We've been trying to efficiently donate as a group to help all those poor folks in China. Our Chinese affiliate, "Qiming":http://qimingventures.com is giving through the Chinese Red Cross, but if you are out of China, what are your options? We just want something simple that takes a credit card.
First, "Charity Navigator":http://charitynavigator.com came up from Google:"non profit rating" as the top source. The main things are to make sure that the agency is legitimate and also to see their efficiency ratio. That is how much of your dollar actually goes to the cause. it can be remarkably low. "GuideStar":http://guidestar.org doesn't do an actual rating, but does have lots of the raw data in terms of IRS forms and so forth. You can subscribe to premium services to see their reports as well.
They have some great "Top Ten":http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=topten lists that you can look at. For instance "high salary CEOs at low rated charities":http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=topten.detail&listid=8
The obvious one, "Red Cross":http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_china_relief_fund_0508 has its own China relief fund. It is a pretty decent. They have four stars which their top rating. The main things are that it is quite efficient (94% of its dollars go to programs)