Because Goodwill Industries International is widely known and respected as a network of nonprofits that create job training and employment services through the sales of donated items in Goodwill stores, the organization sometimes stands in the line of fire from individuals and organizations who are misinformed and/or misrepresent Goodwill Industries and Goodwill member organizations, such as Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain Inc., to the public.
This negative rumor mill continually resurfaces in the form of a more than decade-old email that includes a variation of a message like this: “Think about these before you donate. As you open your pockets to do a good thing and make yourself feel good, please keep these facts in mind…” The message then quotes erroneous information and salary figures for several nonprofit organizations’ chief executives, including a reference to a so-called “Goodwill Owner Mark Curran, who profits $2.3 million a year.”
1. Our organization is an independent nonprofit.
Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain Inc. is an autonomous 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are one of more than 160 independent members of Goodwill Industries International, including agencies now in China, the Netherlands, and Canada. Each member organization is independently operated and funded. Members must adhere to professional, financial, legal, and branding guidelines set forth by Goodwill Industries International. While we have similar missions, each member Goodwill organization is unique in the programs it offers and how it operates its business, because each of the communities we serve are unique.
2. We operate 18 Goodwill stores in three states and their profits are used to support our programs.
Many people think Goodwill stores exist only to sell used items for low prices to people who are on limited incomes. While we are happy we can provide affordable goods, that is not our mission. Our stores exist to support our mission to create opportunities that change lives for the nearly 15,000 people we serve. Easter Seals-Goodwill provides 42 different programs offering employment and job training; community integration and housing for adults with intellectual disabilities; children’s therapy; and health-related services for adults and seniors in 42 locations across Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. You can read personal stories of some of the people whose lives have been transformed through Easter Seals-Goodwill programs in our 2017 Annual Report.
3. Our President and CEO is Michelle Belknap.
Like other nonprofits, Easter Seals-Goodwill is managed by respected business leaders and a local volunteer board of directors that provides guidance. Goodwill is not owned by anyone. Our president and CEO, Michelle Belknap, has been with the organization for nearly 30 years, serving as vice president of operations, chief operating officer and chief financial officer prior to becoming president and chief executive officer in December 2000. She chaired the board of Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce in 2009 and was a recipient of the Athena Award in 2008.
Nationally, Michelle has served on Easter Seals’ Quality Council and is currently a member of their Affiliate Leaders Network. In 2009 she was awarded the Myrtle M. and Tom B. Medders Award. This award recognizes affiliate Chief Executive Officers for excellence and outstanding achievement in leading an Easter Seals affiliate. She has been a member of Goodwill Industries International’s Branding Committee, has served on the Goodwill Industries International Board since 2012, the GII Executive Committee, the Treasurer of the GII Board and the Secretary and Chairwoman of the Council of Executives for GII.
4. We have a proven track record of financial responsibility.
Easter Seals-Goodwill earned $57.7 million in revenue in fiscal year 2017 (the most recent year for which our audited financial statement is available), and we spent more than 90 cents of every dollar on programs and services for people in need. This is a very healthy number in the nonprofit world, and a solid indicator of our commitment to good stewardship of your donations. You can find more details on our 2017 Financials here.
For more than two decades, Easter Seals-Goodwill has consistently spent less than 10 percent of its revenue on administrative and overhead expenses. While overhead expense isn’t the only way to judge a responsible charity, it is important. And so is this: Easter Seals-Goodwill is a gold-level GuideStar participant, which speaks to our commitment to financial transparency. GuideStar is a respected online information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit organizations. You can review our financial information and IRS 990 form on the GuideStar website.
Easter Seals-Goodwill definitely encourages you to “think before you donate” and to research and learn more about the charities you’d like to support. Be certain the organization you choose uses its revenue for charitable purposes that support a mission you can get behind.