Maggie's cancer centres move south and beyond

Cancer care charity Maggie's has built a new centre in London and is planning five more outside its Scottish heartland. Andrew Green assesses how its concept and fundraising model contribute to its success.

Maggie's Cancer Centre, Dundee
Maggie's Cancer Centre, Dundee

The bright orange building that catches your eye as you travel down west London's Fulham Palace Road signals the arrival in England and Wales of Maggie's, the Scottish cancer care charity, as it attempts to replicate its success south of the border.

Maggie's London, which opened in the grounds of Charing Cross Hospital in April at a cost of £3.5m, will be followed by five more centres in England and Wales by 2012 as it bids to be recognised as the leading cancer support charity in the UK. Its growth, described as "impressive" by Martin Brookes, chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital, is built on successful major fundraising events and campaigns in local and national newspapers.

Maggie's will need to maintain its proficiency in fundraising in order to hit its target for the five new centres planned for Nottingham, Newcastle, Swansea, Oxford and Cheltenham. Estimates for each one are £1.9m for building work and another £1.1m in set-up and running costs for the first two years.

The charity hopes to meet these costs from its current Joy of Living campaign, which aims to raise £15m. "The first two years of running costs are built in," says Laura Lee, chief executive of Maggie's. "That gives us a bit of a window for the community fundraising aspect to kick in, which is a key component of our fundraising mix - about 33-35 per cent in revenue terms."

Maggie's was conceived and founded by landscape architect Maggie Keswick Jencks, whose idea for the charity came from her own experience of cancer. She felt that people affected by the disease should have better access to emotional and psychological support than was available to her. The first Maggie's centre opened in Edinburgh in 1996 with the help of seed funding from Keswick Jencks's family. Other hospitals were impressed by its achievements and this, says Lee, has led to growth across the country.

Who approaches whom when it comes to deciding which city to build a new centre in? Lee says: "It's been oncologists (specialists in non-surgical cancer treatment) - or a group of patients who have talked to their oncologists - who have found out about us and asked 'can we have something similar for ourselves here?'"

Charing Cross Hospital appears to be a shrewd choice of location for England's first purpose-built Maggie's, particularly from a public relations angle. Of the new centres planned, London is the most media-accessible.

Newspaper contribution

The fundraising contribution of newspapers boosts the charity's income, which in 2006 was just over £6.3m. The Daily Telegraph's Christmas appeal and the Evening Standard's campaign for Maggie's London brought in more than £1m.

Others in the sector admire the charity's fundraising partnerships with newspapers. "It promotes its centres very well through the press," says Simon Oberst, director of improving cancer services at Macmillan Cancer Support.

But regional newspapers are also proving to be key because they raise both awareness and funds in local communities. The Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, for example, has strong circulation figures and serves an attractive Cotswolds donor base.

When the campaign to raise money for the Cheltenham General Hospital site started, few had heard of the Scottish charity, but the paper helped to change that. "Within two months, everybody in the Cotswolds knew," says Skip Walker, the newspaper's editor.

Maggie's approached the paper to run a campaign, and they agreed a target figure of £200,000. What enticed Walker was the charity's determination to hit the target. "This is a big organisation with lots of corporate people behind it who make sure individual campaigns are successful," he says.

Macmillan Cancer Support already runs 90 centres across the country that give people access to its 4,000 healthcare professionals. But it says there will always be a need for more support services in the UK. "There is still room for cancer patients' emotional needs to be better met, and Maggie's does that," says Oberst.

Lee says Maggie's centres offer a unique experience for people affected by cancer. Its services are about "high-quality psychological and emotional support in carefully designed buildings", rather than in clinical hospital corridors.

She is anticipating sustained demand from other NHS trusts for Maggie's style of delivering "psycho-social" cancer care. "We are growing our infrastructure with that in mind," she says. "We've made a commitment as an organisation that, should there still be a continued need and requests from other trusts, we will continue to expand."

Meanwhile, the Maggie's model, dubbed "non-border-specific" by New Philanthropy Capital's Brookes, has attracted interest from abroad.

Lee says: "We have a centre in Hong Kong that works under a cooperation agreement. A group in Barcelona is interested and we've just had visitors from Australia who'd like to do something there too."

'No surprise'

Maggie's expansion into England is no surprise to Brookes. He says the charity is effective at fundraising, has considerable scope for replication and few threats to being able to deliver its service.

"It's a clear, clean and attractive model and it should be able to scale up," he says. "Conceptually, there is nothing that suggests it wouldn't work just as well in England."

Megan Pacey, director of policy and campaigns at the Institute of Fundraising, is more cautious. She says: "It's taken a risk in expanding beyond the border - it has a good reputation and is a well-known name there, but it's not going to be able to trade on that in an English and Welsh context. It's got a good model, but the giving public is a fickle beast."


Maggie's is likely to become known in England and Wales for the striking architecture it commissions to house its cancer centres.

Maggie's founder, landscape gardener Maggie Keswick Jencks, and her husband, architecture critic Charles Jencks, believed the people who used the centres would benefit from visiting uplifting surroundings after they were diagnosed with cancer and during treatment.

Such a building should, they reasoned, be distinct from the clinical environment of a hospital yet close enough to it to offer support to patients and their families.

- Maggie's Dundee was opened in 2003 and designed by Frank Gehry. In 2004, the Royal Fine Art Commission awarded the centre its Building of the Year prize. Gehry also designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.


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