Grants:APG/FDC recommendations/2014-2015 round 1
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Recommendations
- 2.1 Amical Wikimedia
- 2.2 Wikimedia Argentina
- 2.3 Wikimedia Osterreich
- 2.4 Wikimedia CH
- 2.5 Wikimedia Deutschland
- 2.6 Wikimedia Eesti
- 2.7 Wikimedia Israel
- 2.8 Wikimedia Nederland
- 2.9 Wikimedia Serbia
- 2.10 Wikimedia Sverige
- 2.11 Wikimedia UK
- 3 General remarks
- 4 The FDC deliberations process
- 5 About the FDC
The Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) met in San Francisco over the period November 15-18, 2014 in order to assess the 11 Annual Plan Grant proposals for 2014-2015 Round 1, and provide recommendations on them to the WMF Board. The FDC recommendations for each organization are given below. Additionally, the FDC provides some comments on general themes that emerged during the review.
Each recommendation is in the requested currency.
The overall funds available for movement entities through the FDC process in 2014-2015 is $6,000,000, some of which will be recommended to be allocated during Round 2 of this fiscal year. This round, $3,817,956 has been allocated, leaving $2,182,044 for Round 2. The Letters of Intent estimating the requested amounts for Round 2 total $1,859,868.
Entity Amount requested Amount recommended Change in allocation from last year Amical Wikimedia €82,101 €82,101 10.95% Wikimedia Argentina* $214,000 $212,000 21.14% Wikimedia Osterreich €240,000 €228,000 11.76% Wikimedia CH CHF500,000 350,000 -3.31% Wikimedia Deutschland* €1,200,000 €840,000 -35.19% Wikimedia Eesti €63,477 €63,477 26.78% Wikimedia Israel* ₪960,000 ₪770,000 8.60% Wikimedia Nederland €340,000 €304,000 0.00% Wikimedia Serbia €103,510 €98,760 23.45% Wikimedia Sverige kr.2,557,000 kr.2,557,000 1.99% Wikimedia UK £405,000 £314,000 -11.05% Total $4,729,525 $3,812,000
* Some members of the FDC recused themselves from the discussion or decision-making related to this allocation due to a perceived or actual conflict of interest, namely: Delphine Ménard for Wikimedia Deutschland’s proposal, Matanya Moses for Wikimedia Israel’s proposal, and Osmar Valdebenito for Wikimedia Argentina’s proposal.
Amount requested: €82,101 (~$107,798)
Allocation: €82,101 (~$107,798)
The FDC recommends full funding for Amical Wikimedia’s proposal.
With the allocation of the requested amount in full, the FDC is establishing high expectations for Amical Wikimedia to deliver what they have described in their proposal. Amical Wikimedia has focused on projects that are best done by local entities, and that cannot be done as effectively by the Wikimedia Foundation or single volunteers - in particular, GLAM and Education programs. There is a small but committed volunteer base and a cohesive sense of identity that is shared among the entity and the Catalan editing communities on multiple projects. There has been a history of underspending against the budgeted amount, and Amical would benefit from reviewing their budgeting processes.
The FDC recognizes many strengths of Amical Wikimedia, as well as of its proposal. The FDC also noted certain weaknesses that led to discussion of reducing the proposed budget. The final decision remained to recommend full funding.
The FDC applauds the effort Amical Wikimedia puts into securing in-kind contributions, such as rent. Amical has shown clear focus on spending effectively, concentrating their expenditures on programs rather than on overhead. The FDC also appreciates openness about underspending.
Amical Wikimedia has set a good example of what a chapter can do well and in doing what WMF or single or informal groups of volunteers cannot do; for instance in working very effectively with local GLAMs. The focus on GLAM and education programs seems to well reflect the abilities and strengths of the chapter. Over the years, Amical Wikimedia has evolved into a mature, stable organization. It is commendable that the local community is highly engaged and participates in the strategic process of the entity.
Much of the administrative work of the entity is done by highly active members (usually board members) and there is the risk that the volunteers may not be able to sustain this amount of work in the future. Some activities, like reporting, make significant demands on volunteers and may not be carried out in a consistent manner. Lack of volunteer ability or availability may also lead to bottlenecks on the execution of the planned projects. The FDC recommends that Amical start thinking about the sustainability of the organization for future years. In particular, it is important to develop a sustainable plan for management of the increase in administrative work that will come with growth, most of which is currently being handled by the Amical board.
The FDC notes that Amical Wikimedia’s budget does not take into account the receipt of in-kind donations (i.e., free office space): for example, the APG proposal was not modified to reflect that Amical is receiving free office space. The FDC also observes that external funding is shrinking, and Amical Wikimedia is encouraged to consider other methods of funding diversification. Amical Wikimedia has underspent in the current fiscal year and, while the FDC appreciates the fact that it has not attempted to artificially inflate expenditures, it reminds Amical Wikimedia to be alert to the risk that the proposed budget will not be spent entirely. The FDC also notes that there is a significant rate of growth, which can be challenging to manage for an organization of this size.
Amount requested: $214,000
Amount recommended: $212,000
The FDC has recommended an allocation of $212,000 for Wikimedia Argentina’s proposal.
The FDC appreciates the level of detail in Wikimedia Argentina’s proposal. It is clear to the FDC that Wikimedia Argentina has made a huge improvement in terms of strategic development and focus. However, there are increasing concerns about impact and delivery of results. The chapter focuses a lot on GLAM programs, even though it is not immediately clear if the results justify the continued engagement in the program.
While the FDC is supporting Wikimedia Argentina’s work with a significant continued budget increase, Wikimedia Argentina is expected to show more significant outcomes for a budget of this size. Also some concerns have been raised around travel expenses; therefore the FDC has recommended slightly less than full funding for Wikimedia Argentina.
Wikimedia Argentina has presented a detailed proposal, which demonstrates a growing capacity to plan strategically and to put in place evaluation methods with clear goals and metrics. The proposal is well-designed and the problem trees, for example, show how much effort has been put into analyzing areas of possible impact. However, programs do not yet show clear impact and Wikimedia Argentina’s historical activities make it unclear whether the chapter can deliver on targets.
The FDC recognizes the leadership role that Wikimedia Argentina continues to play in the region. The FDC hopes to see it rebuild the momentum, which seemed to have slowed down after the organization underwent important changes in staffing last year. Wikimedia Argentina seems, however, to have come through this transition successfully. The challenges related to the size of the country and region are understandable, yet the FDC recommends that Argentina intensifies their efforts to expand their reach in the future.
While inflation does not account for all of the significant increase in budget growth, the FDC recognizes that it is a factor to be taken into account in ways that do not apply to any other organizations in this round. Wikimedia Argentina should carefully consider travel costs because travel from Argentina is expensive compared to the cost for other organizations, but we note that the budgeted costs are within the normal range for this region. It is also important for the organization to attend international conferences and events. Wikimedia Argentina is very dependent on APG funding, which is understandable given the difficulty with raising external funds in Argentina’s economic environment. That said, the FDC recognizes the strong benefits of obtaining in-kind donations and encourages Wikimedia Argentina to seek out appropriate opportunities.
Wikimedia Argentina’s involvement in open licenses work is commendable and important in their context, and it is hoped that this work will be built on in the future.
One of the key programs of Wikimedia Argentina is Education which is a good focus: this work is producing good results, good value for the money, and the outcomes look promising. Wikimedia Argentina is making a significant effort in diversity (specifically gender diversity), including both specific program objectives and a cross-cutting approach, for example, in GLAM projects. However, other programs do not yet show clear outcomes, and this should be taken into account in 2015. Also, WMAR’s GLAM projects have yet to demonstrate impressive results.
The FDC noted last year that Wikimedia Argentina’s leadership in regional cooperation was appreciated and has set the chapter as unique and a leader in this regard. More innovative projects and programs have come to be expected from this chapter, and this innovative spirit was not evident in the proposal. The FDC expects to see more impact and outcomes for a budget of this size.
Amount requested: €240,000 (~$315,120)
Amount recommended: €228,000 (~$300,000)
Wikimedia Österreich is a mature organization that has developed a good proposal with clear focus. The main reason WMAT received 5% less than they requested stems from significant underspending in 2014, raising questions about the feasibility of the proposed budget growth rates and stability. This allocation still represents a significant increase (nearly 12%) for Wikimedia Österreich from their previous allocation of EUR 204,000. The FDC would like to emphasize that although it is not recommending a multi-year grant for Wikimedia Österreich, it is because of a lack of precision and clarity in the multi-year funding pilot itself rather than the plan put forward by Wikimedia Österreich. The FDC did see Wikimedia Österreich as suitable organization that could have been considered for this pilot.
Wikimedia Österreich’s proposal is extremely clear and focused. Wikimedia Österreich has presented clear milestones and timelines for their programs and projects, as well as detailed and carefully thought out logic models. The level of detail and the clarity of the proposal shows very solid understanding of strategic planning which should be taken as an example by other organizations across the movement.
The FDC appreciates that external funding has enabled a partnership with the Open Data Portal, as it is a good example of how across the board cooperation between government and organizations dedicated to the promotion of free knowledge can be leveraged to further our mission. Wikimedia Österreich should be commended for being a hub of initiatives in this area and the FDC encourages them to share their insights and experience with other Wikimedia entities so that the movement can build on their good work.
Wikimedia Österreich is a lean organization with a very reasonable percentage of their budget devoted to staff compared to other organizations in this round. The FDC believes that the proposed staff increase, meant to focus on administration, may make sense, as it will enable existing staff to focus more on programs. The FDC appreciates the clarity of Wikimedia Österreich’s staffing plan, as well as their lean approach, which shows their carefulness about using donors’ money in an efficient way.
However, the FDC notes that Wikimedia Österreich does not plan to spend their total planned budget this year, and is projecting a significant underspend. While the FDC appreciates that Wikimedia Österreich is a lean organization, this raises concerns that, if Wikimedia Österreich receives the full amount requested, it may not spend the amount planned. For an organization of this size and in this region, the FDC believes that Wikimedia Österreich should be making more progress toward diversifying their sources of funding.
The FDC believes that the goals and targets set by Wikimedia Österreich may be too conservative and not ambitious enough; based on past performance, it seems likely that it will be relatively easy for the chapter to meet and surpass these targets. This may indicate poor self-assessment of the organization’s capabilities, a disinclination to experiment, or just a tendency to be restrictive in setting objectives. This is particularly noticeable upon review of the 2013 and 2014 targets and accomplishments. The seemingly conservative targets are in a context of high quality and clarity of goals and programmatic focus. This calls for Wikimedia Österreich to better consider and plan their desired and achievable results.
Amount requested: CHF500,000 (~$544,000)
Amount recommended: CHF350,000 (~$380,000)
The FDC recommends an allocation of CHF350,000, which is a significant amount, although it is significantly less than the amount requested and also less than the amount allocated last year.
The FDC recognizes the highly innovative nature of Kiwix, a project that has fostered cross-organizational collaboration. However, the FDC is concerned about the size of the overall budget of Wikimedia CH. In addition, there are concerns that several projects of Wikimedia CH are particularly vulnerable to the loss of a few key individuals. Overall, the strategy appears contingent on the motivation and experience of individual staff members, rather than a coherent strategy informed by national and regional opportunities. At this size of budget, the FDC expects Wikimedia CH to be more strategic in terms of approach and focus.
The FDC is very concerned with the rate of growth of Wikimedia CH’s budget and grant request, which may not be sustainable. Furthermore the current development trajectory is problematic with an overall increased reliance on APG funding and a lack of evidence that programs are having sufficient impact relative to their costs. For these reasons the FDC is recommending an allocation amount that is lower than last year and encourages the chapter to reconsider the manner in which they develop their strategy.
In addition, the FDC concluded that a multi-year grant, even if it was a working concept, would not have been recommended for WMCH, because of the lack of evidence of a well-designed strategic plan for the longer term.
Wikimedia CH has been very successful in offline activities/Kiwix, and is effectively developing tools for broader activities extending beyond their community, for example in GLAM. It is creating tools and content that can have impact on a global scale. The offline work done by the chapter is a very good example of collaboration and cross-coordination among different movement groups for creation of a universal tool and its implementation (e.g, the work with Wikimedia South Africa to implement offline tools).
Although offline work is impressive, it also may pose challenges. Current outcomes related to Kiwix are not yet entirely clear in the data provided. There are also concerns about selling Kiwix and the proposed fee-for-service model (the nature of the services offered may not be areas of expertise for the chapter). Wikimedia CH should not be expected to lead all of the activities around offline work: for example, Wikimedia CH may not be in the best position to take charge of disseminating this work around the world. In other words, developing tools is a good idea, but other partners will be needed to do the work in the field and scale the program.
The FDC recognizes Wikimedia CH’s collaborative efforts and appreciates cooperation with some other chapters. The planned focus on linguistic minorities is good, although the chapter could do more to increase diversity in their context, including, for example, by working with other languages and immigrants, and by continuing to develop programs targeting gender diversity. More progress on establishing metrics and measures may be necessary to strengthen the organization’s ability to deliver impact that scales appropriately to the level of funding received by Wikimedia CH.
The dedication and intentions of Wikimedia CH’s volunteers, staff, and board are clearly illustrated in the activities of the chapter. Despite this, the proposal seems unfocused: projects evolve from good and committed people involved in the organization, and are centered around the expertise and interests of specific individuals rather than developed as part of a clear strategy. This is typical and positive in the case of small grassroots organizations, but Wikimedia CH is no longer a small organization, and the expectations for impact have risen accordingly. The chapter appears to be unwilling to prioritize and close down programs that are not performing well. Community engagement seems to be a serious challenge, and volunteer involvement is deeply unsatisfactory, which is unsustainable in the long term.
Finally, the FDC is very concerned with the rate of growth of the Wikimedia CH’s budget and grant request, which may not be sustainable, especially at the current level of budget and staffing. This concern is coupled with the low impact of the organization. Overall, the proposal is very expensive, even in the context of a country with high costs of living. The approach to date of drawing on reserves to increase the budget is not a sustainable approach. The current development trajectory of growth is extremely problematic, even as the organization has worked to secure external donations and in-kind contributions. The lack of succession planning is potentially risky for an organization with a budget of this size.
The FDC very much appreciates the responsiveness of Wikimedia CH, and their comments and responses were valuable in understanding the perspective of the chapter.
Amount requested: €1,200,000 (~$1,575,600)
Amount recommended: €840,000 (~$1,100,000)
The FDC recommends a significant decrease in funding for Wikimedia Deutschland’s proposal from last year’s allocation, which is significantly less than the amount requested.
The FDC is very concerned that there is so little detail in the proposal about both budget and programs for an organization of this size, especially when compared to other proposals. With this recommendation to cut their allocation, it is the sincere hope of the FDC that significant concerns around the lack of focus in activities and large expenses for many of Wikimedia Deutschland’s programs will be recognised and acted upon.
Furthermore, the FDC is puzzled by the governance practices of Wikimedia Deutschland’s Board, in particular the manner in which the Executive Director’s sudden transition was handled. The FDC feels that this resulted in excessive and unnecessary transition costs, made without sufficient consideration. While there are circumstances which justify the immediate termination of a contract, since the ED was hired as an on-going consultant and is still within the organization, the Board’s publicly communicated dissatisfaction with the ED did not appear to have sufficient rationale for such a radical action. There does not appear to have been any change in strategic direction since the termination, and it is likely that a decision not to extend the contract of the outgoing ED would have achieved the same result at far less cost.
The FDC recognizes the significant impact that Wikidata has had on the movement as a whole, and that its continued level of support makes up a considerable portion of Wikimedia Deutschland’s budget and also a significant portion of the overall APG bucket. It is the intention of the FDC to ensure continuity and stability for high impact projects like Wikidata. For this reason, the FDC recommends that Wikidata’s funding be provided by a dedicated and project-oriented multi-year grant; this solution will be proposed to Wikimedia Deutschland and the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
In general, the FDC appreciates the reduction of dependency on APG funding planned in this proposal. However, due to the seriousness of the change in governance, and the poor quality of the proposal, the FDC gave some consideration to proposing 6 months’ bridge funding, as some FDC members were concerned with committing such a large sum of money for a full year without further review. However, the FDC decided to continue with a year’s allocation, primarily to support Wikidata.
The FDC considers Wikimedia Deutschland’s focus on Wikidata a major strength. The attention and care given to this project has led to the success of Wikidata as a high impact project within the movement. Wikidata, with its high level of complexity, has thrived within the context of an organization that is able and willing to treat it as their flagship project. Due to the importance of its connections with the other projects of the Wikimedia family, the FDC proposes that the WMF provide separate and dedicated funding to Wikimedia Deutschland specifically to ensure continued support of Wikidata outside of Wikimedia Deutschland’s budget.
Wikimedia Deutschland has also had success in convening a group of advocates to support free knowledge; the chapter has proven willing and able to lead and co-facilitate this and other cross-organization activities. The FDC views this as a strength, as it allows the movement to have direct impact on policy issues that may assist in lowering barriers of access to free knowledge. Furthermore the FDC is conscious of the important work done with regards to movement dialogue facilitated by this chapter and expects Wikimedia Deutschland to find creative ways of continuing this work with minimal impact on their budget.
It is also clear that Wikimedia Deutschland is working to decrease their reliance on the APG for funding, with both a projected cut in budget and a lower request for APG funding. This is a very important direction taken by the organization and deserves acknowledgement.
Considering Wikimedia Deutschland’s size and budget, the lack of details and depth in this proposal and budget, compounded by vagueness, is a serious concern and is simply not acceptable. The FDC does not find a focused rationale behind its budget, which is serious considering that Wikimedia Deutschland is making the largest APG funding request overall and it is requesting more than 25% of the total funds available. The costs of each program are not sufficiently detailed, making it hard to determine if amounts allocated for each program are reasonable or not. From the information available, the FDC considers administration costs included in this proposal to be extremely and unusually high, especially those related to the Board.
In reviewing Wikimedia Deutschland’s programs, the FDC believes that the impact expected does not appear to have been reached for many programs, even though there has been a large investment in them. This is especially noticeable with respect to the Volunteer Support program, with an estimated cost of € 710,000 for next year including staff (larger than any other single proposal made to the FDC). The FDC has also noted the reluctance of Wikimedia Deutschland to use the global metrics developed by the WMF Grantmaking team.
Wikimedia Deutschland also has the largest number of staff and largest budget for staff among the Wikimedia affiliates. Some members of the FDC consider that Wikimedia Deutschland’s staff is already oversized and see no rationale behind further increases, especially when the overall budget is being reduced.
The issue of governance is one of great concerns to the FDC. The by-laws seem to restrict structured and controlled change to leadership. This introduces significant risks to the organization. Board elections should allow for the retention of expertise and continuity at the very least, and at best assist in avoiding unnecessarily drastic change in organizational strategy. In addition, a Board of the size, scale and responsibility of Wikimedia Deutschland needs a Board that incorporates external expertise. Because of the lack of such control, the current ED transition was very expensive, equivalent to budgets of two medium-sized organizations. This is not acceptable by any measure.
Reservations by individual FDC members
Some members of the Committee think that Wikimedia Deutschland has made useful improvements by lowering its requested grant and restructuring its operations, and should be encouraged to continue in this direction, as a first step in changing to a stronger focus on increasing impact.
Another issue raised by some members of the committee was Wikimedia Deutschland’s history of overspending and big overheads. Even where funds are secured outside of the APG or other WMF grants programs, those funds are raised in the name of the movement. These should go toward assisting the movement and as such Wikimedia Deutschland is still accountable to the movement in respect of the disposition of these funds.
Amount requested: €63,477 (~$83,345)
Amount recommended: €63,477 (~$83,345)
The FDC recommends full funding for Wikimedia Eesti’s proposal.
Wikimedia Eesti has presented a well-articulated proposal with clear goals and outcomes. The FDC is particularly happy to see such a mature approach from a new entity. The logic models presented in the proposal are strong and as a result, the expected outcomes are clear. The proposal shows foresight in planning and clarity around prioritization of projects. It is commendable that Wikimedia Eesti has been successful in raising funds from external sources and plans to raise a significant portion of the proposed budget externally. The FDC is also pleased to see that the chapter has developed a contingency plan for changing their programs in case the anticipated funding is not received.
The FDC recognizes that Wikimedia Eesti has been successful in good governance, with a stable organizational structure. The chapter has a very active board that includes both members with lots of expertise and members who are new to the movement.
Wikimedia Eesti has been remarkably successful at recruiting new editors and volunteers through their Education and GLAM programs, as well as content development through online contests. This is an area where this chapter’s experience and learning could be shared across the movement.
Wikimedia Eesti has a small volunteer base and, as a result, the possibility of volunteer burnout is a significant concern. There are some very active volunteers, but the loss of even a handful of those volunteers could have a significant impact on the chapter’s outcomes. Wikimedia Eesti should continue their outreach to expand their core of volunteers.
Wikimedia Eesti has proposed an increase of their staff to 4.5 full time employees, which will make their staff much larger compared to organizations with a similar sized budget and scope. For a smaller entity like Wikimedia Eesti, a large staff relative to their volunteer base could be difficult to manage. On the other hand, the proposed staff costs as a percentage of the total budget is still within the normal range, as two of the staff positions in the education program are externally funded. However, given their current rapid growth, the FDC expects that Wikimedia Eesti will be very thoughtful in future expansions of staff.
Overall, this is a good proposal with clear outcomes; the FDC’s only concerns focused on the rapid expansion of budget, staff, and program activity while relying on a small community of volunteers.
Amount requested: ₪960,000 (~$268,000)
Amount recommended: ₪770,000 (~$215,000)
The FDC recommends an allocation of ₪770,000, which is an increase from last year’s funding, although less than the amount requested.
The FDC notes the diversity of Wikimedia Israel’s programmatic activity; this is both positive and negative, as the chapter has strong programs but this proposal also lacks focus. Wikimedia Israel seems to be asking for a significant increase in funds without a strong and structured justification.
Wikimedia Israel is a mature organization that needs to develop methods for the effective execution of programs in addition to the management of financial resources. With more focus, the chapter has a high potential for achievement. The FDC recognizes that the education program may be a good opportunity and strategic focus area for Wikimedia Israel. This justifies additional staff for education, and is a key reason that the FDC has recommended an increase over last year’s funding. We acknowledge that Wikimedia Israel may need to refocus their plan and existing staff resources, and we urge Wikimedia Israel to consider continuing work in a high potential area like education.
Wikimedia Israel is successful at organizing activities that attract attention of wider audiences (e.g. national press and the media), and can set a good example in this respect to other organizations in the movement. Previous concerns around excessive engagement of the Board in operational management appear to have been resolved, although the Board elections scheduled in the near future may bring changes here as well.
The change in the Board’s philosophy from a management to supervisory style seems to be well-paced and fitting for an organization at this stage of development, although it poses additional risks when paired with simultaneous rapid growth. There has been a higher than average number of significant changes in leadership, first with the ED transition, and more recently with unexpected and unscheduled board elections. These changes raise questions about governance and concerns about the possible implications for the chapter’s future direction.
Part of the justification provided by Wikimedia Israel for the increase in the budget points to the need to finance travel for the Executive Director (ED) retreat and costs of Wikimania participation. While the FDC recognizes that there is likely value in participating in ED meetings, as well as in Wikimania attendance, it also emphasizes strongly that the primary focus of chapters should be on programmatic activity. Retreats and conference participation, should not serve as a primary justification for budget inflation.
In general, the chapter seems to have been lacking a strategic direction over the last three years, and is doing too many different types of activities. A stronger and clearer focus in the proposal could help in concentrating efforts and energy of the organization in doing the things that are the most important and most exciting.
The FDC notes that Wikimedia Israel has a long history of innovative programs, so much so that it is surprising to see less innovation in the current proposal. It would also seem that the goals around MediaWiki technology are unrealistic: there is no previous experience with setting these types of goals, and it remains unclear if there is sufficient expertise in the broader community to leverage this work. There are some concerns about the education program: there are only small activities planned, and the goals seem relatively basic even when compared to goals of much smaller programs. Nonetheless, the program receives good external support and is clearly a worthwhile idea, and it is hoped it will bring good results.
The chapter may be accomplishing more than is reflected in their reports, which suggests both significant activity with good outcomes, and some key weaknesses in reporting. Wikimedia Israel has shown an exemplary ability to effectively engage in multiple content-focused projects.
Wikimedia Israel is effective in liaising with external bodies. The fostering and development of existing links and relations (e.g. with the Ministry of Education) is commendable and has the potential for major impact for both the chapter and the movement. Despite this, some of Wikimedia Israel’s partnerships appear to be less effective because of a lack of volunteer support; however, the chapter is planning to expand those programs (e.g. National Library of Israel cooperation).The FDC understands that Wikimedia Israel may feel the need to keep these programs going to foster relations and prospective collaborations, but it is advisable to have a more clear programmatic focus in this plan.
Wikimedia Israel serves a large and diverse community; however, the number of volunteers working with the chapter is relatively small, and the chapter seems to have developed a reliance on the same base of active participants over the years. There is conflicting evidence that the activities of the chapter reflect the priorities and needs of the community, although there is usually good community dedication to, and interest in, the activities of the chapter. The FDC also recognizes that Wikimedia Israel serves a community with very diverse needs, and that the new ED is struggling to get the message across that she needs support from the community to ensure a more sharply focused program.
The FDC notes that the Education Program is strategically important for WMIL and one project with potential for impact. The proposal to add a staff member dedicated exclusively to this seems logical and we expect it will help to get maximum impact of the project. The FDC has decided to support increasing the funds allocated to WMIL compared to last year and encourages the chapter to reallocate resources to concrete this hiring.
Amount requested: €340,000 (~$ 498,940)
Recommended amount: €304,000 (~$399,000)
The FDC recommends that the amount of funding for WMNL stay at the same level as last year.
The FDC believes that the proposal by Wikimedia Nederland is supported by significant strategic detail. The FDC also recognizes that Wikimedia Nederland has developed a solid organizational structure with proven capacity for thoughtful and cautious planning.
On the other hand, Wikimedia Nederland relies heavily on the APG process for their funding and has one of the largest budgets amongst Wikimedia affiliates, and maintains very large reserves. Even though the chapter has demonstrated some success in the past, this impact is not correlated with the high amount of funds used. The FDC encourages Wikimedia Nederland to look for innovative ways to increase the impact of their projects, without increasing their budget.
For this reason, the FDC is recommending that the level of funding for Wikimedia Nederland stay the same as last year.
The FDC appreciates the strategic detail of Wikimedia Nederland’s proposal and budget. The chapter clearly made a strong contribution to movement work by supporting the creation of the Wiki Loves Monuments program, which has been adapted by groups across the movement. The FDC commends Wikimedia Nederland for this initiative, which is a good example of an innovation that has matured and scaled well.
Governance practices in Wikimedia Nederland also seem solid, and the FDC definitely appreciates that the chapter has created an extensive process to validate their annual plan and strategy with the broader community (i.e. beyond just chapter members). The chapter pays remarkable attention to the community of editors it works with in areas that other chapters do not focus on. It is directly and effectively responding to disruptive behaviors of community members.
The FDC recognizes that there has been inconsistency in the messages given to chapters and other entities about fundraising diversity. Nonetheless, the FDC thinks that Wikimedia Nederland is in a position to seek other sources of funding. Wikimedia Nederland’s reliance on APG funding for their activities seems insufficient given the size of the organization and their location in a resource-rich region, and the FDC encourages the chapter to start looking for new ideas for diversifying their external fundraising, reducing their dependence on the APG process. A reduction on the dependence of APG funding will in turn increase the availability of resources for other movement entities. The FDC also notes the very large reserves Wikimedia Nederland has at this moment, equal to nearly a full year of staff costs, which does not seem justified in their context. The FDC expects the chapter to reduce these large reserves in the near future, decreasing the amount requested to the FDC in future proposals.
In strategic execution, Wikimedia Nederland displays a cautious approach that is structured in taking measured steps. There is a positive strategic shift toward content in this proposal, but it is not yet showing immediate clear results. The FDC expects clear results in the future if Wikimedia Nederland plans to sustain a budget and APG funding request of this size.
Amount requested: €103,510 (~$135,909)
Recommended amount: €98,760 (~$130,000)
The FDC recognizes that Wikimedia Serbia is an innovative grassroots organization, with dedicated volunteers and a good strategic focus on the area of education. WMRS has also been able to deliver programs in the past, with good results and impact on the Wikimedia projects.
Wikimedia Serbia’s proposal is written well, and the SMART goals are detailed with clarity; however the number of activities proposed may indicate a lack of strategic direction or focus.
The FDC appreciates the many novel projects included in this proposal; however, the FDC has specific concerns around the Thailand Underwater project.
For this reason, the FDC recommends full funding with the exclusion of the Thailand Underwater project.
Wikimedia Serbia is a small, spontaneous grassroots chapter, and the FDC appreciates the innovative activities of Wikimedia Serbia, as well as the motivation, energy and dedication of their volunteers. Wikimedia Serbia has also managed their staff transition very well, with minimal impact on their operations and programs.
The chapter has demonstrated the ability to successfully carry out projects, especially photo contests, and with this proposal Wikimedia Serbia is presenting projects that the FDC recognizes are especially culturally significant for their community and innovative (e.g. the Sacred Tree Project and the WikiWomen Camp Serbia-Albania). Wikimedia Serbia has also been able to gather strong community participation around their programs, soliciting community inputs and attracting participation from a diverse editorship.
The budget presented by Wikimedia Serbia is well-structured and the FDC commends the exceptional level of planning and detail provided as an example for all applying entities of a similar size. The proposed increase in budget is supported by good outcomes in the past, and the potential impact of the activities proposed. The increase in staff seems aligned with an increased strategic focus around education.
On the other hand, the FDC is concerned by the costs of the Thailand Underwater project. The FDC recommends that Wikimedia Serbia reach out the local Wikimedia User Group Thailand to foster collaboration and to leverage local in-kind contributions, rather than finance this project directly; if this doesn’t work, FDC recommends not doing this project.
While Wikimedia Serbia’s proposal is one of the best presented in this round, the FDC’s main concern with this proposal is related to the number of activities and programs proposed; furthermore, this is a concern that was also raised by the FDC with Wikimedia Serbia’s proposal last year. This great variety of activities, while reflecting the diversity of the inclinations and ideas coming from the Serbian community, is concerning because it results in a lack of overall focus in Wikimedia Serbia’s plans, and may cause burnout of volunteers.
Amount requested: kr.2,557,000 (~$366,000)
Amount allocated: kr.2,557,000 (~$366,000)
The FDC recommends full funding for Wikimedia Sverige.
The FDC appreciates the stability and track record of Wikimedia Sverige in both organizational and program running levels. The foregoing is well captured in the proposal and budget presented, and justifies the full funding.
The FDC however cautions Wikimedia Sverige against overambitious external fundraising plans as well as big budget increases going into the future.
Wikimedia Sverige has proven to be a stable organization, with effective leadership from both staff and board. The organization presents a clear vision, which is carried out in well thought-out programs. Their detailed budget and annual plan reflect the alignment of their programs with movement priorities, as well as presenting good measures for evaluation.
The FDC is, however, concerned that their overall budget increase (around 33%) is extremely ambitious. While this budget increase does not correspond to a significant increase in their request for FDC funding, it seems to be extremely bold considering that they have not met past fundraising targets.
If successful in their external fundraising, Wikimedia Sverige will decrease the percentage of their revenue coming from APG funding (about half of their overall revenue in 2015) which is a good way to grow their organization and expand their budget without relying as heavily on the FDC resource pool. However, looking more closely at the change in their FDC request, the request for an increase matching the inflation of salaries seems to indicate that their core operations are still tied closely to FDC funding. The present plan shows very high expectations in the amount of external funds they will raise, to finance their programs and operations. The FDC has concerns about these ambitious fundraising targets, considering that Wikimedia Sverige does not plan to meet their fundraising targets for 2014, and worries that their relative reliance on FDC funding will end up being greater than their plans imply. This said, Wikimedia Sverige’s actual and projected work on diversifying fundraising sources is noted and appreciated, and the FDC hopes that they will continue to intensify their efforts, and begin to use external funding to reduce their dollar amount reliance on APG funding before they expand budget and programs.
The FDC was impressed that WMSE significantly increased their number of activities and programs this year. The mix of innovative programs (such as the Botacademy) and the continuation and expansion of existing successful programs (such as Wikipedia towns and Wiki Loves Public Art) is a good example of capitalizing on past work, and a way forward that serves as a good example for other organizations to consider as they build their annual and strategic plans.
It is noteworthy that WMSE has undertaken programs to improve volunteer and online community engagement (such as bringing new editors to the Teahouse). Their extensive and successful use of their technology pool also shows that good management of local resources can have impact on a global scale.
Overall, Wikimedia Sverige has presented a strong proposal, which their solid past performance and organizational context indicates they have the capacity to implement, which has led the FDC to the decision to give them full funding. The FDC definitely has high expectations for future performance of Wikimedia Sverige.
Amount requested: £405,000 (~$672,381)
Amount recommended: £314,000 (~$520,000)
The FDC recommends an allocation of £314,000, which is a significant amount, although it is significantly less than the amount requested and also less than the amount allocated last year.
The FDC recognizes the efforts made by Wikimedia UK in improving governance and in implementing board diversity over the past two years, and sees this as a sign that Wikimedia UK has the necessary capacity to manage the forthcoming ED transition. Such staffing changes are normal in all organizations. A major transition, however, is a time when caution needs to be applied and the FDC believes that Wikimedia UK needs to concentrate on strengthening its staff structure before it looks at implementing an ambitious annual plan.
Wikimedia UK’s staffing may not be going to the most effective areas and the FDC sees the change in ED as an opportunity to re-evaluate the use of personnel in order to achieve the greatest impact of movement resources.
It is good to note that a number of Wikimedia UK’s programs are aligned with the strategic priorities of improving quality, such as its work with GLAM, Wikipedians in Residence, and work in Wales.
The FDC appreciates that Wikimedia UK has created a detailed strategic plan and a strong proposal, although there are some inconsistencies and areas for improvement. The FDC applauds Wikimedia UK’s progress in the area of monitoring and evaluating its work, but also notes that many outputs are narrative rather than quantitative and urges Wikimedia UK to continue to push itself toward setting quantitative as well as qualitative targets. It is difficult to follow the strategic rationale for some programs, for example the Barriers to access programs, especially when program objectives are very broad.
While the FDC understands that reducing Wikimedia UK’s funding might be a strain on the organization, the FDC hopes it will lead to a productive re-evaluation of priorities and direction. The ED transition should be seen as an opportunity to rethink and restructure. The governance reshuffle and adaptation has been managed well, recommendations brought about by the governance review have been implemented, and board diversity has been achieved, which will provide a strong foundation for the coming transition. At the same time, the FDC notes that it seems difficult to identify a sustainable and clear staff structure beneath the executive level.
Many of Wikimedia UK’s programs are not very cost effective, even considering high expenses in the UK. For example, the volunteer support program is expensive but not showing significant enough impact to justify the expense. Staff costs are significant, and Wikimedia UK is proposing to further grow its staff. It may make more sense for Wikimedia UK to consider restructuring existing staff resources to achieve more efficiency. The FDC urges Wikimedia UK to carefully consider its plans to hire additional fundraising staff, and to articulate a clear strategy for how that position will benefit the organization and the movement. The FDC acknowledges that there may be many untapped resources in Wikimedia UK’s context, but resources will need to be clearly identified in order to be targeted effectively.
The FDC is concerned that Wikimedia UK is shifting its focus to technology without showing a successful track record in previous technology-related programs, and without setting clear goals for this work. While development of tools could be useful, this work might be accomplished more effectively through a smaller and more precisely targeted grant to somebody who could work on the tool, perhaps sponsored by Wikimedia UK or supported by Wikimedia UK in other non-monetary ways.
The FDC believes that Wikimedia UK is well positioned to do policy advocacy work. The Open Coalition project is a good example of advocacy towards open practices and knowledge sharing across the Web. The FDC encourages Wikimedia UK to intensify its efforts to fulfill their potential in the future.
Wikimedia UK has effectively engaged and retained volunteers after Wikimania and the FDC hopes they continue to capitalize on this opportunity to expand their volunteer base. The FDC notes measurable impact on some other projects such as Welsh Wikipedia, while measurable impact on English Wikipedia is more difficult to understand. Furthermore, the FDC notes that Wikimedia UK has opportunities to work with GLAM partners in its local environment, and this work has a high potential for impact that extends beyond the UK’s borders.
The FDC thinks that Wikimedia UK’s potential can be best realized through refocus and the strengthening of existing structures rather than through rapid and significant growth. On these grounds, the FDC has decided to significantly reduce APG funding allocation of Wikimedia UK.
Most of the Wikimedia organizations applied for funding in this round appeared in the FDC process for the third time. While grant requests and overall budgets have increased year after year for almost all the organizations, impact has not grown at the same rate. Organizations have appreciably improved in their ability to create targets and develop metrics and measures, without always showing the corresponding ability to execute and demonstrate proven results. This is of significant concern to the FDC, particularly for the largest organizations that have considerable financial and staff resources. The FDC notes that when reaching such significant levels of funds requested and overall budgets, organizations need to focus their strategies and the majority of their budget and efforts on proven programs that scale. In order to keep forward momentum, it is also important that organizations devote a smaller part of their budget to keep experimenting and innovating with new programs, develop new metrics, and continue to report successes and failures in order to allow the Wikimedia movement to benefit from pilots.
The FDC discussed multi-year funding at great length, both as a general concept as well as in the context of the three organizations that applied for it: Wikimedia CH, Wikimedia UK and Wikimedia Österreich. As is clear in the individual recommendations, the FDC approached the proposal from two perspectives: first, whether the organization’s past performance and overall context qualify them for a multi-year grant; and secondly, if a pilot of multi-year grants made sense in the context of an evolving discussion on the nature of the APG process, given the WMF ED’s response to the FDC Advisory Committee’s recommendations.
In principle, the FDC believes that multi-year funding can be a useful practice, for example when tied to specific impactful programs that have time horizons longer than a year, or in the case of small organizations doing similar proven programmatic work from year to year. The FDC recommends that the WMF staff return to the FDC and the APG applicants, after the community consultation on WMF’s grantmaking strategy, with much greater clarity on the requirements in process and expected outcomes of a multi-year grant.
Over the last three years, the extent to which APG applicants should strive to diversify their funding sources has not always been clear to them. The FDC would like to be clear in this area: organizations are encouraged to diversify their funds and other resources (including by leveraging in-kind resources where that is appropriate in their contexts). Diversification of funds and resources mitigate risks and maintain sustainability, and also allow organizations to build meaningful local partnerships and shared ownership around goals. Some APG grantees have made significant strides in attempting to raise external funds, and the FDC appreciates these efforts. The FDC notes that in general organizations in the Global North have significant opportunities to secure external funds, which may not be as easily accessible in the Global South.
At the same time, raising funds outside of the movement may require significant capacity, including time and effort, for an organization. The FDC seeks to understand what kind of non-monetary support movement organizations may require in order to be successful in this area. To that end, the committee directs the FDC staff to collect information from APG grantees in order to understand what kind of non-monetary support is needed to build sufficient capacity in this area.
Governance and transitions
The FDC notes that capable staff and Board leadership are key to program and organizational effectiveness and impact. Overall, the current round of APG applicants demonstrate the value of having stable and sustainable leadership that is responsible about how it manages transitions and change. In some cases, the FDC noted and appreciated the thoughtful and transparent way in which staff and Board transitions were or are being managed. At the same time, the FDC is concerned about certain instances in which transitions were made abruptly, without clear rationale and resulting in extremely costly change for the organization and the movement.
The FDC recognizes that transition and change can be positive or negative depending on context. However, it recommends that boards of Wikimedia organizations reflect as responsibly as possible on when and how transitions should be necessary. Possible disruption in daily operations, costs of transition and their justification and continued trust of partners and stakeholders should be carefully considered when making any governance or staffing decision. The FDC suggests that organizations ensure sustainability by doing contingency planning so they do not have ‘single points of failure’ in their volunteer or staff capacities and responsibilities. This is particularly important in the case of smaller organizations that are scaling up their efforts and reach.
The FDC also recommends that boards carefully consider the possibility to change how term limits are managed to ensure continuity, e.g. with staggered rotation, so they can ensure both the integration of new energy and ideas as well as the maintenance of institutional history and experience; seek out members with a diversity of backgrounds and expertise, including non-Wikimedians with significant experience in areas like technology, governance, partnerships and communities or complementary skills to Wikimedians; and do so with a combination of elections and appointments so that community and external membership can be encouraged as effectively as possible. Where possible within the local legal and cultural framework, organizations should consider appointing external members with specific expertise that could be of value in framing and evaluating organizational strategy and programmatic plans.
One area that has been difficult for the FDC to analyze is the issue of operating reserves. Operating reserves are liquid, unrestricted assets available for an organization to use as a cushion, and to cover the costs of operations in case of unanticipated expenses or loss of revenue. Operating reserves are not meant to be considered a solution to everyday cash flow issues; in most cases, they are meant to be held over from year to year, accumulating interest (when possible) and growing based on each individual organization’s operating reserves policy. Organizations operate in a number of legal and regulatory contexts that differ from country to country, and account for and treat these reserves in a variety of ways.
The FDC notes that some organizations account for reserves as a “carry-forward” from one year to another, while other organizations report their reserves separately in their budgets. Some amount of standardization, and greater transparency on this matter would improve the clarity of the proposals and facilitate comparisons among entities. The FDC staff should ensure that more standardization is achieved in next rounds.
The FDC believes that having some reserves to cover planned staffing costs is prudent for organizations to have as a contingency, but believes that reserves built up beyond 3-4 months of staffing costs may tie up significant movement funds without the possibility of programmatic impact. While the FDC has a clear policy on how APG funding may be used to augment operating reserves, organizations should also carefully consider how they are allocating other resources for this purpose.
The FDC strongly encourages movement organizations to share learning and resources, and to coordinate some of their work. This is especially true in cases where they may be targeting a similar language or geography, or working on similar programs. A number of organizations are supporting the same language communities with significant resources, including money, staff, and organizational focus. In these cases, the FDC recommends that chapters coordinate their efforts and share materials, staff resources, finances, and communication on these activities. For example, the FDC recognizes that coordination among the German-speaking chapters is being planned in this area and note the emergence of geography or language-based coordination networks like Iberocoop.
The FDC is pleased to see some coordination efforts taking place, but feels that organizations could improve in this area. Beyond collaboration on programmatic activities or among language groups, it suggests that organizations consider strategic joint activities, such as jointly seeking funding from the EU. The FDC recommends and expects more synergy between chapters in countries with the same or similar language communities.
The FDC has observed that there are a large number of international (either regional or global) events, including conferences, workshops, and the Wikimedia chapters Executive Directors' retreat. While such face-to-face events may hold considerable value to build community and share knowledge, these events may not always have the outcomes and the impact that the FDC would wish to see, especially with respect to the costs involved. The FDC knows a number of Wikimedia organizations (including chapters and user groups beyond this round of applicants), to be frugal, and encourages the movement as a whole to seek out cost-effective approaches for sharing knowledge. The FDC encourages organizations to take advantage of existing movement events and add on smaller meetings to these. For instance, the Executive Directors’ meetings, which currently take place twice a year and are unattached to movement events, could perhaps be done virtually or alongside the Wikimedia Conference or Wikimania.
Finally, the FDC raises some questions regarding the amounts allocated for travel grants to Wikimania. For instance, in the past, the number of Wikimania grant recipients sponsored by one large chapter has approached 10% of the number of total of Wikimania attendees, creating the unusual situation of one organization having the opportunity to significantly impact the composition of one of the most important events of the movement. The FDC considers that there should be a broader discussion, including other movement partners, about this issue.
The FDC deliberations process
Eleven proposals for this round were submitted on October 1, 2014. In preparation for their deliberations, the FDC reviewed the community commentary on each proposal as well as the responses from applicants on the discussion pages of the proposal forms and the staff proposal assessments. The FDC received a number of additional inputs, including staff assessments and analysis on impact and finances from FDC staff. This round, the FDC reviewed the past performance of each organization based on the 2013 impact reports as well as the data grantees shared through their quarterly progress reports in 2014. Before the face-to-face meeting, the FDC held a call in late October to discuss each member’s initial assessment of all proposals. Prior to the meeting, the FDC members shared an initial allocation in dollars for each proposal, as a point for beginning their discussions.
At the in-person deliberations, FDC staff presented an overview of their findings and summarized financial and programmatic themes. After these brief presentations, the FDC followed up with points of clarification and questions, before delving into discussions of each proposal in significant depth. Strengths, concerns, and general themes were recorded for all proposals, to assist later in writing the recommendation text. At the end of these initial discussions, FDC members prepared an individual and anonymous second allocation for each organization. Prior to beginning the next round of discussions about each proposal, the spread of member allocations was shown, with some basic analysis of the spread to understand the range of agreement or disagreement among the allocated amounts. From there, and following more extensive discussion, the group attained consensus for each allocation using the Gradients of Agreement tool.
As always, members who had perceived or possible conflicts of interest with a proposal did not receive information about nor did they participate in relevant discussions and deliberations or receive specific inputs related to those applications.
The committee next prepared a brief written summary of its analysis of each proposal, including significant factors and observations made during the decision-making process.
About the FDC
The Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) for the Wikimedia movement is a committee of community members that makes recommendations to the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) about how to allocate funds to movement organizations. The FDC was established in 2012. Now in its third iteration, the committee comprises nine volunteer members:
- Chair: Dariusz Jemielniak (Pundit)
- Vice-Chair: Delphine Ménard (notafish)
- Secretary: Matanya Moses
- Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy)
- Anne Clin (Risker)
- Cristian Consonni (CristianCantoro)
- Dumisani Ndubane (Thuvack)
- Osmar Valdebenito (B1mbo)
- Sydney Poore (FloNight)
This round, the two WMF Board representatives on the FDC - Bishakha Datta and Frieda Brioschi - observed the deliberations. The Ombudsperson to the FDC process, Susana Morais, as specified in her role description, did not participate in deliberations.
The FDC was supported by WMF staff throughout the deliberations. These staff included: Katy Love, Winifred Olliff, Sati Houston, Marti Johnson, Anasuya Sengupta and Garfield Byrd. WMF staff present at the deliberations offered analysis, helped facilitate, took notes, and responded to any additional queries by the FDC, but did not participate in deliberations about specific proposals.