The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. Powered primarily by kind donations, our search and rescue service has been saving lives for nearly 200 years.

We are a charity founded upon and driven by our values of selflessness, courage, dependability and trustworthiness, with volunteers at our heart. Values shared by generations of supporters like you who have powered our lifesaving work through your kindness and generosity for almost 200 years. 

Volunteers make up 95% of our organisation - ordinary people doing extraordinary things - supported by expert staff, all working together to help communities at home and abroad save lives.

Hunstanton crew onboard their Self Righting class lifeboat, Licensed Victualler, as she sits on her horse-drawn carriage on the beach. Circa 1900-1931.

Photo: RNLI

Hunstanton crew onboard their Self Righting class lifeboat.

Our history

The RNLI was set up in 1824 after our founder, Sir William Hillary, decided to take action to try and stop the loss of life to shipwreck around our coasts. Since then, over 143,000 lives have been saved. Take a look back through our history and read some of the incredible tales of courage that are a key part of who we are as a charity.

1824 The year the RNLI was founded

95% of RNLI people are volunteers

143,900+ lives saved since formation

408 lives saved in 2021

Swanage RNLI’s Shannon class lifeboat, George Thomas Lacy 13-13, at sea.

Photo: Steve Lowe

Swanage RNLI’s Shannon class lifeboat, George Thomas Lacy 13-13, at sea.

How the RNLI is run

The RNLI relies on thousands of dedicated volunteers to run our lifesaving service. Separate from the coastguard and independent of government, we are a charity with one aim – to save every one.

We are one crew image of different face shots of RNLI volunteers and staff

Our people

Trustworthy, courageous, dedicated. The RNLI is made up of dedicated people who are working to make the waters around the UK and Ireland a safer place. From the volunteers who launch and crew the lifeboats, run the shops and raise funds, to the staff who support them, we are working as one crew to save lives at sea.

Learn more about how the RNLI is run

Hunstanton crew onboard their Self Righting class lifeboat, Licensed Victualler, as she sits on her horse-drawn carriage on the beach. Circa 1900-1931.
Our history
Since 1824 we've pioneered developments in lifesaving at sea. And our lifesavers have shown unfailing courage and selflessness.
Delve into our history
Swanage RNLI’s Shannon class lifeboat, George Thomas Lacy 13-13, at sea.
How the RNLI is run
We are separate from coastguards, independent of government and rely on our volunteers and supporters to run our lifesaving service.
How the RNLI is run
We are one crew image of different face shots of RNLI volunteers and staff
Our people
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things are at the heart of the RNLI.
Our people
Working together: lifeboat crew member and lifeguard help a swimmer to shore.
Our strategy
Working together with partners and communities, we aim to educate, influence, supervise and rescue those at risk from drowning.
Our strategy
Launch and recovery excercise of the Dungeness Shannon class lifeboat The Morrell 13-02
Our research

Finding new ways to save lives through innovation, data analysis, and new technology.

Our research
RNLI lifeboat volunteers and an RNLI lifeguard standing on the beach at Tenby with Tenby’s Tamar class all-weather lifeboat on the slipway in the background
Sustainability
At the RNLI, we recognise that we must all play our part, no matter how big or small, to ensure a more sustainable future for all. And so that, together, we can save lives for generations to come.
Sustainability
Three crew members standing on the sand next to the Tenby Lifeboat Station slipway.
Jobs at the RNLI
Put your skills to good use and make a lifesaving difference. Take a look at our volunteering and job opportunities.
Visit our job site
Male crew member looks to camera and is smiling
Contact us
Thank you for choosing to contact us at the RNLI. Here you’ll find the different ways you can contact us depending on your enquiry, including general RNLI address, RNLI phone number and RNLI email address details.
Contact us