Collins Foundation Final Report

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Collins Foundation Final Report

Recipient:
Free Geek
1731 SE 10th Avenue
Portland, OR 97214
503-232-9352

Filed by:
Oso Martin & Alison Briggs

Amount: $35,000
Date: July 2004

PURPOSE OF THE GRANT

This grant helped fund the second phase of a larger three phase organizational expansion project designed to increase our impact in the community and increase our operational income to the point that all of our core programs became financially stable and self-sustaining.

PHASE I: Facility Expansion – increasing capacity for all major programs by improving the existing facility, adding additional classroom space, expanding recycling, production space and the thrift store (This phase funded by Oregon DEQ and the Meyer Memorial Trust, grant amounts listed separately).

PHASE II: Long Term Capacity Building - stabilizing and expanding our current programs to take advantage of increased facilities and increase revenue generation to the point of self-reliance (This phase funded by the Collins Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust, grant amounts listed separately).

PHASE III: Programs Expansion - funding two new projects that will help distribute the increased production of refurbished computer systems in ways that increase both our impact on the local community and our income stream (This phase funded by the Meyer Memorial Trust and the Juan Young Trust, grant amounts listed separately).

1. Collaborative Technology Project - Provided consulting services so that local non-profits can access to Open Source technology and training, reducing their technology costs.

2. Computers For Kids - Provided computers and education to "At-risk" youth in the Portland Metropolitan Area.


PHASE II - LONG TERM CAPACITY BUILDING & COMMUNITY IMPACT

Long Term Capacity Building was designed to increase the overall through-put capacity of the Free Geek Community Technology Center. By hiring enough staff to coordinate the vast array of volunteers, it was felt that the main income streams of Salvage, Processing Fees and the Thrift Store could be increased to the point of fully supporting the costs of operations. The target date for achieving a self-sustaining operational model was the end of 2005.

With the successful completion of the remodeling in Phase I, Free Geek has been expanding capacity over the past 2 years, and with terrific results. We now have a staff of 13 plus 2 paid interns. Increased staffing allowed us to increase the capacity all of our main programs. We can accommodate more volunteers and the subsequent increased computer output and increased income has met or exceeded expectations. Please refer to Appendix A for the details of increased volunteering.

The production of computers has also increased as predicted. Production numbers met the needs of the increased Adoption Program and produced the expected surplus for non-profit hardware grants. This program has exceeded all expectations. We are able to grant a significant amount of hardware to non-profits every month. A key factor was the implementation of Request Ticket software that helps keep the project organized and responses to requests timely and professional. The Hardware Grants group averages 35 computers each month to non-profit organizations.

In almost every category, the expansion grant results have turned as good or better than expected. The main focus of expanding capacity was a huge success, with increased donations from the public; increased traffic and sales income in the thrift store; and a doubling of the number of volunteers that can access the program. The current financial situation is one of expansion and growth. For comparison, in 2000 Free Geek was granted nearly $35,000 in grant support comprising 97% of the budget. In 2005 raised just over $30,000 in grant support, but this time it was only 7% of the budget. Free Geek appears to be on the path to true sustainability: for the first time we have an operational reserve of roughly $60,000 and are continuing to grow that fund over time.

IMPROVED FINANCIAL STABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY

The grant funding provided by both the Meyer Memorial Trust and the Collins Foundation allowed Free Geek to increase our staffing levels well beyond our own ability to pay for them through our operational income. The goal was to increase operational income to meet these program increases by the end of the funding cycle. Over the two years plus course of the project, Free Geek has been steadily increasing our operational income. We are happy to report that we have achieved a solid indication of sustainability and are hopeful that this is a trend that will continue into the future. As part of this report there are several financial and program performance charts that help to illustrate these achievements which are attached in Appendix A. The financial performance indicators are part of trends that begin before the grant period and end after the grant period, but are very important to understanding the overall context of our achievements.

Starting in the 3rd quarter of 2003, Free Geek received a combination of $137,718 in grant funding from the DEQ and Meyer Memorial Trust. $35,000 was earmarked for equipment and remodeling projects, while the remaining $102,718 was targeted for staff expansion and growing two new programs. During the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2003, staffing was increased 280%, health care benefits were added and the two new programs: Computers for Kids and Collaborative Technologies (Collab) were started. All projects started off well and as predicted. However, by the 2nd quarter of 2004, we began to realize that the Collab project was not proceeding as predicted. Several mis-judgements regarding scope of work and payments to sub-contractors had begun to develop into serious problems. These problems were beginning to affect our cash reserves and steps were taken to get these problems under control. Even with corrective measures, our reserve funds were used up and we began to show a negative balance. During the 3rd quarter of 2004, we received the $35,000 grant from the Collins Foundation and $39,000 in additional matching funds from the Meyer Memorial Trust. These funds were again allocated for staffing costs.

With the infusion of funds, our cash reserve was once more in the black and we seemed to be back on track. At this time, two problems occurred. First, we experienced a significant (and unpredicted) drop in operational income. Second, the financial problems with the Collab project had reappeared and in the 4th quarter of 2004, our financial obligations once again reduced our cash reserves into negative territory. As we were heading into the 2005, we realized that our operational income was not increasing at a fast enough rate to meet the program goals.

With the realization that operational costs had grown at a rate that was not sustainable, measures were taken to reduce operational costs and further increase the rate at which we were growing our operational income. The reduction methodologies included a 5% pay cut for all staff and cuts to some volunteer rewards programs. The operational income increases were accomplished through increased efficiencies and as a result, recycling income, donation income and sales income were all increased significantly.

By the 3rd quarter of 2005, we had accomplished both goals of reducing expenses and increasing our operational income so that we were operating in the black. This trend did not quite continue into the 4th quarter, but a modest amount of fund raising more than adequately made up the small difference between operational income and expenses. By the end of 2005 we had gone from a fund deficit of over $30,000 (in the 1st quarter of 2005) and built it into a more than $10,000 cash reserve. Overall, the trends are all heading in positive directions and an impressive cash reserve is in place, with all indicators pointing to a sustainable future.


OUTCOMES OF THE GRANT

In almost every category, the expansion grant results have turned as good or better than expected. The main focus of expanding capacity was a huge success, with increased donations from the public; increased traffic and sales income in the thrift store; and a doubling of the number of volunteers that can access the program. Please see Appendix A for more detailed information about our overall success rates.

Appendix A

Adoption and Build Volunteers

The raw data is as follows:

Year Adoption
Volunteers
Build
Volunteers
2000 58 6
2001 638 100
2002 758 170
2003 996 537
2004 1117 877
2005 1532 1049
2006 1675 985

Prior to 2003, the Build Program was much more informal. For this reason, we have smaller numbers of builders during these early years. As the program's curriculum became more formalized by better staffing, word got out that volunteers could come to Free Geek to receive quality education in the hardware and Linux software areas. The increase in return volunteers is reflected in the decrease of new volunteers in 2006.

Volunteer Hours

The raw data is as follows:

Year Volunteer Hours
2000 737
2001 15709
2002 17224
2003 34690
2004 47448
2005 52936
2006 54315

These numbers includes total hours volunteered by all volunteers, including those not signed up for the Build or Adoption Programs.


Donors and Thriftstore Customers

The raw data is as follows:

Year Store
Transactions
Gizmo
Donations
2000 N/A 23
2001 120 1877
2002 2756 3130
2003 6102 4795
2004 8471 7598
2005 11315 9912
2006 12834 11166

Our thrift store began in earnest in 2002, so no thrift store transactions were recorded before then.


Website Traffic

The raw data is as follows:

Year Hits
2000 7,612
2001 32,496
2002 48,267
2003 75,525
2004 147,195
2005 207,004
2006 3,640,000
TOTAL 4,158,099

Our website holds lots of useful, easy-to-understand information about our organization. We're beginning to put more energy into the website so that it can be even more informative for those interested in Free Geek - without sacrificing accessibility and ease of use. Our web appeal is steadily growing, as is the popularity of the Internet. This speaks to the growing popularity of the organization and the effectiveness of our outreach efforts. The numbers of website hits jumps dramatically in 2006 in response to a major break-in that was widely publicized.


Recycling

This page contains materials that shows how much electronic scrap (i.e. e-scrap) we've recycled throughout the years, as well as approximately how many systems, monitors, and printers we've reused and recycled in sum. Data was not yet available for 2006.

The raw data is as follows (numbers are in tons):

Year Mixed Monitors Steel Copper- Bearing Plastic Gold- Bearing Other Non- Ferrous Total Tonnage
2000 2.22 0 0 0 0 0 0 2.22
2001 59.92 11.13 0 0 0 2.74 0 73.79
2002 20.68 32.78 24.45 6.86 2.14 2.78 0 89.69
2003 40.31 22.50 40.33 19.44 8.92 6.66 0.68 138.84
2004 41.70 38.02 74.65 46.14 11.70 11.56 2.20 225.97
2005 46.20 126.90 140.30 71.70 16.60 13.80 2.20 417.70

Some clarifications about what comprises the items in some of the above categories:

Mixed
printers, keyboards, and otherwise whole components that are ground up to recover materials such as steel, plastic, etc. In the early days of 2000 and 2001 we used to huck whole computers into a box for recycling, starting in 2002 we began to break everything we could down into the materials listed below.
Copper-Bearing Material
an item from which we can salvage some copper, generally from a small motor or wiring buried in its workings. Mice, stereos, telephones, and miscellaneous adapters go in this category.
Gold-Bearing Material
processors, memory, and circuit boards are included in this category.


Some fun, additional stats for you:

  • Over the life of the organization through 2005, Free Geek recycled, or "recovered", 948.21 tons of e-scrap.
  • In the year 2005, Free Geek recycled about the same amount of steel as it had recycled during all of the previous 4 years combined.
  • At the end of 2005, Free Geek was recycling over 35 tons per month through its facility.


Operational Income and Expenses

The raw data is as follows:

Year Operational
Income
Operational
Expense
Operational
Profit/Loss
2000 $1,639 $31,513 -$29,874
2001 $20,709 $74,238 -$53,529
2002 $78,488 $102,241 -$23,752
2003 $158,201 $226,673 -$68,436
2004 $348,883 $502,078 -$153,686
2005 $444,732 $462,697 -17,965
2006 $561,732 $508,402 53,330

The income and expenses gained and lost by way of our normal operations are tracked in the chart to the right. This would include income through sales, monetary donations collected at the front desk, and recycling income but does not include grants and other such fundraising. Expenses are comprised of staff salaries and rent, among other things. Tracking our operational income and expenses gives an indication of how self-sustaining we have become.

Overall Income and Expenses

The raw data is as follows:

Year Total
Income
Total
Expense
Profit/Loss
2000 $36,550 $31,513 $5,037
2001 $68,439 $74,238 -$5,799
2002 $95,072 $102,241 -$7,169
2003 $305,558 $251,839 $53,719
2004 $445,468 $502,078 -$56,610
2005 $479,296 $462,697 $16,598
2006 $589,579 $508,402 $81,176

Overall income is our total income over the year, including grants, fundraisers as well as all daily operatonal income. Total expenses is the total amount of money we spent over the year including remodeling expenses as well as operational expenses. As it clear from the chart, Free Geek is well on its way to financial self-sustainability!