Expert view: Why breaking the rules is good

There's a new breed of charity that's subverting the rules. Built upon ethics, they have a different approach - one that is more creative and entrepreneurial.

They don't know any of the traditional 'rules' of charity. They don't employ charity specialist marketing agencies. They don't use jargon such as 'acquisition' or 'retention', but the language of ordinary people. They are discovering new ideas and new ways of challenging conventional wisdom. Two such charities to have caught my eye were established by people in their 20s, and they target other young people.

EarthFireIce, a global campaign aiming to increase awareness and take action against climate change, has set itself the ambitious target of collecting one million pledges from individuals and companies to decrease their carbon footprints.

The charity was founded by two friends, Sean Cornwell and Ed Stumpf. They decided to kick-start the campaign not with the typical photo opportunity with a celebrity, but by running the extreme Sahara and North Pole marathons.

The charity is using a free DVD that combines footage of their run with a mini version of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth to spread the message. The DVD creates the perfect vehicle to engage, inform and convert people. People are then being encouraged to pass on the message through word of mouth.

The second is Bottletop - not a name many charities would dream up, but then the people behind the charity are not the usual charity types.

They are not restricted by a board of retired bankers, so they have the freedom to do what they instinctively feel is right.

The charity works with poor communities to raise money for sexual health education for young people worldwide, and it trades products made from bottle tops and from ring-pulls from drinks cans.

Its latest product is a designer ring-pull bag. It is amazing to look at and doesn't need a slogan on the side to tell everyone you are helping to make a real difference - watch out, bag designer Anya Hindmarch.

This approach is a long way from the usual direct marketing campaigns and tin rattling.

These guys know that to raise money they have to forget begging and sell something young people want, and they know what they want because they are in touch with them.

Both of these charities are driven by a passion and an enthusiasm that is refreshing. I think it was Henry Ford who said: "Don't follow the rules if you want to make a difference - write them." This is exactly what they are doing.

- Chris Arnold is a partner at creative agency Feel 

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