Where your disaster donations go

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Americans are responding to pleas for donations to support relief efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but allegations against some major charities are also raising concerns.

One currently on Facebook takes dead aim at several well-known charities including the American Red Cross. Its principal charge: the people running these organizations make too much money and too little goes to the people in need.

It first appeared in 2005, made the rounds and is back.

The fact-checking website Snopes notes it was inaccurate back then and that hasn't improved with the years. In fact, it lists a CEO who hasn't been with the organization for a decade.

It does note that the present president and CEO of the Red Cross actually makes more than the claim.

Executive compensation of large corporations and organizations is a separate debate. What's really at issue is the amount making its way to the disaster area.

"Ninety one cents of every dollar we spend for this disaster will go to help the people affected," says Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern, "and we're really very proud that our overhead is so low."

McGovern has issued a video which--while not directly addressing the post--seeks to set the record straight on where donation dollars go.

"Donations pay for cots. They pay for blankets, food, water, and relief supplies, like hygiene kits, diapers and wheel chairs."

The mission of the Red Cross is simple.

"Those first few hours of disaster response we're looking at sheltering," says Zanny Marsh, executive director of the Northern Nevada Chapter of the Red Cross. "We're looking at feeding. And we're looking at delivering those immediate services that are going to eliminate suffering."

And it goes to transport and support the volunteers on which the Red Cross depends.

There are currently two dozen from northern Nevada in the Florida disaster area. A dozen more left Monday.

Marsh points out donors can earmark their contributions to specific causes, but in all cases that 91 cents goes to the organization's core mission.

That's backed up by two watchdog organizations, the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator.

Marsh says events this big need the efforts of a number of organizations and while donors should be on guard for fraudulent pitches, it's easy to check them out.

"The best thing to do is go to a trusted source and look it up yourself."

It isn't that hard to check out the organizations you're giving to. Here are some links to get you started:

Snopes Fact Check on Charity CEO Salaries

Charity Navigator