08 March 2024

Ambitions Year One - How Have We Done?

It’s one year since we gathered in a snowy London to launch ‘Bigger Impact, Brighter Futures – Our Ambitions 2023-2025’. So, how have we done in the first 12 months?

“What we achieve in the next three years will lay the foundations for the next 20, but we will need help and support to get there.”

These were the words of our founder and Patron, Dame Ellen MacArthur, as she launched,‘Bigger Impact, Brighter Futures – Our Ambitions 2023-2025’, to an audience of medical professionals, charity partners, funders, and supporters at the prestigious British Medical Association on 8 March 2023.

These Ambitions detail how we plan to connect with, inspire, and support even more young people living through and beyond cancer over these three years and have the greatest possible impact on the mental wellbeing on every one of them. So how are we doing so far?

Our Ambitions for YOUNG PEOPLE

Build Belonging – we aren’t currently representative of every young person who has a cancer diagnosis in the UK. This Ambition is fundamental to being more visible, relevant, and accessible to all. We have made a good start. Shortly we will launch our ‘Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity and Belonging (EDIB) Vision and Plan 2023-2026’ and ‘Racism and Identity Discrimination - Policy and Process’, a culmination of the first year of training and development the leadership team has undertaken with behaviour change specialists, New Ways.

The plan is currently being rolled out to the team and will be the core pillar of our upcoming Volunteer and Skipper Training Conference. Overall, there has been an awareness shift across the organisation as to why this matters. Now it’s about turning that plan into reality.

Go Further – young people need support year-round. In August, we were delighted to launch a pilot mental wellbeing support programme in partnership with Mind Over Cancer. Still ongoing, this is providing eight free monthly online sessions to give young people (aged 18+ and 14-17 years) a safe space to discuss thoughts and feelings that can arise any time after a cancer diagnosis. Topics have included early menopause, body image, mental health, survivors' guilt, and the long-term after-effects of cancer. We plan to continue and build on this pilot in 2024-25.

Drive Impact – we committed to put impact measurement at the heart of what we do. At the Ambitions launch, we unveiled our new real-time impact dashboard, to measure and demonstrate the difference we are making to the wellbeing of the young people we support. Using the academically robust Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), young people are asked the same seven questions two weeks pre, two weeks’ post and three months after their trip, to see how the trip affected their wellbeing. This data is starting to help shape how we engage and inspire even more young people.

Our Ambitions for OUR TEAM

Keep the magic – to preserve the special Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust magic as we grow means investing in the frontline team. In September we launched our first ever Volunteer Strategy, to provide a clear plan to recruit, retain and reward volunteers, and to ensure equity in recognition and access to all volunteering opportunities year-round. From this, a widescale volunteer recruitment campaign swelled our volunteer ranks by 108 to 300+ for 2024. This included 54 new medics, pivotal to being able to run more trips. To date, no fewer than 95 volunteers have also undertaken Mental Health First Aid training with Citrine Wellness.

Ask questions – to feel we are open and relevant to them, young people must see a team that is representative of and relatable to them. The Volunteer Strategy has equity of opportunity at its core, and we have identified barriers to volunteering that have previously been a block on growing a more diverse team. Looking at our inclusive staff recruitment practices is roadmapped for Q3 2024. In the meantime, we have also started to address the gender imbalance amongst our skipper pool.

Think Planet – it is important we evaluate and reduce the negative impact our organisational activities have on the planet. This has begun on an informal basis, such as considering food wastage on trips, alongside a more formal approach toward ultimately developing a Sustainability Strategy and 'Pathway to Zero'. In July, we published our Environmental Sustainability Policy Statement and will create a realistic action plan and roadmap to deliver on this later this year.


Diversify Income – to work towards no one body contributing more than 30% of our total income, we have developed several different income streams. Momentum has grown on building a strong donor pipeline through proactive approaches and maximising follow up opportunities, including from a Charity Golf Day in September. and a focus on regular giving (Friends of the Trust). Meanwhile, our #200for20 20th anniversary community fundraiser raised over £12,000 in July and we have been invited to apply for funding through some new grant makers to us.

Grow loyalty – our community is very committed to supporting us in many different ways. Making that as easy as possible and in a way everyone feels their contribution has made a difference and they are inspired to keep supporting us, is vital. Over the past year, we have invested in refining our supporter experience and stewardship journeys, including work on our customer relationship management (CRM) system. We also hosted a few ‘thank you’ events (online and on the water) for our valued partners. It’s not the stuff that grabs the headlines, but it is the stuff that will keep the fundraising wheels turning year-on-year.

Talk difference – if we’re going to inspire young people to come sailing or more people to support us, they need to understand what it means to them. That's why we focus on the difference we make, not what we do. Purpose and impact, in line with our Theory of Change and impact dashboard, are consistent themes across all our comms and in the past 12 months we’ve done this more intentionally than ever. An #InTheSameBoat theme was launched to showcase impact through our summer season comms. We also beefed-up key messaging on why post-treatment support is critical and our role in delivering that.