For over 14 years, the Couchsurfing community has been available to anyone who wants to meet new people, see new places and gain a greater perspective on their world. Our community – your community – unites people in real life to celebrate their shared human experience. Couchsurfing members spend time getting to know one another through the places they love and the lives they live, fully embracing their differences. True, global acceptance and understanding – especially of people unlike ourselves – cannot happen without the type of in-person encounters that come from participating in the Couchsurfing community. Without your immediate help, all of this will be in jeopardy.
The COVID-19 global pandemic is severely impacting your beloved Couchsurfing community and we are facing a crisis unlike any other in our history. Due to the economic downturn and the direct impact on travel, the sources of funding for Couchsurfing have been depleted and we have no other option than to turn to you, the community, for support.
We have reduced the size of our team, taken pay cuts, eliminated or renegotiated all contracts, eliminated our physical office space (we are now a 100% remote workforce), and applied for COVID-19 relief funds provided by the United States Government through the CARES Act. Unfortunately, this will not be enough and we will soon be unable to meet our financial obligations.
As of May 14, 2020, we are asking for member contributions, either per month or per year, to keep Couchsurfing alive. This member contribution is required to access the Couchsurfing website and mobile applications. Your member contributions will be used to support Couchsurfing through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, and to continue keeping this community safe. This is a decision of last resort, and not one taken lightly.
The reality is that over 96% of the community provides no financial support to Couchsurfing because we have not asked for it. Couchsurfing also generates only a few thousand dollars per month from advertising. Clearly this is unsustainable in the current environment. This decision to ask for member contributions was based on internal conversations among team members and advisors, conversations and input from Couchsurfing Ambassadors, and input provided by thousands of members. We are grateful for their perspectives and assurances that the Couchsurfing community will want to contribute in this way to keep Couchsurfing alive. We want to thank everyone who made the time to participate in the decision making process.
There is good news:
- Your contribution will enable those in “unbanked” and developing countries to maintain free access to the Couchsurfing community. The diversity of the Couchsurfing community is what unites us. It is imperative, especially during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, that we demonstrate compassion and inclusion to those who may be economically unable to participate.
- We will remove all limits on messages and Couch requests. We want the community to continue to thrive. Having access to the Couchsurfing community during this time is a way to stay connected and engaged. Please continue to participate in Couchsurfing.
- We will remove third-party advertising from the website and mobile applications. Advertisements were implemented by Couchsurfing in 2014 out of necessity. We feel that this business is at odds with the Couchsurfing ethos. Couchsurfing has never sold member data to third parties which could have generated lucrative advertising revenue. In 2018 we extended large portions of European standards for privacy rights to our entire community. We can now proudly take this a step further and commit to no longer relying on corporate advertisers.
- We will reduce the price of Verification. While the price of Verification is seemingly high, the services we provide as part of Verification also come with significant costs. Our goal is to significantly lower the price of Verification so that is more accessible for more of the community. Couchsurfing members who purchased Verification prior to these changes will not need to contribute for one year beginning May 14, 2020. No action is needed to receive this benefit.
- We will continue to evolve the Couchsurfing website and mobile applications. This includes better messaging and notifications, a virtually bug-free experience, maps, showcasing the Couchsurfing community, and enabling Couchsurfing to support other organizations that share the same values and mission as Couchsurfing.
If you believe that the world is a better place with Couchsurfing, we are asking for your support. Every member of Couchsurfing believes in something greater than money, possessions, and status. It took over 14 years for the Couchsurfing community to come together. Without your immediate help, this community will be lost forever.
If you know of anyone who wants to promote and uphold the Couchsurfing ideals, we ask that you speak with them about Couchsurfing and to encourage them to join Couchsurfing and participate in the Couchsurfing community.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact Couchsurfing Support via firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for the opportunity to support you and the Couchsurfing community.
The Couchsurfing Team