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Volunteer at freegeek.org is the email list for those people who are interested in volunteering at Free Geek. Unfortunately, since many prospective volunteers include their personal information in their emails, the archives aren't available for public consumption. If you're interested in joining the list, please speak with Shawn.

Below you'll find a rough guide for how to answer emails from prospective volunteers who contact us through volunteer@. We have it thanks to our illustrious volunteer, Eliza. Many answers involve using form responses, either the General Form Response or the Build Form Response.

How to Answer Volunteer FAQs on the volunteer@ email list

This guide should help you answer general questions by prospective volunteers received via volunteer@freegeek.org.

The general format is thus:

  1. Personalized response (pick one below!)
  2. Form response, either:
  3. Copy of person's original email

Don't forget to CC: the volunteer@ email list!

Things to Remember

  • Be enthusiastic and welcoming when responding to prospective volunteers!
  • If you feel stumped as to how to answer someone, check the answers below. Still stumped? Check the Free Geek FAQ.
  • Using Form Responses: Feel free to cut and paste from past answers and from the Form Responses, but don't be too blatant about the fact that you're sending them a form letter. In general, it's nice to start with a personalized welcoming note, and then say something like "see below for more information," and then paste in the appropriate form.
  • When trying to figure out the appropriate program to recommend to someone who says they want to earn a free computer, the main thing to figure out is if they're in a hurry or not. Adoption has a wait list, but takes less time to complete. But if they're really into learning about the hardware, you should recommend the Build program. As a third option, they could get on the wait list for the adoption program, but fill their required 24 hours doing Build tasks. Just a thought.

Example answers

Below are some questions frequently asked of volunteer@ and help answering them.

General Questions

Q. How do I earn a free computer/freekbox?
A. Start with a nice greeting, and then give them the general form answer explaining FG's programs: "Hi there, I think you'll find the info you need below. If you have more questions, feel free to write back!" General Form Response
Q. Can I participate in the build program even though I have no experience with computers?
A. A great response from Shawn/Laurel: "Oh fear not, ye computer novices. Free Geek has taken a pledge to assist the knowledge-hungry in navigating the labyrinth of hardware and Linux software that we inhabit."
Q. How do I get started immediately?
A. Come in at 4pm tonight (or for any tour at 11am or 4pm Tuesday through Saturday) for a tour! We'll sign you up for the program after that.
Q. What hours can I volunteer?
A. Our volunteer hours are all the hours we're open, Tu-Sa 10-6.
Q. How long is the build program?
A. To join the program, just come down for a tour, which we offer at 11am and 4pm every day Tuesday through Saturday. We'll sign you up after the tour. It takes as long as it takes you to build at least 6 and quality control at least 4 computers (usually 60-80 hours). Read on for more information!
Build Form Response
Q. Can you help me get job experience working with computers?
A. To get some job experience, it would be a good idea for you to join our Build Program. Once you've completed the Build Program, you might want to look into becoming a Build Instructor. Read on to find out more about our Build Program and find out how to volunteer (your first step is to take a tour!).
Thanks again for your interest, and I hope to see you around these parts soon,
Build Form Response
Q. Can I reschedule my volunteer time via email?
A. Sure! It's usually easier by phone, as the schedule is a physical item that's updated frequently, but we can do it by email as well. When would you like to come in? (You might want to pick a few days/times, as the eval schedule can get full quickly. Also; will you be working together at one station, or individually at two different stations?) Thanks for letting us know.
Q. Any mention of a case worker by volunteer.
A. I know that's not a question, but it's something to watch out for in emails from prospective volunteers. Let Shawn answer these.
Q. How can I learn about Linux?
It sounds like you'd be a great candidate for our Build Program (the best of our programs for volunteers who'd like to learn about Linux), where you'll be introduced to basic command line and learn about how the operating system interacts with the hardware. In the adoption program, participants get an introduction to user-end Linux (everyday, GUI-based use) in their Adoption class. But we don't yet have a general-purpose Linux intro.
To get started, you should come down for a tour at noon or 5pm, any day Tuesday through Saturday. After the tour, we'll sign you up for the program and schedule your first volunteer shift. Read on below for more information about the program.
Build Form Response
Q. I know a little bit about the insides of computers already, though nothing about Linux. What kind of volunteer opportunities do you have for me?
A. Since you have a bit of computer experience and are interested in learning more about Linux, I'd suggest you join the build program here at Free Geek. You'll fill in any gaps you have concerning hardware and learn a bit about the command line and Debian Linux. For information on how to get started, please read on.
Build Form Response
Q. I'm a current volunteer. How can I teach a class?
A. There's an ongoing need for people to teach "Freekbox Adoption" classes, which we offer to computer recipients, whether that's via C for K, the regular adoption program, the build program, or a grant. It's a very basic computer-use program, but we're looking to expand our range of offerings soon, so maybe you'd like to get familiar with what we do already and help us develop our newer curriculum? Options are limited only by the time you're willing to give the project!
Please CC: the Education Coordinator (Michael right now) on these so he can get back to them.
Q. After I earn my free computer, can I load MS OS on instead?
A. You're welcome to install Windows onto your computer if you like, but please be aware that after you've done this, we are no longer able to give you any tech support on your earned computer. Please read on for more information on the Adoption Program and volunteering at Free Geek.
General Form Response
Q. Can I start volunteering in the Build program immediately after the tour?
A. Generally, after the tour, we sign new builders up for their first volunteer shift. If you don't mind waiting a few days after taking the tour to volunteer, we'd rather sign you up that way (to be fair to other volunteers). If you're in a rush, you can just call and sign up for Card and Motherboard Sorting. The tour is mandatory, though -- it's our only volunteer orientation. The tour is also where we'll enter your name into our database so you can be on the record. I hope I've answered your questions, and I hope to see you soon!
Q. I would like to join the build program, but I'm coming from far away and I need a flexible schedule. Can you accomdate me?
A. Scheduling is pretty flexible. The build curriculum is separated into five segments: card and motherboard sorting, system evaluation, command line for Linux, build workshops, and advanced testing. Card/mobo sorting, system evaluation, and advanced testing are all quite flexible in their scheduling: tell us when you'd like to come in, and usually we can accommodate that (although we'd prefer if you came at 11am or 3pm to start your shift).
You can sign up for any of these shifts by phone. Something to be aware of is that shifts/workshops are often booked up to 2 weeks out.
Please read on to find out more about the Build Program, and I hope I've answered your questions.
Build Form Response
Q. I would like to volunteer, but I don't need a free computer;
A. Sounds like you'd be a good candidate for our build program, the best of our programs for volunteers who'd like to learn about Linux. Your first step would be to take a tour, which we offer at 11am and 4pm every day Tuesday through Saturday. Your tour guide can sign you up after the tour. You'll find more info on the build program below. Hope to see you soon!
Build Form Response
Q. When's the best time to come in?
A. There are a few good times to come down here. The first thing we ask of every one of our volunteers is to take a tour of our facilities and culture. We offer tours at 11am and 4pm, every day Tuesday through Saturday.
Your tour guide will be able to either answer your questions or point you to someone who can. After the tour, we'll get your info into our database and sign you up for your first shift. If you think you'll need to speak to someone for a while, please email me back, and I'd be happy to speak with you after you take the tour.
Build Form Response
Q. How do I join one of the Committees?
A. Take a look at the volunteer manual at http://www.freegeek.org/volman. It has a list of committees to join. If you need any help figuring out what you'd like to do at Free Geek, let us know and we'll try to help you out. You might also want to check out http://www.freegeek.org/volunteer if you haven't already.
Q. Can I bring my own computer in to work on it?
A. Unfortunately, we don't have the capacity to allow new volunteers to work on their own systems here. However, once you're an established volunteer in the Build program, you can get the permission of a build instructor to use our space to work on your own system, in your own time, with your own parts (not drawing from our parts, though you can use your volunteer discount to purchase parts at our thrift store).
Q. Can I receive repair work/a nicer system/a laptop in exchange for volunteer time?
A. Sorry, but all we can give in excange for volunteer time is a Freek Box: a desktop computer made of reused parts. If you really need a nicer system, we occasionally have them for sale in our thrift store. If you need repair work, you'll need to go to a computer store or find someone who fixes computers on Craigslist or the like.

Special Situations

Q. Does Free Geek have any programs that involve going off site to prisons/schools/businesses to teach volunteers?
A. While Free Geek is open to all those interested in committing the time necessary to earn a computer from us, all work must be performed at our facilities in Portland, Oregon. Right now, we don't travel to schools, businesses, or prisons to teach volunteers about computers. Unfortunately, I don't know of any organizations that do. Sorry, and good luck in your quest.
Q. I would like to volunteer to earn a free computer, but I have migraines (or other health limitation).
A. In terms of your migraines, you should check and see if you can handle it here for very long when you take the tour. We're pretty much fluorescently-lit, and things can get quite loud and busy at times. If you'd like to come in when things are calmer, I'd suggest scheduling yourself for evenings (especially Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings). Also, of course, take as many breaks as you need and drink water and eat and stuff. Below you'll find more information on the program, and I look forward to seeing you around!

General Form Response

Q. I'm a teacher/scoutmaster, and I would like my group to come in to earn a computer. How do we get started?
A. Please forward these to Liane.
Q. Do you know of a Free Geek-like project in my area? How would I go about starting one?
A. We don't currently know of anyone in South Dakota/Azerbijan/the Moon working on a Free Geek-like project, but it's certainly not an impossible thing to start! There are several groups nationwide working on replicating our program (or maybe making something even better out of it).
We have an email list for people who are working on (or thinking about working on) starting a new Free Geek. You could subscribe to it or read the archives if you go to http://lists.freegeek.org/listinfo/startup There may be someone from South Dakota/Azerbijan/the Moon on the list who hasn't spoken up yet, so if you subscribe, be sure to introduce yourself!
We're also working on information that might be helpful for people starting new Free Geeks. See How to Start a Free Geek for more information. Poke around on our wiki. We keep lots of information there, much of which is still being developed. You may find stats that could be helpful.
Whether your main interest is reuse/environmental, social service, or promoting free software, a free geek-like organization will certainly benefit your community. We wish you luck, and let us know if there's anything else we can help with (other than money, 'cause we don't have any). If you have questions, you may want to ask on the startup email list, as they may well apply to other baby free geeks out there.


Q. I'm under age 16. Can I still get involved?
Thanks for writing. I'm happy that you're interested in joining one of our programs. Unfortunately, until you're 16, you'll need to have an adult supervisor with you when you volunteer here. Hopefully, that won't deter you, as you seem like a very astute young man/woman.
To volunteer, your first step would be to come down for a tour, which we offer every day Tuesday through Saturday at 11am and 4pm. After the tour, we'll get your name and contact info into our database and sign you up for the program of your choosing. You may want to check out http://www.freegeek.org/volunteer.php to see which program you're interested in.
I hope this has answered your questions. Please don't hesitate to write if you have more.
Alt. answer: Our policy is that volunteers who are younger than 16 need to have an adult with them while they are volunteering. This may seem strange, but you probably also know that many people your age are not as mature as they should be and that such limitations are arbitrary because they have to be. A friend, parent, or older sibling could all count as your adult.
Q. My son is 6 y.o. and already very interested in computers. Do you have volunteer tasks that would be appropriate for him?
A. Your son is very welcome to come down and volunteer. He just needs adult supervision while he's here, as we don't have a program yet for such young children.
It sounds like he should start with our adoption tasks (disassembling computers, testing mice, keyboards, and video cards). He'll learn a lot about what the insides of computers look like and the names of much of the hardware. After you've spent some time here, you can decide if the Build Program would work for him (although I think the program might be too heavy in rote memorization for a 6 year old). In the end, I think he'd gain a lot from hanging out and helping out here!
To get started, just come by for a tour, which we offer at 11am and 4pm, every day Tuesday through Saturday. We'll get you into our database after the tour. If you two would like to earn a computer of your own, sign up for the Adoption Program, in which you'll receive a computer in exchange for 24 hours of volunteer time. You two can even combine your hours towards the computer. If you're not interested in the Adoption Program, just sign up as a General Volunteer. Read on for more information about Free Geek and our programs. Thanks so much for your interest, and I look forward to seeing you two here soon!
General Form Response
Q. My son is under age 16. Are exceptions made for the requirement for adult accompaniment?
A. It sounds like your son would have a great time here, and we'd definitely like to get him in here. We generally hold fast to our rule regarding adult supervision for youth under 16. Sorry about that, but we don't have the resources to do otherwise.
It seems like both of you would have fun in the Build Program. Below is a plethora of information on the Build Program, including how to get started.
Build Form Response


Q. How do I donate stuff?
A. Regarding the stuff to donate, please bring it by our facilities at 1731 SE 10th Ave in Portland any time we're open (Tuesday through Saturday 10am-6pm). We have a mandatory $10 fee for each monitor, which we need for processing.
Q. Do you do equipment trades? (or) Can we set up a "a different but mutually beneficial build arrangement"?
A. Unfortunately, we don't do trades such as the one you're suggesting. The only equipment we can give you in exchange for your time here is a Freekbox-spec machine (right now, that's PIII/4 1000-1466 mHz, 256 MB RAM, CD, floppy, yada yada yada). As a volunteer, you'd receive 50% off our thrift store prices. Sorry 'bout that, and I hope this doesn't deter you from volunteering here at Free Geek.