The RNLI has reported a £5m drop in annual donations following its move to opt-in only communications - a fall of around 10 per cent.
The RNLI annual report and accounts for the financial year ending December 2016, published on its website, show that donations fell from £56.5m to £51.5m.
The charity said the fall was “significant” but was less than expected and was offset by an increase in income elsewhere.
The charity said: “Donations have reduced substantially as a result of stopping certain activities – for example, we had to temporarily suspend our Lifeboat Lottery – while we determined how our supporters want to be contacted.”
RNLI was one of the first charities to adopt an opt-in only approach, meaning it got in touch with all its supporters and asked them if they were happy to continue to be contacted.
It said it had expected donations to fall and that “we had actually planned for an even greater fall”.
“The decision to move to opt-in supporter communication is a clear statement that the RNLI remains committed to meeting its supporters’ expectations by acting ethically,” it said. “We believe that this approach has led to us having – and retaining – one of the highest levels of donor and supporter trust within the charity sector.”
Total income increased
Total income increased by £7.8m to nearly £195m, with legacy income increasing by £12m.
Legacy income accounts for the vast majority of the charity's income and was £130m.
RNLI said its overall financial position remained healthy, with 12 months’ worth of charitable expenditure available in free reserves.
It had an expenditure of £179.4m, with £147.8m going towards charitable activities.
Investing in technology
In 2016 the charity launched a new website, which it hopes will make it easier for people to access information.
“This is vital, because we’re now able to show our impact more easily by sharing great stories to new and existing audiences,” the report said.
It has also opted for new software from Microsoft Dymanics AX to replace a 15-year old system and “provide the digital backbone of the future”.
RNLI said this “makes the everyday running of the charity more efficient – from service returns to warehousing, and from the management of equipment maintenance to the staff payroll”.