Charity & Security Network Publications

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February 7, 2017

Financial Access for U.S. Nonprofits

The scope and prevalence of challenges that U.S.-based nonprofits face in accessing financial services are far more vast than previously understood, according to a comprehensive report released today by the Charity & Security Network. 

Two-thirds of U.S.-based nonprofit organizations (NPOs) working abroad are facing problems accessing financial services, the report finds. These include delays in wire transfers, requests for unusual additional documentation, increased fees, account closures and account refusals.  
The report, Financial Access for U.S. Nonprofits, is based on the first-ever empirical study of the global phenomenon known as “derisking,” as it relates to U.S.-based NPOs. Derisking refers to financial institutions terminating or restricting business relationships to avoid rather than manage risk. The report also reflects information from a number of focus group sessions and interviews with stakeholders over the last year. It outlines and analyses the scope, frequency, and prevalence of various financial access problems, including account refusals and closures, delayed wire transfers, unusual additional documentation requests and fee increases. 
Among the major findings:
  • 2/3 of all U.S. nonprofits that work abroad are having financial access difficulties
  • Delays in wire transfers, which can last up to several months, are the most common problem, affecting 37% of nonprofits
  • 15% of nonprofits report having these problems constantly or regularly
  • One-third of NPOs have experienced fee increases, and 26% have faced additional, unusual documentation requests
  • Transfers to all parts of the globe are impacted; the problem is not limited to conflict zones or  fragile and failing states
  • NPOs, categorically treated as high-risk, are sometimes forced to move money through less transparent, traceable, and safe channels as a result of delays in wire transfers and requests for additional documentation. When money cannot be transmitted in a timely manner, 42% of nonprofits report that they carry cash.

Co-authored by C&SN's Kay Guinane and Andrea Hall (February 2017). 




After a review of U.S. counterterrorism laws impacting charities, this report explains the legal framework of international humanitarian law (IHL), focusing on provisions that address civilian relief operations during situations of armed conflict. It then analyses how current U.S. counterterrorism laws and enforcement policies, particularly the broad prohibition on material support to terrorism, do not adequately incorporate these provisions and are inconsistent with humanitarian principles and obligations. The authors urge the U.S. to work with the nonprofit sector to better incorporate international humanitarian law principles and concepts into U.S. law and enforcement policy. (June 2012)

“Safeguarding Humanitarianism in Armed Conflict is a comprehensive study of the corrosive effect of counterterrorism measures on humanitarian action. It drives home the point that over-reaction is the very thing that makes terrorism succeed."   

        -- Gabor Rona, International Legal Director at Human Rights First

"Safeguarding Humanitarianism in Armed Conflict presents a thorough and balanced analysis of the protections provided for lifesaving humanitarian assistance in international humanitarian law. It reminds us that the struggle to balance security and humanity through law is not a new one, and urges us to recall long-held rules and standards of international law as we engage in debates around counterterrorism."

       -- Naz Modirzadeh, Senior Fellow at Harvard Law School- Brookings Project on Law and Security




Deadly Combination: Disaster, Conflict and the U.S. Material Support Law

The politicization of disaster response in conflict zones obstructs timely and effective aid delivery and also jeopardizes the safety of aid workers. Deadly Combination: Disaster, Conflict and the U.S. Material Support Law considers two cases: The 2011 famine in Somalia and the summer 2010 floods in Pakistan. In both cases, by giving priority to military objective, the U.S. impaired effective aid delivery by humanitarian organizations, exacerbating the hardship caused by disasters. (April 2012)






U.S. Muslim Charities and The War on Terror: A Decade in Review

U.S. Muslim Charities and the War on Terror: A Decade in Review, examines the challenges American Muslim charities have faced since 9/11 and how they have successfully responded. The report serves as an update to a March 2006 report summarizing action by the U.S. government to shut down American Muslim charities since 2006, and gives updates on the status of litigation and other efforts by charities. (December 2011)


Book Examines the Restrictive and Punitive Impact from Counterterrorism Measures on Nonprofits Since 9/11

This book is the first comprehensive examination of the restrictive and punitive impact from counterterrorism legislation on nonprofits since 9/11. Civil Society Under Strain; Counter-Terrorism Policy, Civil Society and Aid Post 9/11 (Kumarian Press) describes the threats organizations conducting humanitarian operations around the world are subjected to by unjust or overbroad anti-terror laws. Each chapter is authored by nonprofit experts or scholars, presenting the common, shared and unique challenges for nonprofits in countries such as the United States, Sri Lanka, Australia and former Soviet republics like Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The chapter about the U.S. was written by Kay Guinane and Suraj K. Sazawal. (November 2009)


How the Work of Charities Counters Terror

The roots of terrorism are complex and include the hopelessness of poverty, issues about identity and cultural domination, and frustration from being shut of the political process. To reduce the tensions that arise from these factors, U.S. grantmakers, aid and development organizations, and human rights advocates are striving to meet basic needs, promote respect and understanding, and engage people in peaceful political participation. But rather than welcoming their contribution, American national security laws and policies have erected barriers that unnecessarily restrict nonprofits' efforts. How the Work of Charities Counters Terror and How U.S. Laws Get in the Way addresses the need to acknowledge the critical role nonprofits play in improving our security by alleviating suffering and promoting human rights in global hotspots. (December 2009)