I have just been sent a copy of the latest set of accounts from Macmillan Cancer Support, the headline being that ‘fundraised income’ dropped from £247.7m in 2017 to £230.8 in 2018. A drop of nearly £17m, which is large in anyone’s book. So finally even the ‘big green corporate beast’ of the cancer world is being impacted by it’s continual practice of wanting to totally dominate the sector, from small groups right up to Government. Doing it’s best to tell us what we want/need, which of course must be right because Macmillan tell us!
This organisation has become the darling of the media and politicians. On almost any cancer related issue it seems it is not complete without a quote from their many highly paid ‘media friendly’ team. Macmillan organise many Parliamentary discussions about cancer, ensuring they have the views and friendly people they require in the room. If you are not convinced personally about how good their work is, they now bombard you with expensive television adverts telling you that they are there for EVERYONE affected by cancer, of course they are!
Unfortunately the only voice they want to listen to is their own, and the more times they hear it the better. They truly believe that despite growing criticism of the way they work, that they can continue on this track because they have become untouchable within the rapidly changing cancer charity sector. The style is now dictatorial, with less concern about the people affected by cancer and more focus on filling the space with aggressive fundraising campaigns. Apparently the organisation also has approximately £180.9m in reserves which is quite some figure, from a charity that boasts it gives £37.6m in financial support for people affected by cancer. To put these figure more into context, their total income for 2018 was £235.7m which was raised at a cost of £65.7m!
As most of you may know, neither Chris’s Cancer Community work or SimPal will (proudly) not feature anywhere within Macmillan charity! That is because after a face to face discussion with a senior Executive and a back up letter from their CEO my style of working is considered too ‘risky’ for the wonderful brand of Macmillan! I don’t think the fact that I told them that being associated with their brand was too risky for me, helped their mood! It seems I am seen as COMPETITION with innovative ideas and a strong online community.
I am not the only one either! So many online innovators are being blocked by them, to protect their brand, without a thought that the idea might benefit people, and their vast reach could help dramatically. In my opinion they are now a massive obstacle to innovative cancer support, as they have media and politicians eating out of their hands. There is one major asset that Macmillan use brilliantly to market themselves and that is the incredible Macmillan Nurses.
Many of the general public don’t understand that these wonderful people are not all employed by Macmillan Cancer Support. In most cases their roles were funded originally for a limited period and are now all employed by the numerous NHS Trusts. Therefore it is not the decision of the charity who does or does not receive their services. As a charity SimPal now deal with most Macmillan Centres across the country helping the incredible nurses on the front line deal with some of the complex applications we receive for support. This is the same for many smaller charities like mine. The staff understand what benefits smaller community organisations can offer and are very keen to collaborate, for the benefit of their patients.
The winds of change are blowing rapidly now through the charity sector! Big is necessary but not always beautiful, expert local knowledge can be very powerfully harnessed with national exposure but there must be a common goal! Most of us smaller charities are in the space for one reason only, to make life better for people living with cancer! Not to become a giant or raise millions, we don’t have such lofty ambitions, but to just help. We are currently not treated with respect and nor are even the supporters of this behemoth. Their service is like going to a supermarket and only being offered ‘own brand,’ when better products exist elsewhere.
Continuing with very unpopular fundraising challenges despite much criticism will not endear you to people. Blocking us, the very people who have personal experience and expertise in cancer won’t either. Despite what you may think your organisation has much to learn and one of the best ways we can all do that is by listening. Not trying to drown us out by making more expensive noise! My concern is for the patients that come to me complaining what poor service they received from you. When I want to talk to you about that, I don’t expect a letter signed from the CEO telling me to go to the website to raise my issues!!
I chose to write this piece as constructive criticism for the organisation you have become. Your influence is undoubted and many don’t want to talk publicly about their experiences, but as you know I am quite happy to share mine! If you don’t listen to me then what about the message your donors are giving you, and voting with their feet?
You can read the report from the Third Sector
You can read the Macmillan accounts
As always these are my personal views and experiences, and I’m sure there are many positive experiences from Macmillan Cancer Support Charity. Please feel free to share your own in the comments section below.
I am an official support partner of the Grove Hotel in Bournemouth. The only hotel in the UK specifically for people affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions.