There is a lot more to being a fundraiser than attending giant cheque presentations. Lizzie Anderson discovers what a typical day entails for charity worker Michelle Muir.
Within minutes of sitting down to talk to Michelle Muir, County Durham fundraising manager for Macmillan Cancer Support, it becomes clear there is no such thing as a “typical” day for someone in her line of work. The 52-year-old oversees all fundraising activities for the charity in an area that spans from Birtley, in Gateshead, to Darlington and the Durham Dales.
This means helping to co-ordinate everything from charity golf days, sponsored skydives and supermarket bag-packs; to pool competitions, quilting exhibitions and the famous Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, which saw more than 1,500 events take place in the region last year.
Collecting donations is an important part of what she does, but her role extends far beyond this. Ms Muir ensures all the events that take place have Macmillan merchandise and offers support throughout. Marketing and publicity also falls into her remit and she regularly sends press releases to The Northern Echo and other local publications.
It seems like a tremendous task for one woman, but Ms Muir has a committed army of volunteers spread across the region to call upon. She also works closely with the Macmillan fundraising groups that operate in her patch and corporate sponsors, such as Northumbria Water.
“Part of my role is managing the volunteers,” says Ms Muir, who joined the charity eight years ago.
“I have at least one volunteer in every postcode area and I simply couldn’t do my job without them. I can get ten to 20 different enquiries a day and I cannot get to all events.
“It’s a huge help to know there is someone I can trust to attend on Macmillan’s behalf and pick-up a cheque or some cash."
Each year, Ms Muir is set a fundraising target, which currently stands at £700,000. The services Macmillan provides directly reflect the needs of a particular area, as the charity liaises with cancer patients and their families on a local level. Macmillan does not receive government funding and relies on donations to continue.
In County Durham, there are 3,295 cancer diagnoses a year and, with the latest statistics showing the disease now affects one in two people, Ms Muir’s role is more important than ever.
Macmillan Cancer Support is best known for its nurses who provide support, information and advice to cancer patients in hospitals and the community.
However, it also offers a range of other services, many of which are provided via its Information and Support Centres. These can be found at Bishop Auckland Hospital, Darlington Memorial Hospital, Shotley Bridge Hospital, Chester-le-Street Hospital and University Hospital North Durham, in Durham City. From here, people can access bra clinics, specialist headwear and a wealth of advice literature. There are also benefits advisors on hand to help cancer patients access the financial support they are entitled to.
“We have people called Cancer Voices who have been through the cancer journey and share their experience with us,” says Ms Muir.
“We ask them what they needed after being diagnosed and during treatment and how we could have made it easier for them. We then identify the services that are needed for a specific area.”
These include services such as the Durham Not Alone Direct Volunteering Service, which sees volunteers go into the homes of isolated cancer patients while they are in hospital. The volunteer turns on the heating and provides basic groceries, a warm welcome and a listening ear when they return from their treatment. It follows reports of patients with no close friends or relatives declining chemotherapy because they felt unable to cope.
This year, around £84,000 of the money raised in the region will fund a Macmillan nurse educator to work with medical staff and carers in hospitals, the community and care and residential homes to provide better palliative and end-of-life care.
There is no question Ms Muir and her volunteers have a challenging year ahead but they are already working hard to ensure they reach the target.
On Saturday, March 29, the team will “paint the town green” by dressing in the charity’s colour and descending on Durham City with collection boxes, balloons, posters and banners. The following day, Auckland Hospital Radio, will “make sure no mum faces cancer alone” by broadcasting a series of interviews and song requests for Mother’s Day.
Ms Muir will also be working closely with Durham County cricketers Gareth Breese and Gordon Muchall who are raising money for Macmillan during their benefit year.
She is not shy of fundraising antics herself, having raised £4,500 by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2012. The former nurse also plans to take part in the Great North Swim in Windermere in June.
“I love my job because every day is different and I have met some wonderful people,” says Ms Muir. “When you hear what they have been through and how strong they are I feel truly humbled. They are amazing.”
For more information about Macmillan Cancer Support contact 0300-1000-200 or visit macmillan.org.uk