You have probably heard of Heifer International, an organization that provides livestock to needy families throughout the world. Donors indicate which animal their donation should provide, and Heifer International does the rest. Smaller donations buy a "share" of an animal.
It's a brilliant idea, I think, though I've always been a touch concerned about the glossy full color brochures they send. (20% of their expenses go toward fundraising, which isn't outrageous but isn't outstanding.)
For the person who has everything, a goat donated in their name makes a great gift.
Now, though, I see that Food for the Poor is in on this game, too. For what it's worth, their livestock is generally less expensive than Heifer International (best deal: three little pigs for $100). And how cool is this:
Food For The Poor develops tilapia fish ponds in Central America, where droughts in the past have hit the poor the hardest. A fish pond can help feed a village, and surplus fish can be sold to sustain the project. Give the gift that will help end hunger… the gift of a tilapia pond.
A 5,000 square foot tilapia pond, for the low low price of $6,500. (If you prefer to give fish a fighting chance, you can buy a fishing boat for a Jamaican village for $5,750, a sum that would also feed 213 Haitian children for a year.)
Now, I have no idea how well either of these organizations do anything, much less how well their livestock programs actually work. But there's something very human about helping others in such concrete, if indirect, ways, something that the impersonal check to "wherever the need is greatest" doesn't quite offer.