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2011-12 Fundraising and Funds Dissemination process/Questions for Wikimedia UK

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Wikimedia UK received an email from Sue Gardner asking us to clarify our position on fundraising and payment-processing. The questions were in substance identical to those asked of Wikimedia DE, FR and CH. The questions are present in full in the reply from Wikimedia Deutschland. This is the reply sent by Wikimedia UK on 4 Mar 2012.

Do we still want to payment-process?

Yes we do. We think it adds value to the movement - most obviously through Gift Aid, but we also think we can add value to the fundraiser in other ways (e.g. by generating recurring rather than one-off income) and because of the long-term value of the data in the fundraiser for both further fundraising work and outreach. We have records on some 50,000 donors from previous fundraisers, as well as 7,000 people making recurring donations - it is simpler for all concerned if we continue to manage those relationships, and could be very confusing for donors if we weren't able to take account of this.
Furthermore, we don't see how taking an administrative decision to stop raising money in a tax-deductible way can possibly be in donors' best interests. (Chris has actually put up a very cautious cost-benefit analysis on meta here: Talk:Fundraising_and_Funds_Dissemination/WMF_staff_memo#Wikimedia_UK_cost.2Fbenefit_analysis - we draw your attention to it)

Are there other specific local requirements or incentives

So far as we can tell, everything has been explored. The reasons why Wikimedia UK participating is a good idea include the 25% extra from the donations possible through Gift Aid, exploiting local knowledge of donors, and the potential for us to make use of fundraiser data for other fundraising and outreach work. We think these are strong reasons.

Are there any other problems transferring money internationally?

Don't think so. We know we can send the Foundation what are, in legal terms, discretionary grants restricted towards the charitable objectives the Foundation and Wikimedia UK share. We already do this and can continue to do this on the same basis. Our application to the Charities Commission was approved by them in the knowledge that we would share the proceeds of the annual fundraiser with you, and they did not raise any objections on this score.

Increased visibility of our internal workings

Since last August we've been engaged in a dialogue with you about these issues. We expect that to continue. You and Ting have both attended our board meetings and the invitation to come along remains open. We're optimistic that the Chapters Council, when up and running, will mean that many (though not all) of these things stop being a burden on the Foundation and become a peer review activity for Chapters. Furthermore, we think that it is just as important for us to be transparent and accountable were we to be spending money which we had received in the form of a grant, than if we were taking donors' money directly.
On the point about appointing a member of our board. We have not taken advice on whether this would be problematic for us legally, but assuming it were possible, we would have to amend our articles of association to do this. This would require a special resolution at our AGM and a supermajority of members voting for it. When discussed on our email list, the suggestion proved controversial, so our feeling is that this would only pass if our members were convinced there were very good reasons why this was necessary.

What if the answer's still No?

We think there is now a fairly clear scenario which enables chapters to payment-process without prejudicing the Foundation's fiduciary duties, and without creating the idea that Chapters are dependent for their growth on payment-processing. There are many benefits to this scenario and few drawbacks. We would be disappointed if the Foundation did not choose this scenario. Preventing us from processing payments would prove disruptive for us as an organization, particularly the effect it would have on the morale and motivation of a number of our volunteers, and would risk causing confusion to our donors.