Doing It Right! Goodwill Industries International, Inc. (Rockville, Maryland)

Over the past four years, it has been our pleasure to highlight the work of over 40 United Ways that have been Doing It Right! There are many United Ways that are Doing It Right! and we will have plenty of opportunities to highlight more United Ways in the future.

This month, for the first time ever, I have chosen to highlight an organization that is not a United Way for Doing It Right! Kasey and I have been fans of Goodwill for many years. We appreciate the difference they make in our community, but we also feel they have communicated their message better than any other nonprofit organization. Just last week, Kasey blogged about how she saw a sign for Goodwill at the local mall and compared it to two signs for United Way at the same mall.

We have frequently suggested to United Ways we work with to check out how Goodwill communicates their work in a way that engages their donors and community. If you have not looked at how Goodwill communicates on their Web site – now is your chance.

What are they doing right?

This is the first part of their home page, which scrolls for a little bit more than what is showing here. You will see examples of several things they do right on just this first part of their home page including:

1)  Donate Stuff. Create Jobs. In just four words, they explain what they do and how you can help as a donor. This should be the goal for every United Way – to be able to explain to a donor what United Way does in just a couple of words.

2)  139,165 People Back to Work. They provide a statistic of what your donation to Goodwill accomplishes. Sometimes, just one statistic is enough. In this case, donors probably had no idea they were helping to put so many people back to work. United Ways should use similar statistics about their results.

3)  Donate Stuff – Advocate for Jobs. They offer options for how you can engage with Goodwill as a donor or advocate. Many donors are willing to volunteer or advocate to help address an issue in your community – but you have to ask them!

4)  Explore Our Map. Let’s take a closer look at this map by clicking on the Explore Our Map button.

Two good examples are found on the map. First, Goodwill has figured out that donors like to see how a gift to a national nonprofit impacts their local community. They have pictures of people helped from communities all over the place, so you can click on one of the pictures where you live and see how a contribution to Goodwill helps people locally. United Ways need to show how they are helping people locally, too.

Second, they have an impact calculator that lets you see the impact of your donation. They state clearly “Did you know when you donate to Goodwill you help people go to work?” so that the donor understands the issue they are addressing (employment) and the results of their contribution (help people go to work). If you are donating more than one item, you can click the “Add” button and see the cumulative impact of all your contributions. United Ways struggle with demonstrating impact, and simple calculators like this one can provide United Way donors with the information they need about their impact.

5)  Who You Help. Another example of things Goodwill is doing right include providing information on Who You Help.

This page not only includes statistics about the 261,000 people who earned jobs in 2013, but also stories about people like Jim, Shay, and Jason. Need more stories? You can check out their archive, which features stories from more than 200 individuals who have been helped by Goodwill. Still not enough for you? Then you can sign up for e-mail updates when new stories are added. Sharing stories like these allows donors to understand how United Ways make a difference in local people’s lives.

6)  How to Donate. Donating to Goodwill could not be simpler, and their Web site includes a whole page of information on donating.

This page includes everything a donor would want to know, including how to donate, how you help, who you help, and more. Once again, the page starts with a clear statement about what donating to Goodwill accomplishes: “When you donate your stuff to Goodwill, you create opportunities for individuals in your community looking to find a job and build skills, including veterans and military families, single mothers and many others.” They also list other benefits of donating that most people probably never thought of like keeping billions of pounds of clothing and household items out of landfills. United Ways could attract new donors if they clearly explain how to give not only through the workplace, but by using other methods, if donors do not work at an organization with a workplace campaign.

There are two big takeaways from Goodwill’s Web site. First, the focus of Goodwill’s Web site is on their donors – both current donors and potential donors. The information on their Web site is exactly what donors want and need to know about Goodwill. They have answered the questions every donor wants to know, such as: what they do, how they help people, who they help, how a donor can help, and the impact of a donor’s contribution. Second, note that the wording on their Web site is based on the words “you” and “your.” For example, they say “How You Help” and “Calculate the Impact of Your Donation.” By using words like “you” and “your,” Goodwill is communicating on a personal level with their donors.

Let us help you transform your United Way’s message and Web site.

At Perspectives, we have over 25 years of experience and expertise in working with United Ways, and have reviewed hundreds of United Way’s Web sites. We have conducted research with donors and community members across the country and know what your donors and community want to hear from your United Way.

Our consulting will guide your United Way in transforming your message and Web site to better engage your donors and community. We will work with you to simplify your message and enhance your Web site, by reviewing your current message and Web site, and providing feedback and recommendations on how to better connect with your donors and community.

By simplifying your United Way’s message and enhancing your Web site, your United Way will better connect with your donors and community, and will see an increase in engagement, contributions, and volunteerism for your United Way.

If you would like us to provide consulting for your United Way to transform your message and Web site, contact us at or give us a call at (269) 657-5400.

The next time you are updating, redesigning, or posting content to your Web site, consider the examples from Goodwill’s Web site. Goodwill Industries International, Inc., you are Doing It Right!