What Happens to My Donation?

By Robin Garnham

San Francisco Goodwill runs on donations. That is how we stock our stores and generate our revenue that helps fund our mission. When you have something that you no longer need, you can drop it off at one of SF Goodwill’s donation sites. Donations, however, do not go straight from the donation site to the store shelf. Your donation starts a complex process that touches on every part of our organization.


SF Goodwill has a fleet of e-trucks that collect donations from our donations sites. This is part of Goodwill’s efforts to decrease our impact on the environment and support green initiatives. Our fleet moves donations from our stores and donation sites to our warehouse in South San Francisco so that they can be sorted and priced.

SF Goodwill E-Trucks


SF Goodwill’s largest facility is its warehouse in South San Francisco. Once donations arrive at the warehouse, they are quarantined for a period of 72 hours as a precaution against COVID-19. When items are safe to handle, our teams sort and price them. Each team specializes in a different type of merchandise, including clothing, shoes, accessories, housewares, and electronics. The quality and condition of items varies greatly, with about 50% of items being suitable for sale through our stores or ecommerce platforms.



SF Goodwill generates some of its revenue by selling direct to customers through its well-known network of thrift stores across the region. Although SF Goodwill is famous for its physical stores, we also sell items through a number of online channels. Our ecommerce department has been operating since 2001, and is now expanding rapidly to meet how more consumers shop. Ecommerce allows us to reach a wider customer base and sell niche items, such as audio equipment, art, and collectibles. You can find our stores on Amazon, Ebay, and shopgoodwill.org.

An e-commerce item being weighed.


Items that SF Goodwill cannot sell through our stores or online go to our aftermarket department, which processes roughly 50% of donated items. The aftermarket department runs the SF Goodwill outlet (100 Utah Ave, South San Francisco), which sells straight to the public. The outlet sells about 390 pounds of merchandise per day for just $1.79/lb. The department sells a further 25 large containers of items as wholesale to individuals and businesses who sell items online, at flea markets or other channels.

Goodwill Warehouse


Items that SF Goodwill cannot sell directly still generate revenue for the organization. Clothing that is unsuitable for sale in either our stores or the outlet is packed into bails, which are sold at wholesale. The aftermarket department produces 8-12 bails per day, with each bail consisting of approximately 1300 items of clothing. Just 2% of items passing through aftermarket are unsuitable for sale and have to be sent to landfill.

SF Goodwill's Aftermarket


Ultimately, the money that Goodwill generates from your donation goes to support our mission. Goodwill is a non-profit organization that provides career services, job training, and employment opportunities to individuals in our community who face barriers to succeeding in the workplace. Without your donations, we cannot make that happen. Thank you.

As the new year approaches and you’re thinking of cleaning out your space, consider donating your gently used items to SF Goodwill for our annual Donate-a-thon on December 31, 2021. You can currently drop your donations off at nine locations across San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin counties. Find a donation center near you.

Sf Goodwill's Annual Donate-a-thon

Will you do Good and share this post?

Donate, Sustainability , , .