I was among those who served property during the pandemic. As I stood in line at the Goodwill in Burien, Wash., I wondered which of my donations would sell and which could end up in the landfill, overwhelming the nonprofit.
That’s what I wanted to know when I started working on this story. But Goodwill won’t tell you. Donations are their lifeblood and they hate to create hesitation or uncertainty that could reduce the amount of things they receive.
But here are a few things I learned, as well as some common misconceptions about Goodwill – and a big thank you to billionaire MacKenzie Scott.
• Don’t give bullshit. You know what it is: the couch the cat peed on, the broken Ikea bed frame, the threadbare socks, the contents of your garbage drawer. Everything you donate should be reusable.
• Broken furniture is particularly problematic because it is expensive to send to the landfill. Hazardous waste – solvents, pesticides, oil paints – is also very troublesome.
• A rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you would pay for it. Otherwise, it probably won’t sell to Goodwill.
• But it’s complicated. While reading Adam Minter’s book “Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale” – which I highly recommend – I discovered ingenious people around the world who are reusing the waste of rich countries. Pakistani contractors, for example, refurbish and re-label used Levi’s and sell them to dollar stores, including in Canada.
• Bottom line: Believe Goodwill when they say they’re better than almost anyone at finding the optimal market for your unused stuff.
• I thought Goodwill’s mission was to provide jobs in its stores for people facing barriers to employment, but it is not. Evergreen Goodwill provides education and skills training to approximately 10,000 people per year and helps approximately 1,500 people find employment. But only about 10% of the students go to work for the association.
• Goodwill does not fix broken things. When the association was founded, it employed people to repair furniture and remake clothes, but it didn’t make economic sense for a long time.
Mac Kenzie Scott
The billionaire author (and Jeff Bezos’ ex) surprised Goodwill Industries International last year with a donation of $ 20 million, the largest in the association’s history. She has also donated huge amounts to 45 Goodwill Affiliates.
Portland-based Columbia Willamette got $ 15 million. Spokane-based Inland Northwest got $ 10 million.
No one knows the criteria used by their team, but many affiliates are located in economically disadvantaged areas. Evergreen – in Scott’s backyard – got nothing.
While this must have been disappointing, the local staff are far too friendly to say it. As Scott’s Goodwill ‘neighborhood’ leader, Evergreen CEO Daryl Campbell wrote a letter on behalf of the entire network thanking her for her “extraordinary recognition of the work Goodwill has done.”
Goodwill sorters uncover potential treasure in a bin of incoming goods: what appears to be an original photograph of the 520 Floating Bridge inauguration on August 6, 2021.