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Clowning Around for a Cause

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— April 15, 2019

Clowning Around for a Cause

  • While red noses may seem silly, they are worn to draw awareness to a very serious cause.
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Red Nose Day helps raise funds to end child poverty.

Red noses are no longer just for circus clowns: The outlandish accessory has become a common sight thanks to annual Red Nose Day events. While red noses may seem silly, they are worn to draw awareness to a very serious cause.

The nonprofit organization Comic Relief launched Red Nose Day in the United Kingdom in 1988 to raise awareness of, and help alleviate, childhood poverty; the annual event, which takes place worldwide in May, launched in the United States in 2015. The goal is to help children access food, shelter, education, healthcare, and other resources to keep them healthy and safe in their communities.

“Every child is filled with potential to do good, be great and maybe even change the world,” says Lauren Spitzer, vice president of fundraising and development for Comic Relief. However, “child poverty is a barrier that can make realizing that potential that much harder or prevent it from being realized at all.

Wearing a Red Nose is funny, fun and playful. It helps to break through barriers and create special connections for people to come together and share a laugh–which is a great way to open up conversations about Red Nose Day and the serious issues we are working to address.”

Worldwide, Red Nose Day has raised over $1 billion in the last two decades— including $150 million in the US alone—which has helped change the lives of more than 17 million children across the globe. The funds are used to make grants to nonprofit organizations in 50 countries and 34 countries, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Feeding America, Save the Children and the Global Fund.

No Laughing Matter

Comic Relief uses humor to spread the word about other serious issues. The organization has also supported charities providing HIV/AIDS education; increasing vaccination rates in developing countries; and rebuilding communities after natural disasters. Comic Relief has an exclusive partnership with Walgreens and Duane Reade to sell red noses in the weeks surrounding the event. The appendages retail for $1 each and 50% of the fee goes to the charity (the remaining covers manufacturing costs).

NaturesPlus has embraced the cause. In 2017, the Company Culture Committee purchased 500 red noses for employees, encouraging everyone to take goofy photos and post them on social media with the hashtag #RedNoseDay.

“We like to get involved with various charities and this seemed like a really simple, fun thing to do in the office,” explains Anthony Napolitano, director of sales administration and member of the Company Culture Committee. “The employees had a lot of fun with it and helped bring awareness to what Red Nose Day is all about.”

Red Nose Day has become an annual event at NaturesPlus. “It’s a fun, lighthearted way to support an important cause and it makes employees feel like they are a part of something bigger,” Napolitano says.

A Growing Movement

Spitzer explains that thousands of families, schools and even entire communities come together to don the red nose. Celebrities have also embraced the cause: Julia Roberts, Kirsten Bell, Kelly Clarkson, Sean Hayes, and Ed
Sheeran have all participated in Red Nose Day.

“Whether they are appearing on NBC’s night of special Red Nose Day programming [airing on May 23], helping with fundraising events or spreading the word about the campaign in interviews and on social media, the support of celebrities and influencers helps considerably in raising both awareness and funds for Red Nose Day’s mission to end child poverty,” Spitzer says. “They are high-profile ambassadors for the Red Nose Day campaign.”

But corporate involvement, such as that offered by NaturesPlus, is vital. As Spitzer puts it, “Company-hosted events are a very important source of funds for Red Nose Day. Each year we are blown away by the outpouring of support.”

Charity Navigator, an independent organization that rates nonprofits, gave Comic Relief a three-star rating, noting that 92% of the funds raised cover programs and services (instead of staffing and fundraising expenses). Most of the charities that receive grants from Comic Relief are rated at three or four stars.

The concept, while outlandish, appears to be working.

In a 2017 report on Red Nose Day, National Public Radio cited David Bishai, a professor of economics and public health at Johns Hopkins University, who said the feel-good approach was part of the appeal. “The red nose doesn’t drag you into the dark side of the poor, showing you children with swollen bellies,” Bishai said at the time. “That’s not fun…the [campaigners] say: ‘We understand there’s terrible suffering in the world and we’re doing something about it.’”

Still skeptical about the power of a silly red nose to bring about change?

“Making it fun to make a difference is what Red Nose Day is all about,” Spitzer says, noting that the movement “was built on the foundation that the power of entertainment can drive positive change. Wearing a Red Nose is an amazing way to spread the message and get more people involved.

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