Wikimedia France/Programs 2012/WMF Feedback

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Original letter from WMF[edit]

Dear Wikimedia France Board,
Thank you for the work that you and your team did to prepare the program plan. It is an important step forward for the movement to have a shared view of the range of activities that chapters and WMF have on their agenda, as it provides a basis for better target setting, resource allocation and collaboration. We have now had an opportunity to discuss the plan internally.

This is the first time we are going through this process and there are learnings all around. On our end, we didn't anticipate the size of the fundraising plans and are now caught in a situation where we don't have a structured approach in place to make allocation decisions in a transparent fashion. We had hoped that most of the requests would be under the 150% level, however most are above this threshold. So, we are in a situation where we are going to have to improvise as best as we can. We know this is not a perfect situation and may not be smooth, but we would rather be open about the situation and deal with it than make decisions behind closed doors.

We are not comfortable with the fundraising target that Wikimedia France proposes and we would like you to adjust the program plan downwards to reflect the concerns that we have about the plan. Our concerns are as follows:

1. Aggressive fundraising growth targets - The assumptions for the growth of fundraising are aggressive. By our estimation, you are predicting a 68% increase (in USD) in fundraiser proceeds. This goal is higher than the growth rate from last year of 48% (in USD) and we think it is not responsible to create a plan with such an aggressive growth assumption that is not supported by prior experience or a strong argument for why such growth could be expected. This is also during of time of economic uncertainty in Europe (while, we don't know if it will actually have an effect, it is an uncertainty). From the WMF perspective, we are not willing to set your fundraising target using such an aggressive assumption, as failure to meet this target would come out of WMF's share. If we are fortunate to have the fundraiser perform in such a strong way, we could adjust targets upwards retroactively.

2. Aggressive organizational growth - We are concerned that you are trying to grow your organization at too rapid a pace. You have a small staff that has less than one year in the role. Can you manage the growth? Will you be able to use the funds well? There is no shame in creating a moderate plan for growth and saying no to programs that are nice to have, but strain the organization's capacity.

3. Consideration of WMF's share - As discussed with Florence and Thierry, we are concerned that your assessment that it preferable to invest more aggressively in domestic activities rather than invest in the global work of WMF, which supports high priority investments that are driven by the movement's strategic priorities. We believe that your intent is to buld strong programs and it isn't your intent to grow at the expense of global activities, but it is the result and is not acceptable. Chapter spending should not come at the expense of support for WMF's global technology and program investments. While chapter boards have responsibility for setting local plans and advancing their own local needs as an organization, the means of fundraising creates an interdependence between the chapter and WMF. In this year's fundraising agreement, we provided chapters with latitude to use their own judgment to set targets, however we assumed that chapter boards would make tough decisions on what is realistic, that they would consider in their decisions the impact of local decisions on the global movement including WMF and the effort required in the fundraiser.

In summary, this is the first time we have done this and there are bound to be bumps in the road...and important learning for the future. But, the plan as presented is overly optimistic - both on the potential for fundraising and on the spending plans - and allocates too great a share of funds to domestic spending vs. global. In good conscience, we couldn't support these plans as is. We request that you locally revise your plan in this light before we finalize on targets for the fundraiser. We should aim to get this finished by the end of October. This is the responsible thing to do. We look forward to receiving your revised plan and target.

Happy to discuss this in a phone call.

Best regards,
Barry -- Barry Newstead

Our answer[edit]

The answer to the WMF feeback is included in the original text of the feedback.

Dear Chief Development Officer,
As you were told last Friday, the Wikimedia France Board met Saturday and Sunday for our quarterly meeting.
We discussed the current situation regarding the fundraising target, the future of Wikimedia France and the support it will provide to the global Wikimedia Movement in the forthcoming years.
Please consider this email our official answer.
First, let us answer to all the concerns you raised.

Dear Wikimedia France Board,
Thank you for the work that you and your team did to prepare the program plan. It is an important step forward for the movement to have a shared view of the range of activities that chapters and WMF have on their agenda, as it provides a basis for better target setting, resource allocation and collaboration. We have now had an opportunity to discuss the plan internally.

Thanks. Your feeling is right, we spent a lot of time on the preparation of our next year plan.
We can't evaluate the time spent on it by the Board and our members, but thanks to our reporting tools and processes, we know our staff spent over 17 working days building our annual plan, contacting the different institutions and partners in order to have a strong, realistic, and achievable plan.

This is the first time we are going through this process and there are learnings all around. On our end, we didn't anticipate the size of the fundraising plans and are now caught in a situation where we don't have a structured approach in place to make allocation decisions in a transparent fashion. We had hoped that most of the requests would be under the 150% level, however most are above this threshold. So, we are in a situation where we are going to have to improvise as best as we can. We know this is not a perfect situation and may not be smooth, but we would rather be open about the situation and deal with it than make decisions behind closed doors.

Our organic growth is really strong. In 2011, we had numerous opportunities to promote and push forward Free Knowledge. Facing this situation, we took the appropriate measures to hire relevant and experienced staff. We'll detail this point in answer to your second argument. More programs means more staff which in the end means a need for more resources.

We are not comfortable with the fundraising target that Wikimedia France proposes and we would like you to adjust the program plan downwards to reflect the concerns that we have about the plan. Our concerns are as follows:

1. Aggressive fundraising growth targets - The assumptions for the growth of fundraising are aggressive. By our estimation, you are predicting a 68% increase (in USD) in fundraiser proceeds. This goal is higher than the growth rate from last year of 48% (in USD) and we think it is not responsible to create a plan with such an aggressive growth assumption that is not supported by prior experience or a strong argument for why such growth could be expected. This is also during of time of economic uncertainty in Europe (while, we don't know if it will actually have an effect, it is an uncertainty). From the WMF perspective, we are not willing to set your fundraising target using such an aggressive assumption, as failure to meet this target would come out of WMF's share. If we are fortunate to have the fundraiser perform in such a strong way, we could adjust targets upwards retroactively.

We are puzzled with your data. It is likely these calculations are wrong.
We have not been able to find your growth rate of 68% nor the 48% for last year.
Globally, the growth rate of the fundraiser in 2010 was of 101.9% (2009: $10.6; 2010: $21.4)
The formula to calculate the growth rate of the fundraiser proceeds in France is the following:
((Funds raised year N - Funds raised year N-1) / Funds raised year N-1)*100
So, according to this formula, here is the growth rate we calculated (€)
((790,000+69,000) - (515,000+46,000))/(515,000 + 46,000))*100 = 53% growth rate.
This is based on the assumption that, as for last year, you will receive around 8% of the funds raised in France as direct donations.
Those forecast give a minimum of 269,000€ ($373,000) revenues for Wikimedia Foundation.
Hence, our 53% projection of the fundraising growth rate is MUCH more pessimistic than last year growth which was of 74% in France and of 101.9% globally.
We hope this will settle the discussion regarding this point.
There is no shame in this mistake, it's a common one, but you might want to check out how you calculated the growth rate for the other chapters too.
As for your perception that Europe is in going through an economic crisis, it is true.
However, the crisis is global. The economic shape of the US is worse than in France, which could explain a lower growth rate in the US for the coming fundraiser.
We also have taken in account Wikimedia France actions, such as our Wikimedian in residence in Versailles, resulted in positive media coverage this year. It increased the global usefulness perception of Wikipedia and led to a grow of our editors community. As you might remember, it was said during Wikimania, the French Wikipedia is the only one of the top Wikipedia with a growing community.

2. Aggressive organizational growth - We are concerned that you are trying to grow your organization at too rapid a pace. You have a small staff that has less than one year in the role. Can you manage the growth? Will you be able to use the funds well? There is no shame in creating a moderate plan for growth and saying no to programs that are nice to have, but strain the organization's capacity.

There might be a misunderstanding. Let’s us recap Wikimedia France present staff:
  • Head of programs: Adrienne Alix. She's been assuming this role as a volunteer for 3 years while being also the president of Wikimedia France and has very strong experience in project management and data analysis.
  • Officer in charge of outreach to the education/university: Carol-Ann O'Hare. Before joining Wikimedia France, she has been head of a non-profit promotion of Science NGO for 3 years.
  • Community and tech manager : Sylvain Boissel, who has 3 years of experience in a technology company and has a deep knowledge of Wikimedia Projects (amongst other things, he has been a fr.wikipedia sysop for 5 years).
  • Fundraising Project Manager : Julien Fayolle, Wikimedian since 2004, board of WMFr for 2 years and one as Vice President.
In addition to those dedicated and skillful employees that have experience working together, we also contract with many experts to help with specific areas of expertise:
  • Elisabeth Coye: Administrative Assistant with 25+ years experience in her job.
  • George Rey Conseil: Accountant, with a speciality in French charities accountability.
  • Audit Synthese : Commissaire aux comptes who, reviews and certify both our accounts and our governance and publish a report to our stakeholders.
  • Hugot Associés : Intellectual Property lawyer and Legal Counsel to Wikimedia France and Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Maitre Paul Van Deth : Labour lawyer.
In 2012, we plan to hire a project manager dedicated to Francophonie outreach to the millions of people in French speaking Africa and Caribean (included in “Global South”), and depending of the results of the fundraising, a full time fundraiser in addition to our project manager for the fundraising.
This is only two persons added to our existing staff, a moderate and sustainable growth.
By the way, on the Francophonie issue. There are 200 millions people whom their native language is French, and it’s growing at a very fast pace with development of the African countries. As you certainly would agree, Wikimedia France will be much more effective on this topic than Wikimedia Foundation.
We are pretty confident in our ability to achieve our program as our partners are really committed to this. For example, the French Ministry of Culture is pushing forward to enter into several partnerships with us in order to develop the Wikipedia projects in languages spoken in French overseas departments and territories (créole...). One of the other project they promote is to encourage the re-use of Wikipedia contents through the creation of a semantic project.
Our annual plan is strong, reachable and has been carefully built and considered. Of course, we are open to discuss one more time our fundraising target with you.
Wikimedia Foundation has the right to approve, or lower our fundraising target but NOT our budget. Thought, we understand that your cutting of our funding would force us to delay or abandon some of our programs, this would probably not be a good thing.

3. Consideration of WMF's share - As discussed with Florence and Thierry, we are concerned that your assessment that it preferable to invest more aggressively in domestic activities rather than invest in the global work of WMF, which supports high priority investments that are driven by the movement's strategic priorities. We believe that your intent is to buld strong programs and it isn't your intent to grow at the expense of global activities, but it is the result and is not acceptable. Chapter spending should not come at the expense of support for WMF's global technology and program investments. While chapter boards have responsibility for setting local plans and advancing their own local needs as an organization, the means of fundraising creates an interdependence between the chapter and WMF. In this year's fundraising agreement, we provided chapters with latitude to use their own judgment to set targets, however we assumed that chapter boards would make tough decisions on what is realistic, that they would consider in their decisions the impact of local decisions on the global movement including WMF and the effort required in the fundraiser.

Again, we are puzzled by this point.
We do understand, and agree, that Wikimedia chapters have to support Wikimedia Movement.
Our budget was built in such a way, with our international programs and the line in our budget with a guarantee of 200k€ ($277k) dedicated to Wikimedia Foundation even if we do not reach our fundraising target.
When we talked early September, we understood you were worried as to whether Wikimedia Foundation would be able to fund its servers in 2012.
So, Wikimedia France Board decided that the funding of the servers was a priority. As a result we offered you a 200K€ contingency in case the fundraising is not as successful as planned.
This move, puts the risks of a fundraising failure on Wikimedia France rather than on Wikimedia Foundation (in short : we could have to fire staff to ensure WMF servers funding).
For the Francophonie (French speaking countries especially Africa ones) we do think it is within the Wikimedia Movement priorities. The question is : “Can Wikimedia France have some international actions or do all the International stuff is Wikimedia Foundation turf?”
Be honest : does the Foundation have ever done or planned any outreach actions in French speaking Africa ? No.
Does the foundation will be more efficient than WMFr to do so ? We do not think so.
Moreover, there are many reasons why Wikimedia France would be really efficient on those topics:
1/ We do speak quite a good French, which will help.
2/ We’re already in contact with The Organisation of Francophonie (75 countries) which :has its headquarters in Paris,
3/ French African students and communities are well represented and organized in France
4/ We are in contact with many French Charities which outreach in Africa.
5/ We are VERY motivated.
Despite our motivation, by experience we know African issues are complex. Our approach, and our budget, are very reasonable and we have postponed some African projects to 2013 for this reason.
Finally, regarding your asking for a further cut of our fundraising target, we are eager to talk about it with you quickly, with the greater good of the Wikimedia Movement at heart.
Sincerely,
On behalf of Wikimédia France,
Rémi Mathis
President of Wikimédia France
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In summary, this is the first time we have done this and there are bound to be bumps in the road...and important learning for the future. But, the plan as presented is overly optimistic - both on the potential for fundraising and on the spending plans - and allocates too great a share of funds to domestic spending vs. global. In good conscience, we couldn't support these plans as is. We request that you locally revise your plan in this light before we finalize on targets for the fundraiser. We should aim to get this finished by the end of October. This is the responsible thing to do. We look forward to receiving your revised plan and target.

Happy to discuss this in a phone call.

Best regards,
Barry -- Barry Newstead
Chief Global Development Officer
Wikimedia Foundation
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