TechSoup Global developed these materials supported by a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Between 2004 and 2010, TechSoup Global provided technical assistance to Mott grantees to help them comply with the list-checking requirements resulting from the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act. Now, these materials are being made available to all organizations who make grants and who want to check their grantees against the Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals (OFAC SDN) list.
USA PATRIOT Act List-Checking Requirements
The USA PATRIOT Act is a set of mandates signed into law by the U.S. government in October 2001. One of its goals is to prevent U.S. funds from supporting organizations involved in terrorist activities.
All grant-making organizations are affected by the USA PATRIOT Act. Therefore, they check their grantees against the U.S. government's lists of organizations and individuals involved in terrorism. Nonprofits risk having their assets frozen by the U.S. government if they are suspected of granting money to terrorist organizations or to other organizations that are suspected of re-granting it to terrorist organizations.
List checking refers to the process of comparing grantee lists (those organizations to whom you grant funds) with a terrorist watch list from the U.S. Government, the OFAC SDN list (Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals list). The list is compiled by the U.S. Treasury. Unfortunately, no detailed information exists that describes the process for creating and maintaining the list. You can read more about this list on the U.S. Treasury website.
For additional information on list checking, resources to help you list check, and the USA PATRIOT Act's potential impact on charities, see:
How to List Check
There are a number of ways to check the OFAC SDN list (see List-Checking Tools, below).
You should check the name of the organization, the name of the person who will be implementing the work funded by the grant you are giving, and the name of the person who leads the organization. Sometimes those two people are the same.
If the name of a grantee contact or organization is on one of the "suspected terrorists" lists provided by the U.S. Government, your organization will want to collect documents that prove the names do not really match those found on the watch lists before making a grant.
To do so, your organization needs to ask project contacts for proof of their citizenship or birth dates. A photocopy of a government-issued identification such as a driver's license or passport will provide this information. To compare an organization name, request a copy of the articles of incorporation or other legal document listing the name and address of the organization. Compare that information with the information on the OFAC SDN list to confirm that the match is a false positive. Any true positives should be reviewed and documented. Place a hold on the pending transaction. Contact the organization to clarify its information. If you have questions about what to do, you should contact your legal advisor.
Document everything by printing screenshots, even if there were no matches, and keep photocopies such as driver's licenses, passports, 501(c)(3) determination letters, or whatever you collect to verify that your grantee is not a true match. Make sure you note the date that you conducted the search.
For additional information, see our FAQs, below.
Free List-Checking Options
The OFAC SDN list is comprehensive, and checking this list usually fulfills organizations' requirements. If you only have a few grantees to check, there are some free alternatives to fulfill this requirement.
You can check each organization name, organization contact, and project contact manually. Go to the OFAC SDN site directly and conduct these checks. Make sure you print the results pages so you have documentation of the results.
Click the SDN link to download the 250-plus page SDN list in PDF format (this list is updated periodically; always get the latest list from the SDN site before checking). When the list is open in Adobe Reader, you can type the organization name in the Search box in the toolbar at the top of the page. A box on the right will return links to all occurrences of the name. You will need to verify that the organization you are checking is not a match with any results you may get. You can usually do that by comparing addresses. Repeat the process with the complete name of the organization contact and again with the project contact.
You can check each organization name, organization contact, and project contact by visiting a third-party site that is not affiliated with the Treasury Department. Go to the Instant OFAC site and click the Search tab on top.
Enter the organization name in the Search box, and click Search to check it against the database. On the next screen, you will see your search results and you can get a printer-friendly formatted page by clicking on the Printer-friendly link. Print this page for documentation. Repeat the process with the organization contact and again with the project contact.
Paid List-Checking Tools
Software applications have been developed to facilitate the process of checking names against the OFAC SDN list. The list checking applications we suggest are fairly straightforward to use and affordable. However, as long as the application you choose allows you to fulfill your requirements for checking lists and documenting the results, you are welcome to use whatever works for you.
You may find that some of these tools are less costly or easier to use, so you should investigate them in light of your particular needs. We recommend that you consider the number of names you will check, how frequently you will check those names, and the technology skill level of the staff who will use these applications.
This easy-to-use web application accepts single entry or batch searches and has user-friendly reports that are archived. It is priced in the mid range, and it is available with annual contracts that include instructor-led training.
patriotAGENT is a service from Lyons Commercial Data. You can contact Susan A. Thompson at 800-684-0388 ext. 210 for sales information, or go directly to patriotAGENT.
patriotAGENT features an easy-to-use and intuitive web-based interface. It includes many professional list-checking functions and allows you to customize and save various search scenarios. The reports are easy to read and the application automatically archives searches for future reference and retrieval.
At a cost of $1,030 for fewer than 5,000 searches per year, patriotAGENT's price is comparable to similar list-checking applications with the same amount of functionality. You can search single entries or upload text files for batch searching. Lyons will include instructor-led online training with your annual contract and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
(All details are as of 1/1/2011.)
This online application is competitively priced and has a pay-as-you-go pricing structure. Good for checking fewer than 500 names, it has a less polished user interface and report format. A free demo is available.
ISTwatch Online is a service from Intelligent Search Technology, Ltd. You can contact Thuy Pham at 800-287-0412 for sales information.
We recommend ISTwatch because of its low cost and pay-as-you-go pricing structure. For example, if you need to check fewer than 500 names and organizations, ISTwatch will charge you $50 for those checks. For further pricing information, refer to the ISTwatch website.
Compared to WatchDog Pro 5.0 and patriotAGENT, ISTwatch is not as polished or intuitive. Buttons and menu items feel clunky, and reports look raw and are hard to read. On the other hand, it accepts Microsoft SQL or Access databases to check against, and the phone support was excellent.
It's worth taking a look at ISTwatch to see if it fulfills your searching requirements. It also has a simplified application that checks an individual person or organization, which we cannot comment on since we did not test it for this review.
(All details are as of 1/1/2011.)
Designed for large batches, WatchDog Pro has an intuitive interface and navigation. Search history and reports are retained. This application is very savvy but has a higher price tag and is geared towards enterprise-level and large searches of data.
WatchDog Pro is a service provided by Attus Technologies. You can contact Bradley Allen at 888-494-8449 ext. 254 for sales information, or go to Attus Technologies.
Attus Technologies' WatchDog Pro 5.0 is for both novice and advanced users, with an intuitive interface for easy navigation between different tasks. Search history is kept, which makes reporting easier. In addition, false positives can be flagged, so an organization or individual will not be flagged in future searches.
The product is geared towards enterprise customers and designed with routine searches of large amounts of data in mind. For example, its batch pricing is based on a maximum search of 12 batches of 100,000 records each. If you routinely search more than 50 records at a time, it may be desirable to purchase the batch option for its ease of use.
Contact Attus Technology directly for pricing details.
(All details are as of 1/1/2011.)
Bridger Insight XG (BIXG)
Bridger Insight XG is a product of LexisNexis. Bridger applications are excellent products and especially effective when you need to check more than one watch list.
The Bridger Client Services site is a good place to find updated documentation, a means to send questions to Tech Support, and access to the most recent training materials. To create a user account you will need the product code, which you can find in Help>About in your Bridger product.
The Technical Support phone numbers are: 800-915-8930 (toll-free in the U.S.) and 406-556-3055. Technical Support is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mountain Time (excluding major U.S. holidays).
Bridger Insight XG
Q. Should we check an organization's official name and its acronym when the acronym is more commonly used?
A. List check using the full name.
Q. Should I use the individual's business address or home address?
A. The home address is preferable for an individual. If you have both, you can use both if you want to be very diligent.
Q. Why do I have to document that I list checked? Do I have to keep paper copies or may I keep files on my computer? How long do I have to keep that documentation?
A. The documents prove that you checked the grantee list and are your legal protection. You can choose to keep electronic copies of the results, but if you do this, you need to make sure that your computer's storage drives or network is backed up regularly and that you are able to restore those back-ups. Paper copies should be stored in a safe and organized place so they don't get lost or destroyed.
Q. I just finished list checking my entire database. There were no hits at all. How do I show that I checked all the grantees?
A. A "clean" run does not produce a paper trail. A "clean" list check can be documented by taking print screens from the list-checking process. To capture screen images, click anywhere on the screen, type ctrl-Print Screen. Open a word processing document, click anywhere in that blank document, and type ctrl-V. The image of the active screen should appear in the word processing document. Name and save the document in the normal way.
Q. How frequently do you get hits? Do you know of organizations that actually had any true hits rather than false positives?
A. Almost everyone will get a hit because there are shared names around the world. However, true positives are quite rare. The more complete and accurate your data is, the fewer hits you will have. Here is an illustration of this: If you search on Orange Co. Volunteers you may get a hit. If you re-enter it as Orange County Volunteers it will not be a hit.
Q. If I get a hit or a match, what do I do next?
A. You would request a copy of a passport, driver's license, or other government-issued identification document to confirm that the ID number and birth date does or doesn't match.
Q. If we have a true positive, will that prevent making a grant, or are there exceptions?
A. Usually, no grants are made to an organization or individual that is a true positive. If you have other questions about this, contact your legal advisor.
Q. What is an open grant?
A. An ongoing grant. Grants usually have a start and end date. If the end date has passed, and the work is finished, the grant is closed.
Q. Does list checking apply to re-grants and scholarships?
A. Yes. When you sign a new grant agreement and issue a new grant payment, you should list check. Likewise, when you give a scholarship, you should list check.
Q. Do we list check if we pay a third party for conference registration fees for staff from another organization? What about if we support other organizations by reimbursing travel costs, providing meals, and so on when those organizations attend meetings or training? Are all these grants?
A. Payments for travel, lodging, and tuition (and reimbursement for these purposes) are grants. When you make such payments to or on behalf of third party individuals or organizations using funds, the payments normally would be considered re-grants. Thus, they would ordinarily be subject to the list-checking requirement. Under certain circumstances, payments for travel, lodging, and tuition expenses may qualify for an exception to the list-checking requirement. If you want to be safe, it's best to list check. You can also consult your legal advisor for further information.
Q. If we pay one grant in more than one installment do we have to check the grantee each time we pay the different parts of the same grant?
A. Yes, you should list check every time you make a payment.
TechSoup Global received a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to provide technology assistance to Mott's re-granting grantees, and we also offer data-care and management information to help grantees get the most out of their databases. It is this work that led to the development of these materials.
What TechSoup Global Thinks About the USA PATRIOT Act
TechSoup Global considers the USA PATRIOT Act a serious governmental overreaction. We believe that it encroaches on the civil liberties of many Americans and that it hampers nonprofit work.
Under the USA PATRIOT Act, law enforcement officials have increased powers to shut down and encroach upon nonprofits' efforts to fulfill their missions. For example, under the act, the FBI has spied on Americans using library records. TechSoup Global works extensively with libraries, and we support their efforts in opposing the USA PATRIOT Act.
Why TechSoup Agreed to Help the Mott Foundation with This Work
TechSoup Global wants to help nonprofits make informed decisions. The USA PATRIOT Act levies harsh penalties on organizations that are found supporting individuals or groups that support or practice terrorism. Organizations can have their assets frozen if they are suspected of giving to a suspected terrorist. And there is no definition of what is meant by "suspected."
TechSoup Global thinks that it is important for any organization, but vital for advocacy groups, to know whether or not they work with individuals or groups recorded on "suspected terrorist" lists.
If a match with a watch list is uncovered, the funding organization can determine how best to proceed. It can prepare for consequences should it decide to continue materially supporting a person or group suspected of being involved with terrorist activities.
TechSoup Global believes that organizations should act with the full knowledge of the consequences of their actions. An organization that does not perform a list check does not know if it is putting itself at risk by its giving policies. An organization that does perform the list check can make decisions with the full knowledge of risks. We want to make sure that granting organizations are not trapped because they did not, or could not, access various and confusing government and quasi-governmental lists.
We support the desire of foundations like the Mott Foundation to continue giving and to provide tools to the organizations they support without putting themselves or the organizations they support at undue risk.
If grantmaker funds were to be frozen, many organizations would suffer. We don't want that to happen. We want the good work that funders like Mott are doing — and that their grantees are doing — to continue.
List checking requires that you have two things in place: a set of data about the organizations to whom you make grants and the ability to compare that data to the information contained on the watch list. Many organizations do not have their data in a secure and accessible state. The point of the data care information is to provide the information necessary to ensure that data is stable and can be used for list-checking purposes. Implementing these suggestions across your organization will have a broader benefit than just helping you with list checking, so we believe this will be time well spent for many organizations.
If you have additional questions about list checking, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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