Sharon MacDonald was Head of Direct Marketing for The Labour Party from November 1994 until April 1998.
In April this year Sharon became ill and went into hospital, where she was diagnosed with lung cancer, which had already spread rapidly and was still spreading. The cancer overwhelmed her and Sharon Macdonald died in the evening of Thursday 1st June 2006, aged 41 years.
Sharon will be remembered for the professionalism she brought to Labour’s direct marketing that was entirely in keeping with the modernisation of the party that was taking place at that time. Her approach was both fresh and challenging, pushing at the boundaries of political fundraising, although its sophistication went largely unnoticed outside of the marketing ‘trade’.
Sharon began in fundraising, transforming the party’s income base. The direct marketing activities developed by Sharon grew income from ordinary, individual members and supporters from around £3m in 1994 to over £10m in 1996. Sharon’s influence then extended into membership as well, where she oversaw our recruitment activities using direct marketing and direct response advertising. These activities played a central role in the rapid growth of the party’s membership from 1994 – 1998. On top of this, Sharon helped the Key Seats Unit with member mobilisation mailings and target voter relationship-building prior to the ’97 election.
Sharon was known for her intelligent contributions to meetings, her disdain for anyone who wasted Labour’s time, her unique way of managing external agencies and departments and most of all for her ability to find humour in almost anything, Because most people will always remember Sharon for her sparkling wit and the sheer inventiveness of her mind when it came to finding ways to make life funny for us all. She made people laugh, constantly.
Sharon was fiercely loyal to Labour and to Tony Blair. When Tony wrote to her in hospital she had the letter framed and showed it to all the doctors and nurses. Her desire was that Labour would go on and on winning – she wanted Labour to convince voters that we were the ones for them so that we could always earn the right to govern in their interests.
Sharon will also be remembered for being a local activist both in the places where she had lived – Wimbledon, Islington South & Finsbury and Islington North – and her work in her two adopted key seats of Mitcham & Morden and Enfield North. At the General Election last year, when Chris Smith retired, she helped Emily Thornberry win by dragging out the last few voters to get the slimline 484 majority.
Sharon was loved by her staff team at Labour and in every managerial role she had since. She worked hard to help staff develop so they could both enjoy their work, and contribute more effectively. Her final job was as Head of Customer Marketing for Morgan Stanley where her team were so inspired by Sharon that they have now taken on the task of raising £50,000 to pay for a school to be built in a small village in Mali where Sharon sponsored a child – as a lasting memory to Sharon’s personal contribution to enriching the lives of all who met her and, in her own unique way, for making the planet a better place to live.
Oh, and for making everyone who met her laugh – a lot and often.
Sharon MacDonald, party worker and activist, died May 2006