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donation concern

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WS Member WS Member's picture
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.

WS Member WS Member's picture
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.

WS Member WS Member's picture
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.

Unregistered anon_user's picture

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.

WS Member WS Member's picture

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

WS Member WS Member's picture
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.


WS Member WS Member's picture
They are rolling in money,

They are rolling in money, but what has it been spent on? The poor-quality website upgrade? Since the site is no longer open source, we cannot even see if further improvements are actually being made to the site on e.g. a Github repository. Some of the money seems to have gone to WS board members attending a Las Vegas bike expo, but it doesn’t look like actual members of the website benefited in any way from that.

Besides, sustainability for a hospex network is not a matter of how much money it has, it is a matter of how many members actually host and travel through the network and are committed to doing so in future. Couchsurfing got millions in venture capital investment and the community there has collapsed. On the other hand, some of the longest running, most close-knit hospex networks exist on just a few hundred euro a year or nothing at all. Average response rates are very low now, and there doesn’t seem to be any work to fix this. Some longtime members who would happily host dozens of cyclists are becoming disillusioned with the board’s secrecy and terrible new website. Money alone won’t fix WS’s problems.

WS Member WS Member's picture
I think your cynism may be a

I think your cynism may be a bigger problem for you Christopher. I a have recently joined couchsurfing and so far I would not say the community has collapsed. The groups are active and I've had useful advice via them. I've had an offer to be hosted for a recent weekend away and so I'm not in a hurry to complain that either of these have failed as yet. Sure there are problems but i'm not aware of any problems with the board of WS. The problem is dealing with the members who have come here not dubious reasons and how to get rid of them. Do you follow the facebook WS page? If you did you would see that there are plenty of active members.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Perhaps you could argue that

Perhaps you could argue that collapse is hyperbolic but if you've just joined CS how would you know what has happened to the community from the time the volunteers rebuilt the site almost from scratch in 2006 through to venture capital and decline from 2011 onwards?

Similarly, not being aware of any problems with the WS board does not preclude the possibility of the existence of problems. In fact the last board chair Leanna Levine who took the position unannounced after Randy's unannounced disappearance admitted to me that the board chose not to inform the community about some worrying events that were very much in the interests of members to know about so as not to 'cause alarm'. Its also instructive to note that it was considered appropriate to have discussions at a board level about banning certain members from WS not for any abuse of the terms of service but for having different opinions (eg: during the debates around donations).

Finally, here we are on a forum that has been almost entirely abandoned by any official representation, bug reports are left to the goodwill of the community to sort out, suggestions for site improvements are ignored, questions that require an official response go unanswered (eg: ). The site code being taken from the community with no consultation nor announcement is just another demonstration of the board's veering away from rigour and transparency.

If the culture of the board is one of concealment, refusal to engage in good faith with its members and negation of accountability it seems to me it would be entirely expected that most members would be unaware of the problems within it.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Why would anyone who has just

Why would anyone who has just joined warm showers even enter this discussion. Of course i'm not new to Warm Showers. That said, all your  points above are new to me. I have nothing further to add. I don't know how I can influence anything or participate in any of this. All i know is when i have a problem I would ask for it to be addressed and its not well addressed, i will then know there is a problem. I am not saying i disagree with you. I'm just saying i know nothing about it and i don't know what there is i could do even if i did. I think for most of us, so long as the site seems to work and function as needed, we'll be fairly satisfied. Of course if something very underhand came to light like   a lot of money was being stolen or something like that, we'd all be pissed off but i dont' think we'd abandon the site. Anyway that's all i can contribute to this discussion. 

WS Member WS Member's picture
Where did I say you were new

Where did I say you were new to Warmshowers?

WS Member WS Member's picture
You didn't i misremembered

You didn't i misremembered what you'd said. I'm not new to couchsurfing either though didn't use it for many years. 

WS Member WS Member's picture
"I a have recently joined

"I a have recently joined couchsurfing"

This is what gave me the impression that you had recently joined Couchsurfing. So you really don't recall there being much difference in the community and the administration of the site in the years prior to the 2011 for profit listing and venture capital funding?

WS Member WS Member's picture
Damn right

You got me at the Las Vegas bike have my vote


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