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RNLI’s early experiences of Bitcoin donations

RNLI’s early experiences of Bitcoin donations

In July this year the RNLI announced that it was the first UK charity to accept donations in digital currency Bitcoin. One month on, UK Fundraising asked about their early results and experiences.

We spoke to Luke Williams, Social Media Innovation Officer and Project Lead for the RNLI.

1. Why did decide to test acceptance of Bitcoin now?

The idea came from our own research into future trends and changes that may impact the RNLI. Basically, it looked likely that we would receive currency as a donation and/or as part of a legacy at some point and we wanted to be prepared for that eventuality. While researching we also became aware that using Bitcoin could expose the RNLI to new audiences.

2. Have you received Bitcoin donations or legacy pledges?

There have been over 140 donations, the largest being two separate donations of about £300 each. The average Bitcoin donation we receive at the moment is around £10.  No legacy pledges that I’m aware of, although we have had enquiries from supporters about using Bitcoin to pay for membership and buy things in our online shop – features that we don’t provide at the moment, but that we may look into providing in the future.

We have converted most of the donations so far – £1,300 – into sterling using a UK based exchange.

3. How do you expect to receive Bitcoin donations?

We’re accepting them using a wallet. This allows people to make entirely anonymous donations if they wish to, as most have, and are one-off gifts.

4. Are you in touch with other UK (or overseas) charities accepting Bitcoin?

I’ve already spoken to three other large UK charities who had been considering accepting donations in Bitcoin. All of them were aware of Bitcoin and were at varying stages in evaluating if it was right for their supporters.

5. Has the announcement bought you anything more than good PR? 

Actual donations! We’ve reached some new supporters and built some stronger knowledge-sharing relationships with other UK charities.

I think it’s also been really good to make some people think about how a 190 year old charity can also be innovative and forward thinking, as well as having a strong heritage in saving lives at sea.


Image: Bitcoin logo by Mom91 on


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Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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