In an effort to reduce global drowning, the UK & Ireland’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) shares its knowledge and experience and works with organisations around the world who deliver search and rescue and other drowning prevention services.

Fundamental to sustaining the delivery of lifesaving services is a solid funding base.

Recent research undertaken by the RNLI, and shared at its annual Future Leaders in Lifesaving training course, reveals the diverse fundraising approaches employed by lifesaving organisations around the world and how they are influenced by different contexts.

For example, legacy fundraising (leaving a charitable gift in a will) – which accounts for 60% of the RNLI’s income, is an uncommon concept outside of the UK and particularly in developing countries.

The 25 organisations which responded to the research questionnaire were from 22 countries spanning five continents.

They included 18 non-governmental organisations (NGO), five government departments and two commercial organisations. Key services offered by respondents include maritime search and rescue (11), lifeguarding (8), swimming teaching and water safety education (7) and public awareness and advocacy (6).


Key Findings

•  50% of respondents employ a dedicated fundraiser (full or part time);
all but three organisations have a Board of Directors who support their donor research, engagement and proposal/report writing;
of the 18 NGOs, 5 receive funding from national or local government and 4 from overseas governments;
over half (15) organisations, both government and NGOs, generate income through delivering training courses;
11 organisations (2 government) receive income from sponsorship/advertising;
less than a quarter of organisations are making use of social media (e.g. Facebook).


Other Sources of Funding Include

Corporate Engagement 14
Public Donations 6
International Trusts 5
Fundraising Events 5
Online Appeals 4
Retail Products 3
National Trusts/Fundations  1

Corporate engagement ranges from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funding to corporate sponsorship and advertising. Retail products include t-shirts, key rings, calendars, bags and equipment such as swimming caps. These are sold via local shops or directly to the public. It was also interesting to note other income-generating activities including animal rescue and membership fees.

Some organisations identify online and multi-media fundraising campaigns as well as more corporate engagement as future fundraising opportunities for them.

Commercial opportunities, e.g. through the delivery of training to other government and non-government organisations is also seen as having income generating potential for others. The main fundraising challenges are described as lack of 'giving culture', economic environment, competition for resources, visibility and profile, donor funding priorities and fundraising skills and experience.

For more information, please contact Alison Gordon, Head of International Funding at [email protected]. The RNLI is producing a fundraising manual which it will make freely available on its website in due course and we will share the link in a future edition of LIFE LINE. There are also many good and free fundraising resources, blogs, discussion forums and reports at