Private Foundations - International Development Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Comic Relief


1.1  The vision of Comic Relief is a "just world free from poverty". Our mission is to "drive positive change through the power of entertainment".

1.2  We do three main things:

—  Raise millions of pounds through our two fundraising campaign—Red Nose Day and Sport Relief as well as from the UK government and others.

—  Make grants in the best possible way to tackle the root causes of poverty and social injustice in the UK, Africa and beyond.

—  Use the power of our brand to raise awareness of issues we most care about.

1.3  Comic Relief is unique among private foundations in the UK in that it is not an endowed foundation and has to raise the vast majority of its income from fundraising from the UK public.


2.1  Since 1985 Comic Relief has made grants totalling £360 million internationally. The vast majority of our grants have been made to UK charities working in partnership with local organisations to bring about long term, sustainable change to the lives of some of the poorest communities in the world.

2.2  We run an "open" grants programme (see our website to which any UK registered charity can apply. We also do some "proactive" grant making where we seek out leading organisations to fund.

2.3  We focus on the most disadvantaged and poorest people in the world. Our focus is on Africa, which receives about 85% of our funds. We also support a limited amount of work in Asia and Latin America.

2.4  Our current areas of focus include:

—  People affected by conflict.

—  People and families affected by HIV/AIDS.

—  People living urban slums.

—  Street and working children and young people.

—  Women and girls.

—  Poor producers and workers as well as struggling entrepreneurs.

—  Young people for whom sport can offer opportunities for personal development.

—  People without access to good quality health and education.

—  Communities affected by climate change.

2.5  Recent achievements include:

—  Enabling tens of thousands of children who were not in school to receive a good quality basic education.

—  Improving the prevention and treatment of malaria for millions of people.

—  Supporting women's organisations in dozens of countries to reduce harmful traditional practices such as FGM; ensure legislation is passed to outlaw domestic violence; and provide thousands of women experiencing violence to get the help and support they need.

—  Doubling the number of newly certified Fairtrade producers in Africa and boosting sales from Africa by one third.


3.1  Comic Relief collaborates with DFID in a number of ways. Some of these are through formal grants from DFID to Comic Relief, such as the Commonwealth Education Fund, the Common Ground Initiative (CGI), and Match Funding arrangements described below:
InitiativeDate AmountSummary
Commonwealth Education Fund2002 £8.8 millionTo strengthen the capacity of civil society in developing Commonwealth countries to help governments ensure that the poorest and most marginalised children are able to enrol in and complete good quality primary education. The Fund was co-funded and managed by Comic Relief.
Common Ground Initiative 2009 £20 million To strengthen the contribution of small and African Diaspora organisations in the UK to development goals in Africa. The Initiative is co-funded by DfID and Comic Relief and managed by Comic Relief.
Match Funding2009£5 million from DfID/£5 million from Red Nose Day 2009 A match funding pot of £10 million ring fenced for Comic Relief to make grants in support of "Education for All" (MDG2). The Match Funding is co-funded by DfID and Comic Relief and managed by Comic Relief.
Match Funding 2011£16 million from DfID/£16 million from Red Nose Day 2011 A match funding pot of £32 million ring fenced for Comic Relief to make grants that support health and education initiatives in Africa. The Match Funding is co-funded by DfID and Comic Relief and managed by Comic Relief.

3.2  Comic Relief also engages with DFID in a number of other ways. We share good practice on grant making and our learning from the issues we fund. We contribute to consultations on DFID's civil society engagement and on technical reviews where we have relevant technical knowledge. And we meet regularly with senior DFID representatives to discuss how we continue to build public support for international development.

3.3  Comic Relief is committed to collaboration with others. Currently we have collaborations covering grant making, shared learning and programme development with Sainsbury's, the Gates Foundation, the Big Lottery Fund, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Tubney Foundation, the Hornby Foundation, the Hunter Foundation, the Baring Foundation, the Premier League, the Open Society Institute, Mama Cash, American Jewish World Service, AIDS Fonds, and the Levi Strauss Foundation. We are developing collaborations with the Doris Duke Foundation, the Oak Foundation, Laureus Foundation, Jacobs Foundation and the Elma Foundation.

3.4  In addition we are actively supporting emerging African philanthropy and foundations through our support for the African Women's Development Fund, Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, Kenya Community Development Fund, Akiba Uhaki, and the Foundation for Civil Society.

3.5  We are active members of the Association of Charitable Foundations' International Funders Group, the European Foundation Centre and the Africa Grant Makers Affinity Group.

3.6  Our unique partnership with Sainsbury's, under the Sainsbury's Development Fund has allocated grants worth £1 million to Fairtrade producers to improve their ability to access international markets including Sainsbury's. An equally unique partnership with the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, and the Elton John AIDS Foundation has invested £10m in a ground-breaking programme of care and support to vulnerable children in Malawi, creating a new model of support that we hope will be replicated elsewhere in the country.


4.1  Comic Relief is fortunate to have some high profile individuals on its trustee board, including Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry, as well as close relationships with other high profile individuals. We have collaborated with alliances of other civil society organisations to engage the public on issues of global social justice: most notably Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History (MPH).

4.2  The Jubilee 2000 was a coalition of civil society organisations with particularly strong roots in faith communities that sought to bring pressure on world leaders to "Drop the Debt" when they gathered for the G8 summit meeting in Cologne on 18-20 June 1999. Comic Relief's particular contribution was to create Anthony Minghella's short three minute film "'We Don't Want It', (Drop the Debt)" which was shown to the then Chancellor Gordon Brown and Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short when a Comic Relief delegation visited Downing Street. Comic Relief also organised two high profile comedy events in London which were made into three documentaries and broadcast by the BBC to an audience of nearly 3 million prompting more than 150,000 phone calls in support of the campaign. The Jubilee 2000 campaign is credited to have contributed to the forgiveness of $100 million of debt of some of the poorest countries in the world.

4.3  One of the biggest anti-poverty movements ever formed, Make Poverty History, came together ahead of the G8 meeting held in Scotland in July 2005—and Comic Relief played a central role in reaching out the public. A worldwide campaign of activity culminated in LIVE8, which saw concerts take place in 10 venues, with 150 bands and 1,250 musicians playing across the globe to ask people not to give their money, but to give their support to making poverty history and showing politicians that the public care and want politicians to make promises to help the most disadvantaged in the world. With an estimated global audience of 3 billion people, Comic Relief played a key role in ensuring that the message was communicated loud and clear. On the eve of the G8 meeting itself, Comic Relief coordinated "Edinburgh 50,000—The Final Push", a concert held at Murrayfield Stadium with one clear purpose—to let the G8 know that the world was watching them. Significant aid commitments were made by world leaders at the G8 in Edinburgh and the campaign is believed to have contributed to cross party support for reaching the UN target of 0.7% of GDP to be allocated to international development.


5.1  Comic Relief is different to many other private foundations in that our income is generated primarily through public fundraising rather than endowments. This brings with it a unique type of accountability as without the public's generosity during Red Nose Day and Sport Relief campaigns, there would be no Comic Relief.

5.2  Today, there is 96% awareness of Red Nose Day amongst the British public. Red Nose Day 2011 attracted donations of over £115 million. Over 10 million people watched the TV show. Thousands of schools took part in fundraising activities. We sold millions of red noses.

5.3  With such amazing support, we are accountable to them to ensure that their generosity is spent effectively and to ensure that they keep supporting and believing in a just world free from poverty in Africa and beyond and the UK.

September 2011

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Prepared 20 January 2012