Grants:Annual/Draft

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Information

This draft has been entirely supplanted by the introduction of the Annual Plan Grants Program (formerly called the FDC). It never became WMF policy, and is kept for historical interest.

Context for this change to the grants process[edit]

WMF is committed to evolving the grants program in a direction of providing general operating support for chapters (and other Wikimedia-affiliated organizations where they might exist) that will enable these organizations to develop and implement annual plans with a greater degree of flexibility over the year.

This program will also provide chapters with funds to support their basic infrastructure and administrative needs. It will operate alongside the project-based grants process and the Participation Grants process that are already operational.

Since Wikimania in Haifa, WMF has worked with a group of chapters (Austria, Argentina, Hungary, The Netherlands, Sweden) to implement grants that support an annual plan that each organization prepared. This was a transitional process to address short term challenges linked to the decision to tighten the criteria for fundraising agreements.

Our intent is to use the basic structure of these transitional arrangements as a starting point for a long term grant process that would be available to all chapters. To do this effectively, we need to structure and formalize the grant formulation, review, and approval processes. The following is the WMF's draft thinking for this process. We seek feedback from chapters and community members to improve and optimize these processes in a way acceptable to all parties, while meeting the requirements, fiduciary and pragmatic, legal and ideological, we are committed to meet.

A note on Usage[edit]

Wherever the term board appears below, it should be taken to mean the executive tier of the chapter, whether a board of trustees functioning as executives, or paid staff functioning as executives, or, where required by local law or by the chapter's bylaws, the general assembly. "Board" will be used as shorthand based on what seems to be the most common model among chapters at the moment, namely an executive (volunteer) board.

Prerequisites[edit]

There are certain prerequisites for a grant that are required under US law, which WMF is subject to, and is a matter of good governance, and part of good partner relationships.

  • US Law prerequisites:
    1. Organization is legally able to accept grants from WMF
    2. None of the people involved with the grant appear on the United States's Specially Designated Nationals list. The WMF is prohibited by US law from having any dealings with people or entities on that list.
  • WMF's own governance requirements[1]:
    1. Organization exists as a legal entity, having or pursuing non-profit status (where available under local law)
    2. Signed chapter agreement in force
    3. Commitment to adhere to WMF Trademark Policy (already included in chapter agreement)
    4. Commitment to adhere to a privacy policy compatible with the WMF Privacy Policy
    5. Chapter is willing and able to sign a Grant Agreement (a contract) with the WMF
  • Grantee's Governance
    1. If salaried positions are included in the grant:
      • commitment to comply with local employment law
      • Board of Trustees have policies in places for hiring, evaluation, budget oversight, termination of staff
      • Board of Trustees and/or staff have policies in place for spending, travel, conflict of interest, reporting and oversight
  • Chapter is functioning well:
  1. Representation that chapter is in good standing with local authorities and regulations
  2. Chapter board is stable with a full complement of members and less than 61% board turnover in past two years; it meets (in person, on the phone or via IRC/chat) regularly and reports on its meetings to members and the public
  3. Chapter has a track record of successful program work over at least two years of active program work that demonstrates execution and oversight capacity
  4. Chapter has successfully implemented and accounted for prior grants with WMF (i.e. grants for individual programs or events rather than ones funding an annual plan)
  5. Chapter is up to date on financial reporting and activity reporting to their members, the global movement, and WMF
  6. Chapter financial report does not show an operating deficit for the current financial report
  7. If chapter budget is a deficit budget, it is adequately offset by reserves or underspending from previous years. Budget must not lead to actual debt.
  8. Chapter's website is up to date with information about the chapter, how to become a member, its activity reports, and financial reports

Program plan[edit]

  • Chapter has qualifying plans in place to support their grant request and demonstrate their ability to implement the plan successfully:
    1. Chapter has a strategic plan (covering next 2-3 years) that has been presented and discussed with chapter members and other local stakeholders. The strategic plan should align with the Wikimedia strategic plan and goals to grow our community and strengthen our projects. This requirement may be waived for chapters seeking funding for an annual plan for the first time.
    2. Chapter has an annual plan that covers 12 months of activities for the chapter and aligns with the chapter's strategic plan. The plan should:
      • clearly articulate the specific activities that the chapter intends to implement and the specific goals and metrics of success for each activity
      • provide a strong estimate of the budget required for each activity including the type of expenditure involved (e.g., staff costs, printing, rent, equipment purchases, travel, etc.)
      • include specific budget items for administrative expenses and an adequate reserve fund to provide flexibility and security during the operating year and not run into deficits mid-year or get sidetracked by needing additional grants to cover small unforeseen expenses.
      • explicitly identify non-financial requirements (especially board members, other volunteers and external partners) in order to ensure the capacity exists to make effective use of the funds[2].
      • include all revenue sources of the chapter that are expected to support the plan, not just the proposed grant funds
  • Other considerations for the program plan:
  • should be centered on mission-aligned program work, with a significant portion aligned with the current Wikimedia strategic plan
  • should aim to support the growth of the Wikimedia community and/or support the wider editing community, not be limited to a small group of people currently active in the chapter or a group outside the Wikimedia community
  • should be built from reasonable estimates of the chapter's capacity building from actual work done in previous years
  • ideally, the program plan should aim to develop some programs that can serve as ongoing programs of the chapter and that could attract funding from other sources than WMF over time (to enhance chapter sustainability)[3]
  • must have been presented to chapter members and other local stakeholders who were allowed some time to comment on it and suggest changes
  • if presented in English, it should also be made available in relevant local languages, if any.
  • The chapter must be ready to execute the annual plan, if the grant is approved.

Grant Formulation[edit]

  • The basis for a grant proposal based on an annual plan is a "cover sheet" based on a specific template (Template:Annual_Plan_Grant_Request) plus the annual plan itself, both presented in public on Meta.
    • If the plan includes some sensitive details (some consultant's salary), private communication of specific details can be negotiated with the Foundation, but (some of) the request must still be present and listed appropriately on Meta.
  • Applicants are encouraged to
    • reach out to WMF staff before submitting grant requests, to get early feedback on anything missing or unclear, and to receive confirmation that they meet the prerequisites.
    • avail themselves of the Grants Bakery and work communally on their proposal.
    • ask for peer review by chapters who have already successfully received a grant based on an annual plan, or who have run similar programs.
  • Before submitting the annual plan for funding, make sure the plan was duly presented and discussed with chapter members and local stakeholders, and is approved by the board after any changes.
  • Once the grant proposal is ready for official review, the proposal is to be submitted on Meta (if not already there), with an Open status, and e-mail notification is to be made to Asaf Bartov at asaf AT wikimedia DOT org

Grant Proposal Review Process[edit]

Preamble[edit]

While the WMF has formal responsibility for approving all grants, we would like to create a formal process delegating some of the decision-making elements to the community. One step in that direction has been the formation of the GAC, in June 2011; so far, the GAC has had a strictly advisory role in the evaluation of grant proposals. We would like to evolve this further and make the GAC more influential on the process, through a more structured and formal mode of operation for the GAC. This depends in great measure on the outcome of a separate conversation the GAC is having itself -- its make-up (how membership changes over time), its level of commitment to engagement with open requests, and its mode of review and expression of opinion (individual, consensual, etc.). We would like to bring these conversations together, once the GAC has had an opportunity to reflect on their work to date and options for the future.

Proposed Process[edit]

  • The GAC is given one month to review grant proposals based on annual plans, using grant review criteria described below. During that time, GAC members post questions, requests for details and clarifications, concerns, and other feedback on the grant proposal's discussion page. The applicant is encouraged to respond to all input as soon as possible. Partial responses and "I'll have to check that and get back to you" are better than silence.
  • WMF staff will likewise post feedback on the grant's talk page, usually toward the end of the one-month period to avoid "priming" the GAC's input.
  • The applicant may make changes, including of amount, to the grant request itself (not just the talk page) as the discussion unfolds, as mistakes or omissions are discovered, etc.
  • [step under discussion] the GAC will form a consensual "summary of evaluation" and present it on the talk page of the grant
  • At the end of the one-month review period, if there are any answers missing or concerns yet to be addressed by the applicant, the review period would be extended by an additional week or a mutually agreed upon time period needed to resolve issues. This will be announced by WMF staff, and the applicant may request additional extensions to come up with the necessary information. WMF staff will endeavor to help periodically summarize and condense any outstanding issues, to help both applicants and the GAC focus and share an understanding of any gaps that may exist.
  • At the end of the (possibly extended) review period, when all standing concerns have been addressed one way or another, the WMF will have 1 week to announce a decision, unless it informs the applicants in advance it would require more time (e.g. when the coming week contains holidays, or key staff is sick, traveling, etc.), and barring force majeure.
  • At the end of a week, the WMF will announce its decision. That may be one of the following:
  • The grant proposal is accepted as-is. WMF staff will send the applicants a grant agreement to sign, request any additional documents needed, and once a signed copy of the grant agreement reaches the WMF office, the grant will be disbursed to the chapter. The WMF will return a counter-signed copy of the grant agreement to the grantee chapter.
  • The grant proposal is not accepted. WMF staff will indicate on the talk page what gaps or flaws still exist in the proposal (ideally, this should not come as a surprise, as it should generally be anticipated by disagreement or lack of evidence identified during the review phase), and make suggestions on what would make the WMF reconsider the request. Such a grant will be marked "not funded" and taken off the "open requests" category, until such time as the applicants revise it (if they choose) and re-submit it as a new grant request and the process begins anew.
  • The grant proposal is only partially accepted. WMF staff will indicate on the talk page what items in the annual plan and budget it is not willing to fund as part of the grant, and ask the applicants to change the proposal to not include those items, effectively making a counter-proposal to the applicants.
  • The applicants, taking as much time as they need (bearing in mind chapters may need to call board meetings or even extraordinary general assemblies), may accept the WMF's counter-proposal, rewrite the grant to match what the WMF is willing to fund, at which point the grant would be approved, an agreement signed, and funds disbursed, as above.
  • The applicants may also find the WMF's counter-proposal unacceptable (if e.g. they deem the proposed partial plan untenable or incompatible with their membership's or their local partners' wishes); in that case, the applicants must clearly reject the WMF's counter-proposal, and the grant is "not funded" by default. As in the general "not funded" case, the applicants may choose to revise the grant at a future date and re-submit it for review.
  • The grant proposal is accepted but only partially funded due to budget constraints. WMF staff will indicate the limitations on the talk page and provide the applicant with flexibility on how to modify the grant to account for the limitations on available funds.

Grant Review Criteria[edit]

Grant proposals are to be reviewed on the basis of the following criteria, alongside any questions or concerns specific to the proposal:

Checklist[edit]

These are, in principle, yes/no questions that should be easy to determine and agree on.

  • Are the prerequisites met?
    • Legal and governance
      • Chapter exists as a founded legal entity -- yes / no
      • Signed chapter agreement in place -- yes / no
      • Chapter has or is pursuing non-profit status, if available under local law -- yes / no / N/A
      • Chapter states that it is in good standing with local law (tax, reporting, no debt to authorities) -- yes / no
      • Chapter is legally able to accept grants from WMF -- yes / no
      • Chapter has committed to adhere to WMF Trademark Policy -- yes / no
      • Chapter has committed to adhere to WMF Privacy Policy -- yes / no
      • Chapter has discussed and is willing to sign a standard Grant Agreement, an additional contract between itself and the WMF -- yes / no
      • None of the people involved with the grant appear on the United States's Specially Designated Nationals list. -- yes / no
    • Chapter governance
      • If salaried positions are included in the grant:
        • commitment to comply with local employment law -- yes / no
        • Board of Trustees has policies in place for hiring, evaluation, budget oversight, termination of staff -- yes / no
        • Board of Trustees and/or staff have policies in place for spending, travel, conflict of interest, reporting and oversight -- yes / no
      • Chapter is functioning well:
        • Chapter board is stable with a full complement of members and less than %60 board turnover in past two years; it meets regularly and reports on its meetings to members and the public (in at least one local language) -- yes / no
        • Chapter has a track record of successful program work over at least two years of activity that demonstrates execution and oversight capacity -- yes / no
        • Chapter has successfully implemented and accounted for prior grants with WMF (i.e. grants for individual programs or events rather than ones funding an annual plan) -- yes / no
        • Chapter is up to date on financial reporting and activity reporting to its members, the global movement, and WMF -- yes / no
        • Chapter most recent financial report does not show an operating deficit -- yes / no
        • Chapter's Web site is up to date with information about the chapter, how to become a member, its activity reports, and financial reports -- yes / no
    • good standing with community -- yes / no
    • good standing with WMF -- yes / no
    • Chapter has qualifying plans:
      • Chapter has an annual plan covering 12 months of activity -- yes / no
        • centered on mission-aligned program work, with a significant portion aligned with the current Wikimedia strategic plan. -- yes / no
        • with an attached itemized budget, with (at least estimated) costs for every item -- yes / no
          • the budget should include all revenue sources of the chapter, not just the proposed grant funds -- yes / no
          • the budget is a balanced budget -- yes / no
          • The proposed budget should be built from reasonable estimates of the chapter's capacity based on actual work done in previous years. -- yes / no
        • Each program item should have explicitly identified non-financial requirements (especially board members, other volunteers and external partners) to ensure the capacity exists to make effective use of the funds -- yes / no
        • which has been presented to chapter members and other local stakeholders who were allowed some time to comment on it and suggest changes. -- yes / no
        • If presented in English, the plan should also be made available in other relevant local languages, if any. -- yes / no
        • The chapter must be ready to execute the annual plan, if the grant is approved. -- yes / no
      • Chapter has a strategic plan (covering next 2-3 years) that has been presented and discussed with chapter members and other local stakeholders and aligns with the goals of the Wikimedia movement to grow our community. This requirement may be waived for chapters seeking funding for an annual plan for the first time. -- yes / no / waived
  • Structure of the Annual Plan
    • are all expenses included and supported with rationale and non-financial requirements?
    • does the annual plan link to a strategic plan?

Assessment[edit]

These are not yes/no questions. The following descriptions are suggested for grading of proposals on a scale of 1 to 5.

Mission alignment
1: outside mission; 2: possibly contributing to the mission; 3: aligned with mission; 4: clearly within our mission ; 5: perfectly aligned with our mission
Strategy alignment
1: not aligned with strategy; 2: possibly aligned with strategy; 3: aligned with strategy; 4: clearly aligned with strategy; 5: perfectly aligned with current strategy
Prior track record of implementation
1: negative track record; 2: no track record; 3: mixed track record; 4: good track record; 5: excellent track record
Clarity of implementation plan ("how?")
1: no implementation plan; 2: unclear implementation plan; 3: reasonable implementation plan; 4: solid implementation plan; 5: solid and proven implementation plan
Good balance between program work and administration
1: no program or no administration; 2: high imbalance; 3: reasonable prospective balance; 4: good prospective balance; 5: perfect, fact-based balance
Plan requires manageable growth in capacity and oversight commitments
1: unreasonable growth; 2: risky growth or no growth; 3: reasonable prospective growth; 4: good/manageable prospective growth; 5: solid planned growth
Plan includes sustainable programs
1: no sustainable programs or clearly unsustainable programs; 2: possibly/some sustainable programs; 3: good proportion/likelihood of sustainable programs; 4: high proportion/likelihood of sustainability; 5: excellent sustainability
Plan is cost-effective
1: plan seems wasteful; 2: unsatisfactory cost-effectiveness; 3: plan is reasonably cost-effective; 4: plan is clearly cost-effective; 5: plan is superbly cost-effective, high savings
Evidence of commitment to frugality with movement resources
1: careless estimates; 2: some evidence of frugality; 3: reasonable frugality; 4: high frugality and care; 5: exceptional frugality
Organizational strength and stability
1: feeble/unstable organization; 2: unclear/new organization; 3: stable organization; 4: strong organization; 5: strong and professional organization

Appeals process[edit]

The Grants program is a key tool for the Wikimedia Foundation to empower other groups to work to further the Wikimedia Mission. It is imperative that it remain a widely trusted and highly accessible program for all who share the Wikimedia Vision. When money is involved, however, differences of perspective, temperament, and communication style can sometimes result in an unacceptable, rather than merely disappointing, experience for applicants.

NOTE: Please bear in mind that by their very nature, grant proposals are subject to review, due diligence and fiduciary responsibility, that therefore some would not be approved, and that, while frustrating to the applicants, that is not in itself necessarily indicative of maltreatment or a systemic problem. Before appealing, it is in everyone's best interests that applicants make an effort to understand (and respond to!) communicated feedback and reasons their proposal was not accepted, in part or in whole.

That said, everybody makes mistakes, so applicants deserve a way to appeal GAC assessments and the Head of Grants' decisions: Below are remedies available to applicants that consider their grant proposals were unjustifiably denied, or their representatives themselves were treated unjustly.

  • To appeal a decision by WMF's Global Development team that currently oversees grants[4], applicants may submit a written appeal to the WMF Executive Director. If the grant is over $100,000 then the applicant may submit a written appeal to the Chair of the WMF Board of Trustees.
  • Whoever hears (discusses) the appeal will conduct any review or investigation they need to find out the facts, and will respond to the applicants within 1 month. The response may either uphold the decision, or it may instruct that the grant be reconsidered in light of specific flaws/mistakes found in the process.

Grant Execution[edit]

  • Once a grant is approved and disbursed, grantees must periodically share a report with the WMF per the requirements set forth in the grant agreement. The reports are to include activity reports, goal and budget tracking (plan vs. actual), and a discussion of obstacles identified and mitigated. The WMF, aided by the GAC, may request clarifications or additional information based on such reports.
  • The annual plan on which the grant is based must be kept up-to-date during the grant's duration (at least one year), including changes to reflect changing conditions. Significant changes in the annual plan (cancelled or greatly reduced programs; nontrivial obstacles or complications) should be communicated to the WMF as they are made.
  • At least annually, a report from the chapter's audit committee or an external comptroller should be shared with the WMF.

Renewals[edit]

  • Toward the end of a chapter's fiscal year, the chapter and the WMF may discuss renewal of the grant for another fiscal year, based on an updated or new annual plan. Neither party is under obligation to renew the grant.
  • Renewal of the grant need not be for the same amount, nor be based on exactly the same annual plan.
  • In case of renewal, any underspending of grant money in the current fiscal year would count toward the grant amount requested for the renewal. Underspending in a grant that is not renewed would be remitted to the WMF per its instructions.

Report Evaluation[edit]

  • All grantees commit, in the terms of the grant agreement, to creating and publishing a public report about the work funded by the grant.
  • Submitted reports are subject to review by the WMF and the GAC; following a review, the WMF and the GAC may ask the grantees questions, as well as ask for clarifications or expansions on specific points. Once all questions have been answered and all clarifications made, the WMF will declare the report accepted, and the grant would be considered terminated.
  • The WMF may, if it so chooses, ask to audit the financial records of the grantee as pertaining to the grant money and the spending thereof. This would include receiving copies of all relevant receipts, invoices, and purchase orders.
  • Timely submission of such reports, and good-faith interaction with the WMF and the GAC as those reports are reviewed and any questions are asked, are the grantee's responsibility.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. These are required to protect the WMF's own non-profit status in the United States and to comply with the Board of Trustees policies
  2. Historically, applicants have tended to overestimate capacity and underestimate non-financial requirements
  3. An ideal program lifecycle may begin with funding based on a WMF grant for the first (or possibly second) year of operation, gradually transitioned to either a non-Wikimedia grantgiver or a partnership model with a local NGO, government, or institution, or to be based on earned revenue, or to be handed off entirely to a partner (e.g. "train the trainer")
  4. All grant decisions require the approval of the Chief Global Development Officer