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Our life-saving work relies on the money our supporters give us. More than 9 out of ten donations we receive are for less than £10, proving that small amounts make a difference. But where does this money actually go?

It’s thanks to your support that we’re making progress in preventing cancer, diagnosing it earlier and making treatments kinder and more effective.

And we believe we have a responsibility to make sure you know how we spend your money.

So read on to find out more about how your donations are helping to beat cancer sooner.

Pence in the pound

One of the questions we’re asked most often is how we spend the donations we receive.

80p_newFor every £1 donated, 80p is used to beat cancer (the remaining 20p goes towards raising funds for the future).

The majority that we spend each year goes towards our ground-breaking research.

And thanks to research, cancer survival is improving and has doubled over the past 40 years in the UK. Today half of people diagnosed with cancer will survive their disease for ten years or more.

But we need to do more.

Your donations are helping us accelerate progress towards our ambition to see 3 in 4 cancer patients surviving by 2034.

Right now we’re funding research into the fundamental biology of cancer, as well as more than 200 specific types of cancer: from the most common – such as breast, bowel, lung and prostate – to rare types of tumour and children’s cancers.

We’re also spending your donations on our vital policy and information work. We work closely with the government and key decision makers to campaign on issues important to our supporters and scientists, such as tobacco, obesity and early diagnosis. And we empower millions of people by supplying up-to-date, accurate information about cancer to help them understand and cope with the disease – for example through our website, Cancer Awareness Roadshow, Cancer Chat Forum and nurses helpline.

How we spend money on research

Thanks to our generous supporters, we’re funding hundreds of research projects and supporting the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses across the UK.

We also fund research programmes such as the Grand Challenge awards – a new £100 million funding scheme, which will give grants to researchers tackling some of the biggest hurdles in cancer research. And our Pioneer Award funds research into truly innovative ideas from any discipline that have the potential to lead to new discoveries. You can read more about our different funding schemes on our website.

Our scientists have helped develop many pioneering cancer treatments – from brain tumour drug temozolomide and breast cancer drug Herceptin in the 1980s, through to the ovarian cancer drug olaparib, which was approved for use by the NHS in December 2015.

Right now your donations are going towards vital programmes that are helping us make more important discoveries and develop new treatments. We’re also funding over 250 clinical trials, which recruit more than 25,000 people each year. Clinical trials test new treatments, prevention and diagnosis techniques in patients, to help advance new treatments and drive progress.

We’re also carrying out research into the causes of cancer. Many believe that cancer is just down to ‘bad luck‘, but we know that our risk actually depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and aspects of our lives. Through research we also know that 4 in 10 cancers can be prevented, largely through lifestyle changes, for example quitting smoking, maintaining and healthy weight, cutting down on alcohol and doing more exercise. We’re researching to build on our understanding and discover more about how the disease develops in the body.

How we decide how much to spend on each type of cancer

Another question we’re often asked is how we decide how much we spend on different types of cancer.

All of our research has one thing in common. We have a responsibility to make sure your money is used to fund the very best science that will make the biggest difference to people with cancer – whether that’s research into preventing and diagnosing the disease, or making treatments more effective.

We spend money on the very best projects that come our way, so we don’t have set amounts to spend on each cancer type.

But we do keep an eye out for projects that will help speed up progress for cancers with very low survival, such as lung, pancreatic, oesophageal and brain tumours. And we run specific fundraising campaigns to raise money towards particular areas of research. For example, the donations raised through the Stand Up To Cancer campaign go towards clinical trials to develop new tests and treatments for cancer patients, and the Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens campaign raises money for research into children’s cancers.

We also rigorously assess every project we fund to make sure each one deserves our support.

To help us make these important decisions, we enlist the advice of independent expert scientists, to get views from those who are working in the field. We also work closely with people affected by cancer who share their experiences and provide invaluable insights.

Once we’ve decided to fund a project, we don’t always spend all the money straight away. For long-term projects that run over several years, we set aside funds for future work. This means the amount we spend varies from year to year as new research projects start and finish.

How we spend money on research facilities and support

Your donations are also going towards running our specialist institutes, where some of our most important laboratory work takes place. The institutes provide scientists with long-term support, technology and equipment, and play an important role in recruiting and retaining world-class researchers.

In recent years, we have raised funds to contribute towards the construction of a brand new biomedical research centre in London, the Francis Crick Institute. Based in King’s Cross, London, the Crick opened in August and is a unique collaboration between Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, Imperial College London, King’s College London and University College London. The institute will be home to 1,600 scientists from a variety of disciplines, who will work together to turn research into benefits for patients faster.

How we spend money on our policy and information work

Every day our Policy team is fighting to make sure cancer stays at the top of the political agenda. Your donations are supporting our vital work to campaign on issues important to our supporters and scientists – from cancer prevention to early diagnosis and treatment.

Examples of our recent successes include working with the UK Government and NHS organisations to implement a new NHS cancer strategy for England; calling on the tobacco industry to pay for Stop Smoking Services; lobbying the Government to put more money into cancer tests and pressing the Government to do more to tackle children’s obesity.

Not only do we want to improve cancer survival, we also want to make sure people have the information, help and support they need when they’ve been diagnosed with cancer or are undergoing treatment. That’s why we spend money on providing high-quality information and support to people affected by cancer.

Examples of what we do in this area include our patient information website, which more than 20 million people visited last year. Our Cancer Awareness Roadshow travels to cities across the UK, and our brilliant specialist nurses on board talk to people about cancer signs and symptoms and healthy living. We also have a team of dedicated information nurses who answered almost 11,000 queries about cancer last year, over the telephone or via our online chat service.

How we spend money on fundraising

The remaining 20p of every £1 goes towards fundraising for the future. This is essential – we’ll only be able continue our life-saving work by raising funds for the future.

We’re always finding new, innovative ways to encourage donations. For example, we’ve recently invested funds into developing our online donation system so that if they would like to, supporters can more easily make a donation towards all of our research into a specific type of cancer or area of research.

We also need to spend money on marketing to help keep donations coming in. A recent example is our ‘Right Now‘ brand campaign. The content we produced for the campaign shows the day-to-day reality of cancer. It features the stories of real patients, their loved ones and their experience of cancer, and shows the work of Cancer Research UK scientists and medical staff who are researching the disease to find new cures. The campaign is important because it highlights the need for constant support to continue our pioneering work and to help us beat cancer sooner.

How we spend money on people

We need to attract and retain the very best people if we are to continue to deliver world-leading research and meet our ambition of seeing 3 in 4 cancer patients survive their disease by 2034.

You’re also helping to fund our invaluable staff, each and every one of whom contributes to our progress in beating cancer sooner.

How we spend money on running our shops and events

We spend money on running our high-street shops and putting on events such as Race for Life, Tough10, Shine and Dryathlon.

The amount of money that we spend on running our shops and events (‘trading’) is excluded from our calculation of the 80p figure.

When our supporters and customers pay a registration fee to take part in an event or buy a product from one of our shops, it is a completely different activity to giving a voluntary donation.

This means that by excluding our trading costs from our calculation of the 80p figure, our supporters can see the true impact of every £1 donated.

If you’d like to find out more about our finances, you can read more information here, and download our Annual Report and Accounts or Annual Review.

Thank you

We hope this blog post has given you a better understanding of how your money is spent. None of our life-saving work would be possible without our dedicated volunteers and generous supporters. Every year you help us to raise hundreds of millions of pounds towards the fight against cancer, which is an amazing achievement. And every day we’re making progress. We want to say a huge ‘thank you’ for your support in making this progress happen.