Hansen: How did Goodwill Omaha get so broken? (copy)

Goodwill Omaha strayed terribly from its community mission several years ago, but this local nonprofit has taken major steps to return to effective community service. This is a welcome turnaround that should go far in restoring public confidence.

A World-Herald investigation in 2016 revealed troubling problems at the Omaha nonprofit. The charity was directing most of its locally generated sales revenue toward high-dollar executive compensation well above that of peer nonprofits, and wound up reducing the number of needy clients it served. The nonprofit’s use of no-bid contracts also raised concerns.

In the wake of those findings, Goodwill Omaha has made a range of positive changes. Under a new CEO, Michael McGinnis, the nonprofit adopted transparent and responsible operating procedures and began the shift back toward Goodwill’s core focus on helping individuals with disabilities and other barriers to work. Helping these individuals maximize their opportunities is a vital societal goal.

The nonprofit ended its use of no-bid contracts and adopted open procurement practices. The charity went through an outside ethics review, adopted a nepotism policy and began putting its public disclosure forms online. Another positive change: New board members are required to review best practices principles for board operations, transparency, executive compensation guidelines and conflict-of-interest policy.

Goodwill, The World-Herald recently reported, last year connected 300 clients with jobs, to overcome obstacles such as a disability, a criminal record, lack of a high school diploma or homelessness. The nonprofit aims to double that number this year and increase the number of people with disabilities employed in its thrift stores.

A 2018 investigation by the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office described the problems identified in The World-Herald’s 2016 reporting and also described constructive steps subsequently taken by the charity to turn itself around. Attorney General Doug Peterson characterized the nonprofit as a “completely changed and properly directed organization” compared with its 2016 situation.

It’s encouraging that the incoming CEO, Tobi Mathouser, has shown that she understands the nonprofit’s needs. A longtime Goodwill employee with direct experience working with clients, she well describes the nonprofit’s needs in moving forward.

May this Omaha nonprofit continue to build on its reassuring progress.

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