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Case study: Growing Fundraising Talent at Macmillan Cancer Support

This case study looks at how a tailored version of The Influential Fundraiser programme has helped almost 300 fundraisers have impact in supporter relationships.

Fundraisers at The Prince’s Trust and Marie Curie have also benefited from their own bespoke versions of this training, with the programme being delivered 25 times for them collectively.

Since its foundation in 1911, Macmillan Cancer Support has become the largest cancer care and support charity in the UK. Their vision – that no one should face cancer alone – means they aim to reach and improve the lives of millions of people every year.

The Challenge

With competition for fundraising talent becoming fiercer every year and the cost of recruitment relentlessly rising, charities are under increasing pressure to develop their own talent rather than always searching for it outside the organisation.

Macmillan Cancer Support

So what’s the answer for charities who want – and need – to hold on to the best of their fundraisers in order to raise increasing levels of funds for beneficiaries? Invest in their development.

A leader in the field not only in cancer care, Macmillan Cancer Support was an early adopter of this approach.

The Brief

In 2013, Macmillan Cancer Support asked =mc to design and deliver a fundraising programme for their Area and Senior Fundraising Managers, supporting them to develop:

  • core fundraising skills
  • influencing skills with donors and supporters
  • how they effectively manage change internally and with their donors


Our Approach

In response, =mc designed a programme, based on the award-winning book written by two of =mc’s directors, The Influential Fundraiser.

This two-day advanced programme covered the 5Ps of Influence: passion, proposal, preparation, persuasion and persistence. It looked at each skill in turn, both from a theoretical standing and through practical application.

Practical sessions included participants developing a case for support based on Macmillan’s State of the Nation, by using different psychological case types. Bespoke briefs were also developed, on likely supporter scenarios Macmillan’s regional fundraisers would come across in their day-to-day work. Participants were asked to prepare and deliver an approach to their colleagues, showing how they would respond.

Philly Graham =mc Consultant

All practical work was followed by detailed feedback with colleagues and the =mc trainer, allowing participants to reflect on what was working in their approach and any improvements that could be made. The programme also included in depth video feedback and support on managing other through change.

After the initial programme delivery the Regional Fundraising team recognised these core fundraising skills would also prove invaluable to their Regional Fundraising Managers, and so =mc were asked to develop a one day Foundation programme.

This programme contained the same theoretical and practical underpinning as the Advanced version, to ensure consistent language and knowledge across the team.

Fairly rapidly, other teams in the Fundraising Directorate recognised the same need, and between 2014-15, =mc was asked to design and deliver similar development programmes for Macmillan’s High Value Team and Fundraising Support Centre.

Sessions took on different forms, depending on the team and need required. =mc worked closely with team leaders to ensure that learning outcomes were defined and bespoke exercises and scenarios were developed, so that the theory was made applicable to their distinct function and roles.

Since November 2013, =mc have delivered Influential Fundraiser workshops with almost 290 Macmillan fundraisers – over half the directorate.

The Result

“You have delivered the team alignment, expertise and core skills we were looking for, and we now have a shared knowledge and understanding of how to work more effectively with our partners and donors to help people affected by cancer.” 

Alix Wooding, Head of Corporate Partnerships, Macmillan Cancer Support

The impact of the programme can be seen across the directorate. As a direct result of the training there is:

  • consistent language used by everyone who has attended the sessions
  • shared knowledge of tools and techniques the fundraising team can draw on when working with donors and supporters
  • new confidence in making appropriate and effective ‘asks’
  • better understanding of what motivates people to support

The training is now being delivered as part of the Regional Fundraising team induction, which means that all new recruits will attend a session within their first year.

Asked whether they would recommend the programme to others in their position, participants responded:

“100%, incredibly interesting throughout and a great insight”

“What I have learned will influence every aspect of my role”

Macmillan’s tailored Influential Fundraiser training was specially designed to give their fundraisers the chance to practice together in a safe environment, to learn new skills and approaches, and to work with each other and gain confidence – all of which will see them into a fruitful career at Macmillan.

“Picking up great feedback from the team since the training – one indeed said that it was the best training they had been on. All seem to have identified learning that they can bring into calls which is excellent. The only negative I read was that they would have liked a shorter lunch to spend more time in training – that’s a first from me.” 

Karen Marsden, Head of Fundraising Support Centre

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