Comic Relief turns to the web to raise more money

red nose

Comic Relief, the charity behind tomorrow's Red Nose Day fundraising extravaganza expects this year's activity to raise even bigger sums of money for good causes and it has overhauled its web presence and call handling capability to cope with the increased demand.

Around ten thousand of the charity's volunteer operators in call centres will also make use of a web-based application to reduce paper form usage and accelerate the time it takes from initial donation to that money being available to spend on those who need it.

The first 'e-commerce enabled' Red Nose Day took place, with help from Cisco, Oracle and Sun Microsystems, back in 2001 to ensure it could process the increased volume of donations heading its way.

But since then, the public have become even more IT literate and are increasingly turning to the web as a way to dig deep and give to charity.

Working with technology partner Cisco, Comic Relief has increased its ability to handle traffic and payments as it gears up for predicted donation growth by a factor of five compared with the last Red Nose Day in 2005.

"We live in a new, connected world of Web 2.0 and that means that we need to have a site that supports user-generated content, and a richer experience showing how the money raised makes a difference while providing cool tools for online sponsorship," said Martin Gill, head of new media at Comic Relief.

"Having more information on the site, means the technology needs to cope with more people using those services, which drives longer session times and demands greater bandwidth."

Gill added: "Traditionally, the lion's share of donations made use of simple paper forms distributed to call centres. We are now in a situation where we are looking at how we can reduce that volume of paper, which will increase the efficiency of the processes around those donations and mean we have the money in the bank more quickly. That's great from our point of view as it means we can earn extra interest on that cash and good from the donator's point of view as it means their transaction has been managed in a more professional and expedient way."

The paper-based process meant that it could take up to three months for funds to reach the charity, whereas web donations usually take about three seconds to go through and are generally cleared the next working day.

In addition to Cisco equipment, the site infrastructure, which is hosted by Pipex, makes use of Sun servers and an Oracle 10g database.

Security was a key consideration in the development of the new web platform as increased donation volumes may unfortunately attract increased attention from wrong doers.

The site also makes use of network load balancing so that it can cope with peaks in traffic, for example if a particularly emotional clip results in a deluge of people rushing to their PCs to donate.

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.