Two weeks ago I accidentally came across the website http://www.kiva.org/. I was researching various charity websites where you can "click" on a button to make a donation. I found several of those and also found "kiva".
Kiva.org is even better than the "clickable" websites (several clickable buttons on my sidepanel) because you get to choose who you are loaning your money to and can watch their progress in paying it back. Before you dismiss Kiva.org as some sort of scam they have been written up in many major newspapers and magazines and interviewed on various television shows and have an amazing success rate. Repayment of loans is in the high 90% range. Very, very few loans go unpaid and usually the only money loss is due to rates of inflation diminishing 3rd world countries' currency values.
I have chosen to loan to women who are attempting to support themselves and their families and have made two loans so far. My intent is to make one new loan to a woman or group of women each month and you can follow the progress of the loans in the sidepanel of my blog. The loan amount can be as low as $25.00 and you will eventually get it back. It's much better than just a donation to charity because you're helping someone become independent. I have loaned money to a group of women who sell clothing and cosmetics in Uganda and to a woman in Nigeria who manufactures and sells blocks of ice.
Consider this option for yourself if you would like to make a positive difference in the world. Check out their website at http://www.kiva.org/ and consider joining a group and making a loan. It's a very exciting way to help someone get onto their feet and become a contributing member of their community. Gift certificates are also available and what an excellent Christmas gift for that person who has everything.