Each Connect Your Community (CYC) Lead Community Agency (LCA) decided on a local strategy for helping CYC participants purchase low-cost home computers. Most LCAs chose to establish a relationship with a computer refurbisher. Two LCAs, Focus Hope in Detroit and ACCEL in Zanesville OH, had difficulty finding a reliable and low cost source of refurbished computers so they created in house computer refurbishing programs.
Focus Hope began refurbishing computers in April, 2012. Since then, they have refurbished and sold (at cost) computers to 1529 CYC participants.
ACCEL began refurbishing computers in October of 2010. Since then they have refurbished and sold (at cost) computers to 2371 CYC participants.
Focus Hope and ACCEL each determined that to refurbish computers they would need:
- At least one source of used computers they could purchase or have donated to them.
- To become a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher.
- Skilled staff and volunteers.
The benefits of refurbishing computers in-house:
- Reduced cost allows more CYC program participants to purchase a computer.
- Confidence the hardware and software being sold to CYC program participants has been tripled checked for quality.
- Warranty support provided in house tends to result in more sustainable broadband adopters.
- If the price of the refurbished computers is set to include the cost of the hardware, software and staff time, the program can be self-sustaining.
- Developing and then having in-house expertise on computer refurbishing is beneficial to the organization and the individuals performing the work.
Challenges of creating an in-house non-profit computer refurbishing program:
- Finding reliable suppliers of low-cost used computers at defined minimum specifications.
- Getting through the paperwork of becoming a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher.
- Managing the software license process (if using Microsoft Citizenship Licenses).
- Finding appropriate drivers for the variety of hardware refurbished.
- Just as you get volunteers trained to help refurbish computers, they move on!
Tips for those who are considering setting up their own non-profit computer refurbishing program:
- There are multiple Microsoft Refurbishing licenses with a multitude of rules and regulations. The best licenses for your program are based upon your organizations legal status and who will be using the computers refurbished.
- Refurbishers using Microsoft Citizenship Licenses purchase software directly from Microsoft rather than from an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer).
- Microsoft Citizenship Licenses are cheapest but have narrow restrictions on use and come with serious hurdles and time consuming tasks. Compare the total cost per license, including staff time to install.
- Depending upon your situation, the operating system and MS Office license for a computer to be sold to a program participant may be different than the licenses for a computer to be used in a public computer lab.
- Refurbished computers to be used at a non-profit or in a public computer lab, may be eligible for discounted software through TechSoup.
- Microsoft does offer grants periodically to non-profits.
- The fewer computer models you refurbish, the less hassle creating images and finding drivers.
- If you intend to really scale up, do so with a loading dock.
- Define a staff person or volunteer who can install open source software when requested.
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