There are a large number of different ways you can be charitable and help people out. A quick search on the internet will list hundreds of charities and charity events. Websites send out charity newsletters to make people aware of the need in their specific niche. Its easy to become overloaded by all the people that are in need causing you to lock up and not help out anywhere. After all, in most cases even if you donate that only fills the immediate need and often doesnt help with the future problem.
About two years ago my family and I moved to the Dominican Republic to help people living here. One thing we noticed here is without the social services that are available in the United States, people learn how to make money here. Its sort of a see a niche, fill a niche situation. An extremely high percentage of the homes have some sort of business or service in them while it means food for the day for them, we would consider them to be micro-businesses, almost too small to be counted.
Small stores with a few dozen items, hair salons, nail salons, people make and sell their own cheese and other goods, small empenada stands (fried filled tortillas) are throughout the town or city. I watch people who make a local candy, take the local bus transportation across the island selling to other people on the bus as they go. People walk the streets with their sales goods on their back trying to make enough for them and their family to eat for the day.
Im a business man. While Im here to help others, I make my living over the internet to pay the bills. With this background, Ive come to respect the creative and industrious way people find to make a living here. For most though, every cent that they earn goes out to pay for the days food. There is no extra money to expand their business (increase their inventory or supplies), they buy the minimum they have to and the rest goes to the family.
Thats where Kiva comes in. Kiva is a micro loan organization that provides people in undeveloped areas guidance on how to expand their business to better provide for their families and small loans to help them reach their goals. Ive seen where a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars can make a huge difference to the lives of the people that receive it. Allowing them to travel to buy things to increase the number of items they can offer, buy a new piece of equipment, tools, etc, which will give them a chance to better provide for their families.
What does it cost you? Well the minimum you can make available to be loaned out is $25, of which you can have returned to you later if you wish. Next step is to choose who you want to help, You will find lists of people or groups of people, where they live, how much money they would like, and what they plan to do with it. Everything is handled by a local group that helps the group requesting the money come up with a viable business plan, sets up the request, and helps see to it that the loan is repaid.
For you, the loaner, dont think of this as an investment, you will not receive interest. There is also a risk you will not get your money back (although that is small), this is a way for you to see how your money will help one group of people. Your small amount of money that gets added into the system gets combined with money from other people to reach the goal of the borrower, so you dont need to donate much, every little bit helps.