Information about coronavirus (COVID-19) for volunteers

Updated 5 May 2020 15:00

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 have moved all DVS (Direct Volunteering Services) to Telephone Buddying 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: we have decided that no face-to-face or public fundraising should take place until the end of July. While this may seem a long time away, we feel that it is both prudent and responsible as we continue to protect our volunteers, supporters and staff members during this time. Hopefully this will enable you to plan your fundraising activities accordingly for the rest of the year, however we must stress that this guidance may change again in the future.
  • 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 July.
  • 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 8am-8pm, 7 days a week)
  • 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.

An update on Telephone Buddying

We have had to pause our face-to-face practical and emotional support services during the coronavirus outbreak. However, with an estimated quarter of a million people living with cancer currently shielding and others feeling more isolated as a result of social distancing, our support is needed now more than ever. We moved quickly to offer telephone support to those people living with cancer who were previously receiving face-to-face practical and emotional support from the start of April.

We have also been building the infrastructure to make Telephone Buddying more widely available, UK-wide. The service will provide regular emotional support to people living with cancer, via ongoing befriending from the same volunteer over a period of around 12 weeks. At the end of April we started offering the service to people living with cancer who had previously contacted Macmillan for support. We hope to extend the service to all people living with cancer (including new enquirers) in May.

We are also starting to reach out to some existing Macmillan volunteers in wider services and fundraising roles to offer them the option to become Telephone Buddies. We are doing this in a controlled way to ensure that we only grow capacity where it is needed. We may open the service to new volunteers at a later date, depending on the number of people living with cancer needing support.

Other activities you can do

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

  • We encourage you to help promote Macmillan fundraising initiatives where possible. Coronavirus has had a significant impact on our ability to fundraise, and people living with cancer need our support more than ever.
  • We will be expanding our Telephone Buddying offer over the coming weeks and will be approaching volunteers individually as and when it is available to them.
  • 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, 8am - 8pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
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.