Monday, October 24, 2016
Patty Carlson had just returned from her weekly trip to Goodwill on a recent Monday morning when I called and ruined her day.
Patty loves Goodwill. Always has. She loves the deals she gets on secondhand clothes. She loves to drop off her hand-me-downs and old furniture at a blue donation box for someone else to enjoy.
And Patty, a longtime social worker, loves that this shopping and donating is ultimately helping someone less fortunate than her. Helping an Omahan who is down on her luck or looking for work or disabled.
So she felt good about her Goodwill love, right up until the point that her phone rang and I started asking her questions.
Did you know that in 2014, Goodwill Omaha CEO Frank McGree made nearly a million dollars in salary and bonuses?
"Oh my God," she said.
"Are you sure that’s the Omaha guy, and not the national CEO?"
Yes, I said. In fact, in 2015, Goodwill Omaha paid 14 of its executives and managers more than $100,000. By comparison, Goodwill Kansas City has exactly one employee making that much. Its CEO.
"What?" Patty barked. "This is Omaha! That’s obscene!"
When you donate to Goodwill, where do you assume that money goes?
"To people with disabilities," Patty said, though she sounded worried now, suspicious.
A little of it does, I said. But Goodwill Omaha made roughly $4 million profit off its stores last year, and it gave less than one-tenth of that — $350,000 — to fund programs that help the city’s least fortunate. (It spent an additional $207,000 on wages for teenagers with disabilities working in Goodwill’s work experience program.)
Compare that to the Goodwill based in Iowa City, which is nearly identical in size yet gave $2.3 million in store profits to fund programming last year.
Patty couldn’t take it anymore.
"I’m shocked, I’m so disappointed, I’m so disgusted, I’m a social worker!" she yelled rapid-fire, then gathered herself for a moment. When she began again, she spoke quietly, slowly, drawing out every last syllable.
"I don’t even have words for this," she said. "But I’m sick. This just makes me sick."
Knowing what you know now, what would you want to ask Goodwill Omaha’s CEO? What would you want to ask its board members?
"I want to know, ‘How do you justify this?’?" Patty said. "I want to know, ‘How are you going to fix this?’"