Goodwill Industries International’s 156 North American affiliates and 3,500 stores diverted roughly 3.8 billion pounds of reusable goods from landfills in 2021. But only a small percentage of those goods make it to the storefront.
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GoodwillFinds.com launched last year to help more pre-owned products find a new home.
“Goodwill has been around for 120 years, and we’re doing this for the next 120 years,” Matthew Kaness, CEO of GoodwillFinds.com, told Sourcing Journal. “We want to build this platform and build out this marketplace in a way that will sustain and allow each of these Goodwills to not just survive and thrive in this new digital world, but also to be a platform for these Goodwills to come together and work on whatever strategic opportunities in the future may present.”
The nonprofit e-commerce site recently added four new Goodwill members to the marketplace—including Tacoma, Kansas, Miami and Indianapolis—now sourcing donated items from over 500 Goodwill stores and making those items available online. Since launching in October last year, GoodwillFinds has sold more than 675,000 items, with nearly 500,000 sold in 2023 alone. The organization also said it’s seen a 1,000 percent growth rate in consumer engagement with its weekly newsletter, which now has over half a million subscribers.
“We are seeing remarkable support and excitement about shopping with purpose on GoodwillFinds.com,” Kaness said. “Our growth since launch not only affirms consumers’ growing interest in shopping secondhand alone, but also their preference to consciously shop values-first as their purchases directly support the Goodwill mission.”
That consortium of 14 Goodwill markets represents roughly 500 stores, about 14.3 percent of all U.S. Goodwill stores. Those markets, which include Southern California, Seattle and Chicago, are decentralized as Goodwill is not a corporation or a franchise but a “federated model of independent Goodwills that are all nonprofits,” Kaness said. This means GoodwillFinds has to approach each Goodwill “one by one” to bring them into the fold—a “giant engineering problem we’re trying to solve,” he added.
“Now we’re bringing donations from across 500 Goodwills in all these diverse cities and markets across the country into one unified catalog that the consumer can shop at the same time,” he said. “So, it’s a huge value-add for consumers who want to thrift online and love Goodwill and want to support the mission by putting their dollars with the only nonprofit player in the [secondhand] space.”
GoodwillFinds is a two-sided marketplace. It uses Salesforce technology to aggregate nationwide supply into one online catalog. Because the site is a nonprofit startup, it’s not “going out there raising growth capital from a private equity firm or venture capital firm,” Kaness said. But to accelerate growth, GoodwillFinds manages each market “methodically” to understand each Goodwill store’s “basic needs” and identify the ones that are ready to join the e-commerce platform.
“As a nonprofit, unlike every other player in this space we’re not looking for an exit,” Kaness said. “We’re starting with e-commerce because that’s where we see that there’s a market opportunity to help these Goodwills grow faster online.”
What differentiates GoodwillFinds from other digital secondhand players is that unlike startups in a hurry to turn a profit, it’s not rushing to show profitability in the hopes of going public or getting bought and receiving a return on investment.
“The industry has had some challenges with getting to profitability where we believe that, over the long haul, this is a billion-dollar-plus marketplace opportunity for Goodwill, just because we have unfair advantages that these other new players don’t have—we have access to billions of pounds of supply that we’re able to bring into this marketplace, we have a brand people love, we have millions of shoppers across stores that we can solicit to come shop with us online,” Kaness said. “So our starting point is such that we’re not in a hurry to scale because we believe that over the long haul, we’re going to be the largest player in this space just because of the nature of who Goodwill is.”
Kaness, who has spent the past 20 years in retail with companies including Lucky Brand and URBN, “jumped at the chance to help this amazing mission.”
“I’m at the point in my career where I get to choose what I work on,” he said. “It’s an honor to work for Goodwill’s mission, to create something of value for this network, for the next 100 years.”