Meyer Memorial Trust Final Report

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Meyer Memorial Trust Final Report


In 2003 Free Geek received its largest grant ever, $185,000 from the Meyer Memorial Trust. Combined with $70,000 in grants from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Collins Foundation and the Juan Young Trust, Free Geek embarked on a very ambitious expansion of the entire program. The goal of the expansion was to make Free Geek a self-sustaining organization by the end of 2005. This goal has been mostly acheived, but not without a few setbacks along the way. As the end of 2005 approached, Free Geek began operating in the black and the first quarter of 2006 was an entirely self-funded quarter. We believe that this is the beginning of a trend that will make Free Geek somewhat unique amongst non-profits - self-sustaining.

Purpose of the Grant

This grant helped fund all three phases of a large 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 are financially stable and self-sustaining. Grant monies were also used for a new program that was designed to help non-profits to take advantage of reused computer hardware and Open Source Software.

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).

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).

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.

1. Collaborative Technology Project - Provides consulting services so that local non-profits can access to Open Source technology and training, reducing their technology costs (This phase funded by the Meyer Memorial Trust).

2. Computers For Kids - Provides computers and education to "At-risk" youth in the Portland Metropolitan Area (This phase partially funded by the Juan Young Trust).

PHASE I: Facility Expansion

Facility Expansion was designed to increase the organizations capacity to accept and process the growing donation stream. This was accomplished in two phases of remodeling construction and a third, and unexpected, phase of physical expansion due to opening of additional rental space directly adjacent to the existing facility. The first phase was funded by a grant from the Oregon DEQ and involved modifications to the circulation of the building and relocating the recycling operation into the north warehouse space. The second phase was jointly funded by the DEQ grant and monies from the Meyer Memorial Trust. The second phase outfitted the warehouse with storage shelving, purchased a forklift and outfitted the new build classroom with work benches.

The original plan of remodeling space in the north warehouse to accomodate a larger thrift store and creating a new classroom and an additional restroom was revised when the 6,000 SF adjacent space to the south was vacated by another tenant. The space was in a condition that the new classroom and thriftstore could be realized with very little modification to the building, increasing both in size and retaining all of the north warehouse space for storage and other functions. The new area also contained two bathrooms. Remaining constructions funds were used to pay towards the rent on the new space until the thriftstore income grew to cover the additional monthly expense. The new area also contained additional spaces that proved to be extremely usefull to the organization. A meeting room a capable of holding a meeting of over 30 people; a classroom space large enough for fundraising events; a kitchen to suppliment the existing (and too small) kitchen.

PHASE II: Long Term Capacity Building

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

With the successful completion of the remodeling in Phase I, Free Geek has been expanding capacity over the past year, and with terrific results. We now have a staff of 12 plus 2-3 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. While it is still too soon to say that our self-sustaining funding is completely stable, we have experienced several months of break-even or better performance from our core program operations.


Increased capacity has meant more volunteers can participate in our programs. We increased the total number of volunteers in our core programs by 145% (2,123 in previous 12 month period vs. 3,071 during program period). over the previous 12 month period. The number of Adoption Program participants increased by 131% (1,438 to 1,890) and the number of Build Program participants increased by an impressive 172% over the previous 12 month period (685 to 1,181). Please refer to Appendix A for more detailed data.

The production of computers has also increased as predicted. Production numbers meet the needs of the increased Adoption Program need 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. 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. Please refer to Appendix A for more detailed data.

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. Free Geek does appear to be on the path to true sustainability. As the second quarter of 2006 draws to a close, we have experienced 7 straight months of income exceeding expenses. For the first time we have an operational reserve of over $10,000 and are continuing to grow that fund over time. 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.

PHASE III: Programs Expansion

Collaborative Technologies

Collaborative Technologies was designed to create a revenue generating project that would help non-profits realize the potential savings of using refurbished computer hardware and Open Source Software for their technology needs. The project was designed to use subcontractors as well as FreeGeek's volunteer talent. Grant funds were directed to support the staff salary and benefits of the program coordinator. Soon after the grant was awarded, Homestreet, Inc. contracted with Free Geek to facilitate a technology grant they had recieved from the Meyer Memorial Trust. The job entailed a complete conversion to Open Source Software, significant hardware upgrades and and a revamping of a problematic clinical database. The contract with Homestreet, Inc. was completed and Free Geek was paid in full the work. There were however significant problems with the execution of the project, leading to long delays in the schedule and massive cost overruns.

An analysis of what happened:

There were two major factors that led to problems with the Homestreet contract:

  1. As a first project, the Homestreet contract was too large, and started too soon, leading Free Geek to try and develop the technological infrastructure for the program and work on the first contract simultaneously.
  2. The project coordinator that was hired did not perform as expected and did not communicate information about arising problems in a timely manner.
    • Agreements with the sub-contractors were set up as open ended time and material contracts.
    • Too many sub-contractors were brought in to share the contract work, leading to confusion and wasted efforts.
    • Made several changes to the deliverables, increasing costs due to unbudgeted hardware expenditures and software feature development.
    • Significant last minute changes to the scope of work resulting in the majority of the cost overruns and delays to the schedule. This included a bad process for agreeing to the changes that caused rifts amongst the volunteers and sub-contractors.

The first problem resulted from a lot of enthusiasm and an illusion of financial stability due to the size of the expansion grant (the largest grant the organization had ever recieved by a factor of four). Our organization was getting attention from the largest foundation in the state, it was very exciting and we wanted to please. So when the Homestreet contract was proposed, we did not perform enough analysis, or properly listen to those who expressed caution around the impacts of taking this on as a first job.

The staff coordinator problem is more complex. The conclusion of the staff committee report on the subject was that allowing individuals to help write the job descriptions that will be used to hire them as Free Geek staff is not a good idea. The hiring process is short circuited and as a result the best possible candidate was not put in the position.

There was not good oversight of the project coordinator until after the problems had already begun. This was mostly due to still very thinly spread staff during the beginning of the project, as the new staff hirings and remodeling for the expansion phase of the grant were being undertaken at the same time.


The first contract was completed, albeit over schedule, and all contractural obligations were met or negotiated to everyones satisfaction. The long process needed to complete the first contract caused so much stress to the organization that the whole program was re-evaluated. At first a much more modestly scaled version of the program was planned, but the energy to work together and make the program work was no longer available and the program was abandoned. Instead, energy was put into the hardware grants program, feeling that this was more of an expansion of things we already knew how to do quite well. As a result, local non-profits have enjoyed greatly increased access to free computer technology.

Computers for Kids

This phase of the project not Funded by the Meyer Memorial Trust.

Improved Financial Stability and Sustainability

The grant funding provided by both the Meyer Memorial Trust and the Collins Foundation allowed 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 some measure 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 $xx,xxx 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 going 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 a cash reserve is again in place, with all indicators pointing to a sustainable future.

Appendix A

Adoption and Build Volunteers

Number of new adoption and build volunteers each year 2000 to 2005.

Click on the chart to the right to enlarge it.

The raw data from the chart is as follows:

Year Adoption
2000 45 7
2001 1062 209
2002 1160 244
2003 1269 768
2004 1557 825
2005 1985 1400

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, word got out that volunteers could come to Free Geek to receive quality learning in the hardware and Linux software areas, and the Build Program grew. In 2005, we saw a huge leap in Build Program volunteers: new Build volunteer signup numbers increased 70% over those in 2004.

Volunteer Hours

Number of volunteer hours each year 2000 to 2005.

Click on the chart to the right to enlarge it.

The raw data from the chart is as follows:

Year Volunteer Hours
2000 1002
2001 16614
2002 16161
2003 34682
2004 47789
2005 52618

The chart includes hours volunteered by all volunteers, including those not signed up for the Build or Adoption Programs.

Donors and Thriftstore Customers

Number of thrift store transactions and donations at the front desk from 2000 to 2005.

Click on the chart to the right to see a larger version.

The raw data from the chart is below:

Year Store
2000 N/A 48
2001 1 1877
2002 2776 3130
2003 6102 4795
2004 8471 7651
2005 11315 9917

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

Website Traffic hits through 2005.

Click on the chart to the right to see a larger version.

The raw data from the chart is below:

Year Hits
2000 7,612
2001 32,496
2002 48,267
2003 75,525
2004 147,195
2005 207,004
Total 518,099

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.

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.


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.

Tons of material recycled by year, broken down by type.

Click on the chart to make it larger.

The raw data from the chart (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:

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

Operational income and expenses for each year 2000 to 2005.

Click on the chart to the right to enlarge it.

The chart's raw data is below:

Year Operational
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 $348,346 $490,950 -$142,604
2005 $439,305 $458,649 -$19,334

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, and expenses such as staff salaries and rent. This would not include income through grants. Tracking our operational income and expenses gives an indication of how self-sustaining we are.

Overall Income and Expenses

Overall income and expenses for each year 2000 to 2005.

Click on the chart to the right to enlarge it.

The chart's raw data is below:

Year Total
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 $444,932 $502,648 -$57,716
2005 $476,202 $458,649 $17,553

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 such as rent and staff.