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RNLI Branch Chair Chris Copeland

You don’t have to live by the sea to raise funds for the RNLI, as fundraising volunteer Chris Copeland explains.

Fundraising Volunteer Chris Copeland with lifeboats in the background wearing his fundraising volunteer crew polo shirt

RNLI/Nathan Williams

What do you get out of volunteering?

I get tremendous satisfaction from knowing that my RNLI branch in Sherborne has raised funds that are helping to save lives at sea. I’ve made new friends. I have a small committee – we all get on well. It’s just a great little community.

What’s the biggest challenge?

You never know when you might need rescuing by the RNLI – it doesn’t matter whether you live by the coast or you’re just visiting. Fundraising 40 miles inland can be challenging at times, but it’s every bit as relevant and important as in seaside communities.

What sort of events do you organise?

In addition to street collections, we also hold annual garden parties and fish suppers. And we have a committee chair who jumps out of an aeroplane and persuades others to do the same (that’s me!). I’ve helped raise £84,000 from sponsored tandem skydiving jumps so far, and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon – I’m planning my 800th jump to celebrate my 80th birthday next year.

Did you have any doubts about becoming branch chair?

A few doubts, yes. I remember asking myself ‘Am I going to be any good?’ and ‘How much work is involved?’ I needn’t have worried. I get lots of support from the RNLI and my committee are all totally dedicated. I couldn’t do without them.

What sort of support do you get?

The RNLI provides lots of practical help for our fundraising events. Things like gazebos, information to hand out to passers-by and - most important of all - yellow welly stickers for people who donate!

How much time does it take up?

As chair, I have to be prepared to put the time in and support the rest of my team. But you don’t need to be on the fundraising committee to be a fundraising volunteer. For our annual street collection, for instance, the more people who come and help the better – we never have enough. Extra volunteers are always very welcome.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about volunteering but isn’t sure?

I’d say if you’re not sure, just give it a go and see how you get on. You don’t need any previous fundraising experience because there’s plenty of help at hand. If things don’t work out or it’s just not right for you, you can stop at any time or try another role.