To find out how efficient and effective your favorite charities are, and how they spend your money, try this link. http://www.charitynavigator.org/
Amma -- www.amma.org
Amma is an Indian spiritual leader that is the head of one of the most amazing charitable organizations in the world. They have no telemarketing, and charge no fees to attend any of her world-wide events. Everything is in the form of a donation - sales of books, T-shirts, etc., of which 100% of the profits go to her charities.
She donated over $25M to Tsunami relief, has started hospitals for the poor, orphanages for thousands of children, and low cost or free housing programs.
She donated over $1M to hurricane Katrina victims by having people helping on the ground right after the event occurred. This is my family's favorite charity.
The Jane Goodall Institute -- www.janegoodall.org
Their "Roots and Shoots" program is helping to create grass roots environmental changes world-wide. Jane Goodall has been one of my heroes for a long time and is a tireless visionary and "actionary."