The People Have Spoken: Advocates Weigh in on GII’s Public Policy Agenda

We recently asked for you, our public advocates, to weigh in via a survey as the Goodwill Industries International (GII) Government Relations team crafts GII’s public policy agenda for the next Congress.  The people have spoken.

When asked to identify the top three policy issues of importance, labor issues (wages, paid sick leave, paid family leave, etc.) received the most number of responses.  These issues impact local Goodwill organizations as both an employer where increases in operational expenses may impact the ability to provide mission services, but also as a provider of job-training and job placement services.

Issues related to charitable giving (including tax deductions and donor solicitation) came in second.  This is not surprising as GII’s government relations team has been working hard to promote a universal tax deduction.  The nonprofit sector is greatly concerned that the impact of the new tax law will negatively impact charitable giving.  With the doubling of the standard deduction, most taxpayers will take the standard deduction, meaning they will not itemize their taxes and will not receive the benefit of the charitable deduction.

Environmental issues, including electronic waste came in a close third. Goodwill® is an entrepreneurial leader, environmental pioneer and social innovator in the “reduce, reuse, repurpose” practice.  Through the collection and selling donated goods, Goodwill organizations help communities extend the life of usable items in environmentally sound ways and prevent items from piling up in local landfills. Last year, these organizations collectively diverted more than 3.8 billion pounds of clothing and textiles from landfills.  Through socially innovative partnerships with corporate partners, county and city municipalities, as well as other nonprofit organizations, Goodwill organizations collectively divert more than 53 million pounds of used computers and computer equipment from landfills each year.

Local Goodwill organizations provide services to all individuals and families within their communities; however some populations may face different employment challenges than others.  Respondents were asked to note the populations most important to their advocacy.  People with disabilities received the most support, with people with criminal backgrounds following closely behind.  Individuals at both ends of the generational spectrum tied for third – older workers and youth/young adults.  Regardless of the population or demographic being served, Goodwill organizations’ employment programs promote independence and dignity for people to provide for themselves and their families.

The mission of Goodwill is to enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work. As such, when asked to share the top services of importance, advocates ranked job-training by far.

Education was identified as the second most important service.  Education is important to Goodwill as well.  Goodwill Industries International launched the Community College/Career Collaboration (C4) initiative, in partnership with local Goodwill organizations and community colleges, to increase college and career success for adults with low incomes so that they could access and complete credentialing programs for market-relevant jobs.  Some Goodwill organizations offer The Excel Center, which allows adults to earn their high school diplomas as well as other recognized certifications, and begin post-secondary education while developing career paths that offer greater opportunities. The Excel Center also offers transportation assistance, child care and flexible class schedules.

Housing rounded out the top three. Goodwill knows that in order to be successful on the job, it is critical to have stability at home so that families are healthy and safe. Goodwill organizations provide and connect people to support services — including housing, child care, financial education, transportation, and other services — that enable people from all backgrounds to obtain and maintain economic independence and an increased quality of life.

When creating our public policy agenda we solicit a wide variety of input from local Goodwill® organizations leadership and employees, subject matter experts, coalition partners and you – our advocates.  Whether you identify as a shopper, donor, volunteer, or a person who has benefitted directly from Goodwill services, your voice is important as we think about the areas to focus on when working with Congress and the Administration in the new year.  Stay tuned for further information when the GII public policy agenda is finalized.