Cancer Research UK ‘turning down far too much’ due to rising costs, says CEO

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is unable to fund as many projects as it would like because of rising costs, its chief executive has said.

The charity today announced changes to its branding, including a new logo, strapline and advertising campaign in an effort to boost its fundraising.

Michelle Mitchell told Civil Society the charity is investing for growth in mass fundraising events and retail in what is a “hard economic climate”.

“Partly because of Covid and the long tail effect that that’s had on all research funding, but also an environment in which costs of running organisations and charities is going up substantially – the cost of doing research is going up substantially,” she said.

“We’re turning down far too much world class science and world class people with world class ideas. So, I want to make that connection to the more money we can invest in research, I believe, the quicker progress we’ll make.”

Mitchell said the government was also responsible for supporting cancer research funding and reducing waiting times for testing treatments.

“We’ve much more to do to get cancer survival rates to some of the best – to be world leading rather than world lacking,” she said.

According to CRUK’s financial accounts for March 2023, the charity spent £45m less on research than the year prior at £398m.

The charity received £261m of legacy income last year and Mitchell said she expected to see an “incremental growth in legacies over the next seven to 10 years” due to changing demographics and an ageing population.

‘We can only fund research according to our income’

Mitchell said the charity intends to maximise the potential across its mass fundraising and retail to fund its work.

“The reality is we can only fund research according to our income,” she said.

She went on to say that the cost-of-living crisis and high inflation is increasing the charity’s costs and its ability to raise money while eroding the value of money it spends on research.

“Despite these challenges we remain on track to spend £1.5bn on research over a five-year period. That we’re able to do so is down to being adaptable – seeking out new opportunities to grow our impact and income,” she said.

“This includes investing in areas we think have potential for growth such as mass fundraising and retail.”

Brand refresh for the first time in 11 years

Today, CRUK has refreshed its brand for the first time since 2012 to fit more with its strategy and to emphasis progress such as survival rates for cancer in the UK doubling in the last 50 years.

CRUK worked with Design Bridge and Partners to simplify its logo so it features fewer dots.

This is to “bring it up to date” and ensure it works better in a digital world, Mitchell said, and to fit into CRUK’s strategy to inspire more people to engage with its work.

“Each of the dots represents a progress or an outcome in cancer that we’ve contributed to and so it makes it more visually compelling, but also works digitally more effectively,” she said.

The strapline of CRUK has also changed from “Together we will beat cancer” to “Together we are beating cancer” to emphasise the progress made by scientists and researchers.

Its new advertising campaign, We Are, also launched today and was developed with agency Anomaly.

The advert features people affected by cancer celebrating milestones like birthdays since being cured of the disease.

“Making sure we had authentic voices at the heart of the campaign has been really critical to its development and execution”, Mitchell said.

The campaign will run from September on TV, radio, video-on-demand, digital, social media and outdoor.

CRUK would not say how much it spent on its brand refresh.

‘Perception of our brand is crucial’

Mitchell said in a statement announcing the refresh: “We rely on the generosity of the public to continue the pace of our vital work and the perception of our brand is crucial to whether people decide to support us.

“In a competitive fundraising environment, we must stand out with a compelling message of who we are and the impact we’re having. We have an incredible story to tell, and we need to be better at telling it.

“Our refreshed brand will do this. We’re shining a brighter light on our science and research and the impact it’s having, so people see and feel that our progress is their progress.”