Like so many categories, charity has been reshaped by the digital era. In certain ways, this transformation has been a gift: an issue can go from local or personal to a topic of global concern within a week. However, equally the digital age can prove to be a double-edged sword. It's all too easy for causes to be swept up by the online maelstrom and lose their sense of purpose and context.

Last night e3 attended a Unilever discussion in London whose aim was to to discuss these issues and to challenge the gathered millennials on the increasing role digital can play to harness their engagement in good causes. 

As the digital age matures, the next step for charities will be to harness the expansive reach and innovation of digital to affect real-life, tangible change. Aside from donation requests, the speakers were keen to impress the importance of live participation, driven by digital engagement, but often realised as real world activity and solutions. In this way, Unilever’s mantra is that the digital journey should become a conduit for lasting change in a volatile world.

From a campaign perspective, Martin Carter, UK social manager for #GivingTuesday, explained that the organisation raised £6,000 a minute through digital channels for participating charities in 2015. He put this down mainly to the volume of engagement digital can achieve. 1,400 charities are now signed up to their programme and their digital ‘footprint’ grows daily.

Great story lies at the heart of successful fund-raising, explained Zoe Amar, blogger for The Guardian. “If you have the right story targeting the right channels then you will get engagement” Thom Evans, former Rugby international explained how Rugby Aid used social media to sell out the whole of Twickenham for a charity game. Having famous influencers to promote an activity through their own social followers is obviously significant, and key players in the England rugby team were closely involved.

Where less ‘attractive’ charitable causes come into play, the support of high street brands and creative messaging can play a significant role in getting story out. Actress Mika Simmons a founding member of the Gynaecological Cancer Fund, launched The Lady Garden campaign, in September 2015 with support from TopShop, resulting in significant uplift in funding and engagement.

From e3’s perspective, the future role of digital for charities is already proving far-wider reach than campaigning to drive awareness, increase donations or encourage participation. For more insight read our blog on how we think charities can win in digital in 2016.