What just happened?

In a press release issued yesterday, the Chick-fil-A Foundation announced that in 2020 it will be introducing a “more focused giving approach to provide additional clarity and impact with the causes it supports.”

“Staying true to its mission of nourishing the potential in every child,” the statement said, “the Chick-fil-A Foundation will deepen its giving to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness, and hunger.”

“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” Chick-fil-A president and chief operating officer Tim Tassopoulos said in an interview with Bisnow. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”

What is the Chick-fil-A Foundation?

Charitable giving by the company is done by the Chick-fil-A Foundation, the corporate foundation of Chick-fil-A, Inc that was created in 2012 as a not-for-profit organization. The foundation’s purpose is “to lead the company’s commitment to support organizations dedicated to the issues of hunger, homelessness, and education.” To date the Chick-fil-A Foundation has donated $52 million to organizations serving the local communities in which Chick-fil-A operates.

What organization will the Chick-fil-A Foundation be giving to in 2020?

The Chick-fil-A Foundation recently announced that in 2020 it would introduce a “more focused giving approach to deepen its giving to a smaller number of organizations” in its three primary areas of focus. The company committed $9 million to the following three initiatives.

In the area of hunger, the foundation is dedicating $25,000 to a local food bank at each new Chick-fil-A opening. In addition to these donations, Chick-fil-A restaurants have helped and will continue to partner with the Shared Table program.

In the area of homelessness, the foundation will continue to partner with Covenant House International. Covenant House provides housing and support services to approximately 74,000 runaways and trafficked young people each year. In 2019, Covenant House was awarded with the foundation’s True Inspiration Award.

In the area of education, the foundation will continue to partner with Junior Achievement USA (JA). JA’s volunteer-delivered, kindergarten-12th grade programs “foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential.” JA is a primary recipient of the foundation’s philanthropy. Since 2013, the foundation has donated more than $7 million to JA.

How much will the company give to charity in 2020?

Chick-fil-A Inc. and the Chick-fil-A Foundation will provide approximately $32 million in total cash gifts in 2020.

What organizations has the Chick-fil-A Foundation stopped donating to?

The primary organizations that previously received funding but will not in 2020 are The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

The foundation gave to Fellowship of Christian Athletes to support summer sports camps for inner-city youth. (Participating children were not required to be a member of FCA and did not have to sign any FCA pledges.)

Similarly, in the past few years The Salvation Army has received support from the foundation to support children’s programs in Atlanta, including camps for kids and Angel Tree. In response to the recent news, The Salvation Army issued a statement:

We’re saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations—areas in which The Salvation Army, as the largest social services provider in the world, is already fully committed. We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population. When misinformation is perpetuated without fact, our ability to serve those in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or any other factor, is at risk. We urge the public to seek the truth before rushing to ill-informed judgment and greatly appreciate those partners and donors who ensure that anyone who needs our help feels safe and comfortable to come through our doors.

What organizations has the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated to in the past?

The stated mission of the foundation is to “nourish the potential in every child.” In keeping with this mission, the foundation has primarily given to youth-oriented organizations.

In 2014, the foundations partnered with Action Ministries, American Red Cross, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club, City of Refuge, Covenant House, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Hands on Atlanta, Junior Achievement, The Salvation Army, and CBS Atlanta.

In 2015, the foundation gave to Junior Achievement, The Salvation Army, CBS Atlanta, and almost 200 other organizations across the United States.

In 2016, the foundation gave to Junior Achievement and 36 local agencies in Atlanta.

In 2017, the foundation gave to Junior Achievement, Paul Anderson Youth Homes, The Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and various charities in Atlanta.

In 2018, the foundation gave to Junior Achievement, The Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and various charities in Atlanta

In 2019, to date, the foundation has given to Junior Achievement and dozens of other organizations in the Atlanta area.

In each of those years, the foundation also gave $1 million in grants to 25 organizations through their True Inspiration Awards.

Did the Chick-fil-A Foundation stop giving to those organizations because they were characterized as being “anti-LGBTQ groups”?

“When there is a tension, we want to make sure we’re being clear,” Tassopoulos said. “We think this is going to be helpful.”

The initial reactions, though, have shown that the company is certainly not “being clear.”

After the release of the foundation’s 2017 giving report, several media organizations characterized the foundation as supporting “anti-LGBTQ groups,” specifically The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In response the company said in March 2019, “The narrative that our giving was done to support a political or non-inclusive agenda is inaccurate and misleading.”

The recent news puts the Chick-fil-A Foundation in an even more difficult position. If the company said they were intentionally donating to companies that were not “inclusive” they would face a backlash. But they would also face criticism—as they are doing now—if it’s believed they made the decision to reject faith-based organizations who hold an orthodox Christian view of homosexuality. And few critics on either side will believe—even if it’s true—that their decision was made solely, as Tassopoulos claims, to “donate to the most effective organizations in the areas of education, homelessness, and hunger.”

All that the situation has made clear is that contributions to orthodox Christian faith-based organizations will continue to be controversial.