Tour Howto

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This is a guide for giving tours at Free Geek.

How to use this guide: The tour covers a lot of information and stops along the way to do so. This guide is broken down into tour stops and content that should be delivered at each "stop."

Please remember that our tours need to:

  • Provide detailed information about our 2 main programs
  • inform volunteers on how to sign up for shifts and log hours after shifts
  • explain what to do if injured (where is the first aid, who to tell)
  • show people how to check in with an area supervisor when arriving on shift
  • not interfere with the daily operations of Free Geek
  • finish as close to 30 minutes after start as possible

Tour Notecards

Tour Stop #1: Reception area (if cold or raining) or outside Receiving (if weather permits)

  • Welcome/Introduction
    • Make sure you have everyone and they have received a Volunteer Orientation Packet and given a completed Volunteer Application to the Front Desk.
    • Ask their names and why they're here. If they are a member of the media or potential corporate/organizational partner, please connect them with an SMT staff member for a customized tour. (Can be skipped for large tours)
    • Give a quick summary of who you are and what we are. Clearly convey our mission: FREE GEEK is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that recycles technology to provide computers, education, Internet access and job skills training in exchange for community service.
    • Describe the 2 main volunteer programs -- Adoption and Build. Make sure that people know the requirements of each program by the end of the tour. Describe the 2 programs throughout the tour.
    • Explain that there are other ways to volunteer as well, including internships. If they are interested in learning more, they should check in with a staff member after the tour.
    • Volunteers may receive one computer from us per year, regardless of the program/programs they complete.
    • You are required to check bags while volunteering at Free Geek; those with concerns should leave valuables at home.
    • Volunteers, guests, and anyone else in the building must wear closed-toed shoes.
    • Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult at all times at Free Geek. Including the tour.

Tour Stop #2: Receiving hallway or outside (please keep pathways clear!)

  • Incoming equipment flows through here; donations come from both individuals and companies. Much is still usable.
  • Our first goal is to re-furbish or re-use items and we generally are able to re-use 25% of what get's donated which is a very high number as we take old and broken as well as working items.
  • Staff only area for Data security purposes. Explain SDA and data-wiping policies.
  • Sorting Runners help bring donations back to the sorting table in the warehouse. *volunteers must be able to lift 40-50 lbs and move around the building easily* Runners must have at least one prior Sorting shift as they need to be trained in both areas
  • We take almost any electronic device. What we don't take: styrofoam, microwave ovens, copiers, smoke detectors, household appliances (including air conditioners), non-rechargeable batteries, fluorescent light bulbs.
  • When leaving Receiving point out the bathroom and first aid kit.
  • Introduce people to the idea of Guiding Lines on the floor (Blue = Bathroom, etc)

Tour Stop #3: Sorting Table

  • Sorting Table -- explain that this is where donations come when Sorting Runners bring things from Receiving.
    • Runners work at the Sorting Table when they aren't bringing things back from Receiving
    • Volunteers help determine recycleables, saleable items, and things we'll use in the building
    • Training takes 2 hours -- after 2 hour minimum at Sorting Table, hours are flexible
    • Volunteers must be able to stand for their whole shift -- no lifting requirement if you are not working as a runner
  • Adoption shifts are flexible: you can schedule at any time during our open hours for as long as you want (generally with an hour minimum, to facilitate training), provided spots are available.
  • Remind volunteers to log their hours after each shift

Tour Stop #4: Recycling Areas

  • Volunteers at Recycling Bench and Recycling Table: This is an opportunity for people to get lots of hands-on experience with computers they don't have to be careful with.
  • Reasons for recycling responsibly: A major part of our mission is environmental, so if we can't re-use equipment, we make sure it's recycled responsibly. We will only work with vendors that can give us complete "chain of custody" for the material we send to them, this means we know who sends stuff where, and who is processing it further, If we did not recycle responsibly, chemicals like Lead, Mercury, Hexavalent Chromium, Beryllium, Cadmium, and Brominated Flame Retardants would eventually be released.
  • We will find work for you regardless of ability level. We have standing and seated tasks. Show volunteers the different areas for different tasks. (Bench, Table, Sorting Table)
  • Encourage volunteers to wash their hands and to wear the gloves and goggles provided.
  • Remind volunteers to wear close-toed shoes and weather-appropriate clothes.
  • There is always a minimum of 1 supervisor working in Sorting and Recycling areas. Volunteers need to check in with the supervisor when beginning a shift.
  • Show volunteers where they check in when they arrive for a shift in the warehouse.
  • Always check in with the supervisor when arriving to a shift and leaving a shift or taking a break and log hours after every shift
  • Indicate First Aid kit in Warehouse. If volunteers are injured even in the slightest way, tell supervisor

Tour Stop #5: Hardware ID/System Evaluation

stand near the SDA and keep Yellow Lines clear if possible

  • Hardware Identification/Intro to build program -- Workshop is taken once (normally) and test out with a written test.
  • Volunteers do not need computer experience before beginning the build program.
  • One of Free Geek's aims is to demystify the computer. Often people who can follow a recipe to bake a cake can learn to build a computer at Free Geek.
  • There's a step-by-step process working up to building systems, which starts here, with hardware recognition.
  • Peer to Peer Learning is a big part of Pre-Build and Build. There is a supervisor present, but volunteers should feel free ask questions of one another, too.
  • System Evaluation: Show volunteers the incoming pile, and explain how receiving and eval work together at that point.
  • System Eval is the point at which we decide if we will keep or recycle the system.
  • System evaluation is a step in the build program. It is self-paced, so you can work in the shift as many times as needed.
  • In order to test out of system eval, you need to pass a written test.
  • Explain the wait times between Eval shifts, remind volunteers of the 30-minute "grace period" and no-show/walk-in shifts.
  • Remind volunteers to log hours after every shift. Including Hardware ID Class.

Tour Stop #6: The Build Room

  • Before you actually build computers you do Hardware ID and System Evaluation.
  • After testing out of System Evaluation, you Quality Control 5 systems that have already been built to make sure that everything was done correctly, then you are able to build 5 computers for Free Geek and 1 more to take home with you (other 5 go to hardware grants, adoption program, infrastructure, and the thrift store).
  • There's a lot of peer teaching that goes on; volunteers can often learn something, then turn around and teach it to someone else. [Example: Sometimes your build instructor will be busy helping someone else. Instead of waiting for the Instructor, you may turn to the person next to you and ask your question. Similarly, if you are working next to someone who needs assistance, please try to help that person out.]
  • The build program has set shifts that start and end at certain times. If you are going be late, please call us to let us know so that we don't give your spot away. If you need to leave early, that is not a problem.
  • Now is a good time to bring up Post Build Opportunities (Internships, Instructor Positions, Hardware Testing, & Laptops, Macs, and Server build programs)

Tour Stop #7: MacLand, Post-Build & Internships

  • Post-Build Options: You would need to complete Build and apply to work in a post-build area. Speak to your build supervisor about post build options as you near the end of the Build program.
    • Hardware Testing This is where we test the hardware that has been donated to make sure it is in good working condition to be reused. Here volunteers can learn a lot more detail about testing components.
    • Macland Once you complete Build, you have the opportunity to move into Macland, where you will work on Apple laptops and desktops.
      • The only ways to get a Mac from Free Geek is through a grant or through the Thrift Store.
    • Laptops Another Post-Build option is laptops. Small program; you need permission from a build instructor to enter laptop build.
      • Like macs, the only way to get a laptop from Free Geek is through a grant or through the thrift store.
    • Hardware Grants Help non profits receive free computers and other types of equipment.
    • Build Instructor You may become a Build Instructor after completing the Build Program. Again, you should talk to a Build Instructor if this interests you as you near the end of the Build Program.
  • Internships
    • Free Geek offers volunteer internships in which volunteers can learn job skills. These volunteer internships are challenging and competitive learning experiences, which allow volunteers to take on a leadership role in a variety of areas within Free Geek: Front Desk, Receiving, Recycling, System Evaluation, Tech Support, and the Thrift Store. Interns can get regular training and check-ins as well as reference letters, after successfully completing their internship.
      • Our website has detailed information on available internships and how to apply ( We also have information at the front desk.
  • Point out Fancy Bathroom, Kitchenette and first aid kit

Tour Stop #8: In classroom hallway - education program

  • Education at Free Geek:
    • Education is part of our mission. In addition to the education that takes place within the adoption and build programs while volunteering, we have structured classes. Most of our classes are free. Check at the front desk and on the website for a list of our current classes.
    • Adoption program volunteers sign up for the Getting Started Class near the end of their 24 hours. The class is an introduction to the computer, the final quality control of all hardware, and the ticket to 1-year of Free tech support. The class is not required, but highly recommended.
  • Explain what open source software is and that we use it for three main reasons: great for learning since anyone can see how a program was built, free for us to put on systems, extremely unprone to viruses.
  • As you walk through the hallway lined with computers, explain the ways computers leave our building: Adoption, Build, Store, Grants. The case of a computer does not reflect its contents: all Freekboxen (volunteer boxes) are pretty much the same inside
  • Describe Freekboxen specs: Dual Core CPU, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB HDD, DVD-RW, Network Port
  • System comes with LCD Monitor, Keyboard, Speaker Set, Mouse

Tour Stop #9: the Library

  • Library: Volunteers may borrow books from us by checking them out at the front desk. You are always welcome to read books while at Free Geek.
  • Computer Lab: Volunteers and community members may use computers while on break. Please sign in for a pass at the Donor Desk for three 2-hour computers. Short-term computer will time out after 10 minutes.
  • Kitchen: Food must (!) be labeled before being placed in the volunteer fridge. Dishes, microwave, dishwasher are for everyone's use. Please clean up after yourself
  • Bathrooms: Two are located behind the kitchen (along the Blue Line)

Monkey House Hallway

  • Lounge'
  • Meeting room: Classes happen in here when the Classroom is full.
    • If it seems appropriate to your tour (i.e. if it seems like you have a lot of "STOKED" people), add in a bit about how Free Geek is a vibrant community that welcomes long-term as well as short-term volunteers. We have many people that have been around for years, have volunteered for thousands of hours, and our an integral part of our organization. We currently have ~500 active volunteers per month at Free Geek (source = database-reports-trends)

Tour stop #10: outside of the Store

  • The store sells a wide range of equipment.
  • The store is just one of the ways Free Geek generates income to stay open and furthers our reuse values.
  • Active volunteers get a 20% discount in the store. (3 volunteer hours in the last 30 days=active)
  • Free Geek receives a majority of its funding through the store and online sales. We are lucky as a non-profit to be mostly self-sustained. We rely on three major streams of income to do what we do:
    1. our thrift store (~65%);
    2. recycling income (~20%), and
    3. contributions through the front desk (~15%).

Tour stop #11: Front desk

Front Desk

  • Explain how to sign up for a volunteer shift (in-person or over the phone) and Donor Desk vs. Volunteer Desk
  • Explain how to log hours at the end of a volunteer shift.
  • Volunteers are required to check their bags while at Free Geek, so they should leave all valuables at home.
  • Volunteers must wear closed-toed shoes. Clothes that they don't mind getting dirty are recommended.


  • Briefly re-cap the two volunteer programs and the areas where each volunteer would work
  • Check in and out with area supervisor when beginning and ending a shift
  • Remember to pick up volunteer cards

Thank the group for their attention and start signing up for volunteer shifts!


  • Q: Where do we send stuff that we recycle?
  • A: Posted here:
  • Q: How do we know the recycler "Does the right thing", and what IS "the right thing"?
  • A: Asking questions! Researching the company, asking about BAN pledge. Chain of custody of the stuff we send. We look for vendors with proven environmentally safe procedures, no prison labor, no dumping, and except for commodities like steel or straight copper, no sending over seas. We would rather get less money than send to a place we weren't sure of. We do our homework.
  • Q: Why are the materials separated?
  • A: Easier to further process, better price, the more we sort, the more can be reclaimed.
  • Q: Do the different materials go to different recyclers, or is it for one recycler's convenience, like curbside recycling separation of glass, metal, paper?
  • A: They go to different places.
  • Q: What happens to the small things separated in Receiving: media, cords/cables, dirty plastic, cell phones, drives, wall warts, etc., etc., etc.
  • A: Send to vendor, shred, sort different material, reclaim material. Then the stuff is considered a commodity that can be traded on the open market.
  • Q: Who recycles circuit boards and such, and what is the metals extraction process? (maybe beyond the scope of this mailing list, but maybe there is a reference somewhere)
  • A: Hallmark Refining, process means lots of chemicals and refining to get wanted material.
  • Q: What is the percentage of revenue from recycled material?
  • A: Approximately 20%

Please do not

  • go over 30 minutes
  • interrupt work areas
  • engage in Windows bashing
  • spend too much time trying to explain Linux (if someone asks, explain after tour)
  • speak for a long time in loud areas, such as the warehouse
  • make inside jokes
  • provide too much detailed information
  • spend more time talking about coffee and the kitchen than programs
  • encourage Q&A during the tour (there is time for this after the tour)
  • namedrop
  • ask for input from other volunteers or staff (unless they are also a tour guide and have OK'ed this first).
  • provide answers to questions you are unsure of. Say "I don't know." and move on.