We just got started with kiva.org which is a charity site aimed at microloans for people and groups in the 3rd world. You sign up, choose a entrepreneur who has a business idea to make some cash, send them a portion of the cash, and as soon as other investors join you and donate enough, the loan gets sent to that person. They go away, and make regular loan repayments. In the end, you… get your money back (theoretically!) and do it all again. Theres no interest involved.
I just really like the concept, and kiva is super simple. We made our first donation to a group of woman in Africa who wanted to buy food for a restaurant selling food to workers. That was about the scope of the business plan, but we decided on them mainly because they looked like what I imagined Precious Ramotswe (of Alexander McCall Smiths Number 1 Womens Detective Agency). Hardly the basis of successful investment, but then again, I invested in Telecom because I thought it couldn’t fall past $4.00. I’m betting on the African women before Telecom getting past $4 anytime soon.
So check it out if you have an entrepreneurial bent, mixed with a splurge of social responsibility, coupled with just a cool idea in action!