The new initiative is possible thanks to an extraordinary gesture by the mobile industry and the support of the Treasury. The mobile industry have agreed to waive their usual charges to ensure a 1 or 5 text means a 1 or 5 donation to Comic Relief, and the Treasury has confirmed that because of this no VAT will be charged on these donations.
The 5 text number (66609) opened on 2 March and will be one of the options viewers can use to donate on the night of TV on 13 March, and since 27 February Radio 1 listeners have been able to send a 1 text (88808) to sponsor the celebrity team on the Red Nose Climb. Both donation lines close at midnight on 31 March 2009.
Just 5 could buy a mosquito net to help prevent potentially fatal bites that cause malaria - a disease that kills a child every 30 seconds across Africa. A donation of 1 could pay for a hot meal for a young homeless person in the UK when they go to a drop-in centre to get vital support and assistance.
Emma Freud, Trustee of Comic Relief, said: "The spirit of the entire mobile industry has taken our breath away. We believe receiving every penny from texts donated by the public will make the most remarkable difference - helping us to transform and save literally thousands of lives. An astonishing 190,000 was donated via the 1 text donation line on the first day it opened on Radio 1, and in that week it raised nearly 800,000. We have high hopes for the 5 text line on Red Nose Day. This stuff works!"
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Timms, said: "The Government is fully behind the very important work of Comic Relief. That's why I'm delighted to confirm that no VAT will be charged on donations, so every penny donated will go straight to Comic Relief."
Sue Hammett, Community Investment Manager, Orange UK, said: "Orange has just launched a new community strategy and what better way to kick start it, by waiving our charity rate associated with text donations to Comic Relief. We know our customers are great supporters of Comic Relief, so we wanted to make sure we supported them and this great charity."
Were delighted to be supporting Comic Relief, comments Robin OKelly, Head of Corporate Affairs at T-Mobile UK. Red Nose Day is a great event, and we hope that everyone gets texting to make this year a real success.
Ronan Dunne, Chief Executive of Telefnica O2 UK, said: Were very happy to give our full support to Comic Relief and hope as many people as possible will donate via text to help it become another successful Red Nose Day.
Graeme Oxby, Managing Director of Virgin Mobile, said: Were delighted to do our part for this fantastic fundraising event. In addition to all our customers being able to relax knowing that their entire contribution will be going to Comic Relief, many our staff are looking forward to volunteering their services in our call centre on Friday night.
Andrew Dockar, Senior Manager - Business to Business Enablers for Vodafone UK, said: "We know how important Comic Relief is to our own employees who will have many fundraising activities going on throughout the day in retail stores, customer services and in head office. We're therefore very proud to be supporting this initiative that helps projects in both the UK and Africa."