The Chartered Institute of Fundraising has awarded Sir Lenny Henry with the Special Recognition in Fundraising Award for his contribution to fundraising with Comic Relief and in recognition of his continued role in championing diversity and inclusion across the creative arts.
The award recognises and thanks Lenny for his incredible fundraising over the decades. He was the co-founder of Comic Relief in response to the famine in Ethiopia in 1985, and most recently fronted the Big Night In, the television fundraiser during the coronavirus crisis. Lenny is also an energetic campaigner for the greater representation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the entertainment industry.
Sir Lenny opened Fundraising Convention Online, a virtual conference for the fundraising community, on Monday 6 July by sharing his experience of fundraising, including his own experiences with Comic Relief.
Speaking virtually to an audience at the Convention, he thanked the organisers for the award:
“We haven’t always done everything as fast as we could. But we’re doing new things, donating by text, social media, we need to challenge ourselves and our technologies. Exploring new ways to bring an authentic voice to our beneficiaries, rather than a celebrity-led approach.
“For me, at Comic Relief, the best moment was knowing the public was engaged. When we went over £3.5 billion for the first time, our jaws just dropped. It showed how much hard work everyone had put in and we had done all of this together.”
Asked if he would do anything differently if he was setting up Comic Relief today, he said: “Now, of course, you would make it more diverse immediately. That has happened over time. People are more educated and woke. You would start with the same energy. I would just make it more inclusive. It’s going to happen more and more, local people telling their own stories.”
On the future of fundraising, Sir Lenny said that there was no compassion fatigue: “I’m never going to stop believing in our capacities and our skills. We’re going to keep giving because it’s what we want to do!”
He saluted the younger generation for their generosity: “Young people especially are so engaged with giving. They’re going ‘I can do this. I can lend my voice to this’. We’ve seen that with Black Lives Matter and climate change. They’re going I can help, and I salute them for that. Even though they literally think I’m Idris Elba’s granddad. It’s their time.”
He ended by thanking fundraisers for all they do to make the world a better place. “Thank you to all fundraisers – you all rock!”