5 Take Outs from the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning

5 Take Outs from the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning

World’s Biggest Coffee Morning (WBCM) is Macmillan’s biggest fundraising event of the year, yet 2020 was a coffee morning like no other. Just when the Macmillan team was getting ready, the country went into lockdown and no-one knew at that point whether people would be able to attend an in-person event.

Having run a cashless fundraising pilot in 2019, Macmillan were geared up to continue with their campaign in-person or in-distance. They turned their coffee morning kits into contactless solutions. Their combination collection boxes could take cash and contactless donations via QR code and NFC.

Despite the challenges of social distancing, the Coffee Morning was a huge success. “We didn’t know what to expect,” said Androula Papaiacovou, Contactless Income Manager from MacMillan Cancer Support. “We were absolutely amazed by the £200,000 that we raised.” WBCM 2019

So, what can we learn from WBCM 2020 and what were the trends driving success this year?

  1. Acceptance of contactless technology increased
  2. Personalised fundraising pages increased donations
  3. QR codes have gone mainstream
  4. Average donation value increased with cashless giving
  5. More physical donation points equal more opportunities to donate
Macmillan Quote


1. Acceptance of contactless technology increased

Many more supporters used contactless  technology this year – 75,000 donors used these methods, generating £1.4 million (excluding gift-aid) This equates to 17% of all Macmillan WBCM donations for 2020.

Double the number of coffee morning organisers used cashless technology compared to 2019. This suggests that hosts, guests and supporters are receptive to it, feel comfortable promoting it and are using it successfully

There are a number of factors contributing to the growth in the use of contactless at WBCM 2020.

The global ‘dash from cash’ accelerates

The adoption of cashless payments has steadily increased.  According to UK Finance(1) 7.4 million people in the UK were living a completely cashless life in 2019, compared to just 3.4 million in 2017. Cashless technologies provided a lifeline for charities this year. QR codes in particular continue to play a vital role. 

Experts say viruses can attach to cash for up to 28 days(2) this was an important consideration for hosts and guests this year. To reduce transmission, the wider public were encouraged to use cashless payments using mobile or card. This can be seen for a growing number of industries and venues. Some establishments went so far as to no longer accept cash. This helped move cash-only donors towards digital payment alternatives. 

Use of mobile wallets continues to grow

According to Bank of England(3), 2017 saw debit cards overtake cash as the most frequently used payment method in the UK. The pandemic has accelerated this growth – mobile wallet payments were predicted to increase by 50%(4) in 2020.

Mobile payment applications such as PayPal, Apple Pay and GooglePay are increasing in usage worldwide. The global usage of mobile payments is estimated to expand from USD 348 billion to just under USD 1.3 trillion by 2022(5). Donors will continue to reflect these payment trends.

Payments Graph


Coffee mornings met more donor needs

Flexibility was important this year, so Macmillan ensured all donation methods were covered, both offline and online. They adopted a ‘not cashless, but less-cash approach’ to fundraising. Supporters could donate via the QR codes, mobile wallet but also cash if they preferred.

By giving hosts and fundraisers options to fundraise both online and offline, Macmillan was able to reach more supporters.

2. Personalised fundraising pages increased donations

Hosts that personalised their own WBCM fundraising page, raised almost double the amount of those who left their page un-personalised

“In our first year we asked people to scan the code when they received it with limited personalisation,” said Androula. “But at the points where people could personalise it, we got absolutely phenomenal feedback. This is one of the areas we developed pre-covid for 2020.”

Personalisation across fundraising pages and all communications, including social media and email, was key to increasing donations. 46% created a personal narrative on their coffee morning invite to explain why they were supporting Macmillan, with an option to include a photo. 

This type of personalisation has a dramatic impact on the amount of donations collected, with the group raising double the amount of donations to those who didn’t personalise.

This may be due to a combination of factors: 

Personal connection through personalisation

Many hosts have a personal connection to Macmillan. A story to share. The personalised invite and donation experience enabled them to communicate this and emotionally connect with donors. 


A variety of communications were sent to hosts early this year to help motivate event organisation, promotion and setup. 

Hosts could access a large selection of resources and FAQs online to ensure they felt confident fundraising either in-distance or virtually. “We worked with Macmillan to provide resources for the hosts such as virtual backgrounds, clear instructions for how best to use the tools they’d been given,” said Laura Newby, head of Operations, Thyngs. “It was important to keep things simple and straight-forward so they felt comfortable using them.”

Opportunity for virtual guests

Guests with an invite had the opportunity to find out more, including a chance to donate online. With the additional option to attend virtually or make an instant online donation, more guests were able to contribute. Including those who couldn’t make it in person. 

3. QR codes have gone mainstream

With a little help from NHS Track & Trace 2020, QR codes have become mainstream. QR codes have re-engaged donors, diners, shoppers and more this year. They’re a safe and touch-free way to connect physical marketing to digital mobile experiences – without a fuss. 

Donors are therefore more familiar with QR codes than ever before. They recognise them, know how they’re scanned, and that they’ll likely connect to important information. 

They’re instantly recognisable, easy to use as a call-to-action, and becoming easier to scan using all smartphone handsets. It won’t be long until all smartphones scan QR codes out-the-box. 

Charities must take advantage of this by connecting QR codes to quick and engaging donation experiences. QR codes and mobile friendly landing pages create opportunities to engage new and existing donors wherever you put them. No matter the circumstance.

Why QR codes will continue to reign next year

They’re widely used

60-65% of people use QR codes on a daily basis for marketing purposes, payment services and product information. Apple and Android enabled the ability to scan QR codes without an app, using the standard phone camera, helping with usage increase.

They’re understood

The highest penetration of QR codes based on use-cases is for product information (51.5%) followed closely by event information (19.8%)6.

Social media platforms support them

Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, and Twitter already have QR code scanning functionality. This has widened the opportunity for donors to scan QR codes on their mobile or tablet.

They’re economical, touch-free and practical

Since the pandemic, 52% of US restaurants have switched to QR code menus and others are catching up7.

They’re trusted

In China, 65% of consumers think scanning QR codes on product packaging instils trust8. The fact that popular and well-known brands such as Nestlé, Instagram, L’Oreal, Tesco, and Nissan use QR codes has helped increase trust. 

They enable smart packaging benefits

They’re a way for brands and charities to communicate with consumers at-home, in-store, and on-the-go without bulky leaflets. Smart packaging enables an engaging experience – whether it’s a competition, instant donation, selfie or subscription.

4. Average donation increased with cashless giving

The average donation during WBCM 2020 increased by 89% to £17 with the use of both QR codes and shareable URL links.

The factors contributing to this are:

  • Suggested prompt levels encourage a higher donation. These are customisable by the host or charity. Donors are also given the option to enter their own figure. This increased the likelihood of a greater donation, compared to giving loose change or using a fixed £5 terminal. 
  • Physical cash is becoming increasingly limited. 
  • Customisable donation amounts gave the opportunity to bolt on other activities on the day.
  • The access to QR codes and shareable URL links were amplified this year. 

5. More physical donation points equal more opportunities to donate

The combination of connected merchandise and collateral creates more opportunities to donate on-the-go, and to donate more than once. We had positive feedback from hosts last year about the cashless enabled collection boxes. Macmillan wanted to increase visibility this year by creating more cashless donation points.

We also increased the number of QR code stickers given to hosts in their fundraising pack. This gave them the opportunity to use them wherever they found effective. For example, venue posters, cards, cake stands, takeaway packages, and thermos flasks.

Advice and QR code placeholders were given as part of the pack to encourage hosts to distribute them. This included marketing material for raffles, competitions, and prize draws. In turn, this encouraged donors to enter and donate again.

Macmillan goes touch-free


The pandemic has accelerated the decline of cash but there is also a wider generational context to consider. There’s a whole new generation of tech-savvy donors out there. So, it’s now more important than ever that charities have everything in their tool-kit to engage and connect with donors in the way in which they want to be engaged with.

“We are now living in a contact-free, cash-free world,” said Androula. “We’ve got to try and utilise the fact that QR codes are now so commonly used everywhere. The older generations are using it and for some of us in the charity sector, that’s our key audience.”

It doesn’t matter whether your charity is big or small adds Gill Thorpe, CEO & Founder of The Sourcing Team. “It’s about starting something and getting on that journey. Once you’ve done the first activity you can learn from it as you have the analysis and stats from that. That’s really powerful. Virtually anything can be enabled, so think outside that traditional collection box.” 

Androula advises to “just go for it.”

To start small and use the insight from the Thyngs platform to inform future decisions.My strategy has changed four or five times since the start of this year, and it will probably continue to change into 2021.

Try and be ahead of the game and be ahead of everyone else as well.”