Ireland’s most successful fundraisers and voluntary campaigns during Covid-19

In 2020 Covid-19 saw the closures of schools, offices, businesses parks and any type of group events. This had a drastically negative effect on charities and not for profits and saw a detrimental effect on the communities of services they provide. However, a number of charities, people and families have come together to raise money for their chosen cause, raising a combined €24 million during this period. In addition nearly 30,000 people put in hundreds of thousands of voluntary hours in their communities. Some of the most successful are:

Adam King’s Virtual Hugs

Adam King became The Late Late Toy Show star with his “virtual hug”. The space-mad five year old has brittle bone disease and appeared on the show where he spoke about his time in Temple Street Children’s Hospital. He then got to meet his hero John Doyle who works as a porter in the hospital. The moment was named as “the best moment of 2020” and was second in Hot Press Magazine ‘Hero of the Year Award’. Adam also helped to launch The Toy Show Appeal which went on to raise €6.6 million. Adam designed his own “Virtual Hug” and “Barróg Duitse” cards with Irish company Garlanna Cards.  The cards were launched as a fundraiser for CHI Ireland Templestreet, and CUH Charity Cork,  in partnership with Supervalu, Centra and Donnybrook Fair, raising over €250k to support the care of children at these hospitals. 

Alzheimer Society of Ireland – Finding Jack Charlton

In July 2020, former Republic of Ireland Footballer Manager, Jack Carlton died after a long battle with Alzheimers. Following the announcement of his diagnosis, UK based Noah Media got to spend time with the Charlton family where viewers could see the effects of Dementia has on a person. The documentary had in-depth interviews of the impact of Dementia on Jack and his family and their relationship with him. The documentary then goes back over Jack’s time as a World Cup winning centre back, the relationship with his brother, his rise to management with his achievements with the Irish national team. There were heart warming contributions from Paul McGrath, Mick McCarthy, Ray Houghton and his management team to name a few. In March of 2021, Virgin Media collaborated with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. Coincidentally Alzheimer’s awareness week also coincided with an international window in football. Presenter Martin King, whose mother Christina has dementia, presented the two hour special, and he interviewed Alzheimer’s Ireland CEO Pat McLoughlin, and others who have  or are the families of those who are affected by Alzheimers. The viewers raised over €1,000,000 for the 64,000 people and their families who are affected by the condition.

Alone – National Support Line

ALONE is a national organisation that strives to enable older people to age at home, safely and securely, for as long as they wish. They work with all older people, including those who are lonely, isolated, frail or ill, homeless, living in poverty, or are facing other difficulties. ALONE provide an integrated system of Support Coordination, Practical Supports, Befriending, a variety of Phone Services, Social Prescribing, Housing with Support and Assistive Technology.

ALONE launched its National Support Line in February 2020 – a month before Covid-19 restrictions saw life in Ireland grind to a halt. Since then ALONE has received nearly 49,000 incoming calls, from the older generation feeling alone or isolated.

According to RTE News “The staff and volunteers at the organisation also make calls to people offering services such as support and befriending phone calls, check-in calls and return calls. Since 9 March 2020 up until and including the first quarter of this year, the charity made 177,140 calls offering these services”.

The Irish Cancer Society – Daffodil Day

The biggest fundraising day of the year for the Irish Cancer Society. Prior to Covid-19 every year thousands of volunteers take to the streets or organise coffee mornings and give daffodil ribbons to all those who help raise the funds needed to support the more than 44,000 people who get cancer each year. Daffodil Day brings in the majority of the €12,7 million in fundraising the organisation needs to raise each year, but obviously this was drastically impacted due to Covid-19. The Late Late Show put on a Daffodil Day Special, where they wanted to raise badly needed funds for the organisation. As part of this, Jedward, who lost their mum to cancer in 2019, offered to shave their ironic hairstyle for the organisation. According to the Irish Examiner “Friday night’s Late Late Show fundraised €3.5m by the end of the show which featured stories of those who are living with cancer, are caring for those who currently have cancer and those who have lost loved ones.”

Darkness Into Light – Pieta House

Having lost their son Fergal to sucide, Johnny and Gertie Fox met Pieta House CEO Joan Freeman by chance, through a family friend who sat next to Joan on a flight. The couple wanted to do something in Fergal’s memory, and that’s when the idea of running from the darkness of depression into the light came about. In 2009, 400 runners showed up to the phoenix park in the inaugural Darkness Into Light Run. 2019 saw the event have 200,000 runners, on all five contents and over 200 countries taking part. It has brought in over €29 million to Pieta House. The 2020 event was postponed however people across the world showed their support in different ways. In Ireland emergency forces drove through towns with their lights on but no sirens on to pay their respects, others lit candles and even more woke at dawn and did their run on their own, but not with others. The Late Late Show dedicated their show with Former President Mary McAleese, Adam Clayton, Pierce Brosnan, Mary Black, Frances Black, Mary Coughlan, Sharon Shannon and astronaut Chris Hadfield appeared on the programme in support of the charity. The appeal saw viewers donate over €2 million.

Do It For Dan

Niall and Aisling Donoher’s son Dan was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy in December 2019 and was given a life expectancy of 18-24 months. Dan started on the recommended treatment but his parents were then told about a ground breaking treatment, however it was only available in America and cost over €2.1 million in total. On March 6th the ‘Do It For Dan’ campaign was launched. Niall and Aisling were both Gealic Footballers for Laois and the sports community in Ireland came together to run 100k, sold boots, or drank a raw egg and together they raised €3.3million for the treatment. Sadly it was found that Dan had contracted a rare virus in recent months, meaning he has developed antibodies that will prevent the planned infusion from being successful.

Feed The Heroes

According to the Irish Examiner “founded by Cian O’Flaherty and Tad McAllister in March of last year, raised over €1.4m from over 19,000 unique donations, while in-kind contributions of food, services and volunteer hours amounted to over €4m. The initiative, which partnered with restaurants, takeaways, caterers and commercial kitchens to prepare and deliver the meals, delivered food to staff at 143 different sites, including hospitals, the national ambulance service, nursing homes, pharmacies, community test sites, contract-tracing centres, emergency operations, fire service, frontline charities, gardaí and GP surgeries. Each meal cost around €7 to prepare and deliver. Project costs associated with GoFundMe and nominal administrative costs represented around 2.4% of the total funds raised, with the remaining funds at the end of the project distributed between four charities; ICHH, the Peter McVerry Trust, Pieta House and the Irish Cancer Society.”


One of Ireland’s most innovative charities in recent years FoodCloud matches companies such as supermarkets, the hospitality industry, and businesses with excess food, with charities that provide food to their service users. They are now working with Fair Share in the UK (the company Marcus Rashford campaigns for). Their services have seen a huge demand since Covid-19 and the closure of schools particularly. To combat this Food Cloud received a €1.5 million donation from AIB as the company long association with the charity continues According to “Some 1,200 AIB employees have also volunteered a total of 7,524 hours at FoodCloud hubs since 2018, packing food for charities or assisting the organisation in the areas of social media, technology and finance.”  Food Cloud has seen donations in the thousands from the likes of Lild, Aldi and Tesco to name a few.

The GAA – Volounteer Support

Covid-19 saw the closure of all sporting activities. This greatly impacted the work of The GAA as their players couldn’t train together and their season had to be delayed. The GAA community then went into overdrive ensuring that their community of players, coaches, administrators and fans made sure that as much as possible everyone in their community was looked after, whether this meant the collection and delivery of essentials, sharing public health information, supporting members online, being involved in the GAA Club Together Initiative, meal delivery or other ways such as the up keep of pitches etc. In total more than 19,000 people in the GAA community supported 34,000 across Ireland.

The Jack and Jill Foundation – Mystery Art Competition

Following on from it’s success in recent years, in 2021 the foundation announced that it was increasing the innovative fundraising campaign, where they get a range of artists to donate their illustrations to the hospice. According to the Irish Examiner “U2’s The Edge, Bob Geldof, fashion designer Paul Costelloe, comedians Tommy Tiernan and Jason Byrne, cartoonist Don Conroy, DJ/artist Mo Kelly, and Nobel prize winner Dr William Campbell are among the 3000 artists taking part”. All the art cost €60 but the catch is the purchaser doesn’t know what art, from which artist, they were buying. According to their dedicated website now in its fifth year, the campaign will surpass €500,000 raised for the cause this year, with even more focus on the campaign during 2020 and 2021 as other fundraising campaigns have been curtailed.

Jigsaw the National Centre for Youth Mental Health

Jigsaw is the National Centre for Youth Mental Health. The service saw their services expand during the pandemic – offering support via freephone and online.

According to RTE News “Its freephone service, for people aged between 12 to 25 – or those who may be concerned for people in that age category – launched last June. Since then it has recorded over 1,200 contacts. Between in meetings in person, phone and video calls, the agency has had over 23,000 appointments during the pandemic.” The Journal went on to say “Jigsaw has seen a 50% increase in demand for its services in August this year, compared to August last year. There has also been an over 400% increase of traffic to its e-mental health platform over the last six months”

Save Dublin Zoo

With Covid-19 came the closure of many businesses including Dublin Zoo. It costs €500,000 a month to keep the zoo going. With no customers coming into the zoo it saw its debts rise substantially. In November 2020 Dublin Zoo launched their appeal called “Save Dublin Zoo” appealing to regular zoo goers to donate to the zoo, offering zoo apparel and other merchandise such as pencil cases and backpacks and the opportunity to ‘adopt an animal’. The appeal raised €2.7 million, speaking to RTE News Zoo director Christoph Schwitzer said “that while they are not home and dry just yet, the response to date has given Dublin zoo a vital lifeline and hope for 2021.”

St Vincent de Paul

Founded in 1844 SVDP is one of Ireland’s oldest and largest charities still going today. According to their website “Our focus is on a practical approach to dealing with poverty, alleviating its effects on individuals and families through working primarily in person-to-person contact by a unique system of family visitation and seeking to achieve social justice and equality of opportunity for all citizens.” By fighting poverty in all its forms SVDP helps its users by offering accommodation, food, clothing, resource centres and legal advice to those in poverty around Ireland. It has more than 180 shops where anyone can drop in clothes too. On Friday the 24th of May 2020, Majella and Daniel O’Donnell appeared on The Late Late Show to ask their viewers to donate to their service, which saw a huge impact due to Covid-19. Together the viewers raised over €1.1 million 

RTE Does Comic Relief

1.4 million people tuned in to RTÉ Does Comic Relief last Friday night for what was a jam-packed night of comedy, heart-warming moments and entertainment, raising over €5 million euro on the night.  It was a particular hit with younger audiences attracting a 48% share of 15 to 34-year olds. 

Viewership reached its peak at 9:40pm with 638,000 people tuning in, while donations peaked between 10pm and 11pm, with almost €11,000 coming in per minute (€10,916). 

The marathon four hour show which was a celebration of Irish creative talent was a massive hit with international audiences. It was watched on RTÉ Player in over 100 countries including Egypt, Thailand and Venezuela. RTÉ Does Comic Relief clips on RTÉ Player attracted almost 500,000 streams. 

Over on RTÉ’s social platforms, #RTEComicRelief videos generated 2.5million views across all RTÉ channels on Facebook, with Hozier, The Derry Girls and Jam Media’s animation of Christy Moore’s The Voyage being popular amongst users.

The Late Late Toy Show Appeal

On the 30th of November 2020 ‘The Late Late Toy Show’ launched the first ‘Toy Show Appeal’. The Toy Show, which is one of the most watched programs of the year, decided to work with The Community Foundation of Ireland to encourage viewers to donate during the show so that charities could raise much needed funds as their fundraising was impacted by Covid-19. During the show the website crashed due to too many viewers wanting to donate. Luckily Patrick Collinson, CEO of  Stripe stepped in and increased their backend system and donated €50,000 too. The show ended up raising €6.6 million for several different charities in Ireland. ,A record for an Irish TV show fundraising appeal.

Samaritans Ireland

Established in Ireland in 1961, Samaritans Ireland are “here, day or night, for anyone who’s struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure.” There are now 21 Samaritans branches across Ireland with more than 2000 active volunteers. The service which is 24/7, 365 days a year had to suspend its in person support services and also saw a huge increase in demand for their phone service. Throughout 2021 the organisation has been getting around 35,000 calls per month, though some people make multiple calls.  The Irish Times wrote in March 2021 “The organisation revealed today that their volunteers have listened to callers’s concerns for almost 73,000 hours since the pandemic began.”

Saoirse Ruane – The Late Late Toy Show Star

In 2019, then seven year old Saoirse was diagnosed with a Osteosarcoma tumour, a rare form of cancer, in her tibia which resulted in her doing chemotherapy and her leg being amputated. With the help of her parents Saoirse set up a gofundme page to cover the cost of her first and all future prosthetics she needs, until she reaches the age of 18. The fundraising including a virtual summerfest which was called ‘Saoirse’s Summerfect’ raised more than enough to cover the prosthetics, recovery and any modifications that would be needed to be made to the family home. Saoirse and her parents had to decide what charities to send the excess money to. Saoirse appeared on the Late Late Toy Show and took her first steps using her new prosthetic on the Toy Show. and was given the prize of a trip to DisneyLand. Saorise was the perfect person to launch The Toy Show Appeal,which along with other Toy Show stars like Adam King raised over €6.6 million for a number of charities in Ireland.

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