Volunteering FAQs

Find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about volunteering for the RNLI.
RNLI Community Safety Volunteer Bill Walton giving advice at Southampton Boat Show

Photo: RNLI / Nathan Williams

RNLI Community Safety Volunteer Bill Walton giving advice at Southampton Boat Show

Who can volunteer? 

We welcome anyone who is committed to the charity’s purpose of saving lives at sea.

A wide range of people from many different backgrounds volunteer for us - we have volunteers who are in education, working, unemployed, retired, and from diverse community backgrounds.

You can volunteer with the RNLI from the age of 13. As a charity we are committed to ensuring equality of opportunity for everyone who wants to volunteer with us. Whatever your skills and wherever you are in the UK and Ireland, we aim to find an RNLI volunteer role for you! 

What will I get out of volunteering with the RNLI?

Giving your time, knowledge and skills can make an amazing difference no matter what type of volunteer role you choose to take on; from fundraising in your local community, taking on a support role or being part of the lifeboat crew.  

Volunteering with the RNLI will not only give you the opportunity to have fun and make new friends, you will be making a measurable difference to the charity’s purpose of saving lives at sea. If that’s not motivation enough, you could also be gaining valuable work experience and new skills to add to your CV.

Why does the RNLI need volunteers? 

Without our volunteers the RNLI simply would not be able to operate the way it does today. We rely on over 35,000 dedicated volunteers in over 100 different roles and over 95% of our people are volunteers. They contribute their time, energy and skills to support the RNLI and to help save lives at sea.

What can I do?

Many people know about our volunteer lifeboat crew, covering our coastal stations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And about our lifeguards keeping people safe at our beaches.

They may also know of the sterling efforts of our fundraisers, committed to raising the funds to enable them to carry out these lifesaving roles, but there are so many more volunteer roles.

The RNLI strives to prevent accidents on the water and our community safety volunteers are crucial in helping to raise awareness and spread safety messages.

Our youth education volunteers play a huge part in igniting young peoples’ interest in our charity. Adult presenters and tour guides promote the RNLI, encouraging more people to get involved and support the charity in a number of ways. And an increasing number of volunteers offer their skills within an office environment ranging from administration to project-related roles.

Find a volunteering role for you 

How much time do I have to give or commit?

As much or as little as you choose. The RNLI has a wide range of volunteering options available to suit most people’s work/life commitments - some volunteers help regularly and others once in a while.  Some roles require specific time commitments and these are clearly stated in the role description.

What skills do I need to volunteer?

This will depend, to some extent, on the type of volunteer role, but whatever your skills and wherever you are in the UK and Ireland, we aim to find an RNLI volunteer role for you!

Many of our volunteer roles do not require you to have any experience or specialist skills, just your time, energy and enthusiasm and a commitment to the cause of the RNLI. Some of our volunteering opportunities require you to have particular skills, but these will be clearly stated in the role description.

What training and support will be given?

As well as receiving a warm welcome into the RNLI you will receive a full induction and any relevant training upon commencement of your volunteer role. It is important to us that you receive all the information you need to ensure you have a successful and positive experience as an RNLI volunteer.

Guidance and support is available to all volunteers from your RNLI point of contact/volunteer manager.  The level of training depends on the volunteer role and its specific competencies as outlined in the volunteer role description. Training to become lifeboat crew or a volunteer lifeguard is different to what’s required to volunteer in an RNLI shop, for example. We also have an online learning system which provides access to personal and skills development, training and learning for all volunteers.

Where can I volunteer?

Throughout the UK and Ireland the RNLI needs volunteers. Our lifeboats cover 19,000 miles of coastline, across 238 lifeboat stations. Our lifeboat crew and lifeboat station volunteers are supported by a wide range of additional volunteers who help raise vital funds and awareness throughout the country - both inland and by the coast. There are many other roles you can carry out in your local area or even from home.

I am currently receiving benefits.  Can I still volunteer?

Yes. Volunteering does not affect the benefit payments you receive. However it is important to let your benefits adviser know you're volunteering. People claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA) can volunteer as long as they remain available for work and are actively seeking paid employment.

Can I claim expenses for volunteering?

Volunteers are not paid for their time, but are entitled to be reimbursed for their travel and other legitimate expenses.

How do I apply and who can I contact about volunteering for the RNLI?

Have a look at our current volunteering vacancies on our recruitment site.

If you can’t find a volunteer opportunity to suit you and you would like to express your interest in volunteering for the RNLI, or you have an enquiry about volunteering, then please contact our Volunteering Team. The team is available Monday-Friday 8am-4pm and look forward to hearing from you!

Online: Fill in our enquiry form

Telephone: 01202 663346 (UK) / 01 895 1831 (Ireland)

Email: volunteering@rnli.org.uk