Ever heard of Goodwill? Most likely you have.
The 107-year-old global network of community-based organizations trains disadvantaged people for careers in such fields as financial services, computer programming and health care. It provides job education and career services for people with disabilities, welfare recipients, and others who are trying to enter the workforce for the first time or looking to get better jobs. The organization says it places someone in a job every 53 seconds of every business day.
Your introduction to the organization, however, was most likely through one of its 2,300-plus retail stores, or its www.shopgoodwill.org auction Web site, where donated clothing and household items are on sale every day. You most likely have donated clothing to a Goodwill in your neighborhood, or even shopped in one of its stores.
Shoppers, after all, play a vital role in the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission, and Goodwill relies heavily on several online tools to reach them. Over the past year, in fact, many community-based Goodwill organizations have launched social media campaigns to raise awareness and donations. They’ve sought to increase their donor base and shoppers by reaching a younger, hipper audience.
One Goodwill organization that uses social media and digital marketing effectively is the Goodwill of Greater Washington. The affiliate began experimenting with new media because it wanted to change its image.
Social media with style
“The image of Goodwill here was exactly what we did not want: that it’s a typical dirty, old thrift store,” says Brendan Hurley, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Goodwill of Greater Washington. While the stores had many core customers, the organization knew there was an untapped audience it could influence if it made the shopping experience more pleasant.
“While our mission is still the same, we decided to focus on Goodwill as being more of a vintage, contemporary fashion retail store,” says Hurley, who adds that it also decided to stop using the word “thrift” and just refer to the outlets as “retail stores.”
In 2007, Goodwill launched a Web site called the “Fashion of Goodwill,” which was also the name of an integrated marketing campaign it designed to change perceptions of shopping at D.C.-area Goodwill stores. It also launched the first Fashion of Goodwill Virtual Runway Show and Online Auction.
“We believed a virtual fashion show would reach significantly more people than a live fashion show,” Hurley says. “This would add more value for our sponsors and provide a larger audience to whom we could communicate our mission and retail messages.”
The show also coincided with the launch of a Goodwill of Greater Washington eBay store and its DC Goodwill Fashion Blog.
The virtual fashion shows and online auctions were tremendously successful, according to Hurley. To date, the 2007 show has had more than 42,000 visitors. The 2008 show, which is still viewed regularly online, is averaging 30 percent more viewers a month than 2007’s — with less promotion. What’s more, in 2007 Goodwill of Greater Washington converted 15 percent of its fashion show viewers into online shoppers. Its eBay store had 95,090 visitors for the two-week online auction in 2007 — compared to 1,700 in the two weeks prior — and it saw a 16 percent increase in clothing sold in retail stores during the auction period, as well as a similar spike in 2008. Goodwill of Greater Washington is planning a virtual fashion show this year as well.
Last year, Goodwill of Greater Washington redesigned the fashion site for its second virtual fashion show. It added new online elements such as a Fashion of Goodwill e-newsletter to provides subscribers with fashion information, Goodwill shopping bargains and details on Goodwill special events like its Travelin’ Trunk Shows. In addition, all of its Web sites now naturally link to other Goodwill of Greater Washington social media sites, including a fashion blog and its Facebook page.
Hurley credits the Goodwill of Greater Washington’s social media strategies for these successes, specifically its blog. “Integrated social media has allowed us to engage and influence fashion shoppers who otherwise may not have considered Goodwill as a shopping option,” he says. “Social media allows us to reach fashion influencers on their terms, develop a personal, two-way dialogue with them through the use of entertaining and informative content, and then use these relationships to feed an online viral marketing campaign that reaches far beyond the often limited scope of traditional media.”
Another Goodwill affiliate that’s had great success using social media strategies is Goodwill Industries of Greater Rochester. “We have a blog called ‘Goodwill Rocs!’, which has links to our MySpace and Facebook pages, while offering a link to follow us on Twitter,” says Tim Gleason, Goodwill Rochester’s director of marketing and community relations.
These initiatives were designed to drive the organization to younger shoppers and donors. “We’re trying to get people to understand that this is not your grandmother’s thrift store,” Gleason says. “[That] is a very real stereotype that we continue to go up against and continue to break down.”
When it comes to social media, however, “we don’t want to be annoying,” Gleason says. “We’re trying to use these tools discreetly and responsibly.”
If the organization has a grand opening, for example, Gleason says, “we’ll send a tweet [on Twitter], put it on our Facebook page and send a special e-mail to all of our Facebook and MySpace friends.”
He points out that the organization is getting the most volume on Facebook and MySpace, because it has the most friends on those sites.
The Goodwill Rocs site also has links to the Goodwill Industries of Greater Rochester’s YouTube videos, which it began producing in September 2008. Videos include “man on the street” interviews with shoppers as they’re leaving Rochester-
area Goodwill stores discussing their recently purchased merchandise. They also showcase merchandise for Halloween, prom season and back-to-school season when Goodwill wants
to drive additional business to the stores.
The Rochester Goodwill hasn’t been able to track a specific impact the videos have had on sales or revenue, Gleason says. But he knows they’re bringing awareness, audience and visibility to the stores because of all the positive comments the group has received on its blog.
Doing it on the cheap
A primary responsibility of one staff member at the organization, according to Gleason, is to oversee all of its social media activities, including updating the Facebook fan page, sending tweets and managing videos. He and two other staffers regularly blog and keep the site fresh.
“We always try to be consistent,” Gleason says. “There’s nothing less interesting than a blog that hasn’t been updated in weeks or months.” An intern at the organization also actively works to find new friends on Facebook and drive more people to its fan page.
The organization has been able to execute its social media program very inexpensively, in fact. “Our only investment has been the staff time to do this,” Gleason says. “We even produce our videos with a very inexpensive camera and some free editing software.”
Beyond social media, last July the Rochester Goodwill launched a monthly e-mail newsletter, sending it to several thousand opted-in subscribers. It contains news and information about the organization, as well as members-only discounts, such as an occasional coupon good for $5 off any purchase more than $10, Gleason says. Run on Constant Contact’s e-mail platform, the newsletter costs the organization only a few hundred dollars a year.
The organization is receiving a 4 percent redemption rate on the coupons.
“Some nonprofit organizations are doing cartwheels if they get a 2 percent redemption rate [from coupons],” Gleason says. “But we’re actually doubling that. We’re getting a 4 percent redemption rate on average.”
All of these successes can be attributed to Goodwill Rochester’s social media strategies, according to Gleason. “If nonprofits are not engaging in social media today, they need to find someone who has a passion within their organization and start doing it,” he says. “It’s a train that’s moving fast, and if you don’t hop on, you’re going to be left behind.”