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Creating a bond between donation and cause online

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Although 'creativity' might generally be perceived as the ability to produce art or invent a new tool, it can also mean finding a new application for tools that already exist. This week's sites are featured, not because of cutting-edge design or use of the latest web technologies, but rather because CARE International and GlobalGiving have found imaginative ways of using the Web to deal with a specific problem.

The problem in question is one faced by most relief agencies - that potential donors may not feel a strong sense of connection to the work that they're supporting. And for organizations largely or wholly dependent on donors, the ability to clearly communicate how donations are used can be vital to ensuring continuing sponsorship. Through their respective websites, CARE and GlobalGiving are using inventive methods to strengthen the relationship between subscriber and cause - CARE, by actually taking surfers to the final destinations of their contributions, and GlobalGiving, by letting them choose specific projects to support.

CARE ("Where the end of poverty begins.") launched its series of Virtual Field Trips in 1999, with a first-person, onsite review of rural and urban projects taking place in Bolivia. Over the next few years, a dozen more trips were added to the list, which now includes Haiti, Honduras, Kosovo, Madagascar and Mali - and in addition to their fundraising role, the Field Trips are also commonly added to educational 'cool sites' lists for their instructional value.

Using the inaugural campaign as an example, the Bolivia Virtual Field Trip provides an abundantly illustrated journal of a 10-day expedition through one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. Expedition members use a series of journal entries to take Web visitors from cultural and physical acclimatization on arrival in La Paz (altitude 12,000 feet), through walks among clouds (of moisture, dust, and butterflies) and a drive on "the scariest road in the world," to the inevitable mixed feelings that accompany the trip home.

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