First, in any social enterprise it’s important to remember not to start with an “ask.” Many of the customers who shop at and donate to Goodwill stores may not even know they are supporting a social enterprise. We start with a local service that addresses a need — where to donate used goods and where to find affordable used goods — and transform the value of these transactions into verifiable social impact for the local community. Each local Goodwill designs their own programs to help job-seekers in their community, innovating as they see fit to help individuals and families. Because it’s local, the Goodwill team intimately understands the needs of the people they serve and are able to design programs that meet their specific needs. By being both market-driven and customer-focused, each Goodwill can be more effective.
It’s also critical to make the greater good an essential part of your business model. The Goodwill model benefits the global community because of the positive environmental impact of diverting two billion pounds of goods from landfills each year. Of course it’s not always easy to find an innovative solution like this that benefits both your company and the wider global community, but it’s worth brainstorming what your business can change about its core identity to promote social good.
And even if you can’t come to an innovative solution, for-profit organizations can help nonprofits directly — beyond your run-of-the-mill corporate social responsibility programs. National and international corporations that already have a strong company culture and identity are well suited to incorporate the principles of social entrepreneurship into their business operations, or to partner with social enterprises. By leveraging an existing infrastructure and identity, corporations can increase their impact. We’ve seen this in our own recent partnerships with companies like Levi’s and The Gap, which have leveraged their existing customer bases and corporate identities to further Goodwill’s Donate Movement. These for-profit companies can do this while still satisfying the primary needs of their shareholders — the costs to them are relatively low.
Unconsciousness is a good tip for success. People who donate without much thinking are the basis of good business. Working with for profits is also smart for nonprofit.