Q&A With Lisa Gurwitch of Delivering Good
The desire to help people in need is often immediately followed by the question of how your contribution can have the most impact. Enter Delivering Good, formerly called, K.I.D.S./Fashion Delivers: The non-profit distributes brand new clothing, home goods, toys, and books that have been donated by hundreds of fashion and homeware companies to those who need the products most. Founded in 1985, the organization prides itself on being highly efficient, with over 97% of revenue dedicated to the charitable program and $1.2 billion worth of product distributed.
Last year, Lisa Gurwitch took the reigns as President & CEO. We spoke with the New York-based mother-of-two and former lawyer about how she entered the world of philanthropy, why a new outfit can be so important for fostering self-esteem and dignity, and how to encourage your kids to give back, too.
How did you get started in this field of work?
I had an eclectic background: I was born in Alabama and moved to Delaware and Miami Beach before going to college. In high school I had two opportunities to live abroad, in Mexico and Spain, as part of the Experiment in International Living non-profit program. That definitely opened me up to different ways of life. I was always very interested in business, too, and I went straight through college and law school.
After my two kids were born, I started to think about how I wanted to use my professional time. After getting to know the families who lived near us in San Francisco, I was much more connected to our community. I wanted to be in the workplace, but also stay involved in these communities in a real way. I decided to transition from law to non-profit management and work closely with people from different life experiences and backgrounds.
What interested you in philanthropy?
People want to give back and have that aspect of meaning in their lives, whether they’re wealthy or live modestly. Personal life experiences are also a big motivator. Perhaps you have been exposed to an event or someone you know close to you has. There is a lot of opportunity to offer hands-on help: ask your local community center, school, or faith-based organization.
Why did you choose to work at Delivering Good?
I joined not long after the two organizations merged in 2014. I was very motivated when I met the board members for their passion in making a difference in a unique and tangible way. If you have fallen on hard times for whatever circumstance—lack of employment, illness, change in family situation, natural disaster—you need clean, nice clothing, not only to survive but also to feel more confident. That reality felt so understandable to me. I’m hoping to work with many more companies to see where they could contribute and for new ones to learn how simple it is to provide products. When I hear a story of a little girl who can’t go to school because she didn’t have enough warm clothes—that is a tragedy and should never happen.
What are some of the challenges?
Some companies haven’t heard of us or they don’t know which charities have the space to store larger amounts of donated merchandise. Not everyone is aware that we focus on the whole family, including adults—from a new outfit for a job interview to a new pair of shoes for a child’s first day back at school. We also offer more than apparel, such as toys, books, bedding, and towels. Imagine a family who has to move after a natural disaster or relocate due to domestic abuse—they may be given a place to live but it’s usually unfurnished. They need sheets and pillows. Creating a sense of home is important to help a child adjust to a new place.
Another more recent obstacle has been that a lot of companies have become better at quality control; there’s not as much excess product to donate. Companies that are willing to designate merchandise, like Kidbox, are really helpful. That model of sales is stable all year long.
3 Ways to Give Back as a Family
- Instead of giving gifts during the holidays or at birthdays, some families designate that they collect new clothing and/or contributions to gift to a family in need.
- When an allowance is started, encourage your kids to divide their money into three buckets: spend, save, and give to charity. There are even piggy banks made for this purpose! This engages kids in caring about others and learning to be financially responsible.
- Support brands and businesses committed to social and community causes that align with your values and explain this choice to your kids. Many organizations have active social media that your family can also follow to stay informed.