Goodwill Industries: Fashion Meets Benevolence

Maria Luisa Contursi of Goodwill Industries asks shoppers to reflect: did you pay tax on the last item you thrifted? If the answer is no, the store is non-profit. Enter Goodwill Industries, a non-profit that’s working hard on a tight budget to reposition itself as a lifestyle brand for millennials.

Contursi, who has extensive professional experience in community engagement, pinpointed Instagram as a key avenue through which Goodwill could reach millennials in the Ontario Great Lakes region.

Under Contursi’s lead, Goodwill Industries began reaching out to the demographic via its Instagram, @goodwill_ogl. Through the program, ambassadors are offered “Goodwill bucks” to spend in stores. In exchange, these fashion-forward millennials post their thrifted finds on social media, spreading the Goodwill name to their followers.  

                                                The Ontario Great Lakes Goodwill Instagram page, @goodwill_ogl


With a knack for understanding and connecting with audiences, Contursi counters those who believe millennials are lazy: “Millennials really do want to make a difference in the world,” she posits.  Contursi credits millennials’ interest in thrift, sustainability and Goodwill’s mission to break down barriers to employment as an indicator of their social activism.

One Goodwill ambassador, @kaitlyntyschenko, confirms Contursi’s stance that the demographic is socially inclined. On a photo posted by @goodwill_ogl, in which she sports a “Canadian tuxedo” (a denim on denim pairing), she wrote a caption that reads: “shopping second-hand isn’t weird, gross, or as time consuming as people think. It’s a great way to save money, save the planet, and spend your money in a way that’s ethical in more ways than one.”

                                                          @kaitlyntyschenko’s June 21 post on @goodwill_ogl


While thrifting counters the environmentally destructive effects of mass-produced fashion, Contursi wants shoppers to know that often, for-profit thrift stores strategically position themselves as charities. She says they “understand that Goodwill would be their biggest competitor” if people knew they were not charitable organizations.

Directing spending dollars towards a nonprofit thrift store like Goodwill means your consumer power not only breathes life into the environment, but also uplifts the local community.

As a nonprofit, Goodwill’s marketing budget is minimal. A solution that has proven useful is a pro-bono consulting partnership with Ivey Business School students. Contursi raves about one of their pitches in particular: a vision in which every high school, college and university across Ontario would offer a thrift club sponsored by Goodwill.

The project is still in the works, but Contursi says that Western students can expect to see a pop-up thrift store at the Fashion & Lifestyle Society’s Fall Fashion Show on December 1.  

Though it can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of an Instagram campaign, Contursi reports that Goodwill retail employees have observed an influx of young people in stores. While this may indicate the success of the social media campaign, it’s about more than selling the idea of Goodwill to millennials.

Contursi explains the bigger picture: “It’s not about shopping, and it’s not about thrifting. It’s about working together as a community and taking care of each other. That’s the 116-year-old vision of Goodwill.”

The Goodwill Industries London flagship location is at 255 Horton Street East.

Check out Goodwill Ontario Great Lakes on Instagram at @goodwill_ogl and Facebook.


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