How Goodwill raised awareness amid a pandemic

The nonprofit launched the #Goodwilling campaign to educate customers on its mission and job placement services.

Photo credit: Goodwill of North Georgia.
Photo credit: Goodwill of North Georgia.

Goodwill is largely recognized for accepting donations to support stores offering low-cost items to people in need. But did you know that Goodwill funds job training and placement services, too?

In 2019, Goodwill of North Georgia, the fourth-largest chapter in the U.S., recognized it had an awareness problem. Based on internal research, GNG found that like the Goodwill brand overall, it had achieved near-universal name recognition in its region. However, consumers had low awareness of what the organization actually does and who it helps.

According to its findings, GNG realized that while consumers knew of Goodwill stores, they did not understand the nonprofit’s mission of putting people to work. Few people knew of GNG’s efforts to fund job training and placement programs.

So GNG tapped independent creative and media agency Blue Sky to help grow awareness for its mission.

In December 2019, GNG and Blue Sky launched #Goodwilling, a campaign encouraging people to do any act that supports its mission. The campaign aimed to help people understand they could contribute to Goodwill in a number of different ways, rather than just donating money or clothing.

“What we wanted was to create an ecosystem through which everybody can contribute,” said Keith Parker, president and CEO at Goodwill of North Georgia. “Someone who donates [a worn suit] is [donating another person’s] interview suit for their first job. The profits we make from that go back to the career centers where someone else can get [job] training.”

GNG and Blue Sky created video ads for social media and programmatic TV, and used radio, out-of-home and earned media to spread the word, calling on people to give in any way they could.

But when the pandemic struck in 2020, efforts were put on pause as Goodwill closed its doors and halted clothing donations in various locations.

GNG found itself with a new challenge: keeping services for job seekers open and available as thousands were laid off from work during the pandemic. The organization used earned media to spread the world about virtual events and workshops. As clothing donations became safe again, GNG shared updates on social media and its website, and posted signage on doors.

“We wanted people to know [that] open or closed, you can make donations during this time,” said Elaine Armstrong, VP of marketing at Goodwill of North Georgia.

Finally, #Goodwilling made a comeback in September 2020.

Because GNG kept its staff employed and continued to host virtual events during the pandemic, the campaign resulted in a 101% increase in GNG sales year-over-year, according to fiscal data from 2020 and 2021. According to Armstrong, the #Goodwilling campaign drove over 100,000 store visits to more than 60 locations. The nonprofit reached 93% of its transactions goal and 96% of its donations goal.

In 2021, Goodwill conducted more than 7.4 million transactions and received more than 2.9 million donations.

Programmatic display and programmatic native were the two most effective media tactics, said Melissa Nordin, media director at Bluesky, delivering nearly 30 million impressions.

“As the campaign has evolved and the pandemic has put pressure on our numbers, we've definitely gravitated intentionally to more measurable media, specifically programmatic,” she said. “One of the things that we are excited about is quantifying [Goodwill’s] results.”

This story first appeared on 

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