Sunday, October 23, 2016
For one ex-employee, the final straw was the year Goodwill Omaha canceled Christmas.
In 2013, the Omaha nonprofit froze many employee salaries, according to former workers. It slashed retirement benefits. It hiked the amount workers had to pay for health insurance. And, as fall turned to winter, management made an announcement.
No longer would Goodwill Omaha departments hold holiday parties on the company dime, they announced. If employees wanted to celebrate, they could bring their own food and host a potluck.
This would have been perfectly fine, the ex-employee thinks — times were tight, after all, and remember this is a nonprofit — except that Goodwill Omaha did throw one Christmas party in 2013.
It took place at the home of one Goodwill executive, and came complete with a caterer, an open bar and, later, individual cash gifts for members of the nonprofit’s leadership team — with the lion’s share paid out of Goodwill Omaha accounts, according to two ex-employees with direct knowledge of the party and its expenses.
This Christmas party was for Goodwill’s CEO and its top executives, who seemingly saw nothing wrong with saying one thing and doing another.
Soon after that holiday season, Goodwill CEO Frank McGree took a year-end bonus of $95,000.
"They are selling a totally different image to the community than the one they live," says the ex-employee, one of 15 we interviewed during a months-long look into Goodwill Omaha. "I would say that their ethics are different than my own."
She’s far from alone. Interviews with the former employees reveal a deep frustration that starts with money — specifically, the six-figure salaries for the CEO and other executives — but then dives much deeper into what they see as the nonprofit’s broken culture.
Collectively, these ex-employees agreed to talk only on condition of anonymity, some because they still have friends at Goodwill Omaha and some because they fear retribution or damage to their careers. The 15 ex-employees worked in nearly every aspect of the nonprofit. They all have different final straws, different breaking points, but their stories have one striking similarity.
They believe that the perception of Goodwill Omaha as an organization that uses its donations solely to do good for the city’s neediest residents does not reflect reality. They believe that high executive pay and a hard-edged, profits-first culture would shock people who faithfully drop their hand-me-down clothes at a Goodwill collection bin.
"I think there’s a disconnect between making money and serving the mission," says one ex-employee. "It’s a story that has needed to be told for a long time."