When corruption is uncovered in a business or organization, how do you know whether the problems have been resolved or the organization is feeding you lip service?
I’m not sure there’s a single definitive answer. What I do know is that most people can easily spot whether another person, a business or an organization is transparent and authentic — two words that I would like to see become synonymous with Omaha’s Goodwill organization.
We’re willing to work hard to earn the right to call ourselves both, and we have worked tirelessly over the past three years to make progress toward both. I believe that starts with honest communication, which you’ll see much more of from our organization.
When the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation in 2016, triggered by a local media report, it uncovered practices that shocked most employees. As a result, members of the board of trustees acted swiftly and resolutely, which resulted in a complete overhaul of the executive team and most of the board.
Since then, we have painstakingly worked toward making our Goodwill organization a charitable, community-focused nonprofit. Our current leadership team and board were neither involved in past wrongdoing, nor do we condone such practices.
Certain misconceptions persist even today, as we knew they might, and we generally just work harder to overcome them. There are, however, a few that I would like to take a moment to address.
Although the information regarding Goodwill’s settlement with former CEO Frank McGree has been publicly posted on our website for a year in our 2018 IRS Tax Form 990, the settlement recently became a topic of speculation and discussion. We legally cannot discuss any part of the settlement agreement other than what was reported in our 990, but I can clarify one point: Goodwill made the final settlement payment of $610,000 to McGree in 2018 — nearly two years ago — so, this information isn’t news.
We’ve heard discussion claiming that Goodwill pays some employees less than minimum wage. All Goodwill employees make a minimum of $10 an hour, and all employees who are part of our AbilityOne program earn the federal wage determination for the types of government contracts they work on.
We’ve seen comments criticizing the prices of items sold in our retail stores. Goodwill follows — and always has followed — a Good–Better–Best pricing scale. We have not raised the prices on this scale since 2012, which isn’t something most retailers can say.
Above all, Goodwill Omaha remains focused on growing our mission programming, offering our employees stability and security, and providing youth and adults with disabilities and other disadvantages in our community the job training, certification and placement services they need to attain — and maintain — gainful employment. Everything we do revolves around our mission and the programs that bring it to life.
Goodwill’s leadership team and employees have worked immensely hard over the last few years to lift our organization out of a very difficult situation. Now, we want nothing more than to move forward and focus our attention on providing services to people in our community who will benefit and flourish from them. I hope the changes we have made within our Goodwill organization over the last few years will help us regain the trust of the community and our customers.
Transparency, authenticity and integrity begin within an organization, and I am committed to making Goodwill Omaha an organization that demonstrates each of those under the utmost scrutiny. Now, let’s get started.
President and Chief Operating Officer
Recently, Goodwill Omaha did a follow-up interview with the Omaha World-Herald to share our progress on three commitments the organization made last fall. This interview, we are told, will be published tomorrow. Goodwill Omaha, as an organization, is re-evaluating critical aspects of governance, operations and culture.
When Goodwill Omaha met with the Omaha World-Herald, I shared that the organization, today, is looking to the future and to regaining the public trust through commitments we have made for improvement.
Goodwill Omaha is taking an objective look at the organization and developing best practices across the agency. We know that not only will Goodwill Omaha change but we use this case study and lessons learned to help other nonprofits maximize their impact in the community. In the long run, this can strengthen all organizations and the community trust.
Here is a summary of what we shared during the interview:
Employee culture is an area Goodwill Omaha is working to improve. The Omaha Business Ethics Alliance has been engaged to help the organization understand the impact of the organization’s changes, address employee engagement improvement and identify best practice ethics for employees. These actions have resulted in:
More communication and improved employee engagement
Weekly CEO updates about current activities across the organization
Creation of the “I heart my job” employee campaign
The second commitment was to hire a third party firm for an organizational assessment. Quantum Governance has been selected and started this work last week which is expected to take through August to complete. They will review and provide recommendations for best practices on; policy and procedures, governance, organizational matters such as mission and vision and organization structure, including an evaluation of compensation.
A CEO search is the third leg of the journey. A committee has been formed which includes board members as well as external business and community members. The committee has selected Wheless Partners out of Birmingham, Alabama as the firm that will conduct the nation-wide search. They expect to have a decision by early fall.
In addition, I shared some information about Goodwill Omaha and its impact on people and the community.
2016 GOODWILL IMPACT ON OMAHA AS OF DECEMBER 31, 2016:
524 – # of employees on December 31
151 – # of employees who identify as having a disability
$12.21 – Average hourly wage of participants placed in jobs
1916 – People enrolled in Goodwill Omaha programs in 2016
619 – # of jobs found by Goodwill Omaha program participants
23,413 – # of job basic readiness services provided to the community
i.e. resumé building, mock interviews, etc.
1,399,508 – # of total retail transactions
545,552 – Pounds of recycled computers and electronics
6,837,651 – Pounds of clothing and textiles diverted from landfills
We hope the article reflects the significant changes I see in the organization already, the efforts to prepare for the future and more importantly that Goodwill Omaha will be well lead, have a great work culture and be a strong community advocate for those we serve.