1. What do I want to achieve?
    Identify your cause narrowly. Instead of trying to eradicate hunger in Africa, focus on a water project in one village.
  2. Who else is doing it?
    Don't hesitate to build on the work of others. Western philanthropists often undervalue local efforts already under way.
  3. Where do I go?
    Existing business contacts may make it easier to operate in some locations. If you worked with great lawyers and accountants in China on an outsourcing contract, for example, they may be willing to do pro bono work there.
  4. Do I do this alone or with a partner?
    You'll need help from someone on the ground. Sean Downs, CEO of technology start-up Enclarity, launched the Sumba Foundation to provide health care and education to residents of a small Indonesian island with help from Claude Graves, an American expat. Without Graves's help, Downs says, he couldn't have negotiated the maze of culture and bureaucracy.
  5. How do I overcome distrust?
    Don't discount the local culture. Villagers were reluctant to visit a Sumba Foundation-sponsored clinic until Downs and his partner recruited a local shaman to refer patients. "He gets paid a referral fee now," says Downs. "It's not unlike the U.S. health care system."