How volunteers shape the work of Macmillan in Scotland

Janice Malone is Macmillan Cancer Support’s Engagement and Volunteering Manager in Scotland. She writes about the importance of volunteers to Macmillan, and how we help to support them to help make sure that no one faces cancer alone. 

‘Having worked in service development, communities and volunteering for 10 years now, I know how powerful volunteers can be to a charity. Volunteers bring huge life and career experience to an organisation, along with a tremendous enthusiasm and energy and part of my role is very much focused on how Macmillan can support our volunteers to make sure we can give them the best experience of volunteering that we possibly can.

‘Internally, this means ensuring what we offer to volunteers has the most impact on people affected by cancer and is well received by our volunteers. However, it also means looking at where we are not doing so well and how we can improve our offer.

‘Externally, it is about identifying the volunteer needs of a local community and find out what volunteer support they would benefit from, be it assistance through our Helping Matters programme which provides emotional and practical support to people with cancer in their own homes, to support the delivery of Move More physical activity programme.

‘I am a member of the Scottish Volunteer Forum and am part of the Cross Party Group for Volunteering, where I, along with other third sector organisations, am supporting Government to develop a volunteering strategy for Scotland. Our last meeting in January was attended by four MSP’s and saw the group discuss how best to grow volunteer numbers and explore ways we can make volunteering more attractive to members of the public.

‘Another key part of my role is all about networking. Often partner organisations will have similar goals and ambitions to Macmillan. By working together, we can share learning, skills and resources to achieve our aims.

‘However, as well as working alongside senior volunteer managers and partners, it is just as important to keep in touch with volunteers themselves. It is essential to find out why people volunteer for Macmillan, what they think of our services and the support we offer, both to them as volunteers but also to people affected by cancer.

‘My job finds me working with groups of people affected by cancer such as our Scottish Involvement Group and Cancer Experience Panel.  This finds me travelling a lot around Scotland and I am often away from home visiting services, and listening to the experiences of people all across Scotland.

‘This year a big focus of my role is on remote and rural services and communities. I will visit many of the Scottish Islands, to find out support mechanisms are in place for people affected by cancer, and if Macmillan might be able to provide any support to these communities.

‘I am keen that we take learning back from our Island communities, to share successes and find out these ways of offering support can be implemented elsewhere in Scotland.

‘People affected by cancer should have a voice no matter where they live no matter how remote. Their views and experiences run through the work carried out by Macmillan in Scotland and are exceptionally valuable in helping to shape the way cancer care and support is delivered and rolled out across the country.

‘My work with the Scottish Involvement Group (SIG) finds me involving them where they can have their views heard – whether that is with Government, civil servants or NHS staff.

‘Not only can SIG help Macmillan and partner organisations get a more representative picture of what is happening in Scotland, but the group can help us to identify gaps in care and support and also areas where we are doing well. The group is essential to finding out how best Macmillan can respond to the needs of a particular community, rather than coming in and dictating what support should be available without any local knowledge or insight.

‘Whether people volunteer for Macmillan through our Scottish Involvement Group, or one of our Direct Volunteering Services, people give their time because of their experience of cancer; they want to give something back.

‘Volunteers are at the heart of Macmillan and my role is about making sure they know that. Giving up your time for free is a huge gift and we need to make sure our volunteers feel valued and supported by Macmillan in all that they do.’

by Janice Malone, Engagement and Volunteering Manager, Scotland