Charity implies kindness performed out the goodness of one's heart, but which is by no means obligatory.
Tzedakah, on the other hand, means "doing right, Justice," implying an obligation to help others -- financially, materially, spiritually and in any way possible.
Besides the many commandments in the Torah instructing us to love our fellow man and be kind to the poor in specific ways, there is also an explicit commandment to "open your hand" to the poor, to give or loan them whatever they need. Jewish law requires us to give at least a tenth of our income to charity.
Charity boxes are an old Jewish tradition. During the period of the First Temple in Jerusalem, we find the first charity box: The Temple was falling into a poor state of repair, so the High Priest made a hole in the cover of a box, which he placed near the entrance before the altar, so that all contributions could be dropped in there.
During most of history, charity boxes were placed in the synagogue.
Now, it is the custom to have charity boxes in every home .
Besides giving donations directly to beggars who stretch out their hand we should regularly place coins in these boxes. Times especially appropriate for this is before prayer, and before the start of Sabbaths and Holidays -- particularly women before lighting Sabbath and Holiday candles.