Charity sheds half a million supporters to boost public confidence

Rnli lifeboat station cropped

New opt-in system will see RNLI lose half a million contacts - and could  cost it £35m

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22nd November 2016 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

A major charity has admitted it will lose half a million supporters as it pursues a new fundraising strategy.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) admits it is playing a high risk game by adopting an opt-in supporter system, but it insist it will pay off in the end.

It is transitioning to a system whereby supporters will have to specifically sign up to receive contacts, including fundraising requests.

You only get one shot at moving to opt-in, so beware

Most charities operate an opt-out model, where contacts are automatically added to a list on a database unless they request to be removed.

It is thought the RNLI is the first major charity to move to an opt-in system.

The RNLI last year admitted it stands to lose more than £35 million over five years pursuing the strategy.

But it insists it is worth it to increase public confidence and ultimately increase the value of donations.

The charity made the move in light of fundraising scandals which have plagued the sector, primarily in England and Wales following the Olive Cooke case.

This week it admitted it is likely to lose contact with a huge number of people

Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising’s Individual Giving Conference in London, Tim Willett, the RNLI’s head of fundraising, said: “We are likely to lose touch with over 500,000 valued supporters. That’s very difficult for me to live with. I know that these people have supported us in the past and, ultimately, they’d like to have supported us in the future.”

“Some of those 500,000 who have been very vocal and told us they will not support us. It’s great to see though, because this move to opt-in was all about choice. It was about giving control back to our supporters, and about telling us why they wouldn’t support us in the future.” 

However, he warned other charities thinking of moving opt-it to be wary.

It’s a long-term transition and requires a specific degree of financial health to manage it.

He said: “You only get one shot at moving to opt-in, so beware”.

Willett said the RNLI now has 400,000 opted-in supporters, a figure well ahead of its 225,000 target by this stage in the process.

He added: “We’re going to have to create a new world of fundraising, but it shouldn’t be just about recreating the old world.

"This is not about just growing another large database of opted-in supporters. We have to be aware that we’re creating a new future and that’s hard and difficult and, for the moment, it’s undefined.”