Council on Foundations – US charities develop alternative to Treasury Guidelines

In March, a Council on Foundations-led working group of more than 40 US charitable sector organizations finalized eight fundamental Principles of International Charity as an alternative to the Treasury Department’s Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines, Voluntary Best Practices for US-based Charities, issued in 2002.

Following criticism of the Guidelines by the Council and other non-profit organizations, US Treasury Secretary John W Snow said last year that the Treasury was willing to consider changes in the Guidelines. The Treasury Guidelines Working Group was formed shortly after and has developed the Principles, in occasional consultation with the Treasury. In light of the many different ways that US charities work internationally, the Principles do not prescribe specific practices but rather a broad framework for organizations with international activities ranging from grantmaking to service delivery operations.

They call for the observance of all applicable US and foreign legal requirements and the adoption of further practices, at the individual charity’s discretion, to ensure that resources and services are used exclusively for charitable purposes. They also state that, while the responsibility for these steps lies with the charitable organization’s board of directors, the organization’s commitment to fiscal responsibility – defined as conducting appropriate due diligence on prospective partners/grantees, obtaining a written, signed agreement, engaging in ongoing monitoring, and seeking to correct any misuse of resources – must be reflected at every level. At the same time, the Principles emphasize that charitable organizations must be independent and cannot serve as instruments of a government’s laws or policies. The Treasury Department has said it intends to revise the Guidelines to incorporate the Working Group’s Principles.

The Principles can be downloaded from the Council’s website ( by clicking on ‘International’ at the top of the home page and then on ‘Principles of International Charity’.

This column was written by Rob Buchanan, Director, International Programs, Council on Foundations. He can be contacted at

Council on Foundations
Tel +1 202 466 6512
Fax +1 202 785 3926

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