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We’ve been migrating content again

The Digital team have been busy over the summer moving content from our old system (Contensis) to our new one (Tridion) and the latest sections to benefit from the migration are Volunteering and About Us.

The new sections have cleaner formats and layouts, updated content and navigation and are fully optimised for tablet and mobile devices so they look great however they’re accessed. Changes include:

• A new navigation, consistent with the rest of the site

• Tridion delivers the same content for mobile, desktop and tablet, but adapts how it’s presented for the best reading experience on any device

• Refreshed branding making everything more personal, inspiring and engaging.

• More stories, videos and imagery, to help bring the pages to life.

You can see the new focus on case studies particularly in the Volunteering section where we’re bringing the range of volunteering opportunities to life through real life stories.

The team will continue to work on the website redesign project throughout 2016. The next sections to get the update treatment are the remainder of About Us and the Media Centre. There’s also a project to update the Volunteering search and apply system which is launching at the end of the year. Let us know what you think in the comments section.


Macmillan's Online Community Champions

How to engage online volunteers

In the digital age in which we live, volunteers are no longer solely managed face-to-face. Online Community Support Officer Jess Evans shares her expertise on getting the best from online volunteers, who in our case, have helped make Macmillan’s Online Community of over 90,000 users, the success it is today.

Working with volunteers online is one of my favourite (and most challenging) projects. Our Online Community Champions are hand-picked by the community team, or nominated by other members for being notably helpful and supportive to others on the Community. Nearly all of them started as members affected by cancer, and came to the Community to seek support. We find that people who have been in receipt of support from the Macmillan Community are often keen to offer support to others in return; our Champions programme is a great way to formalise and encourage this process.

The Online Community Champions are the eyes and ears of the Community. They welcome new members, signpost them to relevant information and services and report spam and possible safeguarding issues. They help keep the Community a warm, supportive and friendly place, collectively volunteering more than 145 hours of their time to Macmillan each week. It is absolutely essential to engage, motivate and inspire these members, who give so much back to Macmillan.

Online volunteering is so different to face-to-face volunteering and therefore presents a new realm of challenges for both volunteer and manager.

Here are my top tips for successful engagement based on working with Macmillan’s Online Community Champions:

Nurture your team; include and communicate

  • Create a safe space for your volunteers. At Macmillan, our champs have their own group on the community to allow them to chat privately and ask for help and support from us and each other. They can post anything they feel they cannot answer themselves, and discuss challenges or anxieties of the role. Equally, they can socialise within the group and build friendships.
  • Keep your volunteers informed. We send out a monthly newsletter ‘The Champion’ with insider Macmillan news, up-and-coming news and key discussions on the Community that month. Insider news gives our volunteers exclusive access to preview our latest features and designs. As superusers, they know the site better than most and therefore, we treat their feedback and opinions on the Community as invaluable.
  • Encourage a strong sense of participation. The Community knows our champs are part of Team Macmillan as they have had several champ signatures designed for them showing their volunteer status.


  • Ask for input. We ask for the Champions’ ideas and opinions of various projects, such as our Community animation, which was voiced by one Champion, Helen, as well as showcasing our other Champions in case studies and blogs.

Reiterate their value and impact

  • Take time to say thank you. Our twice-yearly meet ups in head office give champs the opportunity to meet each other and the Community team. Highlights from this year included meeting Kim from the support line and Chief Executive Lynda, who thanked them for all their dedication to Macmillan. Of course in true Macmillan style, we also ate large amounts of home-made cake.
  • Simple gestures of appreciation go a long way. Giving out Macmillan freebies and thank you cards, makes them feel part of the team, even at home.
  • Show them the impact of their work. Showing volunteers how much they’ve posted (sometimes over 2500 times per month) and highlighting the increase in site traffic since their involvement, is a particularly impactful way of quantifying their work. It shows them the value and power of their volunteering and reiterates how much their work has achieved.

Develop their skills through  training and support

  • Our team provides initial training, with tips on how to answer posts, advice from previous champs, useful places to signpost, as well as technical help. We continually update and review our training procedures to reflect their feedback, and provide support in our private group and email. Further work-shopping of problem areas such as ‘how to answer difficult posts’ is a great way of tackling common obstacles head-on, reassuring and empowering our Champions.
  • Praise through tough times is key. We make sure to react quickly and positively when we see our Champions have contributed particularly supportive posts or answered something that they have found difficult.
  • Treat volunteers as individuals. Our volunteers have varying technical abilities and emotional reactions to Community activity. It’s vital that they are given technical training and feel completely comfortable using the site, before they can be expected to assist others. At Macmillan, we have private practice and test areas for volunteers to try out new functionalities as well as places they can vent when they’re having a hard time.
  • Consider their well-being. We are currently looking into emotional resilience training or mindfulness sessions, as some Champions have expressed that at times, they find it difficult to support others affected by cancer.

These have been my tips on how to engage volunteers, but for now I’ll let our champion Daloni have the last word – here’s what being a Community Champion means to her.

A still from the animation showing three community members on their devices chatting to each other online

Turn your marketing skills to social good

Do you like the idea of doing your bit for charity – but get a bit nervous/lazy/busy when it comes to commiting to regular volunteering?
Sparked.com is a clever solution for the busy professional – it matches up people with skills (including design, marketing strategy, media and tech) with non for profits that need expert support on their projects. The clever bit is all the work can be done online – from the comfort of your own home, at a time that suits you.

So with just a bit of the time normally given to facebook, youtube or the DailyMail gossip pages you could critique a website or redesign a banner ad and make a difference to a charitable organisation. Over 150,000 people have signed up to volunteer so far and 10-30 non-profits are said to be registering every day day.

What’s also nice is the design and navigaition of the site are so fun, visual and simple that it makes you excited about seeking out an opportunity.

You can read about someone who’s tried micro volunteering with Sparked here.

What’s small, furry and fashionable and packed with info?

OK, it’s not that furry, but Rabbit – the new pocket-sized newsletter for our celebrity supporters – does come loaded with stories and facts. And as it’s shortly heading out to our rapidly-growing list of celebrity supporters it’s bound to be seen in all the best places this autumn.

Hopefully the little chap will help encourage even more A-, B- and C-listers to get on board with Macmillan, and those already involved to do even more.

Rabbit is a Lara and Alex co-production.

What price the Big Society?

The voluntary sector’s role in defining and delivering the Big Society is vital, thinks Richard Chambers, but cannot be done on the cheap. Fascinating read on the RSA blog here.

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