The RNLI is planning to make efficiency savings worth £20m a year by the end of 2013, according to Paul Boissier, its chief executive.
Boissier told Third Sector that the charity, which had a turnover of £164m last year, had already identified £13m of the savings, although many of them had not yet been put into effect.
Money saved in bureaucracy would be spent on new and improved lifeboats, and on developing investment and innovation, he said. The savings have resulted in 25 redundancies out of 1,350 employees.
The charity put several groups of people running services in different areas "into a room for a week" and asked them to identify ways of increasing efficiency, said Boissier.
One area where savings have been made is lifeboat maintenance. The RNLI previously carried out maintenance at fixed times, so it ended up replacing expensive components that had not worn out because it was felt they might wear out before the next inspection.
"Now we replace these components when they need to be replaced, and this has saved a lot of money," he said.
Another area is the recruitment of 1,000 temporary lifeguards for beaches, which the charity does each summer. Boissier said that bureaucracy in this process had been reduced by 80 per cent.
He said the charity had also opened up another, "non-traditional" volunteering arm for people with specialist skills.
"Recently we had a lawyer come to us and say ‘I want to volunteer my services as a lawyer’," he said. "We realised we weren’t really set up to do that, so we have opened up this new area."
The charity has recruited 128 volunteers through the programme so far this year, he said, and aims to bring in 250 next year.
Volunteers have included an environmental researcher, an international strategy expert, a historical researcher looking into the story of the charity’s founder and a pianist who played at the Lifeboat College, the RNLI’s training venue.
"This is niche work where you don’t need people for that long," he said. "If you’ve got a skill and you want to use it, try us."
Read our interview with Paul Boissier