I read the book "The Life You Can Save" by Peter Singer. Once I got past the first part ("The Argument") it was a pretty quick read. There's so much in such a little book! I think it would be a wonderful book for a book group, or for a church discussion circle.
He makes a strong case that if you feel a moral obligation to save a child drowning in front of you, you should feel that same obligation to a child you know is dying but isn't in your sight. If you are willing to risk your own life to save the life of a child in front of you, shouldn't you be willing to give of your money up to the point it would risk your own well being?
Then he talks about why people don't give; how giving locally doesn't have an impact on international poverty, why we should care, how/why governmental giving isn't affective, and lots more.
He addresses the concern about where to give, what is affective, and how to evaluate NGOs. One site he mentions to help with that evaluation is Give Well. Another point he makes is that micro-lending, or Grameen lending, has shown itself to be very affective as well as self sustaining.
Using this information he then gets realistic about giving to charity and makes a much more modest suggestion than his first (give 'till it hurts) for charitable giving that if done even by a small fraction of the U.S. population would have a huge impact. His suggestion is in the form of The Pledge, which he suggests be a public document since knowing that others give charitably seems to increase giving.
Following links, the way I do when I should be doing something useful (you know, like fold the 5 baskets of laundry on my couch) I found some more interesting links. Check out Bolder Giving, Art Rising, and More than Money.
All in all lots of food for thought. I'll leave you with one that has stuck with me "The next time you drink bottled water, when you could be drinking tap water for pennies, know that you are living a lifestyle that could easily support charitable giving."