This Toxic Culture Is Not Just Internal!

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!

Macmillan Brave The Shave advert
Despite much criticism from people affected by cancer, Macmillan continued to promote this fundraiser. Of course the only thought was the money!

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.


  1. Wow! Bold statements that I’m sure will resonate with many. I am sad that people’s sad experience with cancer diagnosis and treatment continues to remain poor…

    • Hi Tochi,

      Yes these statements are bold, but these days they have to be Tochi. There is just so much going on in the world, cancer is getting left behind daily.

      People must understand that even people who talk about helping with cancer are not necessarily doing everything they say. All donations given with trust and that is being abused.

      I hope all well with you guys? XXXXX

  2. Nailed it as always Chris. Very sad reflection on one of the major charities. You have opened my eyes to what goes on. I now always support individuals and small focused charities with my donations and efforts

    • It’s not with great joy I do this Gill. But they bombard us with emotional advertising and many people believe it. They do some good work of course, but they are far from transparent. This cycle of failure must be broken. #Cancer

  3. I was on the Board of the Indian Cancer Society for many years and helped them raise millions. I ultimately got kicked off the Board because I wanted them to explore solutions alternative to big pharma, and they were not happy about it. I was forced to conclude that these NGOs are little more than an alternative funnel to get money into the big pharma pot. Sad, but true.

    • As you might imagine I’m not surprised at all to hear that outcome.

      In the UK I can certainly say that is the case with Cancer Research. However, regarding Macmillan, they are not involved with research at all. They like recycling their donations into tv ads etc to tell people how good they are. Hoping it then increases donations! So far it has worked for many years, but the genie is now out of the bottle! Millions given with TRUST??

  4. Can tell your words are written with a heavy heart and admire you enormously by having the guts to put these truths out into the public domain. Similarly had a negative experience with the big M. I’m still awaiting a reply to my concerns over a recent marketing campaign, entitled “We will do whatever it takes” I nicely asked them as to why they had ripped off the chancellors statement verbatim, which he used in covid, which was a load of tosh from him and now seemingly they too are in the same ball park! Will let you know if they ever reply to my email, also asked them to remove my details off their Facebook page, they didn’t have permission to do so and a breach of data protection. Big love and so much gratitude to you xxx Di

    • Hi Di. No I don’t take joy in wring posts like this. But they have had this attitude for so long now. I’m not surprised the staff are fed up with it. All these public declarations made to gain funds, but with no ability to carry them out. No wonder so many people are angry.
      For me they have blocked real progress in cancer to feather their own nest. Strangling smaller organisations as they go and giving the same old corporate responses to anyone who questions them. The real problem is they are not interested in listening.
      If these are the best we can do, of course we won’t make progress. Please do let me know how you get on.
      Big love as always XXX

  5. Very interesting read and thank you for highlighting such an important issue.

    Receiving any life life altering news, such as #cancer triggers many #emotions for the person & their family & friends affected. It’s so important lessens are learnt to protect those drawn to work or volunteer for a charity because emotions have drawn them to be coalface carers.

    Perhaps all the charity sector should work together with likes of @NCVO @NCVOvolunteers to look at a way to address these important issues you are rightly highlighting?

    • So so true Neil. Many incredible people working on the ‘front line,’ tarnished by this news. People affected by #Cancer so vulnerable, being used as cash cows

  6. While Macmillan is a large charity, @RoxaneHeaton knows that there “are many people with cancer who we are not reaching” because the charity has contact with just 34% of people at the point of diagnosis. “This shows that we need to be relevant to that 66%”

  7. Of course there is a role for charity in healthcare, but I would rather pay more taxes instead of chucking money in a green bucket to get this essential work done.

    • Unfortunately Paul, the role of #Charity is even more important than before. There are numerous working now, like foodbanks and help for Ukraine, to fill the many gaps that Government money doesn’t. Never enough money of course!

  8. You know my opinion about the lack of support my daughter received from Macmillan. At a time when she was desperately trying to hold everything together, Macmillan were far from supportive. She was living miles from family and was trying to make ends meet after having had bilateral surgery. Her application was lost, meaning she had to submit it twice, she was means tested and finally awarded a paltry one off grant that didn’t even cover half of her month’s rent! At the same time the amount that the CEO was receiving for her salary was quoted to be between £180,000 and £190.000! The amount my daughter was awarded was probably less than most employees claim each month in travel expenses.

    Friends of mine have done numerous events to raise money thinking they are helping patients like my daughter. I will never support large national charities again.

    • Hi Fiona,

      Thank you for sharing your own dreadful example of ‘support’ from Macmillan Cancer Fiona. Due to their incessant media campaigns they have become the nations ‘cancer darlings.’ Nobody really believed me since I have been speaking out. I went to the press and spoke to MPs privately about the issues I was seeing. But nobody wanted to take it on. Even they had been hoodwinked!

      Now it has finally come out I am receiving many messages from people within the organisation with yet more examples of terrible practice including staff being paid off and NDAs being enforced. There are indeed some wonderful charities in the sector doing great stuff but when you get to the size of Macmillan and Cancer Research all I see is corruption and money being wasted on vanity projects.

      Personally I’m shocked how many organisations like these across all sectors have been allowed to take money to supposedly help vulnerable people. It usually ends in tears and I see no difference here. We are so generous as a nation but many are lazy and don’t look to see what is happening with their money.

      Tragic in so many ways Fiona XX

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