Goodwill and Gamers: What happens to your donations?

Full Disclosure: I am an employee of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin. My views and opinions are my own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Goodwill.

I’ve known many gamers and cosplayers/costumers who have found some amazing pieces at Goodwills across the country. It is a staple store for artists and creative types to find materials and inspiration for their works. And it makes sense. In essence, you take something that someone no longer wanted, and you turn it into something new. And the cost is generally a lot less then what you would pay for brand new. And sometimes you can even find brand new items around the stores.

One of the things I gravitated toward with Goodwill was the fact that they were a non-profit organization. My Master’s degree had a huge emphasis on ethics and service of self, which is why I felt Goodwill might be a good fit for me. They helped others through their…..well, that I wasn’t actually sure on. I knew they helped with job training, but I had no idea how they did that. Thinking on it, I had no idea what Goodwill actually did except take my old things and sell things at a very reasonable cost.

So once I started working for Goodwill, I slowly found out that not many actually know what Goodwill does. So I figured I’d write a post about my personal discoveries on Goodwill and its overall mission. This has been a continual process, and new discoveries are always being made. I’m hoping to do some further posts and interviews on this in the future, but let’s get through the biggest part.

The interaction that prompted me to investigate this further was meeting an older woman making a purchase in my store. She told me she is an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter and teacher. Her job through Goodwill is to teach non-verbal adults ASL for things like ‘toilet’ and ‘eat.’ She said it was something so simple, yet it is rare that anyone will teach an elderly person how to sign that they need to use the restroom. ASL is frequently used with younger children to help them communicate when they aren’t able to speak because they can acquire language quicker than they are able to speak it, so ASL helps them ‘show’ what they are trying to say. It never occured to me to use ASL with adults who cannot communicate, and this simple act can increase their comfort, health and quality of life. It is a seemingly small service that has a huge impact on the community. This woman was so interesting to me, and I thought it was amazing that Goodwill would provide this type of service.

The Goodwill Mission is to provide training, employment, and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence. Without getting into extreme depth of this statement, provide a hand up, not a hand out. Goodwill is a non-profit, and the services they provide are either no cost or low cost. Goodwill does not donate their money to outside charities, instead, they employ people to provide these services. A list of services can be found on the Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin website.

There is sometimes confusion about the mission because of how it is approached. Since Goodwill does not donate to outside charities, and a lot of the mission work happens at locations outside of the retail sites. There are also meme’s on the internet sparking confusion as to where to money goes. Since Goodwill is a non-profit, their financial information is available for the public to see and you can find the 2016 financial report on their website. Charity Navigator, which looks at the financial spending and transparency of Charities, has rated Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin as a 4 star non-profit, which is their highest rating possible.

So, when you donate or purchase items from Goodwill, the money is then reinvested in the organization to support the mission service and operations that train people and provide jobs. The whole purpose of Goodwill’s mission is to help get people to a place where they can move forward. Goodwill has helped so many people with their work, and I think it is important to know how your donations or purchases go to help those in your community. Goodwill is regional as well, meaning that each regional Goodwill can determine how best to serve their area. Goodwill is unlike any other retail store, as revenue goes towards funding its mission.

So when you donate a game or purchase costume pieces, your money goes back to your community and helps local people get a hand up and empower them to better themselves. Even small purchases have huge impacts and I cannot wait to explore this further with all of you.