has funded has contributed to this being possible and our advocacy work has ensured that decision makers and commissioners have understood the impact these treatments have on people’s lives.”

Can you share a highlight (or a few if you can’t pick one) from during your time at MDUK?

“Building long-term relationships with supporters of the charity has been an important part of the role for me. I’ve enjoyed (hopefully) forming friendships along the way as part of that.

“Some particular highlights include attending my first National Conference, where I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Richard Attenborough, MDUK’s President at the time. I was also fortunate enough to attend the 50-year Royal patronage event at St James Palace, in honour of the late Prince Phillip.

“I even worked with Manchester United for a few years when MDUK was one of its chosen UK charities. This led to many visits to the clubs’ training ground, where I met players such as Wayne Rooney, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, and David Beckham. Speaking to the manager Sir Alex Ferguson, I asked him to wear our logo pin badge for his next post-match TV interview. The next game came round and there it sat, in pride of place, on his lapel.”

What is the main thing you will miss about working at MDUK?

“I’ll miss the buzz and excitement that comes with a well-planned and successful event. There is something very satisfying about receiving a fundraising cheque after an event – knowing the hard work that has gone into it. And, more importantly, knowing what the value of that cheque can help achieve.”

What are your hopes for the future (both in your personal life and for MDUK)?

“I hope that MDUK is front and centre when a breakthrough, such as a game-changing treatment, or ultimately a cure, for muscle wasting conditions arrives. To have been a small cog in the wheel of success would make me very proud.

“On a personal level, I hope to enjoy a relaxing retirement with plenty of travel and time to spend with family. I’ll also be reminiscing about what it was like to have once had a salary to look forward to!”

A goodbye from MDUK

Julia Smith, Senior Regional Fundraising Manager reflects “Working with Charles has been a joy, he supported his colleagues across the charity with passion and was always there to answer any questions – whether it be about the history of the charity, how we could do things, or using the database. We are going to miss his expertise, level-headedness, and sense of humour. He will leave a very big Charles-sized hole in the team.

“On behalf of the charity, I would like to thank Charles for his years of dedication and his support and wish him a relaxing and rewarding retirement with his family.”

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