Fundraising and Funds Dissemination/Recommendations
This page is a draft.
Please don't edit this page, but please do make comments and suggest edits on the talk page. Everyone is welcome to contribute.
Comments will be assumed to reflect the individual opinions of the people who wrote them, including any comments from Wikimedia Foundation staff or Board members, and chapters representatives. At this point, this page does not reflect the official position of the Wikimedia Foundation. It is a draft, and may change substantially. I have asked Philippe Beaudette and Maggie Dennis to help me facilitate discussion on the talk page. Please assume good faith as you contribute to the discussion.
The purpose here is to have an open exchange of views and information, with the goal of figuring out how the Wikimedia movement can conduct fundraising and funds dissemination in a way that is consistent with the guiding principles developed by the Board of Trustees in conversation with community members over the last several months. The Board of Trustees is expected to release finalized guiding principles within a week or so: here are the most recent versions of the principles for fundraising and funds dissemination.
- 1 Preamble
- 2 Purpose of this document
- 3 The bigger context: future of Wikimedia movement entities & tie-in with Movement Roles
- 4 Recommendations: Fundraising
- 4.1 Recommendation #1: All donations received from visitors to sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation should be received and processed by the Wikimedia Foundation.
- 4.2 Recommendation #2: All movement entities should be free to fundraise outside of the wikis operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, in ways that are consistent with the guiding principles for fundraising laid out by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
- 5 Recommendations: Funds Dissemination
- 5.1 Recommendation #3: The Wikimedia Foundation should commit to significantly expanding grant-making activities to support decentralized work by movement members (including chapters, other groups, and individuals).
- 5.2 Recommendation #4: The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees should commit to delegating movement-wide allocation of funds (excluding Wikimedia Foundation’s core operating budget) to a newly-formed movement body that would make decisions on the best use of funds within the movement.
- 6 Transition from here to there
- 7 Appendix: Board Resolution
- 8 Appendix: other appendix material
- 9 A note on language
The Board has asked me to make recommendations about fundraising and funds dissemination, and originally I intended to restrict my thinking to that narrow scope. However as I began the work I realized it’s not possible to consider fundraising and funds dissemination practices in isolation from the broader Wikimedia context: our vision, mission, values, history and current practices. And so, I have ended up writing a much broader document than originally planned. My draft recommendations on fundraising and funds dissemination are included here, but they are best understood in the context of the bigger picture outlined in this document.
Purpose of this document
On January XX, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees passed a resolution asking me to develop a recommendation for how the Wikimedia movement should conduct fundraising and funds dissemination, consistent with guiding principles developed by the Board in consultation with the community.
The purpose of this document is to be a space where I can develop my recommendations in public, incorporating feedback and input from community members over time. Sometime in late January, I will finalize the text here, so I can give it to the Board at its February meeting. Until I mark the document as finalized, you can consider it open to input and therefore subject to change. I hope to end up with recommendations that have been poked at and tested and refined via discussion, but I don’t think it’s likely that the finalized recommendations, whatever they turn out to be, will achieve consensus support.
Why do I think consensus support is unlikely? Because this is a difficult problem, and there is no obvious right answer. The Wikimedia movement has been kicking around questions related to fundraising and funds dissemination for years. A wide range of opinions and proposals has been exchanged, at face-to-face meetings and on mailing lists and wikis and people’s individual blogs, and we have never achieved consensus on the best path forward. And yet, the current situation is not sustainable: it’s damaging to individual and organizational relationships in the movement, it's not very efficient, and it isn't effectively safeguarding against various risks. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and so we need to define a reasonable path forward, that’s consistent with our vision, values and mission, and with the guiding principles articulated by the Board. I don’t expect that path will be satisfying to everyone, but I hope that it will be viewed as clear, understandable and reasonable.
When this document is completed, it will contain my finalized recommendations for the Board of Trustees. Until then, it is the space where I’m building the recommendations.
The bigger context: future of Wikimedia movement entities & tie-in with Movement Roles
The Wikimedia movement is building a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. In doing that, people are our biggest asset.
People participate in the Wikimedia movement in a variety of roles, many of which are documented here at the Wikimedia Foundation’s Contribution Taxonomy Project. Examples of roles include writing articles, mediating editorial disputes, welcoming new editors, fighting vandals, editing images, assessing article quality, organizing competitions, responding to reader queries, organizing conferences and meet-ups, acting as a spokesperson, serving on an Arb Com, organizing Board of Trustees elections, donating money, translating policy pages, and teaching other people how to edit. Some roles are undertaken by individuals; others are primarily the work of groups. Groups include chapters that have been formally recognized as such by the Wikimedia Foundation, and other as-yet-unrecognized groups such as Wikimedians in Kansai, Mutirões pelo Conhecimento Livre and Associació Amical Viquipèdia.
All of this work, wherever it originates and whoever does it, is important and adds value to the projects. The fundamental premise of the Wikimedia movement is that if you show up and want to help, you are welcome. You don’t need permission to get involved.
Chapters are key participants in the work of the Wikimedia movement. There is no common mission statement for the chapters, but in practice (as documented on this essay page), most chapters tend to focus on attracting new project participants through outreach work, helping to obtain free materials for project use, and growing awareness and understanding of the projects through media work and staging conferences. Generally speaking, most chapter activity happens in the “real world” (as opposed to purely online), and the chapter’s scope of activity is defined by geography.
Chapters do important programmatic work that helps advance the Wikimedia mission. Many chapters facilitate the organization of meet-ups and organize small events or conference booths. Some chapters organize complex multi-national programs and competitions like “Wiki Loves Monuments,” carry out political advocacy work in areas important to the Wikimedia movement (e.g., advocating for public domain status of government-funded works), develop relations with cultural institutions such as museums and libraries, offer mini-grants and reimbursements for volunteer activities (e.g., costs of travelling to an event to take photos, costs of scientific literature needed to write an article), and provide volunteers with access to resources they need to do their work (e.g., technical equipment such as scanners and cameras, and/or physical space). A few chapters also offer larger grants for activities undertaken by either volunteers or other organizations (e.g., a EUR 28,500 grant by Wikimedia Deutschland for the creation of freely-licensed video lectures for Wikiversity on the subject of economics), and support the Wikimedia movement’s technical infrastructure, for example by helping develop open-source software to benefit the overall movement. This is all valuable work.
The chapters are an important player in the Wikimedia movement. Having said that, they are not the only important player in the movement, and they are not the right tool for every purpose. I would argue that the Wikimedia Foundation has throughout its history overlooked the importance of other movement players, while over-emphasizing the role of the chapters. I believe the Wikimedia Foundation has behaved as though geography-based chapters are, and should be, the Wikimedia movement’s primary mechanism for getting things done globally in pursuit of the mission. I think that’s a flawed assumption for a number of reasons.
The Wikimedia projects are global and they are language-based not geography-based. We initially developed chapters, as I understand our history, because we felt there was work that volunteers would need an official affiliation in order to pursue – ie., partnerships with entities such as cultural institutions and government bodies. That was true and remains true, and much of that work is indeed geography-based because volunteers are interacting with organizations that are geography-based. But that work is just a piece of what we do: it is not the sum total of our work and I would argue it is not the most important aspect of our work.
Pushing everything (or most things, or even many things) through a geography-based filter doesn't make sense. It works pretty well in Germany, because the language/geography overlap is unusually high there – practically everyone in Germany speaks German, and only a relatively small number of people outside Germany speak German. It works less well in most other countries. Some editors in Quebec would rather affiliate with other French speakers than with English-speaking Canadians. Editors in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, where most editors are ex-pats from a wide range of other countries, tend to work in different language versions of the projects, and don't necessarily feel they have enough in common to organize on the basis of their geography. Some Catalan-speaking editors want to affiliate by language rather than geography. It is not clear that organizing by country is the best model for GLAM work, or even for work such as EU advocacy.
Essentially: I believe that a model that privileges geography above all else is the wrong one for our movement: it doesn't really support who we are and what we do. I believe this is why the number of editors involved with their chapter is fairly small: because chapter work is specialized and particular: it isn't for everyone. I don't blame editors for not getting involved with their chapter, and I don't blame chapters for not achieving higher involvement by editors. To be clear: there's nothing wrong with chapters. What's wrong is that the Wikimedia Foundation’s actions have had the effect --to date-- of enshrining the chapter model as the central organizing principle for the movement: the Wikimedia Foundation has been trying to make chapters into something they're not.
How has the Wikimedia Foundation done that?
The Wikimedia Foundation has given the chapters two board seats on the Wikimedia Foundation Board. One of four board meetings is scheduled to coincide with the chapters meeting. There is a private mailing list that is primarily used for chapters representatives to speak with Wikimedia Foundation staff and board members, and the Wikimedia Foundation makes special efforts to recruit chapters representatives to our other lists such as ComCom and the treasurers list. The Wikimedia Foundation has been encouraging chapters to payment process in the annual campaign, and is encouraging them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually -- in some cases, millions of dollars. It has been encouraging them to create permanent staff and infrastructure supporting their work. It is signing agreements that effectively give chapters “exclusivity” in their geography, and committing to consulting with chapters before the Wikimedia Foundation takes any action –even meetings!-- inside their country. All of this is rooted in an assumption that chapters are the central player in the Wikimedia movement for getting all work done inside their geography, or they will be, or they should be. And that therefore they should be given special privileges compared with other entities and individuals.
The issue, in my view, isn’t that any of those things are wrong, per se. They are all nice things to do, and on their own merits they seem reasonable. The issue is opportunity cost and priorities. There are no Board members selected by Arb Com members, or stewards, or admins. There is no permanent staff and infrastructure for GLAM work, or advocacy work. The 160 countries of the world that don't have chapters, do not benefit from special privileges. By extending special consideration to chapters and not to other groups or individuals, the Wikimedia Foundation is privileging chapters at the expense of others: saying that chapters are more important, more central, more core.
And, I believe, a chapter-centric model has the unintended consequence of entirely shutting out some voices from our discourse (we know that we will never have a chapter in mainland China, or Burma, or Syria), and of tending to marginalize people who are not European, not from wealthy parts of the world, not from countries with a strong charitable or NGO tradition, not from countries with a very strong free speech tradition, not fluent English speakers, and/or who have challenging, radical points of view. Again, this is not the fault of the chapters, nor is it a flaw of chapters. It’s a flaw of a highly chapter-centric model. To privilege geography-based chapters inside our movement has the effect of marginalizing voices from countries which cannot self-organize using a chapter model.
All this suggests to me that the Wikimedia movement shouldn't use the geography-based chapter model as our primary model for organizing ourselves, conducting activities, and funding them. The geography-based chapters should be a major player, but not the only or even primary player.
So what should we do?
- I have not been involved in the Movement Roles process, but I observed some of its work, and I think it’s been good. The Movement Roles work has created a proposed charter for all Wikimedia movement entities laying out some shared values and accountabilities, as well as principles governing collaboration and decision-making. It has also, in an effort to acknowledge and support existing group contributions, proposed the creation of an Affiliation Committee, which would encourage the official recognition of new groups in three categories: partner organizations, associations and affiliates. I think this is important work. I think that formally acknowledging the efforts and activities of many different types of groups, in addition to chapters, would redress some of the shortcomings of our current geography-centric model.
- I also think the Wikimedia Foundation should open itself more to directly supporting individual volunteers who aren’t affiliated with a formal organization. We did this with the 10th anniversary celebrations, and it was great. For the purposes of the 10th anniversary, we supported activity wherever it originated, and we saw hundreds of celebrations – some organized by chapters, and some not. The map of activities was truly global, and there was lots happening in Asia and Africa. That, I think, is a good model. It argues for us focusing on encouraging and supporting and funding good work wherever it's happening, in whatever form it takes.
Recommendation #1: All donations received from visitors to sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation should be received and processed by the Wikimedia Foundation.
- See Fundraising and Funds Dissemination/Pros and cons for a list of the pros and cons of centralized payment processing by the Wikimedia Foundation.
(In other words, chapters should no longer directly collect donations from sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. All donations made via the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation should be centrally processed by the Wikimedia Foundation.) This recommendation should be implemented in a staged fashion, on a timeline negotiated in partnership with the chapters that payment-processed in 2011, with the goal of avoiding stress and disruption to those chapters’ operations.
Rationale: On balance, the benefits of centralized payment processing by the Wikimedia Foundation outweigh the benefits of decentralized payment processing. There are some benefits to decentralized payment processing in a mixed model in which chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation both payment process, but overall they are outweighed by the benefits of the centralized model.
It’s important to note that this recommendation only refers to payment processing, not to the development or translation of messaging. The development and translation of messaging that’s suited to the local context should continue in partnership with the global, decentralized Wikimedia movement. See “what is payment processing” on the Q and A page.
Recommendation #2: All movement entities should be free to fundraise outside of the wikis operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, in ways that are consistent with the guiding principles for fundraising laid out by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
Currently, some Wikimedia chapters raise money from a variety of sources including membership dues, other small donor fundraising activities, restricted and unrestricted grants from foundations, in-kind donations, major gifts, and conference fees.
Rationale: This is a good path for financial sustainability for the organization, supporting chapter independence from the Wikimedia Foundation, and supporting growth in revenue for the Wikimedia movement overall.
Recommendations: Funds Dissemination
Recommendation #3: The Wikimedia Foundation should commit to significantly expanding grant-making activities to support decentralized work by movement members (including chapters, other groups, and individuals).
- Each year as part of its annual planning cycle, the Wikimedia Foundation has dedicated a portion of planned spending for grants. This amount has been increasing over the past several years. The Foundation should commit that when it develops its revenue targets, it will explicitly allocate a significant proportion of the target towards grants for movement players -- chapters, other groups, and individuals. The proportion will be reviewed and approved by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, as part of the annual plan.
- The purpose of the grant-making program would be to support decentralized mission-advancing programmatic activities throughout the Wikimedia movement. Entities eligible to receive grants would include Wikimedia chapters, and also Wikimedia-affiliated groups such as wiki-project members, student clubs, organizations such as Wikimedians in Kansai, Mutirões pelo Conhecimento Livre and Associació Amical Viquipèdia, Arbitration or other project governance committees or OTRS workers, and non-Wikimedia-affiliated but like-minded organizations such as Creative Commons, the Free Software Foundation, or OpenStreetMap. Entities would not need to be non-profit in order to receive a grant, nor would they need to be incorporated.
- The grants programs would be clearly and widely promoted and would be designed to support applications by individuals and entities that are highly familiar with Wikimedia work and decision-making processes, as well as those who are less familiar. Each grant program would use standard assessment criteria that would be publicly available to applicants, so they can assess their qualifications before applying. Each process would strive to have clear, detailed application guidelines and simple and non-burdensome application and reporting processes, and to make timely decisions.
- The Wikimedia Foundation envisions its grant-making program to expand and support decentralized, movement-wide program initiatives, which may come from individuals, Wikimedia chapters, affiliates, or aligned organizations. We envision three types of grants, each with its own application process and timeline.
- Expanded grantmaking to individual volunteers, to provide support for work that requires it, e.g. reimbursement of travel expenditures, lending or purchasing of equipment and literature, provision of t-shirts and event materials. The current participation grant program would be the model for this type of grant, although the program would need to be significantly scaled up to accommodate many more grants.
- Restricted grants for specific program initiatives. These would typically be larger grants given to entities that are able to administer both the funds and the program. These entities might or might not be Wikimedia chapters.
- Unrestricted operating funds. These grants would be typically given to fund all or part of a full year's operating budget of a registered entity. They would require close alignment of the entity's objectives with those of the Wikimedia Foundation, and will probably most frequently be given to Wikimedia chapter organizations and other recognized affiliates. A draft sketch of this program is currently open for discussion.
Recommendation #4: The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees should commit to delegating movement-wide allocation of funds (excluding Wikimedia Foundation’s core operating budget) to a newly-formed movement body that would make decisions on the best use of funds within the movement.
- Brainstorming area: Fundraising and Funds Dissemination/Funds allocation brainstorming
The Wikimedia movement needs a mechanism for making high-quality decisions about what activities, within the scope of the Wikimedia mission and strategy, should be funded. This is not work that should be done by people in a single country, or by people representing any narrow set of experiences or views: it should be done by a group that as much as possible mirrors the full diversity of the Wikimedia movement itself.
The only exclusion from this process should be the core operations of the Wikimedia Foundation including, but not limited to, the operation of the websites and related services, continued development and maintenance of the software and required core services of the Foundation (e.g., Fundraising, Finance, Legal, Communications). All other elements of the Wikimedia Foundation’s activities should be subject to the same process as other movement entities. (See the Q and A page for a definition of "core.")
Funding decisions would be made by a body (let’s call it the Funding Allocations Committee, for now) composed primarily of experienced Wikimedia community members. The FAC would be designed to be as diverse as possible, including representation from multiple languages, and representing multiple roles within the Wikimedia movement. It would have decision-making authority and would do its work in public. It would aim to have committee members who are responsive, approachable and consistent in their communications, and who are generally considered fair and competent. Their work would be supported by advisors with professional grant-making experience, and by Wikimedia Foundation finance and administration staff. The purpose of the staff support would be to conduct due diligence ensuring money is used for the purpose given, but not to assess the overall quality or value of proposals.
The FAC would be a standing committee with a substantial workload. It would work in both annual and rolling planning cycles, depending on the nature of the funding decisions (overall allocations vs. specific grants/program approvals within those allocations). Being part of such a committee would be labour-intensive, with a workload comparable to or higher than being a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. Accordingly, it would be important to develop processes like elections and/or systematic rolling searches, as well as aggressive pruning of membership for inactivity. It would not necessarily be entirely comprised of community members -- like the Board itself, it may benefit from additional perspectives, as well.
Transition from here to there
Appendix: Board Resolution
Appendix: other appendix material
A note on language
For many people in the Wikimedia movement, English is not their first language, and it can be exhausting to read long English-language texts. To those people: I am sorry this text will be so long. These are important issues, and I want to be as clear as possible. But I will try to also be as concise as possible, and to avoid colloquialisms. If there are aspects of this text that people want to propose be translated, or summarized-and-then-translated, please say that on the talk page.