During the holiday season, we're highlighting the miraculous work done by nonprofits and charities.

I WANT TO tell you about a fantastic investment opportunity. No, I'm not trying to sell you a time- share or part of an inheritance. The investment is in our future, the kids in the city's public schools.

We all know how shortchanged they are. Many of us would like to do something, but don't know how to help without spending a lot of time or money.

Now there's an easy way to really do some good, thanks to a non-profit called DonorsChoose.org.

Begun by a teacher in Bronx, N.Y., in 2000, DonorsChoose.org opened up to Philadelphia schools in September and across the country in November. It's funded projects worth more than $15 million to help almost 80,000 kids, most from low-income families, get the supplies and technology their schools don't have.

Here's how it works.

DonorChoose.org solicits proposals from teachers, particularly in schools with high poverty rates, for things that will help students learn, from books and flashcards to technology like LCD projectors and classroom printers.

DonorsChoose screens the ideas, negotiates low prices with vendors and puts the proposals on their Web site. That's where you come in.

You can go to the Web site and choose to fund any project in any school with any amount of money.

For example, a special-education teacher at Mastery Charter School-Thomas has inspired his ninth- and 10th-graders to love reading. "Every novel I bring in is immediately signed out, devoured over the course of the week," the teacher wrote in his proposal. "I am in great need of more books."

A first-grade teacher at Moffet Elementary bemoaned the lack of art programs. The crayons she bought herself were exhausted, so she asked for "crayons, glitter, watercolor paints, brushes, modeling clay and wiggly eyes."

At Communications Tech High, a teacher wrote, "My science classroom is designed to teach more than just mitosis, genetics and evolution. It is meant to teach students fundamental . . . skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking . . . But a lack of essential supplies keeps my students from being active in their learning through . . . experimentation." He asked for basic lab equipment.

You can fund an entire project, or give any amount toward the goal of full funding, and do it all online. That makes you a "citizen philanthropist," as DonorsChoose likes call its contributors. I became one by helping to fund a science kit for third-graders.

It's all up to you. You can search for a school in Philadelphia, or in a state or school district where a friend or relative lives. You can decide to fund books, field trips, or computers - your choice.

You can get a group together (your office, your team, your cousins) to fund a proposal. Or set up a gift registry to let friends and family help fund a project you find more meaningful than getting gifts you don't really need. Or you can give a DonorsChoose.org gift certificate, letting recipients enjoy the pleasure of funding what they choose.

WHEN A project is fully funded, they ship the supplies, along with a disposable camera. Those who've donated get photos of the students using the gift, thank-you notes from the kids, a tax deduction - and the warm feeling that comes with knowing you helped children learn geography, or computer skills, or whatever you helped pay for.

You've also let students and teachers know that someone cares. *

Deborah Leavy is a public policy consultant. E-mail her at deborah.opinion@gmail.com.