Is Your Company Supporting Terrorism? (Corporate Charity)

Article excerpt

You want to be a good corporate citizen, but it's difficult these days. Once upon a time, you encouraged employees to give to worthy nonprofits, matched their contributions, received a nice tax break, and trusted that you were helping make the world a better place. No longer. Today, a controversial piece of legislation called the USA Patriot Act of 2001 is causing a big dilemma for corporations. It raises the possibility that if you unwittingly give to a charity that supports terrorism, you could be charged with criminal activity.

USA Patriot stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." Its official goal is "To deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes." Good intentions aside, the ramifications of this bill--specifically as it affects people and organizations who never intended to support terrorism--have many businesses worried.

"Suppose one of your employees makes a donation through your corporate matching program, and unbeknownst to you, that charity then funneled money to a terrorist group or an individual who's been designated a terrorist by the U.S. government," says Craig Wichner, chief executive officer of KindMark, a provider of integrated online corporate giving solutions. "It's possible that your company could be held liable. It may not matter that neither you nor your employees knew they were supporting terrorism.

"Furthermore, even if you aren't ultimately convicted, just being charged with supporting terrorism could cause untold amounts of damage. The fact that you were eventually acquitted would be of small consolation if you've already been harmed by negative [public relations], boycotts, or legal bills. The solution is to prevent such a disaster before it happens."

So what's a caring corporation to do? Well, don't quit giving--the benefits of corporate philanthropy far outweigh the risks. According to Wichner, the best course of action is to initiate "due diligence" on every charity you support. …