Donating to Haiti Relief? First, Check Out the Charity

As the images from Haiti get more horrific, Americans are digging into their recession-ravaged pockets to help the international aid effort. But these moments bring out the worst in people, too. Already, sham charities are constructing phony websites and sending spam solicitations.

But besides avoiding those obvious villains, donors should try to reward the aid organizations that have proven to be the most efficient with their resources. Charity Navigator provides a helpful service in this respect, analyzing individual charities for how much of their donations go toward administrative costs like advertising and fund-raising, which necessarily take away from the percentage that goes toward actual programs.

That website rates American Red Cross with just three stars -- efficient, but perhaps not as efficient with its dollars as a slew of other charities for international aid that earned four stars, like UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and the Haitian Health Foundation.

Publix clerks are inviting shoppers to add to their bill for the Haiti effort. Those funds are "channeled" to the Red Cross along with the store's $100,000 donation.

Here at New Times, we have a soft spot for Planting Peace and its local hero Aaron Jackson, who we profiled exactly one year ago. He was toiling away in Haiti long before it became fashionable. Yesterday, New Times reporter Michael Mooney got in touch with Jackson and learned that the Planting Peace orphanages survived the quake.

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