I don’t think that relying on donations being impossible is necessarily the case for a non-profit. As well as BeWelcome, look at Wikipedia!
This is what CS also said. In addition to that there were so many people worked for free. Including myself, arranging gatherings for CS members, trips etc… Then what happened he took advantage of all these free work + donations and such, then they sold it and didn’t hear that they shared any of this money with someone or donated the money.
I’m not complaining for what I did but some people might. I’m not sure if the old CSers would trust our organization and donate or work for free. What type of warranty we are providing to the society that the platform will remain non-profit and never be sold?
People work voluntarily make the platform successful then the owner sell it and keep the money for himself. What kind of protection we have to assure this won’t happen?
Good points. I think the key is to build the platform with and for the community and make that clear and explicit. So that there isn’t any single “owner” that has the ability to do such a bait-and-switch. The way we’re trying to do this is a multi-pronged approach:
Legal: we will set up a comprehensive governance structure that makes sure that the project cannot legally be turned into a for-profit, and that it’s not owned by some small group of shareholders, but rather that decisions are made by a group of volunteers.
Technical: we’ll make sure that ownership of both the code and the database doesn’t get concentrated in the hands of one person with the “keys to the kingdom”. Rather, there will be multiple people who have access to it, so no single person can go rogue.
Community: finally, we think the key way to make sure this project remains a community-led owned project is to break down that idea of an “owner/user” relationship and make sure you don’t end up with that chasm that existed with Couchsurfing. It’s important that not only do the users engage in building the community, but that they are also involved deeply in the everyday running of the project all the way to the legal and technical side. It’s important that we make sure users get accustomed to being involved, and that people expect that, so if there ever start forming a split between the owners and users, that that is stopped quickly and they merge into one again.
I think this is realistically doable (and that’s why we’re doing it!), as long as we all keep these points in mind and make sure to build a healthy structure and community around this project!
We think the key way to make sure this project remains a community-led owned project is to break down that idea of an “owner/user” relationship and make sure you don’t end up with that chasm that existed with Couchsurfing.
Which is why you and all the other volunteers are going to be present here on the forum. It already puts Couchers.org miles ahead of CS, imho. There was never any place for users of CS to discuss how CS works with CS. So I’m all for the lack of a “owner/user” relationship.
I’d happily donate (and more than the sum that I’m refusing to pay to CS); even at an early stage where it’s not yet clear that the site will take off. However, I’d appreciate you being somewhat open about your expenses. Maybe publish some funding goals with a rough rundown of how the money’s distributed (servers, legal fees or, in case you do need to hire someone eventually, wages; etc).
Hi @frleon, welcome to the community. I too think it would be good to have everything laid out transparently. When that information is readily available, there’s no reason not to present it. Currently, the volunteers are still working out costs, which greatly depend on what features they end up going with.
Think the BeWelcome approach is the best. So voluntary donations and then maybe follow the wikipedia way of making annoying banners if there’s too less money to keep the website/community running. Transparency in way of costs would be a big plus as well!
@aapeli Did you guys think of making it open source? That might be the solution of that nobody owns the “kingdom”.
@dude.read.my.profile: yes, the plan going forward is to make it open source. At the moment it’s important to reduce fragmentation. We’re trying to push hard on getting the codebase to a point where we can have a useful app, and we’ll look into the right way of bringing it into the open, etc once we have something more mature that we can start accepting smaller contributions to!
@frleon: we’ll start publishing financials once we start having something to show At the moment we’ve paid for two domain names for a total of $26.32 (coucher.org+couchers.org), and we have a running bill with AWS which is $1.16 until now. That’s pretty much all, I think!
Hi guys, what about if we announce the monthly cost per month?
I mean like a public company in stock exchange, we share all costs. Or yearly, at the end of the year and ask for donation. Or charge per reference etc… who ever uses the more pays more. I mean this might be added in the T&C.
Total cost per year 5 kUSD let’s say. If we have 5000 member each will pay around 1 USD who has more references means took advantage of the platform the most so they can pay more.
Some may find this is a stupid idea but maybe we can develop something based on this approach
Indeed, I feel some transparency wouldn’t hurt the general communication anyways
Definitely a good idea to be reporting regularly about finances and governance. Transparency is key!
It’s definitely something to consider if we NEED to. I personally want to avoid including any mandatory payment. There are many things to consider when introducing payment such as distinctivising use of the platform, as well as making it harder for people with less income to spend.
It’s worth considering that we can change tactic as necessary as the platform grows (with full transparency and consultation with the community).
I’ll reiterate earlier points that our estimates point at costs being well within the scope of being funded by donations. Fortunately, we have great developers on this project who are specifically looking at keeping server costs low as we scale.
I think there are some places where a nice non-pressuring message reminding donations are possible will be very effective.
For example, after I leave a host a good reference: “We’re so glad you had a good experience thanks to Couchers! If you’re able, you might want to consider making a donation to keep the site running? This month we’ve raised $xx out of our costs of $yy.”
Also maybe a reminder a week after being hosted.
$27.48, what an outrageous splurge!, I’m going to leave this scam for good!
Jokes aside, I personally don’t feel the need for you to document every single penny . Having a general idea monthly whether or not we’re making ends meet sounds just perfect to me.
I wondered if a typical open source business model could also work… where you have an open and free community platform and alongside a paid service that offers a restricted/private usage of the same technology?
One scenario I could imagine are community events/congresses/gatherings, where a closed group might want to organize staying with local members, instead of only being able to suggest paid accomodation.
Well, this is a long shot… just wanted to share the idea.
We tried to, but unfortunately they’ve been bought a long time ago by squatters.
I created another thread about this on the forum before I saw this thread but I stand by what I’ve posted - unlike most people I know several of the founders of CS personally and seen what happened from the inside - I’m urging those running this project no to repeat the same mistake CS made, Trustroots and BeWelcome are also making - which is putting the value of time over a few dollars.
Still wanted to come back to this idea, because I think it’s an aspect that could make the foundation’s work not only valuable to individuals, but also to institutions (and attract donations or grants from them). Similar to Wikimedia, that offers the wiki software for anyone to install, i could imagine a range of entities interested in a host/guest platform, that they could use just with their community . Let’s say universities, that want to offer new students the possibility to stay with other students for their first week/month. Or political parties/associations, that hold a member meeting and would have local members interested in hosting visiting ones. Or the christian churches, they heavily propagate homestaying for international church events, but as far as I know don’t have an own platform.
It’s a very interesting idea but I think we should approach this idea on its inherent merit and implications rather than on its ability to make money. Introducing institutions as users would be a big deal with various effects. Perhaps start a new topic on it?