RNLI fundraised income increases due to boost in legacy gifts

Lifeboat charity experiences a rise in legacy income but a fall in other forms of fundraising

A rise in legacy income at the RNLI over the past three years has compensated for a drop in other forms of donations to the charity, analysis by Third Sector has found. 

The lifeboats charity had fundraised income of £184.7m in 2017, up from £175m in 2015, a rise of 5.5 per cent. 

But this increase was accounted for by a 14 per cent rise in the value of legacy gifts to the charity, from £118.5m to £135.1m across the three years. Over the same period, other forms of fundraising fell by 12.2 per cent, from £56.5m to £49.6m.

This mirrors a trend identified by Third Sector analysis of the top-10 fundraising charities, including the RNLI, which found that, although overall donations had grown in the past three years on average, legacy growth had masked the fact that other forms of donations were stalling or dropping.

In its most recently available annual report, for 2017, the RNLI suggested that in its case the fall in fundraised income was primarily the result of its decision to move to opt-in-only for all of its communications with donors.

But it said there had been a £4m reduction in the charity’s fundraising and marketing costs because it was sending fewer communications to donors after completing the opt-in project. 

The charity told Third Sector that its income from fundraising events had risen slightly since 2015, from £16.4m to £16.7m, and the response it was receiving to marketing appeals was recovering, having dropped from £8.4m in 2015 to £4.8m in 2016, before climbing to £6.5m in 2017.

The 2017 annual report said that net income had been supported by a 62 per cent increase in trading income since 2016, to £5.5m, which it said was due to the charity increasing the number of lotteries it ran over the year. 

"Following two years of declining income from donations and trading income – primarily resulting from our opt-in activities – it is good to report that this year’s combined total is in line with 2016 levels," the report said. 

"This continuing generosity from our supporters allows us to spend more on protecting those who save lives and spend more on saving people’s lives."

Full analysis of trends in legacy and non-legacy giving can be found in the latest edition of Third Sector magazine, out now.

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