I'd like to recommend visiting Kiva.org. It's a new company that specializes in micro-lending, partnering with groups around the globe. The basic concept is simple; you login, scroll through the businesses that need funds, and allocate funds. You transfer $s' via PayPal, in increments of $25. Once you've chosen the businesses, you automatically receive email updates when they're posted, and eventually, gradually receive your investment back. It's fascinating to see the small businesses around the world. There's Mlamua in Tanzania, who needs funds to sell shoes at his store, or Grace Irura in Kenya, who's going to add to her chicken farming operation.
It reminds me long ago of those solicitations to sponsor a kid in a 3rd world country, where you'd ostensibly receive updates on how they were doing. The business model is going to be tough, but looking at the board of directors for Kiva, they're clearly not in it for the money, with a number of veterans of PayPal and Google.