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Three Businesses, One Champion Nonprofit

Goodwill® of North Georgia is one of the state’s oldest charitable organizations, with a short but tactical mission—“We put people to work”—that President Raymond Bishop notes “everyone can remember.” It takes more than a catchy mission statement, however, to keep a nonprofit in business for close to 90 years. To continue offering job training, job placement programs, and employment services to North Georgians, Goodwill employs a rock solid business strategy that keeps generating revenue while holding true to Goodwill’s core values. It’s no wonder Goodwill has established itself as a high performing, revenue-generating nonprofit champion. 

Strong mission, stronger strategic plan

How long does it take to create a winning business strategy for a multi-million dollar-generating organization? Goodwill recently completed a five-year plan that will take them up to 2018, and didn’t put it together overnight or during a retreat: “We spend about 18 months developing the plan,” said Bishop, “and we involve everyone from our Board of Directors to our Management team.

"'What is more important to a person’s independence then the ability to earn a living? We know with great clarity what our roles are in our communities, they are focusing on job training and job placement service." 

Discussions are extensive and deliberate, focused on the evolving needs of the community, Goodwill’s internal strengths, and the challenges they foresee impacting their goals down the line. With all layers of management participating, the strategic plan sets growth targets for Goodwill’s businesses, workforce, and mission.

“We tend to more than double the size of our mission services every five years, as well as our revenue,” said Bishop. “And it all happens because we plan do it—it doesn’t happen by accident!”

Mission-driven and making profit

Core programs and career services are supported by Goodwill’s three businesses. Their career services provide job training and job placement for underserved constituencies, such as people with disabilities and veterans. Partnering with more than 3,000 employers, Goodwill was able to help 11,700 people find work this past fiscal year; in the new five-year plan, they’ve set a goal of 20,000 per year—for a total of 100,000 people assisted.

Goodwill’s second business is their well-known chain of retail stores. Millions of people donate goods and purchase them, creating a hefty revenue stream that directly funds Goodwill programs and helps build out the chain; every year, they generate enough revenue to open five new stores.  

Lastly, Goodwill runs a facilities services business that generates revenue while providing employment opportunities to their beneficiaries. For years, Goodwill has been one of the largest janitorial providers in the Atlanta metro area, servicing everything from government facilities to hospitals, cleaning five million square feet of space every night. The business also furthers Goodwill’s dedication to equal employment opportunities: “80% of the facility services workforce are persons with severe disabilities,” said Bishop. “We are one of the largest vocational training organizations and employers of people with disabilities. “

“Nothing is mutually exclusive. All of those pieces have to work in complement. You must make more money than you spend or you can’t do more mission.”  

An all-inclusive enterprise

Goodwill’s model is one referenced by sector strategist Allen Proctor in his book, Linking Mission to Money, featured in the Summer 2013 issue of NOW: balancing high-mission, revenue-losing activities such as job training programs with revenue-generating activities like a retail store. “Our mission services, by design, are not going to generate profit,” said Bishop, “but each one has to be held accountable for financial performance in its budget.” As programs evolve, grow, and sometimes discontinue, a self-sustaining revenue generator becomes vital to supporting the mission.

“Nothing is mutually exclusive,” said Bishop. “All of those pieces have to work in complement. You must make more money than you spend or you can’t do more mission [work].”  

An important aspect of this model is involving all staff, making sure every employee understands how they fit into the strategy.  To help them roll out the plan internally, management produced a video relating the details of the plan in an easy-to-understand, animated info-graphic style that aligns the organization’s overall goals with individual ways to meet them.

It’s just another way Goodwill connects the mission with each staff person’s role. The message, says Bishop: “Everyone makes a contribution. If you’re working in the store, processing goods in the back room, you may or may not come in contact with the people in the training program, but you realize that what you do ultimately supports the mission and helps fund it so other people can go to work.”

"Everyone has the right and opportunity to work."

A voice for the unemployed

Goodwill is in the business of changing lives: making sure North Georgians’ opportunity to earn a living is accessible and achievable. Providing job training and job placement opportunities makes their role clear and vital in the community, giving them the credibility to advocate for the unemployed. Bishop says that “not a day has gone by that we have not been advocates for people to have the opportunities to work.” 

“When you’re working with thousands of employers every year to put 12,000 to work, that’s advocating,” said Bishop. “When you make it happen, that’s the advocacy.”

For more information on Goodwill of North Georgia’s work and impact, check out their website www.goodwillng.org

Anita James is a Communications Coordinator at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. 

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