It's always encouraging to see a legacy brand reinvent itself, especially one that offers assistance to the world's people.
That's what CARE is doing with a newly launched website that features a new kind of "CARE Package," a phrase that became associated with the nonprofit organization when it was founded in 1946.
CARE, which stands for the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, was originally comprised of 22 American organizations coming together to send CARE Packages consisting primarily of food to World War II survivors.
In the next twenty years, CARE sent some 100 million CARE Packages to people in need in Europe and later in Asia and other parts of the world.
The phrase "care package" has become so popular that it's widely used for any assortment of items being sent to a student, loved one, friend or other individual — but it has also lost its association with its origins.
Aware of that disconnect, CARE has re-oriented its mission to fight global poverty — and it's reinventing its flagship "product," too. Nowadays, call it a CAREpackage — and think of it as virtual, collaborative and interactive, in keeping with our digital age.
CARE today targets poor women in particular because, it says, "women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty." But CARE also delivers emergency aid to survivors of war and natural disasters, and helps people rebuild their lives.
In fiscal year 2010, CARE supported 768 poverty-fighting projects in 70 countries to reach almost 57 million people, more than half of whom are women.
In recent years, the organization moved away from its literal package of items to benefit the recipient, but Helene D. Gayle, CARE's chief executive, questioned that strategy.
"I came to understand that this was a part of our history that we weren't making optimum use of," she told the New York Times. "They meant so much to the people who received them after the war, and we hope the new CARE package will have the same impact on the people we help today."
Naturally, the new CAREpackage is virtual in nature. At CAREPackage.org, a potential donor can read stories about women and girls who they will help "live, earn and learn."
Then the donor can "build" a virtual package by dragging menu items into an empty box; for example, the donor might choose to "Protect Mothers and Babies — $12 can provide a mom with insecticide-treated mosquito nets to protect her newborn and entire family from diseases such as malaria." Then the donor "sends" the CAREpackage. All of this occurs with a few clicks of the mouse.
CARE has taken the concept a step further, adding a social component to the program. Donors also have the ability to create a "Group CAREpackage" by inviting business associates, family members and friends to participate in building a package. The website facilitates the sharing process by providing links to Facebook and Twitter, as well as offering to send email invitations.
Donors can also join any Group CAREpackage that has already been created. A section of the website allows any donor to see how how many CAREpackages have been created and how much money has been raised on a global basis.
This week, CARE kicked off its annual conference in Washington, DC (on International Women's Day) with the new CAREpackage playing an integral role. CARE advocates are also making their presence known on Capitol Hill in an effort to influence US policy that affects the world's most vulnerable populations.
Dr. Gayle says the digital CAREpackage, like its predecessor, "illustrates the ability of foreign aid to make a real difference in people's lives and it proves that anyone can do something to help individuals in need, no matter how great the distance between them."