RNLI expects to lose millions after introducing communications opt-in policy

Forgoing its traditional fundraising tactics, the lifeboats charity will contact individuals only if they have expressly given their consent for the charity to do so

RNLI: opt-in strategy
RNLI: opt-in strategy

The RNLI is introducing an opt-in-only policy for its communications, which it predicts will lose the charity £36m in income over the next five years.

From 1 January 2017, the lifeboats charity will not contact individuals by phone, email or post unless they have actively given their consent for the charity to do so, a move which the RNLI says will cost it £35.6m between now and 2020 – equivalent to 19 per cent of the charity’s £190m income in 2014.

The review of fundraising self-regulation carried out by Sir Stuart Etherington recommended last month that all fundraising organisations should make a public commitment to adopt a system of "opt in" in their communications.

The RNLI, which generated an income of £190m in 2014, forecasts that the move to an opt-in system will result in a loss of about £11m – equivalent to about 6 per cent of its income – in 2016, falling to £4.4m in 2020 as the charity finds new ways of generating income.

Leesa Harwood, director of fundraising at the charity, said in a statement: "The RNLI is making this change because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We’ve always prided ourselves on our ethical approach to fundraising and the RNLI has been investigating how to reduce its reliance on direct marketing since late last year.

"Events such as the tragic death of Olive Cooke have made it clear that this kind of change is overdue, so we’ve accelerated our move to an opt-in fundraising system."

Harwood added that the charity understood that not all charities were in the same position as the RNLI and that an opt-in system was not an easy thing to adopt. She said the charity was keen to share what it learned with others and help other charities reassess their own permissions.

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