I posted a link to this before, but it got lost in the shuffle of a different post: Worldbuilders
Authors are becoming increasingly connected directly to their fans these days. This is an attempt by an author to harness that power and do some good in the world. It's hard to call Patrick Rothfuss a favorite author of mine, although I very much enjoyed his fantasy novel, because it's a small statistical sample. But let's say that his book is awesome (because it is) and that he deserves adulation for setting this up year after year (because it's a huge undertaking and he does).
So what is Worldbuilders? It's a drive to raise money for Heifer International, a global charity that is predicated on teaching poor and rural people responsible agricultural practices. They have lots of great info about that on their site, so I won't repeat it here, but suffice to say that this is a charity with a strong systematic outlook.
But! Worldbuilders is not just about "hand over the cash"! There are prizes! Good ones! Specifically, a lot of rare and/or signed books, plus some miscellaneous items. These are donated by publishers, authors, readers, and bookstores; the prizes can be seen on the blog linked above. Most items are put in a lottery; a $10 donation gets you one lottery entry. Some items are sold directly in their online store. A few rare items (such as getting your manuscript professionally edited or a signed Brett Favre jersey) are put up for auction on Ebay. And, thanks to the generosity of Rothfuss and some corporate sponsors, all donations are matched $0.50 on the dollar. Last year, the final total was over $125,000, which was $190,000+ after sponsor matching, a mind blowing amount for such a distributed group of readers.
In any case, I think this sort of effort deserves a plug. The lottery fundraiser portion is done on December 13th, but some of the auctions extend beyond that. If you haven't decided where to put your holiday charity money yet, consider Worldbuilders, where your money is worth 50% more. The latest blog entry by Patrick Rothfuss gives your odds of winning with a $20 donation at 1 in 8, which are good odds for such cool stuff!