U.K. Comedy Fundraiser, Red Nose Day, Crosses The Pond

A British import will hit American shores on Thursday night, hoping to raise millions of dollars for charity.

Founded 30 years ago in the United Kingdom, Red Nose Day has raised more than £1 billion since it was created in 1985, including £78 million (roughly the equivalent of $122 million) during this year’s event held in March.

A campaign dedicated to raising money for children and young people living in poverty by making people laugh, Red Nose Day USA will culminate with a live, three-hour extravaganza and fundraising special on NBC from 8 to 11 p.m. Eastern, featuring Hollywood stars, original sketch comedy and videos, and musical performances. It also will highlight poverty-related causes for which Red Nose Day is raising funds.

Charity partners include Boys & Girls Clubs of America; charity: water; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; LIFT; National Council of La Raza; National Urban League; Oxfam America; Save the Children; Children’s Health Fund; Feeding America; The Global Fund, and United Way. Corporate sponsors include M&M’s, NBC and Walgreens. The trademark red noses are being sold for $1 at Walgreens locations through May 30, with proceeds benefiting the Red Nose Day Fund, which will be distributed to charities.

M&M’s kicked off the #MakeMeLaugh campaign to support Red Nose Day. M&M’s designed the campaign to prompt people to make someone else laugh and share it with the hashtag. M&M’s will make a $750,000 donation to Red Nose Day and will donate $1 – up to $250,000 – for every #MakeMeLaugh engagement between May 11 and May 21.

Fundraising isn’t just about the telethon. The Red Nose Day website features a variety of downloadable items to raise money, including a fundraising checklist, a nine-page fundraising toolkit, creative tools, and a sponsorship form. A top 10 list of fundraising ideas for Red Nose Day also includes a variety of easy and simple things to do, such as giving up your cell phone for a few hours by changing the voicemail greeting to direct people to your sponsorship page; set up a swear charge and donate the money; have a bake sale; get your workplace or school to wear red and have each person pay $1, to be donated.

Red Nose Day USA is run by Comic Relief, Inc., an independent sister charity of Comic Relief U.K. In November, Comic Relief, Inc., changed its name from America Gives Back. The organization has not actively solicited contributions but sponsored a similar telethon in April 2007 called “Idol Gives Back,” as part of the “American Idol” television show, that raised more than $70 million for hunger relief.

Comic Relief cited three points to its mission in its most recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990:

  • Raising awareness of poverty conditions and the issues facing the poor and disadvantaged in the United States and throughout the world;
  • Developing and distributing educational tools and initiatives for school children and teachers in the United States to understand how poverty is perpetuated and the steps that can be taken to eradicate it; and,
  • Making grants to organizations that are committed to the issues identified by the organization as having a major effect on the poor and disadvantaged, including treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS and malaria, the education of children and young people, and the protection of children at risk.

Half of the money distributed will be spent in the United States while the other half will be spent in some of the poorest communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to the Red Nose USA website.