Computers for Kids Utah

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Computers for Kids, Inc.
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The mission of Computers for Kids is to give all school-aged children access to a computer in the home. We have three core programs that support our mission: (1) We collect unwanted computer equipment, refurbish the usable items and recycle the remainder, (2) We provide complete, refurbished, “internet-ready” computer systems to low-income individuals, and (3) We provide transferable skills training to volunteers who are trying to achieve stable employment.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

As a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher, Computers for Kids uses Microsoft software as a core component of our refurbishing program; however, this is just the beginning. Over the course of the past year, we have, with the help of an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, completely revamped our marketing, volunteer management, outreach and internal business systems using Microsoft technologies. I am that VISTA volunteer, and this is my story. When I began working at Computers for Kids in August 2008, the infrastructure was very basic. It was a “one-man-operation” with the executive director, Charlie Saba, being the driving force behind the organization and the one who did most of the work, from making donation requests and picking up computers, to training volunteers and refurbishing computers to delivering systems to end-users. He kept his important contacts in his head, programmed into his cell phone, and occasionally written down in a Day-Timer. This system worked OK for him, but made it very difficult to delegate work to the volunteers. And being so busy, Charlie had very little time for marketing and community outreach. With two new full time VISTA volunteers, several Job Corps volunteers refurbishing computers, and several other volunteers working on computer donations, pick-ups and repairs, we had to streamline our internal operations in order to effectively manage the staff and maximize their output. In addition, as a relatively new, small nonprofit, we had to free up time in order to focus more attention on outreach. When I came on board, each staff and volunteer computer was running different software. Some were on Microsoft Office 2002 and some didn’t have it installed at all. And no-one was using Outlook. My first task was to update all the PCs to Office 2007 and teach everyone how to use Outlook. Next, I created a letterhead template in Word and taught everyone how to open a new document using the letterhead so that our correspondence would have a consistent look and feel. The next step was to get all our important business relationship contacts out of Charlie’s head, cell phone and Day-Timer and into Outlook. I trained a volunteer how to do this and after she finished, I categorized the contacts as Equipment Donors, Cash Donors, PR Contacts, Staff, Volunteers, etc., making it easy to pull up contacts by group. We provide about 600 computers to low-income families annually. Tracking the demographics on our clients is a tall job. When I arrived at Computers for Kids, they were using the “binder” tracking method – you know, three-hole punching the client eligibility forms and inserting them into a binder. Then someone would go through the sheets and add up the client data manually at year end. Yikes! So I created an Excel spreadsheet to capture the pertinent data. From the spreadsheet I can run pivot tables to tease out all types of information, like how many systems we delivered in any given period, which schools or marketing campaigns resulted in the most distributions or what income ranges our clients fall into. The Excel spreadsheet is functional, but my next goal is to create an Access database so that data entry can be done with a more user-friendly interface. Volunteer forms didn't exist, so I created a volunteer information/commitment form and a time tracking form using Publisher. We were able to print these in-house saving money and time. The forms we had been using to track donations and distributions hadn’t been revised in quite a while. I used Publisher to create several new forms like an In-Kind Donation Receipt (see attached), a Cash Donation Receipt, and a Client Eligibility Form. These needed to be done in duplicate, so we hired the Utah Correctional Industries Print Shop, which offers very reasonable prices and small quantity batches. After tackling these back-office tasks, I was able to have some real fun. Using Publisher 2007, I created a new look and feel for our website and marketing materials. The first marketing piece was a set of flyers for the public schools to send home with their students. The beauty of doing this in-house is that we could customize flyers for each school, as well as for special events like parent’s night, or for our holiday sale, and only print as many as we needed. (See example attached). Next came the website. The old website was OK, but lacked a consistent look and feel, was way too wordy, and didn’t have many links. I used Publisher to create the new website, which now has a look and feel consistent with our other marketing items. I included links to our major donors and community partners. I like Publisher because I can easily make changes myself and upload them quickly without having to send changes to a website manager. Being able to update the website in house, on a moment’s notice, is critical for any small nonprofit. Finally, we launched new marketing campaign with the public libraries, designed to increase community awareness about our program. In the past we had marketed primarily by sending flyers home through public schools or other nonprofits. Under the new campaign, we send take-one cards to the library main office and they place them in the kiosks of all the public libraries in the Salt Lake metro area. This required a two-sided, full color, full bleed, 1/3 page cardstock flyer. I created a very eye-catching flyer in Publisher and had it printed by Utah Correctional Industries. (See the take-one attached). Now our information is available in all the public libraries in Salt Lake! We are continually looking for affordable and innovative ways to increase community awareness about our program through grass-roots marketing. One of the important outcomes of all this effort is that our organization now has a more professional image. I believe this has greatly increased our chances of receiving funding from local businesses, foundations and individuals. In summary, Microsoft technologies have had a huge impact on our ability to streamline our internal operations as well as to create professional marketing materials and website content. The outcome is that we have been able to make our presence better known, not only in Salt Lake, but throughout the state of Utah.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery
Project Image
CFK Logo.jpg
Supporting Work URL