Is Goodwill Non-Profit or For Profit?

Goodwill Industries International Inc., commonly known as Goodwill, is a nonprofit organization that provides job training, employment placement services, and other community-based programs to help people who have barriers preventing them from getting a job. However, it’s worth noting that while Goodwill is indeed a nonprofit, it operates in some ways that might lead one to think of it as a ‘for-profit’ donation organization.


Sustainable Practices

Public entities and junk hauling companies frequently contribute to Goodwill’s mission by donating unsold and unwanted items. These organizations recognize the value in sustainable practices, which include not only recycling but also repurposing and reusing items that still hold value. Donating to Goodwill not only helps declutter our environment but also fuels the nonprofit’s employment and training programs, thereby creating a win-win situation. It’s a symbiotic relationship where unwanted items are transformed into opportunities, fostering community growth and promoting a circular economy.

Collecting and Selling Items

Goodwill’s operations involve collecting and selling donated items in more than 3,300 stores and online. The revenue generated from these sales is used to fund the organization’s various employment and training programs. In effect, it’s a business model that makes a profit from the sale of donated items, but unlike a conventional for-profit company, the ‘profits’ or surplus revenues are reinvested in the organization’s mission, not distributed to shareholders or investors.

Salary Debate

Some critics argue that Goodwill operates more as a for-profit entity than a traditional charity because it pays some of its workers below minimum wage, while its executives earn six-figure salaries. It’s important to note, however, that Goodwill is legally permitted to do this under a provision in the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. The aim is to provide employment opportunities for individuals who would otherwise have difficulty finding work, such as people with significant disabilities.

Indeed, the debate about Goodwill’s operating model underscores a larger discussion about the best way to run nonprofit organizations. Some argue that nonprofits should be more businesslike, with greater emphasis on efficiency and revenue generation, while others caution against losing sight of the organization’s charitable mission.


Goodwill, with its unique hybrid model of generating revenue from donated items to fund its programs, certainly pushes the boundaries of the traditional nonprofit. Yet, its significant impact in helping people find work and its longevity (it was founded in 1902) indicate that it’s doing something right.

Salvation Army

In contrast to Goodwill’s hybrid model, The Salvation Army operates as a truly non-profit organization. Its mission, founded on Christian ethos, aims to provide compassionate support to individuals in need without discrimination. Like Goodwill, The Salvation Army also operates thrift stores, but the difference lies in the allocation of its revenues.

Every dollar earned through the sale of donated goods at Salvation Army thrift stores is directed towards funding their Adult Rehabilitation Centers. These centers provide a holistic approach to recovery, offering services such as counseling, life skills development, and work therapy to individuals struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. Unlike Goodwill, The Salvation Army does not pay any of its workers below minimum wage.

Furthermore, The Salvation Army is known for its emergency disaster services, food distribution, and homeless shelters. It channels a significant portion of its funding into these community-based programs. This commitment to social service, coupled with their transparent financial practices, reinforces their status as a genuinely non-profit organization.


In conclusion, while Goodwill’s operations may resemble those of a for-profit company in some respects, its primary purpose remains charitable: to help individuals overcome barriers to employment. It’s a testament to the organization’s success that it can stimulate debate about the most effective ways to run a charity in the modern world.

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