We are the change

Comic Relief: A social media case study for all the wrong reasons

The British public can be vicious and quick to act when they find out that someone has been pulling the wool over their eyes and today it is going to be Comic Relief’s turn. This morning we woke up to the news from the BBC that Comic Relief has been investing in Arms, Tobacco and Alcohol with £630,000 in shares in arms firm BAE Systems and more than £300,000 in alcohol manufacturer Diageo.

Apparently, when we donate money to this worthy charity, they allocate the funds to their selected charities over a period of time. In the meantime, they invest the rest of the money that we have given them into the stock market to support the costs of running the charity itself. So far so good. I don’t have a problem with this at all and think that it’s a great way to make sure that the money that is donated is going to the intended causes.

However, what we have discovered today, is that their social ethos does not carry through to the companies that they invest in. They have made the questionable decision NOT to invest only in ethical businesses but to invest in managed funds that put large amounts of their money into organisations that many of their contributors wouldn’t invest in themselves.

Wow… talk about an own goal.

What should they do now?

I have no doubt this will massively hit the bottom line of Comic Relief, but they can still come back from the brink. There is only one thing to do in a situation like this is and that is to ‘come clean’ and admit their mistakes. Before the damning Panorama show airs tonight they need to come out and talk to their customers – the people who donate with them.   A quick swift apology will diffuse the situation… continuing to say that they did nothing wrong will only incite the fury of the people who have chosen to give their hard earned money to support Comic Relief and their causes.

Will they do this? I don’t know. They are a big organisation that looks like they have lost their way at the moment. I suspect they are in deep discussion around their boardroom about what damage control they can put into place, but honestly, this is the only strategy that will work.

If they apologise, I believe that the British public will forgive them; anything else will result in a massive loss of donations and potentially the loss of one of the UK’s most loved and most effective charities.

I will watch to see how this plays out over the next few hours and days, but I sincerely hope that Comic Relief become a social media case study for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones.


So it seems that I was right and Comic Relief has fallen at the first hurdle.  They have been badly advised and decided to hide behind their corporate facade, not admit any fault and put out a standard response.  Why oh why do these businesses just not get it?

Here is a copy of their only Tweet from yesterday along with the less than happy responses.

Comic Relief social media case study

Photo Credit: Chaotic good

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  1. Alison Rothwell says

    Wow! I agree – Comic Relief need to seize the initiative and explain why these investments were made, be open and responsive and not avoid the debate. Thanks for writing this.

  2. K Brown says

    There are fundamental differences between charities and business. This is a result of a large national charity being run like business where profit is key and not social outcomes. However, more and more charities are collecting trustees with a ruthless business background in the misguided belief it will keep them financially stable. As this trend continues to happen then there are going to be more fall outs like this from unethical governance. This investment decision simply demonstrates the changes taking place across many of the top charities in the UK who are now nothing more than big business with an eye on profit. I wonder what the Charity Commission make of this.

  3. edward says

    Wow! I agree – Comic Relief need to seize the initiative and explain why these investments were made, be open and responsive and not avoid the debate. Thanks for writing this.