Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda have been encouraging people to make donations to help with relief efforts. 

If you want to make a contribution, there are a number of charities that are working directly in Puerto Rico.  

Save the Children, based in Fairfield, Conn., currently has about six people in Puerto Rico and it is trying to get more there. The organization is working with partners such as American Red Cross and FEMA in evacuation centers to make sure there are supplies needed by children, such as wipes, diapers, cribs, and playpens, as well as bassinets for bathing. 

This weekend, as more workers arrive in Puerto Rico, Save the Children plans to also set up child-friendly spaces within the shelters. "Children are always the most vulnerable in disasters, so we provide them with areas where they can be safe," says Wendy Christian, who heads the organization's communications department.

Christian says that for people who want to help, donating cash is the best option. That way, relief workers can buy the supplies needed. They can also decide where best to make purchases—in Puerto Rico if supplies exist, or at somewhere nearby like Miami.

More on Making Donations

Direct Relief, which is headquartered in Goleta, Calif., now has two people in Puerto Rico but more are expected to go. The organization's employees are visiting hospitals and health providers around Puerto Rico to find out what kind of medicines and medical equipment they need. The group, which is licensed to work as a wholesale distributor of medicine, then tries to supply them with medications such as antibiotics, mental health drugs, and hemophilia medications for children. 

Getting around isn't easy but Tony Morain, the director or communications, says Direct Relief works with a network of others including Fedex, FEMA, and the Puerto Rican Department of Health. Direct Relief has also rented trucks to help make deliveries. 

Because the group cannot accept medications from individuals, the best way to contribute is to donate through the organization's website, says Morain. 

World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization based in Federal Way, Wash., has sent about 6 people to Puerto Rico to connect with local partners such as the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. The organization is currently distributing food, water, and hygiene kits that include soap, shampoo, and diapers. It accepts donations through its website. 

All three of these charities are included in prevetted lists released by the charity watchdogs BBB Wise Giving AllianceCharity Navigator, and CharityWatch, to assist those affected by Hurricane Maria. The watchdogs evaluate charities on many factors including how much donated money is used for their charitable programs as opposed to fundraising and general expenses.

Another charity to consider is Hispanic Federation, which has been reviewed and received high ratings from two of the watchdogs, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance. (It has not been reviewed by CharityWatch.)

Hispanic Federation recently launched the Unidos Disaster Relief Fund to help raise money to meet hurricane and earthquake-related needs and recovery in Puerto Rico and Mexico. The fund was launched by a coalition of New York City civic leaders including Mayor Bill DeBlasio, U.S. Congress Members Nydia Velázquez and Adriano Espaillat, and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Hispanic Federation says that 100 percent of your gift to Unidos goes to help children, adults, and families recover from the devastation. 

If there is charity you are considering that has not been evaluated by the watchdogs, you should do some research on your own. You can usually find a charity's annual reports or federal tax form 990 on its website. The information is also available at Guidestar, a national database of nonprofits.

Keep in mind that charities that already have volunteers on the ground are usually in the best position to quickly put your donation to work, says Sara Nason, a spokesperson for Charity Navigator. 

How to Make Your Donations Count

Cash is usually best. If you donate money, charities can decide which items are most needed and most easily transported.

 “A financial contribution will give the organization the flexibility to acquire what they actually need,” says Sara Nason, a spokesperson for Charity Navigator. “Organizations responding immediately to a disaster often need this flexibility in order to reach the most people in the quickest time frame.”

Giving donations via credit or debit card online is the quickest way to get your money into the hands of the charity, but sending a check is also an option. Avoid organizations that ask for a money transfer, or individuals requesting cash—since they could be scams.

Give now, but consider giving later, too. Relief efforts are likely to last for months or years. If you can’t afford to donate a large amount right now, spreading out donations over a longer period of time could provide a boost to charities when other contributions start to taper off.

“Donors who make an annual or quarterly gift are wonderful, because charities can plan in advance on the basis of the gifts,” says Beth Gazley, a professor and nonprofit management expert at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Save your receipts. If you give to an IRS exempt organization, you’ll qualify for a deduction at tax time. To get the deduction, you’ll need documentation, such as a receipt or bank statement, of the gift. For contributions of cash or goods worth $250 or more, you’ll need a written statement from the charity.

Avoid scammers. Steer clear of emails or phone calls from organizations that you haven’t heard of before. Keep in mind that legitimate charities do not use high-pressure tactics to solicit donations.

Also, don’t click on links in unsolicited emails requesting donations, even if they look like they come from a reputable charity. Instead, go directly to the charity’s website to make your contribution. “Scammers often use ‘sound alike’ names and similar logos to bamboozle people,” says Michael Montgomery, founder of Montgomery Consulting, a Detroit-based fundraising firm.

Report any suspicious charity requests to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721 via email.