Case study: Macmillan Cancer Support

Coffee mornings with a digital twist

Organisation: Macmillan Cancer Support
Campaign: World's Biggest Coffee Morning
Agency: Amigo Digital, Grade and in-house

Macmillan Cancer Support provides practical, medical, emotional and financial support to people whose lives are affected by cancer.


The World's Biggest Coffee Morning, now in its 18th year, is the third biggest annual fundraising event in the UK after Comic Relief and Children in Need. Supporters hold sponsored coffee mornings to raise funds for the charity. Corporate partners are essential to promoting and fundraising for the event because they provide access to staff, customers and marketing channels. Last year's coffee morning, which took place on 28 September, was the 17th.

How it worked

For the first time, the charity launched a digital campaign to attract younger supporters. Actor Martin Clunes, an ambassador for the charity, recorded podcast interviews as well as national and regional radio ads. A digital poster campaign was also launched across 20 UK business networks, from hair salons and health clubs to local government buildings and doctors' surgeries. The charity also circulated a viral email encouraging people to attend a virtual sponsored coffee morning on virtual community website Second Life.

Supporters wanting to hold traditional coffee mornings could register online or by phone. The charity sent out support packs with posters, stickers and fundraising ideas. Corporate partners such as Somerfield and Cafe Thorntons also raised funds through in-store initiatives.


The event raised £7.5m, up by £800,000 on 2006. Registrations increased by 20 per cent, with 44,658 coffee mornings being held in schools, homes and offices. About 6,000 of these were at national businesses and 15 were partnerships that provided marketing benefits for the event. Almost two million people were involved in the event. The viral email generated 500 registrations, with an average donation of £165 per coffee morning. Macmillan was not able to tell if it had reached a younger audience because no age category was included on registration forms.

As a result of a competition held in Somerfield's customer magazine to publicise the event, Macmillan launched The Little Book of Treats, a book of supporters' coffee morning recipes, to help raise funds for the 2008 event, which took place on 26 September.

EXPERT VIEW - Richard Hill, planning director, Touch DDB

I first encountered Macmillan's World's Biggest Coffee Morning about three years ago and was as impressed then by this deliciously simple concept as I am today. It has been going for 18 years and has continually made it into the top three annual fundraising events.

Coffee mornings can be held by anyone, regardless of time, money, organisational skills or levels of fitness. They can be adopted by anyone - from corporates to social clubs or groups of friends.

Macmillan has stuck to a formula that is accessible, scalable and a perfect fit with its brand. It is this aspect of the event that is truly inspired - it's human, kind, social and, most importantly, enjoyable. It doesn't commit the folly of straying into 'wacky fundraiser' territory, so it's tasteful for participants who are affected by cancer. These are the qualities Macmillan stands for and, perhaps because of coffee mornings, owns better than many other charities.

I wonder how many events teams have put an idea like this on the flip chart at a brainstorm and never gone through with it because it just didn't feel fresh or exciting enough. Well, I'm sure Macmillan would like to say thank you to the many that have.

Creativity: 5
Delivery: 5
Total: 10 out of 10


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