Living and Giving

The UniversalGiving Corporate Advisory

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We\’ve been working increasingly with Fortune 500 companies on their international CSR programs.  One of the toughest areas companies face is how they make decisions regarding their NGO Partners.   Establishing and maintaining these partnerships should be made with care, and for the longterm.  Read on about Fortune 500 companies can protect themselves and their brand as they expand their international giving and volunteer programs worldwide. 



For Fortune 500 Companies Involved in Global CSR

June 2009: Updated Quarterly

UniversalGiving™ has issued a Corporate Advisory for all Fortune 500 Companies involved in Global Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  The purpose of this advisory is to provide security measures for our corporate clients vis a vis an increasingly complex global world.  Despite companies’ positive motivations to serve their global communities, there are critical challenges that companies face which endanger their corporate security. UniversalGiving’s Corporate Advisory helps companies best understand how to safeguard and protect themselves as they increase their global community involvement.

In the event of any type of terrorist funding (inadvertent or not), the U.S.  Government will be examining the following points regarding any type of ruling.  At this current time, any funding involving a terrorist group can be deemed a felony.  The UniversalGiving™ Corporate Advisory is designed to help Fortune 500 companies avoid this situation by specific, clearly defined, precautionary measures.

UniversalGiving™ recommends having 1) a consistent written plan of your Global NGO Security Measures and Quality Verification Plan, and 2) consistently executed Global NGO Security Plan of Action. The more of these measures that a company institutes, the less likely a penalty or legal judgment will occur.  Please note: What the U.S, Government is looking for is that multiple layers of precautionary measures have been taken to avoid funding a terrorist entity. These precautions can protect your company – even if such terrorist funding occurs.  The U.S. Government is seeking to understand 1) the motive of the company and 2) the extent and thoroughness of the precautionary measures taken before issuing judgment.


One of the most critical areas regarding corporate international giving is intention.   The U.S. Government will examine the intention, motive and purpose behind a grant, foundation grant, employee donation, matching gift, product donation or volunteer effort.   If the intention is stating explicitly as to the intent of the Global CSR Program, then the U.S. government can see that the funding was not intended to go to a terrorist entity. 


The first layer of vetting will provide a good measure of security regarding each NGO. However, if this security is not renewed and reverified on a quarterly or at minimum annual basis,  the U.S. government can consider the company negligent or careless regarding its international giving.  Funding of a terrorist group (inadvertent or advertant) will be viewed in a harsher light if the Global NGO Security Measures and Quality Verification Plan are not maintained on a consistent basis.


The U.S. Government will be examining consistency in your CSR program.  Being committed to a particular issue, program or geographic on a consistent basis demonstrates this charitable activity is a part of its business practice and CSR programs.  Therefore large scale, clearly defined programs of support to NGOs can be viewed as beneficial.  Any inadvertent funding of terrorists will be viewed in a less harsh light.


In some instances, the corporation itself may decide to take on certain aspects of its own due diligence. There is nothing illegal about this decision. However, it does remove an extra safeguard. The U.S. Government and I.R.S. are seeking an ‘additional layer’ of security by having a third party involved.  Having this Third Party “Stamp of Approval” will provide an additional safeguard for the company.     


The third party provider should have a network of local relationships on the ground which helps it perform its due diligence. This network provides an extensive array of expertise in local governance, local relationships, and local knowledge necessary for effective CSR and Community Involvement Programs in general, as well as provides additional security measures.   


The U.S. Government decides to conduct an investigation, they will be less likely to do so if they know 1) high measures of security have been established and 2) these measures are being implemented by a third party. 


Even if a company has inadvertently funded a terrorist group, the U.S. government will most likely not take action against the company if the above security measures are in place and executed consistently.  The U.S. Government would most likely shut down the NGO and bar any future funding.  If a Global NGO Security Measures and Quality Verification Plan is not in place, it increases the likelihood that legal action will ensure versus the company for lack of precaution and negligence.


Most U.S. charitable organizations were sensitive to the threat of diversion of assets to non-charitable uses before September 11, 2001, and abided by the relatively straightforward legal rules. The tax law prohibited support of non-charitable activities, including terrorism, and imposed special requirements for grants to most foreign organizations. The criminal law barred all U.S. persons—including organizations engaged in charitable work abroad—from knowingly providing material support for specific acts of terrorism or to specified foreign terrorist organizations.

After September 11, the government’s efforts to stem the tide of funding to terrorist organizations prompted both new laws and “voluntary” guidance from the Treasury Department that presented challenges for organizations trying to figure out how to continue their international charitable activities legally. The effect of the uncertainty—and potentially severe penalties—associated with the government actions was to deter some organizations from pursuing their charitable missions at a time when global humanitarian needs were increasing.


Executive Order 13224 prohibits all transactions by U.S. persons with individuals and organizations listed on any terrorism watch lists issued by the U.S. government.  This order also blocks any assets controlled by or in the possession of such entities and those who support them. [1]

A key note is that the Executive Order and the USA Patriot Act prohibit some past philanthropy which was considered acceptable.  At this current time, any funding involving a terrorist group can be deemed a felony.  What the U.S. Government is looking for is the company and entity.


The following are “Principles of International Charity,” which were constructed as recommendations by an interest group of foundations, community foundations and nonprofits who were trying to find a ‘pathway’ to adhere to the Executive Order and the USA Patriot Act as given by the U.S. Government.

These principles are nonbinding and are not legal advice; however, we do advise companies to strive to adhere to these recommendations.  Working with UniversalGiving™ and our Quality Model™ helps fulfill these recommendations for our corporate clientele.

Principles of International Charity

1. Consistent with the privilege inherent in their tax-exempt status, charitable organizations must exclusively pursue the charitable purposes for which they were organized and chartered.

2. Charitable organizations must comply with both U.S. laws applicable to charities and the relevant laws of the foreign jurisdictions in which they engage in charitable work.

3. Charitable organizations may choose to adopt practices in addition to those required by law that, in their judgment, provide additional confidence that all assets—whether resources or services—are used exclusively for charitable purposes.

4. Fiscal responsibility is fundamental to international charitable work. Therefore, an organization’s commitment to the charitable use of its assets must be reflected at every level of the organization.

5. When providing charitable resources, fiscal responsibility on the part of the provider generally involves: in advance of payment, determining that the potential recipient of monetary or in-kind contributions has the ability to both accomplish the charitable purpose of the grant and protect the resources from diversion to non-charitable purposes;  engaging in ongoing monitoring of the recipient and of activities under the grant; seeking correction of any misuse of resources on the part of the recipient.

6. When providing charitable services, fiscal responsibility on the part of a provider involves taking appropriate measures to reduce the risk that its assets would be used for non-charitable purposes.

7. Each charitable organization must safeguard its relationship with the communities it serves in order to deliver effective programs. This relationship is founded on local understanding and acceptance of the independence of the charitable organization. If this foundation is shaken, the organization’s ability to be of assistance and the safety of those delivering assistance is at serious risk.

[1] Council on Foundations