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RNLI now accepts donations in digital currency

About the author

Image of Joanna Quinn

Joanna Quinn
Public Relations Officer

Lifeboats News Release

  • Date:
  • Author: Joanna Quinn

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution today announced the launch of a pilot scheme that will allow the charity to accept donations in Bitcoin.

The RNLI is the first major charity in the UK or Ireland to accept Bitcoin, which is a form of digital currency.

Unlike conventional currencies, Bitcoins aren’t printed or minted – they don’t physically exist and are not controlled by a bank or government. Instead they are created and held electronically, allowing users to conduct transactions over the internet. They form part of a growing category of money known as ‘cryptocurrency’.

The RNLI has chosen to receive Bitcoin donations via a dedicated page (RNLI.org/Bitcoin). The charity says that if the scheme is successful it may look at integrating Bitcoin into its standard donation pages.

Leesa Harwood, RNLI Deputy Director of Fundraising and Communications, said: “The RNLI has a history of innovation in fundraising, holding the first street collection in 1891. Bitcoin is an innovative new kind of currency and we believe that accepting Bitcoin will result in donations we may not otherwise receive, as well as connecting us with new types of supporters.”

Leesa added: “From our research into future trends, it looked likely that we would receive digital currency as a donation or as part of a legacy at some point and we wanted to be prepared for that eventuality. So a project team was founded to look at the feasibility of accepting Bitcoin, which has led to the pilot scheme we are launching today.

“We want to lead the way in accepting and benefiting from all forms of digital currency, so we’re running this scheme to allow our supporters to donate Bitcoins through a secure online system. We’ve chosen Bitcoin as it is an established and widely recognised digital currency.

“This is a pilot scheme and we are looking forward to seeing how it will proceed as part of our interest in cryptocurrencies and how they may work in the future. We will of course closely monitor how much money is donated. We already have safeguards in place to monitor donations, however we receive them.”

The number of businesses and organisations that accept Bitcoins is slowly growing and includes Expedia, the travel company; Dell, the computer retailer, and Cumbria University.

Notes to editors:

• Attached is a photograph of Leesa Harwood, RNLI Deputy Director of Fundraising and Communications

• The RNLI has no plans at present to accept Bitcoin in any of our shops, museums, online at RNLIshop.org or in the facilities at the RNLI college.

• The ability to accept Bitcoin is additional to all other existing online donation mechanisms and the RNLI has not budgeted for any specific amount. The RNLI will closely monitor how much money is donated.

• The RNLI looked at the maturity of the ecosystem and providers, price volatility, technical integration and security risks around Bitcoin in making this decision.

• The RNLI bitcoin page is: http://RNLI.org/bitcoin  

For more information contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789/ pressoffice@rnli.org.uk

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Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland from 237 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.


The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland