The Big Hire: Michael Dent, Alzheimer's Society

The charity's new director of fundraising tells Rebecca Cooney he has to work for an organisation he believes in

Michael Dent
Michael Dent

Michael Dent, the new director of fundraising at the Alzheimer's Society, isn't afraid to take a hands-on approach to bringing in money.

In September 2013, he completed the gruelling trek up Kilimanjaro, raising £8,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, where he was director of mass-market fundraising at the time. The experience, he says, was "brilliant but brutal".

Dent joined the Alzheimer's Society in April and will have the challenge of raising money to tackle one of the fastest-growing health problems in the UK - but, as someone who describes himself as competitive and ambitious, he seems likely to relish the challenge.

"I see it as an opportunity," he says. "There's huge grass-roots support for this issue and this organisation. The trick is to leverage that and grow the brand from a fundraising perspective.

"It's a crowded marketplace, particularly in health - there's Macmillan, Cancer Research UK and so on. The regulatory environment is challenging, but I think that also represents an opportunity to be more innovative and develop new products."

Dent studied marketing at university but took a year out after graduating to teach English as a volunteer in Belize.

"When I came back I realised what I wanted was a more socially productive job," he says. "As marketing was my interest, fundraising seemed to be the natural option."

Above all, he says, he has to work for an organisation he believes in and, in both his latest role and at Macmillan, he has a personal connection with the cause. "My father had cancer and my great auntie Betty has Alzheimer's - we supported her over five years," he says.

"I think it helps me in the job because you understand all the issues, you understand the donors and, as someone who's experienced services, you have a balanced view."

And this perspective informs his view on how the charity should go about asking for donations from a public that in recent years has often been hostile to fundraising efforts.

"If you look at all the different fundraising techniques, what I would call the gold standard is where you put the supporter at the centre," he says.

"That means making sure that, as well as asking for a cash gift, you also include messages about the services and the support you're offering, giving them a rounded view of what the charity's about."

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