Warm Showers is an online global website with close to 60,000 participants who share an interest in traveling and touring by bicycle. Over the last two years the site has seen significant growth, extending to doubling of the participants, and large growth on Facebook of over 13,000 participants. If growth continues at its current rate the membership could rise to over 100,000 participants by 2017. The community is now larger in Europe than in the founding country USA, has active participation in 150 countries, and the site is translated into 15 languages.
Whilst growth is positive, it has stretched the resources of the small volunteer management team. There is an increasing backlog of operational website work tasks, and challenges about how the organisation can deliver increased benefits to the community. In short, Warm Showers cannot sustain it's growth and management under the present volunteering operational conditions.The Warm Showers Management Board are now seeking to explore how growth can be managed and funded, how the community can enjoy future sustainability, and how we can achieve these goals whilst ensuring alignment with our existing values.
The community has been built on the basis of no financial cost to participants, and much of the communities success is due to extensive goodwill of a small team of volunteers, the goodwill of hosts and cyclists, and the generosity of a small amount of members who donate funds. The positive goodwill of the community is probably the cause of the organisations success, therefore any changes in relation to fundraising will require careful consideration on impact to this goodwill.
Importantly, Warm Showers is a not for profit organisation and fundraising can only take place within a not for profit context. Warm Showers will remain a not for profit organisation for the benefit of touring cyclists and hosts, and will NOT be seeking to commercialize its operations or activities to a for-profit company.
As in most successful community based organisations, costs will normally be incurred and work activities will increase. For sustainability of the organisation to occur, operational costs and work activities must be managed and resourced into the future.
On behalf of the Board I would like to invite members to discuss how we can, in a not for profit context, create funding mechanisms to deliver operational sustainability.