The Wikimedia Foundation has received requests to support affiliated organizations by funding (via the Wikimedia Grants program) the hiring of paid employees ("staff"). Foundation staff has been thinking about this as a general issue (i.e. not in relation to those specific requests), asking whether, when and how the Wikimedia Foundation should offer or approve requests for such support.
Below is a sketch of the Foundation's proposed policy on the matter. We welcome feedback from anyone.
- Some chapter territories could benefit from significantly more work than a volunteer-based chapter can manage
- Hiring staff can discourage existing volunteers
- The WMF cannot possibly fund staff for all affiliated organizations; funding staff for some affiliated organizations may seem unfair to other chapters
- Funding a staff position creates complex legal situations (too-strong organizational dependence on WMF, questions of WMF as indirect employer) for both affiliated organization and WMF
- Terminating the funding of a staff position (even on schedule) may imply at least partial WMF responsibility for the loss of someone's job
- Having the option of funding for staff members may cause affiliated organizations to devote less effort to mobilizing a volunteer community
- Some chapters may not be ready for the governance, compliance and paperwork commitment involved with hiring staff
- If the WMF helps affiliated organizations to hire staff, this may reduce the motivation for those organizations to build their capacity and budget to fund the staff member directly.
Proposed solution: develop a general policy
- Develop a set of prerequisites to qualify for applying to have WMF-funded staff.
- Develop a set of limitations on what WMF-funded staff can work on
- Develop requirements of governance, management, and reporting for chapters employing WMF-funded staff
Prerequisites for applying to hire WMF-funded staff
- Legal/governance prerequisites are in place:
- Signed chapter agreement in place
- Representation that the affiliated organization is in good standing with local law (e.g. tax, reporting, NGO fees)
- Commitment to comply with local employment law
- Commitment to adhere to the WMF trademark policy
- NGO legally able to accept grants from WMF
- The affiliated organization is functioning well and has a strong plan for the role of an employee:
- Chapter board is stable with a full complement of members, it meets regularly and reports on their activities to their members and their local Wikimedia community
- Chapter has a track record of successful program work that demonstrates managerial capacity
- Chapter has successfully implemented and accounted for grants with WMF
- Chapter is up to date on financial reporting and activity reporting to the movement, demonstrating governance capabilities
- Chapter has a strategic plan that is accepted by their local community and aligns with the goals of the Wikimedia movement to grow our community
Restrictions on WMF-funded staff employment
- Mission-aligned program work
- Greater than 70% of time to be spent on actual program work; less than 30% on administration
- All programs need to have volunteer participation and generally align with the goal of having programs scale via volunteer support
Governance and reporting when employing WMF-funded staff
- Annual or semi-annual (six-month) plan
- Plan must be in place before beginning of employment
- Plan must be kept up-to-date during employment
- Quarterly reports to WMF including:
- Program work report
- Goal tracking—plan vs. actual
- Obstacles and setbacks identified and discussed
- Annual or semi-annual report from the chapter's audit committee or external comptroller
Feedback welcome on the Discussion page.