Debunked: Setting the Record Straight about Goodwill

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Every year, Goodwill Industries of Kansas supports thousands of Kansans through our mission services. From assisting individuals with disabilities and providing job seekers with workforce development opportunities to providing education for adult learners and those involved with the justice system – we are more than a thrift store.

For over 65 years, Goodwill has been a beacon of support for individuals with disabilities and barriers who seek independent and productive lives. So, we’d like to set the record straight on several myths, rumors, and misconceptions about Goodwill that persist to this day.

Myth #1: Goodwill is not a nonprofit organization

The Truth: Since its inception in 1957, Goodwill Industries of Kansas has been designated a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Goodwill does not distribute dividends to any ownership individuals or groups.  All surpluses of revenues over expenses are reinvested in our organization and used to add jobs to our communities, enhance or create additional services for people with barriers, and purchase assets that help us provide more mission impact. From the beginning, we have been dedicated to assisting Kansans with disabilities and barriers, and in 2023, we provided over 4,300 program services through our mission.

It is a fact, When you shop at our retail stores, approximately 90 cents of every dollar you spend goes into our mission services.

Myth #2: The Goodwill CEO is a Billionaire

The Truth: Contrary to popular belief, Steven C. Preston, the President/CEO of Goodwill Industries International, is not a billionaire. While each Goodwill territory operates independently and is governed by a local volunteer board of directors – no CEO within the Goodwill network has ever drawn a salary in the billions. In 2021, our local board of directors welcomed Laura Ritterbush as the President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Kansas. Laura is not a millionaire and her compensation package is in line with the industry standards for the nonprofit sector.

She is committed to ensuring our funds are used to make the greatest impact in our community, not her wallet.

Myth #3: Goodwill pays people with disabilities below the minimum wage

The Truth: Let’s set the record straight. At Goodwill Industries of Kansas, every single one of our employees, regardless of ability, earns at least the minimum wage or higher. The notion of paying sub-minimum wage is an archaic practice that we do not support. We value and respect all our team members and are committed to fair compensation across the board.

Myth #4: Goodwill employees get first dibs on all donations

The Truth: Goodwill upholds stringent policies regarding employees accessing donations before they’re processed and displayed for sale. Simply put, Goodwill employees are not allowed to go through donations. Our corporate compliance manager rigorously investigates any concerns related to this and ensures adherence to our values and practices.

Integrity is a core value to our organization and this kind of behavior simply is not tolerated.

Myth #5: Goodwill does not help people locally

The Truth: The heart of Goodwill beats for the local Wichita community and its neighboring areas. Take a moment to read the stories of locals like Patience, Aziz, Derris, and Casandra. Additionally, every retail store across our territory issues vouchers to empower local nonprofits, allowing those facing hardships to shop without any financial constraints. Our assistance has never been denied to anyone seeking it.

Additionally, we offer targeted case management in Sedgwick and Butler County, conduct adult day programs in Wichita, Newton, and Hutchinson, and have plans to extend our services to Emporia in 2024.

Over the years, our horizons have broadened, encompassing initiatives like NexStep Alliance, our adult education program that served over 900 students in 2023, and more recently, NexStep Unlocked, which serves justice-involved individuals in changing the trajectory of their lives.

Myth #6: Unsold donations end up in landfills

The Truth: Sustainability has always been at Goodwill’s core. Our efforts last year alone ensured almost 12 million pounds of donations avoided landfills. Items that don’t find a buyer are categorized and sold to support our mission further. We diligently recycle as much as possible, advocating a sustainable operational model.