GiveDirectly takes donations over the web, locates poor households in Kenya using people on the ground, and then transfers money directly to the recipient’s cell phone (even very poor households typically have cell phones but GiveDirectly provides SIM cards for those who do not.) Transactions costs are low, just 10%.I don't think this is necessarily the best kind of generosity; I'm not sure how high I'd rank it on my list of top ways to be charitable. But my initial thought is that there's something empowering about bypassing all the political corruption which makes third world poverty so tricky in the first place. Thank God for cell phones, right?
Tyler Cowen's principles of charitable giving, which Tabarrok summarizes in the link above, are worth mentioning:
1. Cash is often the best form of aid.The first point is surely the insight of an economist. Points two and three, however, are surely the principles of grace, are they not?
2. Give to those who are not expecting it, and,
3. Don’t require the recipients to do anything costly to get the money.