Strategic Report

Digital and Innovation


We’ve been working hard to bring Comic Relief onto a modern, technology and data-enabled path - readying the organisation to provide employee and supporter experiences that are more closely aligned with how people spend, bank and connect online today. Digital transformation is progressing, with an emphasis on developing the mindset, values and behaviours that will equip staff for adaptive futures, problem solving and collaborative, agile working practices.

We’re implementing our strategy with a focus on inter-operability of systems; this year, teams have prioritized replacing repetitive or non-digital tasks with the right technologies to facilitate automation. This strategy has made us smarter about what we buy vs what we build and we’re seeing great results with over £0.5m total saving in non-staff costs.

We’ve developed dashboards, moving away from manual reporting and putting real-time data at the heart of our fundraising activity. By bringing data more into the everyday working patterns across the organization, we’re able to make better decisions about the impact of our traditional marketing materials and gaining more insights into our supporters. Another example is how the new payroll, invoicing and expenses systems have reduced the time spent on invoicing and payments, improving transparency on spending.

We’ve retired our intranet, using social tools such as Workplace and Slack to improve internal communications, remote working has vastly improved now that it’s facilitated with our improved telephony systems and cloud hosted file sharing.

During this year, we’ve embarked on a major data infrastructure project that will in the coming months and years enable Comic Relief to be better equipped to connect with supporters via multi-channel marketing and ultimately deliver more personalised supporter journeys and engaging ways to donate, support and participate in social change.


Donations and fundraising infrastructure 

There is still much to do, but this year has seen significant progress. One of the most influential changes this year has been to cast a critical eye on when to build vs when to buy technology identifying where we have unique business problems and prioritizing our development time to meet those needs.

Our online donations platform has moved to serverless architecture and has become a best-in-class case study for the use of Amazon Web Services technologies to provide a high availability, resilient donations capability that can process hundreds of donations per second. The move to the in-house built solution led to amazing year-on-year saving of over £0.25m, including a 93% saving on hosting costs compared to our old platform.

The new system is available year-round which means new fundraising activity, such as the Netball World Cup celebrity match, requires no additional technical input to receive high volume donations online. We’re also in talks with other charities who have high volume transactions requirements (such as Disasters Emergency Committee) so that we can share learnings across the industry.

With the closure of BTMyDonate, we worked quickly to find alternative solutions to providing telethon support via call centres and IVR (Interactive Voice Response) for Red Nose Day. The launch of £30 SMS code for Night of TV and the Kilimanjaro documentary worked well with 25% of SMS donors opting for the higher value donation on Night of TV.

The Prizeathon offered supporters the chance to win ‘money can’t buy’ prizes and led to the roll out of new systems to support this income stream; competition entries were managed via Givergy prize draw and delayed Premium SMS (Saturday Kitchen and the NOTV Bond Prize). Excitingly, we now have the ability to run year-round prize-related activity that engages new audiences in new ways with Comic Relief.

We retired our proprietary online peer to peer fundraising platform in favour of adopting JustGiving. This change means we can benefit from ongoing R&D investment in providing best-in-class fundraiser experience, coupled with improved conversion and retention insights. We also trialled contactless giving in British Airways Executive Lounges and at live events such as the Wembley Spectacular; we will be looking to roll contactless out more widely in the coming year.

Online Engagement

Smarter Online Engagement 

Coupled with a brand refresh across all Comic Relief owned channels, this year has seen a more strategic shift to develop audiences through Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, playing on the particular strengths and characteristics of each platform. Activating supporters during the run up to Red Nose Day and sustaining engagement year-round has shown encouraging growth across the board.

Our merger of the Red Nose Day and Comic Relief brand websites worked well in aligning brand hierarchy and ensured users who were seeking more information about what we fund or how to fundraise could find what they were looking for in one place. Initial testing to provide more detailed information about the projects featured in appeal films was also published online, giving supporters more transparency about what we fund and establishing a new direction for Comic Relief that connects donors more directly with where their money goes.