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donation concern

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donation concern

We love Warmshowers, have used it and have met many great people while hosting.

I have read some of the comments in the other threads on this forum and do not want to get involved in discussions how much people should make etc. I just want to voice my concern on whether this is sustainable.
We can easily afford to make a donation, certainly with our own rtw trip coming up I am happy to contribute. But I am not sure I want to continue contributing year after year while we are home.
This is the first year of the fundraising effort and I am surprised we haven't reached the goal yet. I am concerned it will get harder and harder to reach this goal next year of the year after. What will happen to this great organization when the numbers no longer add up?


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I agree

I have some concern about the numbers holding up also. At present about 4% of the WS members have responded. 2% have donated and 2 % have chosen a free membership level. I like you wonder if this is sustainable year after year if only 5 % are going. to respond. Perhaps. they are wishing to stick with the original WS model of eventual reciprocal hospitality. and have no interest in donating just to cover Randy's salary.

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Donation queries

I would have thought that the reciprocal hosting arrangement makes a product (warm that would attract advertising sponsorship as a primary source of revenue. Surely Ortleib, Schwalbe, Surley etc would appreciate the opportunity to advertise their products to this specific market. What do others think?

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I am amazed they do not

I am amazed they do not accept banner advertising. I would prefer it IF (a big if) they would keep the ads touring related, i.e. Ortlieb, Co-Motion, Backroads, etc. but not Amazon (though I love Amazon) type ads).

Perhaps do a model where you have a "mode" that which on you can ask for accommodations but each request is charged a minimal amount, i.e. less than $1 but there is no charge to receive accommodation requests. That way when someone is actually touring and thus benefiting, they pay a minimal amount.

I understand it would be nice to continue to receive free stuff but when they keep adding more and more someone has to pay (even if in time).

Just my opinion.

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That's a terrible idea.

That's a terrible idea.

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My view is that Hosting Only members need not contribute. Their hospitality and generosity goes way beyond any donation value. Rider Members are another story. If one accepts the graciousness of hosts yet can't afford a couple bucks per month to support the organization, he is not being responsible. He needs to get a job to pay his way and not sponge off of the group.

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going in the wrong direction

Jack, In my opinion your argument is sending this tread in the wrong direction. I think the beauty of WS is that there is no money involved. We have hosted probably 20 times more people than that we have ever been hosted, but I feel I get just as much benefit from hosting as I get from "free accommodation". This system is above a "pay-as-you-play" formula: you use it and pay if forward as you are able. In preparation of our RTW tour i have probably contacted 50 different hosts, some work out, some don't. I would hate to have to pay a dollar every time I make a request.
My concern is that if Warmshowers becomes a business with a balance sheet what would happen when the numbers no long add up?

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Overall I agree with you,

Overall I agree with you, especially what happens if the numbers do not add up. My point is to just offer a way to increase the income (yes they do need some) and since I agree that hosts should not pay, have the Riders pay something when the system is being used, i.e. a "user fee" that a lot of national parks charge.

I agree a dollar per request (regardless of whether the request is accepted) is high but perhaps something per fulfilled request (Rider actually stays with a host) is OK. How many fulfilled accommodations are done each year worldwide? Take the $65,000 budget and divide by that number to get a guesstimate on how much to charge. For instance, say there are 100k fulfilled requests. $65k divided by 100k is 65 cents each.

Again, I am just trying to come up with some ideas in case the numbers do not add up and still prefer the advertising method first.

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Maybe I'm just being naïve John, but if it were up to me I'd like to keep money completely out of the hosting / using part of Warmshowers. I also understand money is necessary to somewhat reimburse people that do the every day work necessary to make a website like this exist and other expenses. That's why I felt I should contribute (and did), but I am not sure if this formula will sustain WS year after year.

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KEEP IT SIMPLE it's worked so well up to now, I know Randy has worked his butt off for nothing but the satisfaction of seeing a wonderful organisation develop. Money often stuffs things up doesn't it.

We will continue to make a "one off" donation as we have in the past, pity it has not worked that way, we can only see what happens from here on.

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Interesting read:
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The quesion remains

I don't know if your concern has gotten an answer yet, which is: Can WS raise $60,000 this. year and then each following. year. My question. is, How long until. the amount isn't. enough. or someone feels a pay raise is in order ?

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Super Happy ?

Of course Randy is "super happy " ! 3/5ths of his salary has been raised. It all started by blasting people's donation status on their profile page. I still feel it's. a form of public shaming and I hope I'm still entitled. to my opinion.

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Jeff, I sense you have beef

Jeff, I sense you have beef with the justification and amount of compensation Randy would receive. That's fine, and I think you have made your point (in a not-to-subtle way)on the other threads ongoing in this forum.

In my opinion Randy has done an excellent job and I am thankful that we have an organization like Warmshowers out there. It bothers me that people are questioning his motives or even his integrity, but I gues you need to have a thick skin on the internet for people will type things they would never say to your face.....

My question is solely intended to voice my concerns regarding sustainability of the formula that was selected. I want WS to be around for a long time to come because it seems to bring out the best in people. (except maybe for on its public forums.....)

Randy, thanks for the well-wishes. We have also started a blog on CGOAB. Neil over there went through a similar phase when he tried to get some compensation for his efforts.


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No beef

I don't have a beef with Randy. I know he did volunteer many years to make WS what it is. And now to continue he has reached the point where he deserves to be compensated for bearing the brunt of the work. I just feel that when it comes to raising funds which for the most part are to cover his salary , that he should take a hands off approach to avoid conflict of interest. I'm not a big fan of the donor status badges but I sincerely hope the fundraising is sustainable for many years and Randy stays here and happy for many years.Just perhaps some other admin can be the face for any fundraising efforts , thus avoiding any appearance of conflict of interest and freeing Randy up to accomplish other important tasks. I am all for donating ( I have), just don't like the donor badges approch. So everyone let us encourage the community to continue to donate.

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No beef

BTW, I've emailed Randy my opinions. I also have not posted anything that I would not tell him to his face,so don't accuse me of sniping from the safety of the internet. I'm right here and using my first amendment rights . Maybe. Randy and I will meet sometime soon and we will shake hands and perhaps "Agree to Disagree " on fundraising methods. WHERE'S THE BEEF ? Maybe at Wendy's but hopefully. not here. Smile everybody , Life is too short !

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Thanks for the reply.I feel you are making the right steps to keeping everything above boards. Thank you and the board of directors for all you guys and gals do ! I may be in Colorado this summer on a non biking trip, perhaps we can meet over a meal or drinks and discuss why we care for the WS community . Hope all continues to go well for you and the WS community .

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To volunteer or not to volunteer

We all admire and recognize Randy's and others' efforts. It's tricky, though, to talk about other people's motivations. What moves us all to participate with our time? Isn't it the joy of keeping something beautiful (and useful!) going? We don't have ulterior motives, at least not most of us, and if so, by definition, as ulterior motives, they'll remain opaque. Anyway, the reason I'm prompted to write now is this phrase by Patrick that I just read here a few posts above: "...on CGOAB. Neil over there went through a similar phase when he tried to get some compensation for his efforts."

Now, I believe that Neil's main driving force has always mostly been the biking itself, and that his main motivation for the recent "phase" has also been the desire to have a structure and dynamic process in place that will guarantee the future functioning of CGOAB for when/if he leaves, and there may in fact be a well deserved compensation for past efforts, but it's hard to draw the line, what is past, what is future, who contributed more or less, and so on. So, coming back to WS, I think it's best to cut out any such speculations or doubts and keep it volunteer based, or otherwise make a distinct statement: for this and that service rendered, this or that compensation is now going to be given, and in future this or that salary will be allocated to this or that group of people. It is true, though, as Jeff writes, that there is an inherent conflict of interest in Randy's position(s); and I have no idea what is going on in the BoD's heads, either, beyond what is espoused and otherwise sincerely presented.

Beyond that, I think it's imperative to clearly decide what the purview of WS is and will be, (kind of like the debate in the USA as to how much government we need/want and for what purposes), because from what I gather (or, I guess, anyone reading the material available) it is still very much up in the air (the magnitude and direction of growth). Is that even an issue? I mean, is it still possible to counteract this idolatry of GROWTH? Or has everything already been decided, cut up and distributed?

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Growth is a fact

A small point I feel needs to be made.

There is no idolatry of growth with the BoD or Randy or anyone else associated with Warmshowers operation.

What we have is the FACT that WS membership has increased radically over the past few years by about 1200% (5K to nearly 60K). We didn't advertise, we didn't solicit memberships, we didn't buy mailing lists and spam the world - it just happened.

As the growth happened we realized we needed to change things operationally to be able to keep up with this change. We became a non-profit organization, we established a board, we began looking at what was what.

From the point of view of the user, WS is easy and effective. From the point of view of the admins . . . not so much. The version of drupal that WS is built upon is now out of date by three generations. It HAS to be migrated and that's a very large order. It's an order that is too large for strictly volunteer labor.

It is, for me, very important for everyone to realize that the thing they love about WS is that it works and it works well and it works for free. No one is going to require a paid membership. We know better.

At the same time we have to maintain the invisible thing that makes WS work well, the underlying structure that users don't see. Without that update WS doesn't work at all.

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Extra stuff step by step

A perusal of the various posts will certainly show mentions of growth other than that which you mention, Mark. That is, it is not only about the number of members (and that has not increased from 5k to nearly 60k overnight, but from 30k to 60k in the two years, right? So what happened before that? Why do you assume it will continue at the same rate?), nor is it just the drupal > whatever transition (how much would that cost to do first of all and to maintain then yearly?), but rather there was talk of expanding services to include members being able to find each other on the road, of offering route information, and more importantly, all the Android apps and other such stuff.

I would suggest you post regularly appeals for improvements. For example, have a general but targeted campaign for the base costs (that drupal > whatever thing), for example, "We need $2000 extra this year to handle the 10K new members that joined last year," or "We need $5K this quarter to implement the change of software drupal > xxxxx" and so people will respond. Don't leave it to the last minute, inform people, and they will give according to what they think is worth it. For example, if you say "We now need 5K to expand the use of WS to this or that mobile phone app, etc, etc." then the people who value that will donate (in any case more than the ones who don't believe in such growth).

You can do such targeted campaigns quarterly. If the goal is not met immediately, you can split it between two campaigns.

I, for example, do not have a smart phone and believe that the service should be only on regular internet, so I will contribute (anonymously) for regular campaigns.

By the way, I just noticed on my profile it says "Your membership is at the Supporter level and it expires on 2015-10-02." That's the first time I see that. I didn't know membership expires! See, this is the kind of thing I am afraid of. Even if it doesn't actually affect my ability to use the site as a member, that is sort of putting pressure on me to donate. I find that dishonest.

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Ignacio, What would be a


What would be a better word than "expires" when encouraging members for a yearly contribution? Maybe we just need to change a word or two to make this feel more user friendly.

Ken Francis
Warm Showers Registrar, Board of Director, Guest and Host

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The long view

I've been volunteering as a WS admin for nearly 4 years. I'm speaking from my experience as a volunteer admin, which means - at times - 20+ hours / week on top of my day job.

No one is assuming the growth of WS will continue at this pace. At least, no one on the board is making that assumption. That is an assumption that came from member comments.

All of the things you mention members requesting, with the exception of the phone apps, will have to run on drupal in order to work with the existing WS Website. The apps require a different set of skills and expertise and have to be updated regularly in order to keep up with upgrades to the underlying tech, just like the WS Website needs to be updated to keep up with the changes to drupal. It is very difficult to find a volunteer with the skills and long-term commitment to create, maintain, and constantly and consistently upgrade the apps.

In the future, AFTER we have made this major upgrade, we may well be able to do as you suggest and piece out the work. That is, in effect, what we're doing now. It just happens to be a major upgrade that will require a great deal of time and expertise.

Your point about membership is well taken. I would like to point out that memberships are inherently limited unless there is a "Life membership" level. Perhaps you have never been a member of an organization and were unaware of the limited nature of memberships?

Unregistered anon_user kullanıcısının resmi

I feel the most user friendly approach. would be no badges at all. Before the use of the current. badges members weren't being told " you're about to expire ".

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Expiration date

If you must have public notice of donations on each members profile, pehaps it could read " Your Donation Anniversary Date Is :XX/XX/20XX" . Maybe not seem so ominous and something more to celebate perhaps with another donation. :)

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About membership

Ken and Mark,

The point is that membership in WS has never required a donation nor was there any connotation of it being limited in time any way. So what has changed here?
Just because I made a donation (in the name of other people, by the way), it has to be limited? Would I then automatically go back to non-donor or non-disclosing status?


Like the other member just mentioned in his/comment, the best thing would be NOT to have any mention whatsoever of the donor/membership status (can't see his/her name just now as I'm typing, but this is a feature I don't think you need to go about upgrading now).

Regarding upgrades and costs involved, why don't you publish those plans and corresponding expenses in detail and at the same time that you ask for donations? Are you saying that the transition from drupal to whatever is going to cost minimum $60K for one year?

I am sorry to say that I am slowly losing confidence in WS's ability or willingness to remain non-profit. We saw it with CS, and there is apparently nothing in the USA stopping a non-profit from becoming a for-profit. I'm not saying that is your intention right now, but "profit" can be understood in many ways. Who is benefiting financially or otherwise (for example, usage of such "advances")?

Wouldn't it be less expensive to just have the basic service? It's like putting a new table in the diner and then say "we need a Tiffany lamp, and a little gizmo here so you can place your order electronically, and then a robot to bring you your food" when in fact, the old table could have been repaired (or if not, then go ahead and do the new table) and the whole thing (placing orders, robots, etc.) could be avoided by keeping the place self-service or having volunteers serving. It's just an analogy.

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Isn't there a third that says " X Member is currently not a donating member of Warmshowers " ?

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Cash only - Credit Card only - Telepathy only

Again, this insistence on apps and stuff like that is surely very dear to developers and people who have enough disposable income (never better expressed) but it is a sort of discrimination to the general public or those who for whatever reason do not wish to follow that path. Kind of like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop, too.

So in a store you might be able to pay with cash, or with cash or credit card (which is more expensive for everybody in the end), and in future maybe they won't accept cash, they will only take credit cards (I get that problem sometimes with my voice/text only phones, so some countries sell SIM cards but others make it difficult, you basically have to buy a smart phone, or on some airplanes where they only take cash); and in future you'll want us all to have an implant so we can pay through telepathy or what?

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How far backward would you

How far backward would you want us to go, Ignacio? The example of a bare table would be having nothing more than a downloadable spreadsheet with the least possible information - no map, no search, no messaging, no forums, no images - nothing but a name, a city/state/country, and a contact method.

You seem to believe, if I'm understanding your statements, that the board is driving the move toward more services, more apps, more "bells and whistles." Nothing could be further from the truth. We're attempting to add some of the things the membership has asked for. Trust me, we have much more in the way of requested new features and functions than we could get to in a couple of years.

We're not perfect. We're trying to find our way in this and we have the added burden of doing it publicly.

Everyone gets to watch us stumble as we attempt to address the problems we know, from our experience combined with our knowledge, are facing the organization and, through the organization, the membership as a whole.

If you or any member have the time, the interest, and the commitment to volunteer to serve the WS community, just say so and we'll welcome you to the party.

In the meantime, please keep speaking your mind. We're trying to do what is best for the WS community and we need to hear from that community.

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Non donator badge

"X Member is not yet a donor member of". Can you show an example of that one as well ?

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Thanks Randy

Thanks, we must have been posting simultaneously .LOL !!!

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I'd just like to see a bit

I'd just like to see a bit more 'clarity' as to where the $65k (this year) is going.

What's the cost of upgrading Drupal to the latest version (as I understand we are 3 generations behind - which is meaningless) and what version do you have now?

Show us a break down of where the funds are being spent. We know a salary has to come out of it and it would be nice to see what else has to be paid out.

And no, I haven't donated. Not yet. I've given back in many other ways and I'm giving serious thought to offering my help, but I have some serious concerns over the direction WS is heading.

I've been an IT specialist for way too many years, built very many websites, (many of them like my current project for free as a gift to my new church) and never considered remuneration. It's pretty time consuming, but I enjoy keeping up with the latest tech. I'm wondering what the base cost of setting up a site like WS would be, especially as for so long it was simply done on a volunteer basis?

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back to topic

This thread was originally about the worry if we can find $60k year after year. Maybe this is not necessary? If Randy, now working full time, manages to find volunteers to replace him and at the same time finishes all the necessary updates, he might work less hours next year and eventually step out completely, or become a very wise board member. Maybe he can find developers in India doing the work for less per hour, but he has to train them first. Also, there is the T-shirt program that will start bringing in money soon and other ideas. The slightly aggressive donation push might turn out to be a one time event in the history of warmshowers.

Peter, host, guest and volunteer coordinator of warmshowers

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Donations to keep Randy on the job...

I donated the other day, and here's why.
This is an amazing web site, free of commercial advertising, with numerous like-minded folks waiting to host me when I am ready to bike tour.

Wife and I have hosted twice since becoming members and both were great experiences.
When I eventually do the bike tour, the money I save by not having to stay in hotels will easily cover what I donated here this week.
Most of the host I will encounter I consider friends I have not yet met.

SOMAfm is one other amazing web site I donate $$ to.
I listen to it all day long at work, in the background.
Zero advertising and fabulous music, completely listener supported.
Without donations the commercial free music goes away, or the funding model changes. is another great online music station.
Without donor support, they might eventually disappear, or radically change the way they fund their mission, which is to make great music available online.

WS is unique.
Randy has done a superb job here.
The volunteers have done a superb job here.
The board has done a superb job.
Keep up the great work, folks..!!


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Awesome comment

Love your understanding the reality here. Nice.

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Global Organisation

I currently live in S.E.A "but" my home country is Australia. In Australia we use dollars, in Singapore the currency is the dollar, Malaysia the Ringgit, Thailand Baht, etc...

Anyone reading this thread could be forgiven for thinking it is a North American site ONLY. They talk in their currency with little discussion of others.

There are members in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam for example. Take Cambodia with a GDP of around $US1000.00 or $US20.00 per week. A United States dollar is big money to them. I have cycled through all these countries... I do know it is tough for people here and elsewhere.

The method in use, whilst not stating this, allows for people to be and remain "non financial members" To me it does not discriminate against those who may NEVER have the ability to pay. If we are to remain "Global" we MUST consider others in our world.

Having said this, I personally support donations and will continue to make "one off" payments as and when I can afford to do so.

If memory serves me I discussed an issue about 7 years ago and guess what, it was Randy that responded. 7 years later I had cause to email again over the death of a long distant cyclist (Road accident in Thailand) Again it was Randy that helped out. Over the years this guy has been tireless and in my opinion deserves a salary.

There is, again IMO, a place for a "Sponsors Page" NOT necessarily adds on "our" pages but, a simple line or two of text and a link saying e.g.. Sponsors Page. The "line or two of text" could "remind" a sponsor that tens of thousands of cyclists use this site and equip their journeys with "THEIR" product.... They would NOT want their competition equipping them.. Many "potential" models exist without making the site look like a Christmas Tree.

Tailwinds - Mal

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I, like Mark and Ken, am a

I, like Mark and Ken, am a member of the Board of Directors of Warmshowers. I've been on the board for about 18 months or so. My primary volunteer duty that I took from Randy is responding to various editors/writers from around the world that contact WS. I've managed to save Randy quite a bit of time by responding to about a dozen or so requests for information/ questions and interviews.

I liked to add a few points to the discussion.

1. Randy's "salary"; Randy does NOT have a salary. He is a contract employee. I stated this a few weeks ago on a different discussion. If Randy does the work needed to upgrade WS website in one year and bills for $50,000 (his maximum) then he receives this amount and no further funds will be needed to pay him in the future except for routine maintenance. As Mark (Martin) stated, there is a large upgrade to Drupal needed and Randy has the history and skills to do the job. If we raise $30,000 the Randy can only be paid 30,000 minus the necessary expenses of WS and a minimum that is kept in the bank. We can't pay Randy money we don't have. We have had a very generous response to our donation requests. Could we have done a better job of asking, perhaps, but there always a balance needed to be effective. Can we sustain the donations. We'll see. Our needs may change but currently we have needs that take a lot of time and money. Randy has kept WS going for quite a while receiving a lot of "pats on the back". We need to do more for him so we can move forward. The Board of Directors is currently reviewing and prioritizing the requests for upgrades, etc. That's our job to oversee what is best for WS. We are going through a period of growth (not due to our marketing), technological changes, legal considerations that can occur with large number of interactions of individuals (we our now a formal non-profit with liability insurance for the board), and other considerations within the mission statement of WS.

2. "Only 4%" have participated. I have been elected and sat on my local community council for 20 years. Participation on zoning and other matters at our meetings are dismal. The government runs on less than 1% participation. Does that mean the other 99% are against us, no, just apathetic to what we do. They come to the meetings if there is a concern. I would love to see a regular 4% participation at our meetings. I don't have a problem with the 4% participation in WS at this time. Given the relatively time period, 4% is good. More may participate with time. We on the board need to be better at communicating to the members. It is a learning process and with time I think we will see higher participation. We do not have a fee to join Warmshowers. Donating is voluntary and we appreciate the donations that we have received.

3. Statements about keeping WS "free". I host and have hosted on various sites since the 1970's. I have not been a guest. The relationship between guests and hosts will stay the same during our efforts to raise money. Joining WS is "free", we only ask for donations from those that can afford to pay, with special consideration to hosts, those form countries with lower GDP's than the U.S., etc, and to countries in which the banking system is difficult to access our website. There are two aspects of Warmshowers. One is the basic relationship between guests and hosts. That stays the same The other aspect of Warmshowers is the overall management of WS, the website, monitoring of the guest/host relationships through the "feedback", answering multiple questions that appear on the forums, etc. This is time that Randy has given in the past along with other volunteers such as Mark among others. The overall management of WS needs the upgrade with donations. The act of donating is purely voluntary.

4. Advertising on the site to raise money. This is not as easy as it seems. If you have the professional skills to obtain advertising then you should discuss that with us. In the past, site advertising has not been considered. We have had a consultant involved in our raising of funds. Advertising, seeking grants, merchandizing etc are all part of the revenue mix. We need skilled professionals to move in that direction. I wish I could just call Ortlieb and some of the other companies mentioned and tell them why they should send us a bunch of money. Not my skill level.

5. "The beauty of WS is that no money is involved". Sorry but that is naive. As long as you have Randy doing a lot of work for free, as well as other volunteers, WS looks free on the surface. WS has been in existence since 1993, a very long time for an organization to exist on volunteers with the expertise that Randy has. The numbers of members are now large, the time commitment has increased and we need to recognize that. There still is no money involved in the transactions between guest and host, so I'm having a hard time understanding what the problem is? If you wish to donate to keep the infrastructure up to date, you are welcome to do that. If you don't donate you can still host or be a guest. We are asking as a donation an amount that I would consider a nominal amount, $10 for those that can afford it.

6. "conflict of interest": What conflict? Randy is a contract employee with oversight by the board, no different than most non-profits. He has the history with WS and the skills to make technological upgrades to the website. Should we do a nation-wide search for someone to volunteer to do the job? The terms of Randy's work is not unreasonable in the marketplace.Sorry, I don't see a conflict with paying Randy to do the needed work unless you can explain what you see as a conflict.

7. Use of the word "membership"; My personal opinion is that mixing the word membership and donation is confusing and should not continue. "Membership" or joining Warmshowers is free. We need to upgrade the infrastructure of WS and therefore we hope that the "membership" sends in donations whether it is a one time donation, annual, or once every 5 years. Hopefully that clarifies things from my perspective.

8. "keep WS simple"; we are growing rapidly in members and in technological needs. I started hosting when the organization I belonged to had a few hundred members and we communicated with a Rolodex and postcards. I had a few last minute phone calls as well. How simple should WS be? There is a lot of demand for Apps and such, none of which I understand, but many on the board do. I will soon be old enough to be on Medicare so I still do things simply such as sending Randy a donation in the mail with a hand written note thanking him. But even my Luddite nature realizes that I will soon need a pocket phone (no I do not have a cellphone) or small tablet (?) that can interact with the WS website when I travel on my bike. There are a lot of requests from the WS members. As a board member I think it is necessary to listen to them. I also think there are services that have been suggested that WS can provide within the mission statement that will enhance the lodging options of bicycle travelers but these are not current priorities. The small but important picture is the interaction of guests and hosts. That stays just as simply as before. The big picture is the structure and function of WS for the approximately 50,000 members we have.

I've said too much, I hope that helps with this discussion.

Louis Melini

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Louis, the conflict of

Louis, the conflict of interest connected to Randy is not that he is going from longtime volunteer to paid contractor. Rather, it is that as someone with a financial interest in the matter, he has been pushing hard for a funding model that he believes will grant him larger payment.

The method of fundraising and the amount of funds raised and spent should be worked out solely between the membership and the board. Volunteers who can potentially be paid should stay out of that discussion and in the end simply accept (or not) the decision made by the board.

All last autumn and winter, Randy wasn't staying out of it. He was responding aggressively to any critical posts on the website forums, deleting critical posts on the Facebook discussion, and sending private messages to critics telling them that their views are irrelevant. (That said, he has thankfully toned that down in public, but one wonders how much pressure he is still putting on the board in private.)

I think I and other concerned members here have made it pretty clear over the last weeks that that is where the conflict of interest lies. That you so drastically misrepresent what I wrote and what was in Peter's report to the board makes me feel you are not being at all sensitive to member concerns.

Finally, I'm happy to see a board member say that the current goal is upgrading Drupal, and that paying Randy such large remuneration might not continue beyond that. Still, your insistence on keeping him around for that upgrade is disappointing. You write "We need to do more for him so we can move forward," and that makes no sense at all. When a organization has a domineering, loose-cannon staff member and even board members say that they feel utterly dependent on him, the sooner he is dismissed, the sooner the organization can move on.

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conflict of interest

Chris: I think we are looking at the same glass, you say it is have empty and I say it's half full. There is a level of trust that is involved here. The Board is fully aware of our dilemma that Randy is an integral part of the organization and at this time we are dependent on him. It is an issue for many non-profits to be solely dependent on one person. I consider Randy an ethical person that simply wants to be paid. He is in a position to see the needs of WS. He has given considerable time, freely, in the past. The task ahead requires a lot more time, enough time to make even a passionate advocate like Randy want to receive more than a pat on the back. I think his motivation is to do what is best for WS and not a grand conspiracy to fill his bank account. The hard push is to get moving to get the job done after several years of internal debate.

As I and several of the Board members have stated, we need someone with a particular skill set to replace Randy. One that person has to have an understanding of the nature of WS, that is an understanding of the interactions between guests and hosts, though that can certainly be easily learned. Next, that person needs to have a technological understanding of how to manage, upgrade and integrate the technological features into the website. That person needs to monitor the interactions among hosts and guests. We want to stop any serious grievances between guests and hosts, especially if there is a pattern.The number of problems are very, very small so it ends up as a time consuming tedious task probably suitable to skilled volunteers of which we have a few doing that. Remember, just because volunteers are doing the jobs, they still need to have oversight and guidance.

We are not insisting on keeping Randy around. Rather we are implementing the best person that can operate the WS organization until either more people step up to volunteer that have the skill set to take over specific tasks. We still need a central figure to bring everything together to organize WS. Currently Randy is putting together an organizational chart for us. Even though I am on the board, I do not know many of the other volunteers that are not on the board of directors and what specific tasks they do for WS.

Before I was invited to be on the board, I communicated with Randy on multiple occasions mostly due to my lack of technological skills working the website. Randy was always there helping and giving an answer. I do not think of him as domineering. He does have a vision for WS which I support to the extent that it serves the needs of traveling cyclists. I've also given my input that may differ from Randy as I mentioned in my previous note regarding the term "membership" being used in conjunction with "donation". I also don't think Randy is a "loose cannon". Randy has been the central figurehead for WS for years. It is in my opinion natural for him to continue that role until sometime when others can step in. Randy and the board are aware that this process needs to take place. We do not at the present time have a Public Relations spokesperson for WS. That is something I hope to see but there is a downside to that as a PR person may be looked to as a shield. Peter Van Glabbeek has stepped in as a volunteer and has done some of that with his summary report. I agreed with most of the report, not all of it, so as you can see can agree to disagree on some matters. Randy did shut down some conversation, but at sometime one has to walk away from continued non-productive discussion, perhaps for a cooling off period. I certainly did that a lot in the 7 years as a soccer referee.

I would disagree that the sooner Randy is dismissed the sooner the organization can move on.

Chris, thank you for your reply and concerns. If we are saying "no" that does not mean we are not listening. We may say "yes" at a later date. I think it is healthy for us to have this conversation.


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Other options for raising funds

Well, assuming money needs to come from somewhere to allow WSL to grow beyond its meagre beginnings, what options are there? The current scheme of membership/donations is easy to setup (good) but perhaps as some might suggest, may not be sustainable.

The challenge we face is the so called "free rider" problem. These are those that derive benefit without making a contribution. If we put the option of advertising aside, maybe a scheme to incentivize small contributions by those who largely directly benefit, the guests.

So what if:
1) A guest was prompted AFTER their stay (presumably when they log on next time to connect with their next host) to make a contribution. Perhaps a trigger could be if the host of their last stay entered a 'feedback' message. This more directly connects use of the WSL service to actual benefits.
2) OPTION: Allow the NEXT host contacted by the potential guest to see the contribution history of the guest. Not sure if this is necessarily a good idea. But some sort of scorecard helps to separate the free riders. I think you get the idea. It doesn't have to show the amounts. We could set a lower limit. But I think we should leave it up to the rider. We may need to allow users to 'bank' dollars to avoid high transaction costs with credit cards.

Setting something like this up will take development work for sure. Good thing we have Randy!

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Membership versus donation

A few points:
We are all members, some of us are donors. I strongly think that the donors' status should remain out of the member's profile.
As for the discussion about hosts and guests, I would hope that most of us are both.
I agree that the running of WS requires money, but I strongly disagree if money is brought into the guest/host relationship.
Donation being volunteer, it is pointless to make a rule for hosts only to be exempted. They will make a donation if they wish.
It seems simple to me.
WS is a fantastic site and I hope it lives long!

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I agree with your point. However, i dont own a credit card. Is there any other way to donate money to WS? Since i dont hold on to a stable job, i would like to make a preference of free choice on how much i would be able to donate. I support the current structure. I wish to remain as an active WS forum participant as well as in real life. My current condition has prevented me to embark on any cycling expedition within the near future. That said, is there any other way to donate some value of my estate to WS? I understand the values of WS but values cant run the servers, staff etc.

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Great conversation

What a robust thread. Love it all. Thanks to everyone for contributing.

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If money is an issue let in

If money is an issue let in the advertisers. I no longer object to them so strongly except when they are intrusive. And its good when they are in line with your own interests. Well not so much good but not bad is what i mean. But i wonder is there very much money to be made from advertising on sites like this anyway. I suspect not but its worth a shot.

Advertising on my CGOAB page on the other hand would put me off.

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Buy there IS advertising on

Buy there IS advertising on every page at CGOAB. Look at the top of the journal pages, forums, etc.

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Hi everybody,
I have received a notification from WS to renew my donation. I might do it... or not. I have been slightly put off by the lack of information about the use of the previous fund raising campagne. Is the computer programming upgrade done? where did the money raised go to? What will be the use of the new fund raising? Please, somebody from the board answer, so I can donate with a happy mind.

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Answer to Catherine Parish

HI Catherine, apologies for this long email. Many people have been asking the same question, and I do plan to make a report to the whole community very soon.

My name is Russell Workman and I have recently joined the Board. As well as other Board duties I will be volunteering to work in our Communication Team and Fundraising Team. I am currently State Manager for a youth based Charity in Australia, and have have been working on fundraising for over 15 years in the not for profit sector.

Recently, there have been complex changes and challenges in managing the community. The whole Board remains volunteers who have an avid interest in Hosting and Bicycle Touring. There are no conflicts of interest I am aware off. I.T. contractors, under direction from the Board, have been paid to work on the website and this work is continuing.

There are a great amount of work tasks to be completed, many of which are being done by volunteers. Randy Fay, who for many years did practically all of the IT based work has moved on to allow others the opportunity to take the community forward. Undoubtably, the community is growing at an intense rate. The increasing interest in bicycle touring presents us with some interesting opportunities, and has caused several growing pains which we need to assess, make decisions about, and then action any work requirements. The departure of an amazing and long term resource, Randy, has undoubtably been felt strongly. However, we have some great people on the Board who are tackling every situation, one by one, and handling things well.

You are correct: there has been a lack of communication on how monies raised have been spent. This is definitely a problem. The Board are aware of this problem. All of the donators should be informed about how their donation is being spent, and how we plan to utilise any future donations for the benefit of the community. This is an absolute must do action item in fundraising for a not for profit. Last year was Warm Showers first attempt at a major fundraising campaign. I believe the lack of communication on this issue was a rookie mistake, not intentional at all, and more due to complex changes and other competing demands and work tasks that the volunteer Board had to deal with. From the meetings I have attended so far, I believe all monies raised have been spent on the website and other things like, hosting, mail outs, insurances etc. Along with an update to the entire community, a list of expenditure costs will be posted ASAP.

The Board needs time to sort out and prioritise all the challenges, develop a strategic plan for managing the community, and make sure the website doesn't fall over due to some unseen technical issue. We are doing this in an environment where everything needs to be done yesterday, and all of the volunteers including the Board have busy lives at the same time. I can say we are definitely at a crossroads in our evolution as a group of community minded cyclists. Essentially, we need your support more than ever now because some jobs can be done by a volunteer, like the one I am doing, and others definitely require payment to a professional. As I said most of the funds are directed towards IT. At some point we also need to assess whether we need to pay someone to manage the entire community, under direction of the volunteer Board, to carry out the multitude of tasks involved with over 70,000 people.

I believe I can unequivocally state that Warm Showers is a charity, and will remain so. The Board has no intent to go into a commercially based model. We absolutely do not believe a commercial model will suit the values and spirit of what the community stands for. For this reason, we need funds to ensure our community is able to tackle all of the jobs that need to get done, and which cannot be done by a volunteer.

Recognising that fundraising and communication was a skill set challenge to address, a board member approached me and asked if I would be interested as volunteer on the Board. I joined the Board in late January. I need some time to assess the current needs, communication challenges and report mechanisms. I am currently working my way through these issues.

The community needs to be updated on everything that is happening, and I will do my bit to pass on all of the information at my hands. I ask for your patience and continuing support whilst I and the other members of the Board create a managing structure, which will definitely include timely reports to the community on donations and expenditure. Please do continue as a donor, if you can. All donations will fund the community. No members of the Board or other volunteers receive any payment. You can be assured all funds raised will support touring cyclists via the website. The breakdown of costs and expenses will be posted ASAP.

For other members of the community who may read this response to Catherine, please do continue to support Warm Showers. Also please understand that I have a full time job, I need to focus on the main task of getting the communication and fundraising challenges handled, and that I may not be able to answer all emails at the moment. However, over the next two months I hope to deliver reports on what is happening, and on how your funds are being utilised. I feel sure these reports will answer all of your concerns and questions.

Warm regards, Russell Workman.

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Thank you for your answer,

Thank you for your answer, Russell. It clarifies things. I was not aware of the magnitude of the changes occuring this past year. I will donate because it is a great community and I have thoroughly enjoyed the times spent with interesting people everytime I have hosted or been a guest. However, it would have gone a long way towards understanding if the mail sent to ask to suscribe anew had included some of the information stated in your answer.
Thanks also to the work done by the board members.

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Thanks Catherine

Yes it would have been better. The Board gave instruction that these messages should stop being sent out for the moment. Perhaps the email was sent before this instruction, or this is another IT glitch that needs to be addressed. Thank you for donating to our community. We don't want people to stop supporting the community because we don't want to get into a situation where we have no funds to pay the professionals to fix an urgent matter. We will sort it all out. The main thing is that, hosts are still hosting and cyclists are still touring, and the website and forum are still working well. One of our main challenges is creating a managing structure that can facilitate any one of us to take over Warm Showers handlebars and steer the community forward. The work on the website is being done, and it is a big job. I'm trying to get my head around how we actually create a system to inform the community of what is going on, and also creating a process to gather all the facts, stories and information from everyone about the work they are doing. One day at a time. Thanks Catherine.

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I am happy hosting overseas cyclists who take on the challenge of cycling New Zealand. I am happy to give them a free roof over their heads and good facilities to stay in. That is my contribution to the International Cycling fraternity.
Wouldn't it make sense for the guests to pay a donation to Warmshowers instead of the Hosts? It would only need to be a nominal amount and would still be cheaper than public accommodation. Presenting the receipt of a donation would also serve as a confirmation of booking which would immediately eliminate No Shows.

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I agree with you but sadly WS is no longer sustainable. Even in real life, members are already complaining. Look, change is good. thats why we called it progress. i dont know what to say. i feel like closing down my account

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What do you mean its no

What do you mean its no longer sustainable. They are rolling in money. What is the problem that you are worrying about. This is an old thread have i missed something.



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