The Talmud explains that charity consists of the giving of our possessions, whereas by performing acts of benevolence, we give of ourselves as well.
This teaching is of special importance in an era where everything is done by agencies. Agencies care for the needy, for the homeless, for abused and neglected children, and for almost any other cause we can imagine. Few people become involved in providing direct care. Most discharge their obligations by contributing to a community fund which supports these various agencies.
The problem with this arrangement is that such agencies are often grossly understaffed. They therefore cannot provide more than a fraction of the needed services. However, having made a contribution to the community fund, people generally feel that they have thereby discharged their obligations. Since those in need of help rarely confront us directly, we may not be aware that their needs remain largely unmet. One check to the community fund has placated our consciences, and we can sleep peacefully.
The Torah calls for a different attitude. While giving charity is indeed very great, becoming personally involved in helping those in need is even greater. Only in this way can we avoid deceiving ourselves that the job has been satisfactorily accomplished by the agencies that we fund.
It is, of course, easier to donate to an agency than to become personally involved, but the easy way is not necessarily the right way.