OPINION: THINKPIECE - Clothes, music, charity - it's all about lifestyle

Brendan O'Donnell, youth network co-ordinator at ActionAid

These days, charities are expecting less from the way people engage with them in return for a wider appeal.

Fundraising and marketing is evolving. Traditional door-to-door techniques still have a place, but to appeal to the young, charities and not-for-profit organisations are turning to lifestyle-centric methods and holding music or arts-based events.

This mini-revolution in the way the third sector engages with supporters has meant that the corporate world has had to sit up and take notice - not-for-profit organisations have started to pitch themselves as lifestyle choices.

Supporting a charity can now come under the same umbrella of choices as the type of clothes you wear or music you listen to. The sector is learning that people want more than a warm glow in their hearts in return for support - they want to feel they have made the relevant choice according to their lifestyle.

And, among this audience, brand awareness is important. People aged 25-30 are the most heavily marketed-to group - complex messages don't work because they don't have the time to listen. Commitment of the type that encourages people to go out door-to-door fundraising comes much later on.

Yet, with recent events and demonstrations showing that the younger generation is more engaged than ever in international issues, it is perceived as being easier for organisations such as ActionAid and Amnesty International to get results from this demographic - whereas others haven't a hope.

And surely it would be faintly ridiculous to have a house-music benefit night for Help the Aged?

Not necessarily. If people feel comfortable with a brand, then they will go along to the event or sign up to the campaign. If a not-for-profit organisation chooses to hold music events as often as coffee mornings, then its identity and credibility will be heightened among a more diverse audience. And what such organisations have - beyond their marketing value - is the integrity of their work, a quality few other brands can reproduce or compete with.

So whether you are a disability, development or animal charity, tailoring your marketing and fundraising to appeal to a youth audience will only encourage awareness of your charity among the supporters of the future.

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