From David in Israel: Charity and Tithing (Tzedaka) Law in Israel

Since it is a major focus of your blog, I thought you would like to see a few of the Jewish laws regarding Tzedaka. All things in this world are created by Hashem, the only thing we can claim is our ability to choose good or evil. To remind us that he is the owner (among other reasons) he requires we contribute 10% of all our produce from the field (plus another 10% to the Levim and another 2-3% to the Cohenim (aka, the Priests and their assistants) We extend the 10% of Tzedaka to all income almost like a tax. Even if a person is so desperately poor they cant give 10% they must give some level of tzedaka. If a person is middle income they may give up to 1/5 of their income although this next 10% above the minimum is much more free as to to what it may fund. Finally a wealthy person may give any amount they want above the 20% to whatever cause they choose.
Restrictions on giving: You may not impoverish your family through tzedaka, it is a sin to over give and put your family behind others. There is a bulls eye of giving, starting in the middle with yourself, you must ensure your survival first, next your wife, then your children.
Next comes your Torah instructor then your parents.
Next comes close neighbors, further out neighbors are their next door neighbors first responsibility not yours. Finally, if everyone in your community is taken care of may you give outside to other communities. I am sick when I hear of Tzedaka given to "save the animals" causes. This is effectively giving to a sweet and emotional cause but it must come from recreational or optional monies not from money designated for the mitzvah [blessing] of Tzedaka.

You may not use Tzedaka for your own or family education unless you are desperately poor, if possible this loan if taken must be documented and repaid. Holy books may be purchased but must be marked as purchased with Tzedaka so they are not included in any inheritance and must be freely loaned. Measure for measure Hashem promises a return on this investment even stating we are to test him in this matter. When we act as agents of the creator in bringing the flow of his blessing into the world we increase the flow directed through us.