Since its beginnings, digital media — from the first online videos to social media to VR and AR — has fundamentally changed the ways we communicate, receive information, advertise and market products and services, and so much more. It has gotten to the point where nearly everything we do directly involves digital media, and why digital marketing has become a necessity and not just a buzzword.

However, there is great potential to use the space as a platform for more than just marketing brands. I believe that digital media can and should be used to elevate philanthropy in order to raise awareness and support for the important causes. Especially as digitally-minded Millennials, who are considered the most charitable generation to date, and the rising Gen Zers become key players in our society.

There are already many ways in which digital media has changed philanthropy. The rise of crowdfunding, the use of social media for outreach and the accessibility of digital donations has made online giving the primary source of charity funding in the world, according to Emergent Digital. Online giving only continues to get bigger every year, and increased by 12.1 percent from 2018 to 2019. More than half of people prefer to give this way, and are often inspired to do so by social media, emails, or websites.

At the same time, many nonprofits are missing out on the ways that digital media can support philanthropy. According to a report by Dunham+Company, charities are missing out on social media connections, and aren’t producing or sharing content often enough or in optimal ways. This limits their user engagement and ultimately stops them from connecting with audiences. The report also shockingly reveals that the nonprofits it studied are no better at responding to comments, questions, or online donations than they were four years ago. 

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube are some of the greatest digital media assets for charities to take advantage of. Marketing Sherpa claims that 95 percent of adults aged 18-34 are most likely to follow brands through social networking, and this extends to charitable organizations as well. So when nonprofits don’t utilize these mediums to their fullest potential, they lose out on significant portions of donations and make less of an impact on the issues they are working to solve.

Charities and nonprofits must learn how to utilize digital media in the same way that marketers do. This can even mean using strategies like data analysis to gain insight into donors and potential donors in order to craft personalized recommendations for ways they can get involved. Organizations can generate engagement through specialized messages, newsletters, or reports that let individuals see how they’re using their donations or to keep them updated on the progress of your overall goals.

Utilizing advancements in technology can help make it easier for these organizations to engage with donors as well. Chatbots can assist in answering the constant comments and questions that an organization may receive on their websites, through emails or their social media accounts. In addition, institutions can dedicate time and resources to optimize their sites and profiles for mobile devices, seeing as how 38 percent of all digital media interactions take place on a smartphone, and more than half of all nonprofit web traffic comes through mobile and tablet devices.

As digital media continues to develop and transform our social landscape, so too must the philanthropic sector. While there is room for these organizations to more optimally use digital marketing to their advantage, the truth is that the way forward has already been paved by the brands and companies who are advertising and selling their products. But by offering impact and personal fulfillment to the digital generations like Millennials or Generation Z, philanthropy can confidently stride forward into the future and make greater impacts on the biggest issues in our world today.