Jim Gibbons'Tis the season to make charitable donations, and Jim Gibbons (pictured), CEO of Goodwill Industries International, hopes that his nonprofit will be on the receiving end as you make out your charity list and check it twice.

Gibbons says Goodwill, which has been around since 1902, is seeing more people than ever in need of its services amid an economic downturn that has left millions jobless. "The American family is really trying to stretch the dollar" to survive, he says.

DailyFinance chatted with Gibbons, who is blind, about how donations are holding up in a tough economy, Goodwill's job-training services and the benefits of bringing people with disabilities into the workforce. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

DailyFinance: How has Goodwill been affected by the economic downturn?

Gibbons: We have more and more people knocking on the Goodwill door for help, [and there's] a huge demand placed on the Goodwill network for job training and employment services.

The two big indicators, if you want to put it into categories, are services, which is what our organization is all about, why we exist. . .[and] the retail program, which really is a social enterprise that allows not only the employment platform for transitional employment, first-time opportunities and on-the-job training, but also funding other additional programs for our communities. The Goodwill donations and retail are doing pretty well in this economy. We're up a little over 10% in both donations and sales, and that is fueling the services and the employment generation for Goodwill.

Can you elaborate on some of the job-training services Goodwill provides?
Well, I think that the unique thing about the core model is all of the training that is provided on the local level is developed based on that community's opportunities. [One day] you can have extensive programs in construction, and [later the] training programs have moved on to health care. You have to morph to the needs of the community. We also have programs in retail and financial services. And for the 2 million people a year that we serve, we have a fundamental value that basic financial strengthening is important.

We have programs in the financial services center to support the banking industry. The banking industry is strong in our communities. We are working a lot with people who have skill sets that aren't necessary in their community anymore. Like the rest of this society, we're finding that people like an auto worker who was making really good money may not have any skill sets with Microsoft Office, Word, PowerPoint. Your 21st-century workforce has to be able to maneuver in a technological environment.

From your perspective, do you think that U.S. employers are doing enough to accommodate people with disabilities?
Only 32% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed. That statistic demonstrates that employers could be doing more.

The greatest employment obstacle facing people with disabilities is the misconception that they can't do the work adequately or that they need special considerations that come at a great expense. In fact, most employers report that it costs little or nothing to accommodate people with disabilities in the workplace. Additionally, these teammates have above-average records of job performance and dependability -- which improves productivity and lowers the cost of hiring and training.

If these reasons aren't enough, there may also be tax incentives to hiring people with disabilities, depending on where the business is operated. So the costs of accommodating employees with disabilities is more than made up for by the benefits they bring to the workplace. It's up to employers to take that first step and give workers with disabilities an opportunity.

Back to the retail operations: Have you noticed a shift in the type of consumer entering Goodwill stores?
We are definitely seeing new faces in Goodwills across the country, and the economy definitely drives that. In recent history, I would characterize our shoppers and our donors as [having] pretty similar demographics. I would say it's the green shopper that's probably the newest face that we're seeing -- people that are really trying to do their part in society in terms of [reusing products].

We don't have strong data, but anecdotally, [the customers range from] the fashion diva to the person that just wants to be a little more nostalgic. But definitely across the socioeconomic spectrum: real people who work hard, who want to stretch the dollar, want to look good and want to have a positive shopping experience.

For the past decade, you've been offering an online shopping service that in many ways is similar to eBay. Can you tell us a little more about shopgoodwill.com?
Shopgoodwill.com, [which is the largest auction site run by a nonprofit], grows at a run-rate of about 33% a year. Currently through our shopgoodwill program, we've done about $100 million worth of sales of unique, novel, nostalgic items. At any given time, there are 30,000 items on shopgoodwill. To make the holiday experience that much more meaningful, not only is it a good shopping experience, but shopgoodwill alone has allowed us to serve 33,000 people over its 10-year existence, on top of the other people that we serve in each local community. I think it's a good opportunity to be both practical and purposeful at the same time.

Of all of the nonprofits out there, why should someone choose to support Goodwill?
I think what everybody cares about when they write a check [for a charity] is that check being put to good use. And when you donate a closet of clothing, what we're finding is people care about convenience. We have more than 2,500 stores and another 2,000 donation centers around the country. So convenience definitely matters.

But people also care about the whys. Not only are we efficient in how we operate so that every dollar is optimized for that community, but I think Goodwill is an intersection point between caring and the community -- especially in an economy right now where job creation is of utmost importance. So the convenience and knowing that your contribution is being used responsibly are very important.

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goodwillnot

Please research former employees blogs etc. This Company treats it s employees horrendously.
I encourage you all to do some research before giving goods or seeking employment here.

PLEASE GIVE TO ALTERNATIVE NON PROFITS SALVATION ARMY ETC.

September 14 2011 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
goodwillnot

Please do us all a favor and read the many,many post on the web at how poorly employees are treated.
i know it is tough to find jobs but this operations Middle management is appalling.

PLEASE GIVE YOUR DONATIONS TO SALVATION ARMY OR OTHER SMALL NON PROFITS!!!!!!!!!

September 14 2011 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Candice Galvane

Let's discuss Mr. Gibbons salary. How many millions is he lining his pockets with every year?

December 20 2010 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Fred

Why don't Jim Gibbions donate his high powered salery.

December 20 2010 at 4:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pinus1

Goodwill? What a con they are on America. Recently a young neighbor kid told me he had decided to donate some of his time to the Goodwill and help them at their main store.
He reported back to me a few days later. Mr. ___you will not believe what goes on there. They had me tossing brand new clothes into the trash. There were, he said, stacks of "designer jeans," the ones that cost a hundred bucks or more, brand new, labels still on them, my size. He asked if he could take a pair home and was told no way boy, toss it into the dumbster. He said they were trashing books, new pots and pans, sheets still in their package....on and on the boy went.
Take away their tax free status and take away the tax advantages for the donors and we will see a change. In the very least we will see more money going into the US Treasury and the beginning of paying off this enormous debt we have.
The bottom line is that We The People, The Taxpayers, are really paying for all the tax free orgs. The political ones, the churches, all of them are being paid for by us like it or not. Would people still give if there was no tax write-off?

December 20 2010 at 4:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
katsback42

you want our donations put your prices are just as high as buyin stuff new. I have been a customer in Goodwill stores across the U.S and the prices are horrible over priced. A T-shirt goes for almost $3 or $4 used in goodwill and I can go to Walmart or Target and get the same T-shirt new for $3 or $4 dollars with 3 to a package. I have seen Dollar tree stuff in Goodwill with prices like $ 5 or $6 on them. Come on if you want your stuff to sell you have to lower the prices and you will make it better for your company in the long run. I shop in Goodwills more then regular stores only because the profits are suppose to help others. So come on why can't it work for both sides. I live on a fixed income and when I go to Goodwill I can usually come out of there with $100 or more stuff I bought. So please lower the prices

December 20 2010 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jtrans69

I never could understand why goodwill sold the things I donated. If I give someone something I expect it to be given to the needy at no cost. Like the other person comented that goodwill sell our donations. I agree, take the suit off the CEO and give it to the homeless. There are familys that cant afford 2.00 for a pair of pants. Give it to them!!! You got it for free!!

December 20 2010 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vfvpetrescue

I am not fooled by all of this nonsense. Goodwill is a for profit business. They don't help anybody but themselves. What a good deal. You give me something and I sell it and keep the money. Seriously? My neighbors house burned down and they went to Goodwill because they heard that they helped people. They didn't really know how and do you know what?, Goodwill wouldn't give them anything, not even a toothbrush!

December 20 2010 at 2:24 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
vnellums

Virtually ALL of our non profit "Thrift Stores" mark their used items with everyday prices at amounts similar to the sales prices in stores with second syllables ending in "Mart." Only these goods are new. The only time these any of these thrift stores are are a bargain is the last weekend of the month when Goodwill (the others do not) advertise "half off." Yes, there may be a few new "green" customers, but for the most part they are prople of much, much, much lower economic status. Goodwill and the others punish those who need these types of stores the most. Perhaps Mr. Gibbons could find a way to tap into the resourses of folks who can afford the suit and tie he is wearing. Hmmmm, isn't there a group of folks who just got their wealth protected from having to help the less fortunate?

December 19 2010 at 10:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jerry Jones

I had to work at a Goodwill warehouse that used to be a retail store for my $200 a month in foodstamps, assembling soap decorations, cleaning stickers off of Kodak ink boxes ets. The money that the business pays them for doing the work for them is not going back to the poor but in someone else's pocket. A scam to take advantage of the less fortunate.

December 19 2010 at 7:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jerry Jones's comment
vnellums

The way that used to work was: a company hired a "handicapped " person at a reduced wage and the government made up the difference. A lot like subsidized housing.

December 19 2010 at 10:20 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply