“On the night of Red Nose Day, we typically get over 300 donations every second, and seeing GoCardless there as part of the payment mix is a real vote of confidence.”

Peter VanheeHead of Technology, Comic Relief

Key benefits

Developer-friendly APIs, ability to handle hundreds of donations every second during Red Nose Day event

Company name

Comic Relief


Major UK Charity

Number of employees


Previous Direct Debit provider

New to Direct Debit

Creating a just world free from poverty

Comic Relief is a major UK charity, originally founded in 1985 by comedian Lenny Henry and scriptwriter Richard Curtis. Since 1988, the charity has held the biennial telethon, Red Nose Day. In 2002, Comic Relief added Sport Relief to its roster of fundraising events.

Red Nose Day has become one of the most iconic events in the British television calendar, and the event has harnessed the power of comedy to help Comic Relief raise over £1billion since its inception.

The charity uses the funds raised to support people in need in both the UK and around the world. Executive Director of Innovation & Digital Charlotte Hillenbrand sums up the charity's mission:

We exist to support the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised people.”

Finding the easiest way to grow repeat giving

While Comic Relief has experienced huge success in gaining one-off donations during the large-scale funding events, the team wanted to build a repeat-giving platform to allow donors to give on a recurring basis.

The charity quickly ruled out recurring card payments as the mechanism. “As soon as the card expires, you lose that donor,” explains Charlotte.

Direct Debit soon became the obvious choice.

After a positive initial meeting with GoCardless, the engineering team at Comic Relief were able to use the GoCardless API to test the integration in a matter of days. Head of Technology, Peter Vanhee, elaborates:

Our engineers quickly put something together that showed the ease of integration. When your engineers actively want to integrate with GoCardless, you know it’s a scalable solution.”

Passing the toughest test for a payments provider

Having decided to use GoCardless as its repeat-giving provider, the team at Comic Relief set about ensuring the platform could handle the huge volumes of payments that it would see on the night of Red Nose Day. While the integration proved straightforward to set up, the main event was always going to provide the real test, as Peter explains:

“We get up to 300 or more donations a second during Red Nose Day, and seeing GoCardless there as part of the payment mix is a real vote of confidence.”

GoCardless was able to take payments throughout the event without a hitch and a “healthy number” of converted donors will continue to donate to much-needed causes thanks to the recurring nature of Direct Debit.

The ability to scale recurring donations

Now that GoCardless has passed the Red Nose day test, the team at Comic Relief are planning for the future. They see GoCardless as a fully scalable solution that will form a key part of the repeat-giving strategy for years to come.

Alongside the ability to handle huge amounts of payments at any one time, Charlotte and Peter also praised the overall experience of using GoCardless both as a business and an end customer. 

Knowing that we’ve got a system with GoCardless in place that can scale, is reliable, and is easy to work with makes our job a whole lot easier.”

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