You've just been given a million dollars. You are not allowed to keep it or give it to anyone you know personally. What do you do with it and why?
I figured this would be a good way to explore one's charitable impulses.
I think that I would figure out how to spread the money around. While giving that kind of cash to a small charity might have a big impact, I think it would be cool to improve a lot of lives a bit.
I would definitely put some money in Kiva, an organization which helps entrepreneurs around the globe by connecting them with microlenders. Sometimes it takes just a little money to really change someone's circumstances.
I would probably research small charities in my own community to see where I could help the most. One local place I would definitely help out would be the Nashua Soup Kitchen, as well as Nashua's chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and the Nashua Humane Society. Another local charity that I would want to help would be the Neighbor Helping Neighbor Fund; they help people pay their utility bills (people who are generally not qualified for government fuel assistance for some reason).
I might also send some money to the Central Asia Institute. They build schools and help communities in central Asia. You can read about the beginnings of this organization in Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea.
One somewhat frivolous charity that I would definitely give a huge chunk of change to would be The Enchanted Forest Preservation Society. The Enchanted Forest was a fairytale inspired theme park that I visited a few times as a child. I loved that place. I was so sad to hear that it had closed. The Preservation Society is trying to save a lot of the fairytale buildings and artifacts.
I think it would also be cool and maybe fun to help out random strangers, anonymously. Think about it. I have a really good relationship with my auto mechanic. What if I asked him to be on the look out for someone who was really struggling financially who's car was having a lot of problems. Maybe I could convince him to charge the person a lot less, and let me pay the difference. Or maybe I could figure out a way to buy the person a reliable used car. The anonymous part might be harder there.
How about hanging out at the unemployment office and surreptitiously sliding $200 grocery store gift cards under windshield wipers of people who went in? That would really be fun.
... It was really nice to think of ways that I could help other people if I had the funds to spare. I do donate to others whenever I can. However, this last year and a half have been tight at my house. Things are about to get a lot tighter. So, I'll just have to dream about what it would be like to help others financially for now.