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WMF Funding Transparency (Grants)[edit]

Hello! I have tried to find detailed information about major grants received by the WMF. It seems that the WMF doesn't disclose most of it. There are undisclosed grantmakers, amounts and grant purpose. It's not only that the level of transparency is low, but it seems it has been reduced in recent years: received grants, with their amounts and purposes, were briefly disclosed here and there, now there seems to be a higher amount of undisclosed information. I have created a detailed list of grants on the Grants given to Wikimedia Foundation page to help gathering the available data in a single place, but I would like to suggest some improvements to the BoT:

  1. Disclose all information on grants that are currently not subject to confidentiality. That's just a first step. It seems that the WMF withholds grant data on donor privacy grounds, even when the donor makes the data public in their grantmaking site, or even when it is already reported to the US Government in 990 Forms and already available online (just with ~2 years of delay).
  2. Change the policy to not accept any restricted grant. This has been discussed in the past multiple times, but information requests here were dismissed most of the time. There might be a case for anonymous unrestricted grants, but there isn't for restricted ones. Restricted grants make the grantmaker influence the direction of the WMF beyond any community control.
  3. Add a threshold for anonymous grants/gifts. A ~$1,000 donation by an individual is worth keeping anonymous for privacy reasons. A six figures donation from a large organization is not. That's not "privacy", that's making accountability on conflicts of interests de facto impossible.

I think these proposals offer a minimum transparency that might be easy to get consensus on. In fact, reading past conversations, it seems these already have consensus in the community (not in the WMF though). Thanks! --MarioGom (talk) 12:30, 12 March 2018 (UTC)

Hi MarioGom,
Thanks for your message. Let me say that the Board of Trustees takes our responsibility to our donors and our community very seriously. As per the Wikimedia Foundation Gift policy, we review all gifts over $250,000 USD and all gifts offered with restrictions, regardless of amount (i.e., restricted gifts). All of the grants on the table you created listed as "Purpose: Undisclosed" were/are unrestricted grants to the Wikimedia Foundation. They were given by the donors without conditions on how they should be spent in support of the Foundation's mission, and were applied toward the general operating costs of the Foundation. Donors giving over $1,000 USD are given the option of disclosing their support publicly on the Wikimedia Foundation site. Some chose not to be listed for privacy reasons or our of humility. The vast majority of large gifts to the Foundation are unrestricted, and the very few restricted gifts serve an important role for our revenue mix.
We share a lot of information about the restricted grants that we do receive. You can read about the two restricted gifts we received last year in the annual fundraising report and on the blog. So while it could be interesting to debate internally some or all of the points you make - and the Board does ongoing reviews of its practices to continually improve and better serve our Movement and our donors -, and possibly have the Audit Committee lead a cost-benefit analysis about them, you will understand some slight pushback towards the premises of lack of transparency or efforts from WMF. Kind regards, Raystorm (talk) 13:50, 21 March 2018 (UTC)
Hi Raystorm! Thank you for your response. I really appreciate the clarifications. Note that while I do think that the level of transparency is lacking, I do not think it is because of lack of effort or interest on your side (and of course, I thank you for all the effort you all volunteer). My impression is that it's more about differing views about transparency and privacy. I think privacy does not apply to companies and non-profits. Of course, most countries guarantee some level of secrecy for organizations (e.g. trade secrets for companies), but IMHO it's a trade-off between accountability and organizational secrecy (both from the WMF and non-individual donors), not privacy. In any case, I'm happy to hear that you're open to consider improvements on this area. Thank you. Best, --MarioGom (talk) 18:32, 22 March 2018 (UTC)
Legal persons don't have privacy rights, indeed: there was a clear ruling about this in Italy, which I assume is consistent with EU law; the relevant directive makes a distinction between privacy rights of persons and "legitimate interests" of legal persons. Then of course things may change. --Nemo 22:24, 23 March 2018 (UTC)