Comic Relief restructures to focus on digital and rely less on telethons

22 Jan 2018 News

Comic Relief plans to expand its digital media and live events fundraising to ultimately make itself less reliant on BBC telethons and has restructured its directorates.

As reported by Civil Society News last week, Comic Relief began a process of “holistic restructuring” before Christmas, when it made 25 staff members redundant. A spokesman from Comic Relief said the entire organisation was being restructured to “engage new audiences on different platforms” and to put on more “live events and more year round activity,” so as to make itself less reliant on its telethon model.  

When asked whether the restructure was part of making Comic Relief less reliant on its annual telethons, the spokesman said: “In the long term, yes of course. Like any organisation it’s right that we find new ways to talk to our audiences and raise money.

“TV shows will continue to play a completely central part of our approach but it’s also really important that we engage new audiences on different platforms – including digital and social media – but also live events and through more year round activity."

The spokesman said in part being driven by the fact that there had been a decline in traditional TV audiences since the first Red Nose Day telethon was held thirty years ago, especially as terrestrial TV channels faced increasing competition from the rising number of alternative media channels and platforms, and especially the growth of digital watch on demand services.

“If we want to still be relevant in 20 year’s time, we need to capture the imaginations of people who are kids now,” said the spokesman. “And we’re probably not only going to do that on BBC One”.

New directorates

As a result, the internal structure of Comic Relief has been changed, with its former six senior directorates being expanded to seven – including an entirely new digital and innovation directorate. Comic Relief’s spokesman said the organisation was currently recruiting for a new director to head up its digital and innovation directorate.

Its creative, campaigns and brand directorates have all been merged into a singular directorate, headed up by new executive director of brand and campaigns Bill Griffin. Griffin joined the charity earlier this month.

Michele Settle has been retained as the organisation UK campaigns and brands director, while Ruth Davison, formerly Ruderham, has been made the organisation’s director of impact investment. She joined the organisation last year as its grants director.

Comic Relief to focus on ‘impact investment’ over grants

Comic Relief’s spokesman said the change in Davison’s job title, reflected a conscious change in language for Comic Relief around its grant making.

He said that Comic Relief would now focus more on impact investment rather than making grants, although he said this was a simple “change of language” and insisted the charity would not be phasing out its grant making.

“Comic Relief will not be phasing out grant making but has made a deliberate change to the language we use around this. We see ourselves as investing into the organisations we partner, so have chosen to rename the department to reflect this. Impact has always been – and will remain – central to our work”. 

Editor's note: This article has been amended to highlight the fact that it is not only Comic Relief who has seen a fall in terrestrial TV audiences. 


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