Information about coronavirus (COVID-19) for volunteers

Updated 31 March 2020 20:00

Our priority is to help people with cancer find their best way through, now more than ever. We have had to make difficult decisions about how to continue offering support while also meeting our duty of care towards all of our supporters and beneficiaries, many of whom are in higher risk categories of the UK population. This guidance sets out how Macmillan volunteers can support these aims. It will be updated regularly in line with government guidance and changes in Macmillan’s response to the crisis. The latest version can always be found on this web page.

Key guidance for all volunteers

All volunteers:

  • must avoid all face-to-face contact as part of their volunteering – this includes contact with people with cancer, staff, other volunteers and the public
  • should avoid leaving their home unless essential, as per government guidance
  • should follow government guidance on self-isolation if they, or anyone in their household, shows symptoms of the coronavirus
  • should let their Volunteer Manager know if they develop symptoms, are self-isolating or would prefer not to volunteer at this time.

Guidance for specific roles

  • Services volunteers: we have taken the decision to avoid all face-to-face volunteering at this time, including ‘Shop and Drop’ and prescription collection services (these services should be available to people living with cancer through government-led support schemes). We are encouraging Direct Volunteering Services (DVS) to move to telephone befriending, or other forms of emotional support that avoid all face-to-face contact. You should speak to your Volunteer Manager to find out how you can best support at this time.
  • Fundraising volunteers: should avoid all face-to-face volunteering activity, including events, collections and bank deposits. Please postpone (or, if necessary, cancel) events taking place up to the end of May. We are contacting all fundraising groups and supporters to discuss how to manage events and how they can fundraise without face-to-face contact. You can also contact your Volunteer Manager or the Supporter Care Hub (0300 1000 200 or if you have any questions in the meantime.
  • Office-based volunteers: you should have already been updated on the approach for your office space, but if you are at all unsure, please speak to your Volunteer Manager.
  • Community Neighbours and Community Volunteers: as per guidance for other roles, you should avoid all face-to-face practical and emotional support until further notice, and all face-to-face fundraising volunteering activities until the end of May.
  • Corporate and Indirect Volunteers (volunteers managed through partner organisations) should follow the guidance of their parent organisation.

Any exceptions to the above principles need to be agreed by Macmillan senior management, so it is essential that you check in with your Volunteer Manager or the Supporter Care Hub (0300 1000 200 or if you are in doubt.

Sources of support

As well as speaking to your Volunteer Manager, Macmillan offers the following key support channels to volunteers, people affected by cancer and the public:

  • The Macmillan Support Line: available on 0808 808 00 00 and via online chat (opening hours are currently Monday-Friday 9am-5pm)
  • Macmillan’s Online Community: available 24/7 at
  • Macmillan Website: our website provides cancer information 24/7, including a dedicated section on coronavirus.

We also urge all of our volunteers to follow government guidance on social distancing, good hygiene, and self-isolation should you, or anyone in your household, develop symptoms of the coronavirus. Find out about the latest government guidance.

Building a national volunteer offer

We’re focusing our efforts towards providing a nationally available telephone befriending service. This service will be delivered by Macmillan Volunteers and will provide regular emotional support to people living with cancer throughout the crisis. Many of Macmillan’s Direct Volunteering Schemes (DVS) currently provide this type of support to people with cancer, along with face-to-face practical support. To comply with government guidance and to ensure we keep our volunteers and service users as safe as possible, this telephone befriending service will temporarily replace all face-to-face services.

We are acting as quickly and efficiently as possible during these challenging times and are aware that some services have already made this transition to telephone befriending and/or are in the process of doing so. All other DVS schemes will make this transition within the next week and relevant volunteers should receive further information from their Volunteer Manager. We are also in the process of extending coverage for this service so that it will be available across the entirety of the UK within the next few weeks. We will be providing further information, communications and support about this service in due course and are looking to roll this volunteer offer out to all other Macmillan (non-DVS) volunteers by late April.

Other activities you can do

We know many volunteers are keen to help as much as they can at this time.

  • We are exploring how we can grow our telephone befriending offer and will be sharing this with services and wider Macmillan volunteers over the coming weeks.
  • We’ll be communicating with fundraising volunteers about alternative ways they can keep fundraising during the crisis.
  • You may wish to consider supporting one of government-backed coronavirus volunteering initiatives in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which are providing a range of support to vulnerable people and critical government services.

Please do keep an eye on emails from us and our volunteering website as we do hope to make more Macmillan volunteering opportunities available over the coming weeks.

Staying up to date

As this is a constantly moving situation, our guidance to volunteers may change regularly. You can always find out latest guidance for volunteers on this web page. If you have any questions or are at all unclear, please speak to your Volunteer Manager or the Supporter Care Hub (0300 1000 200 or

How we can help

Macmillan Cancer Support Line
The Macmillan Support Line offers confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. If you need to talk, we'll listen.
0808 808 00 00
7 days a week, 9am - 5pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
7 days a week, 9am - 5pm
Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.