My military job is in a field that deals primarily with development and humanitarian aid. One of the key tools in development is something called “micro loans”. These are loans for a very small sum, typically less than $500, that allow a person to be productive and self-sustaining rather than begging for aid to survive. A classic example is use a micro loan to buy a woman a sewing machine so she can have her own seamstress job and provide for her family. Other examples, might be buying tools for a carpenter or piglets for a farmer. These are all loans, not gifts, which means they need to be repaid. In general, these are preferable to simply giving someone money or items as it creates a sense of responsibility and honor. In fact, micro loan repayment is over 99% in most cases that I am familiar with.
Kiva is probably the best known micro lending program. They have pages of requestors who specify what they are trying to raise money for and you can then contribute to the total they are seeking. Sort of like a Go Fund Me page. Then you will be paid back by the entrepreneur over a period of 2-5 years. This is not something you are going to make any real money on, but it is a great way to help out people in need.
I got an exciting email today that PayPal will essentially double the amount of your giving up to $25. You give a loan through Kiva and then PayPal gives you a $25 credit for you to make another loan with. The reason this ends up being a frequent flyer deal is that Kiva takes credit cards and thus you can meet your minimum spend, but eventually get paid back.
This only applies to the first 10,000 people who apply and only October 15-25th in any case. Better act fast if you want to take advantage!