How big is Pudsey?: The BBC's charity appeals

Head of BBC Outreach & Corporate Responsibility

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"Pudsey's bigger every year, is that right?" I'm travelling home on the Manchester train the morning after a long fundraising night. Keiron, 10, sits opposite me and offers his views on Children in Need and the latest fundraising telethon. He hadn't been allowed to stay up late to watch the show but he knew all about the money raised and which celebrities had appeared and he definitely wanted to buy the Peter Kay official Children in Need DVD. He's one of thousands of people across the country who this weekend raised money for Children in Need.

In fact, the total money raised for the studio night wasn't bigger than the previous year's. Just after 2 o'clock on Friday morning, it was confirmed that a fantastic £20,309,747 had been raised. The total was slightly down on last year, but very impressive in the current climate. The audience had been the highest since 2003.

There's an assumption that every year the BBC's charity appeals will make more and more money. But the reality is that each year Children in Need starts with nothing and it takes hard work and innovation from both the charity and the BBC to raise the money. In the run-up to the broadcast appeal this year there'd been intense speculation inside and outside the BBC, and especially amongst other charities, about how the night would go. At a time of deep recession, would the public still dig deep into their pockets?

In all the speculation about the amount raised, it's easy to forget that raising money is only part of the picture - making people aware of the problems and issues facing children across the UK and actually spending the money to change their lives for the better is the other crucial part.

Charities have been affected in different ways by the recession. For some, the need for their services has never been greater. Others, those with a large proportion of statutory funding, may be less affected. Charities which derive much of their income from interest on investments feel the impact of the recession keenly. But charities like Children in Need and Comic Relief, which get nearly all their money from public donations, want to know if, when times are hard, people will still donate.

One of the reasons people donate to BBC appeals is that audiences trust the BBC to check out the charities it broadcasts appeals for. The charities we support should be well run, sustainable, have real impact and the money raised must go where the BBC said it would. My role as the BBC's Charity Appeals Advisor is to make sure this happens.

The BBC can't make people donate to charity, nor should it, but it does provide opportunities to donate. One of the recent new opportunities is texting. Earlier this year there was a breakthrough when text service providers agreed to set up special charity numbers - the 7 codes and tariffs. This breakthrough meant that a healthy £1.5m plus Gift Aid was raised during Thursday night's Albert Hall rock concert.

So now all of us - programme-makers, fundraisers, donors great and small, and children's projects across the UK - wait for Children in Need's grand total. We won't know this until March. Can the BBC and its audience - an audience which each year raises up to £100m for charity - beat last year's Children in Need total of over £37m? I'll stick my neck out and say I believe we can come very close. Over and over again I'm humbled by the generosity of our audience.

At any given time, a wide variety of appeals are being planned or broadcast. For example, the BBC's newest charity, the BBC Wildlife Fund, is working on a BBC Two appeal which will go out early in the summer next year and will look and feel very different from Children in Need and Comic Relief. At BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester they're searching for a charity partner for an appeal which will involve and inspire their audience for the whole of 2010. And Blue Peter is running the Send a Smile Appeal, encouraging its young audience to make T-shirts into medical gowns, to support cleft repair operations for children in India. I'll let you know how they get on.

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