How “Good” is Goodwill?

Aidan Khelil, Writer

On October 2, the Lenape Regional High School District began its Goodwill Clothing Drive, in which Lenape, Cherokee, Seneca, and Shawnee compete to raise the largest number of donations from students to Goodwill.

Do NOT donate to Goodwill. That statement may seem silly. Why shouldn’t the students donate to a charity out of the kindness of our hearts?

I wholeheartedly agree. Why shouldn’t we donate to charities? Why, instead, are we donating to a for-profit business which has repeatedly abused labor laws to get away with paying workers little to nothing while paying millions to its CEO?

Sounds like a serious accusation to make against anybody, let alone a company as widely recognized and positively viewed as Goodwill. After further research, however, it becomes clear that these are not accusations but instead simple, unfortunate truths.

The main criticism of Goodwill is that it is a for-profit organization. That is, it does not provide things for free to people who need them, nor does it aim to make zero net capital gain. It collects free clothing items and sells them to people who need them for a profit. This fact in and of itself makes many people uncomfortable.

Discomfort often turns to disgust when people find out that Goodwill has been abusing a program called the Special Wage Certificate program in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to pay employees with disabilities far below the minimum wage. Many employees work for less than $3.00 an hour, with the lowest paid workers earning $1.40 per hour. Much of the money kept by Goodwill goes toward lobbying for more government funding.

On top of this, a analysis estimates that the top-paid executives of 101 Goodwill entities using the Special Wage Certificate program are given over $250,000 per year in compensation.

In summary, Goodwill takes clothing and other items for free, sells them for a profit, then uses that money to pay its executives massive packages while it pays its workers pennies and lobbies for even more free money. Don’t donate to Goodwill. Donate to a real not-for-profit charity this month. The best charity towards which someone can donate their used and old clothes is the American Red Cross, which provides donated clothes free of charge to those who need them.

Now, let me be clear: Goodwill is an organization that has benefitted millions of people around the country. It began as a purely well-meaning organization looking to help people. Unfortunately for everybody, however, Goodwill’s executives have become more interested in moneymaking for themselves rather than the well-being of the general impoverished population.

It must be stated that the decision to name the organization “Goodwill” was a stroke of genius. It resulted in the widespread misinterpretation of the entire goal of the organization, and that could be why the Lenape Regional High School District found it apparently beneficial to endorse such a project. Remember: just because your high school supports an organization does not mean that that organization is the best choice or even an ethical one.

This article was by no means meant to be a dig at Shawnee High School or at the Lenape High School District. Everybody knows that the district is running this clothing drive out of compassion for others. I’m simply bringing the very real, underlying Goodwill controversies to light at Shawnee.


To donate to the Red Cross, visit The Red Cross Goods Donation Information Page


You can read more about the Goodwill problem below: