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Why does the site need to pay a large salary?

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Why does the site need to pay a large salary?

This is mainly a question for the board of directors, not any paid staff with a financial interest in the issue. I see that the budget, which has not yet been approved, envisions paying $50,500 for "Contract Services (Executive Director, Fundraising Consultant)".

The board may have been told by the incumbent site developer that his services cost that much. However, has the board not considered that a team of passionate volunteers can produce the necessary upgrades for substantially less money, and that compared to some other community-driven hospitality exchange sites WS’s proposed budget seems exorbitant?

Consider how the new hospitality exchange community Trustroots has evolved remarkably fast in little more than two months on the basis of volunteer effort, and to support a recent hackathon less than 2000€ was raised to great effect, a far cry from the $50,500 proposed for WarmShowers. (Incidentally, while I am not personally a fan of Trustroots, I’m quite sure that Trustroots could entirely supersede Warmshowers within a year or two if its developers simply add Cyclists as one of the planned communities. WS therefore ought to be redoubling its efforts to retain the trust of the membership.)

BeWelcome’s main page is currently showing that it needs to raise only 1620€ to meet its expenses for 2015. BeWelcome (or rather its umbrella BeVolunteer organization) is also legally registered as a non-profit with all the obligations that that entails, so evidently non-profit status should not lead to substantially higher demands for donation.

Instead of trying to raise a substantial sum of money to pay the asking price of a professional developer, why has the board not learned from similar communities and attempted to diversify the pool of volunteer developers?

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Excellent question!

Thank you CRCulver. This is exatly the the question I came here to ask but you've beat me to it :)

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Board Member Reply

As a member of the Board, I, too, am concerned about WS taking a wrong direction. That is why I have joined the Board.

The Board is made up of amazing people who all care in this organization. Randy is an incredible person and with out him we would not have the platform to be discussing this now.

In addition to being on the Board, I am also Registrar for the site. This means I volunteer about half an hour every morning reviewing all new members to ensure they are not spammers or people signing up for paid services. Several of us volunteer on a daily basis. I would love to hear how many hours a week Mark Martin volunteers (I am sure it is in the multitude of hours). And this does not include the time we spend being gracious hosts.

Despite the number of volunteers, it is still not enough. We need more, and we need commitment. I am not sure over the past years that anyone has contributed as much volunteer time to this organization as Randy Fay. It must be a full time job. To keep this as a viable organization, we need a stable person at the helm. A paid position, Randy, as well as someone to follow in his footsteps, is needed to make sure this international organization is around for time to come.

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"Randy is an incredible

"Randy is an incredible person and with out him we would not have the platform to be discussing this now."

Regardless of how "incredible" he might be, allowing a paid employee to push for more aggressive collecting of donations, and thus payment of the salary he wants, is a conflict of interest. Furthermore, this incredible person has badgered critics, even contacting them off-site to tell them that their concerns are futile. Have you ever thought that due to staff who abuse their positions and members of the board who enable them, people might leave this particular platform for another? There is ultimately nothing special about this platform, it will prove useful only as long as it retains the trust of the membership, and if it loses that trust it can and will be replaced by some other platform.

"In addition to being on the Board, I am also Registrar for the site. This means I volunteer about half an hour every morning..."

When I referred to diversifying the pool of volunteers, I was speaking of bringing on more coders, not those doing basic admin tasks. After all, the 2014 annual report notes that WS depends too much on Randy Fay. Instead of trying to end your dependence on him and handing over site development to a broader team, you’ve only entrenched his position.

"Despite the number of volunteers, it is still not enough. We need more, and we need commitment. ... It must be a full time job"

Why? The entire point of my post above is that other community-based hospitality exchange sites do not seem to need full-time employee(s) demanding many tens of thousands of dollars a year. Simply repeating that this is necessary does not make it so. Can you not provide some evidence that the WS board has carefully studied the setup of its hospex peers? And who else has the board consulted on the future development of the WS website besides Randy Fay?

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Chris, You have a sincere


You have a sincere passion about this topic. And you seem very invested in Warm Showers.

Simple facts have all been posted; Warm has seen incredible growth in the last few years and to handle an organization this big, the Board has made some structural changes. With that said, let's move onward.

Ken Francis
Board Member

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"Warm has seen

"You have a sincere passion about this topic."

As pointed out by others here on the forums, anyone who watched Hospitality Club and Couchsurfing disintegrate due to the avarice of their leadership would be appalled by the turn WarmShowers is now taking. It’s not clear if you have any awareness at all of earlier developments in internet hospex; if you did, you would probably not be so closely repeating history.

"Warm has seen incredible growth in the last few years and to handle an organization this big, the Board has made some structural changes."

Other community-based hospitality exchange websites have seen growth to the same member levels as WS without such drastic "structural changes". Why did WS feel the need for such changes when other successful hospex communities did not? Can you not provide a direct answer to this question instead of repeating that same unsubstantiated claim that it had to be done?

"With that said, let's move onward."

In spite of your attempts to wave the issue away, I will continue to discuss my concerns about the direction WS is taking with my peers here and with longtime hospex activists in general. This is a development that should probably also start getting some media attention.

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Thumbs up

Thumbs up

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Growth? At what cost or price or loss?

Imagine, in a non-virtual world, that you need a place for some people to post their offers and others to check what is available. So you build a house with four walls, a door, maybe a couple of windows, and a roof. People come in, post or check the bulletin board, leave, and go about their business. A simple hut would suffice.

The problem is that some people here are asking for a fancy bathroom, all kinds of furniture, flowers on the window sill, a more than functional welcome mat (or a whole shipment of them, a 10 year supply, because, hell, we don't know what could happen), a coffee machine, sauna... etc., etc.

So, of course, expenses are going to sky-rocket.

Then you need a person to man the little hut, make sure the notes that fall from the bulletin board are replaced, the door is secure at the end of the day, etc. Ok, a modest salary for such a person might be in order. But what I and I believe others here are afraid of is that more than that modest salary, what will happen is that a higher than necessary salary will be paid, and not only that, marketing actions, billboards all along the road or on top of buildings, etc, etc. Again, this is a kind of metaphor.

A lot of people are worried about the continuity or "sustainability" of WS (or at least that is the pretext that is given). I think the founders or management may be entitled to some compensation for their time and dedication, but it needs to be reasonable, and transparent, accountable, etc. And if the one or other executive has to leave, for whatever reason, it should be possible to replace them easily.

We've had this discussion already. Again, I think a modest plan, without freaking out about the future, could ensure a year to year functioning and even build up a reserve. Do fundraising campaigns like Public Radio stations, Wikipedia, etc. People will respond.

Why do we have to discuss this every so often? Because we don't have the power. All we can do is complain and resist these threats to our existence, to our status quo as a simple but functional community. Is it a technical problem? For example, if the membership goes from 50.000 to 70.000 people, do the servers become overloaded and heat up? I don't think so.

So why grow unnecessarily?

At this rate, we might have to switch to an "alternative universe" and simple lists of members classified by country, states/provinces, cities, and email addresses that we can simply copy-paste and use regular email to mail our requests. How much could that cost? We could do it on Facebook or on Craigslist. This would be the equivalent of having a wall out in the open (without the roof or walls of the simple hut), like the communist Chinese used to have to post the daily press, so everybody could approach it and read the news without having to buy the paper. Is that extreme? Yes. Is it functional? Of course it is. Is it desirable? Not necessarily. So we need to find a middle way between bare-boned functionality and growth megalomania.

Just build (or keep) the website as simple as possible (I thought we had it already), see how much that costs, and do fundraising for a year's reserve or so. Then quarterly see how costs are going against income, and do additional campaigns accordingly.

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"Contract services and Fundraising Consultant" is the big 50K$ item -- my question is not why so expensive; rather, why are these needed. Since I know literally nothing of what is being planned, I can't judge the "why." But, I do know that if you talk about a serious project the size of WSL, the 50K is peanuts. It's true that many things can be done with volunteers -- the best example being this WSL project itself. But, volunteering has limits and dedicated people eventually need to be supplemented.

I'm inclined to let these plans go forward. The WSL started out with literally nothing. A text file with names and locations kept on one computer and sent to anyone who joined. It was a terrific model for its purpose -- to assemble people who shared an interest in bike touring. By growing it very slowly over a long time, it assured a degree of integrity and community that couldn't be achieved by any modern, automated application. The WSL has survived the creation of CouchSurfing (which, by CRCulver's line of reasoning, should have annihilated WSL) and many similar projects. I take this a a vote by WSL members to preserve our cycling-oriented community rather than become a department or category on a new database.

And, looking purely at the results of sites like BeWelcome, I certainly wouldn't regard them as models. Their progress is jerky and faltering; their members flood in to register, but turn out unwilling or unable to participate; the sites seldom get the kinks worked out so that they could work reliably.

So, again, if you think this money could be spent in a way that strengthens the community of cycle tourists, I'll back it and kick in my pittance. But, don't copy anyone; don't get annexed; and don't forget the vision that Roger Gravel shaped and brought to life.

But, is there somewhere we can read more about these plans?


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Hi Chris,

As a newly elected board member, and a member of the WS community (hosting, mostly) I want to respond to your concerns.

When something seems to work well with volunteers alone, it is usually small, and requires a level of personal dedication that is not easy to sustain as an organization grows.

In the last two years, WS membership has grown to over 40,000 members. This is no longer a start-up or seed organization, it is in full flower. So the amounts of money you suggest for trustroots and bwelcome are not relevant to an organization with this large of a membership.

The list of unfinished and unresolved tasks has grown, the site is translated into multiple languages, and there is a great deal of personal attention required for every question that is asked or complaint that is registered at the site. These activities are ongoing, and responses usually occur in less than 12 hours.

WS is in some ways suffering the burden of its success. As more people participate, more questions are asked, more issues are raised. And the same level of personal attention is still provided.

A community this large really deserves to have someone who is paid to manage the ongoing success of the organization, for the benefit of everyone who participates. If Randy no longer participated, how would these things get done? There are 40,000 people counting on a hand full of volunteers to keep the organization personal, offering a high level of service and attention to each person who asks a question, has a concern, or leaves a comment.

Since the change to requesting memberships to support the organization, there have been many, many comments from members who are thanking Randy and the team of volunteers that make Hospitality the thing that WS does best, and see this change as a positive evolution in the life of WS. They are also happy to become member donors.

Your criticism of the amount of money paid to Randy as the Executive Director is interesting, and I wonder what amount of money would make you want to get out of bed in the morning and check on new comments and requests from the helpdesk and reply to them before your first cup of coffee? And do this day after day, 7 days a week for more than ten years? Then spend another several hours coordinating other volunteers, and address technical issues that need to be resolved. Then, when you have put those activities aside, think about what new technology will make the WS experience even better for hosts and guests, explore that, find out how to do it for free, and then spend hours integrating, and coordinating with other volunteers to make it happen.

What amount of money would you want to be paid to make you have this level of dedication? Could we count on you to do this for free?

40,000 people are depending on it.

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What's in a number?


I don't think you should be saying that "...the amounts of money you suggest for trustroots and bwelcome are not relevant to an organization with this large of a membership." You speak as if WS were much larger than Bewelcome.

Bewelcome has in fact something like 70.000 members (although we all know, as is the case also for WS, a lot of those are inactive profiles).


BW membership went from 7K in the year 2009 to 60K last year, and this year I believe it's 70k. Part of that growth is certainly related to Couchsurfing's demise, as quite a few went from CS to BW, but not only. From that link above, here are the figures:

July 2009: 7,000 members
October 2010: 9,700 members
November 2011: 15,000 members
May 2012: 20,000 members
December 2012: 30,000 members
May 2013: 40,000 members
October 2013: 50.000 members
May 2014: 60.000 members and growing!

Furthermore, what is all that "...great deal of personal attention required for every question that is asked or complaint that is registered at the site"? Usually things are pretty straight-forward on websites. At least I've never really had any problems with BW or WS in their "primitive" states. It is wrong to say that BW does not work well. It's perfectly functional. The only problem they have is profiles that are not completely filled or inactive, etc. Otherwise, it's a perfectly good website. If you have a good explanation and design of how to use it, you don't need so much "personal attention" to solve so many "questions and complaints" as you allude to. After all, it is or should be a pretty much automated process. So relieve Randy of all that tedious work by designing a good FAQ and user's manual or something like that. I know that is not really necessary. I don't think there are that many problems or questions with WS.

So what else does Randy have to do or is going to be doing? What else comprises "The list of unfinished and unresolved tasks"? Translation of the website into many languages? Maybe not necessary? Designing apps and more advanced high tech stuff? Can't that wait?

Supposedly in WS (according to the box in the home page) $25k have been raised (this year alone?) toward the goal of $60K. Isn't that a lot of money?

Bewelcome gets by (and not just now but for many years) on just a couple of thousand $/EUR a year:

So don't say it's not possible.

It's more a matter of wanting to do it, I think, or also of determining priorities.

Crazyguyonabike also works on a similar budget. It is possible. Granted, CGOAB has recently also raised this concern about continuity or sustainability, especially as it's basically one person doing the work and so it's not so much a financial thing (look at and see their discrete advertising on the top of the pages) but rather a matter of someone being there to continue it if/when the main man cannot be or is not available any longer.

So don't say it's not possible. I think $50K is extravagant.

Personally, I live (and have lived for the past few years) on just $6K a year. And the Republicans want to raise my taxes! Of course, I don't expect everyone to lower their standards to my minimalism (actually, $6K is still kind of filthy rich in a more global context, and I do feel guilty about it), but just tell me, WHERE IS THE CRISIS? Why this sudden need for so much money?

And, again, (I think maybe for the 100th time), if you can show, with balance sheets and projections and all that, that this coming year we will need $20K or $100K, propose it and don't proceed until that figure has come in through voluntary donations. Otherwise, change your status and start charging and making money. As long as things are being put forth clearly, transparently, everything can be discussed.

But, finally, I think we should stay simple and cheap. Am I alone?

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Dollar amounts

$50K/year is not an exorbitant salary. It's above median, but it's not outrageous. If you choose to live on $6K/year, that is your call, but most of us do not choose to live that lifestyle. Calling 50K extravagant is a judgement call on your part. "The workman is worthy of his hire."

When organizations grow, a lot of things need to be done in a more professional manner. This takes effort, and effort usually requires money. I was recently involved with a company that had a goal to grow one division dramatically. They had the knowledge in their field of expertise, but needed to start spending time on better regulatory compliance, better IT equipment and more reliable processes. Most of the people who were keeping body and soul together for years are now gone, as they did not have the right vision to support the new need.

I respect your opinion that WS should stay small and cheap, but I respectfully disagree. More members means a better experience for all.

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Dale or Nina, What I wrote

Dale or Nina,

What I wrote about "extravagant" in relation to $50K was referring to the cost of running the website in general, not to the salary (although the goal is actually $60 for this year, and although in the immediately following paragraph I speak about my own expenses). I know that many people in the USA and elsewhere need more money to live, I've been there myself, though I didn't need it then either. And I made clear that I don't expect everyone (or anyone) to follow my minimalism, so I don't understand why you have to reaffirm that. In any case, my objection is not with Randy's salary (he could deserve more or less, that's not the point) but with the expense for running a website.

Now, on a different thread I happened to run across this, where an "Unregistered" member wrote: "WS is like any other business. If it fails to grow it will die. There are many moneymaking ventures that must be undertaken in an aggressive manner." That is more or less the last part of a long text explaining to the general membership (I guess) why it's ok now (that Randy is actually not the "owner" of WS or never really was) for people to donate freely and abundantly. All questions of conflict of interest aside for the moment, which I think are valid, the main problem with this thinking (WS is a business, a money-making business, and let's do it aggressively) is... everything!

Asking for donations and saying "they're not a requirement" but giving little badges. "But if you are scrupulous you can hide your badge." "Oh, we don't care if you tuck your shirt in or not, fine people always tuck them in, but it's ok, you go right ahead, we are not going to discriminate" (and then there are those who say they want to see the badges on the profiles to make a judgement about whether to host a potential guest or not). "Oh, but that's just a tiny little badge, in fact after not letting my judgement cloud, and after discarding the badgeless ones, I'll concentrate on reading the details in the references and the different sections on the profile of the interested party (impartial to the badge now, of course) to come to a better judgement. Badges stink. And WS should not be a money-making scheme.

And what you said, Dale or Nina, is disturbing: "More members means a better experience for all." That's not logical at all; well, let's say it's incomplete. More members of what sort, and in what dynamics? Moreover, such a statement reflects the obsession with growth that I've been pointing out here recently. I think we can grow, but we don't need to pursue it at the risk of ruining the very experience you want to "replicate" in all those new members. What makes the hosting/guest experience beautiful is the fact that it is not "negotiated" or commercial. And having these money matters on the profiles or -worse yet- in the minds and deliberating processes of the interaction is poisonous. Many here emphasize so much the "giving" role of the host, and I (mostly) as a guest tend to emphasize my time, contribution to the system, that it takes two to tango, etc, etc. But it's sad that it has to come to this, to have to determine who is on this or that side of the balance. Throw the balance away! Have fundraising, donations, campaigns, etc., and encourage participation from the membership, but please don't link that in anyway to the enjoyment of the hospitality experience itself! It's like going to a party or potluck, where you've brought maybe a six-pack or a big bottle of wine, or maybe nothing at all, but everyone is welcome and in the middle of the interactions, you're not going to be looking at your interlocutor's lapel to see what badge they have and whether you want to continue talking with them, right?

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Interestingly in the $0

Interestingly in the $0 category one can choose 'free trial' or 'hosting only' - why even put that in there and further reinforce another poisonous idea, that of hosts being owed something? To indulge a few grumps with an inflated sense of self importance?

Could I unleash my inner grump and request a 'Donation withheld pending the board actually directly addressing the concerns of WS members' option?

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Ignacio, I totally agree with

Ignacio, I totally agree with you!

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"In the last two years, WS

"In the last two years, WS membership has grown to over 40,000 members. ... So the amounts of money you suggest for trustroots and bwelcome are not relevant to an organization with this large of a membership."

BeWelcome has well over 40,000 members, and Trustroots is expected to reach this amount shortly.

"Since the change to requesting memberships to support the organization, there have been many, many comments from members who are thanking..."

We’ve now heard this claim from Randy and two board members, but it’s just empty rhetoric. How is repeating that some anonymous members out there are happy, supposed to regain the trust of the members here on the forum who are deeply concerned?

"I wonder what amount of money would make you want to get out of bed in the morning and check on new comments and requests from the helpdesk and reply to them before your first cup of coffee?"

What you are describing is perfectly normal for community-based websites, where volunteers every morning check the list of things they need to do without receiving any payment. (In the travel-related space, I did this for Hitchwiki for some years.) On BeWelcome and Trustroots, the volunteers who manage the help desk are uncompensated, but they respond quickly and helpfully to reports.

If you feel it is a problem that one particular volunteer has been doing so much alone and uncompensated for years, the thing to do is distribute the burden to other volunteers, not transform this one volunteer into a highly-paid employee that WS remains helplessly dependent on.

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Good to have you back

Good to have you back Christopher.

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What is the point of your complaining?

One thing that is readily noticed in reading positive comments and negative ones, is the positive comments are succinct and generous with offers to help and provide support, and the negative ones are long winded tomes by a very very few who have an agenda around a narrow set of principles that are hammered repeatedly while ignoring any information that is contrary to closely held beliefs.

The complainers don't contribute, don't volunteer, are happy have the use of things other people work hard at, yet stand in judgement, minimize and belittle those who actually make things happen.

What's your point Chris?

Whether you care to listen or not, the changes are overwhelmingly supported by the community as evidenced by the more than doubling of donations.

Warmshowers doesn't offer automated hospitality, if it did your comments would just sink, unnoticed to the bottom of the inbox and you'd get a nice generic automated reply.

"Thank you for your comments, we appreciate your interest"

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Leanna, if my comments are

Leanna, if my comments are long-winded, it is only because I try to reflect the background for my concerns in the earlier collapse of HC and CS, and I point to how other successful community-based hospitality exchange networks do it. There is historical context for WS’s current problems, and WS leadership could learn from that, but you have shown no awareness of it. I see that Ignacio has already called you out on your mistaken view of BW.

"...and you'd get a nice generic automated reply."

The replies that I and other worried members have received could basically be automated: they simply repeat the same unsubstantiated claims that this and that have to be done, and never directly engaged with the concerns that have been raised.

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Oh, and this is extremely

Oh, and this is extremely disrespectful to many concerned members: "The complainers don't contribute, don't volunteer, are happy have the use of things other people work hard at..." Is hosting not contributing, volunteering, and working hard for this site? Are people calling for a wider pool of volunteers instead of one über-powerful staff member calling the shots, not contributing?

With regard to volunteering for helpdesk and site development stuff, you may find in the near future that it will prove difficult to attract a certain class of volunteers as long as Randy Fay is paid an enormous salary and allowed to be essentially the face of the site.

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Over the past days it has

Over the past days it has become clear to me that there are generational and cultural issues that are pushing WS towards its present course of being run like a business, not an open and community-driven project.

The board and paid staff member are almost entirely middle-aged US Americans who have the erroneous and somewhat old-fashioned belief that coding a moderately sized website requires paying someone a large amount of money. They seem to be unaware of the volunteer hacker ethos typified by, for example, the Free Software community and freegan sharing economy, which has driven so much progress on other successful community-based hospitality exchange sites. They also seem to be unaware that WS has many skilled coders and highly mobile people of leisure who wouldn’t mind travelling some distance to a hackathon.

Thus like those other sites, WS could organize a hackathon or two in Europe and North America for a couple of thousand euro/dollars and push through much of the modernization that some have called for, without having to hire paid staff. The board, however, doesn't seem to realize this is possible. The staff is perhaps intentionally avoiding this issue to protect his own salary.

In the long term, one hopes that those more altruistic and volunteer-based values will make it to the board. In the short term, it may be better to support cyclists on other communities as well. I’m not a fan of Trustroots, but I’ll certainly suggest they begin competing directly with Warmshowers in creating a map view that shows only Cyclists.

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Chris, you're really

Chris, you're really mistaken.

I've been maintaining the 15 translations of WS on a volunteer basis for several years now and have had close contact to all board members. The aforementioned work takes me about 10-20 hours of volunteer time per week. I think your conspiracy theory is extremely disrespectful of the fact that there are so many volunteers on Warmshowers.

Every good NGO and organisation at one time needs employees. WS is a non-profit organisation based on volunteers and will remain to be so. In Switzerland, where I live, a bicycle repairer gets about 80$/hours, and IT manager up to 200$/hours. If we pay an employee 80$/hour for his work, that is extremely adequate. We need qualified working force and that costs something.

I'd like to ask you to reflect on that before posting any further comments. This is a community-driven decision, and if you wish to act as a despot or dictator simply shouting your messages from the rooftops, then go on, but it is very disrespectful to some really committed people, among which figures Randy.

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Constructive criticism vs Cheerleading

Wonderful; so anything that is not cheerleading here (Re: Leanna's latest post) is viewed as "Complaining"?

I would say that is disrespectful of the time and effort we take to redact long (but normally thoughtful) responses or original posts. Really, I don't appreciate that lack of appreciation!

Leanna, the reason the "negative" posts are often longer than the shorter (for you more "positive") ones is because we have to look into more aspects of context, try to be diplomatic (some people are very sensitive), make an argument, be dialectical, and so on. I can't believe I have to explain this. Anyway, you didn't bother or deign to reply to any the points in my post, just alluding to me as a "complainer." This is very discouraging. Would that make you happy? I mean, for me to go away and be quiet?

But let me say one more thing. The reason we are criticizing and "negative" or long-winded is also, as I mentioned before, because we don't have the power that you guys on the BOD or elsewhere have, but we see (from our involvement and experiences elsewhere...CS, BW) a kind of train wreck in the making.

I will reiterate (at the risk of making this comment "too long") that, although we criticize the way that donations are being proposed or the general development toward expensive and perhaps unnecessary add-on features, we ARE IN FACT IN FAVOR OF RECEIVING DONATIONS! Christophe and Paul and I, among others, have said this many times. But it's like Bush, if you're not for this war, you're against us, you're with the terrorists. Ok, just so no one goes ape on me now, it's a parallel comparison. I'm not saying you are like Bush. It's like Bush, not "You're like Bush." So, anyway, I trust you all get what I mean. Nobody likes to be snubbed.

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why does WS need to pay a large salary.

First let me introduce myself. I am on the Board of Directors. I have hosted traveling cyclists since the late 1970's from other cycling networks that preceded Warmshowers after a ride across the United States in 1975. I am also a life member (from 1976 or so) of Adventure Cycling Association and the League of American Bicyclists. I am passionate about the mission of Warmshowers and if you look on my profile I am an active host. I hope to reply to some of the concerns expressed in this particular forum. These comments are not representative of the Board of WS.

There has been discussion primarily based on "why can't we follow the model of BeWelcome and not have an executive director". I do not know much about BeWelcome other than what I read on the website. It appears to be a French based hospitality site. In many European countries one can take off for a year, receive a stipend, have health insurance and then return to your former job as long as you return within the year. At least this is how it has been explained to me by many of my cycling guests from Europe. If one is a teacher, the one year rule is sometimes waived. Given that BeWelcome is a French organization it is possible, and I am speculating, that they are able to manage to run their non-profit due in part or wholly through the social/welfare system in place in France. So it may be that we are comparing apples to oranges when comparing BeWelcome and Warmshowers.

Secondly, Warmshowers is different than BeWelcome. I picture Warmshowers as a cycling organization. Our current product is a network for cyclists to stay at homes of guests. Adventure Cycling Association is also a cycling organization with the primary product being maps for bicycle travel. BeWelcome is not a cycling organization. I envision expanding Warmshowers. I would like to see a way for a traveling cyclist to network with other traveling cyclists. For example, if my wife and I are riding to Glacier National Park we could post that on the WS website, meet another traveling cyclist to share a campground site thus saving some money for everyone. So not only would WS provide a network of hosts but be a network for other cost sharing lodging. This is fully within the mission statement of Warmshowers. Thus my vision of WS becomes a mindset. Are you interested only in obtaining free housing (such as BeWelcome) or are you interested in WS being a community of traveling cyclists with the goal of aiding traveling cyclists by facilitating lodging, reducing the cost of lodging, or other programs within the mission of Warmshowers.

Other questions for BeWelcome would be how do they handle conflicts? Do they have staff that daily monitors interactions among the members that currently occurs with WS? What happens if say a claim of sexual assault, physical assault or theft is made? It takes a lot of time to monitor the daily minutiae that could be problematic if not dealt with in a timely manner.

So at this point understanding how BeWelcome operates is certainly something to consider as there may be information that could be helpful to WS. However at this time I would say no to the question that we should be like BeWelcome and copy their model. We are separate organizations. At this time I have no knowledge of Trustroots.

Regarding Randy and his salary. His salary is a maximum of $50K. If he completes his work, perhaps he can only bill 20K or 30K. If we raise 30K then Randy gets at most 30K minus the overhead expenses minus an amount that we always keep in a bank account. He is a contract employee and the Board is tasked with making sure that the money is well spent. Randy, as you know, has been putting in thousands of hours for free since 2009. I am very supportive of what Randy means to WS. To begrudge him of a fair salary for his work is rather unfair. Randy has been running the daily needs of WS for 6 years or so. I remember spending 7 years as a soccer coach and referee putting in hundreds of hours each year. It wears on you and at some point you say, I'm done and walk away. At this point, unless someone steps up to be a clone of Randy to take his place or substantially assist him, WS has a problem. Yes we can take on more volunteers but that always isn't the best answer. One can delegate only so much and supervise volunteers also takes time.

There was also a post that the board or Randy is "encouraging growth that will somehow enhance Randy's bank account". I found this, well let's say I though the inference to be inappropriate. Growth in WS is driven by the people that sign up. Personally I think the board needs to discuss control of growth so that we do not lose sight of our mission. There is an interesting psychology around "FREE", and WS is being affected by it. There appears to be a small but notable number of WS members that want to use WS members similar to BeWelcome or Couchsurfing.

In other posts, there is a concern regarding the posting of donors on the profile pages. I think this helps in a few ways. One it provides recognition, though admittedly I have been donating to WS for nearly 10 years without care of recognition. Two, it may help a host to know that the guest is a contributor to WS, though I and most hosts would not care about that. My donation is motivated by my belief in the mission of WS and the realization that such an organization does not exist without volunteers that need to be recognized by the simple act of a small donation. However the subject of posting on the profile page could be brought back to the board for discussion with perhaps another means of recognition. Personally I have no objections to the current model, but I'm willing to listen to further discussion.

With regards to some of the concerns of the board "not listening". I have sat on several governmental boards in my community, though WS is the first non-profit board. We always listen, but we can't aways act on every suggestion, demand, or policy change that gets brought to the board. It would be chaotic. Overall we have to have a vision/goals and move on. Certainly tweaks in the vision or how one moves on can occur based on feedback can be incorporated, but overall change can be slow and not everyone agrees to the process and changes of the vision/goals.

In summary, I think we need to accept an executive director to meet the requests of the membership of WS, especially the development of technical apps that have been repeatedly requested. To that, we need to raise money or we can simply say this is the technology we use and dictate that every member of WS uses that technology. We, the board, chose in the short run to request donations in a more prominent way than what was done in the past. In the long run we need to look at grants from foundations, corporate support, or a benevolent benefactor. At this time we have chosen to not have advertising on the website. I personally do not think that asking $10 is asking too much, with some exceptions, given the cost savings one receives by staying with a host. There are no penalties nor diminished services for not donating. We are appreciative of those that only host, and do not expect hosts to be donors. At this time I only host but I do donate. I'm not sure how much simpler it can be. We simply gave a nudge, perhaps a shove, to the members of WS that we need to raise funds.

I hope that I have addressed the concerns expressed in recent posts. I am happy to receive emails at for further discussion away from the forums at this time.

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Thank you for your post,

Thank you for your post, which is the only post so far by a board member that attempts to provide some substantial argument for why changes have been made instead of simply being reduced à quia.

However, your understanding of BeWelcome is flawed. BW does not depend on any of its members taking a year off from their jobs and living on state welfare in order to run the site. BW is run by a team of volunteers, all of whom do it in their spare time while working conventionally. Yes, BW has people who daily monitor interactions among the members and deal with theft etc., but these are volunteers, they do not demand payment. Everyday supervision of member interaction on a great many communities is volunteer-based, and I’m unaware of a travel community that uses paid staff for that without being owned by a for-profit corporation.

I invite you to learn more about how BeWelcome works and how Trustroots development has been done so far. The history of Couchsurfing is also vitally important to retaining community trust, and WS has already begun to repeat some of CS’s mistakes. I do believe that remaining unaware of the larger internet hospex context before making these recent changes, is a serious failure on the part of the WS leadership.

With regard to your claim that it is unfair to begrudge Randy of a salary, many participants in internet hospex were drawn by an interest in its functioning almost as a moneyless economy: guest and host interact without money changing hands, and the site infrastructure is developed by volunteers at the lowest cost possible. For one volunteer to now monetize his activity is a betrayal of that. It also divides WS developers into two camps, one or two lucky fellows who gets a considerable amount of money, and the rest who don’t get that benefit.

(Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that one of the first major leadership scandals on CS, which led to the loss of many early members and volunteers, was the use of site donations to pay certain site developers.)

With regard to the need to expand WS to the new functions that you envision, I question if they are truly driven by the community. Yes, a handful of members might make a feature request, but that does not mean that such large expansion is desirable by the general membership. Indeed, one finds on sites that take their communities’ voices very seriously, that such large-scale changes to the scope are very hard to push through, since communites tend to want a stasis. That mobile app might really be in demand, but as TR shows, a mobile-centric interface is easily within the abilities of a group of volunteers, and does not necessitate a staff member receiving tens of thousands of dollars in payment.

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In my 39 years i since I started in medicine l realized that the more I learned, more questions would result and more learning was necessary. I thank you for clearing up my simple hypothesis regarding BeWelcome. I do need to learn more about the organization as time permits. I probably should also learn about Trustroots and the history of couchsurfing as time permits. Remember we on the board are volunteers with individual passions for why we volunteer along with other life priorities. BeWelcome appears to have a passionate volunteer base as you stated but will that continue? Only time will tell. Remember Warmshowers has existed since 1993, 21 years, with a volunteer base.

I am also deficient in other areas critical to my position on the board that also takes time. I need to learn more about technology and how important and necessary are mobile apps, etc. to access Warmshowers. As the board knows, I am old school. I don't even use a plain cell phone let alone all the gizmos now on the market. When I first started in the cycling hospitality networks in the 1970's, Roladex's, postcard, letters and phone calls was the technology we used to communicate. I'm slowly working my way out of that time period.

I need to learn more about social media. For example, should "official" communication within the WS community be via the forums or Facebook? (which I should but do not use and was brought up by one person's post).

Input to the board such as yours is important, decisions are difficult and we then we have to move on. I assure you that the board is currently communicating to address the concerns expressed in the forum.

Thank you for your reply. I posted my email not to evade a community forum, but to open up to anyone that wishes to remain anonymous or would rather communicate away from the forums. You are correct in directing me to continue conversation within the forums.


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Implementation concerns

Thanks for your comments, Louis. My main concern is with how this significant change was implemented. I don't understand why more input wasn't sought from throughout the WS community prior to the Board making a decision. (I was not a member of the WS facebook group and am unaware if the changes were discussed there beforehand.) Clearly the ability existed to send an e-mail to all members beforehand seeking feedback about what was being considered. The e-mail I received on Jan. 2 was vague and didn't seek feedback. Instead, a mass e-mail about this major change was sent on Feb. 25 after the decision was already made by the Board.

I am also concerned about some of the future WS ideas Board members have mentioned in the forum. IMO, WS should stick to its original purpose. Some of the things proposed already are being done by other cycling-related entities, and I see no need to compete with those entities or duplicate their efforts. Those other entities do not exist to offer reciprocal hospitality to touring cyclists and I would not want or expect them to start doing what WS was created to do, and does well.

I think that insufficient consideration was given to the different economic situations among countries and individuals around the world. This lack of sufficient consideration may very well be due to the geographic makeup of the Board. US$10 is a trivial amount of money to many folks in the developed world. US$10 is NOT a trivial amount, however, to most folks in the developing world. I fear that even a voluntary request for this annual donation may dissuade some folks from becoming new or continuing WS members in those parts of the world where WS has relatively few members at present. I suggest that only members living in developed countries be asked for a donation, and that such a policy be explicitly stated on the forms when new members sign up.


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Neal: I assume that the "significant change" refers to how we implemented donations and Randy's new status.
How we implemented the change is obviously a concern by you and many others. This has been a topic of discussion with the board for some time. We have had a place at the bottom of the WS homepage for donations for quite some time. This was inadequate to meet the needs of WS. We simply tried to make donations to WS more noticeable. It's working though causing some concern. We are acutely aware of economic differences in various parts of the world, hence the "free trial membership", that may need to be retitled. We would like to hear other ideas but sorting out which country can pay $10 and which cannot would be onerous. There are bugs to be worked out, but as I stated before, there is a balance of effectiveness and being offensive. Hopefully our long term plans for fundraising will make for less aggressive requests for donations.

Regarding Randy's new status within WS. Unless we can have volunteers that can take over a significant portion of what Randy does we really need to consider making him a contract employee.

I think we would be going through the same discussions no matter when we would have made the announcement. Had we made the announcement prior to actually implementation probably would have been a good idea, but we would still be arguing over the details. We may have implemented a better presentation had we taken in ideas before implementation. I can't argue that point. At this point we need to tweak what we have done. Again, we need to realize that Randy needs to be a contract employee short of someone or several people being able to step up and say, I can take over a sizable portion of what Randy does. We could also "downsize" WS, something that has seemed to permeate some of the comments on the forums.

I'm not sure what "future WS ideas Board members have mentioned in the forum" that you are referring to? Perhaps I missed something when I re-scanned the comments by other members of the board. Part of the reason for new funds is to update WS to help with the various mobile devices that people communicate with. I believe I am the only one that introduced a new idea in the forum, (see my 1st reply in this thread) an an idea that is not done by other cycling related entities to my knowledge and is within the mission statement of WS.

Neal, thank you for your input and concern with Warmshowers.


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Thanks for the thoughtful reply

Louis, thank you for your thoughtful reply.

Here's an example of an idea offered last November by Randy Fay in the first post of the now-closed thread. He wrote under "Possible New Initiatives" the following:

"Route and Region information for touring cyclists
Allowing traveling members to find each other and meet"

There are numerous other forums and websites with much more traffic than this one where "route and region information" is available for touring cyclists. IMO, this would be the sort of initiative that is simply not needed on WS, and no time or money should be spent to develop it.

BTW, in that same post by Randy, he wrote: "Propose a $10/year suggested contribution from all members in the developed world." I'm pleased that Randy had thought about the economic ramifications for members outside of the developed world. I don't see anything onerous about at least displaying a message on the page for making donations that a donation would be appreciated if you live in a developed country but isn't expected from members elsewhere in the world.

I applaud all of the excellent volunteer work that Randy has done for WS for many years. I just saw his November posting this week. I wish that more of his suggestions had been adopted by the Board, including doing a member survey prior to implementing the new donation mechanism. Now that someone will be paid, however, I feel it is important that all paid work other than trivial or emergency tasks be at the explicit direction of the Board. I am also worried that if excess funds end up being donated to WS, that ways will be found to spend the money even if it's on things which are of dubious benefit or which are not at all essential.


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Neal: Yes I remember that idea that Randy had. You are correct, route and region information is readily available from other sources. On the surface, Randy's idea may not seem like an idea WS should pursue. Allowing traveling members to find each other and meet would be unique. To further the idea, WS could possibly explore the idea of mapping Warmshower members along an Adventure Cycling Association map. Another unique idea.

Throwing out ideas to "brand" WS or to distinguish WS from others, or to provide useful and unique services serves some usefulness. Some of the ideas after discussion and exploration my not be worthwhile but the discussion was held, just as you are pointing out the deficiencies of WS providing mapping services when others provide that service. But if we can build on that idea, then there may be a point in further exploration to see if the idea is feasible, if there is a market that would use such a service, the cost of providing that service, etc.

The problem comes when a good idea surfaces. Who has the expertise to follow through. I would not have a clue how to initiate "allowing traveling members to find each other". I guess you could have a forum where people would say, "riding through yellowstone NP until such date" but that may be a clumsy way of doing that service. So it takes either a volunteer with the time and energy to execute the idea or pay a staff person or consultant to that service.

Neal, thank you for the reminder. I hope my answer helps. Creating thoughts is good, though such ideas may not be needed by WS. It is sometimes best to keep the core business which in our case is providing hospitality to traveling cyclists.


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'I invite you to learn more

'I invite you to learn more about how BeWelcome works and how Trustroots development has been done so far. The history of Couchsurfing is also vitally important to retaining community trust, and WS has already begun to repeat some of CS’s mistakes. I do believe that remaining unaware of the larger internet hospex context before making these recent changes, is a serious failure on the part of the WS leadership.'


BeWelcome is certainly aware of WS, and, yes, you can take that as a compliment. Why the insularity?

I'm concerned that the evident blind spot (and the numerous cosy assumptions) regarding the operation of comparable hospex sites betrays a deeper level of complacency. Even putting aside comparisons with other sites, the decision to take on a contracted employee (and the subsequent decisions to employ a subscriber model and to use donor badges) was a major change in direction for WS and despite the question being put forward several times we have received no response outlining the alternatives discussed by the board before embarking on this path.

There seems to have been a worrying lack of rigor from the board on this - certainly I would be happy to be proven wrong with evidence to the contrary, but as it stands now that evidence has not been forthcoming.

I would also like to thank Louis for being the first board member to come forward and attempt to address the concerns of members here instead of deflecting, constructing false dilemmas or just resorting to good old fashioned name calling (despots, dictators, complainers, members who contribute nothing... really?). I hope your desire to learn more about BeWelcome, TrustRoots, CS etc is shared by the other members of the board, and nobody is asking WS to copy anything but having some background knowledge I believe would certainly assist in making informed decisions.

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Hi all! I'm Mikael from

Hi all! I'm Mikael from Trustroots and also an avid cyclist & Warmshowers host.

I totally support running a non-profit organisation with clear goals, with donation money and paying a salary for some of the people working for it. is wonderful. There are numerous foundations out there doing the same; Greenpeace, Mozilla Foundation, Open Knowledge Foundation, Wikimedia Foundation, and also OpenStreetMap foundation is considering to pay salaries.

I'm a big advocate of free/gift economy and for over ten years I've made awfully lot of stuff happen by organising volunteer work for multiple projects ( Sometimes I've got paid to do so with grants, sometimes by donations but most of the time I've just put my own time and money in. I'm a professional developer so I can earn decent salary in the industry when I need some money, but it's all time out from my volunteering and getting cool stuff done. Currently I'm again using 3/5 of my time in work I don't get paid for. Of course I cannot afford many things people in my age would normally have, but that's alright. I prefer the life I've had and it makes me feel good as a human. :-)

I'm sorry Chris, but I feel that examples you give and comparisons you make are all a bit flimsy examples to serve your argument:
- many hackathons that I helped to organise,
- hospex site BeWelcome that I volunteered in the past,
- and finally hospex project that I started.

- BeWelcome is very badly lacking volunteers. Multitude of basic tasks don't get done or get done very slowly and development has been almost stalled for years. Also quality of code isn't that great when done by developers with different skill levels who often hop in for very short while. Project of this size really needs skilled (one might say "professional") team leaders who can commit for very long term and have a vision and skill to guide those volunteering. It also takes quite a lot of effort and skill to recruit and organise volunteers, it doesn't just happen magically. Oftentimes one paid full time developer gets much more done in same time compared to 10 volunteers who all have one evening a week. With volunteers time often goes to all the communications, learning and stuff like that. I've been following WS's development from a distance for years and I was quite worried WS might fall into the same stage as BW.

- isn't currently asking for donations but in the future it will likely do so. We're also looking for EU grants. TR is too young to make any decent comparison to WS. Also basis for WS was done "for free" (as in somebody chipped in all his time and money). We're currently setting up a non-profit foundation for TR and hopefully soon start to get also more organised with volunteers. TR isn't run "for free" however — it's just that people in the core team are currently paying for all ongoing expenses and finding some other sources of income for the time required running it. Myself I quit my last job some year ago and I'm using my savings to get these projects (mainly TR and Hitchwiki) forward.

- Chris is partly right about hackathons (sort of coding sprints/camps) — they can be organised rather cheaply. They're great in getting some new volunteers aboard and deepening relations between existing volunteers. However, I don't think they are that effective in terms of code being written, especially with short hackathons or hackathons with more than 2-3 people. For example I good topic for WS hackathon would be a few day workshop where you walk in new volunteer developers into the codebase.

Chris, if your message is "money corrupts" and it thus shouldn't be involved in this sort of project — well you are right, it can. That problem however can be solved by setting up a non-profit foundation, strong bylaws and having enough transparency. All of which WS has.

If your problem is that WS is too young/small to have paid staff just yet, or that they are paying too much for him, you should probably get more understanding in what gets done currently and how it is working in other foundations with paid staff and then give more detailed criticism.


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Why does the site need to pay a large salary?

The todays expected level of the ongoing donation campaign is 60 000 $. If I am not wrong the meaning of it is to cover one year´s expenditure on professional maintenance of WS´s internet presence. According to US Income Tax Calculator, as it is conveyed by Wikipedia, the average gross monthly income in the US was 3580 $ in 2012, so this year it would probably hit 4000 $. 60 000 $ makes 5000 $ a monthly salary of one employee, I think it is acceptable if such one represents a professional expert level of one´s qualifications.

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I don't think it's fair to

I don't think it's fair to call on others to volunteer to keep the cost of running the organization to a minimum, unless you yourself are volunteering to do so.

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Kevin, That's not how the

Kevin, That's not how the world works. You should probably learn a little about charities. Most charities rely on volunteers. Oxfam, St Vincent de Paul the list is endless. WS is an NGO not a business, that means no one makes a profit but when you require professionals to work full time they need to get paid and they should be paid properly otherwise they have no reason to work for you when they could get a proper paying job elsewhere. If you don't pay professionals to work full time you will end up iwth a bunch of mostly underskilled volunteers and too many people doing a job that is better done by one person for the skilled job.

You are simply incorrect to say that this idea is unfair. Randy has spent years developing this site for nothing. It is unfair to expect him to keep working for nothing to the extent that his services are needed.

It was great to read the post by the woman from Trustroots - sorry i can't see your name now as I type this post.

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"Randy has spent years

"Randy has spent years developing this site for nothing. It is unfair to expect him to keep working for nothing to the extent that his services are needed. "

Things have changed greatly since this thread was last active. Randy is no longer working on WarmShowers.

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Salary is reasonable

It takes time and bucks to run something like this. Think of the tons of money you save by staying with others. I have only used a host once, but now and hosting others and it's great fun. Others might look at this and think it's simple and easy, but there is a great value add happening that would not be possible without the volunteers and contributors.

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New ED

We have a new executive director now, Seth Portner, who has vast experience in leading nonprofit organizations. He brings leadership to the table that somebody who works in IT as a developer does not have.

Warm showers has not been a very stable organization this past year. A handful of volunteers have kept going. I don't think the community realizes the seriousness of what would've happened if any of the remaining volunteers had left. We at the board believe that Seth will build a stronger organization and one that will be more sustainable And yes, this will cost money. But without taking this move, warm showers, in my opinion, would cease to exist

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Re: New ED

Hi Ken
Thanks for letting us know that there have been issues in the organisation. It seems to have been calm on the surface from my perspective but I suppose I'm not getting the back and forth of email debates that happen in an organisation like ours.


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Thanks for the update, Ken,

Thanks for the update, Ken, but the board's failure to keep the community informed about the personnel shakeup through a newsletter, has really undermined trust.

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For some, maybe. I have

For some, maybe. I have personally spoken to over 100 WS members who are just grateful the site still exists. Letting everybody know the burnout rate of those who are helping out is irrelevant to people searching for an accommodation while bicycle touring. Chris, maybe you can be part of the solution and volunteer.

As for a newsletter, we have been unable for almost a year to send mass emails. This is one of the glitches that is priority to fix. Without the ability to do this, we cannot send out emails, purge announcements, or requests for donations. I have tried to be transparent with this on the Facebook site. I realize not everybody has Facebook or belongs to this page. But it is the best means of mass communication that we have at present. I believe, at this point, more people actually read the Facebook page and read what is posted in the WS forums.

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Hi Chris

Hi Chris

We are working hard to get the newsletter out as fast as possible and inform the community in detail about changes and strategies of Warmshowers. Seth Portner, our new ED, is currently learning about our organizational structure, reaching out to volunteers and coordinating our work and priorities. Obviously this needs some time.

Concerning the original cause of this thread, we have decided legally as a board that we would like to hire a full-time employee to coordinate the numerous volunteers and relieve the board somehow from its heavy working charge. This decision can only be readdressed by the board and it has been discussed back and forth with Warmshowers members at length in order to find a consensus. Most people still agree and see the need for a remunerated manager of the organization recognizing the big advantages of volunteers. You can be sure that we will be very pedantic about finding the most economical solution and keep our expenses as low as possible and only as high as necessary. We are, and will remain, a mainly volunteer-driven organization. I would thus like to close this thread, mainly because I think the question is resolved and we would like to keep the forum a place for positive, constructive propositions. I feel that this thread has brought up some anxiety and distrust and we are committed to resolving these questions. If you'd like to address a different topic, feel free to open a new post in an appropriate forum category. Again, I apologize for the lack of communication from the board. I speak in the name of the board when saying that our goal is to reestablish the mutual sympathy amongst Warmshowers members and we are doing our best to inform the community on a regular basis.

Kind regards,

Cyril, chair of the Warmshowers Foundation board

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Great post Cyril. I look

Great post Cyril. I look forward to hearing about the direction of the organisation. I don't follow WS on facebook and have no plans to as i'm setting off soon.

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Too much noise on Facebook

I had stopped subscribing to warmshowers on Facebook. Too many pretty pictures, too many notifications, too much noise. I noticed some organizational turbulence, but I had no idea that FB had become a channel for information.

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Hi Pieter

Hi Pieter

This is understandable. We already have one person in charge of reducing the amount of unrelated or personal posts on Facebook by manually approving every post. We will probably soon create a separate, simple "Like" page for communication and keep the old one as a platform for story exchange, but we can't do everything at a time. We will also send a newsletter very soon to explain our organizational changes and developments.

Kind regards,


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Free to Use. Pay to Join

I agree with you. we have talents out there. this is some reason i prefer to host and not contact WS host if i travel. i dont want to bother people

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