Beyond the ordinary: How Macmillan found success in consultation campaigns

Through creative campaigning and segmentation, find out how Macmillan Cancer Support discovered that they could ask their supporters to take part in unusual and more difficult actions online to great success.


A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, and there’s a lot to process and navigate your way through. Macmillan Cancer Support (Macmillan) aims to make this as simple as possible. Having only started campaigning on a significant scale in the past 5 years, Macmillan now has a network of 19,000 campaigners fighting for the voice of those living with cancer to be heard.

Cancer can impact in various ways on a person’s life. For example, it is usual to have to take time off from work for treatment, and so finance can quickly become an issue. Macmillan helps by guiding people through the benefit systems but also by campaigning for a fairer system for people cancer overall.

Macmillan has found that campaigning with consultations can be a great platform for influencing industry bodies and their policies. By encouraging their campaigners to have their say, they are directly influencing policy to include the opinions of those living with and affected by cancer.


There were 3 main areas for concern with their consultation campaigns. Firstly, unlike a nicely templated email-to-target action, consultation campaigns rely on external and sometimes difficult-to-navigate websites. This also would mean that Macmillan would not be able to accurately see how many people had responded to their campaigns. Another problem faced by Macmillan was that their campaigner base had been hugely depleted following GDPR. Finally, the timeline was crowded. These 3 actions fell within the same 6 month window. Macmillan needed to spread them out over time and segment their audience carefully.
CAMPAIGN 1: NHS Long Term Plan

NHS England released a public consultation so that organisations and individuals could feed into the outcomes of the NHS Long Term Plan. This was a unique opportunity to influence the plans for the next 10 years and so Macmillan set about creating a campaign for their supporters.



Macmillan segment their supporters based on:

  • What kinds of actions they take
  • How active they are

From this, Macmillan invited 1249 top level campaigners to have their say in the Long-Term Plan by responding directly to the consultation. Consultations are not widely understood and so Macmillan wanted to test consultations actions with those people who are most active. They were surprised to see a great open rate, and click-through rate;

  • 130% increase in open rate
  • 445% increase in click rate

Buoyed by this success, Macmillan produced a guide on the website and suggested how they could respond to consultation. This hopefully would help supporters work their way through the tricky consultation site in order to have their say.


As a result of careful segmentation and responding to the strong desire from their supporters to take part, Macmillan found that all campaign calls that they were hoping for made it into the NHS Long-Term Plan.

This was not only a positive result for this campaign, it was also a clear sign that our campaigners understood the significance of consultation.



With the New Secretary for State and Social Care in post, Macmillan invited supporters to send a message to Matt Hancock to “Meet the workforce challenge in the upcoming NHS long-term plan”. Although not a consultation campaign it itself, it built on the previous campaign and gave Macmillan supporters a way to introduce the new Minister to their cause and issues.


Again, Macmillan segmented their list wisely and only sent the action out to their most engaged supporters, which was a segment of 1295 top level campaigners. By doing this, they saw an incredible increase in their average conversion rates:

  • 116% increase in open rate
  • 725% click rate increase


This Email-To-Target action had a template email but supporters could also send a personal message in a separate field. This not only increased the impact of the message but also meant that Macmillan could read the personal stories. This extra information that the supporters provided confirmed how important this campaign was. The result was impressive as 53% of supporters who took the action also included a personal message



A cancer diagnosis can cause a huge impact on an individual’s finances. Macmillan believes that the financial sector has a part to play in making sure that anyone who is impacted can navigate the system fairly. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) agreed to a public consultation.

Macmillan had previously campaigned for a Legal Duty of Care and 20,000 campaigners signed the open letter. They knew that there would be appetite for this kind of campaign. Ideally, they would approach these same open letter signatories to campaign for the Financial Duty of Care also. The next task was to ask everyone who had taken this action to respond to the public consultation on a Financial Duty of Care.


Although 20,000 people had taken part in the Legal Duty of Care campaign, this was pre-GDPR. The number of supporters they followED up with this new action was just 1200. Again, this action relied upon the external websites that hosted the consultation. These were off-putting and Macmillan had no control over them.


Macmillan focussed on creating helpful guides to assist their supporters in understanding the issue. Macmillan used Engaging Networks pages wherever they could. The help pages that they created on Engaging Networks mirrored the consultation format and fit neatly on the page. This method provided help and ideas for how to respond to each section in turn.

Macmillan decided to test two different actions: one with a template response and another with a guide to how you could write your own response. From the segment of 1200 campaigners;

  • 95 sent a template response
  • 53 sent their own response using the guide

Although there were more responses using the template, the Macmillan team were pleasantly surprised how many people were prepared to write their own response and tailored message.


Although being on a third-party site meant that Macmillan could not accurately see how many people had responded to the FCA consultation, they were fortunately able to rely on relationships with the organisation to gather this data. In total, the FCA received 200 responses, and from those 150 came from Macmillan campaigners. A great success is knowing that Macmillan’s campaigners had had their say.


The Treasury Select Committee went on to release a report that backed Macmillan’s call for a Financial Duty of Care. Macmillan was mentioned many times throughout the report. This was a bigger win considering that at the time of the campaign a lot of the political focus had been on Brexit, and demonstrates that creativity in campaigning can be successful.


At Engaging Networks, we take pride in serving and working with our community of clients to help make this world a better place. Many thanks to Macmillan Cancer Support for sharing this case study. If you’d like to learn more about the exceptional work of Macmillan Cancer Support visit their website or watch the video below.

Chloe Green is a copywriter and digital campaigner with almost a decade of experience in the charity and political sectors. She’s delivered campaigns, copy and consultancy for a raft of good eggs including Anthony Nolan, the National Union of Students, St Mungo’s, and Hillary for America. She was Social Media Manager at the Labour Party between 2016–2019 and now she’s Head of Creative with the lovely team at Forward Action. She leads on fundraising emails, UX copy, and all creative facilitation. She’s an expert in email list growth, digital strategy, organic and paid-for social media, and digital mobilisation.

Rachel founded the specialist charity web agency, Rechord, in 1999. Between 1999 and 2012 they created hundreds of different web applications for organisations in the UK and internationally.
In 2013 she became the 'Donor Whisperer' and focused on helping small to medium-sized non-profits to reach new donors and activists and from there increase their income. She uses a unique process that combines the benefits of consultancy with capacity building.
Her clients include Traidcraft Exchange, the Overseas Development Institute, Jubilee Debt Coalition, the Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, Tax Justice UK, The Canary, Humanity and Inclusion, the Anti-Tribalism Movement, BRACE, New Family Social, Arseh Sevom - and that's just the last year.
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Ellen is Campaigns Manager overseeing national and local campaigning at the MS Society. She has worked at the MS Society for 2 and a half years, with roles at Scope and Guide Dogs prior to this.

Hannah is Senior Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, working on their local campaigning programme, Local Action for MS and also on social care and carers. She’s worked at the MS Society for a year and a half, and was previously at the MND Association and National Voices.

Executive Director of C6 Digital, London based agency

Emily has worked at Guide Dogs for the Blind Association since 2019, working on a range of campaign areas to empower people with vision impairments to live the life they choose. Prior to this, Emily working in parliament and severed as a borough councillor.

Brani Milosevic ia a digital consultant and coach at
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Rhiannan Sullivan is the Vice President of strategy and partnerships of social action network, Over the past 10+ years, she has worked with hundreds of UK and EU charities helping them grow and develop their digital fundraising programmes. Prior to working for Care2, Rhiannan worked at then political campaigning agency Blue State Digital, a global leading digital strategy agency who has helped many organisations build and engage online communities, clients included political and advocacy campaigns, non-­‐profit organisations, cultural institutions and global consumer brands.

Calum manages social, email and some digital campaigns at CPRE, and is CPRE’s expert Engaging Networks user, working on development and helping other teams make the most of the platform. Happiest working on campaigns for change or rambling around in the countryside.

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Hannah Mudge is Digital Innovation Manager at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales and has had the privilege of seeing the 147-year-old international development charity evolve over the last decade, from sending out its first online fundraising appeal to achieving record levels of income despite the challenges faced since the start of the pandemic. She is based in Peterborough and enjoys running, cooking and reading in her limited spare time when not parenting two lively boys. During 2020 she added ‘homeschooling’ to her skillset although what Ofsted rating she would achieve is probably best left to the imagination.

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Matt Strong is the Campaigns and Engagement Officer for the Ramblers.

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Claire Warner is a former charity Fundraising Director & Senior Leader, turned Culture & Wellbeing consultant.

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On looking into what others do in this situation, Claire discovered the field of workplace wellbeing, the research work of Prof Cary Cooper, the Gallup Organisation and Simon Sinek, and hasn't looked back since.

In 2018, Claire created her own piece of research into the wellbeing of fundraisers and when it concluded in 2019, over 700 fundraisers had taken part. The results of the research were used to further inform and refine the work Claire does with organisations and individuals in the charity sector.

In 2020 Claire won the Best Digital Leader Award at the Social CEO Awards and in 2021 curated the first Charity Wellbeing Summit.

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Becky has spent the last decade building people power and people-powered movements to hold the most powerful to account for a fairer, more just, and cleaner future.
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She's currently Senior Strategist at The Sunrise Project leading the Global Banks Program and building grassroots activism on finance around the world. She’s on the board of Skiftet, Sweden’s biggest online campaign community and Left Foot Forward in the UK.

Andrew Taylor-Dawson is Development Manager at Liberty, where he leads on member and support engagement. He has been in fundraising for around 13 years. In this time he has worked in the human rights, homelessness and social justice sectors as well as having been a freelance consultant.

He has held board positions with Global Justice Now and the adoption support organisation We Are family.

Rebecca is a Digital Project Manager, who recently led the redesign and redevelopment of The Children's Society's website.

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I have worked as a web developer for about 20 years and for Which? since 2015, primarily on their WordPress sites. This has involved integration with a variety of different APIs, most recently the Engaging Networks API, along with the creation of APIs to allow sites to talk to one another.

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Having gotten his start organizing with anti-war veterans and working as Sala Labs, Sales Engineer, and Partner Manager, Bryan now brings his expertise to non-profit and mission-driven clients as 4Site Studios Director of Digital Strategy. Specializing in challenging and complex projects, Bryan works with each client to craft holistic approaches tailored to goals, budget, and outcomes.

Mary Margaret Callahan is the Chief Mission Officer for Pet Partners, where she is responsible for leading mission delivery including the therapy animal program and grassroots advocacy program. She joined Pet Partners in 2013 and has worked to establish the organization as both an influencer and a resource within the animal-assisted intervention (AAI) and human-animal bond (HAB) community. In 2018 she was named one of PetAge Magazine’s Women of Influence. Mary Margaret lives on a small farm outside Seattle with her husband, daughter and menagerie of animals including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens, goats and miniature donkeys.

Joe Derry Hall is a freelancer working on creative digital and communications. His interests include tech innovation, upending power and reimagining different futures. Joe has been the winner of a Mozilla Creative Media Award and the joint winner of a BAFTA digital award. He was previously in-house in campaigning and communications roles at Amnesty International, the Climate Coalition, the Ecocide campaign, Save the Children, Scope and others. He is one of the initiators of Right Way Up, an experiment to create a radical, practical new vision for the social change sector.

Anna Chowcat is the Digital Manager at Refuge and oversees the charity’s digital function and output. Since joining Refuge, Anna has been instrumental in introducing a number of digital engagement programmes including digital campaigns, bespoke email supporter journeys and user friendly donate/campaign pages. Before joining Refuge, she has worked in digital engagement and campaign roles at The Labour Party and Leonard Cheshire Disability.