Thanks Mike, added Americares.
I just donated to Asha for Education -- I'm impressed with their transparency, their efficiency, the flurry of on-the-ground activity on their blog, their size (small enough to seem to me to be nimble, large enough to be stable as an enterprise), their usually long-term focus (and the speed at which they adapted to respond to this disaster), and their structure -- they seem to be principally composed of Indians, in America and Europe as well as in India, organized into small chapters which make donations directly to grassroots NGOs.
The fact that, in this case, many of the donors living in the first world share a language and culture with recipients in Third World poverty, strikes me as a very good example of leverage -- look at their internship FAQ for an example of what I mean -- they take it for granted that interns will speak an Indian language and have a local friend or family member to stay with -- so it sounds like we're talking about a constant flow of donor Indians from the US and Europe dropping in on the recipient grassroots NGOs to help out while on summer break, family vacations, etc -- a wonderfully low-cost and reliable mechanism for oversight, it seems to me.
They also seem to be entirely volunteer-run -- according to their income statement, in 2003 they spent only $21K on general and administrative expenses, of which they account for about $14K explicitly in categories like banking fees, postage and printing, and advertising. I like the idea that none of my donation is going towards salaries or office rental, and that the money is nonetheless going straight to on-the-ground NGOs without any intermediaries. The only people getting paid here are Indian social workers and the like, and my dollar goes a lot farher in Indian social worker salaries than it would in paying American charity CEOs, etc.
I may make a donation to one of the larger charities as well, however. The one drawback of Asha is that India, while hard hit, seems to have relatively more resources to deal with the problems than places like Indonesia, which is devastated, and Myanmar, which is not letting anyone even know that there is a problem. So I'm interested in what are the most effective ways to reach those places.
Thanks to everyone for posting with your suggestions.