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Grantmaking report of the Wikimedia Foundation for the 2019−2020 fiscal year Report for 2020−2021

Executive summary[edit]

During the 2019–2020 fiscal year, the Wikimedia Foundation awarded 256 grants to mission-aligned organizations and people around the world, totaling $8,473,787. Grant programs are led by the Community Resources team and Events team and support the Foundation's medium-term efforts towards a Thriving Movement.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many in-person events were canceled, resulting in a smaller number of grants in 2019–2020. Notably, the postponement of Wikimania resulted in a sharp drop due to the absence of Wikimania scholarships.

While the grantmaking budget has remained flat in the past few years (notably waiting for outcomes from the Movement Strategy process), the pandemic also created an underspend in 2019–2020 that was redistributed to grantees in advance of their usual grant application. This initiative provided financial stability and peace of mind for grantees in a context of global uncertainty and volatility.

Overall, the analysis shows a continuation of the effort over the past few years to direct more grants to parts of the world that have been historically left out. However, these grants are small and 70% of funds still go to grantees in high-income countries (68% in Europe and North America).

This past fiscal year, we have continued to see a balance between grants to returning grantees, and grants to new grantees that have not previously applied for funds from the Foundation before. Over 1/3 of grantees were new grantees. Returning grantees, though, received the overwhelming majority of funds (93%) while only 7% of grant funds went to newcomers.

Looking forward, grants are expected to be a primary driver towards Knowledge Equity, notably through the Community Resources' Grants Strategy Relaunch, which aims to align grantmaking with the Strategic Direction and Movement Strategy Recommendations, specifically the recommendation of Ensuring equity in decision-making.

The Relaunch includes consultations with the communities to explore the role of the Foundation and of the communities in grant programs and processes, and to discuss equitable allocation of funds. We still have significant progress to make to break down historical structures of power and privilege, and to offer substantial and more equitable funding to grantees in lower- and middle-income countries.

Note: This report is not an analysis of impact. Most work funded by a grant in 2019–2020 is still underway. This report focuses on where grant funds have gone, whom they have gone to, and what kind of work they are intended for.

Grant programs[edit]

Confidence: High confidence High
The source data is reliable and the analysis straightforward.

Grants aim to support communities and:

  • Build healthy communities and effective organizations that deliver on impactful programs;
  • Innovate new ideas for programs and technology in the service of Wikimedia’s content and communities;
  • Grow, sustain, and scale the most successful ideas.

During the 2019–2020 fiscal year, the Wikimedia Foundation offered five types of grants:

  • Rapid Grants (since 2015) provide quick support for projects with a budget between $500 and $2000.
  • Project Grants (since 2016) support projects that benefit the Wikimedia movement and have a minimum budget of $2,000.
  • Conference & Event Grants (since 2015) provide funding and planning support for conferences that bring Wikimedians together.
  • Simple Annual Plan Grants (SAPG, since 2015) fund a group or organization's programs and operating expenses for around 6–12 months for up to $120,000.
  • FDC Annual Plan Grants (APG, since 2012) fund formal organizations through general operating support. APG grants have no funding limit.

In the 2019–2020 fiscal year, most of the funds went to supporting programs and operating expenses of groups and organizations through the Annual Plan Grants (APG, 45% of funds) and Simple Annual Plan Grants (SAPG, 42% of funds). However, APG and SAPG combined represent less than a quarter of all grants submitted; low-cost Rapid grants, which add up to 3% of all funds, account for two thirds of all grants funded in the fiscal year.

Looking back between 2010 and 2020, the Wikimedia Foundation has redistributed $57,670,064 to the Wikimedia movement through 2,542 grants. Other types of grants since 2010 have included:

  • Wikimania scholarships (WMS) cover travel, registration and accommodation expenses for individuals to attend Wikimania. No Wikimania scholarships were awarded in 2019–2020 due to the postponement of Wikimania 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Project and Event Grants (PEG, 2009–2017) supported organizations, groups, and individuals to undertake high-impact, mission-aligned projects that benefit the Wikimedia movement
  • Individual Engagement Grants (IEG, 2012–2016), aimed at engaging individuals or small teams for the benefit of the online Wikimedia movement.
  • Travel and Participation Support (2011–2018) supported the participation of Wikimedians to non-Wikimedia events.
  • Partnership Grants (2012–2014) funded strategic partnerships with significant allied organizations, notably during the transition from catalyst programs in India and Brazil.

A look at the makeup of grant programs over the past decade shows how some (like IEG and PEG) were discontinued or replaced by different programs. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic can also be seen in the decrease in Conference grants in the 2019–2020 fiscal year compared to previous years, as well as the absence of Wikimania scholarships.

Geography and income level[edit]

Confidence: High confidence High
The source data is reliable and was matched with a reference list.

Using categories from the World Bank, we can categorize the country of record of the grants into geographical regions.[1] In the 2019–2020 fiscal year, a large part of total grant funds went to Europe & Central Asia (47%) and North America (21%). However, those two regions combined represent less than 50% of the number of grants during this period. In contrast, grantees in Sub-Saharan Africa received 6% of funds during the year, but accounted for a third of the grants.

The distribution of funds and grants is consistent with the breakdown by grant type. Well-established grantees in Europe & Central Asia, and North America, are more likely to be funded through (simple) Annual plan grants (SAPG and APG), which distribute large amounts through fewer grants. In contrast, emerging communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are more likely to receive more Project or Rapid grants of smaller amounts.

Looking at grants over the past ten years, the share of funds going to Europe & Central Asia has been declining for the past five years, from more than 75% to less than 50%. Grantees from North America have made up for most of the difference, while the share for grantees in other regions has remained mostly the same.

The World Bank also classifies countries according to income level, which provides a sense of equity in grantmaking, independent of geographical region. During the 2019–2020 fiscal year, a large majority of funds went to grantees in high-income (69%) and upper-middle-income (18%) countries. Grantees in lower-middle-income and low-income countries accounted for 40% of the number of grants, but received only 11% of the funds.

A look at trends over the past ten years indicates a very slow decline in the share of funds going to grantees in high-income countries. The distribution of funds and grants over time otherwise doesn't show significant change.

Foundation priorities[edit]

Confidence: Medium confidence Medium
The data is a mix of manual coding and matching with a reference list.[2]

In 2017, the Wikimedia movement came together to define their strategic direction for 2030. In 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation published a Medium-term plan laying out major institutional and technical goals under its responsibility while the implementation of strategy recommendations was being determined.

The medium-term plan (MTP) outlined two main goals with five priority areas.[3] Most of grant-funded work in the 2019–2020 fiscal year was aligned with the priority towards a Thriving Movement (89% of funds), defined as "Co-creating, growing, and cultivating a safe and welcoming, diverse, sustainable, and thriving movement of leaders, contributors, advocates, and partners for free knowledge." However, grantees also directly contributed to priorities of Brand Awareness, Platform Evolution, and Global Advocacy.

In 2014, the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) defined emerging communities as "the set of projects, languages, and countries where: there is great potential for increase in quantity and quality of Wikimedia work, and 2. there is, locally, insufficient capacity to realize that potential, and 3. there is an existing active core of self-motivated volunteers, which therefore WMF could effectively devote some proactive resources to support and nurture." To be clear, the term "emerging communities" in this context does not relate to the income level of the country – in fact, there are some high-income countries on the emerging community list including Singapore, Ireland, and New Zealand.

Since then, the Foundation has sought to increase grantmaking efforts towards Emerging communities, and less on the most-developed communities and countries ("developed communities") on the one hand, and the least active and lowest-potential countries and languages ("least developed communities"), to whom the WMF would not be allocating resources to proactively support, until such time as they meet the 'emerging' criteria.

In the 2019–2020 fiscal year, grantees from countries listed as Emerging received 35% of all funds, and 48% of all grants.[4] The share of funds allocated to grantees in countries listed as Emerging has been increasing over the past few years.

Another focus of the Wikimedia movement over the past decade has been addressing the Gender gap, both in terms of content (content gender gap) and communities (participation gender gap). In 2013, the Wikimedia Foundation started recording whether grants had a gender gap focus; since then, the share of funds allocated to such grants has been increasing, as well as the number of grants with a gender gap focus. During the 2019–2020 fiscal year, 16% of grant funds and 26% of grants had a gender gap focus; since 2013, more than $5.3 million have been allocated to grants with a gender gap focus.

Global metrics[edit]

Confidence: Low confidence Low
The source data is incomplete. Aggregated metrics were calculated differently and are under the same umbrella.

Global metrics have been designed to provide a standardized way of tracking a few key measures of progress towards the Foundation's strategic goals for content and participation.

Due to the nature of grants, there is often a delay before their impact can be measured and reported. Many initiatives funded during the 2019–2020 fiscal year are still underway. This report provides an overview of the information available as of October 2020: most of the grant funds and grants don't yet have metrics reported. In addition, Conference grants do not report Global metrics.

Currently, Total Content Pages is not broken down by individual Wikimedia project nor by units within a project, but sums content added or improved across all projects. For example, an article created or improved on a Wikipedia project is included here as is a Wikidata item added or improved. Similarly, pages from a book from Wikibooks are counted in the same vein as are full books added. In the future, instead of tracking “Number of Content Pages added or improved across all Wikimedia projects,” grants will track content by project, e.g., Wikipedia Articles created or improved, Wikimedia Commons Files uploaded, Wikidata Items created or improved, etc.


Confidence: High confidence High
The source data is reliable and the analysis straightforward.

In the 2019–2020 fiscal year, 37% of grantees had not received a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation before. However, only 7% of funds went to new grantees. The share of new grantees may be a sign that more people are learning about grant programs and receiving support from the Foundation, but the path to substantial support is slow. Over the past ten years, the share of returning grantees has been slowly increasing.


  1. At the moment, Fluxx contains three fields related to geography: Country of the grantee; Region; and Emerging status. Two issues emerge from this: First, the country of the grantee may be different from the country where the work funded by the grant is actually done (see G-2002-04673 or G-2005-04828 for examples). Second, the Region field (recently added) and Emerging status field both require manual entry based on lists of reference. This leads to extra work for program officers, and human errors. Therefore, we recommend: Keeping the Country of the grantee field; Adding a field for Country of implementation (where the work funded by the grant is done, if different from the country of the grantee); And removing the Region field; instead, during analysis, we can match the country of implementation with the reference lists for Region.
  2. Confidence levels:
    • For MTP alignment, the data was manually coded by an analyst based on a cursory assessment of the grant's programs and budget (medium confidence)
    • For Emerging status, the country of record of the grantee was matched with the list of countries in the definition of emerging communities (high confidence, but some differences with the manual coding of Emerging communities by Program officers).
    • For gender gap focus, the data was manually coded by program officers according to different criteria. Grants with an explicit focus on gender gap are included, but those with partial focus (e.g. the annual plan grant for an affiliate that has gender gap initiatives) are not.
  3. Definition for coding funds by MTP priority:
    • If the grant funds a contest, edit-a-thon, photowalk, meeting, or conference, it's aligned with Thriving Movement.
    • If the grant funds tools or software, it's aligned with Platform Evolution.
    • APG and SAPG:
      • Align program costs with MTP priorities (if applicable), and use the organization's total program cost to derive a percentage.
      • For SAPG approved in advance for 2020-2021, use the same breakdown as for the 2019-2020 grant.
  4. The analysis for Emerging communities matched the country of record of the grantee with the list of countries on the Emerging list. This approach is imperfect for two main reasons: 1. The country of record is not necessarily the country where the work happened, and 2. The definition of Emerging communities takes into account other factors, like the size of Wikimedia communities. While Program officers can manually encode the Emerging status of a grant, that coding is sometimes inconsistent with the definition. In the end, matching the lists of countries is the most repeatable and consistent way to do this analysis, and proved to be aligned with the Program officers' coding in most cases.