Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment begins with donations

Donated goods are the lifeblood of Goodwill.

The preparation of those items for sale in our stores provides meaningful training and employment for our team members and program participants.

We find new, important value in customers’ donations, using them to provide financial support and organizational support for our programs and services, hire individuals with barriers to employment and give back in the communities we serve.

In short, Goodwill’s work of Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment requires a partnership between donors of merchandise and purchasers of those donations, to create a revenue stream.

That money keeps the doors open and lights on in our facilities and helps us employ about 1,300 team members. But it also supplies what we call “mission muscle” — financial strength that supports our 24 programs and services, and nurtures dozens of partnerships and sponsorships across the state.

The resources generated from donated goods are invested in our people, our community, our mission and our future. (For more, see our annual report.)

  • In 2017, our 24 programs and services directly served 72,937 people across 35 counties.
  • Our GoodNeighbor program, which provides emergency assistance on a referral basis to agency clients, donated $935,589 in free merchandise to 43,480 people in need.
  • 1,191 program participants received in-store training, totaling 167,183 hours.

Circle of life

Goodwill’s retail operation starts with donations.

It’s been that way since the Rev. Edgar Helms founded Goodwill in 1902 in Boston. More than 100 years later, Goodwill has grown to include 3,000 retail stores in the United States and Canada and has become a $4 billion nonprofit human services organization.

In 2017, Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin collected 45.7 million pounds through 1,208,474 individual donations at our 27 retail stores and training centers, Outlet Store in Appleton, four Donation Express locations and 10 freestanding bins.

We take seriously expectations that we will treat donations responsibly. Our goal is two-fold:

  • Sell as much as we can by getting the best value of each donation in the most cost-effective way to maximize income to our organization, which in turn helps us fund more programs and services.
  • Minimize the amount of donated goods that end up in the landfill.

Our outlets:

  • E-commerce: Through a lean process known as quality sorting, donated goods are sorted and identified. Those earmarked as high-value items — jewelry, musical instruments, collectibles, art, etc. — are sold at and other online sources.
  • Retail stores and training centers: On average, 30 percent of the donated merchandise is sold at retail stores and training centers. To keep inventory fresh, Goodwill uses a five-week merchandising cycle. Items are on the sales floor for four weeks at the marked price, are discounted 50 percent during the fifth week and then are removed from the floor after that if they do not sell.
  • Outlet Store: Items that don’t sell at our retail stores head to the Outlet Store, at the Shiner Center in Appleton, where they are sold by the pound. For pricing, go here.
  • GoodWipers: Some goods just do not sell in our stores so we have taken creative approaches to repurpose them. For example, textiles of various grades are cut into wiping cloths and cleaning cloths, to be packaged and sold by our GoodWipers department. These products provide job-skills training within our programs and services to people who have barriers to employment while offering top-quality, low-cost wiping cloths to businesses and households.
  • Secondary markets: Goodwill finds buyers or channels — including ones overseas — for salvage such as textiles, shoes, books and metals.
  • Other outlets: Goodwill has outlets for items that are the byproduct of the donation process. Excess cardboard is sold to local cardboard recyclers, and plastic shopping and garbage bags are baled and sold to a vendor.
  • Responsible recycling: In the end, no other uses can be found for some donated material. Goodwill works diligently to keep that to a minimum, to properly dispose of those materials and to continue to improve on the percentage of donations deferred from the landfill.

“We are doing everything possible to keep items out of the landfill,” said Grant Nelton, Outlet Store team leader.

“The Outlet Store is the last chance for retail customers to purchase merchandise at a deeply discounted rate, while post-retail sales has 13 different salvage/recycling categories that our team members are sorting into. It is very exciting and empowering to see the team members take such an active role in not only keeping items out of the landfill but also trying to think outside the box and find new salvage streams.”


Environmental efforts

We hug trees. That’s one of our organizational values.

Goodwill NCW is environmentally conscious 365 days a year and is part of our values statement: “We see value and opportunity in all aspects of our organization. We are mindful of the generations that will follow and use this to guide our business decisions. We are resourceful and get the most out of everything that is given to us.”

In 2017 alone, we received 49.7 million pounds of donations.

Whether it’s finding new life and a new home for a donor’s pair of jeans or kitchen table, properly recycling every old computer or electronic device our Goodwill team uses, maximizing our truck’s deliveries to minimize waste or providing land for others to grow their own food, we put into practice the “reduce, reuse, recycle” philosophy.

It’s good for people and for the planet.

It’s Goodwill.


Goodwill believes in operating with financial transparency for all of our stakeholders, whether they are shoppers, donors, program participants, collaborative partners or community residents.

Please click on the links below to learn more.