Using the ‘Good’ and the ‘Plus’ to Help Children and Families Thrive

Originally founded by Jessica Seinfeld in 2001 as “Baby Buggy,” a pipeline of gently used baby goods and other resources to help expectant mothers raise healthy babies, Good+ Foundation approaches its 20th year with a name and mission that have evolved over the years.

As Tiffany Langston, Chief Marketing Officer of Good+ explains, “Originally the organization was all about the ‘stuff’ – like strollers – and getting people stuff. We’ve realized that while the stuff will always be important, it’s not how we’re really going to move the needle to help lift families out of poverty. It’s the ‘plus.’ It’s the programs, the systems changework. So, yes, we’re providing the “good” and the “plus.” That’s how the organization has evolved.”

Good+ now takes donations primarily from corporate entities, including everything from consumables, to diapers, wipes, and formula, to gear, like car seats and strollers. In turn, they provide those items to nonprofits who give them to families as an incentive to complete programs. “For example,” Langston explains, “complete a job training course and get a suit for your interview. Take a co-parenting class and get diapers.”

Photo courtesy of the Good+ Foundation

She notes other things that have happened over the years. “While the original mission was to help moms, we realized that a lot of the families coming to use services were single-mother households. We wondered, ‘Where were the Dads?’ We found that a lot of times, it’s not that fathers didn’t want to be involved, but they lacked he resources to be involved. Or, in some instances, there were systems in place preventing them from being involved.

“We’ve donated to father-focused programs since 2010 with great results. An independent evaluation showed that when we help Dads, even if they don’t live with the mother and child, or aren’t romantically linked to the mother – the children end up being healthier, have better relationships with their peers, and get better grades. And we saw this as a way to stand apart and do work that a lot of organizations weren’t doing.”

So in 2018, Good+ doubled down, requiring nonprofits that receive goods from them for distribution to re-apply and to show they either had or planned to start a fatherhood program, or one specifically focused on father engagement. “We wanted to make sure  we were really ‘walking the walk’ if we say that father involvement is a key component of healthy families.”

To address systemic reasons that kept families trapped in cycles of poverty, they also launched the Good+ Training Academy, which trains social workers and other front-line employees how to incorporate father involvement and engagement in their casework.

“Additionally, we’re collaborating with Ascend: The Aspen Institute to address outdated state-level child support policy. We’ve found that in many states, a non-custodial parent could be paying hundreds of dollars in child support that is actually going to the government to pay back government assistance through WIC or SNAP, before it goes to the family.”

Or, she says, “Often a non-custodial parent receives a child support order that is far beyond what they can pay. And if you go one or two months without paying, your working license, like your plumber or barber license, could be suspended, impeding even more their ability to make money and pay child support. So we’re looking holistically at how child support policies can better center the well-being of the actual children.”

Good+ Foundation employs a two-generational approach to upend and tackle childhood poverty, acknowledging the approach requires consideration of the entire family structure to ensure that children, parents, and sometimes grandparents and other caregivers are healthy.

“By healthy, we mean they have the resources needed to raise healthy children. So we look at the entire family structure when providing goods and services, and believe that strong family units with father involvement and engagement create healthier communities. That’s the key to communities being places where everyone can thrive.”

Out of the Pandemic, A New Program

Because Good+ has weathered several national crises, including Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Harvey, they already had crisis response systems in place when the pandemic struck. But COVID-19 restrictions impeded their ability to get goods out to families – impacting the supply chain and ability of delivery people to get in and out of their warehouses.

“Our warehouses in Los Angeles and New York City were open and staffed with essential workers. So we mobilized quickly to receive and donate more goods than ever, donating almost $11 million worth of goods in 2020 – more than we’ve ever done in a single year.”

But while their warehouses were open and fully operational during the pandemic, many of their partners shut down their physical sites, unable to get needed products out to families. In response, Good+ established an emergency microgrant program to provide families with cash assistance for things like rent, food, and utilities – donating $265,000 in cash grants, in addition to a record number of products. “It was a challenge,” says Langston, “but we were able to innovate, figure out what our nonprofit partners needed, and provide that, all while working with a skeleton warehouse staff because of safety concerns.”

Their cash grant program was so successful, in fact, that Good+ plans to continue it this year, and maybe beyond. “Good+ serves people who may still be unemployed or underemployed, and who will be dealing with the impact of the pandemic for months or even longer. So we realized that cash grants offer parents and families the flexibility to use that money how they see fit.”

Looking back at last year, Langston marvels at all Good+ was able to achieve, noting the heart and soul of their warehouse team.  “Sometimes there was just one person in a warehouse at a time, moving hundreds of pallets and thousands of pounds of gear. Our warehouse team made miracles happen, and it’s an incredible thing to see and be a small part of a group that  came together in the midst of a pandemic when everything is a hundred times more difficult.”

“Our near goal is to do another round of cash grants to our nonprofit partners, to continue to work with companies that understand and believe the goods are an entry point to really changing families and changing communities. We’d also love to create new partnerships with new corporations and organizations that believe the same as we do, and look forward to helping even more families and breaking down systems that keep families from thriving.”

Learn more about Good+ Foundation, other Independent Sector members, and becoming a member. The top photo is courtesy of the Good+ Foundation.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: ChangeWorks, Civil Society, Community, Dignity, Equity, Identity, Innovation, IS Member, Purpose, Voice
Focus Areas: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Giving
Policy Issues: Charitable Giving