CARE pack­ages: return­ing to their roots

Exhibited by
April 04, 2011
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Awareness, individuals, single gift.
Type of Charity
International relief/development.
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

Here at SOFII, we are always telling you to steal ideas from fundraising’s history and make them work for your own organisation. However, in this exhibit, CARE looked back at their own history and decided to launch a new and improved version of their traditional CARE packages that were first introduced in 1946. Updated with a modern twist, this campaign demonstrates the future of online giving – by offering significant donor choice and maximum transparency.

Summary / objectives

CARE is a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty in more than 70 countries around the world. This latest campaign encourages donors to send CARE packages to help woman and girls around the world to access the education and resources to live, learn, earn and escape poverty for good.


CARE was founded at the end of WWII when 22 American organisations (called the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe) came together to provide life-saving CARE packages for survivors of the war. The first 20,000 CARE packages, containing items such as potted meats, sugar, powdered milk, eggs, coffee and margarine arrive in Harve in France on 11 May 1946. Over the next two decades, over 100 million more packages reached other people in need, first in Europe and then throughout the rest of the world.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the organisation decided to dispense with CARE packages and instead focused their efforts on larger development projects and disaster relief operations.

However, CARE is now reclaiming their history but with a 21st century twist.

‘I came to understand that this was a part of our history that we weren’t making optimum use of,’ said Helene D. Gayle, chief executive of CARE. ‘They meant so much to the people who received them after the war and we hope that the new CARE package will have the same impact on the people we help today’.

Special characteristics

The new CARE package campaign was launched in March 2011. A special CARE package microsite was launched which encourages donors to pick a recipient whose needs are described. You can then fill a ‘virtual box’ with projects that will be financed through your contributions. For example, you could help to cover the costs of emergency transportation for women in rural areas to a health clinic or hospital or you could contribute to the training of local health workers in obstetrics.

Donors also have the option of making a partial gift for a service and inviting family, friends and colleagues to add another virtual box.

A range of donations can be made and a project shopping list makes it clear what your donation will achieve. The microsite also encourages supporters to take further action such as asking the US Congress to support a comprehensive healthcare plan.

Influence / impact

The CARE package microsite is impressive in its transparency. Donors can easily track the progress of the campaign, how much has been donated to each project and the donations of various groups which have joined together to collectively fund projects around the world. At the time of writing this exhibit, in the first month of the campaign, the total number of donations is $ 23,170 and the total number of CARE packages that have been sent out is 325. Updated results can be found here. The website also includes a clear donation breakdown for each project.


This exhibit shows how old ideas can be effectively recycled and rebranded to strengthen a cause and to appeal to new donors. This campaign also offers an impressive amount of donor choice and boasts remarkable transparency – donors are easily able to track the progress of the appeal and how their gift has helped to make a difference.

Other relevant information

Click here to read the story of Mr and Mrs Edie who claim their 60 year long marriage is all because of a CARE package.

Final notes

The first CARE packages were sent to France in 1946. The new version of the CARE package campaign was launched in March 2011.

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CARE has launched a special microsite for the new version of its CARE packages. This latest campaign encourages donors to send CARE packages to help women and girls around the world to access the education and resources to live, learn, earn and escape poverty for good.
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Donors are encouraged to fill a ‘virtual box’ with projects which will be financed through their gift.
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The CARE package website shows total transparency by telling the visitor exactly how much has been donated and how many CARE packages have been sent.
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CARE packages, like this one, were initially sent by American organisations and later by a generous American public, to survivors of World War II, with the very first batch reaching the battered port of Le Havre, France, on 11th May, 1946. The packages largely contained surplus American army food supplies; typical items included corned beef, bacon, margarine, coffee, sugar and other ‘luxury’ food stuffs that most recipients had long since forgotten the taste of.
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Despite CARE largely phasing out their CARE package scheme to focus on longer-term projects to help eradicate poverty, the concept of the CARE package lived on in the American consciousness. American soldiers fighting in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan today still receive packages sent from a range of independent organisations, based on CARE’s original idea.

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