FAMILY TIES AMONG GOODWILL OMAHA EXECUTIVES RAISE TRUST CONCERNS

Several leaders of Goodwill Omaha are related to others in management. Regardless of the quality of their work, an official with a national charity watchdog said nonprofit organizations that rely on donations from the public should avoid questions of favoritism that could lead to public doubt.
STORY BY HENRY J. CORDES | ILLUSTRATIONS BY MATT HANEY | THE WORLD-HERALD

By Henry J. Cordes / World-Herald staff writer

Monday, October 24, 2016


Among the well-paid employees at Goodwill Omaha you find not only CEO Frank McGree, but his daughter, too.
Last year, Shannon McGree received total compensation topping $100,000 for helping oversee retail operations. And she isn’t the only related individual in the charity’s well-compensated leadership ranks.
The vice president of marketing and development, Erin Swanson Russell, is the daughter-in-law of longtime Goodwill board member Carol Russell. Swanson Russell, who has been with Goodwill for four years, was paid nearly $130,000 in her position last year.
Additionally, Goodwill’s vice president of retail operations has a sister working directly under her as a district store manager.
And a man who until recently served as the charity’s chief operating officer had a son who managed Goodwill stores.
Employment of so many related individuals in management roles at Goodwill raises questions of conflicts of interest and favoritism. Goodwill officials declined to answer questions related to such employment.

The series

Day 1: Sunday
» Goodwill Omaha has some of the most staggering executive pay you’ll find in the nonprofit world.
» Goodwill does need to attract and retain leaders who know the business world, but local experts on nonprofits are taken aback at the generous level of compensation.
» The repackaging of hair rollers appears to violate rules for “Made in America” labeling, Matthew Hansen writes.
Day 2: Monday
» Omaha charity takes a different approach from its regional counterparts in spending and serving the public.
» Despite the lucrative salaries of its top executives, Goodwill Omaha continues to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage.
» Big salaries, bonuses and lucrative retirement packages are funded in large part by revenue from the charity’s signature thrift stores, which is largely unmonitored by governments and private donors.
» Interviews with former employees reveal frustration with what they see as a broken culture, Matthew Hansen writes.

McGree’s daughter was hired by Goodwill Omaha as a store manager in 2004.
According to the charity’s public IRS filings, by 2008 she was paid nearly $51,000 in that role. And within five more years, she had been promoted to retail sales director, and her pay had climbed 140 percent to nearly $122,000.
Her pay the last two years has been lower, just over $100,000. After a recent reorganization, she now has the title of director of retail logistics.
To be sure, just because the employees are related to others in the organization does not mean they have not done good and meaningful work for Goodwill. But an official with national charity watchdog Charity Navigator said nonprofits that rely on public donations should avoid conflicts that could lead to public doubt or mistrust.
"Having the public trust is a precious commodity to a charity," Sandra Miniutti said. "They don’t want to be seen as having an ethical problem."
henry.cordes@owh.com, 402-444-1130


Goodwill Omaha executive pay: An investigative series

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