CARE, Atlanta, hoping a live experience will help it get closer to its contributors, has unveiled The Virtual Field Trip, a new feature on its Web site that will show its 1.6 million donors, in live video, what their donations are actually doing for people.
“Through the trips, [donors] visit our projects and see the difference their donations make and how the lives of the people have benefited from their help,” said LMichael Green, director of marketing for CARE. “Hopefully, it will increase their interest in our organization along with their donations.”
Green said CARE is not intending to replace its direct mail campaigns or other fundraising and acquisition methods with the field trip feature, but it wants to be as close to the changes taking place around fundraising on the Web as possible.
“The Web is very effective right now in working with other forms of media to help raise donations,” he said. “But on a day-in and day-out basis, fundraising on the Web is still in the early stages.”
The trips bring people to places they would not otherwise be able to visit. Green said for most people it wouldn't be practical or affordable to go and visit one of the projects CARE is working on.
“This gives them a semblance of what is going on,” he said. “In most cases, it would be impossible for them to go to Bolivia and see it for themselves, but with the Virtual Field Trip they can get a feel of the actual experience.”
There are currently two field trips on the site that donors and prospective donors can take. One is of Bolivia, which was launched in May, and the other is of Mali, launched earlier this month.
CARE did not promote the field trip feature through any mailings to its donors, but it did send out e-mail messages to donors and nondonors who were interested in learning more about the new feature. Other methods of promoting the feature have been to provide links to the virtual field trips from other sites and news organizations that cover the areas in which CARE is working.
Megan Meyer, the Web site manager for CARE, said it has not been tracking the number of visitors taking the field trips but that the feature has become one of the top 10 most visited sections of the site. On each page of the virtual field trip, users have the option to click on a Support CARE option and make a donation, but CARE has not yet begun to track the donations coming through the feature.
“We believe in extending the opportunity of making a donation at every turn for our donors,” she said. “But the goal of this is to further educate them about what we do and let them know more about who we are.”
CARE staff documents the trips, which vary in length. They include video clips and photo albums, and they are broken down into days so users don't have to read the entire trip in one sitting. The Bolivia trip is done over a period of seven days, and the Mali trip is done over a period of four.
A person can download a screen saver from the trip and look up books and links related to the country. There is also a country background and information on the history of its work in that particular country.
Meyer said CARE wants to post a new field trip every three months or so. There are two more that are planned to go up within the next few months. The next one will be a tour of Madagascar, followed by one that will take donors to Honduras.
“Our goal is going to be to have a virtual field trip for every country we work in,” Green said. “That would eventually mean more than 60 field trips.”