For decades, Comic Relief has focused its fundraising and grantmaking energies on improving the lives of poor people around the world, reducing incidences of violence, abuse, and exploitation, overcoming inequality, and building economic resilience in vulnerable populations. The U.K.-based nonprofit is perhaps best known for celebrating Red Nose Day, which it has been doing since the late 1980s. The fundraising marathon headed by A-list celebrities, musicians, and even a few heads of state has since become a British institution that's raised over $1 billion.
The U.S. was a little slow on the uptake and didn’t launch its own version of Red Nose Day through Comic Relief until a few years ago. Since then, though, the financial take from the campaign has soared. This year, the number edged close to $40 million—and overall, Red Nose Day has raised nearly $100 million in the U.S.
The third annual Red Nose Day took place on May 25, 2017. It was hosted by Chris Hardwick and included a slew of participating celebrities, including Julia Roberts, Erika Christensen, and John Lithgow. The televised event raised a lot of money, but Red Nose Day is actually a six-week-long campaign, so donations kept coming after the initial launch.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to match every dollar raised for the Red Nose campaign through Facebook for up to $1 million. The Gates dollar-for-dollar matching plan ran from May 10 to June 15.
This matching program has become something of a tradition for Gates. In 2015, the foundation pledged $25 to a $1 million total for every Twitter or Instagram photo posted by June 1, 2015, with #RedNose25. Gates repeated its efforts in 2016, offering a $25 match up $1.5 million, for every Twitter or Instagram photo posted.
In addition to the Gates Foundation’s donations and matching commitments, M&M's donated $1 million, Comcast committed $1.2 million, and Walgreens donated more than $18 million. The Walgreens donation includes all profits from the sale of red noses, Red Nose Day items, vendor contributions, customer donations, and proceeds from various fundraising events. Ellen DeGeneres also offered a donation match up to $100,000 through her show.
While Comic Relief has not officially announced the recipients of Red Nose donations, it makes sense that the foundation will continue to support past recipients. That list includes Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Children’s Health Fund, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Oxfam America, and Save the Children. Last year, charity:water, the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, Boys & Girls Club of America, Covenant House, and Feeding America. It’ll be interesting to see who joins this long list next.