Macmillan’s reserves get £40m boost after spending paused or cancelled

06 Aug 2021 News

Macmillan Cancer Support’s reserves increased to £77.6m during the pandemic partly because it paused grants to others where planned activity became impossible. 

Going into the pandemic Macmillan held total reserves of £36.2m. The reason its reserves more than doubled in one year is that £42m, which it had planned to distribute as grants to partners, was held back often because projects could not go ahead.

The charity’s annual report and accounts for the year ending 31 December 2020 have recently been published on the charity’s website and show that overall income fell by 16% to £194m. 

Macmillan’s fundraising, which includes a large portfolio of events, was particularly affected by pandemic, and saw a 25% decrease to £97.2m.  

In the foreword the chair and chief executive say: “The devastating impact of Covid-19 is undeniable. It has affected the people we support, the environment we operate in, and our organisation. We faced challenges on a scale we have never encountered before.” 

£42m writeback 

Normally Macmillan provides grants to the NHS and others to provide services for cancer survivors, but in 2020 the charity’s own financial concerns and the impact of the pandemic led it to a review of these grants.

“During 2020, we made the difficult decision to pause investment in many of the grants we give to partner organisations. This was partly in response to a reduction in our income, but also in recognition that some of our partners were struggling to fulfil these projects whilst managing the impact of coronavirus on their operations,” the accounts say.

This review of grant commitments to partner organisations resulted in a £42m “writeback” for the charity, and the unspent funds now appear in the charity's reserves. 

“A significant proportion of this was related to grants our partners were unlikely to be able to fulfil in the near term due to the impact of Covid-19,” the accounts add. 

The impact of this can be seen in the amount of funding for Macmillan nurses. In 2019 Macmillan spent over £50m on specialist nurses, but in 2020 this was just £16.3m. 

A spokesperson told Civil Society News: “This was a very tough choice and not one we would look to repeat in future.” 

During the year Macmillan spent £28.5m in grants with partner organisations. This included a £12.5m Coronavirus Response Fund.

Some fundraising successes 

Macmillan was one of a number of charities which launched emergency appeals to try to plug the gap in its finances. 

Its accounts show that the emergency appeal raised over £2m, including a £250,000 donation from the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust. 

The charity also launched 12 new fundraising products between April and December, such as Games Night In. Overall these attracted 127,000 participants ad raised £1.2m. 

Macmillan also modified some of its existing events so that they worked in pandemic conditions, and one event, Sober October, actually raised more in 2020 than in 2019. 

“We renamed the event Sober-ish October and gave people the option to go dry for 14, 21 or the full 31 days. 2020’s Sober-ish October was a record breaker, with participants raising £5.4m,” the accounts say. 

However, Macmillan’s flagship fundraising event, World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, raised less than half what it did in 2019. 

The event takes place in September, when many workplaces were closed and there were restrictions on the number of people who could meet in-person, and raised £10m. 

This was down from the £27.5m it raised in 2019, but not quite as bad as the £20m drop the charity had projected. 

Macmillan’s Christmas carol concert, held annually at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, also raised more in 2020 following digital innovations. 

The 2020 concert was livestreamed and available on social platforms for three weeks and raised £67,000. This was £24,000 more than the previous best total.

Elsewhere legacy income dropped by 8% to £71.8m. The charity says this was down to slower administration of estates during the pandemic and “we anticipate that we will see a significant increase in income from legacy gifts in 2021”. 

Smaller workforce

During the year Macmillan claimed £5.1m million from the government Job Retention Scheme as a result of furloughing up to 30% of Macmillan employees during the year.

At the end of the year the charity also made 250 people redundant, including 69 voluntary redundancies, which it says will save it £13.9m. 

It spent £3.8m on redundancy and termination payments during the year. 

The accounts describe this restructure as “critical in building a leaner, more efficient organisation for the future”. 

Macmillan’s workforce is now 1,600 compared with around 1,800 staff in 2019. 

“A smaller workforce, along with the continued impact of the pandemic and the changing needs of people living with cancer and our income means we need to remain agile and prepared to face tough decisions about what we prioritise in order to deliver the greatest impact,” the accounts say.

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.