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Warmshowers.org October 2016 Newsletter

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Welcome to the Warm Showers Newsletter!
In September 2016 I joined the Warmshowers.org foundation as the Executive Director.  I could not be more excited about the opportunity to help shepherd the organization into the future. I always say to anyone willing to listen that bike touring brings together everything that is good in the world, and as we approach 100,000 members, apparently I am not alone in my thinking.
 
In talking with the Board of Directors, and reviewing the commentary on the forums as well as input from membership surveys, we are divining a clear picture of the next steps for Warmshowers.org.  Enhancing the user experience, facilitating more and better host and cyclist relationships, and ensuring the long-term health of the organization are the priorities shared by our membership, myself and the board.  This work is made possible by the generous support of the member network of Warmshowers.org.
  
Please reach out to me directly if you are interested in talking more about Warmshowers.org at seth@warmshowers.org; I am fully committed to consistent and continual communication.  
 
Seth Portner
Stories of the road
Vero and Gab

Véro Geoffroy: A Pathfinder

One of my favourite things on the Warm Showers website is looking through the statistics page and perusing the list of countries with just one or two hosts. It is in these unusual places that the global generosity of Warm Showers hosts is especially appreciated. Places such as Mauritius, an island barely big enough to provide more than a few days of touring, and Turkmenistan, a dictatorship so tightly controlled that a jail sentence could be handed out just for talking to foreigners let alone hosting them. These are the people that help spread the word of our community to new corners.

Vero House Rules

It was in Tajikistan (hardly a corner being one of the furthest countries on earth from the sea) that I was hosted by Vero Geoffrey, one such pathfinder. Anyone who has ever passed through Tajikistan will likely know Vero and her son Gab (who by the age of 9 has covered more 4000m climbs than most cyclists will in a lifetime), she has become a rock in this region and a base for tourists passing through to share in good conversation and appreciate her fine spirit... and excellent house rules.

When I dropped by in September last year I was one of 10 tents set up in her garden. She was working when I arrived but the living room was still packed with a delightful group of strangers. Vero arrived back carrying a large package of spare spokes, tyres and tubes that I’d had sent over from UK. And all this for someone she’d barely had any prior communications with. Such was the hustle of her home that in the couple of days I spent with her I barely had enough time to express my thanks, but I did get a good game of yard soccer with Gab, live well the both of you.

I had become her 100th guest that summer, and it wasn't even over. Easy to lose track of all these guests unless… well, unless you keep track of it:

2013 - August-December - 5 months : 58 cyclists hosted at home
2014 - full year minus July-August (I was cycling too!) - 10 months : 105 cyclists hosted at home

Most of them are Brits: 23 in 2014, then French, 22.
But also had Romanian, Hungarian, Canadians, Kiwis, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Malaysian, Japanese, Chinese, Italians, Spanish, German, Belgians, Swiss... 23 different nationalities!!!

Stories of the road
Warm Showers Group Photo

Warm Showers: Through the Years

Bicycle travel is on the rise. More people than ever are cycling the world. The global exchange of hospitality through Warm Showers Foundation, warmshowers.org, is also increasing on a daily basis. Membership today exceeds 97,000 members. The operation of Warm Showers Foundation and the warmshowers.org website are adapting to keep up with the increasing population of cycling tourists. As we move into a new generation of leadership, let's look back on the WS origins and early transformations.

Cyclist

From 1976 through 2000, there were a few hospitality networks for bicyclists that eventually led into the organization we know today as Warm Showers.

Around 1976, John Mosley placed an advertisement in a US magazine called Bike World (sister magazine to Runner's World) asking for people to be put on a hospitality list.  Louis Melini, present Board Member with Warm Showers, was one of the first 10 people placed on the list.  John kept the list on a Rolodex for about 30 years giving it up in 2006.  If a cyclist needed names of hosts from a particular state, John had everyone listed by state so he would simply copy and mail the list of hosts in that state. It was called the Touring Cyclist Hospitality Directory (TCHD).  At most he had 800 people listed; 300 when he retired. There were other lists, including lists from The League of American Bicyclists and organizations in France and the Netherlands.

Hosts with pizza

In 1993, Terry Zmrhal and Geoff Cashman originated Warm Showers. In 1996, Roger Gravel began updating and managing the Warm Showers list, and Randy Fay turned the list into a database-and-map enabled website in 2005. Randy eventually assumed the registrar role from Roger when Roger retired in 2009.

Randy Fay extended Warm Showers data map beyond US borders.  Under Randy’s direction, Warm Showers enjoyed exponential and international growth.  In 2010, Mark Martin joined Randy as his back-up and second in command. Chris Russo and others joined Mark and Randy and started building a stable volunteer base to translate and improve the website.

In 2014, the Warm Showers Foundation, a US 501(c)(3) non-profit, was formed to improve governance and sustainability of the organization. Reaching over 60,000 members, maintenance of the website and daily operations became a greater workload than a couple of volunteers could manage. A Board of Directors was formed to govern the organization. Early Board Members included Louis Melini, Mark Martin and Chris Russo.

In 2015, the governance of Warm Showers transitioned to the Board of Directors. The Board was chartered to transition and manage the technical aspects of the website. These aspects included management of trust and safety issues for hosts and guests, provision of translations into 15 languages for the site and newsletters, management of communications between members and the community, and management of financial expenditures and fundraising strategies. Randy Fay continued in leadership positions, but later decided to leave the organization, followed by some other board members. This transition was not easy on the few remaining volunteers who managed the Warm Showers operations for almost a year. While the overall website was stable, this change in organizational structure occurred after a major Drupal upgrade. Post upgrade, some functions of the website remained problematic, and this was voiced often in the Warm Showers forums. New volunteers were culled from membership as utilizers of the website graciously wanted to give back to the organization that shaped their touring experience.

In September, 2016, the remaining Board contracted with Seth Portner to become the new Executive Director. Seth brings with him years of experience in the leadership in the non-profit sector. This begins a new day and direction for Warm Showers. The Board feels confident that after the growing pains that occurred between 30,000 members at the present (nearly) 100,000 are behind us. Seth will provide the leadership and guidance to help Warm Showers continue to grow while becoming more of a stable and viable organization.

Through the years one thing has remained stable; Warm Showers has always ridden the crest of the new worldwide movement of touring bicyclists, and strives to achieve its mission statement:

“To provide the technology and platform for the sharing of safe, reciprocal hospitality among touring bicyclists and hosts who support them worldwide”

LOOKING AHEAD: The future of the organization will depend on the continued good will of hosts to provide hospitality to touring cyclists, and for the governing board to encourage volunteer participation to help spread the workload to maintain and enhance the capabilities of the website.

Board of Directors decisions, financial reports and similar information are posted in the Leadership Council section of the forums.

The growth of the membership and its worldwide distribution are shown on the Statistics page.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Opportunities

As the Warm Showers Foundation grows, so does the need to increase the volunteer task force. It is only through the dedicated effort of Warm Showers members that we can sustain a free network of hospitality. Warm Showers is growing, and so is the complexity in volunteer roles and coordination.

We're currently on the lookout for Directors, Trust & Safety Officers, Translators, Drupal Developers, Android Developers, Testers, Newsletter Writers and more.

For more information and to find out how you can get involved take a look at all our opportunities.

Please contribute to the newsletter
Off Season? Network!

We talk a lot about being a good guest and being a responsive host, but networking is the third element in the reciprocity of hospitality. Winter months may be a “down” time for touring and hosting, but it is a good time to build local community within the Warm Showers organization.

We hear a lot from cyclists about low response rates from members in urban areas or along busy routes. Some responsible and available hosts sometimes take on the full brunt of hosting for the region. Reach out to your local members! Winter is the perfect time to those nearby and building a network of Warm Showers hospitality.

 

  • Use the forums at warmshowers.org: Start a local forum under the Community Networking subheading in Community Experiences
  • Start a local/regional Facebook page to attract local Warm Showers members
  • Send a message through Warm Showers to other local members, introducing yourself and asking them to join the Forum or Facebook page.

 

For more information go to the Community Networking forum.

T-shirts now available! Get one now.

Warm Showers is:

Board Chair: Cyril Wendl
Board of Directors: Len Bulmer, Ken Francis, Chris Russo, Stephanie Verwys, Cyril Wendl, Russell Workman

Executive Director: Seth Portner
Volunteers: Rolando A., Jeff Beaulieu, Liza Burkin, Kyle Egerdal, Amir Eskandary, Lena Faber, Oliver Fourdrinoy, Diana Grasso, Michael Haeuslmann, Farid Hajiaqazade, Kosta Harlan, Andrew Hughes-Onslow, Kenichi Ideda, Clarisse Iméneuraët, Laura Juliá, Jie Lang, Chris Meyer, Laura Moss, Dan Murphy, Hodei Orueta, Gonçalo Nuno Pais, Abdullah Pekel, Jiří Ropek, Richard Roussy, Agata Śliwińska, Johannes Staffans, Gordon Smith, Dušan Starčević, Kenny Stewart, Rustam Tagiew, Jack Turner, Linda van de Laar, Vera van de Nieuwenhof, Jay van der Net, Alexander Wyatkin, Kurt Ziegler

And more than 98,000 members worldwide!

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