Do you think asking for any kind of donation is a good idea?

Lets say it is indeed free for all but there are/will be operational costs in the future. Do you think it will be wise to have an option, where someone can donate some $$s if someone wants to contribute in some way?

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I see no reason why not.
Many sites do, and it’s easy enough to go past that and do what you want to do.

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Donations are definitely a great idea and with this in mind something else crossed my mind which I want to share, specifically with @Emily, @itsi, @aapeli, @kellyt, @Aleja, @nolo: a badge on profile received upon donation conveys that somehow the member who donated believes in the values of the members who make Couchers.org be what it is, in the couchers (people). In what way such a badge is related to security? Well, implicitly, who believes in the shared values of the members of an organization at the point to support it by making a donation, it means that towards the members of that organization has positive thoughts. Our thoughts determine our actions. So positive thoughts from a given member translate into an increased level of safety with that member. Are You following my train of thought?

We already talked about badges, but probably we should talk more about this topic.

So why not implement a small supporter badge in the website for people who make donations to be received and displayed on their profile after they make a donation to the website? For the person who makes a donation would be perceived as a form of gratitude which would make it feel that the community appreciates it, at a larger scale within the community this would build a sort of bond between various members, for the administrators of Couchers (or the people who run it, whatever they prefer to be called like) this would help to receive more easily funds to keep the platform alive and evolve its functionality as a badge would incentive some people to donate, and lastly as concerns security… well I explained it above. So is a win-win for everyone. Based on my knowledge it should also be pretty easy to implement - it takes just a tiny *.png image and few strings of code. Maybe I am wrong about all this, I just had this idea and wanted to share it.

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I think accepting donations is a good idea and I think discussions about how we plan to fund the platform long-term are important to have.

As I understand it, there are a few reasons we are not accepting donations yet:

  1. Our costs are very low right now
  2. We’re using scalable, open-source software instead of costly 3rd party paid services. IMO part of the reason why CS is hurting financially / falling apart is because of their reliance on costly 3rd party paid services.
  3. Right now we have a dedicated team of volunteers working hard toward a beta version and MVP, and we’re also constantly looking for more volunteers, especially if you’re a frontend, backend or full-stack developer. Sign up to help here.
  4. There are some challenges and disadvantages to accepting donations this early on.
  5. There is more justification for asking for donations once we have a working platform that people can use.

By the way, I moved this topic from the “Community Discussion” category to the “Governance” category. The long-term operational success (including covering operational costs) is a big area for discussion, and those kinds of topics can be found in that area of the forum.

With that said, in my personal opinion it’s a bit early to talk about those things in a lot of detail because our focus should be on bringing people into the community & discussions and of course building the platform itself. With that said, some general information about plans for costs and operations is here on the website.

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I think donations may be a good idea as a mean to support the platform, as long as they don’t mean any extra benefits for the donor. That would be unfair for people from developing/undeveloped countries. I could lay down the numbers from my country but let’s just say that 10 bucks is not equivalent to one beer, is a week of groceries :woman_shrugging:

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Hey Jesse,
Thanks for moving the topic to "Governance’. I did not know exactly where to assign this topic initially. I do not know how 3rd party paid software works but do you think using an open source software might lead to a hack?
I am sorry, I am not from a technical background. However, I read somewhere that few months ago, all CS accounts information was hacked.

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Hey Push,
What I mean is that instead of paying a companies like mapbox or Google maps fees every month or for every API call, we could use open source map software like openstreetmap. Instead of using expensive ticket managing software that you have to pay for monthly like zendesk, we can use an open source solution like OTRS. These platforms are just as safe - and in some ways safer - than the paid solutions. It also means we are sharing less information with 3rd parties and are less dependent on other companies.

But bringing things back to the original topic of the thread: I think one of the many solutions that can help us keep costs low, and ensure we will always have a free platform for all, is using open-source and software designed in-house.

Ohhh I understand now and I agree with you. The reason I started this topic is because I feel any kind of donation is important to run the website smoothly. Plenty coders and developers spend many man hours and I feel a bit of donation will be helpful to have the necessary software in hand.

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I’ll play the devil’s advocate here and mention a few of the damnations of donations. Someone will ask then for an annual report on the the money coming in and out. Someone will ask for the report to be audited so members can be sure the report is a real reflection of the finances. Another will want a special recognition that they donated. Then another might suggest those who make donations recognition are rich or want special influence. The organisation might become attached to donations and spend a lot of energy in soliciting them. Some way ask the organisation to get tax free status before donating. Then there would be those don’t want to donate or who did so anonymously being made to feel lesser. And people who support other hospitality websites would say this one is into monetisation, just to make nuisance. I’m not wanting to appear as a nasty pasty stabby wabby poo, but rather mentioning some of the disruptive things that happened in another hospitality website when things pertaining to money became entrenched.

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I seem to remember Trustroots having a progress bar for donations. I think it’s a good model to adopt for Couchers - outline clearly the upcoming costs that are expected, open donations as and when is required. Transparency would be essential to make this work - we already know that from past experience.

I think it’s not really reasonable to ask the volunteers and founders who are already pouring in hours of their time to also fork out all the costs. Yes, our intentions are altruistic, but sometimes there are limitations to how far we can go while giving our time and money selflessly. Sure, nobody asked us to, but it would be nice to receive support from the community and accepting donations is definitely one of the most obvious ways to help keep the passion and community going.

Lastly, I can see the possibility that a badge might be conflated with what was ‘verification’ on CS. I suggest listing names on a donation page (if the donor wants), instead of introducing another bias into the user profile :slight_smile:

I think it’s always good to hear the devil’s advocate! :innocent:

At the same time I think it’s a given that the project will need some financial operations and that donations will be part of it (though there’s no current urgency).

But there’s quite some infrastructure in place nowadays that can help in avoiding the common hurdles and pitfalls around this. Just want to share one service that I find helpful and inspiring:

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Not surprised to see a lot of pushback regarding Couchsurfing.com asking for donations. Had they done this from the beginning, do you think the result would have been very different?

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I cant comment if it could have been different but we can start now. On Bewelcome, there is section where you see a bar of how much money has been donated. We can do something along the lines

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It seems to me that you’re damned if you do and go broke if you don’t. It’s a pity there are people who fiddle the till when money comes in and others expect to their name in lights if they donate a bit of money. I’d say just allow people to donate if they want to and have a treasurer that keeps a tally of the money and where it’s spent. You’re not going to be running couchers.org on fresh air, so certainly allowing donations is a good idea.

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For context, Couchsurfing is posting a suggestion to “Send your spontaneous contribution” on your To-Do List now. That is, asking mostly people that they spontaneously threatened to pay or be locked out before, to return the favour now :smile:

Screenshot from 2021-01-15 09-00-49

I’d say the results would certainly have been different, had they asked that from the beginning and in a sensible way and wording. But then, what beginning? Had they done that last May, they’d also have done other decisions before that. And before that. And we probably all wouldn’t be here, because it would just be a sensibly run company, that doesn’t continuously offend and dumbfound it’s users.

True, but we also won’t be running it on fresh money :money_mouth_face: :innocent: To me the most important contribution is people sharing their skills. As long as running costs are not high (as right now) I think it’s good not to focus on monetary donations, but rather how we can be attractive and make it easy for as many people as possible to contribute their time and skills. That are donations as well.

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I get what you’re saying, but I can say quite clearly that when I saw the initial financial struggles with the site, I wondered what had happened to require this. After careful reflection of nearly 15 years of activity, I realised that a shift in infrastructure, culture of users, corporate culture, and ethos of the community that really made me uncomfortable. Instead of individuals who stayed committed to a project and were transparent, I saw business investors and businessmen asking for support and it all looked a bit shady; and as a result I became much less likely to support.

I don’t doubt that leadership was doing what it thought best for the survival of the company, I just didn’t find anything to be particularly credible. Now seeing how people are being managed, just sort of tipped the scales.

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