Step-by-step Thematic Organization creation guide
|Affiliations Committee portal|
This document is intended to be an easy to read introduction into the process of thematic organization creation. While it probably is not exhaustive and does not take into account differences between jurisdictions, it is the first stop for anyone thinking of forming a Wikimedia thematic organization.
Please note that in some circumstances it may be possible (or necessary) to go about thematic organization creation in some other way. You need to consult the Affiliations Committee about variations in procedure.
Step 1: Gather the people 
At the very fundamental level, thematic organizations are about people: a group, bound thematically, which wants to contribute to and support the Wikimedia projects as a whole in a way which includes other means than editing.
For long term sustainability of the thematic organization, the Affiliations Committee recommends that you gather a community of at least 20-25 people interested in creating or joining the thematic organization. If you are planning to set up an international organization, make sure to gather participants internationally. Make sure that your group has the required number of people before proceeding.
(Later – during step 3 or 4 – you might find out that the laws of your country or the country you choose for incorporation may require a greater number of people to participate in the creation of the organization.)
Step 2: Decide what is the best way forward 
Before moving forward, discuss the pros and cons of setting up an organization among yourselves; organizations take a lot of time, effort and resources once they are set up. Is it necessary to set up a thematic organization to achieve your goals?How will setting up an organization help achieve your group's goals?
Once you have a group of people interested in your goals, see if there are like-minded organizations in the area (for example chapters or user groups) that might be able to host your projects or provide initial help in setting up. Is there already an existing organization that you can connect to instead of founding your own?
Then you can think about what the mission is of the organization you would like to start. Is this mission broad and is your group primarily geographically focused, or is it more narrowly defined? Try to draft your mission jointly with the whole group and make sure everybody agrees on that.
Once you are certain that a thematic organization is the right way forward, contact the Affiliations Committee and any other Wikimedia organizations that might be active in the area (either in the same geographic space or with the same or similar thematic focus) and let them know about your plans.
Step 3: Develop your Goals and Structure 
When you have your minimum group of people, you should start a conversation on your future thematic organization's goals and structure. Try these questions as inspiration:
- What do you want to accomplish as a thematic organization? What is your mission?
- What kind of activities do you want to engage in (e.g. outreach, fundraising, public relations, publishing)?
- What kind of structure do you want for your organization? Is there a board and a membership assembly?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of your board and your assembly? Who gets to decide what?
- What is the best place to incorporate your organization?
- How do you imagine your organisation in a two-years' time? Five years'?
In determining your goals and structure, you may also want to contact existing thematic organizations for advice and inspiration.
Agree on a name 
Currently, there is no accepted naming template for thematic organizations, therefore the recognized trade name of each organization will be determined on a case-by-case basis as a result of negotiations between the group and the Affiliations Committee. (The trade name can be different from your legal name, but given that incorporation should follow the completion of the recognition process, your group will be able to register under a legal name that corresponds to the trade name that your group will be recognized under.)
Once you have determined the goals of your organization, make sure to contact the Affiliations Committee again to agree on a trade name that fits your group's goals and structures.
Note: After considering your group's suggestions, the naming scheme of other organizations, the composition and goals of your group, the trade name the Affiliations Committee finally agrees to might differ from your original proposal.
Step 3B: Run a pilot program (Optional step) 
So, you have some interested Wikimedians, and you have some basic idea about the kinds of activities your group would want to have as an officially recognized Wikimedia thematic organization.
This is a perfect time to run a pilot program, which will give your group a concrete experience with running Wikimedian activities/events, strengthen the group's internal cohesion, increase motivation, and potentially draw in additional activists.
Here's a little secret: Nearly all activities and programs performed by thematic organizations can be performed by non-thematic organizations. Aside from fundraising and certain types of government outreach, any group of Wikimedians with the will and dedication to execute a program can do so, and the Wikimedia movement has some resources in place to help you do so:
The Wikimedia Foundation can grant you ad-hoc permission to use the Wikimedia trademarks (i.e. Wikipedia logo, Wikimedia logo) in your specific event/activity; the Foundation can provide funding for your program if required, via the Wikimedia Grants Program; other Wikimedia organizations can offer funding, advice, and other intangible resources.
So pick a program you'd like to run in your community or territory, making sure the scope is manageable and achievable for your group and your resources (especially human resources, i.e. time and skills!), before proceeding with the legal aspects of thematic organization creation.
The Affiliations Committee and the Wikimedia Board of Trustees are more likely to feel confident about your group's suitability to become the formal representative of the Wikimedia movement in your subject area if your group can show at least one success in organizing Wikimedian work.
Step 4: Draft your thematic organization's fundamental documents 
Your thematic organization's bylaws (statutes, or whatever the name of this document is in your language) should define the goals and objectives of your association in time and space. They should be precise and to the point. Avoid definitions which are either too vague or too restrictive.
When drafting the documents, you need to take several factors into account (in the order given below):
- the laws of the country/state chosen for incorporation
- Wikimedia Foundation's requirements for thematic organization creation
- the primary goals of your organization should be in line with those of the Wikimedia Foundation, i.e. to promote free content and support the Wikimedia projects.
- where possible, a non-profit status (or a status that allows you to tend towards non-profit)
- avoid ties to political statements/groups that do not fit within the scope of Wikimedia projects
- Wikimedia Foundation's guidelines for chapter creation (which should apply to thematic organizations, as well)
In order to make sure that those are observed, we advise you to inspire yourself first from bylaws of other organisations in your country and then adapt those to the Wikimedia requirements and guidelines. Do not try and translate existing Wikimedia thematic organizations' bylaws, as legal language differs from one country to another and what seems evident in one country may make no sense in another.
If you have a lawyer in your group, make sure he/she is a strong part of the writing process, remember that you are ultimately responsible for the legal compliance of your organisation with the local laws.
Step 5: Submit your bylaws for review 
When your thematic organization's goals and organization are agreed upon and your documents are ready (but before you do anything that would make the association official, like opening a bank account, holding a founding assembly, registering with your country's authorities etc.!), you should translate them into English and submit them to the Affiliations Committee for approval.
The Affiliations Committee might ask for a lawyer approved translation of the bylaws, in which case it will provide the necessary budget to translate the bylaws.
The Affiliations Committee will review your applications and then will submit them to the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation to approve the creation of your organization as a Wikimedia thematic organization. Usually, before final approval, the Committee will ask a number of questions and possibly suggest changes based on experience learned from other Wikimedia and non-profit organizations. In this case, final approval will be given once your group has had a chance to review and answer the suggestions and to make any changes your group has found useful.
Once you have received the approval of the Wikimedia Foundation, you can go on and register your association as per is standard in your country. You will need to sign a thematic organization agreement with the Wikimedia Foundation. Note that at this stage various other agreements may be signed between the Wikimedia Foundation and the thematic organization as it is being created.
Step 7: Get your resources 
By this time you will probably need some money or other resources. You may have to pay registration fees, set up a bank account, etc. The first source of funds should be the community behind your organization (e.g. if you have set up a membership organization, now is the time to collect membership fees).
If you require more money than you can reasonably hope to gather from your group, you can ask the Affiliations Committee to provide you with some additional funding to get you on your way. The Wikimedia Foundation also issues grants to thematic organizations, and they are not necessarily limited to money but can also include for example goodies.
The money (or your time) is necessary even if the registered thematic organization does not do anything. Usually after you registered the legal entity you need to prepare and provide regular reports to the tax authorities and some other state bodies. Even if there are only zeros in the reports.
Step 8: Go! 
All done! You can now go about thematic organization business and promote Wikimedia projects in your country.
If you want some hints about possible projects, you can always look at what other thematic organizations have accomplished or are currently doing.
Remember, you can always ask the Affiliations Committee as well as other thematic organizations for help.