When Congress passed the Patriot Act in 2001, the goal was to keep a watchful eye any and all possible activities of terrorists and, or terrorist supporters that may be within the borders of the United States. The scope of the Act places ordinary transactions of people under the watchful eye of the government.
Some of those transactions under scrutiny include donations made to non-profit organizations, like the United Way. Congress wants to make sure the money received by different charity groups from donors isn't being used to funnel money to terrorist groups.
Kay Parker is Vice President of Community Impact at the local chapter of the United Way and says they are doing their part to meet the expectations of the government. "All of our agencies go through very strict criteria to be a United Way partner", Parker said. "And one of the things we have them do is to sign a counterterrorism compliance agreement and that is part of the U.S. Patriot Act."
The agreement form must be signed by all agencies who want to be a United Way partner. By signing the counterterrorism document each agency certifies to the United Way and the federal government that they do not work with any terrorist groups.
Parker says most of the money donated to the United Way is distributed to its member agencies and there usually is not a question about the receiving organization. When they receive a donation earmarked for an organization they normally do not deal with, the United Way responds with caution.
According to Parker, "We do an extensive background check, we do a thorough research and if we cannot find that agency or if there is any doubt at all about them being part or not complying with the U.S. Patriot Act, we have to turn down that donation to that agency." Parker says this hasn't been a problem.
With donations under examination by the government, some raise the question, have charity organizations seen a decline in the amount of the money they normally rise? The Brazos Valley United Way says they have continued to be successful in raising campaign funds.
All 19 of the organizations in the Brazos Valley that partner with United Way certify they are in compliance with the Patriot Act. Parker says every contributor to the United Way can rest assured that their donations will only be received by member agencies which have met the high standards of the United Way.