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Warmshowers is now a Nonprofit Corporation (includes Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws)

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WS Member Warmshowers Administrator's picture
Warmshowers is now a Nonprofit Corporation (includes Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws) is now a Colorado nonprofit corporation. What does this mean?

  • Stated formal goals from our Articles of Incorporation which is attached below:
    • To arrange and provide free hospitality to touring bicyclists throughout the world. The Foundation operates a website by the same name which allows hosts interested in touring cyclists to offer free hospitality to them, typically in their own homes.
    • To provide information and facilitate information exchange concerning bicycle touring. The Foundation offers forums for communication between cyclists and hosts and others interested in cycling.
    • To expand our services in support of touring cyclists from time to time as necessary to improve opportunities, safety, communications, and the like for touring cyclists.
  • We haven't changed anything about the organization or its style.
  • US donors are now able to make tax-deductible contributions to the organization.
  • We're trying to make it so that the organization can survive and be sustainable for the long term, and not be tied to the finances and efforts of a single person. (It should survive me!)
  • Given what we do as an organization it is possible that someday we would have a serious problem with a member doing something bad to another member. If this were to happen, we want to make sure that the organization's key volunteers and board members protected from any liability. It wouldn't be fair for them to be exposed to financial or legal liability when they're giving their time freely.


  • Is Warmshowers going to become commercial like Couchsurfing did? No, we're completely committed to always remaining 100% noncommercial. Not only are we not-for-profit, but we don't allow commercial activity anywhere on the site, and don't participate in advertising.
  • Is anything really changing? Nope, nothing's really changing. This is a part of getting our act together as a sustainable organization, which is just formalizing what we're doing already. We've done several other things in the process, like proposing Terms of Use and a Privacy Policy for your review. We've improved and formalized a process for dealing with reports of serious member misbehavior (and have a working group to handle that). And becoming a nonprofit corporation means that we have to form a board of directors, which is really just formalizing the existing leadership structure.

If you have additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!

Update 2014-10-06: It seemed that the organizing documents of the corporation were not here. They have been added as attachments - Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. The related 501(c)(3) filing (which was granted) is too large to attach, but see 501(c)(3) filing and the IRS Exemption Letter.
Update 2015-02-24: Added the key goals of the organization from the Articles of Incorporation.

Unregistered anon_user's picture
Nonprofit Corporation

I think what you are doing to protect yourselves, members & board members is very sensible, probably essential in this day and age.

I also get that under US law, you have to form a non-profit in the state in which you are based.

However, you have members around the world, who are all affected by anything you do as an organisation, and all of whom are potentially at risk from anti-social elements within society.

What protection do those of us not covered under US laws have?

Please be aware I am not trying to be contentious here, just to understand how things work.

I am currently an officer of a charity in the UK, and as such highly aware of the responsibilities and liabilities inherent in holding such office, and the weight of responsibility which such officers carry for their membership.

Best regards, and keep up the good work,


WS Member WS Member's picture
Not for profit but looked what happened to couch surfing

First of all I am somebody who is setting up a not for profit myself ,loves the idea of your site am a host but concerned it could go the same way as couchsurfing eg warm showers becoming a for profit.I also I apologise for my contribution being long but it does include interesting two paragraphs from an article. see below

Is it conceivable that warm showers could go the same way as warm showers??

"Couchsurfing filed as a nonprofit in New Hampshire in 2003, but in order to stay a nonprofit, the company had to apply to become a 501c(3) charity organization with the IRS. In March of 2011 the IRS denied Couchsurfing's application. “You state that your purpose of promoting cultural exchange is accomplished when your website users travel to meet other members,” says the ruling. “However members are never under any obligation to host or to travel to global destinations.” The IRS could not wrap its head around the idea of a network as a nonprofit since a network on its own couldn’t guarantee the charitable activity of its users.

As a result Fenton and the board decided that Couchsurfing needed to become a for-profit to keep operating. The decision was made to turn Couchsurfing into a B Corporation, which would ensure that the company balanced its social values with its newfound profit motive. Appropriately, Fenton went on a twelve city tour to explain the move. In a blog post Fenton sent me that no longer appears on the Couchsurfing site,

Though I do not doubt the integrity ot the It seems that the govt and a certain individual were responsible for couch surfing becoming a FOR profit.
Could this happen tho Warm Showers? ultimaly the down fall of C.S.was its ill defined "state of purpose"
My intention and contribution here is to develop and ultimately protect Warm Showers.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Why CS didn't become non-profit though it could have

Chris, I don't think CS was really ever a non-profit. They applied for the 501 whatever status (the one that allows donors to deduct the donation from their taxes and also exempts the organisation from having to pay certain taxes, and other things I'm not sure about), but in the end it was a botched and negligent (probably flawed on purpose) application that made the IRS deny them the status. CS was not EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC, or CHARITABLE. The benefit of its activity fell directly and exclusively on its own members so in that sense it was no different that a private club. It would have been different if CS had proposed some scheme whereby the hosting/surfing relationship produced some tangible benefit for some third party (for example, making eyeglasses -or couches for all I care- to be given to needy people somewhere), or if it resulted in some kind of education or scientific stuff (more than "wow, hey man, Paris was fucking awesome"), but in the end I believe CS was not interested in getting that legal status really, it would have impeded their ulterior motives (selling the company to themselves for a grossly undervalued sum, and then selling a minority part of it for 22 million to two venture capital companies). Bottom line is (never better said or intended!) it was not in their interest to keep CS as a volunteer-run thing. They could have done many things to keep it going and there are in fact other non-profit modes under which you can work besides the 501c3-thing or whatever. It's a lie that they were "forced" to go the way they did. They willfully ignored the base. Anyway, I'm not sure how or why WS did get their application approved, maybe Randy can fill us in, but I suspect that maybe CS had some other problems (trustworthiness) that WS doesn't have, and cycling is good for the environment, I guess. The fact is that in the land of way out there capitalism, it IS possible for non-profits to turn into for-profits, which is not the case in France, for example, with Bewelcome because of a law from 1901 (!) (and it's even called that, I think, the 1901 law), but that's all too much to get into now. It does however justifiable raise concerns that WS could conceivably change. Everything changes, right? I think we would be advised (ha ha, that sounds like legalese something or other) not to trust anyone or anything too much and keep in mind always that this could go bust tomorrow. So, yes, donate, for a year, or volunteer, but don't assume it will always or integrally go to purported aims. It's like lending money to friends or family (not that I haven't paid all my debts, just saying!).

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