Update: about 2 pm on Sunday, April 6, 2014, Chili's posted the following to their Facebook Page:
Chili's is committed to giving back to the communities in which our guests live and work through local and national Give Back Events. While we remain committed to supporting the children and families affected by autism, we are canceling Monday's Give Back Event based on the feedback we heard from our guests.
We believe autism awareness continues to be an important cause to our guests and team members, and we will find another way to support this worthy effort in the future with again our sole intention being to help families affected by autism. At Chili's, we want to make every guest feel special and we thank all of our loyal guests for your thoughtful questions and comments.
Thanks, Chili's for thinking of autism for one of your Give-Back days. Thanks also for supporting science and public health.
On Monday, April 7, 2014, Chili's is planning to do a good thing, partnered with an inappropriate recipient.
The good thing is that Chili's announced that they would be donating 10% of the day's receipts for each restaurant to a charity; in this case, an autism charity. (As usual, some restrictions apply: in this case, you have to print out this flyer and present it to your server for the donation to be made.)
The inappropriate recipent is the National Autism Association (NAA). In turn, NAA has done some good work (on wandering and the Big Red Safety Box), but the the organization's overall mission and view of autism is unacceptable to me.
Before I talk about NAA and why I don't support it, let's clear a little ground.
First, Chili's is owned by Brinker International; locally, regionally, and nationally, the Brinker restaurants do a lot of this sort of fundraising: "we'll give a percentage of the day's receipts to a charity". I think this is great: it's a low-cost, low-stress way for a charity to raise funds, and it's a win for the participating restaurants by building traffic and ties to communities. Well done, Brinker!
Second, I want to acknowledge that it can be challenging for any enterprise (like Brinker) to select appropriate philanthropic partners. NAA sounds good and looks good and (as I have said) has done some good work. You'd have to be pretty sophisticated about autism or about the anti-vaccine movement to notice the details that I object to about NAA.
Now, let's run the numbers.
First, Brinker: how much does any charity stand to garner from a one-day, "bring a coupon or it doesn't count" event like that planned for Monday? I looked at Brinker's 2012 annual report (the last one available on the internet). These are all back-of-the envelope calculations, mind you.
In 2011, the average Chili's restaurant had a sales volume of $3,000,000.00
(3,000,000/365) = each restaurant's average daily take
Let's just call that $8,200 per day. The April 7 promotion promises to donate "10% of your check". So each restaurant could conceivably donate $820 to NAA.
In 2011, Chili's had 1,279 US restaurants (Brinker owned and franchises).
If every single patron at every single Chili's
$820 * 1,279 = $1,048,780
Of course, not every diner at every Chili's will use the flyer. I have no idea what the rule of thumb is for such fundraisers. Each 0.01% change is approximately $105, so if say 2.5% of all patrons use the flyer, the take for NAA would be about $26,000, or about 5% of what they raised from all sources in 2011. Not bad for a no-effort fundraiser.
NAA and why I don't support it.
I go into some detail about the National Autism Association Structure and Financials, but let me just say here: NAA promotes uncontrolled and unethical experimentation on autistic children; presents autism as a fearful thing and autistic children as "damaged" or "less than".
Bottom Line for Chili's
Thanks for thinking of autistic folks! Hope this event doesn't happen, but maybe you can find some better autism organizations to support. Here's a starter list:
- Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) --run by autistics for autistics http://autisticadvocacy.org/
- Autism Women's Network (AWN) run by autistic women for autistic women http://autismwomensnetwork.org/
- GRASP-- run by autistics for autistics http://grasp.org/
- Autism Science Foundation (funds autism research) http://www.autismsciencefoundation.org/