Is It Better To Donate To Goodwill Or Salvation Army?

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by Upgraded Home Team
It’s always good to give your old items to a charity. But sometimes you may be torn between donating to either Goodwill or the Salvation Army. The key difference is that Goodwill is a nonprofit and Salvation Army is a charity. Follow along as we explore the difference between donating to Goodwill and Salvation Army.

Both The Salvation Army and Goodwill are popular choices for donations of clothing and other belongings. Thanks to their significant charitable contributions, these organizations have been well-known for decades. However, hardly anyone knows the differences between them, making it difficult to know which is the better option for donations.

Goodwill donates about 82 cents of every dollar to charity, while Salvation Army donates 85 cents per dollar to its charity programs. If your goal is to donate to an organization that gives back more, The Salvation Army is the better choice. While both give back to the community, Goodwill focuses on reselling items, whereas The Salvation Army prioritizes humanitarian programs.

This article will explore the histories, focuses, and reputations of Goodwill and The Salvation Army. It’ll go over the various items that can and cannot be donated at each location as well. We’ll also talk about other notable charities that give 99% of their donations to their causes.

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What Does Goodwill Do?

Goodwill is a nonprofit organization founded in 1902 by Reverend Edgar J. Helms. Helms started out collecting used clothing and household goods in wealthy areas of Boston. He then hired low-income individuals to repair and mend the used items.

Next, the repaired items were either resold or given to the people who had worked to repair them. This is where Goodwill’s philosophy of “a hand up, not a handout” began.

Goodwill In The Modern Day

When someone donates an item or items to Goodwill, it is resold at a low price. The concept behind the business model is for low-income individuals to be able to purchase affordable clothing and goods.

One of the things that Goodwill is known for is its effort to create jobs. Recent numbers show that it has 105,000 employees, which helps support the economy. Despite all of the good that Goodwill has done, some are critical of the way the business works.

Why Does Goodwill Have A Bad Reputation?

Although it is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, not all of the money Goodwill brings in goes to the less fortunate. In recent years, the company’s CEO earned just shy of $730,000 a year, which upset some regular donors.

With that said, not all of the money Goodwill earns goes to the executives. Besides paying its staff and executives, Goodwill does donate a lot of money to programs to help the less fortunate. As recently as 2014, for example, 83% of Goodwill’s earnings were donated to charity. When you donate to Goodwill, you certainly are helping the less fortunate.

What Does The Salvation Army Do?

The Salvation Army is a charity dating back to 1865. It accepts donations of all kinds, whether it be food, clothing, money, or your time.

The Salvation Army is known for having a loose network of workers running their drives and thrift stores. These individuals donate their time on a volunteer basis.

Many people see The Salvation Army as the best organization to donate to in comparison to Goodwill. Besides distributing donated goods to the less fortunate, The Salvation Army has several programs that support those in need.

Some of these programs include:

  • Adult addiction rehabilitation programs
  • Refuge centers
  • Food donation pantries
  • Hostels for homeless people
  • Schools for children

Why Do People Choose The Salvation Army Over Goodwill?

The reason many choose The Salvation Army over Goodwill is how much the organization gives back. All of the money and donated goods going into The Salvation Army are disseminated to those that need it most.

Much like Goodwill, The Salvation Army supports the less fortunate by providing jobs as well. The Salvation Army was initially based on the Methodist religion. However, it is nondiscriminatory and offers support, shelter, and food to anyone, no matter their religious beliefs.

Video: Goodwill or Salvation Army?

What Do Goodwill And The Salvation Army Do With Donations?

Both Goodwill and The Salvation Army sell donated items at an exceptionally low price so that the less fortunate can afford them. Generally, The Salvation Army tends to sell clothing and goods at lower prices than Goodwill.

The Salvation Army and Goodwill also accept monetary donations. These are just as useful as donations of clothing or essential goods to both organizations. That is because that money goes directly to their support programs detailed above.

In large cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, for example, The Salvation Army has centers that regularly feed and house homeless people. That is the direct result of monetary donations as well as revenue from the sale of donated items.

Goodwill Vs. The Salvation Army: Which Is The More Reliable Donation Center?

Both Goodwill and The Salvation Army are excellent choices if you’re interested in helping the less fortunate. However, their reliability differs in a few ways.


While Goodwill is considered a nonprofit organization, The Salvation Army is technically a charity. Since The Salvation Army is affiliated with a religion, it’s not required to report its financial data. Even so, the organization shares detailed annual reports on its website.

Goodwill is also highly transparent. It features an annual report with various details on its official website. Still, some disapprove of the high pay the organization’s executives receive.


Despite its focus on humanitarianism, The Salvation Army has recently received some backlash. This is due to the organization purportedly supporting groups that hold anti-LGBTQ beliefs. However, in recent years, The Salvation Army has made clear efforts to support the LGBTQ community.

The Salvation Army And The LGBTQ Community

About 20% of the people who stay at The Salvation Army’s Harbor Light shelter in Minneapolis are LGBTQ. In addition, the organization has worked with city officials in Baltimore to fight trafficking among transgender individuals. Furthermore, The Salvation Army has a dorm in Las Vegas specifically for transgender individuals.

Goodwill, Third-World Countries, And Workers With Disabilities

Meanwhile, Goodwill has experienced its share of backlash as well. Most of it has to do with what happens when it is unable to sell clothing. About 25% of items donated to Goodwill are sold to third-world countries and marked up for profit.

This practice is considered to harm developing nations’ industries. In some cases, items that Goodwill cannot sell end up in landfills.

Goodwill also received backlash after reporting that it would cancel paychecks for workers with disabilities. However, due to the negative reception of this news, Goodwill reversed its decision and eventually paid the disabled workers.

Overall Reliability

It’s difficult to say which organization is ultimately the most reliable, as both have their pros and cons. Still, donations to The Salvation Army are more likely to go directly to those in need. Meanwhile, donations to Goodwill may end up in stores, or they could also end up sold to third-world countries or in landfills.

Because of this, it’s generally thought that donating to The Salvation Army is the more reliable choice.

Goodwill Vs. The Salvation Army: Which Is Better?

Whether Goodwill or The Salvation Army is better depends on which organizational component you’re looking at. The best organization to which you should donate is reliant on your personal beliefs and opinions regarding the following facts.

Year Founded

The Salvation Army has been around longer, ever since 1865. Meanwhile, Goodwill was founded several decades later, in 1902.

Number Of Locations Worldwide

In addition, The Salvation Army serves a total of 132 countries worldwide. Goodwill, however, has locations in 17 countries across the globe.

Organizational Focus

The focuses of these two organizations also differ slightly. Goodwill mainly focuses on obtaining donations and reselling them at reduced prices. The Salvation Army focuses on funding multiple community programs in addition to selling items to the needy at affordable prices.

Religious Affiliation

The Salvation Army is affiliated with Methodism but is nondiscriminatory when it comes to helping those in need. Meanwhile, Goodwill is not affiliated with any religion. It is a nondenominational nonprofit organization.

How Much Of Goodwill Actually Goes To Charity?

Goodwill states that about 82 cents of every dollar spent goes to its programs and services for those in need. In some locations, this number can be as much as 90 cents of every dollar.

What Percentage Of The Salvation Army Donations Go To Charity?

The Salvation Army puts about 85 cents of every dollar into its charitable programs. Consider that the average charity spends around 75 cents of each dollar on these types of programs. It’s easy to see that both Goodwill and The Salvation Army are well above that number.

Is The Salvation Army For Profit?

The Salvation Army is a tax-exempt international charitable organization. It is not considered a nonprofit organization. Well over 80% of every dollar earned by The Salvation Army goes into its charitable programs.

What Kind Of Donations Do Goodwill And The Salvation Army Accept?

The Salvation Army and Goodwill both inspect donated items for quality. Depending on the location and personnel you interact with, the items either store accepts will vary.

Neither Goodwill nor The Salvation Army will accept donations of items that have been recalled.

It is also worth noting that neither organization can accept TVs or computers with CRT screens because they contain toxic materials. However, if they ever do, be careful of purchasing electronics from there. For instance, a second-hand store may be able to sell a TV that keeps blinking. You won’t know until you’ve already bought it, although you could always fix it.

What Items Are Accepted At Goodwill?

Goodwill accepts the following items:

  • Cars
  • Antiques
  • Books/DVDs/VHS tapes/records/CDs
  • Linens/blankets/curtains
  • Dishes and kitchen utensils
  • Flat-screen televisions
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Money

What Items Are Not Accepted At Goodwill?

Goodwill does not accept the following items:

  • Chemicals of any kind, or equipment containing oil or gasoline
  • Propane tanks
  • Car batteries
  • Tires
  • Entertainment centers
  • Sofas longer than six feet
  • Sleeper sofas, waterbeds, box springs, and mattresses
  • Pianos and organs
  • Metal desks and other large desks
  • Carpeting
  • Weapons and ammunition
  • Large appliances and exercise equipment
  • Baby items
  • Anything that requires more than two people to move safely

What Items Are Accepted At The Salvation Army?

The following items are accepted at The Salvation Army:

  • Pianos and organs in good shape
  • Treadmills/weights/bikes
  • Clocks/radios/lamps
  • Stoves/washers and dryers/fridges
  • Computers and laptops without CRT monitors
  • Clothing and linens
  • Gardening tools
  • Money

What Items Are Not Accepted At The Salvation Army?

The Salvation Army asks that you be considerate about donating things in good shape. This is because it has to pay to dispose of damaged goods. In addition, The Salvation Army does not accept the following items:

  • Appliances with mechanical difficulties or damage
  • Large televisions and stereos
  • Televisions more than five years old
  • Built-in appliances
  • Automobile parts
  • Chemicals and paint
  • Gas and kerosene heaters

Other Charities That Give 99% Of The Money To Their Causes

These amazing charities donate 99% (or more) of the money they receive to their respective causes. If you’re looking to make donations and help those in need, any of the charities below is an incredible choice.

Charity Name

Percentage Of Funds That Go To Its Cause

Books For Africa


Brother’s Brother Foundation


Caring Voice Coalition


Christian Blind Mission International


CIS Development Foundation


Delivering Good


Direct Relief


Feeding America’s Hungry Children


Feeding Tampa Bay


Foster Care to Success




International Children’s Fund


Kids In Need Foundation


MAP International


Matthew 25: Ministries


Midwest Food Bank, NFP


Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma


The Foodbank of Southern California


World Medical Relief



Both Goodwill and The Salvation Army are organizations that have made a notable impact by helping those in need. Goodwill donates at least 82 cents of every dollar to its charitable programs, and The Salvation Army donates around 85 cents of every dollar.

Goodwill has a presence in 17 countries around the world, whereas The Salvation Army has locations in 132 countries. The Salvation Army has been in business for 157 years, while Goodwill has been around for 120 years (as of 2022).

If you’re interested in donating to either organization, you can rest assured that your donations will ultimately help others. Regardless of whether you choose Goodwill or The Salvation Army, always ensure that your donations are acceptable and in good condition.

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