News and analysis
December 01, 2015

Goodwill Makes It Easy for Shoppers to Donate Goods by Mail — for Free

Kevin Meynell, Goodwill

Goodwill hopes people will reuse shipping boxes to donate items through the mail.

Goodwill hopes to tap into the convenience of online shopping by turning the millions of shipping boxes delivered during the holidays into donation vessels.

On Monday, the nonprofit launched the Give Back Box campaign, asking people to send Goodwill donated clothes and household items in used shipping boxes. It is free for participants, with the shipping costs covered by the nonprofit.

Goodwill has traditionally accepted donated goods at its 3,000 retail locations — it logged nearly $4 billion in sales last year — or picked them up from people’s homes by truck. But that isn’t always possible, according to Goodwill Vice President Michael Meyer. So staff members at the nonprofit brainstormed how to use the increasing popularity of online shopping to their advantage.

"It seemed to me that if you could turn the e-commerce platform into a convenient e-donation platform, we would hit on something very beneficial," Mr. Meyer said.

The nonprofit decided to partner with Give Back Box, an idea developed in 2012 by Monika Wiela, co-owner of online shoe retailer Styleupgirl.com. After testing the concept with a charity in Chicago, Ms. Wiela named Goodwill the exclusive nonprofit partner.

Donors pack boxes, then go to the Give Back Box website to print a free shipping label and a tax receipt. Goodwill pays the cost of shipping, Mr. Meyer said. The program will continue beyond the holiday shopping season into 2016.

Fourteen online retailers agreed to promote the campaign on their websites for at least a year: Asics, Ann Taylor, Bergner’s, Bon-Ton, Boston Store, Carson’s, Dockers, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s, Levi Strauss, Loft, Overstock.com, Styleupgirl.com, and Younkers. Levi Strauss is also contributing $5 for every box of donated clothing shipped, up to a maximum of $50,000 total. Today, on Giving Tuesday, the denim company will contribute $10 per box.

Goodwill plans to recycle the boxes it receives by selling them on the corrugated-cardboard market, Mr. Meyer said.

Send an email to Rebecca Koenig.