2012 was a big year of change:
- Working toward sustainability in our practices and personnel
- Switched to being a nonprofit corporation.
- Created a leadership team and a board.
- Consulted a lawyer about volunteer liability issues and purchased liability insurance for the first time.
- Formalized dispute and complaint resolution techniques, and a team to manage them.
- Filed for US 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, entailing creation of Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.
- Major website redesign
- Private messaging instead of just email for member contacts
- Both iPhone and Android apps developed by volunteers
- New translations to German and Italian, and a translation coordinator (Cyril)
- 38% membership growth, even though we delete accounts that are inactive for a year.
As a result of those discussions, we:
- became a Colorado nonprofit corporation in December.
- discussed liability and legal structure issues with an attorney.
- filed for US 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. This would allow us a number of benefits due to formal recognition of our nonprofit status, including reduction in cost of some google services and, of course, tax-free donation status.
- to file for 501(c)(3) we had to create Articles of Organization and Bylaws. These were adapted from a book, so may need to be revisited. They are included in the 501(c)(3) filing and your review is appreciated.
- obtained general liability and directors and officers liability insurance.
- formed a board of directors.
- changed the "recommendation" concept to "feedback" and began to encourage members to leave feedback about their interactions with others, even if it is negative. This was a part of trying to make sure that problem guests and hosts are either helped or factored out of the community.
- formalized dispute and conflict resolution techniques, created a team to handle the sticky ones, and created a private ticket system for managing serious allegations.
- separated banking and accounting from Randy's personal finances. (Accounting is on Waveaccounting.org, Warmshowers.org foundation bank account is at BBVA Compass.)
- started tracking donations more effectively using DonorTools.com.
My intent is that our leadership should remain informal in style, so our January 20, 2013 board meeting will be quite informal. However, it's good to have adequate structures behind that informality. We acknowledge that all of our functionality is the result of volunteers giving of their time, and that it all falls apart without that. So formality or rules don't make volunteers give more...
Site and App Development
- Redesign: We hired Josh Miller as a designer and Chris, Josh, and Randy spent a huge amount of time building the new site.
- Apps: We now have an Android app in addition to the iPhone app. (A Windows Phone app is also in progress.) All of these are independently maintained by members.
- Translations: Cyril Wendl is now managing translations, a huge task, and has expanded our translations with German, Italian, and Polish this year.
- Private Messaging: We switched from the traditional all-email member contacts to a private messaging approach. This has been welcomed by some and excoriated by others.
We delete inactive accounts at the beginning of each year (after sending them warning messages each month for three months). In January 2012 after deletion we had 17706 members; In January 2013 after deletion we had 24486, an increase of 6790 members, or about 38% growth.
Finances and Contributions
Income statements and balance sheet were posted for the first time ever. We had a couple of major one-time expenses for the designer ($2000) and applying for 501(c)(3) ($400). In general, our donations are adequately tracking our expenses, with very little effort in fundraising.
Current balance: As of January 19, 2013, we have a balance of $2712.80; there are no checks or expenditures outstanding. This will be enough to fund our operations this year unless we do something different from past years.
Donations: We received 122 donations in 2012 for a total of $3,666.00 compared to 2011, in which we received 80 donations for a total of $2,240.50. (Our January 2013 receipts, which traditionally account for most of the year's income, are up just a bit this year. We have received 71 donations for a total of $2,416.00)
We are committed to remaining noncommercial and staying a limited-annoyance organization, which means that we hope to always keep our expenses low and do effective fundraising when we do it.
Compared to 2012, we have very modest goals for this year:
- Organization: Launch the Board of Directors and have another leadership council.
- Development: Make it possible to just reply to private message email notifications and have those posted as private messages.
- Volunteers: Increase the sustainability of our organization by getting one or more additional capable developers and other volunteers as listed on the Volunteer page.
- Apps: Make sure apps support private messaging and feedback (both viewing and leaving).
- Development and Governance Issue Queue: We track all development issues and governance-type issues in an issue queue on Github.
- Private issue queue for disputes, conflict, accusations: We have a private issue queue for following up on sensitive member issues. Leadership council members who need to access this can easily be added.
- Leadership Council Forum on Warmshowers.org. It's beneficial for most of our conversations to take place in public, so we've tried to make sure conversations were posted in the forum. Replying and discussing there is generally preferred to private email.