I wrote in my recent update that I’ve been re-purposing some skirts from Goodwill for the girls and I, and that reminded me of something that’s been bugging me, lately. I’ve heard of a lot of people boycotting Goodwill and refusing to donate to them because of how much money the corporation makes. I don’t want to get into a debate as to whether a corporation is entitled to make money off of a business – (in short: they absolutely are,) but what I really want to say is that I personally don’t care that the corporation managers are making large amounts of money – they are also one of the only major organizations helping families in need.
In a not-so-rare twist of irony, I find that many of the very people who complain about Goodwill have no problems whatsoever taking their clothing or kids used toys to consignment stores to sell. So somehow it’s okay for us to make money off of our used clothes (where they’ll be sold from $5 – $25 a pop,) rather than donating them to families in need, but it’s not okay for Goodwill to make money off of the clothing they sell??? This doesn’t make sense! (For the record, I don’t see anything wrong with either one, just the mindset that says one is okay and the other is not.) And the churches? In my opinion, and with very few exceptions, they’re even worse.
Let me give you an example:
Several years ago, I contacted a pastor at my (very huge, very popular) church and asked him if we could set up a goodwill type of store that would be FREE to the people who needed it. The pastor I spoke with told me this was something that he’d been wanting to do for a while, but had been told repeatedly that there just wasn’t money “in the budget” to do it. A few months later, my choir director told us that they would soon be installing giant screens in the back of the church so that the choir members would no longer have to hold their music! If we want to look for examples of misallocation of funds, we really don’t have to look any further than our local churches. The way I see it, Goodwill is meeting a need that the churches, with a very few exceptions, are not meeting… so good for them, and thank God for them, because we could not afford to pay $25 for a pair of jeans, brand new, and with seven kids even spending $5 – $10 at the consignment store (vs. $1.50 – $3.00 at Goodwill) is just insane!
But perceived hypocrisy aside, here is what I really want to say:
Goodwill is meeting a need that almost no one else is meeting – it’s a very real need and a very necessary help to a lot of families. If Goodwill were to shut its doors tomorrow, I shudder to think of what our clothing bill would be, even if we were to shop at the very cheapest of consignment stores. To give you a further example of this:
A friend of mine recently bought a bunch of clothes from Duck Duck Goose, a huge consignment event that happens once or twice a year and is supposed to be known for their amazing deals. She bought roughly 25 items for her 3 year old son for about $70 and was crazy excited about it. I was happy for her, too. But here’s the thing… for roughly $40, I could have bought the same number of items at Goodwill. Now multiply that by seven (soon to be eight.) That’s $560 vs. $320. When you have a very tight budget (and kids who play hard and need new clothes often!) that’s HUGE!
So please… to all of you who are angry that the Goodwill corporation makes a lot of money… I understand – I really do – and I have a suggestion for you:
When every church has a clothing distribution center in its basement, THEN let’s boycott Goodwill. When every family is sending all of their gently used clothes and toys to those in need, organizing free-for-the-taking yard sales, or opening free consignment stores of their own, THEN let’s boycott Goodwill. But for the sake of families like ours, until the Churches and members of our society are willing to take up the slack and do something better, please don’t stop donating!
A commenter on facebook brought up a great point… there are other (if not many!) places that are doing the same type of work that Goodwill is doing and may not raise the same ethical questions that Goodwill does. Personally, I appreciate Goodwill because of its large size and widespread distribution, but if more people donated to these organizations, they would certainly get larger!