Advice for safe and legal fundraising

Your safety, and that of all the caring fundraisers like you in the RNLI family, is our priority. Not only when you’re enjoying the water, but when you’re raising money too. This handy checklist for safe and legal fundraising will help you dot the i’s, cross the t’s and keep the fun in your fundraising. 

An RNLI crew member standing with three fundraisers on a sandy beach with the sea in the background

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

As long as it’s safe and legal, you can do whatever you want to raise money for the RNLI. The sea’s your limit!

Running a tight ship

Thank you for helping to save lives at sea. Being a fundraiser makes you a lifesaver and a vital part of the crew. And, like with any crew member, you must help to run a tight ship to comply with regulations and, most importantly, to keep yourselves and those around you safe.  

It’s your responsibility to ensure your fundraising event runs safely and lawfully, and that you obtain any necessary licences, permits or consents for your event or activity. The RNLI cannot accept liability for accidents or damage, even when that event or activity is run to raise money for the charity. 

You should find everything you need to make your fundraising event a success right here. But if you do have any queries or concerns about safe and legal fundraising, our Supporter Experience Team are always happy to help. Call 0300 300 9908 (if calling from the UK), 1800 844 439 (if calling from Ireland) or email [email protected].

Fundraising during Covid-19 
Please ensure that you always refer to the latest government guidance on Covid-19 in your area when planning or taking part in an RNLI fundraising event. Most importantly, stay safe.

Charity fundraising is regulated by law and there are fundraising codes of practice you must follow if relevant to your event or activity. 

You'll find a lot of useful information about charity fundraising in your area on the following websites, including the latest advice for fundraising during the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you’re keeping any electronic or paper records about people involved in a fundraising event, you must make sure you comply with data protection law. Please consider the following:

  • Don’t collect information that you do not need.
  • Don’t keep information about people any longer than you have to.
  • Don't share information or data about someone without their permission. 

You can find more guidance on dealing with data on the following websites.

Public collections 

If your collection is going to take place in a public space, you must obtain a licence from the local authority. Sometimes there are restrictions on how many licences a local authority will grant an organisation each year. To ensure there is not already an organised RNLI collection in your area, please contact our Supporter Experience Team on 0300 300 9908 (if calling from the UK), 1800 844 439 (if calling from Ireland) or email [email protected]. They can put you in touch with the relevant RNLI Community Manager who can advise you. The team can also provide branded cardboard collection boxes so people can be confident you are legitimately collecting for the RNLI.

You’ll also need to check whether you require Public Liability Insurance for your collection, as some local authorities will ask for this to be in place in addition to the licence.

Private collections 

Collections that take place on private premises do not need permission from the local authority. However, you will require permission from the premises owner before any fundraising activity takes place. Again, they may also require you to have Public Liability Insurance, so always check with them when you are getting permissions in place.

Door-to-door collections 

The RNLI always works to keep its fundraising activities in line with industry trends and fundraising policies, and assesses which forms of fundraising are performing best for the charity. We are not currently encouraging door-to-door fundraising as of 2022.

Handling cash

It’s important to have plans in place to stay safe when handling cash. If you’re collecting or taking payments, please use a sealed collection box or bucket, or a lockable cash box to ensure that cash is secured.

It’s strongly advisable to have two people available to count and transport cash and take it to a bank as soon as possible after the event. Always try to conceal cash when you are transporting it and travel using the safest route possible. If you’re approached by someone attempting to steal the cash, never put up a fight. Please just hand over the cash and report the crime to the police as soon as possible.

If you intend to have catering at your fundraising event, it’s extremely important to follow the rules for the safe handling of food. There are some basic guidelines you can follow for the safe preparation, storage, and cooking of food. It is also good practice to label food for the benefit of allergy sufferers and people with specific dietary requirements.

Food safety guidelines can be found on the following websites.

If you’re using a professional caterer, you should check that they have Public Liability Insurance in place and are certified in the safe handling of food.

Depending on the kind of activity you’re doing, you may need to include first aid cover at your fundraising event. There are lots of factors that will determine this like the number of people attending or whether it’s a high-risk activity such as running or swimming. A good place to start is by writing your risk assessment and identifying any risks. 

There are lots of companies that can provide first aid cover at your event. We recommend that you search online for ‘first aid cover’ and you’ll see there are plenty to choose from. It’s advisable to look out for their credentials, for example are they endorsed by the Quality Care Commission? Many of them have a risk calculator on their website so you can do a quick assessment to see what cover you might need.

If you’re using a venue for your event, check what first aid cover they provide in-house as it may be that you do not need any additional cover. If additional cover is needed, the venue may have a contact they use who is already familiar with the venue and will save you doing the research yourself. 

If you’re organising your own fundraising event in aid of the RNLI, you may need to arrange Public Liability Insurance. This will help protect you against claims made by third parties for injury or property damage as a result of negligence. Please remember that the RNLI does not have any liability for the event, related accidents, damage, or any losses, even when the event is run to raise money for the charity.

When hiring a venue, insurance will often be included in the hire fee, however we recommend that you always check this with the venue before proceeding. We also recommend that you check whether any equipment you’ve hired is also covered. 

For private events, insurance may not be necessary. But please always seek advice from a reputable insurance provider if you’re unsure.

Some fundraising event activities require a licence to take place. Listed below are some popular event activities that require licensing, along with links to the websites where you can get further information and make licence applications.

Music licensing

If you’re intending to play live or recorded music, you may need a licence. 

Alcohol licensing

If you’re serving alcohol, you may need to apply for a licence if your chosen venue doesn’t already have one in place. Licences differ depending on where you are based and how many people are attending your event.

  • For England and Wales, you may need to purchase a Temporary Events Notice via your local authority. 
  • For Scotland and Northern Ireland, you may need an Occasional Licence via your local authority. For the Republic of Ireland, applications for an Occasional Licence are made via the VFI Pubs of Ireland website.
  • For the Isle of Man, you’ll need to apply to The Licensing Courts.
  • For the Channel Islands:
    In Guernsey, you may need to apply for an Occasional Licence to support fundraising activity via the States of Guernsey.
    In Jersey and Alderney, if holding an event outside of a licensed premises, you’ll need to arrange with an existing licence holder a temporary transfer of their licence to your chosen venue.

Raffles and auctions

Raffles and auctions are a great way to raise money, but have strict laws relating to them and will often require a licence. Please check with your local authority to find out how to make an application.


Any materials promoting or supporting your fundraising event in aid of the RNLI must display the specific ‘fundraising in aid of’ logo. Please get in touch with our Supporter Experience Team to register your event and they will be pleased to provide you with a request form to fill out in order to obtain permission for using the logo. You can drop them an email at [email protected]

Promotional materials

If you’d like any promotional materials such as poster templates, social media banners and even training plans, you can download these and more from our fundraising resources page.

Photography and film

If you’re intending to take photos or shoot video to publicise your event, you’ll need to notify attendees by displaying a clear notice stating that you’ll be taking photographs/recording the event. Specify how people who do not wish to be filmed or have their photo taken can notify you of this.

It’s important to write a risk assessment for your event in order to:

  • identify any hazards
  • and put in place control measures to reduce and manage the risk to anyone working on, taking part in or attending the event.

Completing a risk assessment is best practice for anyone organising an event. The form will demonstrate that you’ve put thought into any risks associated with your activity and done everything that you can to make the event as safe as possible should an incident take place.

For guidance on how to complete a risk assessment, visit one of the following websites:

Don’t forget to make sure that everyone involved with your event is aware of any potential risks and of any special requirements for taking part, such as fitness levels, training or specialist equipment needed.

Please note

The RNLI cannot accept responsibility for the safe conduct of your fundraising event activities. As the organiser, you must ensure that the necessary steps are taken to protect the health and safety of activity participants and spectators, including carrying out all necessary risk assessments, providing all necessary safety equipment and the supervision of participants and spectators.

The RNLI has the right to refuse/advise against your fundraising event if we deem it to be too high risk, a potential risk to our reputation or against our core values.

It’s important that you consider the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults, whether they be spectators or participants at your event. Part of this will be making sure that your event is well supervised, taking particular care if children are involved.

If a child or vulnerable adult wants to take part in your event, ensure that you have written permission from a parent or guardian.

For more information on the RNLI’s safeguarding policy, please see our safeguarding page.

If your fundraising event requires the use of external suppliers for any services or equipment, it’s important to ensure you use a credible company. You can ask to see their risk assessments, method statements and a copy of their Public Liability Insurance in advance. If you’re unhappy with the quality of their safety standards or methods, you should consider looking for an alternative supplier.

More information on best practice when using contractors can be found on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.