Letter: Public support for Comic Relief

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Sir: Peter Popham (29 April) claims that Comic Relief is inefficient - "Oxfam raises four times more per year than Comic Relief's pounds 10m" - and that it "staggers on", raising less and less each year. The sum raised last year is actually pounds 20.8m, not pounds 10m. This represents an increase in income of 20 per cent from the previous event and both Oxfam and Save the Children Fund have, over the years, been the principal beneficiaries of funds raised by Comic Relief itself.

Under the Popham treatise, British giving remains "a peculiarly compulsive activity", undertaken in a "completely disinterested way, to whatever at any particular moment wrings our heartstrings the hardest". Indeed, giving is "one of the last unconscious hangovers from the glorious days of our empire".

But latest figures detailing income to the top 500 charities reveal that 33 per cent of total income comes from that most compulsive, immediate and disinterested of sources - the charitable bequest or legacy.

Who, or what, were the great fundraisers of the British Empire? Not Oxfam, Save the Children, nor the vast majority of public fundraising charities, all of which are a more modern phenomenon.

It is the advent of modern technology, and events like Comic Relief which harness that technology to the fundraising process, that have allowed a broader public the opportunity to support the causes they wish to.

Stephen Lee


Institute of Charity

Fundraising Managers

London SW8