One of the most disempowering things for me as a do-gooder is having the drive to help but lacking the knowledge to do it effectively. To combat my ignorance (and give me a much-needed shot of inspiration) I'm currently reading Alan Khazei's Big Citizenship: How Pragmatic Idealism Can Bring Out the Best in America.
The book got me thinking about how much I don't know about helping people, despite the fact that I've been doing it all my life. I'm proud that much of what I've done has been helpful and hands-on (tutoring, media training, reporting, outreach, nursing home companion), but I haven't established any program that keeps on giving once I've moved onto my next thing. Nor have I ever come across a cause that has stolen my attention from all my other causes. As Lloyd Dobler said in Say Anything, "I am looking for a dare to be great situation."
Another thing I've been doing all my life is ignoring math, which is especially sad to me because now I know what I don't know: how to make my best ideas financially workable and raise the needed funds. Both are essential in the economics of giving. But I'm continuing to read and learn, with the hope that I'll carve a place for myself in the world where it's not easy to make a living helping others.
On that note, the Economist recently had an article on trusting charities. Seems to be a good place to start.