Where your money goes

We’re committed to being one of the most efficient charities in the UK and Ireland. As a charity, separate from the coastguard and independent from government, we are reliant on voluntary donations to power our lifesaving work. And, as one of the most efficient charities, we have a duty to make sure you understand how we use the money you generously donate and the percentage of your donation that goes to charity.
RNLI Welly filled with coins on the beach

Photo: RNLI / Nigel Millard

Your money saves lives in so many ways

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our charity, making up 95% of RNLI people. They give their time for free. But giving them everything they need, and deserve, to save lives at sea is costly.

Your money helps our lifeboat crews save lives quickly, safely and effectively

There are over 5,500 volunteer crew members and over 3,500 volunteer shore crew at 238 lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland. They all rely on training, kit, rescue equipment, lifeboats and lifeboat stations to save lives at sea.

Your money helps our lifeguards prevent accidents before they happen and respond instantly when they do

Working alongside our volunteer lifeboat crews every summer are over 1,500 seasonal beach lifeguards. They patrol 248 beaches across the UK and Channel Islands and rely on training, kit, rescue equipment and lifeguard units to save lives.

This year, we are unable to have as many lifeguard patrols as usual. To find out how you can safely enjoy your visit to the coast, go to our beach safety page.

Your money helps our volunteers educate, raise awareness and keep people safe

Supporting our lifeboat crews and lifeguards are thousands of community volunteers - including water safety, youth education, fundraising, shop and heritage volunteers - who rely on training and materials to raise awareness and money.

Your money helps us run a tight ship

All of our frontline volunteers are supported behind the scenes by teams of expert volunteers and staff, including engineers, boat builders, trainers, supporter carers, marketeers, press officers, IT technicians, HR advisers and more, all working as one RNLI crew to save lives at sea.

So, what percentage of donations go to charity?

For every £1/€1 donated, 87% (87p/87c) is used to fund our lifesaving activities. The remaining 13% (13p/13c) is used to generate funds so that we can continue to save lives at sea for years to come.

It cost £181.5M/€213.5M to run our lifesaving service in 2019. These running costs were divided up into the following areas:

Lifesaving area Percentage Cost for every £1/€1 spent
Lifeboats, property and equipment 49% 49p/49c
Running the lifeboat service 32% 32p/32c
Lifeguard rescue 11% 11p/11c
Safety, education and awareness 6% 6p/6c
International drowning prevention 2% 2p/2c

Repair, renew, rebuild - our capital expenditure

Much of our income is used to keep our lifeboat crews ready for the next call for help. This includes constructing new lifeboats and the buildings which will house, protect and launch them. This spending is a vital investment in the future.

In 2019 our Solar PV installations delivered savings of £38,000 and earned £104,800 in tariffs. Alongside the solar generation we now have 30 heat pumps installed, which have delivered savings of £48,750.

What makes the RNLI one of the most efficient charities?

We make your generosity work harder

As a charity, we know only too well how much effort and thought goes in to raising every pound or euro which comes our way. And what a lifesaving difference every single pound and euro can make. That’s why we’re committed to being one of the most efficient charities by using funds in the most effective and efficient ways possible.

When you make a donation to the RNLI, 87% of your donation is spent wherever the need is greatest, unless you have donated to a specific RNLI appeal.

Being efficient with your donations will help us weather the storm

Right now, that need lies with our lifeboat crews who are still on call 24/7, ready and willing to save lives. All the while our income is falling during one of the toughest times the world has ever faced.

The health crisis has hit our income hard. Lockdown halted the fundraising events we rely on to power our lifesaving service. But our lifeboat crews still need protective crew kit and fuel to launch their lifeboats. And their lifeboat stations and lifeboats still need to be maintained and repaired. With your support, they’ll always be ready, right now and in the future. 

Every £1/€1 you donate will help them weather the storm and make a lifesaving difference. Not only to the people we rescue and their loved ones, but to the crew and their families too. And means we will be there for you and yours for generations to come.

Want to delve deeper into the numbers?

See our 2019 Annual Report and Accounts and learn more about the difference your support makes.