Working in-house at Macmillan

This is an article by Stephen Nunes & Ed Thornton.
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Macmillan cancer support offers a number of internships throughout the year. In this article Stephen and Ed, both currently interning at Macmillan, take a look at the work they do for the charity.

Stephen Nunes, Events

Working for Macmillan Cancer Support as an Events Assistant is my fifth internship since graduating in 2009. It is probably my most ‘hands-on’ internship yet and what I consider a fantastic opportunity to gain an insight into the organisation of a large scale fundraising event for a high profile charity.

My role has proven to be a challenging but exciting one as I juggle a number of ongoing tasks and learn more about working for a major organisation. On my first few days at Macmillan I began to realise just how big a charity it is. With over a 1000 paid staff and volunteers working at offices around the UK it is a major player within a competitive sector.

I’m working on ‘The Big Mix’ a one day festival in East London that has taken place over the last two years. This year the ambitions are high as we’re aiming to include fashion, comedy, cabaret and art alongside a diverse music line-up.

My average day starts with checking my diary for any meetings I may have with the various departments in-house who are helping with organising the festival and then mainly chasing people via phone or e-mail. Lunch gives me a chance to scan through any music news and festival news and of course the mandatory Facebook check up! I’m supported by the Event Manager who I work alongside with on a daily basis and who I have weekly meetings with to discuss my progress and any problems I might be having.

I also have regular chances to meet with other departments and find out more about the work that they do and gain a better understanding of the various departments within Macmillan. The experience is definitely beneficial for my CV and the charity is really supportive of professional and personal development, allowing people the chance to get stuck in and have a go.

While I must admit that sometimes I do struggle to crawl out of bed in the mornings and start the commute in to London, I am motivated by knowing that the work I’m doing is playing a part in helping to improve the lives of people affected by cancer in the UK. This knowledge that we are all working for a very worthy cause is something which drives everyone at Macmillan and inspires pride in our work.

Ed Thornton, PR

To start with, working in the PR department of a large charity like Macmillan does not seem too different from working for any other national organisation, but if you look hard enough the differences start to appear.

Let’s start with the similarities. Even though Macmillan’s product comes in the form of support, as opposed to a tangible object that is for sale, the overall aim of our public relations activities is the same as anywhere else: to convince the public that our product, our organisation and our brand are wonderful things that they should be involved with. On a project like the Big Mix the way we will ultimately measure our success isn’t too different either. If the festival is a sold-out money spinner that raises funds for the charity and promotes the brand among young people, who will support us in the future, then we have done our job.

However, being a charity, there are some pretty fundamental differences too. Firstly, the budgets are pretty tight. Every extra penny that is spent on PR could be spent on providing nurses for those suffering from cancer so the department runs a pretty tight ship. This does not mean that having a PR department is a waste of money. In fact, Macmillan only survives because of the support it receives from the public, both through monetary donations and through volunteering. PR is the means by which the charity can stay engaged with the people who ultimately fund its work and in this sense it is very important that we get it just right.

Another stark difference is that there is little question among the public that our organisation has some serious social worth. People respect charities and, while many PR teams must fight a constant uphill battle to persuade the public that their organisation has a heart, Macmillan already has wide support. When Macmillan put it in their press releases that they exist to provide valuable support for those with cancer it is not just a strapline, it is the truth.

Because of the importance of public image, and because of the tight budgets, the interns here are well appreciated. My day to day jobs include compiling press lists, writing press releases and controlling the festival’s social media channels. I am not overloaded with work but if I ask for more responsibility then they are happy to get me more involved. Being given important work to do makes the job much more engaging but it is also great for my CV.  This means that working at a charity is good for my professional development as well as for my job satisfaction.

On top of my work in PR I am also given the opportunity to branch out to help with other jobs. The interns play an active role in the festival’s committee and our decisions help to shape the entire event. In the last few weeks I have been helping the whole festival take shape by approaching bands and by thinking of new ways to make it an amazing day. Unlike many other organisations, charities work with volunteers all the time and so they know that making their jobs worthwhile is really important.

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