Meet our newest Refurbished Computer Initiative (RCI) partner, PCs for People! TechSoup's RCI program provides warrantied factory refurbished commercial grade computer systems to charities across the country, so we need the best suppliers we can find. PCs for People, as a leader in U.S. digital inclusion, is certainly one of the leading nonprofit PC refurbishers. Here is its story.
PCs for People is a large nonprofit refurbishment program headquartered in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The organization's mission is to bridge the digital divide by providing good, low-cost computers to low-income people and also help those people get online. It has been around for almost 20 years, but like so many refurbishers, it came from humble beginnings.
It all started in 1998 when social worker Andy Elofson wanted to help a young man who had gotten in trouble for misusing school computers. Andy found him an old computer the county wasn't using anymore; within a few months, the boy was developing web pages for local businesses and churches. Andy then started PCs for People as a volunteer-based charity to fix up old computers and get them to low-income people who could really use them.
In 2008, volunteer Casey Sorensen became PCs for People's first executive director. He introduced significant innovations. These enabled the organization to procure high-quality, retired electronics from corporations; leverage automation to efficiently refurbish computers; and expand its distribution of refurbished IT equipment nationally at very low cost.
PCs for People has also expanded its services to include a computer repair shop. Plus, in 2016, it created a new community initiative to distribute computers and Mobile Beacon Internet to low-income people. That initiative is implemented in partnership with several community-based organizations, including the Denver Housing Authority and the federal HUD ConnectHome project.
All of this was made possible by the organization figuring out how to compete effectively with commercial asset recovery companies. The goal is to receive relatively recent vintage, retired commercial IT equipment from companies and government agencies in Minnesota.
PCs for People is one of the few nonprofit refurbishers to obtain National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) AAA data sanitization certification. Data destruction is a primary concern for companies of all sizes when they retire their IT. And so offering free pickup and state-of-the-art data sanitation became a centerpiece for PCs for People's Corporate Services.
Casey Sorensen summarizes the organization's work and interest in serving charities:
"Since 1998, PCs for People, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has provided home computer access to over 180,000 individuals in 45 states. PCs for People works with over 400 companies to offer a secure end-of-life asset management service. Through this service, we are able to procure high-quality computer equipment and leverage industry-leading refurbishing software to produce thousands of computers far below market cost.
"As a nonprofit, we understand budgets are always tight, so we're thrilled be part of a new refurbishment partnership with TechSoup. A goal of the new partnership is to help nonprofits reduce technology costs so they can focus on delivering their mission."
Another unique service that PCs for People offers is tech support, something in short supply for both low-income people and charities. The organization is now the help desk for over 30,000 active computers across the US. It also brings this experience to TechSoup members.
Angela Siefer, director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), wrote a detailed profile of PCs for People. She says the next big challenge for PCs for People is to craft a program able to distribute one million computers. In classic nonprofit fashion, the organization intends to expand by sharing its model so that others can replicate it. It will also leverage its existing systems and platforms for managing inventory and verifying eligibility.
Casey Sorensen states, "Partnership and collaboration are the watchwords for organizations that want to build digital equity. Sharing processes and systems will create economies of scale at the community level and the national level."
We are delighted to announce our partnership with this incredible digital inclusion charity, and offer PCs for People computers to charities, churches, and libraries across the land.
Image 1: Hatchapong Palurtchaivong / Shutterstock
Image 2: Casey Sorensen
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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