By now most of you will have heard about the ‘hidden internal culture’ of Macmillan Cancer Support. How they abused many of their staff, with a toxic leadership style. If you haven’t already, you can read all about it below. I have to declare before I continue, that I have had several past conversations with them, none positive. Importantly there were many observations by people applying to my charity for help. Saying how poorly they were dealt with, particularly during their grants processing. I finally received an email from the CEO pointing me towards the complaints section on their website! She was not interested in anything that was perceived as criticism. Obviously this attitude has continued throughout the charity, where they thought they were ‘untouchable.’ The Macmillan way or the highway, for all of us.
The charity were always quick to step forward with the Government and media, forming cosy relationships, which were unquestioned. They could then use this position of influence to create a cartel. Thus being able to spend millions on TV advertising. Telling us frequently how good they were. It worked brilliantly of course, being seen as leaders in their field. Gaining bigger donations. But you can only use those tactics for so long. Covid forced their hand as they struggled to stay afloat. Massive offices and large payroll to fund, the cracks started to show. Staff were now fighting back against the ruthless leadership, and people affected by cancer wanted to know where their promised support was.
Of course I am not shocked about what has been revealed. In a funny way they did well to cover up this culture for so long! But this is a massive abuse of trust. The reality is that this organisation is a charity, with all that implies. Receiving in excess of £250 million of public donations annually. All that incredible sum being given with trust. That it will be used to help people affected by cancer. Most people will talk about the wonderful Macmillan Nurses as to where the money goes. Not true, as most are funded by the individual NHS trusts. Macmillan centres are mostly part-funded. But like the nurses, inherit the name forever. Fabulous advertising of course.
The charity is just a big green cancer washing machine. Attempting to dominate the sector, and brand ‘anything cancer’ with a big green M. Supressing any other organisations that it perceives as competition. Meaning ultimately that people affected by cancer, only ever see the services that they themselves offer. With some very minor exceptions. Monopolising the market to squeeze as many donations as possible. An organisation with an incredible ego, always thinking they knew best. But this goes way deeper than that!
Fundraising campaigns and volunteers serving the organisation for many years. So many loyal supporters. Coffee mornings raising millions, and corporate partners spending money to be seen with the nations ‘cancer darlings.’ Staff dressed in their green T shirts, running all over the country with their buckets. But worst of all the reputational damage done to all Macmillan professionals. Incredible people who are working on the front line of cancer. Many I know personally. They have had to take some abuse at times about the fraudulent promises made on TV by the charity. Of course they could never help everyone!
Unbelievably, many smaller charities have used the ‘Macmillan Model’ as their goal!! The sector unfortunately is in a dreadful mess. Yes, there have been factors outside their control, but most is quite shocking leadership at all levels. I have always said that there really is a lack of diversity across the sector. Not just in race, sex or gender. But more importantly experience. The sector needs many more people from ‘outside’ with business and people experience. You will never freshen things up from fishing in the same pool. Hence things now have got very stale.
On a similar subject. There has been an Equality and Diversity department within Macmillan for many years. What has that actually achieved, if one of the biggest current problems is discrimination? Yet another expensive tick box exercise for the Trustees? Please check out their senior leadership team here, and see for yourself. I actually wonder if once a charity reaches corporate proportions whether it can really do the job it set out to? So much money spent on governance, HR, equality and diversity etc, leaves less money for the cause. More problems organising the staff than focussing on the purpose.
Over so many years Macmillan have continued to TELL us what they think is best. Rarely listening, and in a lot of cases using patronising behaviour, to ensure their goal of donations. I have never wanted them to speak on my behalf, and I don’t believe they are truly representative of people affected by cancer. They consistently play to the audience for their own purposes.
Will all this be glossed over by their big publicity machine? That’s as always, only down to you, the donors. They will only change once their income is affected. Can you trust them again after this? It was not a mistake, but systematic bullying over a long period, to give them access to manipulate donors. Fancy leaving money to them in your will??
Of course they have also done some brilliant work. I wouldn’t want to forget that. But we can certainly get a more truthful representation of people affected by cancer for £250+ million p/a. We need positive change not faux sympathy, whilst gaining donations is their primary object at any cost. I also wrote on their actions in 2019 which you can read here.
So whilst the charity considers it’s own position, I have considered mine. As always these are purely my own opinions. This piece isn’t written with great joy but these people have been following their own agenda for far too long. I’m commenting as a long term cancer patient and CEO of a small non-profit organisation. As always, please feel free to share your own views below.