Roy­al Nation­al Lifeboat Insti­tu­tion RNLI: Lifeboat Launch SMS alerts 

Exhibited by
May 17, 2016
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Community & social services, public / society benefit.
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

An innovative use of technology to demonstrate to a donor the importance of the RNLI's lifesaving work. This insightful use of channel shares authentic information in real time with donors whilst demonstrating the commitment and bravery of lifeboat crews. 


The Royal National Lifeboats Institution (RNLI) is a charity that exists to save lives at sea. Founded in 1824, they provide an on-call 24-hour lifeboat service around the UK and Ireland. Lifeboat crews can get called out up to 23 times every single day, with the crews continuously risking their own lives to save others; 140,000 others is a conservative estimate. 

The RNLI has put their lifeboat crews at the centre of their appeals messages. They are the real heroes. The Lifeboat Launch SMS alerts product has evolved fundraising communications with this insightful use of technology to successfully communicate the crew’s story by alerting donors to launches in real-time. 

The text message service raises funds by alerting supporters every time their local lifeboat goes out. The RNLI receives a portion of the fee charged for the SMS alerts, which are triggered by the same pager system that summons a lifeboat's volunteer crew members. People who sign up to the service can choose when to receive alerts and which lifeboat stations they want to follow. They can also set a limit on how many texts they receive, how much they would like to pay for each message and their maximum weekly spend.

It’s such a simple mechanic. The RNLI have found a way to show donors, at that very moment, that they are doing the work their donations pay for.


  • It lets donors stay in touch wherever they are.
  • It is triggered by the same pager system that notifies the crew members.
  • Donors can control when and how many texts they receive (unlike the crew members).
  • Donors can choose which lifeboat station to follow.
  • Donors are able to choose how much they want to give at a minimum of 25p for each text alert or up to a maximum amount.

Final notes

We all have a mobile phone, they’re always close-by and SMS are read pretty much immediately. This innovative and insightful use of the channel gives donors authentic information in real time whilst demonstrating the commitment and bravery of the crew. Donors have both a rational and emotional reason to donate and it ensures their connection to the charity.

This is perfect bite-sized stewardship content.

RNLI lifeboat launch SMS alert was presented at IWITOT London 2015.

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RNLI lifeboat crew members are the real heroes and their story has been used to fundraise with ads such as this.
The same system that logs the launch on the crew’s pager triggers a text message.
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Donors can choose which lifeboat station to follow
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Donors can choose when and how many texts to receive and the amount they want to give.
Donors get a message straight through to their phone, showing the station, the exact time and a thank you.