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Unlocking devices

When a device is locked, it will only work on one provider’s network. It’s important that any donated devices are unlocked so you can set up new connections. By the end of this step, you’ll be able to decide between these two options:

  • Donors unlock their devices (but pay a fee per device)
  • You unlock devices and pay any fees 

Key insights

  • The cost of unlocking

    Mobiles are often locked to a particular network. You can ask donors to unlock them before donating so their device can connect to your chosen network, but this comes at a cost.

  • Help with funding

    It could be worth approaching local businesses, phone shops or charities to see if any will help fund the cost of unlocking devices. Alternatively, a telco may be able to do this for you at a reduced cost.

Responsibility for unlocking devices

Option 1. Donor unlocking

Asking donors to pay a fee (currently £10) to unlock their devices will save you money, but will the cost and effort put them off?

One of our community partners required donors to tick ‘yes’ on a Google form to ensure they had unlocked and factory reset their device. If they ticked ‘no’, they couldn’t proceed.


  • It takes a step out of the process for you


  • Adding a cost to the donation will reduce the donation rate
  • Adding a step to the donation process will put some people off

Option 2. Managing the process yourself or with a partner

If you can find the budget, you can take responsibility for unlocking devices (or partner with a telco/partner who is happy to do so). 


  • You are likely to get more donations


  • There may be a cost to your telco/partner – make sure they understand this in advance

Things to think about

  • A balancing act

    Which unlocking process will work best for you? Do you want to receive the highest number of donations possible or minimise the time needed to restore each device?

Next Step

Receiving donations

When it comes to donations, you need to strike whilst the iron’s hot. Encourage potential donors to commit to making a donation and give them a choice of methods for sending/delivering device/s, if possible.


Ready to get started?

If you’re interested in setting up a Reboot project, why not download the full Reboot playbook? Regardless of your budget and IT skills, it will help you develop a well-structured Reboot process and maximise your donations!