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Building a supporter-centred strategy with Macmillan

Updated: Feb 28

“It’s critical we create a vision that is shaped by the people and communities we serve.”

Nurturing emotional loyalty with your supporters takes time, effort and buy-in from across an organisation. By placing supporters at the heart of your organisational strategy, you can ensure this becomes a priority across all teams and at every level of seniority – a crucial factor to see your supporter loyalty flourish.

At last year’s Loyalty Day event, we heard from Jess Gillham at Macmillan Cancer Support on how the charity's use of an open strategy framework and an agile taskforce helped to create a truly inclusive vision for the organisation – one that positioned the charity’s service users right at the centre.

“Open strategy isn’t about creating a ‘business as usual’ strategy, it’s a process that enables organisations to transform and disrupt. And as part of that, it’s critical we involve people affected by cancer at every stage of the strategy process.”

In using this style of strategy framework, Macmillan Cancer Support moved away from a top-down approach, making the decision-making process more visible across the organisation. It encouraged greater transparency and inclusion when generating ideas, giving everyone in the organisation the opportunity to participate – including supporters and voices outside of Macmillan.

As part of this strategy work, Jess joined a new internal taskforce. However, instead of a traditional project to run alongside their day job, they were given one question to answer:

 “If you reimagined Macmillan to be in a position to have the great impact over the year next decade, what kind of organisation would we be and what would we do to have the most impact?”

It was big, bold and ambitious. This wasn’t about making Macmillan a better, faster version of what it is now – in Jess’s words, “if we don’t make people gulp, we’re not doing it right.”

So, how did they do it?

You can watch the full video of Jess’s excellent presentation on our YouTube channel, but here are some of her top tips so that you can do the same:

  • New, diverse team – Macmillan deliberately recruited taskforce members from all over the organisation, bringing a huge richness of experiences, skills and ways of working to the group. It was a huge asset for a question of this scale and helped to ensure that numerous voices and perspectives (including those of supporters) were heard as part of the ideation process.

  • The team invested time in getting to know each other in deep and meaningful ways, helping to build a psychological “safe space” really quickly. Giving the taskforce the freedom to truly be themselves helped everyone to relax and unlocked more creative, collaborative ways of thinking. Positive challenges were encouraged, and the team were more confident in experimenting before settling on one idea.

  • They also ditched the job titles, which removed the feeling of hierarchy and helped also to build psychological safety for the team.

  • Finally, the taskforce focused on One Big Thing – the question above – and left their day jobs behind for 12 weeks to work on the strategy over short ‘sprint’ periods, breaking down the Big Thing into a series of Smaller Things that become more accessible.

Throughout this time, the team worked with an Agile Coach to help develop their ideas and to remind them to “trust the process”!


Involving your supporters in setting your long-term goals can create real buy-in and commitment. This, as we know is a key foundation of supporter loyalty.


How much do you involve your supporters in these kinds of decision?


Let us know your thoughts!


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