NASHVILLE (BP) - On Monday, the popular U.S. fast food chain, Chick-fil-A, Inc., announced a new policy concerning its charitable giving. According to an online statement, the policy, which will take effect in 2020, will focus the company's charitable donations on the areas of hunger, homelessness and education.
In 2019, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, the company's philanthropic arm, donated to upwards of 300 charitable organizations. Under the new policy, the foundation will distribute $9 million dollars in pledged donations next year and will limit its partnerships to only one charity for each of its three initiatives.
In its announcement, the foundation stated that in 2020 it will be expanding its partnerships with Junior Achievement USA to support childhood education and Covenant House International to address youth homelessness. Additionally, the foundation also announced plans to "support more than 120 communities by dedicating $25,000 to a local food bank at each new Chick-fil-A opening."
Chick-fil-A is one of the nation's fastest growing restaurant chains. With total sales in 2019 topping $10 billion, Chick-fil-A, which is known for its crispy chicken sandwiches and cow-based commercials is now the third largest food chain in the United States, behind only McDonald's and Starbucks.
Despite its rapid growth, the Atlanta-based company has faced intense criticism in recent years over its charitable donations to groups that opposed same-sex marriage. Under the new policy, the foundation will no longer distribute funds to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the Salvation Army, or the Paul Anderson Youth Home, three former partner organizations whose views on homosexuality have sparked criticism of Chick-fil-A.
Established in 2012, the Chick-fil-A Foundation has distributed more than $52 million in donations to support "education, entrepreneurship and leadership development programs" in local communities where Chick-fil-A operates its franchises. Chick-fil-A has not attributed Monday's policy shift to criticism or outside pressure. Instead, the company says the new policy reflects a more thoughtful philosophy of giving.
"Our goal," Tim Tassopoulos, president and COO of Chick-fil-A, Inc., said in a statement, "is to donate to the most effective organizations in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger.... Faith-based or non-faith-based, no organization will be excluded from future consideration."
In addition to its new initiative-based approached, the foundation also announced it "will no longer make multiyear commitments and will reassess its philanthropic partnerships annually to allow maximum impact." The foundation previously had multiyear partnerships with both the FCA and the Salvation Army, which in ended in 2018.
Responding to the announcement from Chick-fil-A, the Salvation Army released a statement on Monday expressing its regret over the foundation's decision to "divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations." In the statement, the Salvation Army said that "as the largest social services provider in the world" it serves more than 23 million individuals per year and is likely "the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population."
The first Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in Georgia in 1946. Since that time, the conservative Christian values of its founder, Truett Cathy, who died in 2014, have shaped both the company and its culture. In addition to the company's commitment to philanthropy, the influence of Cathy's faith and values is reflected in the restaurant chain's practice of remaining closed on Sundays.
But as Chick-fil-A has expanded into regions outside the South, the company's conservative values and the religious views of the Cathy family, which has retained control of Chick-fil-A, have faced backlash in certain markets.
According to bisnow.com, earlier this year lawmakers successfully prevented Chick-fil-A from opening restaurants in airports in San Antonio, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y. Additionally, eight days into its lease, the first Chick-fil-A to open in the United Kingdom was told by the restaurant's landlord that it "would not be welcome" to extend the lease because of its "perceived anti-LGBT stance." Expansions into Canada and Scotland have also been met with protests over the company's views on sexuality.
Public criticism of the restaurant dates back at least to 2012, when Chick-fil-A faced a severe backlash after Dan Cathy, the company's CEO, expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage. That same year, Chick-fil-A stopped making donations to certain groups known for their opposition to LGBTQ causes. But the company continued to partner with organizations like the FCA and the Salvation Army to fund specific kinds of charitable work, including funding summer camps that benefit underprivileged children.
The mission of the Chick-fil-A Foundation is to "nourish potential in every child." In addition to its charitable donations planned for 2020, the company also stated it would continue to fund scholarships for Chick-fil-A employees and will also give back to local communities through its "True Inspiration Awards" program. Chick-fil-A anticipates its cash gifts for 2020 to total approximately $32 million, including continued investment in revitalization efforts in the Westside community of Atlanta.
Josh Wester serves as director of strategic initiatives in the office of the president at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.