The Dorset-based RNLI has issued a distress call of its own after it announced a £6 million shortfall in its funding.

The charity, which is Britain's biggest volunteer rescue organisation, has launched Perfect Storm to raise £1.8 million and recruit 12,000 new supporters.

The appeal will include letters and emails being sent to all RNLI supporters, and to an additional five million UK and Irish households, along with direct response TV and radio advertising. It is the first time over a decade that the charity has used TV advertising as a component of a major fundraising campaign.

The appeal is being launched in response to some major challenges the charity is facing. In 2018, the RNLI had a £6.3million shortfall in funds. Its legacy income fell for the first time in five years, by £8.5 million. Its investments also reduced by around £10 million due to a challenging economic climate, but its spending increased by £4.5 million.

In the meantime, the charity’s volunteer lifeboat crews launched 8,964 times and helped 9,412 people last year, while its lifeguards responded to 19,449 incidents and helped 32,207 people.

A spokesman for the service said that on average, in the past decade, the RNLI’s lifeboats around the UK and Ireland launched over 8,000 times each year. In the 1990s they averaged 6,000 launches a year, while in the 1970s it was less than 3,000 launches a year.

It needs to run 238 lifeboat stations, 431 lifeboats and 5,500 volunteer crew members, plus 1,500 lifeguards patrolling over 240 UK beaches.

RNLI Director of Fundraising, Jayne George said: "The RNLI is facing some big challenges – we’re busier than ever, people are still drowning, but our income is down – so we’re facing our own perfect storm, and we are appealing to our supporters and the public to give what they can to help us.

"We want to thank our loyal supporters – without them we would not be providing the world-class lifesaving service we are renowned for today. This campaign is about thanking them and re-engaging with them, but also trying to attract new supporters to provide ongoing, longer-term support for the RNLI. We need to invest in fundraising in order to keep with the pace of demand and ensure the future capability of our fleet and lifesavers."

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