Funds Dissemination Committee Advisory Group/Meeting 1/Notes

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Funds Dissemination Committee Advisory Group
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The first meeting of the Advisory Group of the FDC took place in two parts -- Tuesday May 1, 2012 and Wednesday May 2, 2012 -- due to the diverse locations of participants. The agenda and materials reviewed were the same for both parts, and the notes for both parts are captured here.

Meeting Transcript: Part I on Tuesday May 1, 2012[edit]


Advisory Group:

  • Richard Ames
  • Ting Chen
  • Jan-Bart de Vreede
  • Thomas d’Souza
  • Peter Ekman
  • Ali Haidar Khan
  • Sue Gardner
  • Crystal Hayling
  • Barry Newstead
  • Osmar Valdebenito
  • Stu West


  • Asaf Bartov
  • Geoff Brigham
  • Garfield Byrd
  • Kelly Kay
  • Winifred Olliff

The Bridgespan Group (TBG)

  • Libbie Landles-Dowling
  • Laura Lanzerotti
  • Divya Narayanan
  • Daniel Stid

Welcome from Sue Gardner[edit]

A few months ago, the Board asked me to make a recommendation about fundraising and funds dissemination. In April 2012, I made a recommendation to the Board. The recommendation relevant to this process is number 4 – it was a recommendation to create a Funds Dissemination Committee. The reason there is a need for a Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) is that the money that we raise really belongs to the movement. The money truly belongs to those editors, volunteers, and various other individuals who create the content around the world.

I believe that fundraising should be kept separate from funds dissemination because, while most money gets raised in the United States, money needs to be spent around the world where it is going to do the most good for the movement. To honor that, we decided to create a Funds Dissemination Committee. We decided this Committee would be made up of volunteers who know how money should be used best for the movement. We’re now making this real.

We brought in Bridgespan in Berlin to start interviewing key leaders within the chapters and they have now started interviewing others. Also Barry put out a call to recruit Advisors as we develop the FDC and process. I thank all of you, this is really important work. This is an audacious experiment, but it is consistent with our movement. It’s never been done before, is going to be complex. We want to build in mechanisms to assess the structure and processes. The AG is a ‘dispassionate’ but committed body of credible members of the movement that can reflect and sit back and observe, and can share their observations as we design this thing and go through the first year(s) of operations

I want to talk about what the FDC will do and will not do.

What will this group do… The primary role is to observe the development of the FDC and to offer input as the FDC evolves. If you in this group can flag problems where you can see them, that will help us to focus our attention. A secondary purpose is to act as sort of a connective tissue, easing tension, answering questions from the movement. If a community member has a question, the AG members are in a position to bring that to the AG, the Board, the Foundation, etc. One of the things this group can do is to prevent people from imagining the worst by sharing what you are seeing.

You were all chosen because you all have a strong track record in the community. We think you can represent the community well as committed, thoughtful, and strong individuals.

What the Advisory Group will not do: You are not personally responsible to build the FDC and to make sure it works well. You’re one piece of the puzzle, but you are not the only piece. I’m responsible for making the recommendation to the Board, and the Board is responsible for the oversight of the FDC. There is going to be WMF staff involvement and Bridgespan involvement in this. You are a special group that is paying particular attention to the problem and bringing your additional perspective to this process.

I want to thank you so much. I don’t know what the time commitment is going to be but I’m sure it will not be inconsequential. The purpose of this meeting is to talk at a high level about roles and responsibilities. A primary goal is for everyone to hear everyone’s voices and to get to know each other a little bit. And a goal is to talk about next steps, including a potential all day meeting here in SF in June.


Each Advisory Group member and Wikimedia Foundation representative on the call gave a short introduction

Richard Ames:

  • Retired electronics and computer science person. My electronics background and growing up in the computer world began in the United States Navy starting in 1967
  • Retired from the Navy in 1987 and migrated to Australia
  • Got involved in the free software movement, specifically Linux
  • Been extensively involved in Wikimedia – recently through new user support and introducing Wikimedia to older groups of people with the goal of converting people to editors
  • Interest in steering the funds allocation process to be world oriented and to minimize the level of bureaucracy
  • Concerned the FDC will have challenges not being wholly “American-driven" (because the support in the US is so strong and the so called idea of cultural imperialism works quite well for the United States)

Thomas d’Souza:

  • Brazilian living in the UK
  • Background in public administration, management consulting, non-profit, and corporate philanthropy
  • Got involved in the Wikimedia movement since 2008. Was very involved with the Brazilian chapter until two years ago upon moving to the UK
  • Appreciates the opportunity to participate on the Advisory Group, given the opportunity to play a major role in the movement. Look forward to creating and implementing a structure that will support the movement.

Peter Ekman:

  • Currently retired but spent 20 years teaching finance in MBA programs mostly in Europe but also in the U.S., Hungary, Bosnia. Knows a lot about finance in a theoretical sense and a bit about budgeting
  • Participant in Wikipedia since 2005 or 2006 in a number of different capacities
  • Has been particularly involved in GLAM and National Register
  • I think whenever money comes up, people probably need a little perspective
  • Would like to see an international rather than a US focused funds dissemination process, with a bias towards diversity

Ali Haidar Khan

  • Involved in the Wikimedia Chapter in Bangladesh
  • Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Dhaka
  • Has been involved with Wikipedia since 2004 – first in English Wikipedia. Then, started contributing and translating articles into Bengali in 2008.
  • Started the Bangladesh Chapter in 2010 - didn’t have many volunteers when started but now have an ample number.
  • Interested in an opportunity to help the whole movement through the Advisory Group.

Osmar Valdebenito

  • From Santiago, Chile. Started on Spanish Wikipedia in 2004 and has been an active contributor since
  • Extensively involved in GLAM work and in founding the Chapter in Chile – finally made official in 2011
  • Working to develop indigenous languages in the next months
  • Will host the second South American meeting of chapters in Santiago next June
  • Believes the Advisory Group is an important step particularly for those in the developing world like Chile
  • I think we will continue to see more chapters from the developing world. I want to think about how to develop so that smaller chapters are independent and sustainable. I think the FDC will become key for the strengthening and empowerment of those local organizations.

Crystal Hayling

  • Worked in non-profit and the philanthropic community primarily on youth and women’s issues
  • I have always been interested in social movements, money, and meaning and how all of those things intersect with each other
  • Excited about being part of this process and excited to be part of this community and share my experiences working in philanthropy

Ting Chen

  • Chair of the Wikimedia Foundation
  • Started in the movement since 2003 as an editor and volunteer and later was elected into the Board
  • I think we’re in a very interesting time and there are many new structures that are coming out of the movement. One month ago, the Chapter Association was founded and we are now developing the FDC. I think it will very important and vital for the Board to keep everything smooth and working together. That is the reason why I had volunteered for the Advisory to the FDC.

Jan-Bart de Vreede

  • From the Netherlands
  • Has an MBA and I work for Kennisnet Foundation– a foundation working in IT and education
  • Joined the Wikimedia Board five years ago and have been its Vice Chair for most of that time.
  • It is essential that the FDC become successful and that we have better ways to distribute funds not only based on where a donor wants to donate to us. This ties to our strategy process.

Stu West

  • Half English and half American. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Have been editing since 2005 and on the Board of Trustees since 2008 as the Treasurer and Fundraising Chair
  • I have worked for a number of Silicon Valley companies in a finance role
  • I spend most of my time thinking about allocating resources in scarce environments – whether money or time. Money changes everything. We have been very very successful inspiring donors to donate to our cause but this also results in challenges. Maintain the trust of our editor community and donors is absolutely vital.

Barry Newstead

  • Canadian living in San Francisco
  • Leads Global Development and responsible for leading the work in terms of the formation of the FDC
  • Focused on those areas where we haven’t achieved as much of our full potential (e.g., Brazil and India).
  • Has a background in management consulting

Geoff Brigham

  • General Counsel and very interested in observing the process

Asaf Bartov

  • Long time Wikipedian, now in charge of Grants and Global South Development

Kelly Kay

  • Deputy Counsel
  • Relatively new to the foundation (joined in October). Spent past nine years in Asia and am happy to bring an international perspective to this work

Garfield Byrd

  • CFO - role on this project is to focus on compliance and accountability

Project Approach and Timeline[edit]

Laura Lanzerotti, from the Bridgespan team, provided a high-level overview of the timeline for the project

  • The primary role of this group is to provide input and support to Sue as she makes a recommendation to the Board of Trustees so that it can be the strongest recommendation possible
  • Our next meeting will be an in-person session in San Francisco on June 9th
  • The Bridgespan Group (TBG) will continue to engage between now and June 9th with the Advisory Group and broader Wikimedia movement on Meta, to flesh out the concept for the FDC and funds dissemination process
  • After Sue forwards her recommendation to the Board and the Board makes a decision on the approach to be taken, Bridgespan will continue to work through the end of August 2012 to develop the detailed implementation plan, templates, and tools that will be needed to establish and support the new funds dissemination process, including the establishment of the FDC

Role of the Advisory Group[edit]

The group discussed the role of the Advisory Group

  • The group agreed that the Advisory Group will continue to provide guidance, some cover, and some useful information as the FDC gets off the ground
  • There was some lack of clarity about the role of the Wikimedia Foundation, Bridgespan, and the Advisory Group in developing a recommendation on the FDC
    • Sue clarified the following roles:
      • She will make a recommendation to the Board and the Board will accept or reject it
      • Bridgespan (TBG) will facilitate the conversation on Meta and with the Advisory Group. TBG began this process by speaking to many people in Berlin, the Board members, and are continuing to talk to other groups. TBG will hack together a rough notion of what everyone believes. TBG will identify from this where there is consensus and where there are big differences. Bridgespan will identify a common process that everyone can align around.
      • The Advisory Group will visit areas of consensus and those areas where there are significant differences. They will then provide significant input to Sue in her final recommendation.
  • Sue iterated that she believed the big decision that had already been made was the decision to create an FDC. She hopes the community will support the recommendation for the FDC but recognizes that there may be some areas of controversy. In those areas of controversy, she sees the Foundation, Bridgespan, and Advisory Group working together to figure out what to do.
  • There was a question about timing and review of the recommendation for the FDC with the Advisory Group
    • TBG will begin getting content onto Meta very soon to start the conversation. These materials will include some primary concepts and decisions. TBG will also continue to flesh out financials and comparative research to bring together insights from external organizations.
    • The Group agreed to engage on Meta on these materials on an ongoing basis leading up to the June 9th meeting

Design Principles for the Funds Dissemination Process[edit]

The Advisory Group then reviewed the design principles for the funds dissemination process.

  • There was a comment that the most important design principles were being open and transparent and keeping things simple in order to truly engage the community. The AG member suggested that the Design Principles should be simplified to better engage the community.
  • An AG member emphasize that the FDC should be in support of Wikimedia movement’s mission, vision, and strategy as it evolves over the coming years. They also emphasized the promotion of decentralization, community, and collaboration (perhaps even in the grant-making process).


Libbie Landles, from the Bridgespan Group, reviewed information on the current financial picture in terms of revenue and grantmaking. Bridgespan is continuing to work on gathering more comprehensive information, but initial takeaways from the analysis completed to date, include:

    • We are talking about a lot of money (over $30M in FY 2011), if you include both what was raised at the Foundation and the payment processing chapters
      • This picture will change quite significantly in Fiscal Year 2012, and Bridgespan is still working to pull that data together in order to inform this process
    • There is a lot of grantmaking activity, at various levels and sizes across the movement
      • Most of the grants given in FY 2011 were less than $5K
      • Only 5 of 50 grants requested were not approved (the vast majority of those who requested funds received them)

Key Roles in Funds Dissemination[edit]

The Advisory Group discused key roles in the funds dissemination process

  • The Advisory Group discussed a number of key topics
    • The Board’s approval/disapproval or Veto
      • Both committee members and Board members mentioned that they did not see the Board using veto powers often - and that they would mostly provide input in the beginning of the process and where absolutely necessary to maintain their fiduciary responsibility to donors
    • The Role of the Movement in the funds dissemination process
      • AG recommended that the role of the movement should be specified, particularly, how the movement can participate/collaborate to provide input to decisions
    • The types of decisions the FDC should make
      • A key consideration is what is a reasonable workload for the FDC, so they can make decisions in a timely way. If the FDC had to make granular decisions about every small grant it would be very challenging. The FDC should not step into the role of micromanager of the Foundation or Chapters – they should make good judgments but trust those managers who manage the problems on a day to day basis.
    • Whether the FDC will determine the actual amount of funds to be allocated and the process of distributing those funds
      • Sue: This year we are going to live in a “grey” world. I am going to set a recommendation in the plan for what the FDC’s $ allocation should be in that first year. It should be a fairly generous allocation because it doesn’t make sense for the FDC to have to make really tough decisions in the first year - with a lot of fund requests and a small amount of funds to allocate
    • The use of external evaluators of grant requests to support the FDC
      • There was some discussion about the value of external evaluators. On the one hand, some felt that external evaluators could bring a strong perspective and help us understand what is working and not working. However, it was felt that we need to balance this with the factor that many external members don’t understand how different and unique the Wikimedia Community is.
    • The FDC’s engagement with the community
      • Sue expressed a desire for the FDC to represent the movement – by tapping into the community and volunteers for input to make judicious and thoughtful decisions.
      • Sue encouraged the Advisory Group to be involved in polling and incorporating other public and external perspectives and bringing that into this process.

How do we ensure funds are well-spent?[edit]

  • Bridgespan summarized the two dimensions of ensuring funds are well spent: the strategic quality of work and the quality of execution
    • The Group agreed that there was a role for the FDC in both dimensions, and that this role will evolve over time. Defining how exactly the FDC can be effective in this will be something that the AG will spend some time discussing in the coming weeks

Next Steps[edit]

  • We seek to have active participation on Meta between now and June 9th to respond to the drafts.
  • We will continue to develop the factbase – comparisons with other organizations, interviews, financials
  • We also want to understand the ArbCom better
  • Document creation and editing will happen on Meta, but other communication back and forth can occur over the distribution list, which will be archived publicly.
  • It was suggested that Bridgespan would benefit from speaking to other committees in the movement to understand their experience, what makes Committees within the Wikimedia movement effective and where there are challenges. This is one place where the Bridgespan team could use some additional help from the AG and community to gather this information
  • Members of the Advisory Group suggested a number of other organizations that may offer valuable comparisons: namely Kiva, Flowfunding, Changemakers, Vilcap, and Global GreenGrants Fund.

Closing Thoughts[edit]

  • Sue closed the conversation by thanking all members of the Advisory Group
  • The Group agreed to an open process of sharing with the community through meeting notes and by working on Meta, to the extent that the group uses a mailing list, the archives of those conversations will be publicly archived, and linked from Meta
  • Sue directed members of the Advisory Group to either Laura Lanzerotti at TBG or Asaf at WMF with their questions
  • Sue mentioned to the group that the June 9th meeting will be extended to more than a single day. She also encouraged Advisory Group members to try to come earlier in order to have more exposure to both each other and WMF.

Meeting Transcript: Part II on Wednesday, May 2, 2012[edit]


Advisory Group

  • Sue Gardner
  • Barry Newstead
  • Richard Ames
  • Sydney Poore
  • Pavel Richter
  • Christophe Henner
  • Ali Haidar Khan


  • Asaf Bartov
  • Geoff Brigham
  • Kelly Kay
  • Winifred Olliff
  • Garfield Byrd

The Bridgespan Group

  • Libbie Landles-Dowling
  • Laura Lanzerotti
  • Meera Chary


Each Advisory Group member and Wikimedia Foundation representative on the call gave a short introduction

Richard Ames:

  • Particular greetings to Christophe and Pavel, one of the main reasons I’m here is to hear what they have to say
  • I’m a retired electronics and computer science person
  • Happily married and retired, traveling to Europe for a wedding, will be in person in June

Christophe Henner

  • From France
  • Work at an advertising and Communication Company
  • I’ve been a Wikipedian since 2004 and a Wikimedia France board member since 2007
  • I organized the planning committee in Paris
  • I joined this group to share insights about the FDC and process

Ali Haidar Khan

  • I think this is a bold move on behalf of the board. The decision can make the whole movement look different.
  • This is a key point where we can define our future as a movement

Sydney Poore

  • I’ve been editing since 2005
  • I’ve primarily have edited Wikipedia English, but also wiki Source and Wiki Quote
  • I have also worked with Glam, and worked with the Strategic Planning Process
  • I see myself as having a global perspective; I don’t really affiliate with a chapter
  • I wanted to get involved because I see this as a next step from the strategic planning process, this is the way to take it forward


  • I’m from Germany
  • I’ve been involved with Wikipedia since 2004
  • Used to be a software consultant and then management consultant until becoming the Wikimedia ED Germany in 2009
  • Joined this group for two reasons
    • As ED of WM Germany this is important as we think about how we disseminate funds to the movement
    • Also Wikipedia showed that you can do something that has been done for 100s of years differently. And this is the question around Funds Dissemination. A lot of orgs are doing this, but I think we can come up with a new and innovative solution that is aligned with how great this organization is


  • Chief of Global Development at the WMF
  • I lead our work around expanding our projects in the developing world, but also have focused on our grant work
  • I joined the foundation about 2 years ago, before that had spent the prior year with The Bridgepsan Group working on the strategy process
  • I’m very interested in this work as a way to continue to think about the evolution of our movement and how we take innovative approaching to ensuring that funds go to the right places in our movement
    • It’s important to move from an environment where we have no funding constraints to one where we put some healthy constraints, especially around putting linkages between the way we spend $ and the goals we seek to achieve
    • It’s also a way to maintain decentralized processes. It’s important that the FDC keeps us open to new forms of the movement, new geographies, new projects, vs locking us into existing structures and practices.
  • I appreciate everyone’s time in this – thank you


  • Work for the Foundation this past year, run the Grants Program
  • Volunteer for Hebrew Wikipedia


  • Chief of Finance and Administration
  • Role is to think about accountability in the grants process


  • I’m General Counsel at the WMF
  • I’m here because I find this fascinating

Kelly Kay

  • Deputy Gen Counsel
  • I’m supporting Geoff and the FDC on any legal issues, documentation
  • I have been with the foundation since Oct and have been living abroad for 10 years

Project Approach and Timeline[edit]

Laura Lanzerotti of the Bridgespan team provided a high-level overview of the timeline for the project (see Meeting 1 notes)

  • One member asked a question around how Bridgespan got up to speed on fundraising and funds dissemination at Wikimedia
    • To get up to speed, Bridgespan read a lot of background information on Meta and had conversations with the Board and community members, and will continue to do so

Role of the Advisory Group[edit]

  • The group agreed with the proposal that TBG will put initial drafts on Meta and Advisory Group will be involved with editing, responding, etc
    • The thought is that it’s easier to react to drafts vs the Advisory Group actually writing the charter from a “greenfield” starting point. As a start, the Bridgespan will post Sue’s thoughts / proposal on the FDC which the board approved. It’s not the final answer, but it represents best guesses and likely a good starting point. We don’t feel that we’ll get consensus on this, but what we hope is that even if the AG doesn’t agree with the whole set of recommendations; we hope that there will be alignment with the overall picture.
  • To ensure community engagement, Sue asked the Advisory Group to engage with their respective communities. It’s complex and detailed and may be hard to engage at the start. So the Advisory Group has been selected because members are good proxies for the community and we hope that each will be representing the movement as a whole.

Design Principles for the Funds Dissemination Process[edit]

    • One member mentioned the “special problem” that this is not a situation where we have so many projects but not enough money—how does this affect the FDC?
      • The group aligned around framing this more around setting goals and priorities and then raising funds to align with those goals
      • That said, there was agreement that this needs to be explored further – how do we think about effectiveness, what goals are we trying to achieve, etc?
      • Doing this is a world of unconstrained financials is hard. So we want to align on goals, but also to develop linkages between goals and programs. At the same time, we want to give programs time and be innovative, but we also want to define what “good” is and hold ourselves accountable to that standard. I don’t think we want a situation where the FDC is relying on its own collective judgment of what good is, but we need some sort of constraint. We could easily get to $50-$60M but if it’s not spent well we could get fat and lazy, which could present risks to our credibility, future fundraising, etc.
      • There is a concern that this could present a disconnect between the volunteers who spend a lot of time editing and people who are asking for money and receiving money. It’s good for us to keep a check on that and make sure we don’t grow too fat, but rather that we’re supporting ideas that are essential to the movement.


Libbie Landles of the Bridgespan team provided a high-level overview of the financial overview outlined in the materials (see Meeting 1 notes)

Key roles in Funds dissemination[edit]

Several questions were raised around the decision-making roles and responsibilities of the FDC:

  • What grants should be in the purview? Is it too early to ask this question? Because this assumes that the FDC acts as the grant making committee. That might be the currently held assumption, but I’m not sure we are there yet.
  • Dedicated support staff at the Foundation. Of course the FDC needs support. But this seems like a conflict of interest because a large piece of the FDC “bucket” will be funds for the Foundation. So there needs to be a clear conflict of interest clause.
  • Is this going to be replacing the grants process as it is now? Or is this going to “sit above “ it and be more of a guide to this and other funds dissemination.
    • If we give the FDC the range of all grants, we risk burning out the FDC if they are spending equal time on a $1000 grant as with a $1M grants.
    • And, if all grants are running through this process, it may stifle diversity
    • General agreement that smaller grants would likely be taken out of this process, but what that cutoff is the bigger question, and what happens to those smaller grants?
      • Proposal that the FDC staff could have their own set of decisions around the smaller grants
  • Should the board have line item approve / veto ability?
    • Alignment that this would create micromanagement, and the board should pursue a slate approach
  • How is the board going to delegate authority to the FDC?
    • Due is going to create an allocation for the FDC in the 2012-13 annual plan – the board will approve or not approve the envelope. But this will still be a dry-run year to determine how the FDC will have access to this money. The question still remains – is the FDC going to make one set of recommendations at one point in the year, or will this happen on a rolling basis. This is important because if the FDC has an allocation / envelope, it’s much easier to make a set of recommendations at one time. However, from the perspective of the grant requests, it might be hard for grantees to stick to a one-timeline calendar since chapters / movement entities have their own internal calendars.
    • In terms of being able to look at the envelope, it’s easier to do things at one time, but in terms of workload, might be easier for the FDC to look at things on a rolling basis. Could have a good chunk come in at one time and have a few supplemental deadlines
  • How should the FDC membership be structured?
    • One model to look to might be the ArbComms. For example, the English Wikipedia ArbCom, they have worked together for years, they’ve seen similar issues and learned from them, they have trained and learned from each other, they groom more junior members. I imagine the FDC being like that – with credibility and authority and a track record of working together. So to me, this argues for a small number of people and stability over time.
    • So another area that the AG can help Sue with is the idea of bringing in expertise that will be critical to the FDC. I imagine that the FDC will be supported by the community of the movement. E.g., the FDC has an envelope and all of the work is on the Wiki, and perhaps they ask for a formal request for comment. Perhaps there is a poll. The FDC is expected to dig in, we can’t expect that from the broad community, but we can expect something from them, broad-based consultation.

How do we ensure funds are well-spent?[edit]

  • Agreement that this is important question – it’s not enough to just be a good idea, but it also has to be done well, and there has to be a way for this committee to assess that. This question goes beyond the work that the FDC will do, but will be an important part of the FDC process.