Fashionistas Flocking to Goodwill?

With the economy down, what’s a money-minded fashionista to do? Head to Goodwill, of course!

There was a time when ‘Goodwill’ and ‘fashionista’ never would have been uttered in the same breath. But the times they are a-changing. And Goodwill, to its great credit, is changing right along with them.

And it’s paying off. Even though times are tough, Goodwill is thriving and the DC Goodwill is no exception.

It used to be that you were either a donor or a shopper, but rarely both. A few years ago, the Goodwill of Greater Washington noticed the people donating clothes were also buying clothes. And that the shoppers weren’t just looking for any old bargain–they were looking for stylish bargains and had a particular penchant for vintage. These shoppers were young, hip, and fashionable.

And what did the savvy marketing team at DC Goodwill do with this newfound knowledge? They went where their hipsta shoppers already were: online.

In 2007, they hosted The Fashion of Goodwill, an online fashion show & auction. The event was covered by CNN, as well as the local ABC and NBC affiliates. The 2008 show ended up on the cover of the Washigton Post’s business section. Clearly, they were onto something.

Emboldened by the success of their online forays, they launched what has become a gem of a blog: DC Goodwill Fashionista. Written by people who are Goodwill fashionistas themselves, the blog dishes up fashion tips, reveals current trends and connects readers with what they love: fashion. It is a huge success.

Brendan Hurley, Senior Vice-President for the Goodwill of Greater Washington, is the first to say that, although it hasn’t always been easy, it’s been worth it.

“We knew we needed to change perceptions and engage these new shoppers,” Hurley explains. “We’ve always used a multi-channel approach. We needed to make sure the message that we have good merchandise at a great price reached them. That meant experimenting online.”

One of their key goals was to “match the customer experience with the brand promise.” This meant making the in-store experience consistent with the on-line experience they had come to know (and love!) via the DC Fashionista. They upgraded their stores, changed lighting and rearranged merchandise all with fasionistas in mind.

And it’s working. “We feel like we’ve caught lightening in a bottle with our social media,” says Hurley.

Here are Hurley’s key lessons for nonprofits looking to integrate social media into their marketing:

  1. Go into it with a long-term view. Social media is about relationships and we all know that relationships need to be cultivated and maintained over time. Don’t expect overnight success or you’ll be disappointed.
  2. Experiment and expect some experiments to fail. DC Goodwill had a clunker when they tried to start a LinkedIn discussion group. They shut it down after two weeks. Failure isn’t fun but it’s par for the course when you’re trying out something new.
  3. Start small. No one batted an eye when Hurley pulled the plug on the ill-fated LinkedIn attempt. Why? Because the marketing team had a series of small wins (and some really big ones!) that all together made for a successful track-record. Small may not be flashy, but it works.

Hurley remains humble about their success. “The more we grow, the more we realize how little we know.” With plans to bring on a staffer dedicated solely to social media staff person in the near future, it’ll be exciting to see what Goodwill of Greater Washington does next.

Follow DC Goodwill Fashionista on FB and Twitter to have all the best in fashion and shopping…at your fingertips!

Suggested Resource: For a great primer on integrating social media into your marketing efforts, check out Care2’s recent webinar.  Hot or Not: What’s Sizzling in Online Fundraising?

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