I know Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro slammed the Red Cross last week for not providing more help, more quickly, to his stricken part of New York City.
Molinaro went so far as to urge Staten Island residents not to donate to Red Cross relief efforts. But I have to think that's anger and frustration and exhaustion talking. It's not the kind of advice any of us who want to help the 17 million people struggling with the aftermath of superstorm Sandy should take seriously.
Here's how to contribute to relief efforts without worrying that you're just lining the pockets of some scammer. And let's start with:
Donate to the Red Cross. You know the Red Cross isn't going to throw away your money, and it's easy to support its relief efforts. Either go to its website at redcross.org or text REDCROSS to 90999 to give a $10 donation (the $10 will be added to your phone bill).
Give to an established shelter or food pantry in the stricken areas. They're easy to find. A list of emergency shelters appears on redcross.org, or you can Google the town or county's name with the word "Food pantry." Once you've found one, see if it has a Facebook page. Many organizations have been using Facebook to put out the word on what they need.
Do your research. If you've never heard of a charity asking for funds, you can check them out at CharityNavigator (www.CharityNavigator.org), which rates organizations and tells you how much of your donation will go toward the actual cause (rather than fundraising or administrative costs.)
Shy away from Crowdraise campaigns. This website allows organizations to quickly set up fundraising efforts, but it's almost impossible to verify claims about where the money is going. Crowdraise will also take a cut of all contributions, further reducing the amount that actually gets those in need. If you see a charity on Crowdraise that you want to support, check it out through CharityNavigator and give directly to its website.
Never give to phone solicitors. You have no way of knowing if that person calling asking for donations is really from where they say they are. Hang up, and if you know the charity, give online. If you haven't, go back to tip two and chose from there.