Hard times tend to bring out the goodwill in most people. From the moment the recession was announced, the world was divided into the haves and the have-nots. Those who have been fortunate enough to keep their jobs and personal wealth, however, have learned the delicacy of their own existence. As a result, many have decided to pitch in and help everyone else. True, the economy is on the upswing, but try telling that to the hundreds of thousands who are still homeless and worried about supporting their families.

Many charitable organizations have made it easy to become philanthropic without spending an arm and a leg. Teachers and blue-collar workers have found it difficult to survive the hard times. Since so much of their lesson plans and classroom decor is funded out of pocket, it’s the responsibility of everyone to rally around these men and women to ensure that the children don’t pay in the long run. A great way to provide financial assistance to the teaching community is through Donors Choose (donorschoose.org). By clicking on this site, do-gooders can choose from a list of classroom projects they wish to fund. You can contribute the dollar amount of your choice or fund a project in full.

Sustainability is a word on everybody’s lips these days. In philanthropic circles, it means giving someone the tools, knowledge and platform to support him or herself. One organization founded on the auspices of sustainability is Heifer International (heifer.org). A donation of $25 and up can provide a family with livestock, which will enable them to earn a living and rise above poverty. Thirty dollars buys a gift of bees (for production of honey). Cattle can be purchased for approximately $150. It’s like the saying goes: “Give a man a fish; he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish; he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

For non-secular giving, try Catholic Charities USA (catholiccharitiesusa.org). Catholic charities uses its donations across the world to fund schools, feeding the homeless initiatives, food banks for lower income families as well as childcare for those in need. Dollar amounts of all kinds are accepted either by check or by debit card. Donors can even give in honor or tribute to others.

Global exploitation is an epidemic that many people are fighting against. Keeping women and children off the streets and out of prostitution rings is the main focus of the SAGE Project (Standing Against Global Exploitation; sagesf.org). A $10 gift donated at their site will go toward encouraging those traumatized by street life to get counseling and assistance from trained professionals. In doing so, they will gain the strength to walk away from prostitution and hopefully find stable legitimate employment within another field. The best thing about the Sage Project is that it’s a California-based organization, so those close to home can get back on their feet.

Since voluntary charitable giving is something that is still an afterthought with most people, some companies have created innovative ways to foster generosity. Shopping on sites such as eBay reroutes customers to their PayPal page. Here, a small donation to the March of Dimes can be made during the checkout process. By clicking on a desired denomination in the allotted drop-down menu ($1, $2, $5 or more), customers can help children born with birth defects get much-needed treatment without giving it a second thought.

Perhaps the recent disasters in Haiti and the Gulf are still on your mind. If so, you’re not alone. To date, the relief effort in Haiti has raised over $528 million. However, given the extent of the damage to the island nation, that figure is far from enough. If you’d still like to help, there are a number of ways to do so. UNICEF (unicefusa.org) has an entire section devoted to the reconstruction of Haiti on its Web site. Donate a monthly gift or any amount of your choosing. Mobile Baykeeper (savethegulf.mobilebaykeeper.org) is an organization that is committed to putting concerned men and women in the Gulf to aid cleanup and other initiatives. Instead of watching the drama unfold from home, volunteers can now galvanize and provide aid and physical support to the people of Louisiana.