Together we will beat cancer


On Thursday 24th Sept, The Sun carried a misleading story about how much UK charities spend on their ‘charitable causes’ (as opposed to on things like fundraising, salaries and pensions).

According to the story, for every pound Cancer Research UK is given, ‘only 57p’ goes towards beating cancer.

This is wrong.

For every £1 donated to us, 80p is used to beat cancer, and below we’ve outlined in a lot more detail below about why the 57 per cent figure is inaccurate.

But first, we want to reassure our supporters: when you make a donation to Cancer Research UK, we spend your money wisely. With no government funding for our research, it’s only thanks to your generosity that we’ve helped double cancer survival rates in just 40 years.

We couldn’t have made this progress without you.

The charity sector has certainly had a lot of negative press this year, but we want to assure you that Cancer Research UK is at the forefront of best practice when it comes to fundraising. We will always be honest and transparent about where your money goes (and you can read our recent reports and accounts here).

You can be sure your money is helping us to accelerate progress, and achieve our ambition to see three-quarters of people surviving cancer within the next 20 years.

So, let’s take a proper look at the figures …

How 80p in every £1 goes to our important work

The Sun’s figures bear no relation to what we actually spend on fundraising.  They merely compare what we actually spent on our charitable work in 2013/14 (£379m, the vast majority of which is scientific research, but also includes things like producing accurate information for the public) to our total income that year (£665m).

They appear to have missed the fact that we also spent an extra £35m as part of our investment in the new Francis Crick Institute.

But in terms of income, the 2013/14 financial year was a bit of an odd year for us – we had an ‘exceptional item’ in our accounts – ‘accountant speak’ for the fact that a large amount of unanticipated money came in.

In this case it was because, as part of the move to the Francis Crick Institute, we sold one of our research institutes.  This money will be spent in future years.

Here’s some more detail about why our 2013/14 income seems so much higher than what we spent on beating cancer:

  1. We plan our income and research expenditure over extended time periods (five years or more) so if money comes in suddenly, we can’t respond instantaneously and spend more in a particular year. This is mainly because the careful, high-quality research we fund takes time to set up and deliver results – a clinical trial might take 10 years – so we need to be able to support research over long periods to reflect that. That’s great, but the flip side is that, since research is a long-term process, it’s generally difficult to spend large amounts in the short term.
  1. As we said above, in 2013/14 we sold, for proceeds of £76m, the freehold on our London Research Institute more than two years earlier than we expected and for considerably more. We also had a record fundraising year thanks to the generosity of our supporters, including more than £7m from #nomakeupselfie in the last month of the financial year. And while we quickly found, and funded, important new clinical trials, this wasn’t fast enough for it to be reflected in the accounts. You’ll see that appear in our accounts next year.
  1. Charities have to maintain a certain level of “reserves” to balance the fluctuations in their income and expenditure – our reserves are very closely monitored, but with the exceptional income in 2013/14 these increased sharply. Our reserve levels allow us to plan for long-term research commitments, but would only last for a few months if our fundraising took a considerable down-turn.
  1. Alongside the increase in our fundraising income and reserves, we launched our new research strategy in 2014 – we plan to carefully increase what we spend significantly over the next two to three years, to boost the impact of our research and policy outreach work. We’ve already doubled what we spend on some of the most urgent areas: lung and pancreatic cancer research, for example.

Another thing to note is that the 80p in the pound figure excludes our shops. This is because we want to be able to show the true effectiveness of people’s financial donations, compared to other charities – and not every charity has a retail chain like we do.

Compared to other forms of fundraising, running shops is a very different type of raising money, based on business principles where customers purchase a product that has a price attached to it.  Our costs include stock collection, rents, shop staff and shop maintenance costs. Income from our shops is therefore better compared with similar commercial retail activities, rather than voluntary donations.

Here’s a graphic we prepared for our most recent year’s annual review (2014/15) – the figures are slightly different from The Sun’s, which focused on the previous year:


How our most recent year’s spending breaks down (click to enlarge)

So, let’s do the maths, using the 2013/14 Charity Commission figures properly.

If you take our income (£665m) subtract the money from the sale of the LRI (£76m) and the income from our shops, this leaves £500m total income.

As you can read in our report and accounts, our fundraising costs were £90m. This leaves £410m to spend on charitable activity and top up our reserves.

So when you divide this by £500m total income, that gives you 82p in £1 spent on our work.

This figure forms part of our fundraising promise and our commitment to being transparent about where our supporters’ money goes: saving lives and beating cancer.

So, we hope that sets the record straight – and thank you for your continued support.  You’re the ones helping us to make an impact – the bake sales, the wardrobe clear-outs,  quiz nights and hundreds of other activities that you all do for us, every day – they’re the things that will help us to fund life-saving research and beat cancer sooner.

  • Ian Kenyon, chief financial officer at Cancer Research UK


Billyp March 21, 2016

Will you tell me how much your bored of directors get out of this per annum.

Iain Russell March 4, 2016

Which company actually carries out the research? If the public is contributing £500 million pounds a year then why are the NHS charged extortionate fees for them seeing that too is public money?

kieran dainty February 27, 2016

So you make £500million a year and still have no results in beating cancer and look no closer. I wonder why? Is it because the cancer treatment industry is worth 100 billion a year?

Joyce Jacobs February 11, 2016

What about the men at the top being paid an extortionate salary and living in 1 million plus houses with no mortgage

Simon Banks February 4, 2016

Why is it online your success stories only consist of how much you have raised at your latest event, and not how many lives you have saved. Surely the latter would be more viable as a success story than monies gained.

p braiden February 1, 2016

not a lot to show for all the money raised

Kevin January 6, 2016

I have been a generous supporter of CRUK for the past 30 years. I feel that the work the organisation does is paramount to finding cures for cancer. However As with many of the other UK charities I am appalled to learn that the CEO earns £240,000 per year. He should hang his head in shame along with all the other fat cats. How far would all this money go towards developing new drugs rather than paying inflated wages. I am so disappointed to learn of this excess and will be cancelling direct debit so I can give my donation directly to another worthy cause.

Andy c December 12, 2015

Can “Cancer research” say which of it’s drugs are in the Top ten or even top twenty of the Drugs used by the NHS ??

Diane October 3, 2015

Can you tell me why the Fat Cats are having very large pay increases when all the hardworking families including myself who can hardly feed and clothe themselves are raising money for something so close to our hearts because we need a cure and quick.
They need to hide their head in shame and give the money back and survive on a humble wage like the rest of us. Lets hope it doesn’t come knocking on their doors.
This puts people putting money out for your worthy cause, they don’t want to line their pockets. Why does the government keep refusing to give lifesaving drugs out because of the cost. Ridiculous!! Get it off the Fat Cats. I look forward to hear a response from one of them which I know I wont.

Roger Jacob October 2, 2015

Gosh! A report from THE SUN fond to be questionable. One of my maxims is if it’s in the Sun or Daily Mail question its validity at once. Keep up your good work Cancer Research

Basil October 2, 2015

I was one of those who sent a question in on the amount of my £1 went on research, 80p isn’t enough, like others have said no mention of the 25% back from the tax man. One area which has always been neglected is prostate cancer, it’s better now than it’s been but much more research needs to be done to catch this silent cancer before it take hold. What ever happened to the TV campaign a year or so ag??

Robert Clark October 2, 2015

A transparent and helpful report. It would have been intresting to see what the aggregate tax rebate is from gift aid covenants, and and an estimate for the aggregate of zero rating for vat on purchases made for medical research, which I imagine is of considerable importance to the recpients of your funds.

ron carter October 1, 2015

of all the millions of pounds u make still we see adverts of doom and gloom never ever showing which cancers u have beaten. u will never beat cancer too many high paid people will be out of work .

Charlie Keep October 1, 2015

I think this is great, except that actually £1 of the £1 goes on fighting cancer because the cost of fundraising is part of running the organisation which fights cancer, its not like that money is being wasted, and without making this expenditure the organisation wouldn’t be doing any research at all.

Henry Scowcroft October 1, 2015

DocMills/Kevin Hayes: While we don’t comment on the salaries of individual employees, you can read clearly on p46 of our latest reports and accounts – published on our website – the number of our nearly 4,000 employees who earn higher salaries. Many of these are the world-leading scientists who are helping us make huge progress against cancer, they run large research groups and institutes. Others are senior leaders in a complex organisation, operating in a challenging environment. As a leading medical research organisation we need to be able to attract, and retain, the highest quality staff, particularly in the scientific field.

Anne: here’s a graphical breakdown of what we spend on different cancer types (click it for a bigger version):

Spend by cancer type

Patricia kilfoyle October 1, 2015

I must admit I was glad to receive this info. Some of my friends and family say I am mad to support any charity, as they believe most goes to admin. I must admit I did hear that a great amount was fairly recently spent on new swish admin headquarters. Not what I wanted to hear. Also was rather concerned to be told that the amount you spend (or give out to hospitals etc) is much less per head in Yorkshire than in London. That does concern me and I have been trying to find out more. If this is true I might consider switching my support to Yorkshire based cancer research.

David Harbour October 1, 2015

Thanks for being so open. I never had any doubt about your integrity anyway, and your efforts have helped to keep me alive for the past 7 years. The Sun has made it’s self seem cheep trying to get publicity at your expense.

Kevin hayes October 1, 2015

I would like to know the salary and benefits of the CEO. If it is £300k as reported , why?.Why does a charity need a top level CEO when there are any number of retired CEO’s who could fill the post for a fraction of the cost

Jill Wallace October 1, 2015

Wether it’s 57p or 80p it’s invaluable to the millions of people who like myself have inoperable cancer! Keep on doing what you do !!! Thank you

Anne September 30, 2015

How is the funding for research broken down into different cancers and how much is allocated for each?

DocMills September 28, 2015

In the interest of transparency, can CRUK publish the salaries of your directors and management?

Mick September 28, 2015

I hope that CRUK will be going back to The Sun and insisting that they publish a corrective article. It is all very well telling everyone about the mistake on the CRUK website, but the readers of the website are not the people who need convincing!

gary b September 26, 2015

I would never donate to CRUK because of the high salaries paid to its employees from Chief Executive down to rhe raft of managers etc etc. I know from ‘the horses mouth’ how much is spent on staff jaunts and high salaries. I support many charities including cancer research but definitely NOT CRUK!

Alexandra Rose September 26, 2015

Thank you for setting this out so plainly. I, like many others, am furious that the wretched rag that the Sun is, can get away with these sort of articles. I am so grateful on a personal level for all that CRUK do and for the honest and transparent way you report your research and your finances. What a waste of time and energy, not to mention funds, when this sort of sloppy and inflammatory reporting takes place.

Mike September 25, 2015

Good old Sun. You might point out that having to spend time correcting their misinformation also detracts from funding research.