Hospitality Club Local Volunteer Handbook
12 April 2010
please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
• 1 Introduction
• 2 The Hospitality Club
• 2.1 History
• 2.2 Vision
• 2.3 The Hospitality Club Member - Lifecycle
• 2.4 The Local Hospitality Club Community - Lifecycle
• 2.5 The Hospitality Club's Volunteer Structure
• 2.6 Insider Information about the Hospitality Club
• 1 Visiting
• 1.1 How to find a host
• 1.2 How to be a good guest
• 2 Hosting
• 2.1 How to be a good host
• 2.2 How to get more guests
• 3 Comments
• 4 How to avoid negative HC experiences
• 5 Geography
• 5.1 The HC "Country" List
• 5.2 The HC Map
• 6 Spam-check
• 7 Account issues
• 8 HC Slang
• 9 Frequently Asked Questions
• 3 The Local Volunteer
• 1 Raison d’être
• 2 Requirements
• 3 Responsibilities
• 3.1 Know your Local HC Community
• 3.2 Know the other Local Volunteers
• 3.3 Know the HC page
• 3.4 Be an example
• 3.5 Be there to help
• 4 NoNos for Local Volunteers
• 5 Quitting
• 6 Technicalities
• 7 Region, Country Volunteers and the Global LV Support Team
• 4 Local Volunteer Activities
• 1 Community building
• 1.1 Welcoming new members
• 1.2 Enhancing security
• 1.3 HC Meetings
• 1.3.1 How to organize a HC meeting
• 1.3.2 How to invite for a HC meeting
• 1.3.3 Regular meetings
• 1.3.4 Cooperating with other organizations
• 1.4 Mailinglists
• 1.5 Phone list
• 1.6 Facilitating intercultural learning
• 1.7 Serving as a contact person
• 2 Enhancing the Club (Share, Improve, Educate, Promote)
• 2.1 Educate members
• 2.2 How to use HC in... - A country-specific introduction to travelling with HC
• 2.3 Sharing information
• 2.4 HC Promotion
• 2.5 Media work
• 2.6 Global HC Work
• 3 Potpourri* of more ideas
• 5 Resources for Local Volunteers
• 1 Volunteer Forum
• 2 Volunteer Wiki
• 3 HC Members and Volunteers
• 4 LV Newsletters Archive
• 5 Local Mailing Lists
• 6 Special Thanks
Welcome to the huge family of Hospitality Club Volunteers! This Handbook shall guide, inspire and help you in your
efforts as a Local Volunteer for the Hospitality Club. It shall accompany you in your quest to make your local
Hospitality Club Community prosper and flourish and in helping to make this earth a friendly and hospitable place. It
has been developed by Kjell (HC:kjell), drawing on his experience with supporting Local Volunteers for the
Hospitality Club and using the input of texts and ideas of many dedicated HC Volunteers. It is thought for HC Local
Volunteers on City, Regional and National Level.
The Handbook comes in three parts. The first part gives some background information about the Hospitality Club. In
the eyes of the other members and even more so the non-members, you are the experts on the Hospitality Club, so
knowing a little bit more about it doesn't hurt.
The second part gives detailed descriptions for most tasks for Local Volunteers with many hints and tips. It tells you
the dos and don'ts of the job plus a list of suggested activities. There are several areas where Local Volunteers
should and many more where you can be active.
The third part is basically a resource guide: here you will find the different resources and tools that are at your
service in helping you do your job, improving it and taking on new challenges.
If you have any questions, please get in touch with your fellow Local Volunteers who may have more experience, or
simply send an email to email@example.com.
2. The Hospitality Club
The Hospitality Club's URLs are registered on Veit's name (HC: veit) and he is also the one who is having the
contract with the server company. There is a legal team which is working on setting up a different legal structure for
the Hospitality Club, which is expected to take a while. If you have legal or similar background and would like to
advise, please get in touch with Veit. Since there is no membership fee, and there will never be one, the Google ads
on the page are the ones generating the revenue to keep the site and pay the servers. All the work being done is
voluntary and does not involve any money.
You can read a brief history of HC here: http://www.hospitalityclub.org/hospitalityclub/about.htm
Imagine a network of millions of people of all cultures of the World, bound together by friendship and the values of
hospitality and peace. Interacting and caring about the issues that happen in the life and in the country of their
friends. Leaving no place for intolerance and aggression.
The Hospitality Club is, foremost, a peace project. Horizons broaden if people have contacts and friends in different
countries and cultures. The broader they become, the less likely large-scale conflicts are to happen in our networked
Through hospitality exchange, we want to let as many people on this planet as possible get such contacts. Humans
always traveled and always will, but we will channel this activity towards personal exchanges. If we allow and
encourage millions of people to travel “the hospitality exchange way”, we will make a difference.
For this mass scale hospitality exchange to be possible, it has to be:
Easy. – The Internet has given us an opportunity that never existed in history. We can reach every person on this
planet in an efficient, easy way. Until the net has penetrated every place on this planet, we will find ways to integrate
people without Internet. We will always strive to make it easier to use hospitality exchange: usability, localisation,
reduction of communication overhead, use of new technologies, and barriers to “try it out” are some of the key
Safe. – We are bringing people in direct contact in the real world, and human nature has its dark sides. There is an
underlying risk, albeit small, to hospitality exchange. We will always strive to make hospitality exchange safer, by
applying our current security systems and developing new ones.
Fun. – Getting new friends and contacts is always an enriching personal experience. Many people join hospitality
exchange or become fascinated with it, because it is fun. We will never drive away anyone who does not share our
philosophy of peace, but simply uses our network for fun or money savings. This applies to members and to
On an organisational level, the Hospitality Club focuses on three points:
Growth. – To enable personal exchanges for as many people as possible, we have to reach as many people as
possible. The conflict of quantity vs. quality does not exist: we do not rate people by their “quality” or “usefulness for
our network”, we want to reach everyone on this planet in some way or another. A so-called “low quality” member
who never logs into the site, meets a traveler from another country for a beer once in 5 years, and then votes for a
anti-war party in his country because of this experience is an invaluable member to us. There is only one limit to
growth: members who threaten our principles of safety and fun have to be stopped before they can damage our
Sustainability. – The HC is a long term project. We'll still be around in 50 years. This means using all resources
carefully. As of volunteers and members, let everyone bring into the network as much energy or as little as they wish,
as is possible for them. Never ask too much of people. As of finances, keep costs low while developing new streams
Continuous improvement. – We always try to make HC easier, safer and more fun. This is where quality comes in.
We want to be the best hospitality exchange network, ever. We continuously improve the site, question and improve
our routines, recruit new volunteers. We are never complacent with what we have reached.
Together we will make the world a better place. We will reach out to other projects that make a difference. We
believe that it is possible to bring out the best in people through positive experiences.
2.3. The Hospitality Club Member - Lifecycle
In order to have a general framework for working with HC members, I would like to start by describing
the "lifecycle" of an HC member from the first moment he or she hears about HC to the moment when he or she
leaves the Club which is less likely, or in a different scenario to the end of his or her life, which eventually comes for
all of us, so we need to be prepared as well. Of course there are many different courses a member can take. This
section hopefully helps to understand those courses and gives you an idea of where you want to lead your
The first time someone hears about HC is sometimes a big "Aha!" experience. Some people - especially those
that end up being the most active users - immediately love the idea and want to take part. Some are very sceptical
and need a lot of arguments to decide to try it out. Some arguments you can use are: - you get to know very
openminded and openhearted people that you wouldn't meet otherwise - you can get a deeper understanding of the
culture and the place you are visiting - you save money
After knowing about HC and being convinced to give it a try or becoming part of it, one has to find it on the
internet. This will be facilitated if you offer to write down the address for people who are interested on a sheet of
paper, plus your effort will create a slight obligation with the other person to check it out.
Signing up is also a hurdle for some. Even though the essential data which are full name, full address, user name,
email and password are very few, a considerable percentage of our users fails to give full name and full address at
the first attempt. The welcome mail has to find its way into the inbox of the member and not get stuck in the spam
filter, so that the member can finally join the Club actively. If it does get stuck in the spamfilter the profile is very likely
to stay abandoned. If somebody has never logged in that is easy to recognize: the "last login" field in his/her profile
Immediately when the member receives the welcome mail in some cases, in others when the first trip is planned, in
others when the first hosting request comes in, the new member willtake a look around the site. This usually
involves clicking through some profiles - and sending some dating spam by some eager males - and discovering one
or another of the functions of the site. Discovering the full potential of the HC site and its database can be greatly
facilitated by us Local Volunteers, when we take the time to explain the different features of the site to new
members. In Indonesia, our Volunteers have created a wiki with several presentations for that purpose. (see for
The more visual types sometimes get turned off by the rather functional layout of the page without big visual
gimmicks. Those will most likely turn to couchsurfing and find that page much better. Those who care about the
ideas and principles beyond the surface will most likely stay and use HC. As Antoine de Saint Exupéry said "It is only
with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye." ;)
After browsing around, some members forget about HC again. If no need to use it on trips arises and they don't
get any messages, they simply stop thinking about it and will stay silent within the local as well as the global
community. This is of course not a problem for Local Volunteers, it rather constitutes a challenge. Since every
member is in principle interested in the opportunities of HC and most likely openminded and open to intercultural
exchange, most of them will respond positively to an LVs friendly approach to help them achieve what was initially
promised and made them get onboard. So there is no need to feel shy about getting in touch with "sleeping
members" and offering them help or inviting them to some activity.
Some members already write a whole novel about themselves at signup, but most don't. By looking at his/her own
rather empty profile, sometimes through a recommendation by the Local Volunteer, or sometimes even by a reply to
a HC message that points him/her to the lack of information, the new member discovers the need to fill their
profile with information and make it inviting. Of course it is very helpful to have a Local Volunteer who gives a
shining example of what a friendly and inviting HC profile can look like!
Quite a few members have forgotten either their username or their password, or both at some point in time. Because
you need to know both your username and the email address you used at signup in order to send yourself a new
password, members who forgot both their HC nick and password need help. Please offer them to find them on the
page and either tell them their HC nick or simply send them a message through HC, because that way they will get
both their username and they will see at which email account the message arrives.
The first HC experience is an important one. There are many expectations, hopes, fears, things the new member is
unsure about. What is most likely is that the other person he/she meets/hosts/stays with is very friendly and things
start to take a very concrete and pleasant shape. When dealing with new members, prime them for a rewarding
interaction with their first HC friends by giving them practical tips such as "think about what to contribute to your
host", "offer help", "write a comment about them",...., but also responding to their worries or fears "meet them in town
first before going to your house", "first pick people with a full profile and lots of positive comments",.....
Most HC members just keep having more and more positive HC experiences, but the potential for rather negative
encounters exists as well. Please read the section on risk management to learn how most of them can be avoided. If
a member has a bad experience, support and advice from his Local Volunteer can greatly improve his/her chances
to get over it and deal with it in a positive way, learning a lesson and regarding it as valuable. E.g. you may need to
learn that sometimes saying no is better than exposing yourself to the exploitation of freeloaders. Or you may need
to get a negative comment in order to realize that you should not fool around with your hosts' time and let them know
when your plans change and cannot visit them any more.
Some members need a few negative experiences or negative comments in order to learn that their attitude to HC is
not quite right. Of course living something is always much more impressive than being told, but when it comes to
negative experiences, a warning from the Local Volunteer may help the member to be much more alert and pull the
emergency brake before it is too late. Those members who consistently cause problems with their HC friends should
not be pitied for receiving bad comments: either they change or they leave.
Quite a few HC members get addicted and want more and more HC experiences. They are the ones who travel
thousands of kilometers to join a HC camp. The addiction tends to be psychological and no physical harm is
Getting overwhelmed is a road that some HC members go down. They start out hosting and receiving many
people, sometimes too many. They get so used to saying yes that they wouldn't want to refuse any request, even if
the person is not very friendly and doesn't care about his/her host: a freeloader. After a while they burn out. They
have given too much and when they realize, it is already too late. They may even have problems with their
family/work/landlord because of too many HC guests. Pulling the emergency brake often comes in the form of no
more hosting and some members that feel especially abused of or burnt out even decide to leave the Club. So one
more challenge for us Local Volunteers: recognizing the early stages of this process and helping these members to
modify their approach before they crash.
There are many more things to be said and learnt about how to make the best use of HC in all kinds of different
situations. We try to cover the most frequent ones in this Handbook, but as a rule you should always keep an open
mindset and continue learning new tricks and fine-tuning your ideas about how to use HC best. This is what smart
members do. ;)
At some point of their HC "career", quite a few members offer help as a Volunteer. Volunteering with HC can be a
very gratifying experience when your expectations are close to the possibilities and you pick tasks that challenge
you and help you to grow personally. There is a very wide variety of possible ways to volunteer with HC, ranging
from adding a signature to your emails or putting up a piece of paper on a blackboard, encouraging TV reports about
HC, welcoming new members, checking messages for spam and comments for insulting language, programming
new features for the site to becoming a Country Volunteer and organizing big HC camps or training your fellow
checkhttp://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/submit.php?template=helpus and http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/volunt
eerinfo.php for two more complete lists with descriptions and contact persons.
You can facilitate the process of a member getting into HC volunteering by recommending tasks that would be
gratifying for the member, encouraging them to take up new challenges and supporting them with any questions or
worries they have.
Making lifetime friends is a possibility in HC, even finding a partner has been reported, with some "HC babies"
already growing up around the world. This is one of the highest goals of HC, because we are convinced that lifetime
friends will not permit their countries to get involved in armed conflict with each other. We believe that creating a
network of friendship ties between all the peoples of the world will help us find the way to peaceful coexistence in the
"global village" in the future.
Important life changes, such as getting married, children being born, a new job, moving houses, etc. sometimes
interfere with the ability to host or participate in HC at all. Even though there is nothing to say against a remark in
your profile, announcing "we are going to be parents soon and will not be able to host guests for an unspecified
period of time", some people may want to disappear completely from the listing.
Finally, all of us die some day. If you come across a dead member, please send a message to
firstname.lastname@example.org explaining the situation, so the profile can be de-activated. This is the end of the HC
member's lifecycle. Some people decide to leave the Club because of some unpleasant experience, but fortunately
that is rather rare. If some day they regret their decision, they can come back on board, with their former user name.
2.4. The Local Hospitality Club Community - Lifecycle
Hospitality is alive and happening in most places on Earth, even without the Hospitality Club. It is a longstanding
human tradition. With HC, we simply give a new channel to that tradition and try to intensify and amplify it. We want
to make it easier for everyone to be hospitable. And we want to make it obvious for everyone that this is a shared
human value that can and should be put to use for its full benefit for humankind.
A Local HC Community is born the day the first member signs up. Through this, a world of possibilities opens up for
him or her and his or her community. The first few members have some sense of pioneering, which is good. To be
the only one, or one of the few brave people that champion hospitality in your city or village is an empowering
feeling. They are setting foot on new land and are often among those that master new information technologies first.
In any case they have an open spirit and are interested in interacting with the world.
If the new member is excited, he will tell others about it. As long as no guest has come and no journey undertaken,
the online means of interaction on the HC site such as the Forum and the Chat can keep the spirits high. Of course,
having guests and coming back from a trip with successful HC use will be the main driving force for a growth in HC
membership. Those who live in a small place that never sees a tourist could join the "Want more guests" group or
post an open invitation in the forum to lead willing HC guests their way and accelerate this process that might take
decades or even never happen, if left to itself.
So usually, with time and depending on the activity and enthusiasm of the "pioneers" there are more and more
members. As they gather experience in HC, the potential of the Local HC Community in terms of know-how grows.
This can and should be used for facilitating and accelerating the learning process of the new members. For this, you
usually need a facilitator.
So at some point in this growth process, this facilitator shows up: somebody decides to apply for becoming a Local
Volunteer! Hooray! So now, the challenge faced by our friend, the Local Volunteer is "How to activate the Local HC
Community?" The starting point is usually getting to know the profiles of the local members. The next step tends to
be organizing a local meeting to get to know each other. Depending on the success of the first few meetings, it
sometimes gets institutionalized. Regular meetings - depending on the size of the community from once a year to
once a week - are a great way to keep in touch and integrate newbies. In many cities a mailing list has proven to
facilitate local activities but also the forwarding and "sharing" of guests. Once there is a number of active HC
members who know each other and are in touch regularly, we call it an Active Local HC Community. You don't really
need an active HC Community for HC to fulfil its purpose of bringing people together, but it is so much more fun and
dynamic. There are many things to gain from an Active Local Community, you shouldn't miss out on it!
There are many many things you can do in a Local HC Community. Basically anything fun! For suggestions, please
refer to the section on possible LV activities.
It is difficult to tell when a Local HC Community ends. Sometimes there is a central person in a Community and
when he or she leaves or stops, the activity may slow or even die down. But as long as there are members, a
Community is never really dead. Another situtaion to virtually stop HC activity could be a heavy crisis, war or natural
disaster. But still, every once in a while some people would visit different cities or countries and some people would
be willing to help and host. So that wouldn't kill a HC Community, just hinder its blooming. The only scenario I can
think of right now would be that the Hospitality Club was superseded by something better, so you don't need HC for
facilitating hospitality exchange any more. But of course it depends on the HC Volunteers to work and improve it to
make sure HC is always as good as possible and provides something unique to its members.
2.5. The Hospitality Club's Volunteer Structure
The Hospitality Club is entirely run by volunteers. There are two main categories of volunteers: Local Volunteers who
look after the Local HC Communities (the real-life part) and members of global HC Teams that look after the HC
internet site (the virtual part). The structure of the Local Volunteers will be described in detail in the following section.
The main Global HC Teams at the moment are:
• Address Updates
• Comment Quality
• Email Answering
• Forum Moderators
• Server Administration
• Spam Checking
There are a few more teams, managing the tracker, the volunteer wiki, the volunteer forum, rights administration,
ambassadors etc. An up-to-date list can be found here:http://volunteerwiki.hospitalityclub.org/#teams_and_projects
On top of these teams, there is a group called "Very Active Volunteers" (VAV), this group consists of the team
coordinators of the different teams and of Veit (HC: veit), the founder and central person in the HC volunteer
structure. Together they decide on anything they feel needs to be decided.
In HC, actually there is a lot of activity going on that is organized by members who are not formally part of this
volunteer structure, such as meetings, camps etc! On the other hand, emails offering help or suggesting innovations
to make the Club better often get no answer, much less a timely one. This is very unfortunate and explained - but not
excused - by the voluntary nature of everybody's involvement with the Club.
• I am trying to develop a "Structure chart", but haven't managed to make it nicely, if you would like to give it a
try, please go ahead!
2.6. Insider Info about the Club
How to find a host
The first basic questions about approaching your future hosts are “Who?” and “How?”. The standard way is to locate
the city, province or country you want to visit through the geographical structure or the search function of the site
(see: http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:PRDjA0A8tdsJ:wiki.silaturahmi.org/Host-Search) and then browse the
members profiles until you find somebody suitable and write them a message through the on-site message system.
The question “who” often translates into “how many” members to contact. It is quite common practice to send copy-
paste mass mails to a rather large number of members, in order to make sure that a someone will respond. This
numbers strategy may work at times, but is not to prefer. There are other ways to maximize response rates.
First, look for members who are actually willing to host. Sorting the results list (in the search) or the members list
(in a city, region or country page) by accommodation will give you those members who are definitely offering
accommodation on top of the list. If you would like to ask for accommodation, looking for people who say “yes” in the
respective field should be your priority. If you are not fixed on a certain place, you can have a look in the “want more
guests” group and go visiting its members.
Second, figure out whether a profile/member is actually active. One important indicator is the number of
comments. Another one is the time of the last login (if nothing appears in the field, that means that the member has
never logged into the site after being accepted!). Both are possible sorting criteria for the lists. The same applies to
new members. You can sort the list that way, having newest members shown first. New members are generally
“fresh” in their enthusiasm for the Club and are more likely to respond than people who have joined the Club a
longer time ago.
Third, be as personal as possible. Look for something interesting in your potential host's profile and mention it in
your message. Say something about yourself (make sure you have information and a photo on your own profile!) in
your message. If you are a member of a group, check whether there are others at your destination (the group listing
can be filtered by country). Especially in high-demand destination (Amsterdam, Paris, New York,....) you should
make sure that you are speaking directly to the person you would like to host you. In those places people get
swamped with messages and can be hosting every day, if they want. In such circumstances simple copy-paste
messages without any further information about the sender (nor about why he picked this particular host) usually get
Maybe the most important part is to manage your expectations! From busy times with little opportunity to check
mail to forgotten passwords, there are many reasons why someone may not be responding. So don't expect
everyone to reply, even if your mail is very friendly and personal.
Oh, and always include your email address (the little checkbox at the bottom of the message form), so the other
person can easily respond directly from their email account.
Some more hints: in places with a big number of members, use the advanced search to search for hobbies, travel
plans or past travels, languages spoken, interesting professions, etc. that may be ineresting for you and your
prospective host to share or to talk about. Especially in big cities this makes a lot of sense, because that way you will
get in touch with people who are not on top of either of the lists (newest members, most comments, accommodation
“yes”) and may get very few requests.
If you are running late with your search for a host, a last-minute option is to search for those who have phone
numbers in their profile, sort them by “accommodation” and then go through them for those that say “can call on
arrival”. You can either call them, or send them a text message (which is less intrusive and preferable in countries
where the person receiving the call has to pay, too).
It makes sense to read the comments, not just look at the number of comments. If there has been any negative
experience before, it may show there or there may be further information about the person that is not mentioned in
the profile (sometimes the name of the person is hidden in the profile, but in the comments you can find it).
• Forum thread What is the best way to get positive replies with regards to accomodation?
• Forum thread Suggestions for Successful Hosting/Guesting
• CS: Finding and Requesting a Couch
How to be a good guest
A good guest is a person who cheers up your day, shares interesting stories or human warmth, is polite and helpful,
knows when to look after himself and when to join you in meals or activities and leaves a friendly comment soon
after or even before getting back home. The biggest skill for being a good guest is being able to put yourself in the
shoes of your host and make sure he enjoys the experience. That your host must enjoy the experience is a basic
rule. Else he will stop hosting in the long run or even immediately, depending on how unpleasant an experience is or
how much trouble (with family, flatmates, landlords) it gets him into. This basic rule of hospitality exchange (not only
in the Hospitality Club) explains, why “travelling only” works just as well as “hosting only” in our network: in every
single exchange both sides gain. So, please make sure all of your hosts do and if you sense one might not be
enjoying it, offer to leave. Being able to do so without further ado is also a characteristic of a good guest – he doesn't
rely too much on his host.
The following Couchsurfing pages give some valuable hints:
• Tips for Surfing
• How to be a good guest
How to be a good host
A good host makes his guests feel comfortable or even at home in his house, explains things and helps to
understand the culture of their country/region, talks to his guests, invites them to his activities or plans extra activities
with his guests whenever possible. He also knows his limits, states rules clearly and knows when to say yes and
when to say no to a hosting request. Part of it is to have a complete profile with comments, so as to make the future
guest confident about contacting you. If you prefer not to receive copy-paste mails, you can use any field except the
“profile summary” (which is shown on the city page) to ask people to include a special word in the subject of their
email so you will know who actually read your profile and concentrate on those messages. Generally, putting
yourself in the shoes of your guest can help you to be a good host.
The following pages from CS help, too:
• Tips for Hosting
• How to be a good host
How to get more guests
Set the accommodation option in your profile on "yes" if you can host
(http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:http://wiki.silaturahmi.org/Host_Availabilities) and klick the “can call on
arrival” checkbox if you would like to host even last-minute. Add phone numbers and messengers to your profile, so
prospective guests can contact you by whatever method they find most convenient. When accepting last-minute
requests, you can always check later on "See who has visited your profile" which HC profile a real-life interaction
corresponds to. Join the group “Want more guests”
(http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/listgroup.php?Group=Wantmoreguests). Be visible by logging in and be online
whenever possible. Many travelers need a quick response on their trip, and one way to look for accommodation is to
mail the people who are online (visible in the box on the left), this way they can reply back immediately. The more
you're online, the better your chance to jump into the eye of your future guest. You can identify people who want to
visit your country/city through the search in the field “Planned trips”: http://wiki.silaturahmi.org/Guest-
Request (broken link!, alternative: Go to http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/search.php, choose "Planned Trip" in
the search Box, type your country on the "Value" box next to it, click "Search" button. You can then send them an
email inviting them. Please mention their travel plan so they know how comes that they get this invitation and our
spam check volunteers have a little bit less work. Treat your guests well and make sure they write you a comment.
You can simply ask them, or – the more polite version – write them a comment yourself. This usually works to
The comment system is an essential element in the security architecture of the site. In the worst case, they serve to
warn other members about a certain member or some of the aspects of his hospitality (“negative comments”). But
even more than that, the mechanism has the function of encouraging our members to act in a respectful way. -
Because they don't want to get a negative comment to contaminate their image/profile. But 98% of all comments are
positive anyways and simply reinforce the spirit and reflect and multiply the good vibes in HC.
A little overview of the comment feature (with
screenshots): http://wiki.silaturahmi.org/Halaman_HospitalityClub (broken link!)
Why comments are important Because most of us are opening our houses to (or entering the houses of) complete
strangers, comments are very important to build trust beforehand. New members will usually have greater difficulty
finding hosts, as long as they don't have any comments. Therefore we Local Volunteers should make an effort to
integrate people into the community by meeting and comment-writing, so others loose their fear.
Comments can not be changed by the sender after they got written because we believe that with unchangable
comments we increase the trust in them. It's a security and integrity question - we avoid that after writing a non-trust
comment the sender gets pushed by the receipent to change or remove this comment again. We encourage the
members to take care when writing a comment and usually receive well written high quality comments. If you made
a mistake with one of your comments, feel that you are being treated unfairly or encounter any other kind of problem
there is a Volunteer Team called the “Comment Quality Team” who takes care of such a request. They can edit and
remove comments on request, following their guidelines. You can contact the team via the feedback feature on the
page (Category “changing a comment”) or via email@example.com.
Why negative comments are important The negative comment has two adressees: the member who gets the
comment on his profile and other members who will be dealing with this member in the future. Both profit from the
comment, when it meets the criteria for a “fair negative comment”. Negative comments that get stuck in the pipeline
(i.e. do not get written) are in fact a danger for the community and a missed chance of personal development for the
person in question.
A fair negative comment 1) is facts based - no insults or lies, 2) describes the writer's perception of things 3) treats
the other person with respect.
A member that gets a negative comment has three options to react: 1) He/she learns from the experience and
becomes more careful in the future. 2) He/she doesn't care, goes on the same way and will eventually get more
negative comments, resulting in future hosts and guests becoming wary and affecting his/her prospects to use our
network. 3) He/she is so ashame about it that he/she leaves the Club.
Number 1) is the most desirable – and I would say the most common – outcome. Take this together with the before
mentioned deterrent potential of the possibility of getting a negative comment and you are getting an idea of the
importance of negative comments.
Many members with regrettable experiences are reluctant to write a negative comment, mostly in fear of retaliation
by the other member who would get the negative comment. This is good logic (tit-for-tat), but in HC “lies have short
legs” as we say in Germany, so they should not fear.
In the occasion of “retaliatory comments” three possible scenarios: 1) The comment is written in a respectful form,
abiding by the described rules of a fair negative comment. In that case, the problem will most likely turn out as a
misunderstanding, often of intercultural nature. 2) The comment is telling obvious lies or uses insulting language. In
this case the Comment Quality Team will remove the commentary. 3) The comment is clearly negative, but no insults
or obvious lies are present. In that case the Comment Quality Volunteers have no other option than to leave it there.
In this case, the preferable solution is to write a “self-comment”. Everyone has the possibility to write a comment on
his/her own profile. In the case of a negative comment this is often helpful to explain the situation from one's own
point of view. An attentive reader will always appreciate the difference in tone and it is normal to give more credibility
to the person that maintains a respectful attitude.
The above mentioned benefits of negative comments for the badly-behaving member and for the community in
general should outweigh the risks associated with retaliatory comments. As Local Volunteers our job is to encourage
members who had negative experiences to write the according comments, and besides explaining the benefits and
the rules for a “fair negative comment”, we can offer to help with writing the comment or giving feedback on a draft. If
it is not just a misunderstanding or unfortunate personality differences, but rather a real abuse case, please send an
email to firstname.lastname@example.org, explaining the situation.
How to avoid negative HC experiences
Smarter than writing comments after shit has happened, is to avoid negative experiences altogether. This can be
achieved by “risk management”. It is important for us as Local Volunteers, but also for the members to know that
the likelihood of having a negative experience depends on how much we expose ourselves. The impact of the
negative experience depends on how we react. So every member is in a position to eliminate the possibility for
The following measures are like defense shields that we may choose to hold up at all times, or take down if we are
confident about our capability to react in case something goes wrong.
• 1) Spamfilter on/off - If you turn it off, offensive or misleading mail may get throug, but in any case you are
encouraged to report any spam or even post a comment in the sender's profile mentioning the message he
or she sent.
• 2) Meeting people without comments/information on their profile - If you feel vulnerable you should opt to
reply that you feel unsure, because they have no info on their profile and/or no comments.
• 3) Inviting people who send impersonal/copy-paste messages - If someone took the time to read your profile
and has found something interesting about you he or she is more likely to be a good guest than someone
who sent the same message to fifty random people. Freeloader behaviour is much less likely in people who
write personal messages and it is in your hand to use this difference for choosing who to host and who not.
(I personally respond to copy-paste messages that ask me for accommodation that we can meet up in town
if they are interested. Many of them don't get back to that offer. But the friendlier members do!)
• 4) Checking the passport - This is an official HC rule. If you choose to disregard it, you are increasing your
• 5) Leaving valuable stuff in reach, letting guests alone in your house, giving them keys - Those are things
that mark a big trust between you and your guests and at the same time constitute a risk. You decide how
far you go.
Types of negative experiences:
• 1) Misunderstandings
• 2) Freeloading (giving too much, not seeing any appreciation)
• 3) Amorous/sexual mishaps - Sometimes there are already some indicators that members are looking for
sex. Males stating "guest should be female" are generally under suspicion even though exceptions are
possible. When someone writes in his profile "I only have one bed, you will have to share it with me" or
"Hobbies: sexy massage" be prepared! If you sense something strange or uncomfortable about your host or
guest in this respect, go for security and make sure not to send any ambiguous messages that could be
interpreted both ways.
This is not to say that love and sex are forbidden in HC, but treating the other person with respect is the supreme
rule that every member has to follow. Once this is granted, anything can happen....HC friends have fallen in love and
there are even a few "HC babies" resulting from couples who met through HC. Please use common sense.
• 4) Annoying messages/spam - very easy to deal with: simply turn on the spamfilter. For those with more
patience and dedication to the Club, please use the opportunity to educate spamming members. Remind
them of the purpose of HC and the spam rules and ask them to stick to them. In heavy cases, please post a
comment in the member's profile.
• 5) Outright abuse. This should always be forwarded to email@example.com. Usually this will lead to
the exclusion of the member. This will be determined in the Abuse Team.
For the Global HC Community, writing negative comments is an important part of the overall risk management. The
faster one gets feedback for ones actions that hurt someone else, the faster one can correct them. This applies for
the case of members who are acting in good faith and are open to improve. In the case of abusers who knowingly
exploit the goodwill of others, the faster they get a negative comment, the faster other members are advised to be
careful about them. And for the in-betweens, who don't do it on purpose, but don't care too much about their
hosts/guests either, the comments will push them to decide either to clean up their act or abandon the Club. In any
case the negative comments make for an important contribution to the overall security and positive spirit in out
Other hints from Couchsurfing:
• How to read a profile
• Tips for Solo Travellers
• Safety for "Surfers"
• Safety for Hosts
Our geographical database started very small and every time a member gave a new city or region at sign up, this
city or region was created in the database. So the database kept learning new places all the time. This will still be
the case for quite a while. Eventually we want to integrate it with some good online atlas that covers the whole world,
but that might take some time. In the meantime, some places have gotten quite messy. There are cities with several
names, different languages, spelling mistakes, wrong regions, etc. For cleaning this up, and keeping the database
tidy and easy to navigate, we need your help! If you see geographical errors in your region or country and feel
confident that you could clean them out, please get in touch with Patrick (HC: maplefanta), our "Geography
Coordinator" so he can explain you how to use the tool and you can start working. We are aiming to have at least
one person responsible for each country.
The HC "Country" List
Contrary to popular belief, the “List of countries and territories” used by the Hospitality Club to classify members
according to where they live is not exactly a list of countries. Many territories, even though they are sometimes
referred to as “countries” for convenience, are not independent states and are listed simply because we thought it
would make life easier for travellers if they appeared separately. This explains why the Club claims to have members
in “213 countries and territories” whereas the United Nations themselves count only 192 countries. As of 2007, the
Hospitality Club knows of a total 268 countries and territories. Here are the guidelines we use to determine which
territories should be listed apart from the actual state they may be a part of. a) First, we obviously include in our list
the 192 countries that are members of the United Nations, plus the Holy See which, even though it isn't a member of
the UN, is recognised as an independent country by the UN. b) Second, we include the territories geographically
separated from the country they are a part of as a separate entry in the “List of countries and territories”, if they have
a permanent population. For instance, the oversea territories of France such as New-Caledonia are separated from
France, and Greenland is separated from Denmark. This is for the convenience of travellers, since it is unlikely most
people visiting France on a trip will, for instance, be intending to visit New Caledonia on the same trip. In that regard,
it wouldn't make much sense to include New Caledonia as a region in France even though this is what it politically is.
c) Lastly, we include in the list as separate entries those territories which, while they are not widely recognised as
independent states, have in fact established a sovereign government which enforce distinct border regulations. A
usual standard of reference for this criteria is that whenever one would require a different visa to visit two areas, it is
more practical for travellers to have those listed separately. For instance, a visa for Georgia is not valid for entrance
in Abkhazia, and reciprocally, so Georgia and Abkhazia are listed separately. It is not within the scope of an
organisation like the Hospitality Club to recognise the sovereignty of any state. The Hospitality Club is apolitical – its
only bias is to be in favour of peace – and whether or not it chooses to include a given territory in its list is not based
on any political opinions or bias. At times, the Club has chosen to add new territories to its list. This is always made
with nothing but convenience for the travellers in mind. For instance, the latest addition on the list as of 2007 was
that of the Serbian province of Kosovo. This does not reflect the opinion of the Club or anyone within the Club about
what the status of Kosovo is or should be; rather it is the result of an objective observation that travel formalities to
the UNMIK-administered province are indeed different than to the rest of Serbia, which means that travellers to
Serbia and Kosovo have to take distinct arrangements.
The HC Map
The map in its current stage may seem like a little gimmick to play around, but there are actually quite useful things
that can be done with it. You can add the exact location of your house on the map and that way help prospective
guests find your house. In order to put your house into the HC map, please go to Google Maps (maps.google.com),
find your house, right-click on it, choose "route from here" and copy the coordinates that appear. Then go to the HC
site, click "edit my profile" and add the coordinates. You can now point your guests to the "on the map" link on top of
your profile which will lead them to the HC map with your exact location. Please add a note in your profile
mentioning this or explicitly tell your guests to click on that link, else it is rather unlikely they will find it by chance.
Another way to use the map function is to look for hosts that are close to crowded places but do not get much
“traffick”, because noone knows the name of their city or village. Put the name of the bigger city in the field “Search
and Radius” and then choose the distance that you find reasonable (10, 25, 50 or more kilometers or miles) and
click “go”. You will then see all the places and members that are within this radius from the main city and can visit
people close to the center who never get guests.
We are currently applying a zero-spam policy in the Club. This means that our goal is that no message that would be
considered spam ever reaches a HC member through the site unless he or she knowingly turned the spam filter off.
A team of spam-check volunteers is currently checking (i.e. reading) every single message to make sure that it is not
spam. It seems that many people are not aware of this. At the same time many people would like to have their
messages faster than after 3-4 days. This is very easy: you can simply turn off the spam check (in "My
preferences" http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/preferences.php). That way, our spam checkers have less work and
your messages arrive a lot faster.
The following reasons induced us to adopt this policy: 1) Not to lose new members. We have heard many stories of
people that signed up into other accommodation exchange websites and had the bad luck of receiving spam as their
first message. More often than not they immediately had their profile deleted. Many new members don't have full
confidence yet in online hospitality exchange, and receiving spam messages right after they sign up is for sure a
serious deterrant to those. They are likely not to be willing to push their hospitality experience any further and just
quit. This is why spam filtering is on by default. 2) For the convenience of experimented members. Some don't mind
receiving some spam in their mailbox and have got used to simply ignoring or deleting it. But to others this has
remained a great annoyance, and they would much rather have automatic or human spam filtering made for them
and have only relevant emails forwarded to them. This is why members have the choice of whether they want their
messages filtered. 3) For the reputation of our mail servers. Since messages are forwarded to members by email, it
is of the outmost importance that spam be blocked before being forwarded. Indeed, if Internet servers relaying
emails get the impression that messages coming from HC servers contain spam, they will start blocking all of them
indiscriminately. This could mean after some time that some members wouldn't be able to receive any message sent
through HC. 4) Abusers are detected and eliminated from the network very quickly.
Because there is no automatic system that can do it, we have to rely on volunteers to perform this spam check. We
are constantly looking for new spam-checking volunteers. The challenge for us is to identify persons whom we can
totally trust, since reading other people's messages is a very sensitive task, fit only for very trustworthy and
responsible people. So if you are interested in helping with this, the way to go is to get involved with HC by doing
other tasks, meeting people, showing yourself to be trustworthy and then take on this responsability. The person who
coordinates the spam-checkers is ??? (HC: ).
Even though spam can be very annoying, fortunately there is a very fundamental difference between spam in the
internet in general and spam in the HC. Within HC it is not possible to send anonymous messages. So every spam
message has an individual person as a sender. And this person has a profile, and this person can get a negative
comment when he abuses the Club. We are a community of friendly people and if somebody shows a lack of respect
for others by sending spam, we should friendly remind him, that this is not wanted in our community. The spam
message should also be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org. The most frequent cases are looking for an
apartment, a visa, a partner and for accommodation for somebody who is not a HC member.
The main disadvantages to spam filtering are the delay of the messages, the time and energy of volunteers that it
“consumes” and the possibility of a wrong decision or borderline cases that create problems. Depending on how
strict the setting you selected in your preferences are, there will be a delay as some of the messages have to wait on
our server to get reviewed by a human volunteer. If you have spam filtering on, depending on your settings, this may
affect from as little as 5% of your messages up to as much as 75%, and while it normally takes up to a few hours
before messages are reviewed and forwarded, the delays can sometimes be longer in high seasons (up to a few
days). Of course, you can always read the messages in your HC mailbox even before they are forwarded to your
Further information: http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/stopspam.php
In order to open an account, you have to give your full name and address. Those will undergo a plausibility check by
our Signup Team volunteers. This serves to keep the database clean of Micky Mouse and Co. and people who are
not willing to give their full name or their complete address and thus showing a lack of trust or openness that is not
helpful for participating in a community like HC. We cannot actually be sure that the name and address given are
correct, but at least for the name part the first real-life encounter with another member should resolve that doubt.
Checking identity and specifying that in your comment is very helpful in this regard and could be a standard activity
of Local Volunteers to increase the security and confidence in our network. We don't allow members to change their
user name. The reason is that in case of any abuse it must be possible to track down the member in question. If it
were possible to change your user name, abusers would be invited to have a “fresh start”, after abusing and
disappearing. Actually, most requests we get for user name changes look more like people who regret an
unfortunate user name that will stick with them for a lifetime. But we don't have the possibility to distinguish between
cases in a sure way and therefore prefer to stick to the clear rule. It is actually possible to sign up for HC without
having internet. We have created an offline signup form which you can find here: HC Off-line Signup Form
• Inactive members policy
Every now and then, discussions spring up about the "need" to remove "dead" profiles from HC. Our policy on this
issue is as follows: no HC member has any obligation to login, so we won't kill any account because somebody
hasn't logged into it. Taking the effort to sign up is enough to certify that he or she is a worthy member of our
community. You never know what happens in the lives of people, so we simply assume that he or she may become
active again at some point. Because many profiles still never come back to life, there are two main task of Local
Volunteers regarding this question: 1) try and activate as many people with "dead"/inactive profiles in your city or
region and 2) explain to members to be aware of the last login which is shown in each profile and should help to be
more realistic about the chances of getting a reply. When writing to someone who hasn't logged in for a long time (or
never), chances are quite high that he or she won't reply. You can sort the members by last login, this gives you a
chance to focus on those who are actively using the page. ;)
There are three main aspects to the topic: the inactive member itself, the HC visitor and the local community.
The inactive member We usually don't know the reason that keeps him or her from participating. Often they forgot
about the Club, forgot their password or even their user name, changed their email address (or the HC mails get
stuck in the spam filter), are very busy,.... In any case, at some point in their life they were so interested in HC that
they took the pains to sign up for the Club. That is already an important statement. So I guess that 95% of the
members are happy about getting contacted by a friendly Local Volunteer who is concerned about helping them to
participate fully in HC. It is important to keep in mind, that there is a great difference between a message saying
"How can I help you to become an active part of HC?" and one saying "You didn't log in, answer or we'll kick you
out!" ;) We certainly don't want to remove anyone who wants to be a member but doesn't find the right way.
The HC visitor Yes, it can be demotivating to write ten messages and get only one reply. The key here lies in
helping our members to adapt to the "real world". The real HC world at the moment has many dead profiles indeed.
The answer to this is two-fold: helping our members understand how the HC site works and improving the site itself.
It is part of the task of a Local Volunteer to help the local members understand the site better. Explaining the
functions of sorting the list by "new members", "last login" and "number of comments" is part of that work. Once you
understand that there are lots of inactive profiles, you start looking for active people, and your response rate
increases dramatically! The next step then is learning to write friendly and personalized messages (personalizing
more than just the name). If you know that there are many inactive profiles, it stops being annoying - it becomes a
challenge to activate some of those people. As for improving the site, we need a flag that shows when an email
address is dead, and we could use some kind of visual reminder if a member has not logged in for say more than
half a year, or has never logged in since he or she joined the Club. Those are programming tasks and if you know of
anybody who could help with these, please get in touch with Jean-Yves.
The local HC community We are trying to build a global web of friendly people. Besides the international
friendships, the most important element are the local communities. So if somebody signed up for the Club in your
city, he or she is a member of your community, and you should care about him or her! What kind of community is
that where you don't care about the guy next door? For some of you the task might seem overwhelming, if there are
several dozens or even hundreds of inactive members, and you are the only Volunteer. But this is just a very strange
situation in the beginning. Communities need time to grow. If we always keep in mind that these are communities of
friendly people and we treat them that way, that's what they will be.
• Sharing an account/profile
Hospitality Club accounts are individual. We have this rule in order to avoid having to play referee about who should
keep an account, if couples split, or friends move apart. In practice, there are people who would like to have a
shared profile. While this rule is very strict and we will not accept any double names at signup or for changes in a
profile, at the same time members have all the freedom to shape their profile. It is even okay to hide the name of the
person, upload a photo of the whole family and talk about “us” in the profile. Some couples choose to take two
accounts with usernames consisting of the same two words, just once in reverse order.
Direct link to your profile You can directly link to your profile like
this: http://member.hospitalityclub.org/kjell (replace “kjell” with your username)
There is a dictionary explaining HC slang on the wiki
at: http://volunteerwiki.hospitalityclub.org/volunteerwikigeneral:hcdictionary If there are words you don't understand
that are not covered, please feel free to add them there (and subscribe to page changes so once someone writes an
explanation for your word you'll get notified).
Frequently Asked Questions
There are two FAQ pages on HC, one on the outer pages for non-members and one on the secure server after
logging in (the "Member FAQ"). It makes of course sense for Local Volunteers to be able to answer those questions.
I am listing the questions without answers below, so you can test your knowledge. For the answers, please refer to
the two pages.
Frequently Asked Questions (public)
Who can become a member of The Hospitality Club?
• Is joining really free?
• What kind of personal information do I have to provide?
• Will my personal information be visible to other members?
• Will non-members have access to my profile?
• Do I have to host in order to be allowed to stay with other people for free?
• So what are my obligations as a member?
• What is my protection against criminals coming to visit me?
• What other security measures are available?
• Can couples or families sign up together with one registration?
• I don't have a passport, because I have traveled in Europe only, is my identity card enough to sign up?
• How old are most members?
• I forgot my password - what can I do?
• I forgot my user name - what can I do?
• How do I contact another member?
• How do I remove myself from the club?
• How can I help as a volunteer?
• Why are there ads? I thought this was a non-commercial project.
Member FAQ (members only)
• How do I contact another member?
• Why do I have to enter my real name and passport number when sending a message to another member?
• What is my passport number?
• I don't have a passport, because I have traveled in Europe/in my country only, is my identity card enough?
• Why are no email addresses displayed on the site?
• What is spam?
• How do I change my profile?
• How do I change my address or email address?
• How do I hide/unhide my name or address?
• How do I change my user name?
• How do I add a photo to my profile?
• I have sent messages to many members but not received any replies - why not? Were my messages sent?
• I am receiving too many requests - what can I do?
• I am not receiving enough messages/guests - what can I do?
• I am asked to login again and again, so I cannot actually see any member profiles - help!?!
• In my country/region, there is a terrible mess/several names for one city/... - can you fix this?
• How do I remove myself from the club?
• How can I help the Hospitality Club?
• How is the club organized?
• I have found a dead link/weird profile/other problem on the site. What can I do?
• Why are there ads now? I thought this was a non-commercial site.
3. The Local Volunteer
3.1. Raison d’être
A Local Volunteer of HC is an open minded person who identifies with the idea of the Hospitality Club to build a
world wide web of friendly people. Local Volunteers play a crucial role for the Hospitality Club as a real-life
community. They are the basis of the many Local Hospitality Club Communities that exist throughout the world.
Local Volunteers have the main functions of bringing the Local HC Community together by organizing member
meetings, greeting newly signed up members (see “Community Building in the section on LV Activities), explaining
the technical side of the HC page (see “Insider Info on HC”) and helping with problems. They are partners for
members, and contact persons for members coming to visit, people interested in the club, media and other
organizations. Further, Local Volunteers are “model members” who show others how to make full use of the great
potential of the Club. Local Volunteers are active in the city in which they live and always start out as a City
Volunteer. Helping visitors with advice, accommodation, showing them around, etc. is one of the main purposes of
the Hospitality Club, but is NOT the main task of a Local Volunteer. Persons whose main motivation is to be more
helpful to visitors are advised to make their profile as inviting as possible, get some comments and join the group
"Want more guests". In many areas there are several Local Volunteers who work together as a team.
There are some basic minimum standards for becoming and staying a Local Volunteer. Local Volunteers need to log
into the page at least every half year and it must be possible to contact them (e.g. have a functioning email address).
Every Local Volunteer needs to be trusted by at least three other members. If you have not met any members yet,
you will need to get some of your friends into the Club. Being a Local Volunteer is not some kind of reward for (past)
activities. It is supposed to mean that you are actively doing things for your Local HC Community. As a general
guideline you should be able to invest at least 2 hours per week in some of the suggested activities. If you find
yourself incapable of making that compromise, it is possibly better to remain a normal Hospitality Club member and
support the other Local Volunteers when needed. Local Volunteers for the Hospitality Club obviously need to have
some HC experience. If your experience is limited, you need to gather more experience as quickly as possible (see
the section on being and example by using HC). Only in exceptional cases will new members be allowed to become
Local Volunteer immediately after sign up. Exceptions are possible if there are no other LVs in their City, they are
very enthusiastic and have some experience from other activities or organizations that can be “carried over” to HC.
But usually, we will ask members that have very recently signed up to take their time to discover the site, fill their
profile with info and a photo, meet some members, get some comments and re-apply for Local Volunteer once they
know the Club well enough that they feel they can represent it.
The following are the things a Local Volunteer is supposed to "have" and do. There is some flexibility as to how
much you have at the outset, but you are supposed to meet most of these points. If you don't, then it is probably
better for you to simply stay a normal member.
Know your Local HC Community
In order to develop the Local HC Community you first need to get to know it. Everything is possible, depending on
where it is in the lifecycle (see the section on the HC Local Community Lifecycle). From "you are the only member
and never had a HC guest nor have travelled" to "10.000 members, some of them with years of experience and
hundreds of comments with a lively HC activity going on every day". In the process of getting to know your folks, you
are already starting to build the community! Cool, isn’t it? The normal starting point is to read the member profiles
in your city. By reading you will see who is there, who is still missing, who has something interesting you would like
to talk about. You will see who is not yet integrated enough. Who might need help with putting a photo on his profile,
who needs to be invited personally to the next meeting, who has misunderstood some aspects of the site, etc. etc.
The member profiles in your city are what the HC guest gets to see first and what he “interacts” with in the
beginning, so you should know what it looks like and where it can be improved.Emailing or calling the local
members is usually the next step. When you have guests, when you see something interesting in the profile of a
member or simply because the member has just joined the Club,....you are there to support and animate the Local
HC Community. It is a bit like being everybody’s friend. So don’t feel shy to write or call your members! The first
contact is maybe the most difficult, but knowing people personally has great great benefits for your
Community! Meeting the local members will naturally follow at some point. You can arrange to meet for coffee or
go out at night, or do any activity that you like and enjoy together. Often you first meet many members in person
when you invite for an official meeting of the Local HC Community, which is one of the main tools for bringing the
Local HC Community together (see the section on HC Meetings in the Activities Chapter). Welcoming new
membersis another way to get to know the new folks directly. Make sure you know the hosting (and other)
preferences of your folks. If there are guests coming with specific needs or interests, it is great if you can
recommend the "right" person to get in touch with. Since we Local Volunteers tend to get more requests, it makes
sense to be able to redirect "excess guests" to other people to host. Keeping a phone list for such occasions is a
good idea. A request like "Can you help me find a host for tomorrow?" should not hit you unprepared! So this is how
to knowyour own community. The actual work is to develop it! More about that in the section on community building
Know the other Local Volunteers
Get in touch with the other Local Volunteers in your city, your region and your country, talk with them on the phone,
in the chat or by email and as soon as you get a chance meet them in person. You are a team, will work together,
support each other,.... So simply make sure you know each other well and you get to know and to like each other! :)
With the other Volunteers in your City it is important to coordinate your activities: who will welcome the new
members, who will organize a meeting, who already has personal contact to which members, who is hosting lately
and who would like to,....there are many things to coordinate between Local Volunteers and after all working as a
team is much more fun than struggling on your own! We have already created country forums for many countries in
the Volunteer Forum which you can use to organize your work. If you would like to have a category for your city or
province because you need to communicate a lot among the Volunteers, please let us know. For City Volunteers, the
Region and Country Volunteers are your support persons, so feel free to ask them for help and advice for anything
related to HC!
Know the HC page
Many members will turn to you with problems with the HC page and its technological questions. So it is important to
familiarize yourself with the different features of the page. But this is not about boring, technical details, no: there are
actually many interesting opportunities and and cool features hidden behind the simple layout of the HC page! Just a
• Write and read comments. There are many members who don’t know how that works! Explore the
important function of comments for our network by reading the comments of others.
• Read the spam rules and the examples of spam in the “Spammers’ Hall of Fame” to understand what is
considered spam in HC and why. Also learn more about how we deal with spam within our community and
what you can do to stop spammers.
• Check out the HC Forum, read interesting threads and contribute. Check out the Volunteer Forum and get
inspired for your work, ask questions or discuss interesting or important issues there.
• Play around with the search function. Find out how many HC members worldwide share your strange
hobby or language skills. Explore the possibilities for using this function for locating interesting persons to
meet on travels.
• The HC Travel Guide is a wiki - that means everybody can contribute freely! Write something about
interesting things in your city, general information on your country and how to best use HC in your country.
Check out the Travel Guides in other places and if you find something interesting - simply copy the idea for
your city or country!
• What happens if you try sorting the member list in a country or city by “accommodation”, by “new
members”, by “last login”, by “# of comments”? How can you use these different options for raising your
chances of finding accommodation or people who are likely to respond to a message?
In addition, reading the section "Insider Info about the Club" in this Handbook gives you a lot of background to draw
from when explaining HC to members and outsiders. Reading the FAQ and Member FAQ (see section below) is also
highly recommended, since many of the questions that often come up are comprehensively answered there!
Be an example
We need to practice what we preach. Being a good example is the first step to improving our HC community. Local
Volunteers should have an up-to-date profile (including a photo, a correct address and zip code and complete and
up-to-date information in the other fields). The quality of the profiles in HC is a very important variable. If you have a
full profile with a photo and lots of information about your interests, your situation etc. it is possible for other
members to get a good impression and decide if they would like to know you and when and how best to get in touch.
The more filled profiles there are, the easier it is for everyone to arrange actual HC experiences (i.e. guests and
hosts meeting each other). Tip: The “alien” is displayed when the member has not given his/her gender. Another tip:
The first couple of words from the field "Profile Summary" are the ones that will show up next to your photo in the
Local Volunteer Box on the city page. In the "anything else about myself" field, or in the field that appears if you join
the Volunteer Group you can mention that you are a Local Volunteer and let the HC world know which kind of
voluntary work you are doing (such as welcoming new members, organizing meetings, other HC tasks) or would like
to offer (such as answering questions, refering people to hosts, etc.). As a Local Volunteer, you are very visible on
the page and will be considered an example by other members. So make sure you show especially friendly and
respectful behaviour, in your profile and also in your communications and in real-life interactions!
The trust between members is the backbone of our community. It is through interactions with other members that
you become a part of the Hospitality Club community. And the comments make that visible. Before you have
comments, you are not really part of the community. Please make sure that you have written a comment about all
other HC members you personally know and integrate as many additional people as possible into the Club by
meeting them and writing comments about them. Negative comments are even more important than positive ones!
They serve the double function of A) warning other members and B) giving the member in question a big incentive to
think about his behaviour and learn from that experience (see the section on Comments in the Chapter “Insider Info
about the Club”).
Use HC as much as you can. You want to know what you are talking about, right? When talking to members as
well as non-members, you will be able to convince much better when you can speak from your own
experience. Receive HC guests in your home, show them around, share your everyday life activities with them if
they are interested. Learn from them about new things or differences between your and their countries. Learn to
enjoy yourself with your guests and learn to deal with difficult situations and tricky issues. If it is not possible to host
them at your home, meet anyway and help them in other ways you can. Whenever you travel, meet HC
members in the places you visit. Stay with them, if possible. If not, simply meet and exchange and learn about how
HC is going in those places. You don’t need to travel abroad to use HC. If you visit other cities in your own country
get in touch with interesting members and meet or stay with them! This way you – besides having a lot of fun – you
gather HC experience which is the basis for your work as a Local Volunteer. The good thing about being a LV is that
you are the centerpiece of your Local HC Community, and any experience that you gather will be multiplied into your
Whenever possible, go to HC meetings and camps that are being organized close to you. At those meetings you
can usually get to know the most active and motivated members of the region. Those events are a lot of fun and a
big boost to motivation for HC volunteer work!
Be there to help
You are a contact person for HC in your city. This means that you should usually be available, and have a
possibility to serve as a gate or connection between guests & hosts.
Local Volunteers should make an effort to reply to all HC messages. Many newbies in HC complain about a lack of
responses to their messages in HC (and also a few people who are already in for a while). Of course that tends to
dampen the motivation and enthusiasm about HC. So please reply to every HC member that writes to you, even if
there is not much that you can do for them. Besides showing that the community is alive, there can also be another
important function to this: you can tell those members who send very generic emails without much care “why do you
write me in particular?”, “you don't say much about yourself in your email”, “your profile looks very empty and you
don’t have any comments yet”, “did you read my profile first, before contacting me?” etc. You can use these
occasions to educate those who don’t know how to write a friendly message that has chances of getting a reply,
even in overcrowded places.
Make an effort to help HC members who turn to you. Since the whole idea of HC is about being helpful to
foreigners, we have to go ahead with a good example. Nobody should ever regret having contacted you. Make sure
the guests get something out of their interaction with you, and if it is only a tip for a beautiful places to see, an
interesting member to meet, or even a little lesson on how to behave in a more respectful way. ;)
If you are travelling for a longer period but are able to work on mails regularly, you can stay on the page as a City
Volunteer, so other Volunteers or members from your city can turn to you for help or advice. Region and Country
Volunteers in any case need to be there. Therefore, if you go travelling, please let the LV Support Team know, so
that we can reset you to the City level for the time that you are travelling.
3.4. NoNos for Local Volunteers
• Break the rules. (Footnote: Because they seem to be easy to misinterpret or forget about and this has
happened in the past: Local Volunteers mustn't break the spam rules. If these seem a bit tricky to you,
please check them out here: http://rules.hospitalityclub.org/ and
here: http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/stopspam.php, to make sure you fully understand the spam rules
and are able to explain them to the members, and of course apply them in your own practice! Local
Volunteers who send spam will have to be removed from their position immediately or after repeated
infringements, depending on the severity of the case.)
• Impose on members. This includes being too pushy. Every member chooses the degree of his or her
involvement with HC, and if somebody chooses not to respond, that's fine (see "Inactive members policy").
Therefore a Local Volunteer has no authority to push members into things they do not want.
• Lack respect.
In case you break any of these, you will loose your status as a Local Volunteer.
Local Vols will be removed from their status when:
• They ask for it.
• They get a very negative comment, so that they become unbearable as representatives of HC.
• They break the rules in a flagrant manner, so that they become unbearable as representatives of HC.
• Other HC Volunteers are not able to contact them in repeated attempts through any of the means of
communication given in the profile and when applying for Local Volunteer.
• They do not log into the page for more than 6 months.
In order to become a Local Volunteer, an Application Form needs to be filled out
(http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/submit.php?template=volunteers), which will then be reviewed and answered by
the Global LV Support Team. Once approved, Local Volunteers are listed in the Local Volunteer Box on the
respective City, Region, Country Page. This happens automatically when a checkbox in the profile (only visible to
admins) is checked. So, taking someone off as a Local Volunteer or putting him up on the page is only just one click.
Of course the decision process is much longer and more important. This setup has two important consequences: 1)
You can never be shown as a LV in a place where you don't have your first address. (Footnote:The workaround we
have for the moment for volunteering in a place where you don't have your first address is as follows: Contact the
other LVs in the city, region and country and let them know that you want to help for city X so they can share their
work with you. Write an entry in the Travel Guide section that shows below the members on each City, Region and
Country page, putting a link to your own profile there and state that you are willing to help with X, Y, Z. That way
members who need the kind of help that you want to give can get in touch with you. Don't be surprised if you will not
get much attention, since being near the bottom of the page doesn't help much for having people easily find you! ;)
Being proactive is much better in any case.) 2) When you change your address, you automatically show up as a LV
in your new place of residence. Therefore, whenever you move, please get in touch with the Global LV Support
Team so they can either take you off, or put you in touch with your new colleagues in your new home. We don't have
a flag in your profile (yet) to show that you are a Volunteer. But you can join the Volunteers Group
(http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/listgroup.php?Group=Volunteers) and note the tasks you are performing in the
description of your reasons to join the group. This does show in your profile. Local Volunteers are still Members,
they are not elected officers of the Hospitality Club. Their role is simply to help and organize the community of
friendly people in their area, not to govern. They cannot give orders or expell members. Any member can become a
Local Volunteer, but you don't have to be a Local Volunteer to help with Hospitality Club tasks. Therefore, not
being listed in the Local Volunteer Box in a certain city shouldn't stop anyone from helping!
3.7. Region, Country Volunteers and the Global LV Support Team
As support for City Volunteers we have Region and Country Volunteers who are Local Volunteers as well, but do not
only work in their own city or region (most of them are still City Vols at the same time) but also help the other Local
Volunteers in their respective area. All questions and requests for help can be directed to any of them. Their main
task is to support City Volunteers with their work. To do it effectively they need to know the work! So if you would like
to become a Region or Country Vol, be prepared to get your hands dirty on the local level first! :)
Region Volunteers need to have a photo on the profile, log into the site at least every three months, and have a
minimum number of 5 comments from different guests and hosts. 10 months experience as an HC member and four
months of volunteering on the city level are regarded as essential experience.
Country Volunteers need to have a photo on the profile, log into the site at least every month, and have a minimum
number of 10 comments from different guests and hosts. 18 months experience as an HC member and eight months
of volunteering on the city level are regarded as essential. Besides responding to any inquiries by City Vols, Region
and Country Vols should actively try to activate and train their City Vols.
All Local Volunteers are supported by the Global Local Volunteer Support Team, which is one of the many global
HC teams. This team's work consists of administrative tasks (replying to emails, putting up Local Volunteers on the
site, forwarding candidates to the respective Volunteers in charge) and counseling (answering questions and helping
Local Volunteers as much as possible). If you are a City Volunteer and would like to continue with bigger
responsibilities (i.e. helping your fellow Local Volunteers in your region), you can get in touch with the Global LV
Support Team to become a Region Volunteer. All three areas of work: Regional, Country Volunteering and Global LV
Support are not addressed in this Manual and will be dealt with in a separate Guidebook for LV Support.
4. Local Volunteer Activities
4.1. Community building
HC is growing all the time, many new people sign up every day. But just numbers are nothing. What really makes a
difference is when all those friendly people are integrated into a HC Community! And that is what you guys are for. A
very nice way to get to know the local members and let them feel the HC spirit is to give them a warm welcome right
after they sign up, another one is to hold a HC meeting.
Welcoming new members
Please send a welcome message to new members in your city (or region) as they join. This is important in order to
give the newbies the impression that HC is about friendly people, right from the start. Without this welcome they may
well think that HC is some sort of website which may or may not be useful, but after all is just a website. You all know
that HC is about friendly, open, interested and interesting people and we should not allow anyone who decides to
join us to go without noticing that! By sorting the member list in your city by “new members” the new ones will always
be on top. If you see an unfamiliar name (or if you are working on the same computer - a link in blue), then that’s a
new member. Read his/her profile and give them a call to give them a friendly welcome or do the same by email.
Offer to answer any questions and be there if they need anything. Invite them to the next local HC activity if there are
any planned. Invite them to the local HC mailinglist, if you have one. Invite them to complete their profile (if it isn't
already complete). Here you can find some examples which you are invited to use, adapt and personalize according
to your needs and the member you are writing
to: http://volunteerforum.hospitalityclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=166 The gold standard is to talk or email
personally with every single new member and make an effort to meet them in person to clear up doubts and write
them their first comment. You can also use that meeting to explain the basic functionalities of the site (how to find a
host, how to write a comment, spam rules etc.) to them and help them make good use of it.
The Hospitality Club is always growing and we want it that way, of course. But the more people, the easier there
could be someone with bad intentions. So, even within the Hospitality Club, which sometimes feels like some kind of
big family, we have to think about security. What could happen? Some member could sign up with a false name, visit
other members and steal from them. Even violent crime is thinkable. We have to make this impossible, or at least
very unlikely. The way to go is to make sure that the identity of every single member is known. This is not possible
for an administrator sitting in front of a computer. But it is for you guys! For the security of the whole HC it makes a
big difference if you actively contact new members and offer them to meet and check their identity (and then write
them a comment). Of course while at this task, you should not forget that 99,9% of HC members are NOT criminals,
on the contrary, they are very nice people. So by getting to know all those very nice people, you are actually doing a
great job for yourself, as you increase your social circle and get to know the most open-minded and progressive
people of your city or region! So, your time permitting, the following actions are recommended:
1. )Send an email to existing members without comments or give them a call, offer to meet them and check
their identity. Then write a comment about them, indicating that you verified their identity (check the
2. )Organize a member meeting in your city to get to know each other. - This could be a good combination with
1). (see the section on HC Meetings below for more information on how to do it)
3. )Contact the other Local Volunteers in your area to work together on this. If there are no others, feel free to
ask exceptionally active or friendly members to join you as Local Volunteers and help making the Club more
lively and secure! Since this could be quite a big task and you cannot run away, you can only cry for help! ;)
4. )Check your city/region/country every once in a while, order by "new members" and contact the new ones.
The good thing is that while the goal is "security", the actual thing we do is just communicating in a friendly way,
getting to know each other better, having fun together. So please be nice to your members! You could say: "We want
to make HC a safe and friendly place for everyone, also for you! So that's why I would like to meet you." Actually, the
best way to do this is to connect it with the warm welcome to the Club (see the above section on “Welcoming new
HC Meetings are a prime opportunity to help the local members get to know each other and initiate or strengthen the
Local HC Community. Besides you may be giving visiting members an opportunity to hang out with several local
members in town. It is always nice to know who is “hiding” behind an internet profile. After the meeting you can write
comments about the members you have met, especially for those who don't have comments yet. Here are some
hints to make your meeting a success.
How to organize a HC meeting
Actually it is quite easy: pick a nice place that is easy to reach, a time when people are likely to be free, send the
invitation text to email@example.com to get it broadcasted and have fun at the meeting! Of course
you should indicate who needs to receive that invitation and give your own contact information. That is the minimum
you have to do, but it is also recommended to do the following things:
• Post a note about the meeting in the HC Forum at HC Events: Meetings, Parties and Camps This way those
who want to come can simply reply to the forum thread and everybody will see who's going to come. You
can add a link to the forum post from the meeting invitation.
• Call or email those members that you already know personally.
• Post it on the City, Region and Country Page in the travel guide and in your own profile, so travellers will see
it and can decide to come to your city for the meeting.
• Make sure to send out the invitation well in advance (about two weeks) to allow for the invitation to be sent
out and for members who do not check their email everyday to find out about the meeting before it happens.
And last but not least, don't expect too much! If you are honest with yourself, did you ever read an email from
somebody that you didn't know who said "hey, come on, do this, it is very nice"? Well, I have read many such mails,
but if I don't know the sender, I generally don't care too much. So expect only the most dedicated and eager to show
up at your meeting. Everybody else will need to know some people personally first to see that HC is a fun crowd.
And even then people often have other priorities. But the ones who do show up, usually have a great time at HC
meetings, so even if you are just two or three in the beginning - you are probably the core of a great community that
is about to develop in your city! The described scenario is the simplest possible version of a HC Meeting. You can of
course be much more creative and let your imagination fly freely there have been all kinds of different HC events
and activities (camps, parties, trips,...) in the past.
Here is a list of possible and actual innovative HC events from a brainstorming:
• Activities for non-classical members eg. parents and others
• Sportive events like canoeing
• Small meetings especially for new or inactive members
• HC sport teams
• Rotation meetings at home
• Pijama parties
• Trips to the nearby areas
• Outdoor meetings with bonfires
• Pancake parties
• Participation in public parades and festivals eg. Carnival of cultures
• HC bike tours (see HC Velo: http://volunteerwiki.hospitalityclub.org/velo:start and its
• Learning together. Learning and growing personally if in knowledge or experience is always something that
creates strong bonds between people.
• All Meetings Info and How-tos at: http://volunteerwiki.hospitalityclub.org/meeting:overview (you can even
create a URL for your meeting of the type meeting.hospitalityclub.org/PhnomPenh2010)
• meetings - getting people to know eachother. - A discussion in the LV Forum on how to use ice-breaking
games at HC meetings.
• HC Meetings and Camps - Tips, Tricks and Requirements
How to invite for a HC meeting
If you would like us to broadcast a meeting invitation for you to all members of your city (or region or even country in
some special cases), please send the well-written invitation to firstname.lastname@example.org so that one of
the volunteers can send it out. For more guidance on how to do that, please
checkhttp://volunteerwiki.hospitalityclub.org/meeting:invitationshowto Besides, as mentioned, you should post about
your meeting in the HC Forum ( http://secure.hospitalityclub.org/hc/forum.php?SelectedCategory=42), on the
respective City, Region and Country page and best also on your profile. You can also add your meeting to the HC
Calendar here: http://calendar.hospitalityclub.org/ Please note that your commercial event which needs some more
spectators might be an awesome party, but if it has nothing (or only a bit) to do with Hospitality Club and its ideas,
we will not send out an invitation.
In many cities, there are regular HC meetings (ranging from once a week to once a year). They are a good
opportunity for visitors to get to know the local HC crowd (they can plan ahead and include it in their travel plans)
and for new members to get integrated into the HC Community quickly. For those who wander out into the world it
also serves as a point of reference when they think back to their "Home HC Community". If you decide to hold a
regular meeting in your city, please put it on your City page (in the travel guide towards the bottom of the City page)
and send Tilman (email@example.com) an email to put it on the list of Regular HC Meetings
Cooperating with other organizations
A very logic cooperation is to invite members of the other hospitality exchange networks (Servas, Couchsurfing,
BeWelcome) to your meetings. This introduces HC to people who are interested in this kind of travelling, but who
may not know about HC and its benefits until now and thus lead to more members for HC. For this kind of meetings,
neutral names are good, because sometimes people think they cannot visit a party since they are not a member of