I do like to give direct gifts when I see a need. Be it a natural disaster like the Japan earthquakes or Katrina or a local food bank that feeds the hungry or the toy drive we do every Christmas at the fire department I work at.
However I do feel passionately about helping people help themselves, you know the whole "teach a man to fish" idea. That's why I loan money through Kiva. Kiva allows you to lend money to entrepreneurs all over the world, empowering them to overcome poverty. Since sewing is my passion I'm always looking to loan to seamstresses to buy a sewing machine, fabric or thread. Here are a couple of women I've loaned to:
If you ask my sons they will tell you their favorite charity is The Water Project. They understand how fortunate they are to have all the clean, fresh water they could ever want. They save their money and when they give me $10 and know that it will provide a person clean water for ten years they feel so good! Ten years is a long time for a nine year old and it warms my heart to see the compassion growing in them and his charity helps them feel like they've made a difference.
I also support the Breast Cancer Fund. Their mission is to expose and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer. I believe strongly in using natural food, body and household products and avoiding toxic chemicals whenever possible. There are great resources on their website on reducing your risk for breast cancer.