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Roles and responsibilities

  • The reason that staff will be allocated to the FDC is that the FDC will likely be a body of time-constrained volunteers, and thus could use assistance in doing much of the legwork around due-diligence and process management Meerachary TBG (talk) 22:50, 4 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • However, there are differing opinions around how much support the FDC staff can and should provide to grantees (e.g., capacity-building, grant application feedback and improvement)Meerachary TBG (talk) 22:50, 4 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • A question that has been brought up is, what should be the role of the broader community in the funds dissemination process? Meerachary TBG (talk) 22:50, 4 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • I see that one of the roles of the WMF staff is to provide capacity building to applicants. I hope that this would be done on an "as requested" basis, and with extreme caution. In my own experience I've found that foundation staff are often more effective when they broker or provide financial support for capacity building, rather than try to provide such assistance themselves.Kreich (talk) 22:16, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Kreich. You're right -- capacity-building has to be done really delicately. There are some grant-making institutions that fund capacity-building but do not provide it themselves (e.g., Sloan), and there are others who engage in it directly (e..g, Omidyar). There are pros and cons to both approaches. But it is true that capacity-building stands a pretty much zero chance of being helpful, in cases where the organization in question didn't ask for it, and doesn't want it. (Anyone who is interested in this stuff, by the way, might find this page, which lays out factors that play a role in grantee satisfaction with the funding experience, interesting.) Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 22:48, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Scope of Grant-making Responsibility

I think Sue's definition of core vs non-core is fairly helpful. However, there is definitely a desire amongst chapters (particularly the larger ones) to have an element of relatively well-assured multi-year funding. Compared to most parts of the USA, employment in Western Europe is well-protected. The fact that we are essentially bidding for funds our staff members' salaries every year isn't a comfortable position to be in.
Also, looking at Stage 4 of the diagram. Chapter A is receiving a grant for its annual plan less its other revenues. I am not sure how this fits with the assumption that other fundraising activity isn't included in the FDC processes. If for every 1$ of other revenue the chapter receives 1$ less of FDC allocation, then all the chapter's independent fundraising is clawed back by the FDC. This means chapters won't bother raising any independent funds (or at least, they won't raise any unrestricted funds). Is that the idea? Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 11:47, 27 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I see how the diagram might be a little confusing. The point is that Chapter A would only request the funds it needs rather than for the full amount of its annual budget. This might create a disincentive for chapters to do independent fundraising, however, chapters aren't guaranteed to receive all the funds they request from the FDC and chapters would retain all funds that they fundraise themselves (through membership dues, grants, etc.). I would expect that as chapters mature, they would diversify their funding base, as other independent, nonprofit organizations do. LauraL TBG (talk) 17:30, 30 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • Quick note on application deadlines: you may find Sept. 15 to be a bit late in the year for those with calendar year fiscal years to receive, record, account for funds spent. August 15 might give you more wriggle room and would reflect a true six-month cycle if your other deadline is going to be Feb. 15. Kreich (talk) 22:17, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Kathy, Thanks for your comment here. Just a point of clarification-- the two application deadlines are for submitting an annual plan for the next year, so applicants would only apply once per year and received funds once per year. Thus, the September 15 deadline would be for those applicants who are requesting funds for their next fiscal year (likely those on a calendar fiscal year). Does that help address your question? I think that I'm interpreting your comment that you were envisioning that entities would get funding twice in a year, am I right?Libbie TBG (talk) 01:18, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I got a response via email from Kathy who was unable to respond on Meta: I am concerned that allowing folks to apply for funds ony once each year will not allow the FDC to have much flexibility or responsiveness to community need. Most funders I know of, even those with very small staff and volunteer boards, have more frequent funding cycles. Libbie TBG (talk) 00:13, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks for your response, Kathy. I think this is the tension we will face between being a grant-making body and being a budget-allocation body. Because most of the funds that go through the FDC will be to fund annual plans of entities in the organization (and funds will be unrestricted), two funding cycles aligned to those fiscal years likely makes sense, but we should continue to pressure test that assumption.Libbie TBG (talk) 00:16, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Decision-making process


Proposal for including a double checking in between grant application & decision making


I think there should be a double checking or peer-review in between the application & decision making process of a grant request. It may be done in this way: when ever an eligible entity comes up with a grant request, a randomly selected (or may be based on some other criteria) similar entity would be appointed by the FDC as the double checker/peer reviewer for the process. The entity with double checker responsibility would see the whole process of grant application, ask for clarifications, make suggestions, provide guidance (if necessary) & finally endorse the grant applications as well as watch the implementation of the plans, outcomes of the plans etc. This may be beneficial in several ways, such as:

  • For small & young EEs who are applying for grants for the first time (or don't have much experience): They will have the option to seek for guidance from a similar mature entities about grant application & implementation of plans.
  • Small EEs who are appointed as a double checker or peer in any grant application will have the opportunity to learn how the entire process is administered & how the funds are efficiently and effectively used in pursuance of the overall mission of the movement/strategic plan.
  • As all the entities of the movement comprises into a common mission driven community as a whole, this process will increase connectivity & communication among the movement & they will be able to know more about each other.
  • This process will also ensure to a certain extent the involvement of the whole community in the fund allocation process.
  • It will also increase transparency in decision making process & implementation of the plans.

I believe there are more benefits in addition to those mentioned and looking forward to see what others think in this matter. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 08:13, 11 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Tonmoy, This is a good idea to discuss more. I would want to be clear on the goals and then align the approach with the goals to avoid confusion and unnecessary complexity. To me, the key goal you articulate is to provide for knowledge sharing and capacity building among groups and the community in a transparent fashion. I think this is a worthy goal and some peer approach could help achieve this by encouraging partnership in plan design and review. Note: We had this as a goal in the Grants Advisory Committee, but have struggled to get it to work. I'm not so sure that a system of formal endorsement would help the goal. I worry that endorsements can become more political than substantive. I can see this putting the FDC in awkward situations, where submitters try to pressure the process by adding endorsements from friendly groups whose endorsements are based on friendly connections or general encouragement rather than rigorous, independent assessment of the plans. My quick thoughts - speaking for myself, not WMF. --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 18:59, 11 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Yes, a peer-review could be very useful, but I'll suggest that it be voluntary so as not to put any additional barriers in the way of new EEs. It should also come before the budget is submitted to the FDC, so that the FDC can go full speed once it receives the budgets. The reviewers would also have to be voluntary, but they would likely be able to handle it fairly easily - say put a limit of 2 hours total that they are expected to work on reviews. The folks most helped would be the new EEs, the folks who'd be asked to do the reviews most likely the older EEs. After the reviewer makes suggestions to the applicant, they should then get the budget back after the rework and write up an open peer review for the FDC. They might tend to be a bit strict - after all they are the "old boys" and the new EE is applying to be a "member of their club" - but they wouldn't be too strict because it is an open peer-review and their reputation might suffer by being too strict. And they might even be afraid that they would be judged by the same standards they judge others by. In any case, all the benefits listed above should work just as well with a voluntary open peer-review system. Smallbones (talk) 18:59, 11 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Agreed, Peer review could be a very good tool to improve the proposals that are received by the FDC, but I would make it a voluntary thing as well "It is a best practice to have your plan reviewed by another organisation within the movement or an outside party which is able to provide useful information. The emphasis would be on voluntary and before submitting the plan... Jan-Bart (talk) 18:42, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
This has been included as an optional step in the application process. LauraL TBG (talk) 17:32, 30 May 2012 (UTC)Reply


  • From various Board interviews, there is a lack of agreement around how big the FDC should be. Some believe it should be closer to 5 members, while other believe that a larger body of 10-12 would be more appropriateMeerachary TBG (talk) 22:50, 4 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • We really haven't heard a clear perspective on how the members of the FDC will be selected. While there is general alignment that it will be a blend of elected and appointed members, how will members be elected? Who will appoint the appointed seats, and on what criteria? Meerachary TBG (talk) 22:50, 4 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • Also, there are differing opinions on how the FDC members should be onboarded.Meerachary TBG (talk) 22:50, 4 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • We also haven't heard a firm perspective on FDC membership tenure or terms of re-election. How long should the term be? Should members be able to serve more than one term? What should the limits be?Meerachary TBG (talk) 22:50, 4 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

It would be good if the board members provided their opinions here. It's hard to comment on the size unless we understand their rationale for small vs large. 5 members is too small to have board support of the community, and will result in a committee primarily consisting of whoever the English Wikipedia community favours. It may be useful to have an inner and outer committee - inner does the work; outer provides a broader range of input and gives final approval.

I don't think there should be any appointed voting seats. Non-voting observers would be desirable. If there are to be non-community voting seats, a wide variety of candidates should be sought and the community should elect the ones they think are the most suitable. I would prefer that members are initially given a one year term, followed by a two year term if they are re-elected by the community. John Vandenberg (talk) 01:12, 10 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

John, are you saying that you think all seats should be elected, and that the Board should have no say in who gets appointed to one of its own committees — one with significant fiduciary responsibility? Not even Board seats are allocated that way (even those who are "elected" by the community have to be accepted by the rest of the Board), and I don't believe there have ever been elections for any other committees of the Board.

Myself, I can foresee a process similar to what English Wikipedia adopted for Checkuser/Oversight/Audit Subcommittee appointments, where candidates self-nominate privately (and in some cases are probably encouraged to self-nominate, by various parties), some vetting is done, and a slate is proposed to the community for comment. I could also see some combination of this with appointment recommendations from the Chapters Committee (I think it's important to have at least a couple of members with chapter experience.) I do agree with you that 5 is too small; it would only take the unplanned absence of one or two members to render the FDC ineffective. Seven would be the minimum in my mind, and I'm more inclined to 9 or 11. I'm not sure I understand your suggestion of a two-tier committee, though. Risker (talk) 05:53, 10 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I think the English Wikipedia process for screening Checkuser/Oversight/Audit Subcommittee candidates would be sensible; the WMF Board could set out skills & qualifications that are highly desirable, and reject candidates who they determine to be unsuitable. The WMF Board would also approve the selection process used, and the final election result. If the FDC is "of its [the WMF Board's] committees", it has failed to be a "volunteer-driven body" (WMF resolution). The FDC membership should all be elected by the community. Regarding fiduciary responsibility, the wording of wmf:Resolution:Funds Dissemination Committee is far from ideal in this matter, as it says that "All funds raised via the Wikimedia project sites will be distributed via the recommendations of the FDC" - "will be" and "recommendations" are either a delegation of responsibility (to a unestablished undefined group) or a poor choice of words. I hope it is the latter, and the Board will retain the right to reject FDC recommendations, perhaps with the caveat that all funding stops until the FDC provides a set of recommendations that the Board can approve. Another part of the FDC resolution that is shocking is that the WMF is allowed to have core funding, yet all chapters are not, placing them at the mercy of the FDC. Many chapters now have permanent staff. Food for thought: Why should the WMF board have a role in the FDC membership and WMDE does not? John Vandenberg (talk) 08:28, 10 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Selecting the membership will be a very difficult problem which needs to be discussed thoroughly. There's no one "correct solution," but I think that there are many incorrect ones. If it is a purely political/voting matter, it risks becoming something like the US House of Representatives with its appropriation committees and Gucci Gulch, which I don't think anybody wants. There is a quote (Churchill?) that I used to think was terribly trite, but now understand a bit more "Democracy is the worst of all political systems, except for all the other systems that have been tried." I've never argued against "pure" democracy before, but I think that the case against it in this situation should be made.
A "purely democratic" system of voting for representatives to the FDC would politicize the FDC and could become a nightmare scenario. Electoral campaigns would likely be based on claims of "I can get more money for group x," rather than any technical expertise or experience. Running multi-language campaigns and votes would be very difficult technically and the likely result would be that the "majority of editors" would be grossly over-represented. At its worst this could turn out to be a committee of all-English speakers (perhaps even all-US residents) fighting it out to see how much money they could get for their particular constituency. Yes, this is exaggerated, but I don't think anybody really wants anything close to this.
So what is the alternative? There are many, but I'll propose one in some detail - hoping that any major mistakes in it will be corrected by other editors.
  • First democracy doesn't need to be implemented all at once. The board can gradually increase editor participation in the selection process, as it becomes clear that the "nightmare scenario" described above is not developing.
  • Any elections should be closer to those for the US Senate than for the US House of Representative, i.e. a system that insures that some specific groups are represented. As a start the Board could say that contributors in all of the largest (say 4) language versions should be represented, and that at least 1 member should be selected who significantly contributes to one of the other language versions.
  • Technical or experience requirements should be included, e.g. the Board could insist that all candidates have served in an FDC clerk position before "running for office," or have similar experience.
  • A type of term limit should be included. Say a break every three years, after which the committee member can come back after one year. The reason for this has less to do with democracy than a basic financial monitoring principle: "Everybody needs to take a vacation." All sorts of overly-cosy relationships and very nasty financial hanky-panky can be prevented simply by insisting that a person takes a significant break, where he or she won't be able to influence the situation.
  • Terms could be for 3 years, with 3 members selected each year (after startup) for a total of 9 members. If due to resignations the number falls below 7, the board can appoint a new member to complete the term.
  • US law requires that the Board of Directors has final control of the finances. If the FDC has a significant say in finances (as we hope), then the law (almost) requires that the Board can veto or remove a member at will.
I hope this isn't too unpalatable or controversial, but I think it does reflect many of the realities of the situation. Smallbones (talk) 15:05, 10 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Outdenting. This is an excellent conversation: thanks to the people contributing.

I think there's no question the initial FDC will need to be Board-appointed. I also think it would arguably be okay for the FDC to always be Board-appointed -- the Board's job is to represent the best interests of the global Wikimedia community, and it is majority-elected by the global community to that end. And there is precedent for the Board appointing committee members.

But I think it would be better (in the sense of the committee having greater community legitimacy) if the community played a more direct role in the selection of FDC members. The Board would of course need to approve the election results.

Regarding number of members: I agree that five is too small. Seven sounds like a minimum, and nine could work. I worry that 11 would begin to get too large: the FDC will need to be able to have thoughtful deliberations as a group, and I think that when group membership gets too large, there can be a number of bad effects -- individuals may tend to lurk rather than fully participating, individuals may feel less sense of personal responsibility for decisions made, camps and factions are likelier to form, and overall it is harder to build a sense of team. I think that bigger committees are likelier to succeed where the work is more like an industrial process, or queue of similar tasks that can be handled one-by-one sequentially. I think that if the main purpose of the FDC is to make a small set of qualitative deliberations, that argues for a smaller number of participants.

I agree with Smallbones on Senate versus House of Representatives. The purpose of the FDC is to represent the interests of the global Wikimedia community. We know from the Board of Trustees elections that an open election process mitigates against smaller language-versions and smaller projects, and results in over-representation from North America and Europe (likely at least partly due to the need to be proficient in English) --- this suggests that an election process would need to be thoughtfully designed to support creating the conditions in which FDC representation would be truly global. Also, as Smallbones says, membership needs to support credentials/experience. I do think it's important that consideration be given to developing a 'pipeline' of appropriate candidates. I'm curious to know how the Arb Coms do that: is it via the clerking role?

Agreed re term limits, with the break for the reason you give, Smallbones. I'll note that grant-making institutions *always* struggle with this issue. The Ford Foundation, for example, has a limit of I think six years for its program officers. Grant-making institutions without term limits for program officers find themselves with program officers who have a wealth of experience and subject-matter expertise, but they risk empire-building, losing perspective, losing freshness, and becoming egotistical/authoritarian.

I think something like three-year terms could work, but perhaps with half turning over every three years, rather than a third turning over every year. Realistically I think there would be attrition (which yes, I think the Board should resolve by appointing new members) - conservatively, I would guess it might be one member per year, due to changes in their life circumstances or lack of enjoyment with the work. So, maybe something like this:

2012-13: Five appointed until 2014-2015, four appointed until 2017-2018
2013-14: No change except attrition
2014-15: Election year: five turn over, four remain the same
2015-16: No change except attrition
2016-17: No change except attrition (2014-5 departures eligible for reappointment due to attrition vacancies)
2017-18: Election year: Four turn over, five remain the same (2014-15 departures eligible to run)
2018-19: No change, except attrition
2019-20: No change, except attrition (2017-18 departures eligible for reappointment due to attrition vacancies)
2020-21: Election year, etc.

If we make a series of conservative assumptions, then the ratio of Board-appointed members to community-elected members would end up looking something like this:

2012-13: 9 BA, 0 CE
2013-14: 9 BA, 0 CE
2014-15: 4 BA, 5 CE
2015-16: 5 BA, 4 CE
2016-17: 6 BA, 4 CE
2017-18: 2 BA, 7 CE
2018-19: 3 BA, 6 CE
2019-20: 4 BA, 5 CE
2020-21: 0 BA, 9 CE

That math is kind of wrong -- I did it fast, so there may be mistakes. And also, it assumes no non-election turnover in election years (no attrition), and I believe I assumed attrition always affects the elected members rather than appointed members, which of course would not be true. But still: the above gives a rough picture of how the appointed/elected ratio might change over time, with assumptions that assume lots of turnover. In reality it would likely look different: this scenario assumes more appointed members than would likely actually be the case.

What do we think of this model?

Some pros:

  • Lengthy terms builds expertise and a sense of team
  • Stability in FDC membership is good for the grant-seekers (continuity, consistency, predictability)
  • Term limits sufficient to protect against cronyism
  • Board filling attrition seats allows for thoughtful, considered filling of gaps (like, if nobody from Asia were ever elected, or nobody from a smaller project)

Some cons:

  • Community only gets a voice every three years
  • If attrition were very high, that would reduce community influence over the FDC membership overall

Sorry to be so lengthy. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 19:48, 10 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I had a second free, so I just re-did the model with better assumptions (assuming attrition every year including election years, alternating between Board-appointed people leaving and community-elected people leaving), and got this:
2012-13: 9 BA, 0 CE (att BA)
2013-14: 9 BA, 0 CE (att BA)
2014-15: 5 BA, 4 CE (att CE)
2015-16: 5 BA, 4 CE (att BA)
2016-17: 6 BA, 3 CE (att CE)
2017-18: 2 BA, 7 CE (att BA)
2018-19: 3 BA, 6 CE (att CE)
2019-20: 3 BA, 6 CE (att BA)
2020-21: 1 BA, 8 CE (att CE)

I think that's more realistically what this would look like. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 02:06, 11 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Where does FDC fit in as per Wikimedia board manual, is it Board committee or Center of Excellence, Staff committee like ComCom Committee, Community Committee like Chapters committee  ? --naveenpf (talk) 22:53, 12 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Naveenpf. As I understand it, the FDC would be a Board committee. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 15:41, 15 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Six years is an extremely long term of office. I don't think any other part of the movement has terms remotely that long. I think you would struggle to find people willing to serve for that long (and of those that did agree to a six year term, I doubt many would complete it - take a look at the English Wikipedia ArbCom for some data on how few arbs complete their terms, and those are only 3 years). It also means that, while someone in their last year in office may have been elected by the community, that will have been the community of 5 years ago, which will not be the same people as are currently in the community, thus damaging legitimacy. I think having half the committee up for election each time is good, but the elections should be either every year or every 18 months (ie. 2 or 3 year terms - that should get a good balance between keeping experienced people, not asking for too much commitment and maintaining legitimacy).
I also have concerns about having the entire committee being community elected. I don't think you are likely to get the right mix of people that way. While the community may elect good people, there is likely to be a certain type of person that the community likes and you'll end up with lots of that type, rather than a mix (for example, the community is likely to elect people with lots of Wikimedia experience, which means we might not get the necessary grant making and fiscal responsibility experience that the FDC will also need). I think a mix of community elected, WMF appointed and chapter/other partner appointed seats would be best (3 CE, 2 WMF and 2 chapter/partner, say). --Tango (talk) 14:35, 14 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Tango. I don't think, in my proposal above, that anyone would actually have a six-year term. Of the initial slate of candidates, the way I've proposed it above, four would be appointed for about five years (appointed midway through 2012-13 with terms ending 2017-18), and the rest for fewer. But I'd assume attrition would mean that few or non of those appointees would stick it out for the full term: they would leave for a variety of reasons over time, and be replaced by other Board appointees or by community-elected members. I agree with you that it's a long term, but I don't think anyone would stick it out for the full duration, and I think that would be fine, because there'd be a mechanism for replacing people who leave. Basically, I think we should aim to plan for longevity, on the assumption that tenure will be less than planned, because people will fall away from the work for various reasons. I think that's better than planning for shorter terms.
I do hear you and agree with you, that perhaps the entire FDC should not be community-elected. What we've learned from the Board of Trustees elections is that elections tend to favour people in Europe and North America, from big established projects. Here is the list, in order, of Board members who have been elected by the community: Florence Nibart-Devouard, Angela Beesley, Erik Moller, Frieda Brioschi, Kat Walsh, Ting Chen and Sam Klein. That suggests that the election process favours Europeans, and to a lesser extent Americans: nobody has ever been elected who at the time was living outside Europe and the United States. It also suggests that the process favours people whose first language is of European origin (French, English, German, Italian): Ting is the only elected Board member whose first language is non-European. And I agree with you that we might not get the required grantmaking and governance experience from an FDC that was solely community-elected -- that's why the Wikimedia Foundation Board instituted the appointed seats. (Have any chapters done the same, or are chapters' Boards all community-elected at this point?)
The question is, what capabilities and experiences ought the FDC to include? I think I would argue that geography is an important consideration: I think the FDC ought to include people with experience in the Global South. But what else? Let me pose a couple of questions here:
  1. Should the FDC itself include grantmaking experience and governance experience, or can that be supplied by the staff supporting the FDC? (It's worth acknowledging that the FDC will over time develop that expertise internally, especially if we are imagining a stable FDC with long terms, so we are mainly talking about its initial years here, and we are talking about pre-existing grantmaking and governance experience.)
  2. What are the most important skills/experiences that the FDC needs to contain? Not necessarily in all its members, but in the membership as a whole?
Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 18:49, 14 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I'm not sure I see the advantage of appointing people to terms you don't expect them to complete... also, if retirees are replaced by WMF appointments, it means a large proportion of the FDC would be appointed by the WMF at any given time. I think the WMF should be represented, but it should be intentional, not representation "by the back door" (it is important that the FDC isn't seen as a puppet of the WMF). If there are elections every year or every 18 months then retirees can be replaced (for the remainder of their term) reasonably soon in an election, with the appointed person only needing to serve for a short time (if at all - no point appointing someone for only a couple of months). Experience has shown us that incumbents tend to do pretty well, so I think you would still get the necessary experience. As for chapters with appointed trustees, I'm not aware of any. WMUK has discussed it (although the appointments would still need to be ratified by members), but it hasn't happened so far. --Tango (talk) 21:16, 14 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Responding to John Vandenburg's request up thread, as one of the WMF Board members here's my thinking on FDC size. On the one hand, the FDC should be small enough that it can act quickly and not be weighed down by having a large number of people to get together and process and deal with things. I've seen a lot of examples of committees that collapse under their own weight and I don't want the FDC to be like that. On the other hand, we have a long history in our movement of volunteers thinking they can commit the time to something and then finding themselves unable to actually deliver on that commitment. So we have to assume that if X people are on the commitment, some fraction (.75x) actually are able to commit time to review and actually show up to meetings. So we can't have too small a group (e.g. 5) or else a huge burden will fall up on the smaller group that actually stays involved. So, the things I know are that it should be an odd number, that it should be able to act assuming a quorum (majority I think) is present/voting. And it might also make sense to have a procedure that if a tie happens (if only an even number of members show up to vote, or people abstain or recuse themselves) then maybe decision gets kicked to the WMF Board to break the tie. That way we can perhaps reduce painful and slow last-minute horsetrading on contentious topics.Stu (talk) 04:13, 19 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I agree, we need to balance having enough people to do the work with not having so many people that it can't function efficiently. The numbers people seem to be suggesting are 7 and 9, both of which I think would work. I would like to set the quorum a little higher than a majority. With either 7 or 9 members, and only just a majority present, you can have a vote carried by just 3 supporters. That doesn't sound like enough people to be making the kind of big decisions the FDC will be making. If that few people can make it to the meeting, I would rather they voted on a wiki after the meeting. I would set the quorum at 6 people (out of either 7 or 9) so that 4 supports are needed to pass a motion. Having the WMF board break ties makes sense - essentially that means the FDC weren't able to make a recommendation, so the WMF board just has to make their own decision. --Tango (talk) 22:06, 19 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
The current draft has 4 year terms with a requirement to have 1.5 years off between terms. I think 2 year terms with a maximum of two consecutive terms, and a requirement to have 1.5 years off after two terms, would be better. 4 years is still too long. I'm not aware of any other position in the movement with a term length that long, and for good reason. We are a fast moving organisation with a high turnover of community membership - a mandate from the community 4 years ago really doesn't mean much now. --Tango (talk) 11:38, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Building on what's been said about the key question of the skills required for FDC membership I would propose the following: commitment to the values, vision and mission of the movement as articulated through the strategic plan. Knowledge of either program management or grantmaking. I think the FDC can be most helpful to the Board if its membership has experience running and/or assessing programs. While staff will do nitty-gritty due diligence, the ability to understand project feasibility is important. Other criteria that would be critical to include in some core group of members might be--Knowledge of/experience working in the global south, gender (I've seen studies of corporate boards that suggest 3 women is the minimum to get beyond tokenism), program assessment or evaluation.

I like the idea of nominations (both self and group) but with board appointments

As for size, the most effective groups/boards I've worked on have been between 9-11 members. That's for working groups, which I think the FDC will be. Groups whose job is to advise and generate consensus generally need to be larger. If 9 members, one option would be to have an initial group where 3 came on with a two year term, 3 came on with a 3 year term, and four came on with a four year term. After that, all appointees would have three year, one time renewable terms. 1/3 rotation is the goal, I think 1/2 turnover is tough. The 1/3 turnover helps balance a key issue with groups--allowing for the development of some cohesion that allows for deep listening but avoiding clubiness with mutual back-scratching instead of analysis. chayling (talk) 05:00, 28 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Thanks for the comments here, everyone. We do have a goal of a membership model where there is more stability (less turnover year-over-year) for the FDC, which would allow institutional learning to grow within the committee. The previous model had years where half of the membership would turn over, and the thought is that no more than 1/3 turnover in any given year should be the goal. The below model should work to create that stability. Feel free to provide thoughts on this!
  • In 2012: 7 founding members of the FDC members are appointed by the board.
    • Of these 4 will remain as “board appointed seats” on an ongoing basis. At the onset, one will have a 2-year term, and two will have 4-year terms
    • 3 will initially also be appointed but will be eventually replaced by elected members of the FDC. At the onset, one will have a 1-year term, and two will have a 3-year term
  • In 2013: 3 FDC members are elected (2 are new members, 1 member will replace expiring 1-year seat). Total number of voting members of the FDC = 9
  • In 2014: 2 new FDC members are appointed
  • In 2015: 2 additional FDC members are elected
  • In 2016: 2 additional FDC members are appointed
  • In 2017: 3 additional FDC members are elected
  • In 2018: 2 new FDC members are appointed
  • In 2019: 2 additional FDC members are elected
  • In 2020: 2 additional FDC members are appointed

Thanks, Meerachary TBG (talk) 03:06, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

A just made a couple of changes to the above timeline to better reflect the recommendation. Meerachary TBG (talk) 00:04, 4 June 2012 (UTC) 23:59, 3 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Added small (but, I think, important) point re: Committee chair. Proposal is that the FDC select one member to serve as a Chair for a 2 year term. LauraL TBG (talk) 00:07, 5 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Stakeholder representation


Had the advisory group given any thought to giving chapters / other grant-receiving entities / the Chapters Association any formal input into the composition of the FDC, in the same way as on the Foundation board? This would strike me as something helpful to ensure the widespread acceptance of the FDC's recommendations. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 11:37, 27 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I suggested it, but it doesn't seem to have been well received, mostly on arguments of it being undemocratic. I'd rather have a system that worked as well as possible than one that was democratic, personally. --Tango (talk) 13:57, 27 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Assessment of the FDC


Administration and other Process


Budgeting Process - Question and guesses


The proposal so far is great in that it is simple. But it leaves out much of what I consider to be the heart of the matter, the budgeting process - how the FDC will allocate money.

  • I'll guess that this will end up as a 3 step process
  1. Gathering info and input from the Wikipedia community, "eligible entities," (ee's) the Board and possibly others on general spending priorities for the year so that the ee's can have a general idea of how their proposed budgets might fit into the overall budget, before they submit a budget for step 2. The output of this first step might be as simple as a one page statement of overall community priorities for the year. It would not be as formal as a strategic plan - more like how the FDC interprets the strategic plan and board updating to start off a practical spending plan. It should also not be a plan that includes a general description of "all spending" for the year - new ideas and opportunities will come up during the year - but there should be some $ limit or very careful handling of these new ideas.
  2. Working from step 1, the ee's will come up with proposed budgets, with maybe 10 line items, which could include planned spending on smaller requests from their members, which the ee's will approve or reject as the request come in. So the FDC could approve some of the ee's requests, reject some outright or ask that they be reformulated or have additional information. At the end of this step the ee's should have a good idea of their basic budgets, including large items and how much in small requests they will be budgeting. The FDC should have an idea of how much money is left to allocate for small requests that will be handled through the FDC, and for "new ideas" that will be funded as needed.
  3. Both the ee's and the FDC will then allocate for the small requests as needed throughout the year, and review spending and effectiveness as, or soon after, it occurs.

Notice that this has elements of an annual process and a rolling process. Aiming at overall goals and coordination is included - primarily in the first step, but flexibility and the ability to include new ideas and opportunities is included - primarily in the 3rd step.

This might be too simple - but to me this is the heart of what the FDC will do, so we'd better start talking about it. Smallbones (talk) 02:14, 7 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Smallbones. Thank you for getting us kicked off here! We do indeed want to be talking seriously about these issues: thank you for starting.
To your points above. I think it's a good starting point. Couple of comments:
  1. I think the first step is actually two things -- the giving of input/guidance, and also the creation of the year's funding envelope. The Board of Trustees needs to set, as part of the annual planning cycle, the overall envelope of funding for the FDC. At the same time, I think the Board of Trustees should likely be giving the FDC guidance for how it would like to see the money spent. That guidance would be one input to the FDC process: other inputs would likely include the mission and vision, and (currently) the 2010-15 strategy, as well as the annual reports of eligible entities. It might also include some measure of consultation with the community, although ideally I think that would happen during the strategy-setting component -- if the community were giving input as the strategy is set, that would eliminate the need for duplicative/additional input at this point in the planning cycle. (That doesn't mean there wouldn't/couldn't be a point in the annual process where the community is officially consulted. As I said on the call, I think there should be, and how to build in a community consultation step is something we need to work through. I am just not sure that it should happen at this stage: I think it might better happen as the FDC is evaluating proposals.) This is similar to your step #1, above, except it also includes defining the overall envelope (the total allocation amount) for the FDC.
  2. Yes, I essentially agree with your step two. I do think that EEs should submit to the FDC their entire annual plan, with the amount requested from the FDC specified. (Why? Most or many organizations applying to the FDC for funds will have other sources of money -- see the "where the money comes from" table here-- and I think it's important that the FDC get a window onto the total picture, and how the FDC allocation fits into it.
  3. I think that small requests don't necessarily fit into the FDC envelope and decision-making. I think we want the FDC not to be approving line items ("I like this project, I am not sure about this project") but rather approving a total amount per entity. (Why? For reasons of simplicity, expertise, time and clarity-of-roles. The FDC won't necessarily have the expertise to be able to say "this line item is good, this line item is not good" at a granular level, and really that scrutiny should I think happen locally, via the entity's normal Board oversight process. I think the FDC should reserve its decision-making authority for the bigger picture, which would mean answering the question of "how is this pie divided among different entities" rather than "how should each entity internally allocate its piece of the pie." That's the point at which I think some manner of community consultation could usefully be built into the process. As I've said casually in a couple of places, perhaps a poll would be a useful tool for the FDC?
I would be keen to hear here from individuals/entities that anticipate applying for funds from the FDC.
  • Would you prefer line-by-line scrutiny (and line-by-line yes/no's) or a single budgetary allocation? How important to you is this issue?
  • Would you prefer submitting your total annual plan with FDC request explicitly called out, or submitting a plan specifically devised for the FDC? Is this an important issue for you, or not?
  • What other factors/considerations might be important to you, in terms of making the FDC funding process as simple and user-friendly as possible?
  • If we were imagining an FDC process that collected funds requests in September/October/November/December, and released funding decisions in January, would that work for you, or would it pose a hardship? When is your normal annual planning cycle -- at what time of year is your plan normally completed? Is that cycle easily moveable, or not?
I can guess the answers to some of those questions, but probably better not to guess. Probably better just to ask :-) Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 00:47, 9 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Yes, the EEs certainly need to say how they hope the process will work. They should tell us what the FDC can do for them. My experience is that whenever anybody faces a budgeting process, they first consider the budgeting organization to be a barrier - something standing between them and the money. But the best managers soon realize that budgeting helps them - not just with a little discipline - but also to help them formulate their plans in an organized way. In this case, I think the FDC will also help them to sell their ideas to the board in an organized manner. One EE acting alone can't judge all the other possible uses of funds across Wikimedia projects. Putting it all together in a single package will help the board as well as the EEs.

Which sounds a lot like Sue's "2-part step 1." If I may, let's just make it 4 steps total:

1. Getting input from the Board of Trustees, the mission and vision, and the 2010-15 strategy (and any informal updates), the EE annual reports, and consultation with the community, along with preliminary ideas, estimates, and goals from the EEs. The FDC then puts this together into a short document to present to the board, saying "we think that a reasonable total amount to spend on these areas is $XXX."

2. The Board then defines the envelope with any additional guidance they think is needed.

3. Based on 1 and 2, the EEs send in a formal request - including their total budget as a matter of general information. I do think that there should be 5-10 line items, so that the FDC can judge how the overall funds will be split. Clearly the funds raised by the EEs separately shouldn't be controlled by the FDC, but the FDC should be able to say "if you want to spend money on Project A, the FDC won't cover it, but you can use your own funds." The funds granted by the FDC can certainly include pass-thru grants administered by the EEs. I'd be comfortable with the large majority of smaller grants being made by the EEs, but do think some should be administered by the FDC.

4. The EEs make the operational decisions and the large majority of pass-thru grants, sending back effectiveness information to the FDC. The FDC should make some smaller grants primarily for reasons of flexibility, new ideas, and quick reaction times.

If all new ideas have to go through EEs, some will be bottled up because they don't quite fit in with the "older projects" and "previous budgeting decisions." In order to properly respond to new ideas, we have to have funds available to fund them quickly (if in only a limited amount the first year). Just as an example: suppose that all EEs were geographical, and we find out that Wikipedia has a big following in a country we didn't really know about previously (think perhaps of Tunisia, Egypt, or Burma in the last few years), as well as an effective leader who wants to get things really rolling. Well, to get money out of the other geographic EEs to put into the new country would take some great diplomacy, effort, and time. It would be nice to be able to react quickly - with money specifically reserved for these unexpected events. Any money not used for these contingencies would of course go back into the reserve for the core.

A secondary reason for having the FDC make some small grants is simply to give them some experience in what the EEs are doing. They should be able to understand the EEs better by doing some of the same things the EEs do.

Part of this would be to develop a group of people experienced in the budgeting process - perhaps similar to the clerks at ArbCom. But that's another topic - how to develop talent. Smallbones (talk) 21:16, 9 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

These comments are great - it's critical that we get to greater specificity here. The Bridgespan team will reach out proactively to likely eligible entities (EE's) to get their input on these and a few other key questions.
I'm curious about this notion you raised, Sue, about community consultation and a poll - how might that look? At what stage in the process? What would the community be asked and where? LauraL TBG (talk) 21:52, 9 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Just catching up on this conversation...glad we are starting to get into the details. A few thoughts on the proposals above:
  • Agree on the importance of having some general strategic scoping in place, as this will help everyone figure out what to expect in the process and will avoid bad surprises for EEs who might put a lot of effort into ideas that are non-starters. The challenge in the upfront guidance is to get the balance right - too specific and you kill off decentralized planning, too general and the guidance doesn't guide anything. I don't have the answer, but I think it lies in some sort of ranking of priorities...A, B and C are important priorities for the movement in that order. If you are doing high impact work on A, you can count on resources; C? maybe, but only if we have funds after we've allocated to A and B; D? probably not going to get a serious allocation.
  • There is a perceived choice between line item funding and block allocation. I'd like to suggest that we consider a hybrid. Allocations are in blocks but decisions are informed by assessment of the line items - more the goals of the line items than the specific activity plan, where discretion should rest with managers. One must look at the line items to do a rigorous analysis of a plan, but once the allocation is made the decision making on actual spending should return to the managers. They might decide to rework some activities to achieve more with less (a good outcome) and something that wouldn't be possible, if the FDC constrained things by restricting funding to certain line items.
  • Timing is a very tricky. There is a natural desire in an allocation process to get plans from everyone on the same day to enable direct comparison. I have two concerns with this:
  • EEs have their own budget processes that revolve around their financial year along with processes to get member/community input, board or general assembly approvals, etc. Unfortunately financial year ends are not well aligned in our system today (WMF is June 30; many chapters are Dec 31 and some are different from that). It might be worth the work to move financial year ends, but if the FDC process where on a single fixed calendar, it would create havoc with existing budget processes;
  • In order for the FDC to do good analysis, members and supporting staff will need time to review plans and have some back-and-forth with individual EEs. I worry that a once a year process will overwhelm the members and staff and limit their ability to do rigorous work. My thinking is that a process where there is some distribution of work around the calendar would be more sustainable.
  • I do think a rolling calendar could work if there were reasonable funding ranges set upfront when the overall revenue targets and FDC allocation is created for general categories of FDC spending as well as timing of spending by quarter based on pre-agreed windows when major EEs would submit their plans. There might be a risk that the FDC runs out of money for latecomers, but this would be mitigated by the fact that EEs are likely known well in advance and they would commit early to a schedule, so that the FDC would have future needs on the horizon as it considers current needs. If the FDC doesn't use its full allocation, the balance goes to reserves.
  • On FDC making smaller grants for new ideas, geographies...I see this role continuing to reside in the WMF's grants program, which is serving this purpose today and would even moreso in the future. The program is working (with room for improvement) and moving this work to the FDC would only add more complexity to what we are trying to realize with the FDC. In addition, WMF staff are in the field more establishing new relationships, connecting with small chapters or other community groups and therefore are better positioned to identify opportunities and support nascent groups through the initial stages of the grants process. If the WMF Board and FDC see fit, they might provide some support on the scope and criteria for the grants process, but IMO the implementation is better done in a staff function. Same applies to things like individual fellowship programs and travel/event reimbursements.
That's all for now. Cheers, --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 22:38, 11 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Laura, I'll come back later and talk about the community consultation process -- I have a few half-baked notions. If anyone else wants to talk through this before though, feel free: my ideas are far from solid, and I would love to hear from other people.
I want to say too -- I am pretty uncomfortable with the idea of rolling grant requests. It would be significantly easier for grant-seekers, which needs to be a consideration -- the alternative seems seriously burdensome for them. And Barry, I hear you about workload for the FDC: that's an important point which I hadn't been considering. (Fits with what Risker has said about the enWP ArbCom too -- that it is more natural for volunteers to be able to ramp up and down as their other work-life priorities allow.) But I think it'd be very difficult for the FDC to evaluate a request in isolation, rather than in the context of the full array of requests. It would work if our assumption is that there will be a surplus of cash and every good request could easily be funded, but that strikes me as unlikely. I am going to try to think about how a rolling calendar could coexist with an assumption that money is not unlimited. I'd be happy to hear from others on this point too. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 21:00, 12 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I don't think you can separate decisions about the total amount of money to allocate from considerations of the proposals received. The FDC shouldn't approve bad proposals just because it has money to spare. It also shouldn't have to reject really good proposals just because there isn't enough money, when we could just run the fundraiser for an extra day or two. We need to "think at the margin" as economists say - when setting a budget you need to repeatedly do a cost-benefit analysis on the extra bit you are considering. You need to ask yourself how much it will cost us to raise an extra dollar and how much impact we can get by spending an extra dollar. You set the budget at the point where the impact is no longer enough to justify the cost. I think the FDC should get input from the WMF and fundraising chapters on how much than can raise with varying levels of difficulty, and should then make a recommendation on how much to raise based on the spending proposals received. --Tango (talk) 15:07, 14 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Tango, I get nervous when people say things like "run the fundraiser for an extra day or two." All due respect, but that's not the answer. Experience has shown that when adding days to the fundraiser there is an actual cost: to sustain the income stream during those times takes much, much, much more work than it does earlier in the fundraiser. In effect, at a certain point (which I suspect we are nearing), all you're doing is elongating the dip in the middle of the fundraiser's graph. In addition to that, there's the reality that the community expects us to keep the fundraiser as short as possible, and we've managed to make it shorter every year. That obviously is going to stop at some point, when we reach max efficiency (as Megan and Zack and their team are working hard to do). But it's dangerous to toss out phrases like "just run the fundraiser an extra day or two...." without considering the actual impact of what that would do. Philippe (WMF) (talk) 06:21, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
There is, obviously, a range of fundraising targets that the fundraising teams at the WMF and chapters could aim for. At one end, you have a target that could be reached by hardly breaking a sweat and with only a minimum of annoyance for the community and the public. At the other end, you have a target that could be reached only by going all-out to raise as much as possible without completely destroying all the good-will we have. The target that the fundraising teams are asked to raise will almost certainly be somewhere between those two. Am I wrong that the length of the fundraiser and the extent to which Jimmy banners are used are two of the key factors the fundraising team will vary based on the target they are given? If I am, then what will they vary? --Tango (talk) 10:44, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi all, we've added a bit more detail in the application section about the dispute resolution process and proposed a Community Ombudsperson role to help coordinate feedback on the FDC and disputs on individual decisions. Have a look! --Libbie_TBG (talk)

Hi all, great discussion. A few thoughts and questions. The challenge Sue raises concerns me as well. Proposals first in the gate may look better than those submitted toward the end of the year, only because of lack of comparison. Let me throw out a few thoughts: If the FDC staff can draw up a calendar for EE applications (informed by EE's saying when they would like to apply for funds based on their own planning/budgeting), then a rolling schedule of quarterly or 3x/year applications might work well. The tricky part is determining how to allocate the budget pool available per quarter or period? Would funds be equally divided in each quarter or period? This may be the best starting approach, understanding the FDC and the EEs will learn and refine the process year over year. Grantseekers regularly adapt to the fiscal/funding schedules of grantmakers, though in the ideal scenarios, funders and grantseekers develop partnerships over time and , while maintaining discernment and propoer checks, also adapt to the needs of one another.

I really like the idea of using an established survey to gather feedback to inform the FDC's process.

On the topic of funding new ideas/regions. I have experienced challenges in having "new project/idea" proposals compete against existing budgets/programs. It is difficult for untested ideas and unknown people to beat out existing programs. One strategy to consider to address this is for the board to create a New Project pool of funds. These could be smaller grants, with a quicker turnaround. Just a thought.

Good thoughts about how the FDC should evaluate budgets. I come down on balancing flexibility with scrutiny. I find it very helpful to have proposals include fairly detailed project budgets accompanied by org budgets. I think budgets are simply a financial description of the organizations priorities and plans. Having both the narrative and budgets helps understand how the ideas get operationalized. However, once the FDC has determined that a budget makes overall sense and its recommendation for funding has been approved by the board, the EE or grantee needs to have flexibility to adjust those line items as it sees fit, in keeping with the agreed upon goals. The FDC can't predict the future nor should it tie the hands of EE creativity/flexibility. Accountability can be tracked with project-end reports where EEs report on outcomes and expenditures which will be reviewed by FDC staff and board. chayling 09:26, 30 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I hope I am not too late in answering Sues questions:

  • Would you prefer line-by-line scrutiny (and line-by-line yes/no's) or a single budgetary allocation? How important to you is this issue?
I am strongly in favor of single budgetary allocation instead of line-item approval. Anything else would make the process unmanageable, and I would not know how a global entity such as the FDC would be able to evaluate single projects or initiatives. And every budget has ideally be scrutinized by the community, by members of the EE, by the EE board, so there is no need to double this review.
I addition, I would prefer the whole process to be goal-driven, not project-driven. It should be of no big concern to the FDC *how* an EE is spending the money, as long as three things are addressed: 1. A sound review / oversight is in place, so that money is not wasted; 2. The goals that the EE wants to reach with the funds are clearly defined and 3. a sound and public measurement if in place, so that everybody can see whether the goals have been reached or not.
  • Would you prefer submitting your total annual plan with FDC request explicitly called out, or submitting a plan specifically devised for the FDC? Is this an important issue for you, or not?
Honestly, I do not know. On the one hand it is important to have the whole picture, and we at Wikimedia Deutschland do publish the whole plan anyway, so the amount of "outside funding" is in the open anyway. On the other hand, this can lead to confusion about what the FDC should base its decision on. Does the total of the budget matter in making the decision of how many Dollars out of the fundraiser should be allocated towards the EE?
  • What other factors/considerations might be important to you, in terms of making the FDC funding process as simple and user-friendly as possible?
Heading a mature organization, planning stability is important for me. I sign work contracts with staff, leases for office space, I commit towards long-running projects funded in part by the European Union, and so on. I could not do so without some kind of planning stability.
In addition, I find it important that the whole FDC process keeps in mind that we are a movement deeply rooted in local communities, and that a lot of decision making / review / evaluating is done on this level already. It would be a waste of the FDCs time and it would be demotivating to local communities if we would shift these tasks and responsibilities towards a global committee.
  • If we were imagining an FDC process that collected funds requests in September/October/November/December, and released funding decisions in January, would that work for you, or would it pose a hardship? When is your normal annual planning cycle -- at what time of year is your plan normally completed? Is that cycle easily moveable, or not?
Our budget cycle starts sometime in late June, and is completed by early December. And I dont thingk that we could move these dates significantly, due to the nature of our process.--Pavel Richter (WMDE) (talk) 15:19, 4 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Community consultation


If I may, I'd like to speak up on this - of course with the proviso that this is only something to get the discussion started - I'm not married to any of the ideas below. What won't work is more easily described than what will work, but I think this part of the process is where the FDC could become a "Center of Excellence"

  • No one system needs to be implemented right away - we can develop this as we go along - as long as we are committed to finding a system that works.
  • Informal input by friends and colleagues of the committee members is inevitable and should be accepted - FDC members after all will be selected to represent broad sections of the community. This is where we will start, but it should never be the only method of input, and it certainly shouldn't be the ending point.
  • Exclusively relying on talk page type discussions, Village Pumps, RfCs, or !votes won't work. I don't think that it is a put-down of Wikipedia's day-to-day governance system to say that the common methods work in many situations, but don't work in others. So for deciding an issue among 3-300 editors, I might say that it comes up with an adequate or better solution over 95% of the time. But for an issue that might have 5,000 or more interested parties, it's almost bound to fail. Nobody will have the time or want to deal with the ax-grinding, grandstanding, fixed views, or politicking that commonly occurs in many of these discussions.
  • !votes would be very difficult to conduct over multiple language versions - e.g. who is going to close them? I suggest that we only use Village Pump-type discussions to come up with some basic alternatives that could be voted on in a straightforward manner like the arb-com elections. For example the FDC could start an RfC saying "we think the following 10 uses of funds are reasonable. Come up with the 10 (same or others) that the community thinks should be considered, each expressed in 400 characters or less, by a given date." An RfC would find this a challenge to do - but would likely come up with something. The FDC could then combine this input from various language versions, taking into account the mission, strategic plan, etc. and allow a straightforward vote on each of the 10 or so proposed uses. Complicated and time consuming, but it would get to the sense of the community.
  • better yet, just use a "public opinion survey" with en:stratified sampling of only about 500 editors or readers to get the sense of the community. By not drawing it out and making it a political football we'd likely get just as good a result as a vote.
  • The result of any vote or public opinion survey should not be controlling. Rather it is just another input for the FDC to consider in coming up with general spending priorities for the year. Ultimately the EEs will have the final say in what they spend, after consultation with the FDC and approval (for WMF funds) by the Board. Smallbones (talk) 17:19, 10 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
This is all very interesting and useful. I'm interested especially in the stratified sampling: that's a good idea :-) Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 19:51, 10 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I like the idea of running a well-structured periodic survey that is stratified. We can start with the Editor Survey. It reaches a broad sample of the editor community, is set up to operate in many languages and run every six months. I have a plan to modify the survey approach, focus it on a simple set of core questions that we would ask repeatedly. We could include a simple set of questions (something that it would be great if we could develop in this process) that would inform the FDC's allocation process along with an opportunity for the community to provide feedback on FDC allocation decisions. --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 18:03, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Issue with eligible entities


I am quite concerned about the 3rd requirement for being eligible for FDC's consideration about a grant request, which says: "have a track record of receiving at least two prior grants from the Wikimedia Foundation, and have met standard Wikimedia Foundation compliance and reporting requirements for those grants;"

As we all want the Wikimedia movement to grow globally, we expect that more chapters & similar organizations will emerge in near future from distant parts of the world. Funding is a major issue at the development stage of such a voluntary organization where it is very difficult to even get enough supporting volunteers. So, we need to ensure that emerging movement entities get the required financial and other support at this critical stage of their existence. But the proposed requirement straightaway excludes these important entities from being considered by the FDC or being benefited by the existence of the FDC. Only mature chapters/entities will be able to meet this requirement which I think does not align with the Wikimedia mission.

Proposal: Alternatively, we may add a separate clause for startup entities. -Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 21:35, 10 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Yes, if taken literally that requirement would close off any new EEs. I don't think that was intended and some new wording should fix it. Smallbones (talk) 02:52, 11 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I took this to mean that the new EE would be funded through an alternative process, like the GAC. Thinking that their budgets would be smaller and below the threshold for review by FDC, maybe? Some of the Board Members had other ideas, like all Chapters, no matter how small or new would go through the FDC. I definitely think we need to decide which route the EE would take for their main programing needs. I see some benefits to having all chapters main programing funded by the same body. The FDC and GAC will be giving grants to the same groups so their always will be overlap that needs to be sorted out. But having both FDC and GAC fund the main programing of different groups might be adding an extra layer of confusion to the process. I'm open to understanding why it would be a benefit to have the division of responsibilities of reviewing done primarily by amount of funding received rather than the type of funding. (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 22:27, 11 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I think FloNight has it right that there would be alternative funding mechanisms for emerging groups in the movement (and groups outside who might have valuable program work that they could do that supports the Wikimedia strategy). My view is that the existing WMF grants process can accommodate these groups effectively. We already do all of this work today and it largely works well (with room for improvement). I think we should work with this approach rather than adding to the FDC's already expansive agenda. I really can't see the FDC being in a position to work with small groups on proposals, review a high volume on a timely basis and stay focused on the large allocation decisions.
We should discuss the criteria for graduating a group into the FDC process i.e., what are the eligibility requirements? I do think at least two grants over 2-3 years is one good metric, as this allows us all to see how an organization managed outside funds to get programs done and how ready they are for larger commitments. Asaf has done some prior work on eligibility criteria for WMF annual plan-based grants that is worth considering in our deliberations.--Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 22:52, 11 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Could new groups / chapters/ etc. be part of FDC disbursement to the WMF for non-core activity??? These would be managed by WMF till the entity became 'qualified'. Regards, Ariconte (talk) 06:29, 13 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
That's what I would like to see: the WMF would continue making grants directly, mainly to new and small groups. This would be funded as a block via the FDC. Other well-established entities might do the same on a smaller scale in particular regions. SJ talk  21:41, 18 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Relationship between FDC & GAC


I wanted to raise the issue under an existing topic but later thought it should be discussed separately. We all seem to be in consensus (mostly) that the activity of current GAC should stay as it is now & GAC will operate alongside FDC. Though some are not sure about how to draw a line between the scope of FDC & GAC.

However, I am not sure how both these committees will work unless we define a relationship between these two. As per board resolution, total fund raised by the Wikimedia movement will be divided into three pies. One for core activities, one for contingency reserve & the other will be distributed as per the recommendation of the proposed FDC. In this setting, I don't see any other allocation of fund for distributing through GAC apart from a sum coming from the FDC allocation. This is an important area we are overlooking. If we want the GAC be functional as it is now, it should be incorporated into the FDC mechanism (as per the board resolution) & we have to define how allocations for the GAC will be made, relationship between FDC and GAC (GAC may be re-designed as a sub-section of FDC), what will be basis for allocating fund for GAC, what types of grant requests the GAC will work with etc. And most importantly, there should be a clear policy which will separate the work of FDC from that of GAC. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 19:22, 12 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

This is all interesting and needs to get resolved, yes. Currently, I've been imagining that the funding request for the GAC would be evaluated/approved by the FDC as part of the Wikimedia Foundation's "non-core" funding request. So in other words: the Board of Trustees would approve a plan that includes WMF core, FDC allocation and reserve. The WMF will be one organization requesting funds from the FDC, and that request would include an allocation for the GAC. Does that make sense? I'll note also that we will need a bright line separating FDC requests from GAC requests, so that it's clear to everyone which goes where -- just in order to spare people unhelpful confusion. That's why I'm in favour of the "two prior grants" rule -- because it's really simple with no ambiguity. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 20:49, 12 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I've also been thinking about how to make the FDC and GAC work together. I had the similar idea that the GAC should be a sub-component of the FDC. I'm thinking through several different ways to divide the work between the two groups. Since there will need to be staff support for review in each group, I'm seeing the value of having like kinds of fund requests be a major factor of whether FDC or GAC does the review. That way we get a group of staff and volunteers who over time are better and better at assisting applicants with initiating requests, then reviewing requests, and later evaluating their outcomes. I definitely see small grants to individuals and small ad hoc groups being reviewed by GAC. Funds coming through the GAC would most likely be more short term, stand alone programs, although they might be reoccurring annually. I see value in having the annual budget for any permanently organized group always going to FDC. I realize this is different than Sue's idea that groups start out first with several cycles of funding with GAC before coming to FDC. My thinking that staff support and volunteer work is going to be need somewhere in the system to review annual budgets of permanent entities (such WMF chapter or other permanent initiatives), and it would be beneficial to have one set of staff and volunteers working on them rather than two groups. This would free up the GAC to work more quickly with a larger volume of smaller requests that would be made by many different types of individuals and groups for many different types of needs. I think this approach might be friendlier to new chapters and other new permanent groups because they would not be competing for attention against a variety and volume of grant requests that might be very unpredictable in the short term. I see the volume of requests to FDC to fund annual programming to be much smaller in number even if we include all chapters and other permanent groups. I'm not locked into this idea, but think that it is worth considering as an alternative to having the division of responsibility be based on size of grant and maturity of the group making the request. (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 19:46, 13 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
While I agree that a new organisation shouldn't be going straight to the FDC for its funding, I don't think they should be restricted to the WMF. It may make more sense for a new chapter to get funding from a chapter in a neighbouring country, or for a new non-chapter organisation to get funding from the chapter in the country where it is going to be doing its initial work. Such chapters may be more able to provide the necessary support and oversight than the WMF would be able to. I think there is general agreement that chapters should be able to include funds for re-granting in the budgets they submit to the FDC, and I think those re-grants should be able to go to organisations as well as individuals. Then, the requirement to have a record of successful WMF grants before going to the FDC would become a requirement to have successful grants from the WMF or a chapter (or possibly another partner). I wouldn't set a hard number on how many grants - I think setting a threshold for how large a grant needs to be before the FDC will consider it is a better approach (to pick a number out of thin air, perhaps $30k). Different organisations will grow at different rates and will require grants at different frequencies, so a fixed number of previous grants won't be right for everyone. --Tango (talk) 14:56, 14 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Another alternative for discussion


While reading the interviews, proposal and comments above, one question kept popping up in my mind: isn't there a way to disseminate funds by tapping into the Wikimedia Movement's large and commited community of volunteers to a greater degree? Maybe there are some alternatives out there for us to edit and develop (the wiki way). The strategy project already gives us a good example of how "more than 1,000 people from around the world contributed in more than 50 languages [with] 900 proposals aiming to meet a wide variety of challenges and opportunities."

So, considering that Wikipedia is edited by 80,000 active contributors and the strategy project engaged 1,000 volunteers, how (de)centralized should the Funds Dissemination Committee & the Grants Advisory Committee be? Just to start with the discussion, two concepts are crossing my mind: Kickstarter and Flow funding.

According to their websites:

  • "Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects", where "people come to build community around their projects. It’s inspiring to be supported by people you know, and amazing to connect with strangers who are discovering your ideas for the first time. Since launching in April 2009: $200 million pledged to projects, 1.8 million people have backed a project and 20,000 projects successfully funded."
  • "In Flow Funding, donors entrust their money to social innovators and visionaries to give away. Flow Funding is a way to empower numerous new philanthropists to place strategic grants that are heartfelt and effective." It is "a way to have a foundation’s money reach numerous new beneficiaries who are chosen by people with extensive grassroots experience". "The emphasis is on trusting the needs presented during the year that each funder recognizes as meaningful and worthy of receiving funds".
  • Usually new Flow Funders have never been philanthropists.
  • Twenty thousand dollars is given to a Flow Funder each year for three years.
  • Flow Funders cannot fund their own projects or that of a relative.
  • Flow funders are encouraged NOT to give a gift over $5000.
  • The average gift ranges between $250 and $2,500.
  • Each amount donated is deducted from yearly Flow Fund Allotment.
  • It is preferable NOT to donate the entire year's amount to one charity or organization.
  • Flow Funders report back to learn from each others’ experience.
  • Former Flow Funders become responsible for developing guidelines, collecting and sharing reports.

--TSB (talk) 19:58, 14 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I appreciate the extensive work done by TBG and the high quality inputs and comments on this discussion page, where much thought was spent on a proposal for a small committee to disburse major grants.
The wiki way, I will take the opportunity in this space to further explore another line of thought. I hope you don’t mind and I invite you to share your comments here as well.
What if the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) were composed not by a few members, but rather by a large number of volunteers with relevant experience within the Wikimedia movement? For example, between 100 and 1000 individuals from diverse backgrounds (geography, language, gender, projects…) could be periodically selected/elected to join the FDC. Something similar already takes place in Wikimania’s scholarship process.
Each FDC member would then be empowered to allocate grants to Wikimedia’s projects up to a certain amount for a number of years (i.e. ten thousand dollars each year for two years)—see reference to Flow Funding for more details on how FDC members could work. Each member, together with at least two peers, would select and support Wikimedia’s projects that she/he recognizes as meaningful and worthy of receiving funds (but never their own initiatives), and report back periodically in an open, collaborative and transparent way.
The decentralized version of the FDC would be capable of allocating grants to all Wikimedia’s initiatives, from very small gifts (to individuals and small projects) to very large grants (for partner organizations, chapters and non-core activities of the Wikimedia Foundation).
All projects would be available in one single platform and funded by FDC members in the same way, except initiatives above a certain threshold (i.e. $50,000) that would additionally need a seal of approval from the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation (i.e. “eligible entity” status).
In this platform, financial resources and communities of connected volunteers would then grow through the trust that is given and received, potentially reaching people and projects hard or impossible to find/connect, supporting initiatives outside normal structures of English proposal-based grantmaking and fostering learning communities around the Wikimedia movement’s strategic goals – see reference to Kickstarter for more details on how the platform could be.
What do you think?

TSB (talk) 17:18, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I'd like to dig into this and give a more considered response, but in case my schedule doesn't permit that..let me at least say that I like this line of thinking very much, and think there is potentially a lot to be gained from considering lessons from models like kickstarter. -Pete F (talk) 18:55, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
The problem I see with this idea is that it would only really work for individual projects, rather than annual budgets of organisations. I think this might be a good replacement for the GAC, but not for the FDC. --Tango (talk) 19:12, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I think I agree with Tango here, that the distributed model of choosing to fund seems to be more applicable to one-off investments rather than ongoing projects. A significant difference with Kickstarter is that in that case, people are choosing to allocate their own money and expecting a personal benefit from it in the end. Applying that model to Wikimedia would be blurring the line between "where the money is raised" and "where the money is spent" which we've now established as an important fundraising/disseminating principle. So... I'd like to see some element of a "popularity contest" involved in disseminating funds for grants (e.g. a set pool of money that people can bid for development of highly-requested software features). However I wouldn't want to see that type of allocation become a major proportion of the total amount under the control of the FDC as this would potentially undermine the uncool-but-still-important parts of Chapter/WMF budgets. Wittylama (talk) 02:05, 18 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Don't you think that a single (distributed) committee working in one platform would probably make it much easier for everyone, including donors, to understand where and how the money is allocated?
I believe that the "flow funding" approach could work also for annual budgets of organisations and/or ongoing projects. The difference would be that larger amounts (i.e. above $50,000) would have to be requested by eligible entities approved by the Board and would need more FDC members on board to be fully funded - something that would create greater accountability.
If FDC members are selected/elected wisely, the uncool-but-still-important parts of Chapter/WMF budgets would also be funded. The collaborative strategy project is an example of how the community (>1000 volunteers) came together to discuss issues that matter for the development of the movement, and not only the cool stuff. Also the more than 100 volunteers that receive Wikimania Scholarships every year would certainly understand the importance of ongoing projects, don't you think so? TSB (talk) 12:04, 18 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Making things easier to understand is good, but it is better to have something confusing that works than something simple that doesn't. I don't think you would get funding for large annual budgets. Why would someone want to allocate their share of the money to being a small fraction of an annual budget where it will just be pooled with everyone else's share and they won't be able to feel engaged with any of the work, when they could allocate it to a specific project where they'll know exactly what it is being spent on and can feel part of that project? I think the only way eligible entities would get their funding is if they tailored their annual plans to the process and tried to make them look as appealing as possible to the funders. We don't want them doing that, though - we want them to come up with annual plans that include the best work they can do to further our goals. --Tango (talk) 17:36, 18 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I don't think that this is a good idea. When talking about large amounts of money and stakeholders who are organised there is an easy way to "game" the system. the only way to prevent this is to work with large numbers, and the large numbers are very hard to achieve with the complexity of the work that needs to be done. Not many volunteers find joy in going through pages and pages of program plans and budgets. I am sure that we can find enough to help form an FDC, but 1000's needed in order to make this work this way..... I do think agree with others above that it might be very useful to look at something like this for the GAC... Jan-Bart

I think a wikstarter project that allows individual projects to crowdsource funding makes a lot of sense. That's not a replacement for the FDC, as mentioned above, but it could help limit the burden on the FDC to infrastructure grants and annual plans. That would also help focus the FDC's work and criteria. More below in a separate section about how to reach new and non-English communities. SJ talk  14:34, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Agree with the responses that this could be a complement to FDC and standard grant approaches, but not a substitute. Not sure it is on-topic to continue this discussion under the FDC Advisory Group discussion heading. I would be supportive of considering a proposal for a pilot project using a portion of WMF's Grant budget, if there is a group that wants to structure it. I would suggest that the pilot would need to test whether there is a market for such an undertaking for small projects. It would need to show "demand" from groups/individuals seeking funds (that aren't served effectively in our current option set) and "supply" of reviewers as well as market rules that address potential problems of "gaming" the system. The pilot would need to avoid drawing on WMF staff resources as we don't have capacity to directly support an additional program beyond the current scope of grants plus FDC. --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 21:46, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Great news Barry, I will start to draft here a project pilot aiming at:
  • assessing "supply" of reviewers to collaborate and work in a decentralized way
  • assessing "demand" from fund-seekers not served in the current option set
  • addressing potential problems of "gaming" the system
--TSB (talk) 10:58, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Distribution and the FDC


Hi, I am GAC member User:Solstag and I think I have some useful input on this matter.

First, to clear a misunderstanding, the GAC has a work way beyond electing projects to be funded - in fact that is the one thing it currently does not formally do. Its objective is to advise not only the WMF, but first and foremost to advise the proponents of each Grant on how to improve it.

That is why the GAC cannot be simply substituted by a contest system, because it is not about electing projects, but about improving them. The educational work of the GAC is the main aspect of its contribution. And even if in the future the GAC becomes a deliberative body, I still think that will hold true.

The FDC's main job, on the other hand, will be to evaluate and judge requests, and not so much to educate organizations about planning, strategy or about the implementation of their programs - or at least that is what I took from the fact that it will only receive requests from organizations that fulfill some criteria of eligibility. But despite that difference, I think there are two things of importance about the GAC that still make sense for the FDC.

Fist, that the only thing distinguishing a GAC member from any other person is that he has made a commitment to assist the grants process. There is no privileged access to information channels. Anyone can do the work of a GAC member and anyone can check the work of a GAC member. I think it is absolutely vital that this be the same for the FDC, in order to make it more distributed. More on that ahead.

Second, and this is an ongoing discussion within the GAC, but I have proposed there that the GAC should have a semi-open membership, where people would be selected by referendum over certain qualities and not by election, so that any single person who qualifies can be a member. This should have no impact on the level of commitment expected from a member, and an inactive member will be demoted. However, this makes sure that membership is defined as result of commitment and not from limiting the number of seats.

I think this largely applies to the FDC. Anyone who has the expertise and wants to commit to do such work should be welcome, no matter how many. And anyone who wants to do or scrutinize its work should be able to do it, no matter if he wants to commit to it or not.

However, that does create a conflict with the deliberative aspect of the FDC, since if you notice in my arguments on the GAC page I do mention the fact that it is consultive as important for this kind of semi-open process.

And this is why we need a two-tier FDC. The FDC itself should be this semi-open, consultive body, made up of people who like to comment and evaluate organizational planning, perhaps even help improve it, and within the FDC there should be a smaller group who is responsible for guaranteeing a thorough evaluation and final deliberation.

That way, we still get a more committed deliberative group with a fair balance of properties (cultural, geographical, institutional etc) among its members as I see debated elsewhere here, and also a larger group, which contains the former, that can help that group, can get involved with other aspects of the FD process that the smaller group can't handle and, perhaps vital given the multiple conflicts of interest that will inevitably arise, help keep in check those voting members by more closely following their work.

Welly well... in any case, this was just an idea for you guys! TSB asked for my input on this so here are my 2 cents. I won't be watching this page 'cause if I had the time to I'd have asked to join this group - yet feel free to write me like Thomas did. Hopefully you can make something from my experience in the GAC, even if not fully implementing the above ideas - which you should! hahaha

Honestly, my main worry here is that, if the best thing this advisory group can come up with, to make the most important decisions about most of the the money in the Wikimedia movement, is a small limited committee, then you're pretty unimaginative.


--Solstag (talk) 20:05, 21 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Why does the larger tier in your two-tier FDC need to have a formally defined membership? Why can't that role just be played by anyone that turns up on the meta page? --Tango (talk) 20:24, 21 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi, sorry I did not reply sooner, as I said I am not following this page and wasn't paged on my talk page. I think the answer is quite obvious if you follow the logic of the GAC itself: a formal commitment to a designated role facilitates communication, continuity and consistency, and makes people more responsible and willing to contribute. It also makes grant proponents listen more carefully, and I would say even to anonymous comments, because it sends the clear message that the deliberative group is indeed listening to people outside of it. Again, just ask your very question of the GAC: "why can't the role of the GAC just be played by anyone that turns up on the meta page?". Hugs, --Solstag (talk) 20:28, 14 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Should FDC members be compensated?


This is a question that has come up a couple of times in my discussions about the FDC with the Board, and I'd be curious to here what other people think: should the FDC members be offered compensation? If so, a nominal amount, or substantial?

Back when I was a journalist part of my job was to commission radio commentaries from a wide range of people, and our policy was to offer everyone a honorarium ($110, IIRC). Most turned it down, but people in certain fields (writers, professors, students, some types of consultants) tended to accept it. Purpose was to encourage people to want to help us, particularly people who didn't make a salary (like freelancers and consultants), and were perhaps not in a position to donate their time. We also wanted to underscore for people that this was real work -- we were counting on them to deliver their script, turn up on time to record the piece, etc. Our system seemed to have the intended effects, and so I wonder if it's worth us experimenting with something similar for the FDC.

Here are some pros and cons...........

Some arguments in favour:

  • The FDC will demand a lot of people's time, and it seems reasonable to offer them compensation for that;
  • Editing is entirely voluntary -- you can quit or take a break at any time for any or no reason. And to a certain degree editors are fungible, as is the work. By contrast, the FDC is intended to be a time-based and time-sensitive commitment, in which members develop particular, unusual expertise. And, we are hoping people won't agree to serve unless they can carve out enough time to do it well. Arguably offering compensation would underscore and reinforce that, encouraging people to really think about the commitment they'd be making;
  • People on Wikimedia committees sometimes stop being active and just lurk or drift, while still officially remaining a committee member. This is not great because it silently increases the workload for other members, and it also means that people get the same decision-making authority despite doing different amounts of work to 'earn' it. Compensation would encourage everyone to be clear about their role -- are they working, or do they need to step down;
  • Offering compensation would underscore the seriousness and importance of the work and make FDC members feel valued, regardless of whether FDC members accept it;
  • Not offering compensation would exclude from FDC membership anyone who can't afford to donate a significant amount of their time. This would likely bias against certain types of potential members -- for example the young, the less well-off, and freelancers. (This in my opinion is the most important argument in favour.)

Some arguments against:

  • Lots of people doing important Wikimedia work don't get compensated. Why would we compensate the FDC and not ArbCom, stewards, FA reviewers?;
  • Compensating FDC members could encourage the FDC members to think about their work self-interestedly. It might encourage self-interested applicants, or encourage members to do only sufficient work to "earn" their compensation, etc. It might also encourage the "wrong" kind of applicants -- e.g., people who really need the money;
  • Some people might find being offered payment insulting;
  • Compensating FDC members could create a subtle note of dependency or gratitude towards WMF staff who would be handling the payments. This could interfere with FDC members' ability to do their jobs with the appropriate feeling of independence;
  • Would cost money and be a small hassle to administer.
  • Compensated people invest time, and in this time produce complex/lengthy documents. Compensated people therefore might risk to create a "parallel universe", detached from volunteers, made by them and for their own benefit, in the long term risking Wikimedia's mission.
  • There may be a lack of volunteer FDC clerks as a result - if this clerk role is created, a lot of admin back-end work that would support the FDC would be done by clerks, and potential clerks may get a "they're being paid for it, they should do it" idea.

Please add other arguments, or tell me what you think about these :-) Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 16:19, 15 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

On balance my opinion is: No. It sets a precedent that is not in keeping with the culture of 'the movement'.
Costs should be paid but they should be closely controlled. [Time can of course be considered a cost :-) ].
I think the honorarium is a good idea, it invites people to turn it down.... or pay it and those that want can donate it back??? Regards, Ariconte (talk) 19:39, 15 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Payment could be a problem. Calling it an honorarium and keeping it small would reduce these problems. One aspect not covered much above is the developed vs. non-developed countries aspect. Mostly, payments would be good for increasing participation in non-developed countries. Offering a small honorarium to somebody in a non-developed country could free up time that they would otherwise have to spend earning a living. A small amount in US terms could be worth a lot more in purchasing parity terms in some countries.
The question of what's a "small amount" will ultimately be a matter of contention. It depends on how much time is going to be required: let's say it averages to 4 hours per week, or one-tenth of full time. One-tenth of a pretty "typical US salary" would be $5,000 per year. I'll suggest that that be the very highest amount considered. It's very possible that some folks in higher cost of living countries would consider anything less than $1,000 per year to be simply meaningless. So a range of $1,000-$5,000 might be a starting point for discussion. To make it narrower, say $2,000-$3,000. How much - including administrative costs - would this cost the WMF? Is it worth doing given the small benefit to some, the $ cost, and the potential cost in "morale" to the community? That's at least how I would frame the problem. Smallbones (talk) 20:38, 15 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
All your arguments in favour also apply to trustees of the WMF and chapters, yet they aren't paid (apart from expenses). Does anyone have any examples from the non-profit sector where people in roles like this have been paid? I think paying FDC members would significantly harm their credibility. I think the community would end up thinking of them as staff, and we would be back in the situation of staff deciding on grant proposals, which is precisely the situation we're trying to get away from. --Tango (talk) 21:22, 15 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
By chance there is an article in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning [1] where volunteers are happy to be free 'in their own community' but a sizeable percentage think payment is fair when called to other communities. Food for thought... work at home is voluntary, travel costs + honorarium paid??? Regards, Ariconte (talk) 23:49, 15 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
That is a good relevant article. I didn't realize that the WMF trustees didn't get anything - for the community members I'd think that a similar sized honorarium would be reasonable. For the "big wigs" on the board, I'd guess they might very well decline something of this size. If folks accept my back-of-the-envelope figures above, the entire cost of honoraria for the FDC would be about $25,000 per year. I don't think that is too much if it helps ensure that a budget in the tens of millions is properly and professionally dealt with. The question is really about what the community thinks. Maybe we could even use the "Community Consultation stratified sampling poll" to help decide. ;-)
Smallbones (talk) 01:38, 16 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I see volunteerism to be a driving force of our movement. In trying to sort in my mind the importance of us having community members and other volunteers on FDC, I've been reading on the topic of volunteerism and yesterday created a resource page to share. I'm including some notes to myself on the page, too. Division of Labor:Volunteer, Paid staff.
The issue of using unpaid workers (volunteers) and how it effects organizations and potential volunteers is something that I've thought about before in other contexts. Actually was a hot button feminist issue during much of the 20th Century in the United States so there is probably reference material written about it from that perspective. Using unpaid people to do this work is going to make it much harder for some people to get involved. This is not necessary women but all people who can't put in uncompensated work effort. True of all volunteer work done for WMF projects, but more so for work like FDC, ArbCom, Oversighters where the work needs to get done in a timely manner. I'm not saying that we need to compensate FDC volunteers, but I think we need to recognize who could be shut out of the process and find others ways to keep that from happening. And if necessary I think compensating volunteers for the work is not unreasonable way to open up the door to them. (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 13:58, 16 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Is, say, $2,500 per year enough to make a dent in the problem you describe? Smallbones (talk) 16:54, 16 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Yes. A modest amount but would help defray real costs involved. (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 21:14, 16 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • I've no opinion one way or another on this topic; however, before it takes wing, it would probably be a good idea to figure out what the implications of paying an honorarium could be for the recipients. Does this count as US income, that would require the recipient to file a US income tax return, and pay US income taxes, as well as (likely) income taxes in their own country? I'm aware of professional colleagues who have turned down honorariums for this reason. Risker (talk) 16:59, 16 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks everybody: this is helpful
It sounds like the most important argument for compensating FDC members would be to enable participation by people who otherwise might be excluded, because they couldn't afford to donate the time. This is a good justification, because it's important that the FDC include a diverse array of people. And, although there are also good arguments against compensating FDC members, it's possible the arguments in favour would outweigh them. (I am acknowledging here by the way that nobody thinks full salaries are a good idea: I am talking here about honorarium-style compensation, on the order of what Smallbones said: something like 2.5K per.) But, I think at this point we are guessing about the extent to which lack-of-payment might be an obstacle for people who we'd like to have participate. We don't really know if it would be a small impediment, a total dealbreaker, or wouldn't matter at all.
So why don't we table this for now? I will almost certainly be recommending that the initial FDC slate be Board-appointed, likely following a open call for community members to nominate potential candidates. What we should probably do, therefore, is ask that initial group of people for their views. Perhaps that could be done privately, by a member of the Advisory Group. If, of that first slate, a large number would accept/want an honorarium, or if even one person would absolutely require an honorarium in order to be able to serve, that would be a good argument for doing it. It's possible though that nobody would care, or people would need to reject it for tax hassle reasons as Risker says, or because they would feel uncomfortable being compensated when other volunteers are not. But let's bring the nominees/initial members into the conversation once they exist, and use their input to help resolve the issue. Does that make sense? Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 19:25, 16 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Sue, using that approach makes sense. Because volunteerism is a big part of Wikimedia movement, it is natural for us to assume people will want to volunteer their time uncompensated if possible. But, if we find that we don't attract some people to the FDC who we want to have their skill set or experience represented, then it is worth thinking about compensating them to help defray some of the cost involved. And likely more important, we also need to make sure we respect the time of all types of people participating in the funding process, such as applicants or others who might want to give an opinion somewhere along the line. And realize that paid staff need time away from the 24hr/7d world of WMF projects. A process that is doable by all parties involved. (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 20:04, 16 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks FloNight. One quick thing I'll add: our experience with the Board of Trustees is that the people in the "appointed" seats tend to have specific necessary skills (that's why they get appointed) but they are also *very* time-constrained. They struggle to make the time for Wikimedia work that is necessary, and I think that's exacerbated by them needing to work harder than the community members to understand the Wikimedia movement and interact with it successfully -- there's a learning curve. I don't think an honorarium would help much with that --- they tend to have day jobs that pay them fine, but time is their major issue. With the community-elected Board members, time is also a problem (it's a problem for everyone!) but to a somewhat lesser degree, partly because they don't have a learning curve. I do think it's possible an honorarium might help for some, particularly community-elected people, but we will find out once we have a slate of candidates :-) Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 19:17, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Possibly relevant here: existing writing on funding other free culture projects [2]. I think it would be unwise to do this under most circumstances. Some of the best reasons not to do this are arguments posted above as potential justifications for it. I would find it discouraging if anyone used the following justifications:

  • The FDC will demand a lot of time, it seems reasonable to compensate for that;
    This argument devalues the work of everyone who spends dozens of hours a week working on or supporting the projects. Even if it doesn't insult the FDC members, it might the rest of the movement.
  • Editing is entirely voluntary -- you can quit or take a break at any time for any or no reason. And to a certain degree editors are fungible, as is the work. By contrast, the FDC is intended to be a time-based and time-sensitive commitment, in which members develop particular, unusual expertise.
    This argument devalues the non-optional work done by highly skilled volunteers elsewhere in the movement - the work of the community's best contributors is often specialized and not so fungible. These are people who we should not take for granted, but should honor.
  • Offering compensation would underscore and reinforce and encourage people to really think about the time commitment they'd be making.
    This argument devalues the commitments that volunteers make to the projects all the time - some of them 10+ hours a week for years on end. And an honorarium would be interpreted differently by different people.
    Better to simply set standards for availability and commitment.
  • People on Wikimedia committees sometimes stop being active... Compensation would encourage everyone to be clear about their role -- are they working, or do they need to step down
    I don't think compensation has this effect. I have certainly been in many situations where staff were the bottleneck, not volunteers.
    This could have the opposite effect regarding stepping down: it should be straightforward and no big deal to ask people to step down when they cannot meet the standards for participation. I appreciated the way Sue planned for attrition above. This becomes more awkward if they have to be asked to return part of an honorarium when it happens mid-year.
    Better again to simply set standards for availability and commitment.
  • Offering compensation would underscore the seriousness and importance of the work and make FDC members feel valued, regardless of whether FDC members accept it;
    It might make some people feel valued; might make others feel better than their peers in a negative way; might make others feel uncomfortable. This can be highly variable. We have other ways to honor people's work and make them feel valued -- something we do constantly throughout the movement.
    More innovation there is a good idea, but honoraria are fraught. Suggesting they are necessary to make people feel valued would be a bad idea.

SJ talk  14:20, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I added another argument against, * There may be a lack of volunteer FDC clerks as a result - if this clerk role is created, a lot of admin back-end work that would support the FDC would be done by clerks, and potential clerks may get a "they're being paid for it, they should do it" idea.

. The Helpful One 19:02, 27 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Revised proposal for the board


Hi all. The Bridgespan Team has been working on synthesizing all of the great discussions that have occurred on Meta and in conversations over the last weeks regarding the draft FDC proposal for the Board. We've incorporated much of this discussion into the current version of the draft. Please take a look at the changes and updates in the current version, along with the "Rationale" boxes which highlight some of the debate and reasoning that surfaced in discussion. Then, feel free to comment or raise questions on this new version. Thank you! Meerachary TBG (talk) 23:53, 16 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

FDC membership: comments on Bridgespan's draft thoughts?


Bridgespan has just laid out some draft ideas about FDC membership, on the content page. Quoting from it:

Over time, the FDC will be a blend of elected and appointed members from across the Wikipedia movement:
  • Three representatives will be appointed by the Board of Trustees (with input/support from the FDC)
  • Six representatives will be elected through a community election process similar to that of the community-elected seats on the Board of Trustees.
  • The committee will have seats designated for major communities within the movement – Wikimedia projects, language projects, and geographies
  • Staff of the Wikimedia Foundation, chapters, and other entities may serve as members of the FDC, but they must go through the normal election/appointment process

What do we think about this aspect of the draft?

I think there are a couple of key questions here:

  • Do we want a mix of appointed and elected seats, and
  • Do we want seats designated for particular groups.

Those questions are different, but have implications for each other.

Question #1: Do we want a mix of appointed and elected seats.

Personally, I believe a mix of appointed and elected seats could work if our purpose was to ensure there are individuals on the FDC with specific expertise or experiences.

It has worked successfully for our Board. Recapping recent history: the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees instituted the idea of appointed members for itself several years ago, because the community election process could not guarantee to surface people with essential skills that the Board needed. For example, the community election process had never surfaced someone with the appropriate skills to be the Board treasurer. That's why, when Michael Davis (appointed by Jimmy to the inaugural Board) decided he wanted to leave, the Board deliberately set out to recruit a person with financial qualifications, to fill that essential role in an appointed position. To date, I don't the elections process has ever surfaced a person with the skill-set to be the treasurer. So, it makes sense to me that we might adopt this same practice for the FDC, assuming it has essential characteristics that might not otherwise be surfaced by a community election. The community election process successfully surfaces people with a strong commitment to the Wikimedia movement, the vision and mission, who are widely trusted, and who have a track record of conducting themselves in accordance with Wikimedia values. But, the community election process has historically not surfaced specific skills. It also tends to mitigate against smaller language-versions and smaller projects, over-representing Europeans and Americans, and over-representing people for whom a Western language is their first language. It doesn't bias against women.

((((( We know all this because the community Board elections have surfaced, to date, this: 57% female and 43% male Board members. 71% European and 29% American, zero from countries outside Europe and the United States. 14% with a non-Western first language. 0% came to the Board with significant financial oversight, grant-making or governance experience, although of course they all accrued it over time. Home wikis I think include frWP, enWP, deWP, and itWP. By contrast, the Board-appointed seats look like this: 25% female and 75% male. 37% European, 50% American, 12% from a country outside Europe and the United States. 0-12% with a non-Western first language, depending what Bishakha considers to be her first language. 37% came to the Board with significant financial oversight, grant-making or governance experience, although all have accrued it since joining. Home wikis include I think nlWP, enWP and mediawiki.org, although most appointed Board members probably don't consider themselves to have a home wiki. ))))))

(And sorry: I would have made a table, but I am too lazy and hurried.)

Election year Board member Homewiki
2004 Florence Nibart-Devouard fr.wikipedia
2004 Angela Beesley en.wikipedia
2006 Erik Möller en.wikipedia (or de.wikipedia?)
2007 Kat Walsh en.wikipedia
2007 Oscar van Dillen nl.wikipedia
2007 Frieda Brioschi it.wikipedia
2008 Ting Chen zh.wikipedia
2009 Sam Klein en.wikipedia
N.B. - Table, as if by auto-magic. It's incredibly rough and may not be totally accurate. Philippe (WMF) (talk) 06:51, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

What can we learn from this? I think we learn that Board-appointed seats would make it possible for the Board of Trustees to "balance out" the FDC membership created by the community election process, in a way that could be helpful. The Board could appoint people with specific skills (e.g., grant-making, financial oversight), as well as balance out overall geographic and linguistic representation and other characteristics. We know it can do this, because it did it with the Wikimedia Foundation Board, by appointing e.g. Stu and Bishakha. So, a Board appointment process could successfully rebalance to mitigate against the inherent shortcomings of a community election process.

Question #2: Do we want seats designated for particular groups.

I feel less sure about this idea. I definitely think it makes sense to have a solid understanding of the characteristics we want the FDC will contain, overall. For example, I think ideally the FDC would be truly global, including members from (for the sake of argument) a minimum of four continents and six language-versions. I think it would be terrific if it included people with grant-making experience, financial oversight experience, and governance experience. Lawyers would be great. People with significant experience in the Wikimedia projects of the type the FDC would be funding (i.e., event staging, the classroom work, the GLAM work, other outreach) would be great (although they would also pose conflict-of-interest or perception-of-conflict-of-interest problems). There are probably other desirable characteristics I'm missing. And, everybody on the FDC needs to be willing and able to dedicate significant time to the work.

So I do think that it's important that the FDC overall contain some key characteristics. (Exactly what those are, and which are highest-priority, is worth talking about.) But, I am not sure that the best way to achieve that is by designating seats. My experience is that constructing a team is not as simple as plugging people into slots --- you need to be imagining the overall balance and interplay of individual characteristics. Like, I can imagine the group constructing the FDC having this kind of conversation with themselves: We've got people from four major language-versions, respected in their communities, and we've got lots of chapter experience including some grant-making. We've got three continents. If we get [X person] that would be great, because she's great at collaborative work and has rock-solid Wikimedia values. Then if we get [X other person], that would give us experience in South America, plus grant-making expertise plus more chapter involvement. We still need somebody who understands the technology, at least a little, plus we don't have anyone yet from Asia, plus we still don't have anyone willing to dedicate the time to be the chair. And [X] turned us down, which means we don't yet have anyone with a financial background. That's the kind of conversation I have all the time when I'm building things, and I think it would be essential for that conversation to take place as the FDC is built, in order to create the optimal balance of characteristics. (Or at least, an acceptable balance of characteristics :-))

So the question is how to ensure that conversation could happen. And I am not sure that dedicated seats for particular groups is the answer. I (think I) understand the thinking behind it, but I am not sure it would be possible to construct a seat designation framework that would be even minimally satisfying to a big-enough group for it to make sense, and even if a construct could be created, I'm not sure it would help create a better FDC. If i) the election seats were designated, what would happen if nobody ran for the "South America" (or whatever) seat? (That's not unlikely: for example, it's common for chapters to have fewer candidates for their Boards than they have seats.) Or if ii) the Board-appointed seats were designated, I believe that would overly tie the Board's hands, preventing them from responding flexibly to what the FDC seemed over time to need, and making the balance-and-interplay conversation I describe above impossible. So I am not warm to the designation idea, although I am totally willing to turn out to be wrong.

So, to close (and I am sorry this is so long) -- a few questions.........

  1. What characteristics are highest-priority to have on the FDC? (Not in all members, but in the membership overall.)
  2. Should the FDC have a mix of elected and appointed members?
  3. Should the FDC framework reserve/designate seats for specific types of people (based on the most-wanted characteristics, in #1)?

Thanks for indulging me by reading this very long note :-) Sue Gardner (talk) 03:16, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Convenience break

Priorities for characteristics of overall membership (in order)
  • Geographic and linguistic diversity
  • Grant making experience
  • Financial or budgeting experience
  • Experience by at least some individuals in multiple programs and chapters, or administrative roles within the Wikimedia movement (broad vs. narrow focus, we need somebody who is a "Renaissance person")
elected vs. appointed members
At least 3 appointed members, elections will be difficult and will likely have to be held for (4 or 5?) specific languages, leaving a big unwieldy "other languages" category.
The structure of the elections will likely set up some formal "designated seats". Otherwise any formal designation will interfere with the juggling act Sue described above - so yes, aim for representation by specific groups, but don't formalize it too much.
Smallbones (talk) 05:49, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • I don't see much point in having an election that requires candidates to speak a certain language/come from a certain geography/edit a particular project/be a member (or non-member) of a specific group. What if they quit editing/leave the group/move somewhere else? And who would be doing the voting for each seat? Would I be eligible for voting for seats reserved for North Americans, women, and experience administrators? Or only one seat?

    Just for the record, I'm not sure quite where the impression was given that Arbcom members go through some sort of pre-vetting before their candidacy is permitted; I am not aware of any Arbcom that goes through that process. On the other hand, Arbcom responsibilities require that its members be strongly familiar with (a) the policies of the applicable project and (b) the behavioural norms for that project; these can be gauged fairly effectively by the project's community. The FDC's responsibilities are radically different, and I do see the value in some form of vetting. It is hard enough for the broad Wikimedia community to assess candidates for the Board; this would involve (likely) more seats and more candidates. And whatever you do, please do not use the Schulze method for elections. Risker (talk) 06:26, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Yes, the mechanics of multi-lingual elections will be extremely difficult, given that there should be some sort of discussion about candidates. And other reasons mentioned by Risker will compound the difficulties. The reason I support elections by language is that there can be discussions, and who is eligible to vote could be mechanically determined, e.g. 100 edits minimum on that language version of Wikipedia. I don't know that voter eligibility could be determined for any other group, e.g. if an election for a woman was desired, how could we determine who were the women voters? Is there an expert out there on internet voting (there must be one on Wikipedia!) who could advise us?
As an alternative to strict elections, we could ask specific groups to nominate FDC members, with the strict understanding that not all nominated candidates would be appointed. So, e.g. we could ask the 15(?) eligible entities to each nominate 1 candidate, using democratic methods and a secret ballot to determine the nominee. But given that only 4 or 5 positions might be available at one time ... Also this method would disenfranchise the large majority of Wikimedians who are not members of these groups!
In short, I think that the mechanics of the election would be extremely important; that one big election would be impossible; and that I don't really understand internet election mechanics. A very uncomfortable position! Help! Smallbones (talk) 16:29, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks to all for your comments. Risker, good point about the Arbcom -- from what I understand, nominees aren't "pre-vetted" per se but rather they have to meet certain eligibility requirements and outline that in their candidate statement. I think what we're talking about for the FDC is a more deliberate vetting by the board, ensuring that candidates are eligible and perhaps that they also meet some of the other desired characteristics. Meerachary TBG (talk) 19:08, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I don't like the idea of elected seats being allocated to different constituencies. There are far more constituencies that ought to have a seat than there are seats to go around, so it wouldn't work. It has been proposed that different languages should have their own constituencies, but why are languages so important? Would continents be better? Or different Wikimedia projects (a seat for Wikipedia, a seat for Wiktionary, etc.)? Or countries with different levels of economic development? There are so many different ways you could allocate the seats that it just won't work. If you do it be language, say, and there is one candidate from Paris that is an active Wikipedian with 20 years experience as an auditor, and another candidate from DR Congo who is an active Wikinewsie with years of experience making grants in the developing world, why should only one of those candidates be able to join the FDC just because they both speak French? I think it is much better to just let the community vote for whoever they want. --Tango (talk) 20:37, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi all, we've made some edits to the membership page that reflect this conversation. First, we removed the requirement that there be designated seats for certain groups in the community. We then increased the number of appointed seats from three to four so that the Board of Trustees can play a greater role in ensuring a good balance of participants is achieved. Additionally, we changed the frequency of community elections from every 1.5 years to every 2 years. This will allow these elections to be conducted in conjunction with the community-elected seats of the Board of Trustees to streamline processes and communication. --Libbie_TBG (talk)

Thanks for the summaries and updates. A few thoughts:
  • +1 to the idea that seats shouldn't be allocated to specific constituencies.
  • A majority of the seats should be elected; 5 + 4 perhaps. (Alternately, the group that appoints seats, like the current advisory group, should consist of more than just the WMF Board.)
  • Elections should be staggered, with some people elected each year.
  • Terms should be much shorter than 4 years, especially given the changing nature of what we will expect of the committee in its first few iterations. 2 years would be my ideal. Regarding experience and capacity-building of the committee, there should be explicit ways for people who are interested in learning how the FDC works to help support its work, and get experience without being a voting member of the committee. This will be helped by the fact that its work will be highly transparent.
  • If the committee will be 9 members, it's less confusing for it to be that size from the start.
SJ talk  15:37, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
On the election process, I think it is most practical to align the FDC election process with the Board of Trustee community seat elections. It is a lot of work to run an election and it seems expensive to create a new election. By integrating the two, we improve likely voter turnout for the FDC and we can work to improve one election process rather than two. The goal should be an election process (for both the Board and FDC) that provides fair access to candidates from a wide range of constituencies, provides for a sizable and diverse community electorate.--Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 23:11, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I agree that you'll probably get a higher turnout by combining the elections, but is that a reason to do it? All else being equal, more engagement from the community is good, but all else is not equal. The people that vote will probably spend roughly the same amount of time on the combined elections as they would on each individual election (they'll spend as much time as they can reasonably spare at that moment). By separating the elections, you'll get fewer votes, but they'll be better thought-out votes. There are two things we want to achieve with the election - to choose good FDC members and to give the FDC the legitimacy it needs to function well. Higher turnout will increase the legitimacy, but if you get that turnout by combining the elections and reducing the quality of the elected members, is it worth it? I'm not really sure, but it isn't a simple decision. (One other problem with combined elections is the issue with what you do about people standing in both - there will inevitably be a lot of overlap between the kind of people interested in joining the FDC and the kind of people interested in joining the WMF board.) --Tango (talk) 23:35, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

FDC: Informal request for nominees


Yesterday I wrote the Board a note laying out a quick-and-dirty timeline for building the FDC. Essentially: I'm committed to submitting my total recommendation (what Bridgespan is helping now to build) on or before 30 June, and the Board is expected to approve some version of it before, or at, Wikimania -- 12-15 July. If I assume that we want the FDC fully up-and-running by October, that means the Board will need to finalize its membership by let's say end of August. So, we will be looking at roughly a five-week period for the Board to appoint FDC members, between Wikimania and end of August.

I don't yet know what process the Board will use to determine membership in the inaugural FDC. Likely, later I will make some kind of suggestion for them, and they will either accept it, or come up with some other process of their own. But it occurs to me that it might be a good idea to start brainstorming names now. It couldn't hurt for the Board to have access to a starting list :-)

Therefore, can I ask anyone reading this: please nominate below anyone who you think might make a good founding member for the FDC. For reference, here are some priorities for characteristics of overall membership, drafted by Smallbones. They're just one person's initial thoughts (not approved or endorsed by any formal body), but still: they're a good starting point for thinking about who'd be a good candidate. Or, you can use a different criteria of your own.

  • Geographic and linguistic diversity
  • Grant making experience
  • Financial or budgeting experience
  • Experience by at least some individuals in multiple programs and chapters, or administrative roles within the Wikimedia movement (broad vs. narrow focus, we need somebody who is a "Renaissance person")

To that list, I might add a general desire for good communications and teamwork skills, like "generally constructive and helpful," "highly communicative, particularly in text," "has functioned successfully in Wikimedia teams and is highly regarded by colleagues," "hard worker who meets their commitments" etc. -- that kind of thing.

If we can brainstorm names here for the next month or so, I think that would be helpful to the Board later, when they're making decisions. I don't think it's necessary at this point to evaluate people as candidates (and arguably it would be unkind, since they did not ask to be nominated) or to try to guess whether or not they'd be interested; I think it would be good enough right now to name them, and maybe describe them a little. I will probably list some people later today, but I would love for somebody else to start. (I also wonder if it's worth pinging people like BirgitteSB and Michael Snow, who were involved in the Board of Trustees Nomination Committee. They might remember names of people who were considered for the Board of Trustees itself, who might be good for the FDC.)

Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 17:06, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Okay -- I have a second free, so I will start a list. I'm going to kick off by listing all former Wikimedia Foundation Board members who have a community background, since they have governance experience and deep subject-matter (Wikimedia) experience. In putting their names here, I am not saying they would necessarily be awesome FDC members (and I'm not proposing they should necessarily be FDC members) -- I have not "tested" them against any criteria. I also have no idea if they would be willing to serve. There might be good arguments against any of them, and/or their current circumstances might make it impossible, or undesirable, to have them serve. I don't think, though, that these names should be evaluated at this point. That's not fair to them (since they did not ask to be considered), and I don't think it's the goal at this point. I think the goal right now should be simply to generate a good list of potential candidates, not to evaluate suitability. So, here goes......
Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 18:34, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Brainstormed list of potential FDC candidates

One comment on the starter list...with all due respect to the people on the list and my wonderful boss who got the list started, I would love to see us generate a list with a wider set of leaders in the community. As a proportion of total names suggested, the list above has too many former WMF board members and advisory board members on it. Nothing against participation of experienced hands, but we should seek to widen the leadership space. --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 23:30, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I totally agree. This is just a start, with some super-obvious names on it. I am hoping people will add lots more, lesser-known potential candidates. I think we probably want to do some active outreach to non-English non-European non-American Wikimedians, and try to prod them particularly to add names -- particularly of any Global South folks who have Wikimedia governance experience, chapter experience, and/or experience with non-Wikimedia NGOs or grant-making institutions. It would be great if people reading this could ping their colleagues for help here. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 18:38, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

The list has been moved, please see Funds Dissemination Committee/Nominations for the current version. lyzzy (talk) 15:15, 25 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

The first FDC


There is some good discussion happening above about how members of the FDC should be selected, but I think we need to have a separate discussion about how the members of the first FDC should be selected. The selection process for the long-term will probably end up being quite long and drawn out (because it is important to make good decisions, and that takes time). Since the FDC needs to be up and running in time to allocate funds for the next fiscal year (although we haven't determined what fiscal year the FDC will be working to yet, we'll need to move fast whatever it is), we probably can't use that method the first time around.

Sue has said that she is currently planning on recommending that the first FDC simply be appointed by the WMF board. I advise against that. One of the main reasons for having an FDC, from my point of view, is that it moves us away from having the WMF board making decisions about the finances of the whole movement (I know they'll still have a veto, but hopefully that will just be a formality maintained for legal reasons - they have a veto on the community elected and chapter selected board seats as well, but have never used it). If the WMF board is appointing the members, then we haven't really achieved that and it isn't much better than the WMF board delegating the work to staff (who are appointed, directly or indirectly, by the WMF board), as they have done in the past. An FDC appointed by the WMF board wouldn't have the legitimacy and credibility that it needs in order to be successful.

Another disadvantage to having a fully appointed first FDC is that we should be using the first year to learn about what does and doesn't work and seeing if this idea can be a success. If the first year is all WMF board appointed, then it won't be representative of what the FDC will really be like in the future. For example, there is likely to be less conflict between an appointed FDC and the WMF board than there would be between an elected FDC and the WMF board. One test the FDC will need to pass is whether it can maintain its independence while still working effectively with the WMF board. We won't be able to tell if it can do that if it is appointed.

I think community elections could be held quickly enough if we wanted to. They would be a little rushed, but I think the community would still have time to make reasonably good decisions (we won't really know what makes a good FDC member at first anyway, so it doesn't matter that the community wouldn't have time to make perfect choices). If the final decision on a long-term selection process involves chapter appointed seats (as I think it should), then we probably can't ask the chapters to make a decision quickly. Past experience has shown that doesn't work (I believe the chapters are currently a couple of days past the deadline for selecting people to the WMF board seats). I suggest the WMF board choose ask one chapter per seat to select someone. That should be much quicker, and would still gain most of the advantages of chapter-appointed seats (obviously, the chapters chosen should be as diverse a selection as is possible given the number of seats allocated to chapters).

Apologies for the rather long start to this section, I look forward to hearing other's thoughts. --Tango (talk) 19:02, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Perhaps my mind is just easily boggled, but as explained above, the issues in running community elections just boggle my mind. Quick elections even more so. I might agree, just for argument's sake, that it would be possible to run separate elections for 4 languages, en, es, de, and fr. Could you outline how the elections would work? But even here, there is already an implicit assumption that many might not agree with, that 4 of the 9 slots would be taken by the representatives of these 4 languages.
If possible, I'm even more against members being directly appointed by chapters (except perhaps as a temporary measure). I'll hazard a guess that 95% of all editors do not belong to one of the chapters. How then could this be viewed as being democratic in any way?
Sorry if I'm being negative here, but I just can't get my mind around it. I suppose, just to be fair, I should come up with with a "starting solution" (flaws and all).
Appointment by the board, just to get it started. Nominations as Sue has started above, plus nominations by the Chapters, and perhaps by the FDCAG.
Smallbones (talk) 20:19, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I wouldn't have separate elections. One community election would be plenty, at least for the first year. (I'm not convinced that separate ones would be good in the long term, either, but I'll post something about that in the section above later.) You are right that chapter appointed seats isn't democratic, but the Wikimedia movement has never been a democracy. We exist to create and distribute free and open content and we should do whatever will allow us to do that best. I think chapters can bring something valuable to the process, in the same way they do to the process of selecting WMF board members. They are also the ones that will be requesting funds from the FDC, so the FDC needs to be able to work well with - having some chapter appointed members will help that. --Tango (talk) 20:27, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi all, in response to this thread, we've taken a stab at more detail on the process for the first FDC. It's at the beginning of the membership section of the recommendation. Have a look and let us know what you think! --Libbie_TBG (talk)

Question for Libbie_TBG, What is the rationale for starting the first year with 7 members instead of 9? (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 22:56, 19 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi FloNight. Great question. I should have been more clear. The thinking is that since that the goal is to get to a mix of appointed and community elected members, and it won’t be possible to start with an election (getting this going in the community, doing the outreach and administration, getting the level of participation desired will not be possible in a short timeframe), we want to leave spaces for community-elected board members to join soon (would be elected in the next board election cycle.) Does that make sense? What do you think of that proposal? Libbie TBG (talk) 22:05, 21 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Still not clear on why only 2 people would be appointed to short terms instead of 4. Why would we short the FDC of committee members when 4 people could go up for election instead of just 2? (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 11:22, 22 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I don't understand it either... the current proposal has 4 seats up for election in the second year, with two of those filled in the first year by members with a 1-year term and two of them left vacant. I don't see any reason for not treating all 4 seats the same. Could someone explain? --Tango (talk) 17:58, 22 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I think the thinking is that it would be difficult to find 9 fully qualified candidates ready to start with relatively short notice during this first appointment. By lowering the initial number to 7, you can ensure the highest qualified members can focus on building the group. Then, by the time elections come around next spring, others will be interested in being a part of it and can run in the community elections. Libbie TBG (talk) 20:37, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Funding cycle: first hack at creating an annual calendar


So I've just read through the initial Bridgespan thinking about how the FDC process might play out through the year. It's a good beginning, and I appreciate the attempt to create two funding windows, because I think that will be very important for funds-seekers. We will know more about their needs, once chapters begin to fill out the survey here.

Meanwhile, I wanted to take a hack at working through what the annual calendar might look like in practice. In order to make everything work (and synch it up at least to some minimal level, with the existing WMF planning cycle) I had to move some stuff around compared with the draft recommendation from Bridgespan. Here's a first attempt to create a workable cycle:

  • July: WMF releases its annual plan, which includes releasing the allocation for the FDC. At this point, entities have submitted their letters of intent declaring their intent to request funds. Let's say that on 1 July, the staff of the FDC have assessed eligibility, and informs entities whether they are eligible. The FDC is then open for round one funding requests from 1 July until 1 September.
  • August: EEs can submit round one funding requests. Community and FDC can discuss.
  • September: Deadline for round one funding requests closes 1 September. FDC staff prepare materials for the FDC throughout September. Community and FDC discussions continue.
  • October: FDC meets and develops round one funding recommendation.
  • November: FDC sends round one funding recommendation to the Board 1 November. Board discusses through November. The FDC is open for round two funding requests from 1 November to 1 February.
  • December: Board votes on round one funding recommendation. EEs can submit round two funding requests.
  • January: WMF releases funding to round one applicants. Call goes out for letters of intent for the next year. The WMF is open for letters of intent until 1 March. EEs can submit round two funding requests. Community and FDC can discuss.
  • February: Deadline for round one funding requests closes 1 February. FDC staff prepare materials for the FDC throughout February. Community and FDC discussions continue.
  • March: Deadline for letters of intent to request funding for the next year. WMF staff begins developing its annual plan, including defining the allocation for the FDC. FDC meets and develops round two funding recommendation.
  • April: FDC sends round two funding recommendation to the Board 1 April. Board discusses throughout April.
  • May: Board votes on round two funding recommendation.
  • June: WMF releases funding to round two applicants.
  • July: WMF releases its annual plan, which includes the definition of the allocation for the FDC. And the cycle begins again.

Some observations about this model:

  • I think that fundseeking entities will need to fill out a letter of intent in late winter/early spring. There's no way around that, because that's when the WMF is developing its annual plan, which will include the FDC allocation. And it would be difficult to set the allocation, if the WMF didn't have some idea of the full-year amount of what entities are proposing to request. This will create a burden for funds-seekers, which suggests that the letter of intent would need to be *very* lightweight, requiring only the minimum essential information.
  • The heavy period of work for FDC staff would be August/September/October and January/February/March, because these would be the periods in which it was taking in requests and preparing materials for the FDC. Activity for the FDC itself would be similar, and would peak in October and March. There would probably need to be F2F FDC meetings in October and March.
  • The heavy period for the Board would be November and April. The Board would need to review the FDC's first-round recommendation without a F2F meeting, since it normally does not meet in November. However, in April it would be able to discuss the second-round recommendation in person, at its April meeting.
  • Fundseekers would find out their eligibility in July, and would have two windows for submitting requests: 1 July to 1 September, or 1 November to 1 February. I worry that all EEs would submit their requests closer to the end than the beginning of the window, both because there's a natural human tendency to want to polish and perfect things as much as possible, and possibly also because requests would receive less scrutiny (particularly from community members) if they were submitted and published later rather than earlier. Submitting towards the end of the cycle would be not-great though, because it would mean the FDC staff would face a crush of work all at once, rather than having it spread out. And the FDC itself would have a shorter window to evaluate requests. Not sure how to address that. (Upon reflection, it's actually a general problem, that would be inherent to any annual calendar mock-up. In general, if a window for community scrutiny is optional, fundseekers will have incentive to avoid it. If it's non-optional, that would push back funding request submission deadlines to a point that might be difficult for fundseekers. This is worth thinking through more.)
  • A small operational thing. From the perspective of the Wikimedia Foundation, it would be important to get the round two funding distributed before July, for bookkeeping hygiene. (Funds not distributed before 30 June would appear in the following year's accounts, which would eat into the following year's FDC allocation.) Also, the release of the second round of funding would happen during a very busy period (annual planning) for the Wikimedia Foundation's finance and administration team. Not sure there's anything to be done about that.
  • I am struggling a little with the "letter of intent" part. I think it's likely that fundseeking entities would bias towards asking for a larger amount than they would actually in the end request, out of general financial conservatism and the desire to create a large funding envelope for the FDC overall. I'm not sure though, that there's a way to build in a counter-incentive. So we might just need to accept the likelihood that the letters of intent will request more money than the FDC will ultimately disseminate.

In writing this, I am half thinking-out-loud and half talking-to-Bridgespan. I don't really expect anyone else to wade through this and comment, because it's a little dry. But if anyone wants to, please feel free :-) Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 19:45, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Thanks for pushing forward on this Sue! Our team was just about to start outlining the workflow/timeline for the FDC and this is a really helpful starting point. LauraL TBG (talk) 20:13, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
LOL, Laura. I was prepping for our meeting later today. Was working it through in my head and decided to just dump it onto the wiki :-) Sue Gardner (talk) 20:18, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I think your outline of a timetable should work pretty well, but I am also struggling with the "letter of intent" part. The fundraising target needs to be set correctly, and that can't be done without a reasonable amount of detail on what we want to do with the money. When does the target need to be set by? Your timetable has it being set in the WMF's annual plan published in July, but is that actually necessary? Could we set it a little later? You have the decision on the first round of funding being made in December. If that were brought forward to early November (or, ideally, October if that's achievable - I don't think the WMF board need a full month to consider the recommendations, if there is something so seriously wrong that they need to exercise their veto, it shouldn't take them long to spot it), then the fundraising target could be set then. It wouldn't give a great deal of time for the WMF and chapter fundraising teams to finalise their plans, but as long as the target is within the range the fundraisers say is achievable, then I expect the extra things they would need to do to raise an amount at the higher end of that range wouldn't need much planning (extending the fundraiser for an extra couple of days, or using more Jimmy banners, can be decided at the last minute with no real problems). There is still a problem with the second round of funding, but we can just make a guess about how much we'll need for that. It would help if guidance were given that large requests should be made during the first window and the second window should have a much smaller total allocation. --Tango (talk) 20:21, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Yeah, I hear what you're saying, Tango. It's actually a tough issue. The allocation for the FDC needs to be set inside the normal WMF planning process, because it'll be part of that process. (Tautology, sorry!) The plan is developed once a year, and released 1 July. We don't currently have any mechanism for re-opening it midyear, and I'm not sure it makes sense to create a mechanism for reopening it -- it would be a lot of extra work for lots of people, and I'm not sure the Board would want to do it. We've been talking internally at the Wikimedia Foundation (me and Garfield, mostly) about whether it makes sense to adjust the WMF's annual calendar so it fits with the calendar year (and many of the chapters), but although that might be a better fit with our fundraising cycle, it's actually not clear to me that it would help address the problem. There would still be one allocation, once a year. Anyway, I am thinking about this some more -- people should feel free to express any views or insights they've got. The important thing I think is that the Board, at an appropriate point in the planning cycle, gets a reasonably reliable sense of what entities propose to request. Oh and I will also say -- in theory you are right about the Board not needing a month to review. But i) general principle: hope for the best but plan for the worst, and ii) the Board are volunteers too, so I always aim to build in a little extra slack time for them, in the event that somebody is travelling or busy with other things. Their normal time-to-vote is I think two weeks, so this really only builds in an extra two weeks for any unexpected delays, which is not that much. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 21:10, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Yeah, it is a tricky problem. When are you planning to submit the WMF's request for funding? If you put a request in the first window, then you won't be able to finalise your plan until December anyway, since you won't know what funds you've been granted. If you use the second window, you have to move most of your planning several months earlier in order to have the submission ready in time. So, I don't really see how you can keep your current planning schedule whether you want to or not. --Tango (talk) 21:22, 17 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
It's great to see an annual planning cycle starting to come together. Perhaps the funding allocation for the FDC in the annual plan can be a range; the final allocation can be determined when the fundraising target is set. Any extra money planned for the FDC but not allocated to it can roll over to the following year.
The WMF scheduling question Tango raises seems managable to me. The non-core part of the WMF plan could be split into part that is finalized by March and part that is finalized by September. The part that is final by March (which could be for the full year or only part of it) would be in the batch of recommendations voted on in May, around the time of the annual plan review. SJ talk  22:33, 18 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
SJ, FWIW I'm guessing from your comment that you've never run a planning process for a big organization!!! There's no way it's practical to split the planning cycle for any organization, be it the WMF or WMDE, or another chapter. Planning takes up too much time, and is too much of a pain in the butt, to make anyone go through it twice. It would introduce huge distraction from program work to duplicate the administrative activity. I don't have the answer yet on how we'll solve for the differences in fiscal years across the movement, and the various timing challenges, but splitting the planning cycle is definitely not the right answer. Stu
Stu, I believe you and I have disagreed on this point in the past - whether planning must be a huge painful distraction or can be an ongoing part of program work and evaluation. I am still not clear about which part of planning you see as painful. I have been part of more than one planning process that was inspiring rather than distracting; and an excellent one that was steady rather than sudden. I do think it is better to maintain plans regularly and consistently, than in bursts of effort once a year.
But I wasn't actually commenting on this above -- I was saying only that the request for funds could be split up, not the planning process. Sue's suggestion above asks everyone getting funds through the FDC to review their needs and potentially request funds twice a year. An EE such as the WMF can plan once, and decide how to split up the resulting funds request over multiple funding periods.
The FDC may generally need to give guidance to groups about how to request funds for projects longer than one funding period. (If you have a 12 month project, should you include its full cost in the funds requested for the first period that year? split it in half? What about multi-year projects? Are there situations in which a major project could be more reliably funded via the GAC?) SJ talk  06:51, 19 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
More broadly, I don't actually think timing will be that important here. The FDC is going to be evaluating the capacity of each organization to effectively use donor funds to pursue mission work (this is the nature of any kind of unrestricted grant). It's not really going to be approving or funding specific work or projects with specific timing (which would be a restricted grant which is in effect what the GAC and/or other grant alternatives in our movement provide). We are all going to have to think of FDC grants as another hoped-for piece of revenue for our organizations. If for one reason or another that hoped-for grant doesn't come thru, any organization is just going to have to adjust like it would for any other revenue shortfall -- reassess priorities, make cuts, try to make up the gap by seeking out grants, etc. That's just life as a non-profit! Stu (talk) 03:58, 19 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Supporting multilingual discussions.


TSB above notes the importance of "supporting initiatives outside normal structures of English proposal-based grantmaking and fostering learning communities around the Wikimedia movement’s strategic goals".

It's important to note that the entire discussion about the FDC on Meta has been conducted in English. I believe that is true off of Meta as well -- to my knowledge no interviews or discussion threads have been carried out, by the initial coordinating team or independently by community members, in other languages.

We need a better way to develop and implement global plans. We can take a lesson from the WSF, UN, EU, or other international organizations; but the current framework is not sustainable or compatible with our vision. SJ talk  14:42, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I agree that to get a global outlook we need to better communicate with people who don't speak English. I don't know a short term solution that will get a hearty discussion in languages other than English in the time frame allotted by the BoT for forming the FDC. What is key is to build into the funding process, every step of the way, a connection to the global WMF community. Which means holding future funding discussions in other languages. Which means translating FDC public pages into other languages. And also making people who do not speak English as a first language feel welcome joining the funding discussions. FloNight (talk) 14:58, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Agreed. Asking a dozen people to lead discussions in German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Russian, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch and Arabic would be a good start. The World Social Forum model was to identify key languages, and to appoint people who could translate into those to sustain "bubbles" in that language: translating key discussions or messages into that language, in places where there could be discussion about them. (This mainly happened at in-person meetings, but we could reimplement that online.) In languages that are sufficiently close, it is possible to get by without an explicit bubble, letting each person write in the language they want, and others to ask one another for translation if needed. (we have that sort of English-German fluency in our community: both hundreds of people who could translate, and close language alignment so that google translations are quite good)
In the communities where this sort of multilingual process works best, enabling such a process is actively seen as a value, not an expense: drawing on the perspectives and context of different language groups is a key part of the process; the political message of having multilingual deliberation is one of the overall goals. I believe that matches Wikimedia communities as well. SJ talk  15:21, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I would love it if we could hold this kind of discussion multilingually, but I don't think it is practical. Unless we want to pay a lot of money to get real time translations, there will be too much delay involved for meaningful discussions to take place. I think the same is true of the FDC's internal discussions once it is set up - they will have to happen in English. That means anyone without sufficient English language ability will be excluded from joining the committee, which is really bad, but I don't see any alternative. What we can do is make sure that the FDC's communications with the rest of the movement are multilingual. Anything published by the FDC can be translated into several languages and submissions to the FDC can be accepted in several languages. I think the FDC should allocate itself a budget for paid translations - volunteer translations work very well in a lot of what we do, but I think the speed, reliability and accuracy the FDC would need means paid translation is the way to go (for one thing, it gives you someone to blame if something goes wrong because of a mistranslation). --Tango (talk) 15:37, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
We live in a world where this sort of multilingual collaboration is commonplace, so it's surprising to me to hear you suggest 'no alternative'. The majority of our readers and soon the majority of our contributors are not native English speakers; of course we should support direct participation from people who are not native English speakers. In my view, anything less than that as a goal would be unworkable. This means, for instance, that while many people have some familiarity with English as a second or third language, we should have a process set up to provide them with a mix of real-time and asynchronous translation when needed or requested; at least into a given set of major languages. This is not a huge expense compared to the other costs of the committee and its work. Anything that artificially limits the quality of FDC members would be a much greater cost to the movement. I have always held that the same is true for the Board; while we have never had a Trustee elected or selected who requested translation support, I expect we would find a way to offer it if necessary. I don't see a reason to make a lesser commitment to the diversity of the FDC. SJ talk  05:47, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
No-one said all members should be native English speakers. That would be a ridiculous suggestion. --Tango (talk) 15:03, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Worth mentioning that the topic of community engagement was raised during both initial FDC AG meetings. Its my understanding that The Bridgespan Group did attempt to draw in people who primarily contribute in languages other than English. For an example see Meerachary TBG post. Also see Meerachary_TBG's global contributions. Given the workload and time frame, we are depending on FDC AG members that are native speakers of a language to help keep their communities updated on the progress being made by the FDC AG. Now that the FDC is more fleshed out, it would be a good time to post links to this discussion on Village Pumps in as many languages as practical. (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 16:39, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
We've created a brief executive summary of the proposal (Update on the Funds Dissemination Process) to facilitate translation into multiple languages and widespread sharing. LauraL TBG (talk) 17:54, 30 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks for the pointers, both of you. I know that Meera posted messages (in English) on many non-English wikis, and I believe those posted to translation noticeboards were duly translated. This is an important step. But we need a better system for seeding such discussions. I would be glad to outline one in more detail. But I continue to see a tendency to add "FOO must happen in English / be submitted in English" throughout the draft recommendation, which needs improvement. SJ talk  05:47, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
So glad to see this discussion. It seems to be a critical part of Wikipedia achieving its strategic plan and fulfilling its mission to find creative solutions for breaking down barriers between people and information exchange. I agree that building on some other organizations' models (WSF) would be helpful. I wonder if there is a way to make solution development part of the work of the FDC. Within proposals, extra consideration could be given to work that attempts to address these types of challenges. chaylingChayling (talk) 03:22, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Membership - eligibility


We have had a lot of good discussion about how to select members, but I don't think we have yet discussed what the requirements to be eligible for membership should be. The only mention in Bridgespan's draft on this topic is "Staff of the Wikimedia Foundation, chapters, and other entities may serve as members of the FDC, but they must go through the normal election/appointment process" (which I disagree with - more on that later).

I propose the following requirements:

  1. Members must be over 18 21 years old and over the age of majority in their home country
  2. Members must be able to work effectively in English (although full fluency is not required)
  3. Members must not be board or staff members of any entity that will be requesting funding through the FDC (current board and staff members may be considered for membership, but would need to step down/resign before joining)
  4. Members must identify themselves to the WMF (ie. the same as checkusers and oversighters)

My reasons are as follows:

  1. The FDC will have a lot of influence over decisions involving very large amounts of money. I don't like to arbitrarily exclude anyone, but I think legal adulthood is necessary here. (Since the FDC is only making recommendations to the WMF board, there probably isn't a legal requirement for its members to be adults, but I think it would be good governance to impose such a requirement.)
  2. I really hate this requirement, but as mentioned in the previous section, I don't see an alternative. The main job of FDC members will be to discuss funding requests, and those discussions need to be efficient (both in terms of time and money). I don't think we can have efficient multilingual discussions (we can have quick expensive ones or slow cheap ones, but not quick cheap ones).
  3. There is an obvious conflict of interest in having either board members or staff members on the FDC. Board members will obviously be involved in their organisation's submission. While they could recuse themselves from discussion of that submission, the fact that we are allocating funds from a limited pool means the decisions about all the submissions are inter-related. Staff may also be involved in the submission, depending on their role, and they'll also be reliant on FDC funding to keep their job (unless they are funded out of the WMF's core budget, or a chapter's other income, but I think a very clear line in the sand has to be drawn). There is also a general feeling in the community that volunteers should be in charge, so I think the community will expect the FDC to be a volunteer body.
  4. I hope this one is fairly obvious and uncontroversial. The WMF board needs to know who it is that are making such important recommendations to them.

What are other people's thoughts on this subject? --Tango (talk) 15:53, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

These seem like good sense to me... Jan-Bart (talk) 18:56, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Very good sense. For #1, I'm tempted to say 21 y.o as the minimum. For #2 we could say that e.g. fluency in Spanish, Chinese, Arabic (pick a FEW more that we really want to support) or other languages would be a plus. The point would be that we can translate pretty quickly into languages of major populations if we really put our minds to it. But picking, say Dutch, wouldn't be much of a help since the non-English-speaking Dutch population is pretty small. 3 & 4 seem obvious. Smallbones (talk) 20:24, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I agree with Smallbones in requirement #1, 18 years is too young age for the kind of decision FDC will make. It would also require some experience in the field. So, the minimum age should be minimum 21 (or preferably more). #2 is obvious since we have no better alternative. And agree with #3 (to avoid conflicts of interest) & #4 (obviously the members should identify themselves considering the importance of the FDC's work). There may be some requirement relating to finance background and/or grant making experience. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 14:57, 21 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
My intention with the age was that members should be over the age of majority in the US (where the WMF is registered) and their home country, and I thought the age of majority in the US was 18. I've now looked it up, and it's 21, so I have changed my proposal accordingly. As for the other requirements people have mentioned - my intention with these requirements is that they be the absolute non-negotiable requirements. There are other characteristics that are desirable, but they are a different question. Some guidance should be produced on what would make a good FDC member, but apart from a small number of very clear requirements like these ones, we have to let whoever is given the power to choose members (be that the WMF board, the community, chapters, etc.) decide who they want. Things like additional languages and grant making experience are certainly desirable, but they won't work as requirements (for one thing, they are requirements for the committee as a whole, rather than for individuals - we don't want to require every member to speak 5 languages and have grant making experience!). --Tango (talk) 17:25, 21 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks Tango for laying this all out. On #3, I do think there are costs in limiting the pool of candidates by having strict conflict of interest limits. Over time, as thematic organizations grow, there may be a lot of categories that could create perceived conflicts of interest. One consideration is that the conflict of interest would be easy to identify and we might have members sign a conflict of interest statement annually, which immediately mitigates the effects. It would also be possible/relatively easy to have a member recuse themselves from certain decisions where they might have specific interests.--Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 23:41, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
How many thematic organisations are likely to have budgets over $50k? I don't think the restriction to the pool of candidates would be too great (obviously, we don't actually know what will happen with thematic organisations - we can change the system if things don't work out the way we expect, though, we're not going to carve the FDC's terms of reference into stone). As I mentioned, I don't think recusal would work. Decisions about how to divide up a finite resource are not neatly divided up so that you can be involves in some and not in others. It also puts other members of the FDC in a difficult position if they have to reject the request of someone they have to work with (or, even worse, being responsible for that person losing their job). --Tango (talk) 00:23, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

FDC proposal templates


So I apologize if this has already come up somewhere, but I might have missed it. I can imagine that it would help all parties concerned if the FDC provided a template which applicants could use to apply for grants. This (voluntary) template could be improved over the years and could help people prepare their application. Just to take a stab at it I could imagine a OpenDoc template with headers something like this (feel free to move this to a separate page if no one else has written something similar to this yet)

  1. General Introduction
  2. Look back at previous year (what did you achieve, how did your budget work out?)
  3. Small Strenghts, Weaknessed, Opportunities and Threats Analysis looking forward
  4. A description of your organisation (including possibly staff, office, partners etc.)
  5. A general description of your organisations contribution to the movement goals
  6. Details on specifics of all your plans
  7. Mapping those specifics onto the goals of the strategic plan of the Movement
  8. Budget (including your expected own revenue from other sources)
  9. What does that mean in terms of growth with regards to last year (budget, people, ambitions etc.)
  10. Conclusion

Any thoughts? Jan-Bart (talk) 18:55, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I think the FDC should definitely produce some guidance on what an application should look like, and a template is a good way to do that (although I would make it a wiki page rather than an OpenDoc, to improve transparency). I would suggest different templates depending on how much you are requesting. The burden of filling out an application should be as small as possible for small organisations that are only requesting relatively small amounts, so as to be proportionate and not to discourage them. Larger organisations requesting larger amounts will need to provide more information and more detail, since the potential harm from the FDC making a bad decision due to having insufficient information is greater the more money is involved. The general headings you've listed are probably about right for any size request, but the amount of detail that needs to be provided under each of them will vary, and I think the template should include some guidance on how each section should be filled out - it is this guidance that would be different for different sized requests. --Tango (talk) 19:09, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
It's good to get this discussion started, but we may not need the output for several more months. 1-5 strike me as needing one paragraph answers for the most part - after all we do already know who these people are. But #6 jumps out as needing pages and pages (probably too much info) to answer as written. Good so far, we can improve it as we go along. Smallbones (talk) 20:30, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Barry & I met with Bridgespan the other day and asked them to develop a variety of templates to accompany my proposal to the Board -- about nine or thereabouts, IIRC. They include (off the top of my head, which by the way is jetlagged): draft "letter of intent" template, draft criteria grid for entity eligibility determination, draft criteria grid for funds application eligibility determination, draft funds application template, draft funds application evaluation criteria grid, plus some other bits and pieces I am forgetting right now. (I also asked them to start developing a glossary of FDC related terms, which is beginning to get started here.) JB, I'll ask Bridgespan via this comment to take a look at your draft outline here, and fold it into their thinking. And, they will post drafts here on meta, as they're developed.
By the way as I write this, all these templates sound awfully daunting and bureaucratic. My hope is that they won't be too bad. I am a big believer in things being streamlined --- I only want the process to collect information that's directly useful/actionable. The process should be as lightweight as possible, and designed to fit into people's existing processes as much as it can. So, to the extent it can be designed to repurpose existing information -- the kind of thing organizations are already reporting on to their regulatory authorities and donors and members, that would be good. Tango is correct about wanting to require varying amounts of input depending on the amount of funds being requested, and he's also right that the template should ultimately be created as a wikipage, like what the Grants group does here. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 17:52, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
We've started drafting these templates, which are all linked off of the main FDC page, at the bottom of the page. Most of the templates that Sue mentioned above are drafted -- please do provide any thoughts and feedback on the corresponding talk pages. Thanks! Meerachary TBG (talk) 03:10, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Are we missing out the small movement entities?


It's good to see a more elaborate proposal evolving. However, I still don't see any significant room in this proposal for the small entities. As per the proposed grant size, the FDC will consider a grant request over $50K (and why not any lesser amount or higher amount?). I can see some gaps that need to be worked out:

  • It is mentioned that there are currently 8-12 entities in the movement that have budget over the $50K. However, if only the number of existing Chapters is concerned, 28-32 Chapters are there who are not being considered actively in the proposal. The only sentence that mentions about these entities says: "Entities that do not meet these requirements or who are requesting grants smaller than $50K should pursue funds through the Wikimedia Grants Program (with support from the Grants Advisory Committee (GAC)) and / or grant programs at established chapters and entities."
  • It is still not clear where the funds would come from and how (for disbursing through GAC or others). Since the number of small entities are the majority, I think there should be a clear guideline for that which is still not present.
  • There is another issue with the allocation of fund by the Board for the FDC. As per current proposal, the FDC will ask eligible entities to submit a Letter of Intent at least 30 days prior to the Board’s allocation process so that the board can understand the magnitude of need that will be addressed by the FDC’s funding envelope. It is clear that this letter of intent is going to play an influential role in Board's decision on fund allocation for FDC. However, since the FDC is asking only the eligible entities for the letter of intent (and not the small entities), it is very likely that the Board's allocation for FDC will consider only the requirement of the EEs and small entities will not be heard. Moreover, since all movement expenses will be covered by FDC allocation, I am not clear how the funds for the small entities fit into the FDC budget since nothing is mentioned about assessing the requirements of these entities at all (no asking for letter of intent or anything that would formally assess their requirements).
  • And for me, setting $50K as threshold for FDC seems too high for Chapters in developing countries. If Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) is taken into account, we can do a lot more thing with a given amount in a developing country than that can be done in a developed country. So, Chapters in developing countries may take long time to reach the specified threshold budget even if they have good activities all the year round. Moreover, it may also give an incentive to small entities for becoming big in budget (with planned programs that are not so effective) so that they match the threshold. So, I am not with the idea of having a specified amount. Alternatively it may be decided by the Board each year (or by the FDC as per guidance from the Board) considering the changing nature of the movement. And if we have to come to a consensus about the threshold amount, the amount should be lower (say $20K - $30K). - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 19:04, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
The idea is that the WMF (and, perhaps, other EEs) would include in their request for funds some money that they will issue as grants to smaller entities and individuals. When they send their letter of intent, the amount they specify will include the money they're going to re-grant (so they'll probably need to talk to the smaller entities because sending it in order to work out the right amount, although it may be possible to just guess based on previous experience). You shouldn't view reaching the FDC threshold as a goal in itself. Going through the FDC is supposed to be harder than going to the WMF (or a large chapter) for a grant, because the FDC will scrutinise requests much more closely. The WMF (through the GAC) will have a much simpler process, since the same level of scrutiny isn't required for smaller grants. Therefore, if you can stay under the threshold and still do lots of great work, that is a good thing. --Tango (talk) 19:15, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Both comments above seem right to me. We need to put some thought into this. Smaller entities will be going to the GAC and probably can work better with more informal discussions with GAC. Perhaps we could take some steps to make sure that the GAC and FDC can work closely together. I won't say "integrate" their activities - but certainly "coordinate" would be good. Smallbones (talk) 20:39, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Since all the expenditure for the movement is supposed to go through the FDC (one way or other) & a good number of small entities would not probably qualify for grant application to FDC, there should be some well defined guideline for that which may also include defining co-existence of FDC & GAC. Of course we can assume some method that small entities would follow for grant application or their requirements would get incorporated in the overall FDC envelop, but these are all "implied" and not "specified". So, I feel it is still missing in the current draft. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 14:26, 21 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
It would be good to have something in the FDC's terms of reference about this, but I don't think we need much detail. How about: "The FDC will, at least once a year, grant funds to at least one eligible entity for the purpose of re-granting to other Wikimedia entities and individuals."? --Tango (talk) 17:28, 21 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I feel it is not sufficient just adding the line "FDC will grant funds to at least one EE for re-granting to other Wikimedia entities at least once a year." First of all, it is more likely that small entities or small grant requests will mostly go to WMF/GAC. So, WMF will have to ask the FDC for an allocation for this types of grants. However, nothing is mentioned about this in the process that describes how the FDC envelope will be decided. Secondly, considering the big number of small entities/small grant requests, we can elaborate things a little more. Additionally, a small grant does not mean that it will be used in limited scale activity rather it can be a big event in a developing country. And all the movement money should be spent efficiently and high level transparency should be there no matter whether the amount is big or small. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 18:08, 21 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
There have been multiple, helpful threads on this topic. The draft proposal no longer has the $50K threshold for applications. LauraL TBG (talk) 17:58, 30 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

(Just posting a mail I sent to the FDC Advisory Group yesterday)



(Just posting this here because I think the FDC Advisory Group list isn't publicly archived yet. Asaf tells me it will be soon, but some of the members are still unsubscribing and resubscribing with an address they use for public lists.) Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 21:51, 20 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

"Grants cannot be used for legislative or lobbying activities"


On the Content page with the edit summary "input from WMF General Counsel", it was added

  • Grants cannot be used for legislative or lobbying activities

I am far from wanting chapters to have paid lobbyists working national legislatures, but I do think this needs discussion. In particular, in the 5-year plan there is a phrase under the "Role of Wikimedia Chapters" that they should engage in "• Advocacy on behalf of free knowledge." I imagine this to be, among other things, something like supporting the January Wikipedia blackout, forwarding, or making available petitions in support of free knowledge, or say, freedom from overly-restrictive copyright laws. So in short, I see a possible conflict with the Strategic Plan. We should discuss this to see if there is a clear boundary that can be drawn between "Advocacy on behalf of free knowledge" and "lobbying activities."

My personal feelings are that something like the blackout should be fairly rare but allowable on Wikimedia projects, and I think that a large segment of editors would agree. But that grass-roots "free knowledge advocacy" should be on-going. Perhaps this can be resolved just by saying "no WMF funds can go for this" - even though in general it is allowable.

There's also something in US law about non-profits not being able to engage in political campaigning, but in general I'd say these restrictions are pretty loose. Who is to say one person's "political campaigning" isn't another person's "free speech"?

In any case, I though this should be out in the open. The WMF General Counsel can clarify if he thinks it necessary. Smallbones (talk) 15:52, 22 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I noticed that one too... as I understand it, there is a prohibition against 501c(3)'s being involved in lobbying and the WMF has to include that prohibition as a restriction on any grants it gives out. That prohibition isn't absolute, though - I believe certain types of lobbying are allowed, or it's allowed as long as it is only a small portion of your budget, or something like that. I think Geoff needs to clarify precisely what it is that receivers of grants can't do, since a blanket ban on lobbying isn't going to work. I would also be interested to know whether that prohibition applies to funds that weren't raised by the WMF but were raised with the use of advertising space donated by the WMF (ie. money raised by fundraising chapters during the annual fundraiser). If it doesn't, then we can just make sure that any grants for lobbying come out of that money, not the WMF's money. --Tango (talk) 17:46, 22 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Indeed. Let me try to unpack this a little:
  1. The WMF needs to closely monitor the use of grants for legislative and lobbying activities because of limitations imposed by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (the federal tax authority) on the use of revenues of non-profit, tax-exempt organizations like WMF for such activities and other political objectives. here is a relevant resource from the IRS.
  2. To monitor this closely and ensure we don't exceed regulatory thresholds, WMF will provide grants for legislative and lobbying activities if such are proposed and deemed impactful and aligned with the strategy, but those grants will be exclusively for such activities. This will allow WMF to track the grants more closely and ensure that the money is used within the restrictions of the IRS. (The same organization can request a separate grant without lobbying line items, in parallel.)
  3. We don't expect any such grants to exceed $50K, and for that reason the FDC grants likely will not include grants for legislative and lobbying activities.
  4. We therefore expect the special grants for legislative and lobbying activities to be handled by the existing Wikimedia Grants program, pursuant to a special grant template drafted for legislative and lobbying activities.
I hope this sheds some more light on this. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 21:58, 22 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
The position in the UK is closely regulated by Charity Commission guidelines and in practice we all know them and stick to them. Nothing can support an individual party or politician but it is completely proper to argue your case for something in the political arena as long as it is a part of what you do as a charity and relates to your objectives. If 100% of your funds went to this it would be ultra vires.

Indeed this is one of the strengths of having interdependent chapters. We can work to change legislation on copyright for instance that can have international repercussions.Jon Davies WMUK (talk) 07:57, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

This seems like a pretty good and straightforward way to handle it. Smallbones (talk) 03:00, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

When the WMF board will use its veto


The recent edits based on Geoff's input includes a bit about the WMF board "[reconsidering] select recommendations of the FDC when appropriate, such as recommendations not to offer a grant for particular activities". That suggests that the primary use of the WMF board veto will be to approve grants that the FDC had rejected. I would have thought it would be more likely that the WMF board will veto the approval of a grant (because it isn't in keeping with the mission, is too risky, is against US law, etc. - ie. the things the WMF board has a duty to make sure it doesn't do or support).

While there is nothing to stop the WMF board using the veto in the other direction, I would be surprised if they did. If the FDC is rejecting requests that the WMF board things it shouldn't be (to such an extent that the WMF board feels the need to intervene), then that can't really be dealt with by vetoing individual recommendations (if nothing else, you can't give one entity more money than the FDC wanted to without giving another entity less). It would need to be dealt with by giving the FDC more guidance, most likely. And it is probably better to accept the recommendation and do something to make sure future recommendations are better, rather than overrule the decision - it's not that big a problem if someone has to wait a year for a grant (while it is a big problem if someone is paid a grant they shouldn't be getting), and it is much easier to do things better next time than it is to fix things this time. --Tango (talk) 17:55, 22 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Thanks for the comment, Tango. That addition / edit was meant to address the role of the board in addressing issues raised by affected parties once the FDC makes recommendations. I think you're right, that the "approve / veto" would really be for the slate that the FDC recommends to the board. That additional clause includes the possibility that applicants might request reconsideration if their application is not recommended to the board. I'd love any suggestions to the wording if there is a better way to communicate that! Meerachary TBG (talk) 19:41, 22 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I'm not sure it's a good idea for the WMF board to hear appeals. I wouldn't be surprised if pretty much everyone that submits a request that doesn't get funded appeals the decision if they are given the option to do so (why wouldn't they?), so the WMF board would end up completely reconsidering all the FDCs decisions. In that case, why bother having an FDC at all? The WMF board will review the decisions anyway, and will have access to all the information the FDC used to make their decisions (and the applicants shouldn't be bringing new information to an appeal - they should tell the FDC everything in the first place), so if the FDC has made a really bad decisions the WMF board can deal with it. I don't see anything to be gained by an appeal process, it will just lengthen the whole process, waste the WMF board's time, and cause friction between people. If someone suspects the FDC of some kind of corruption or bias, then the WMF board may want to hear that, but they shouldn't hear appeals where an applicant simply disagrees with the FDC's decision. --Tango (talk) 21:32, 22 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Agree with Tango. But there is always the temptation to allow some sort of appeal process. If there is going to be an appeal process, I'd say it has to be extremely limited, say only on the following basis "Did the FDC follow its own rules in making the allocation?" The question then is who is going to hear the appeal? I'd say it should be one person - any volunteers? - Sue? Failing that solution, maybe a panel of three, including the 2 Board observers on the FDC. At that point, I'd say that anybody can go to the Board and appeal/request anything that they want, but the board should realize that they would be severely undercutting the FDC and ultimately cutting their own throats by eliminating the effectiveness of the FDC if they were to over-rule at that point. Smallbones (talk) 04:04, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Yeah, I agree with both of you -- particularly, that it does seem like an appeals process would undercut the FDC. And I agree with Tango: why wouldn't everyone routinely appeal, if it were easy and free of cost?
I believe the FDC process currently assumes there will be a kind of complaints-gatherer or ombudsman type role. What if we assumed that any fund-seeking entity could file a request for appeal with the ombudsman, and that the ombudsman would bring those requests to the two Board of Trustees members that sit on the FDC. If those Board members both agreed to carry the request to the full Board of Trustees for review, then that would happen. The unanimous agreement of two Board members would probably be a sufficient "gate" to ensure that appeals would only get heard in very rare circumstances, when it was thought that a seriously bad decision is likely to have been made. I think that if that happened, and an FDC decision was as a result overturned by the full Board, that might be considered as something akin to a vote of non-confidence in the FDC: perhaps it would be assumed to trigger a formal investigation of some kind.
I think that something like that would prevent a lot of energy from going into frivolous appeals, but would still allow some latitude for investigation of anything serious. Does that make sense? I'll update the proposal page to this effect, but tell me if you still think it's too much. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 05:18, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
A simple barrier to the appeals process makes sense. I agree with Smallbones that appeals should only be over procedural matters, rather than simple matters of judgement. If the FDC decides, following due process, that something just isn't worth the money that is being requested for it, then their judgement should be respected. If the WMF board is disagreeing with the FDC's judgement, rather than just its application of the rules, then it is seriously undermining the FDC. --Tango (talk) 11:22, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I just want to respond to another part of Meerachary's post that I forgot to respond to before - I didn't say that the WMF board should only approve of veto the entire slate of recommendations, and I don't think that. If the WMF board vetos the entire slate of recommendations, then that means the FDC experiement has completely failed and we need to completely reconsider our entire approach to funds dissemination. That could happen, but I hope it won't. If the WMF board has a problem with a particular grant, then it should just veto that grant (and ask the FDC for another recommendation about what to do with that money - the FDC might have a reserve list of good grant requests that there just wasn't enough money to fund, or it might want to carry the money over to the next window). --Tango (talk) 11:22, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Draft mechanism for the FDC to use to make funds allocation decisions


Hey folks -- on the weekend I hacked together this draft decision-making mechanism that the FDC could use to make its funds allocation decisions. (Of course the FDC will be free to use any mechanism that it wants -- but I am thinking it might be helpful for them to have something they can start with, rather than a totally blank slate. They are going to have a lot to do in a relatively short period of time.) Please help, if you want, by critiquing and making suggestions for improvement, on the talk page. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 23:13, 22 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

This looks good, but I'd emphasize even more the importance of discussion, including a final discussion at the end of the process, which might eliminate the temptation of game-playing in the vote (e.g. lots of $0 votes). I'll likely comment over there. BTW, this seems to be the only place I'd recommend closed discussions, as I assume the arbitrators do at some point. Smallbones (talk) 04:10, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Yes, agreed. I've edited the page to emphasize the importance of discussion and mutual influence :-) Thanks Smallbones Sue Gardner (talk) 17:58, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
The FDC will need to have dialog with the WMF staff assisting with FDC matters. Definitely to clarify factual information that they help gather and present. But I also think we need to consider the role that they will play in helping define and set standards of excellence, and then assisting the FDC members in understanding the past and potential performance of the applicant EE. Will there be work sessions of the FDC with staff available to answer questions? If so, how many and when? More in a different section about the FDC and WMF staff developing and applying performance standards. (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 16:49, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I have started a glossary for FDC words


It's here. You can help by adding words that need to be defined, or by taking a crack at creating definitions, where you think you know what the word means in the FDC context. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 00:18, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

How to involve the community in the FDC deliberations?


I've been thinking about how best to involve the community in the FDC's deliberations. Here are two possibilities I've been mulling over. I would love to get people's input on these, and I would love to get more/better ideas. (I have a few more, and I will come back later to write up more of them.)

  • Use the Editor Survey, or some other regular survey, as a mechanism for eliciting input about community priorities and where people would like to see money spent. We will get general input from the community on priorities every five years while we're doing the global annual planning. But, we could easily ask community members specific questions about their priorities on a more frequent basis, and we could actually ask people how they'd like to see funds disseminated. Like, some version of this.
Pros: Asks questions at a level average editors could realistically be expected to answer ("where would you like to see the money spent"). Does not ask questions that ordinary editors can't answer, and does not require ordinary editors to do tons of work (reading proposals, etc.) to be able to have their voice heard and be useful.
Cons: The data would end up being pretty high-level. The questions would have to be carefully framed to avoid building in bias or skew, and to ensure clarity in what the results mean. We might risk stakeholder groups lobbying their constituents to help drive particular answers. The FDC might find itself in an uncomfortable position if it made decisions that seemed to contradict community desires.
  • Commission feedback on specific funding requests from people with relevant subject-matter expertise. This is a time-honoured way that grant-making institutions use to help evaluate funding requests. (I've participated in lots of these for grant-makers.) Normally this type of input is confidential, which essentially sacrifices transparency in favour of information quality (candour), on the assumption that people will offer less useful information if they need to justify and defend it publicly. How it would work for us: Example A: Let's say that a number of entities have "Wiki Loves Monuments" as part of their planning for the coming fiscal year, and therefore also as part of their funding request. We might therefore ask Lodewijk to take a look at those components of people's plans, and he might write us feedback saying something like "everything seems reasonable, except [x chapter] has budgeted $1.5mm for it, and that seems unnecessary." Example B: Let's say [x chapter] proposes to launch a big new GLAM-related initiative. In that case, we might ask Liam to write up some thoughts.
Pros: Grant-makers do it because it helps them make good decisions. It taps them into a much broader pool of knowledge than they have internally, and over time it helps them develop new expertise. Helps mitigate against grant-maker groupthink. Can usefully surface new and sometimes surprising information.
Cons: Confidentiality could create community and fund-seeker distrust of the FDC and worries about cabals. People might not be honest with their feedback. People might not have time to give useful feedback. Depending who the feedback-givers turn out to be, this might perpetuate a Eurocentric/America-centric bias, further marginalizing the rest of the world.

These notes assume by the way that all funding requests (application packages) will be on meta, and that people will be encouraged to comment on them as they see fit. These thoughts are additional to those base assumptions, not in place of them. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 00:53, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hi Sue. I think we should strive for openness as much as possible, which is why I'm happy that the FDC Advisory Group mailing list is being opened up to the public, for example. We already do have worries about cabals, although there are some that always joke when referring to the true cabal. It's true that being open is likely to lead to more criticism (which is the wiki way!), if Liam, for example, is known and trusted within the community due to his GLAM expertise, whilst there may be some disagreements with his input, I'd hope that as the community would know he had relevant expertise within that area, they would trust his judgement too. Perhaps it would be best to use a mixture of the two options that you've said so far? Getting community feedback through the survey that you suggested for your first possibility would allow the FDC to bear this in mind when they look at the advice given by the people with the subject-expertise. Sorry if none of this makes sense, it's a bit late! The Helpful One 01:52, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Reading this I was reminded of Jimmy's comment "At the end of the day, we are a small movement (globally only about 3000 people who are very active)." ... I think it will be hard to get community involvement other than the proponents of various proposals. A good deal of publicity will need to be done asking people to participate on Meta (or whereever)... possibly public (outside the WMF and Chapters) information on the availability of funding. Ariconte (talk) 01:56, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Even if all we can get are the proponents discussing the proposals, then that's still very useful. There has been some discussion of peer review of proposals elsewhere, and it's a good idea. Sue suggested people like Lodewijk and Liam to review proposals - chances are, both of them will be involved in preparing proposals too, but that isn't a problem (although obviously, the FDC needs to aware of the potential bias that is created - biased sources can still be useful sources, especially when those biases aren't malicious, as they hopefully wouldn't be in this case). --Tango (talk) 11:28, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

... people with relevant subject-matter expertise might be a useful tool in very limited situations, such as that described above. I would suggest that it be open feedback - I know that would be tough on the person giving the feedback, but I hope that if the person was fully open and honest that everybody would respect that. A closed recommendation could put the recommender and/or the FDC in pretty much the same position - everybody would be criticizing what they supposed was said (or ignored) without really knowing what was actually said.

I'd concentrate on Use the Editor Survey, or some other regular survey but am afraid that this could be done very badly if we are not careful. If it was an attempt to take a census or get a vote, it would not work well. For one thing it could take forever until people decide that "enough" people have been survey/voted. We do not need more than 500 people to get a good sampling of editors or readers, but we do need to do the sampling carefully. We do not need to put pressure on people to vote, or to have them take a huge time to read through pages and pages. We don't need to know absolutely for sure whether proposition B is slightly preferred to proposition F or vice versa. If we limit ourselves to the general question of "What are the general preferences among 10 stated goals among the community" we could do this very easily.

I didn't know that there was an editor survey page and will likely comment in depth over there if I have the time, but I'll say that they seem to be concentrating on what the money is spent for (e.g. meetings, airplane tickets) rather than why the money is being spent, the goals of the spending (e.g. recruiting women editors, recruiting global south editors, getting closer relations with Higher Education institutions or with cultural institutions, retaining editors, etc.) Smallbones (talk) 04:38, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Yeah. I hear you guys on wanting any commissioned feedback to be public. It's interesting -- on the plane on the way to Buenos Aires last night, I was reading The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. In it, he was arguing that people do their best thinking when they are expected to be called upon to justify their beliefs, and he quotes Glaucon as saying the best path to designing an ethical society is (paraphrasing) to make sure everyone's reputation is on the line all the time. (As well as a bunch of other useful stuff germane to this topic. I recommend the book, as well as (more tangentially) his 2012 TED talk.
Anyway, upshot: yes, I think that on balance we'd probably be best off to have any commissioned feedback be public. I think it's consistent with our culture, and would probably be most successful for us. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 18:33, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I quite agree with Smallbones. Using surveys to guide sensitive recommendations is a risky strategy, as without a consensus that you are asking the right questions, the results of the survey will end up being a bone of contention, and you risk just extending the argument. (I remember this happening with the Image Filter survey!) Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 11:24, 27 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Does anyone want to argue in favour of a minimum for FDC funding requests?


On the content page, Bridgespan has proposed that the FDC accept funding requests only for amounts over $50K. I am wondering if anyone wants to argue in favour of that? I ask because I'm not sure it actually adds any value.

It seems to me that the primary distinction between the Wikimedia Grants program and the Funds Dissemination Committee program is the organizational maturity of the fund-seeking entity. The Wikimedia Grants program offers restricted grants, and the FDC offers unrestricted/operating funding for entities that have a track record of programmatic activity.

It seems to me that putting in place an artificial "floor" of 50K for FDC requests doesn't add any value, and is arguably unfair to organizations that might be able to carry out programmatic activities at a low cost, because it would confine them to getting restricted grants rather than operating funds. So, I would like to remove that provision from the proposal. But I want to ask here first if there's an argument in favour of it, that I'm missing. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 06:02, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I would guess the 'minimum 50K' was to avoid the FDC having to deal with trivial sums. What floor should be set??? Should the WMF Board or the FDC give somebody the authority to approve 'funds requests' of $x under the floor?

I would say there should be a floor and requests under that number should be approved / denied in some simple process. Maybe the Grants program should be able to approve small unrestricted requests? Regards, Ariconte (talk) 08:00, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I don't see why a grant directly from the WMF or from a large chapter needs to be restricted. The way I see it, the monetary threshold is because of the different levels of risk to the movement. A grant under $50k doesn't need to go through the same kind of rigorous process as a grant over $50k because it doesn't matter so much if something goes wrong (where to draw the line is, of course, arbitrary, but $50k sounds good enough to me, although I actually think the FDC would be better off working in euros, since more eligible entities will be requesting funds in euros than any other currency - that's another discussion, though!). It doesn't matter if a $10k grant to one chapter has the same impact as a $50k grant to another, it is still only $10k that the movement can potentially lose, so it can still go through a simpler process. Not having the go through the FDC should be an advantage, since there will be a smaller bureaucratic burden for the requesting organisation. --Tango (talk) 11:16, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
We are mainly discussing (as per above and on the main page) funding to eligible entities, but haven’t paid much attention to other funding processes. Shouldn’t the draft proposal summarized by Bridgespan consider a robust process to fund all movement expenses, including a proposal to “revamp and improve” the GAC together with the FDC? I understood it should. Here are some highlighted parts of Sue’s recommendations:
  • “All funds raised via the Wikimedia project sites will be distributed via the recommendations of the FDC”
  • “The primary work of the FDC will be annual funds allocations for qualified chapters and partner organizations”
  • “The FDC will also allocate funding to restricted grants and reimbursements, which will be dispersed via Wikimedia Foundation staff-led processes (. . .) supported by a revamped, improved version of the Wikimedia Foundation’s current Grants Advisory Committee.”
We all agree that the Board of Trustees has a fiduciary duty to approve (or veto) any recommendation on funds dissemination. At the same time, couldn’t the community review (small and large) fund requests, make recommendations and share knowledge to achieve movement goals in a decentralized and collaborative way?
The way I see, external committees created by the Board, like the FDC and the GAC, could be responsible for engaging the community and summarizing the input received from it. However, they do not need to replicate the existing structure of the board (a small number of individuals selected to act on behalf of the community), but rather they should mobilize this community that is clearly able to come together, share knowledge and collaborate in a decentralized way.
Instead of restricting to a few members the responsibility of reviewing fund requests, I believe we should strengthen the capacity of the community to evaluate and monitor all of its own initiatives. TSB (talk) 18:55, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I did not like the idea of having 'minimum 50K grant request' as floor for FDC consideration from the very beginning. First of all, spending all movement fund should be well justified no matter what the size of the spending is. So I don't support the idea that a small grant amount should be evaluated/approved in a loose process compromising the quality of spending. I believe type of grant request (restricted/unrestricted) does not make it simple/complex. Rather it varies with the size of the grant, - for example, a relatively small unrestricted/open grant (say $10K) request would require less time and less rigorous process to evaluate/approve than a restricted big grant request (say $25K). Secondly, an EE in a developing country is likely to be able to have similar activity with a significantly lower budget than an EE in a developed country. It is very possible that a similar scale program costs $20K in a developing country where it would cost $50K in a developed country. So it is also not right from the point of view of equality. Additionally it limits an entities reach within the restricted grants program if it does not have a budget of over $50K despite having a proven record and being qualified in all other eligibility criteria. Again, we are just approaching to have an FDC in place and we are still not confirm what is the average size of grant request that the FDC would receive. So it is still too early to set any minimum floor for FDC consideration. Of course there would be scope for improvement & new ideas/issues would be addressed in this process as the FDC becomes operational. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 15:45, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Okay, thank you. I am going to pull the 50K floor from the proposal, as per the discussion here, particularly as per Ali's comment. As a side comment also, I'll note that because Wikimedia is volunteer-driven, for us cash doesn't necessarily correlate with impact in the same way it does/should, in most non-profit work. So where "size of allocation" might directly correlate with importance normally, for us it won't always. Wiki Loves Monuments is a good example of that: it had enormous impact (the first spike in Commons uploading ever!), but was very cheap. So in general, "size of grant" can't unthinkingly be used by us as a direct signifier of importance.
Separately, TSB: the FDC proposal's intended to focus primarily on the distribution of operating funds for qualified movement entities; my assumption is that there'll be multiple other programs distributing smaller grants (as there are today), and they will iterate themselves over time to get more & more responsive to fund-seekers, to create better evaluation processes, and so forth. I don't think revamping the GAC is in the purview of these recommendations. That said, if you have ideas about how the GAC could be improved, this is a good place to share them -- Asaf is here, as are Barry, me, others. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 12:58, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
While size of grant isn't a good determiner of importance, it is a good determiner of risk, and it is risk that should determine the level of rigour that a grant request is subjected to. Requiring a chapter to go through the full FDC process for a $10k grant, simply because they have had two grants previously and therefore meet the eligibility criteria, isn't proportionate. It's not a good use of that chapter's time and it isn't a good use of the FDC's time. --Tango (talk) 16:44, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

To Tango: A chapter/entity eligible for requesting grants to FDC will also be eligible for applying to GAC for restricted grants. Eligibility for FDC grants does not disqualify an EE from applying to other WMF grants programs. So the EEs will decide whether to go for unrestricted grants or restricted grants as per their requirements. And we are here to try and make the process simple, justified, efficient, effective, transparent and aligned with the goal of WM movement. It doesn't have to be rigorous to fulfill out purpose. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 19:37, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

What is an EE?
To the original question: I would be in favour of not having such a floor, as I believe it can have a distorting effect (e.g. if I imagine that I would need $40k for the next year, I would need to artificially invent an extra $10k of spending to apply to the FDC; the underlying assumption being, that the WMF's grants process might be easier, unrestricted grants are better). --Bence (talk) 20:04, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
As I said before, I don't see why grants from sources other than the FDC need to be restricted. Why can't they have a $40k unrestricted grant through the WMF grant program? --Tango (talk) 20:16, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Bence, EEs are defined here. (I copied over the definition from the FDC proposal.) I agree about a floor creating distorting effects. And Tango, I'm not actually sure if proposals to the Wikimedia Grants program are required to be restricted --- I think they likely are, but I am not sure. Sue Gardner (talk) 20:43, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks for the explanation - I just didn't get the acronym, but it is helpful to see the whole definition.
As for the WMF grant programme, I don't think it has so far handed out unrestricted grants, and given the level of scrutiny of the GAC (who go over every single cent of proposed spending in full detail), I am not actually convinced that the FDC would necessarily end up being the more difficult process (although here I am extrapolating from the provisional annual grant programme, which was super smooth for us in comparison to the GAC scrutiny one could expect [while I am not against transparency, my subjective feeling looking at the grant talk pages is that the efficiency gains of the open review process don't necessarily balance out the negative consequences of lost face and eroded motivation of the applying group – in the longer term an evaluative study of this question could be useful.]). --Bence (talk) 21:29, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
You run it, Sue, so just make the decision to give unrestricted grants. --Tango (talk) 23:03, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply



Hi all, Just want to take a moment to share some appreciation for all of the amazing engagement that is happening on this talk page. It is an excellent dialogue and every contribution is helping raise the odds of success for the FDC. Wikilove to all of you! --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 23:48, 23 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

What about having a new dedicated wiki site for FDC grant request/other grant requests?


I was thinking for last few days about the possibility of having a separate public wiki site for application & processing of grant requests to FDC and/or other WMF grant programs. Currently we have all grant requested posted publicly on meta. However, we do a lot other things on meta. So I feel, sometime we may just miss some discussion on a grant request/grant approval process in the crowd of all there activities going around. If we have a dedicated wiki site for the grants purpose, we would know where to go & look for. This is the only justification I currently have in favor of having a dedicated wiki site for grants, but I am not sure whether it would be worth having such a site (advantages?/disadvantages?). I want to know what others think about this matter & would love to have any kind of comment/observation on it. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 16:15, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

I think the opposite is true. Things get missed if they are on a separate wiki. We do lots of other things on meta, which means there are always lots of people here, so things done here will get seen. If we're going to need a lot of pages, then a separate wiki may make it easier to organise, but I don't think the FDC will need lots of page. A few pages of guidance and policy and then one page per grant request, with its attached talk page. That should be about it. I think meta can handle that. --Tango (talk) 18:02, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I second that. Also, it's fairly trivial to set up a "log" page to be updated by FDC admin staff whenever requests are submitted and/or decided upon, so including that one log page in your Meta watchlist will ensure you can follow requests that interest you. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 18:51, 24 May 2012 (UTC)Reply



Tango raised a valid point earlier on that more likely applications will be from entities that use Euros than dollars. I'd go further - there is no strong reason for the recipient entity to take the risk and opportunity of currency fluctuations. Do we really want programs hacked back 20% because the dollar took a tumble? Do we really want entities getting cash windfalls because the dollar was very strong when they received their grant? I know this would be a radical shift of risk to the centre, but the system would work better if the grants were decided in the currency that they were going to be spent in. That will mean a bit of extra complication for the FDC, and of course they will want an estimated dollar figure during their decision making process. It also means that if there is a major run on the dollar the FDC would take quite a hit. But the alternative would be worse. WereSpielChequers (talk) 21:47, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Good point. Note that the existing WMF grant programme already makes disbursement in local currency possible, so there should be no reason for the FDC not to able to do so. --Bence (talk) 21:53, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
That would be good. The currency risk can be minimised by keeping funds in the currencies they are raised in and then sending them directly to an appropriate organisation. There is no need to convert everything into USD. --Tango (talk) 23:01, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Agreed that this is an extremely important point. I do think that at least a few currencies should be taken into account by the FDC. If I am not mistaken, the Foundation already holds bank accounts in euros, for example, and I doubt it makes sense to transfer that money into a USD account only to change it back when the time of reallocating comes. --notafish }<';> 22:56, 28 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
This needs the imput of a banking expert; I know in my own case every time I 'change' currency I pay the bank... so I avoid doing it. I would think WMF could arrange to keep money in at least several currancies. Ariconte (talk) 04:05, 26 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Certainly we want to avoid extra exchanges, but there are also costs to maintaining accounts in multiple currencies. The ultimate answer will be to have accounts is a few currencies, maybe 3-4. Certainly USD and euros, where we have both major inflows and major outflows. What other currencies is that true for? British pounds? yen? probably not for Chinese yuan. Indian rupees? Keeping money in the currency it was received in won't do much to eliminate currency risk, since (I believe) the inflows are mostly $ and euros and pounds, with other currencies being primarily outflows. I'll suggest that the EEs submit budgets in $ so that the FDC doesn't have to check multiple currency rate changes multiple times in the short period between submission and decision (EEs take currency risk during this period), but that they state whether they want payment in $, euros, etc. or local currency. (WMF takes currency risk during the longer period between approval and payment). Smallbones (talk) 03:40, 29 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
As long as WMUK handles the UK's fundraising, then the vast majority of GBP donations will go into WMUK's GBP bank account. Hopefully the WMF will let other chapters fundraise in a few years, which would solve the problem of bank accounts - chapters already have bank accounts in their currencies. You can significantly reduce currency risk by spreading your money between relatively few currencies - you don't need to keep money in every currency you're going to spend it in. If the WMF takes on the currency risk, then it will have both the losses when currencies move against us and the gains when they move in our favour, and those should largely cancel out. If the EE takes the risk, then there isn't any diversification and they'll take all of any loss. --Tango (talk) 11:52, 29 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
WMF will be setting up a multi-currency account to minimize the need to exchange funds for both receipt and disbursement of funds in Europe. We have been doing a full review of our FX risk and cost and will be setting up a system to minimize currency risk and cost. --Gbyrd (talk) 16:35, 5 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
That's excellent news. In that light, I think it is sensible for the WMF to take on the currency risks, since it is able to manage them, and for EEs to request and receive funds denominated in their own currency. The FDC's staff can handle the conversions and monitor currency fluctuations and let the FDC know if there are likely to be any issues resulting from them. --Tango (talk) 17:34, 5 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

single or multicycle


The current design is for a single annual cycle. This has a number of disadvantages:

  1. It creates busy and quiet periods during the year.
  2. Since missing a cycle means missing a year there is a strong pressure on both grant giver and applicant to make the annual cycle. Even if the application isn't quite ready. It would be a brave FDC that declined a borderline application from a high profile entity when that decline means a 12 month hiatus.
  3. It maximises exposure to currency fluctuations.
  4. It constrains activities to a long design cycle - up to 18 months from application to expenditure.
  5. It omits the option of part payment "OK we'll give 50% of that, deliver x within 6 months and we will release the other 50%".
  6. It is extremely inflexible. If a new chapter gets to the point of being ready to apply at the wrong time of the year they have a very long wait ahead.

The alternative is to have a series of grant giving cycles through the year - perhaps with some grants released each quarter. At first glance this might look more complex than a single cycle, but the advantages of flexibility and loadspreading would make it far simpler and more efficient. WereSpielChequers (talk) 22:07, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

The problem is that we have a single annual fundraiser, so if we have multiple grant giving windows some of them won't line up with the fundraiser. That means you have to guess how much to raise, which could mean there isn't enough money for all the good plans or that money is left unspent because no-one has a good idea for how to spend it. I would prefer one grant window with the decisions made shortly before the fundraiser so we know exactly how much we need to raise. --Tango (talk) 22:59, 25 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
We do have a risk in that most of the movement, apart of course from Wikimedia UK, depends on one annual fundraiser which isn't even staggered around the globe. The solution to that is to persuade enough of our donors to make longterm commitments such as Direct debits so that we have some confidence in budgeting for the longterm. But we shouldn't let our fundraising risk unduly constrain our spending program. These grants are individually small compared to our revenue - $50,000 is well under 1% of last years income. I really doubt that many donors would be concerned if they learned that a few cents in every dollar of their donation sat in a bank for a year before being spent. WereSpielChequers (talk) 00:07, 26 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
While fundraising risk exists for any charity, I don't see it as a major concern for us. We've never had any difficulty reaching our fundraising targets, and don't think we're likely to for several years yet. My concern isn't about reaching the target, but about setting the target correctly. Recurring donations don't help with that. I'm not sure where you get this "few cents in every dollar" figure from. This kind of grant process is completely unproven, we won't be able to guess what requests we'll receive with any decent precision. The potential for error is far greater than a few percent, and unless we intentionally raise more than we expect to need (which is very bad practice) the error could be in either direction. Some money going unspent for a year may not be too bad, but some projects not getting funded because we underestimated how much money we would need would be. --Tango (talk) 12:18, 26 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Setting the fundraising target correctly is always going to be a tradeoff between the bureaucracy and inflexibility of planning for spontaneity that would be required if we strictly calculated a figure that we needed for the following financial year; And the desire to only ask for the money we will spend in the next financial year. My preference would be to move away from one global fundraiser, spread the fundraising out through the year region by region and drop the idea that this year's fundraiser just pays for the following year's expenditure. As for the few cents calculation, since $50,000 is a lot less than one cent in every dollar raised, there could be a lot of applications slipping to the fourth quarter without those applications amounting to more than a few cents in every dollar raised. WereSpielChequers (talk) 12:54, 26 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
$50k has been proposed as the minimum. There are already chapters with budgets a lot larger than that, and once the FDC is up and running and chapters can easily get funding for large budgets, I would would expect a lot more chapters to grow to those sizes (over a few years, of course - growth needs to happen at a realistic pace). --Tango (talk) 19:58, 26 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
A minimum would have problems, and encourages people to inflate their bids to achieve it. I think the rationale for a $50k minimum has already been challenged. $50k would go a long way in many countries, and I would hope that as the number of entities mushrooms the relatively small grants will disproportionately increase. But if there is good reason to concentrate the larger grants into one particular quarter there should be no difficulty doing that and leaving the other quarters of the year for consideration of relatively small grants. - If an entity starts growing to the point where its grant becomes a significant part of the WMF's budget it should be straight forward to shift it to a different cycle - Just give it a 9 month grant one year and shift it to a different quarter for its next bid. WereSpielChequers (talk) 12:28, 28 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Multiple cycles per year might slip into micro-management by the FDC - something we're trying to avoid. There have been good arguments for twice a year - different fiscal years for different EEs. Is there an example where one EE just can't switch their fiscal year? Smallbones (talk) 03:50, 29 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Setting your fiscal year to match your major source of funding is a perfectly reasonable thing to expect a non-profit to do. (WMUK's fiscal year was set based on when the annual fundraiser takes place, for instance.) --Tango (talk) 11:54, 29 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
That seems sensible to me - just wondering if there are specific cases that might over-weigh the general rule. Similarly, I could see, splitting the on-line fundraiser, to say English language version in December, all other language versions in July, to even out the inflows. BUT only if it could be shown that the uneven inflows cause more actual problems than would be caused by messing with a successful fund raising system, and that the split would actually solve the problem. Smallbones (talk) 16:16, 29 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Multiple cycles would only lead to micromanagement if entities were making multiple applications in a year. By contrast if some entities always applied in the quarter 1 round and others in the quarter 2, 3 or 4 rounds the workload on the FDC would be spread more evenly. Also there would be no risk of having a delay of up to a year from when a new entity was ready to apply to when they could do so. WereSpielChequers (talk) 23:33, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Staff bias


Currently the proposal says of the staff who will work for the FDC "Special care and safeguards will need to be put in place to ensure they are not biased toward the needs or perspectives of the Foundation – safeguards would likely include an annual review of the effectiveness of FDC overall, by the WMF Board, with input from FDC fund-seekers and the broader Wikimedia community." I wouldn't count an annual review of FDC by the WMF board as a safeguard against the FDC staff becoming part of the Foundation groupthink, rather I would consider it inevitable that if the staff are sited in San Francisco they will become part of that workplace culture. I agree that we need to avoid these people becoming too close to any one part of the movement, including the Foundation, but I think that rather more thought is needed as to how we achieve that. Feedback sessions at Wikimania would help, but they also need to have someone to report to, and they need to have this sort of thing in place before they get their first application from a chapter or other entity that is on bad terms with the WMF. WereSpielChequers (talk) 12:39, 26 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

The FDC is being created as a WMF board committee, so the final responsibility of determining whether it is working correctly inevitably lies with the WMF board. The text you quote says that they'll get input from the fund-seekers and community, so as long as that is done in an open and transparent way, and the input is given a lot of weight, then it should be fine. There is no particular reason for the FDC staff to be based in SF, though. The WMF has plenty of staff working remotely, and supporting the FDC is something that could easily be done remotely. --Tango (talk) 19:49, 26 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
WSC, are you thinking of an external review each year? Tango, we are discussing whether this would be a board committee or a community committee; assuming it is community-led, the WMF Board members on it are observers and not committee members, and Committee membership is by election and appointment (but not fully at the discretion of the Board), that would not be a 'Board committee' as we normally define them. The Board does have responsibility to determine whether it is working correctly; but so does the movement as a whole. Or put another way: it is necessary but not sufficient for the Board to be satisfied with the FDC's operation. SJ talk  06:03, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Sj, I'm not sure of the solution, I've concentrated on identifying the problem. I'd agree with your analysis: "it is necessary but not sufficient for the Board to be satisfied with the FDC's operation." The challenge is how do we make sure that the rest of the movement is broadly satisfied, and I would suggest someone has to give the FDC broad direction or at least analysis of the patterns in their decisions. Satisfaction is necessarily rather difficult at present as the board has annoyed large swathes of the movement...... It would be nice if everything henceforth was sweetness and light, but I wouldn't put money on that happening any time soon. Some of the hidden fault lines that we are going to stress during this process include:
  1. Wages and prices vary enormously around the world. One temptation will be to put all the money where it will go furthest, taken beyond a certain point one way it will cause resentment from people saying that their area has become a cash cow - the movement raises money there but doesn't spend it. If we go in the opposite direction there will be resentment from people saying "we could have done so much more with that money here". This is a dilemma to which there is no easy answer.
  2. Some languages are more important to some people than others. The same money spent in a country where the dominant language is spoken by 5 million could depending on your point of view achieve far more or far less than if that money were spent in a country where the population is 1% of the World's Arabic, Spanish or English communities. Again there is no easy answer.
  3. Some people don't trust those who make decisions that they don't agree with.
  4. This is a centralisation process in an organisation which is naturally decentralist.
  5. This is a centralising process in an organisation which is headed for a radical breakup (as the effectiveness of machine translation improves so the different Wikipedia versions will in effect become competitors of each other, this might possibly be encompassed within one loose decentralised organisation, but not within a tightly centralised one).
Sorry for the long answer, but this is a near impossible task, the only thing that might make it easier is to be dividing a bigger cake each year. WereSpielChequers (talk) 17:32, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply



The proposal draft now includes a community ombudsperson who will play a critical role in helping to surface disputes and, ultimately in the assessment of FDC process. The language of the proposal states that the FDC will appoint this person. What are precedents or potentially effective strategies for identifying and appointing this type of role in the Wikimedia community? LauraL TBG (talk) 18:15, 30 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

The Wikimedia Foundation has an Ombudsmen Commission that reviews complaints about violations of privacy policy. And the Wikipedia English Arbitration Committee formed an Audit Subcommittee to handle complaints made about people with checkuser access and oversight access. Both of these positions are appointed positions. I was on the English Arbitration Committee when we formed the Audit Subcommittee, and now serve on the Ombudsman Commission so have a general idea of the appointment process of each. The processes are not the same and would be worth exploring each, and other examples of similar roles to flesh out the best method. (Sydney Poore) FloNight (talk) 20:21, 30 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Ombudsman commission, Link to description of Ombudsman commission Membership. The Ombudsman commission does not monitor the functioning of people for compliance but just take complaints.
English Wikipedia Arbitration Committee/Audit Subcommittee Unlike the Ombudsman commission, the Audit Subcommittee does have as its mandate to be more proactive in monitoring the system and processes as well as the people who have advanced permission tools. The Audit subcommittee also takes complaints. FloNight (talk) 20:37, 30 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

Removing US and English language bias


The following sentences should be updated to unbias them:

Notice for translations, and currency units
They must do this with sufficient notice, a minimum of 30 days prior to application due dates. Applicants are responsible for doing their own currency conversion, so that requests are made in US dollars.


Documents submitted in languages other than English should allow 30 days for translation.
Applicants should denominate requests in US dollars, and indicate the currency in which they would like to receive payment.
(see discussion about currency above and below for arguments about how best to do this)

Membership criteria
Must be able to work effectively in English (full fluency is not required)
Be able to communicate effectively in English (given the nature of the work and need to converse on public wikis and in meetings in English)


Should be able to work effectively in English, or be willing to work closely with a translator in all deliberations.
Be able to communicate effectively in English, or to work effectively with a translator (on public wikis and in meetings).

I note that a few native English speakers have commented above that having truly multilingual meetings is impractical, or slow, or expensive. To the best of my knowledge, that is not true. All of the great international forums, bodies, and conventions handle this in a way that respects the native language of every participant. (The EU and UN and global business and social forums in particular.) As a result there are many solutions to carrying out true multilingual meetings and online discussions, and tens of thousands of professionals and amateurs from all corners of the world who are skilled in implementing those solutions. Making a meeting multilingual is inexpensive compared to the cost of flying to the meeting (when in person) or having a consultant team on retainer (when virtual). And there are many within our community and in Wikimedia-friendly translator communities who can help us out, including the many volunter translators who already make up a significant part of our community. SJ talk  06:14, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply

For example: if one of the best FDC candidates is not proficient in English, we would find a bilingual translator who could serve as an interpreter, and who would work closely with that person, attending virtual meetings and translating discussions on wikis and mailing lists. For in-person meetings we could either fly in that translator or find another one at the venue. We would of course do the same thing at in-person meetings if we had a deaf or blind committee member. (Most of our excellent blind contributors already work closely with a friend or loved one to help them understand media on the projects which do not give up their secrets readily to screen-readers.) SJ talk  06:20, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
The EU spends hundreds of millions of euros a year on translation services, so I don't think the fact that they manage it is proof that we could too. I've just spent about 10 minutes googling to try and find an idea of the price of translators, and they all want me to email them for a quote, do you have any numbers on what whispered translation/chuchotage (I think that's what we would want) costs? --Tango (talk) 15:16, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
Wherever I say "translator" above, please read "most of the time, a member of the Wikimedia movement". We have a lot of translators and translator-equivalents in our movement. I just participated in a lovely three-language meeting of the Iberocoop communities, and where translation was needed at the live meeting (for intense discussions on specialist topics) it was provided ad-hoc by a suitably bilingual participant. Professional outsiders are in general less effective than amateur insiders for this sort of work. So we should commit to using them where necessary, but for the most part invest in expanding that portion of our own community. If an amazing and talented Elbonian speaker is appointed to such a post, we would look for a bilingual English-Elbonian editor willing to be an translator-observer on the committee. Our expenses are limited to additional travel for that observer; or finding a fill-in for the duration of an in-person meeting (which can often be done for less than the cost of international airfare). SJ talk  03:37, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
The skills required to be a good translator, especially a real-time translator, are much more than just speaking both languages. We might occasionally be able to find competent amateurs within the community (as you seem to have done at the Iberocoop meeting), but I think that will be rare. --Tango (talk) 14:33, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I agree with Tango that SJ is probably underestimating the difficulties and costs of translation. SJ's analogy to the accommodations that we should make for deaf and blind participants is apt, however, so some costs of translation could be incurred. But let's not get carried away with that and end up with a full time 5 person translation staff at the WMF.
As far as currency goes "Applicants are responsible for doing their own currency conversion, so that requests are made in US dollars," is at least half of what I'd like to see. SJ needs to distinguish between 3 uses of the terms "currency conversion": 1. the monetary denomination of request, 2. the denomination of bank accounts, and 3. the denomination of cash payouts.
1. Having the requests all in dollars seems very reasonable and will just make processing the requests easier. Given a quick processing time, and the ability to update the request during the processing, there is little or no currency risk here. 2. keeping currency in several denominations is a matter of diversification vs. cost and has very little to do with funding requests. 3. the currency of the payout is the key item, and I suggest that the request include which currency the funds should be paid in. That should minimize (but not eliminate) the currency risk of the EEs, and place the risk upon the WMF - which will have some benefit of diversification and will be able to bear the risk better. The worst possible outcome for the WMF is that they'd have to pay out 5-10% more on the FDC budget than expected. Since this would happen extremely rarely, and the possibility of a 5-10% WMF gain is just as likely, I'd think it's a very reasonable risk for the WMF to bear.
It's important to recognize that even if the EEs are allowed to designate in advance the currency of the payout, that they cannot eliminate all the currency risk. This residual risk almost certainly has to stay with the EEs. Otherwise you could get the case that if the USD goes up 10%, the WMF would have to pay out an extra 10% that year, and if the USD goes down by 10%, the WMF would also have to pay out an extra 10% that year. In other words each year the WMF would have to pay out an extra 10% or more if it gives a "heads you win, tails I lose" type guarantee to the EEs.
The residual risk has to do with local prices adjusting to currency movements unevenly. So e.g. a chapter plans an international meeting at an international quality hotel, and they had elected to receive a predetermined amount of the local currency. If the local currency devalues by 25% against the dollar a month before the meeting, the local currency prices for the hotel might also rise by 25% - meaning that it would have been better to have elected to get payment from the WMF in dollars. But it might have been that the local prices only adjust by 5-10%, or even that they over-adjust by 35%. And price adjustment might work very differently if it was the USD that fell by 25%. Or if the goods to be purchased were "local goods" (e.g. food, labor), rather than "international goods."
There's never any guarantee that price adjustments to currency fluctuations will work out as planned, but the EEs should be able to judge better than the WMF or the FDC how the local currency's movement and price adjustment might hurt them. So they should be able to ask in advance for a fixed payment in dollars (or euros or pounds) or in the local currency. That can get rid of some of the currency risk (placing it on the WMF who can better handle it), but it simply can not get rid of it all. As a "generic solution" if the EEs do not know what to request, I'd say ask for half to be paid out in a major currency, and half to be paid out in the local currency. Smallbones (talk) 16:58, 31 May 2012 (UTC)Reply
I was suggesting that each requestor should request what they want to be paid, and the currency they want it in, evaluated at the time of payment. You rightly point out that these two are not always the same. SJ talk  03:37, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Feedback on the proposal from Tomer A.


Hi all, the below feedback comes from Tomer A, who is mid-flight and asked that we relay it to the Wikimedia community. As a note, by "Page 12" Tomer is referring to the "Thoughts on rationale for application process," and by Page 13, Tomer is referring to the "How the FDC will evaluate applications" section. Thanks, Meerachary TBG (talk) 01:16, 1 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

1. There seem to be a discussion about the impartiality of the staff members. What if we suggest that one of the staffers be employed by the WMF and the oher be employed by the WCA? This will help resolve this conflict.
2. I did not find "tech" in the "core topics" list (including the development of media-wiki)
3. The monet is divided to three categories. Each category is defined in size (e.g., we know what are the required expenses on core activities, grant requesters are required to send a letter of interest (or something of that sort) and usually the required reserves are usually a fixed amount known in advance. This may sometimes leave you with extra money. Where does this money go?
4. Also, it is possible that after giving all the grants the FDC will still have some money on its "budget". Currently, the document suggest that this money be given back to the reserve. What I suggest is that this money be designated to support what is "priority" on that year (for example, if "participation" is priority for 2013, announce that there is X $ left for participation programs if anyone wish to develop and implement such a program.
5. Page 12 - "chapters council" is now call chapters association.
6. page 13 include a list of priorities. None of them seems to include "increasing the amount of content"
7. page 14 has the word "that" twice.

Center of Excellence


The FDC is described a couple of times as being a potential "Center for Excellence." I'm wondering how we can achieve that. My suggestions are to make sure that we have

  1. good input from the community. (I've started a discussion at Talk:Survey of how money should be spent/Questions and discussion on survey wording or more technical questions should probably be discussed there. But general discussion here.) And
  2. good evaluation of spending effectiveness.

The big picture is that the FDC can create real value by discovering what community members would like to spend the money on, in line with the 5 year Strategic Plan. EEs can then adapt their spending plans to better fit community goals and preferences, then document the effectiveness of their spending on reaching these goals. The FDC can then look at the overall results, recommend where spending has been most effective for EEs to plan for the next year. Effective spending can be encouraged by increased resources in the next year, and ineffective spending can be dropped or suggestions made on how to improve effectiveness.

If the FDC can do something like that, it would have a real claim to being a Center of Excellence, but with the present design I'm not sure what claim it would have. Just a nice buzzword?

A major part of my suggestion is the effectiveness reports. This will be very hard to do well.

The 1st rule is that effectiveness refers to outputs, not inputs

  • "We spent $10,000 on editathons this year" has nothing to do with effectiveness.
  • "1,000 editors attended edithathons, 300 new editors registered on Wikipedia and 500 articles were created or updated during the editathons" is mostly about output.

A possible 2nd rule is that some measures of output are directly tied to the EEs efforts, and are easy to collect, but are difficult to connect directly to strategic goals (call this direct effectiveness), while other measures are directly tied to strategic goals, easy to collect, but hard to tie directly to the EEs efforts (call this strategic effectiveness). A third type of effectiveness measure (call it intermediate effectiveness) will be hard to collect, and can be tied to some extent to both the EEs efforts and strategic goals.


  • Direct effectiveness "1,000 editors attended edithathons, 300 new editors registered on Wikipedia and 500 articles were created or updated during the editathons"
    • this type of measure should be collected as a matter of course and can be summarized each year for the FDC, but we shouldn't fool ourselves that this is what we really want to know.
  • Strategic effectiveness "The number of active editors on the German Wikipedia increased 10% this year and new article creation increased by 5%"
    • Directly related to the Strat plan, but we might only be able to guess what the EE did to help this along. Please do report this type of measure every year, but you won't be able to take all the credit, or all the blame.
  • Intermediate effectiveness "After running a Women on Wikipedia editathon in Mexico City in July, self-reported women editors in Mexico increased 20% by December"
    • note that this directly relates the EE's activity to a strategic goal.
    • also note that it would be very difficult to get this number, planning ahead of time would be needed, perhaps a special Wikiproject (say WP:Mexican Women) would need to be created and have members sign up. Even then it wouldn't be 100% sure the number would measure what you'd like. Maybe another measure could be deigned, but it would require the use of a bot ...

None of these measures are perfect, but the intermediate measure of effectiveness is probably closest to what we'd like. They require creativity and planning to work well.

I suggest that the EEs submit potential measures of effectiveness with their proposals, predict how the measures might come out, and for the next year (or even throughout the year) how the measures actually turned out. I'd guess that the reaction of many EEs will be "This is horrible - they expect us to come up with unproven numbers that they'll hang us with." Actually, thinking in terms of outputs, and especially measurable outputs, should focus planning greatly and make the plans better. Nobody is going to hang anybody with the numbers - but they will be used as a guide in the future. Everybody will be in the same boat, so the EEs can expect help in coming up with effectiveness measures from other EEs and the FDC. And EEs who do come up with good projects that demonstrably help us reach our strategic goals can expect continue funding.

Without this type of thing - I'd think the planning would come down to having a good creative idea and then wishing and hoping and praying that it works. Smallbones (talk) 17:33, 1 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

  • "Over time the FDC will become a center of excellence in the movement, by holding entities to high standards in the plans they develop and their effectiveness once implemented." – To be bold, I think "centre of excellence" is a noble sentiment, but unwise: it builds in expectations that is likely to be a rod for the back of the FDC. Nor do the doubled-up redundant "over time" and "will become" add anything but trouble. Over how much time? When will it become? Not useful questions, so let's not invite them. What is more important is to frame it in terms of aims, which is safe and positive: "The aim of the FDC is to hold entities to high standards in the plans they develop and their effectiveness where funded." (And naturally, the FDC has no business holding substandard, unfunded plans to high standards.) Tony (talk) 15:52, 5 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
"Center of excellence" will certainly be a challenge for the FDC, and I suppose any challenge could turn out to "be a rod for the back," but I suggest that we plan on how to meet that challenge. If it is just a popular management buzzword and we'll be happy to have a good-to-average organization (and why not? most organizations are just average!), then let's just forget about "center of excellence." On the other hand, if we really want to have an outstanding set of outreach programs, and if the Board is willing to take a few risks to make this an outstanding organization, then we should aim high. "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood." (attributed to Daniel Burnham) Smallbones (talk) 18:47, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
To me this is a critical question. In my experience, funding entities spend all the time focusing on how to make the right decision in who and what to fund, but then find that they have little or no agreement on how to measure success after the grants are made. This is even more true for general operating grants than for narrow, program specific grants. There is a lot of literature out there on evaluation and I suggest that at a minimum, FDC staff and or 1 member of the FDC have experience in thinking through program evaluation.
Smallbones and Tony have raised good suggestions. Questions I'd put forward for consideration: What methods can programs be expected to use to reliably and cost-effectively measure their near-term results? What tools can be used to link some of those results to broader Wikipedia goals? If organizations underperform -- against their goals and the broader movement goals -- how will that feedback be respectfully shared with opportunity for improvement but also repercussions if poor performance continues? Centers of Excellence usually highlight successes through case studies, public reports. Will this be a function of the FDC? Its staff? All high achieving organizations have to find a away to manage the tensions between doing and measuring. The FDC staff's ability to measure impact on the back end will ultimately be just as important as deciding who gets the grants. Chayling (talk) 04:15, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Just to deal with the original theme of this thread, actually calling the FDC a centre of excellence will be regarded by some people as apeing university research terminology and setting up the FDC for harsh criticism every time its funded projects fail to be "excellent". The word is unwise; I'm more interested in maximising excellent outcomes than using fancy words that will be regretted later. Tony (talk) 08:42, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Guidelines for grant sizes


Some guidelines for grant sizes have just been added, suggesting between 100% and 120% of the previous year's grant in the first year and 80% to 120% in the second and third. I think such guidelines are a very good idea, but I would like to make some suggestions. Firstly, I think these guidelines should be set by the FDC, rather than imposed upon it in advance. If the FDC's terms of reference are too prescriptive, then there is really no point having an FDC.

Secondly, I think the guidelines should all be in terms of what you expect to have spent in the previous year, rather than that you were granted (there is a footnote suggesting that for entities with very large underspends, but I would have it for everyone). The amount an entity can responsibly spend isn't going to be higher because they had unspent money in the bank. There should also not be any incentive to request more funds that you actually need.

Thirdly, I think the recommended maximum growth rate should depend on the entity's current budget. If you spent only $5,000 last year, then restricting you to no more than $6,000 this year is unnecessary and will reduce the good work entities can do (at 20% p.a. it would take more than 16 years to get from $5k to $100k) . I think you can justify growth of 50%-100% p.a. while still very small. Larger entities should have much lower growth, since money is likely to be better spent by smaller entities (due to diminishing returns). Large entities should only grow beyond, say, 10% if smaller entities can't usefully spend all the available funds. --Tango (talk) 19:00, 3 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

It is important that these guidelines are there at inception for the FDC, as it provides increased assurances to eligible entities for planning purposes this year. The FDC might want to revisit the guidelines after the first cycle. Agree that amounts should ideally be based on actual spending, which would hopefully be close to prior year funding requests. The issue with actual spending is one of timing, as organizations are submitting their plans before their fiscal year is over. I think the mid-year budget check is a good mechanism, though imperfect in cases where spending is weighted to the second half. My sense is that the current proposal is a reasonable starting point that can be refined. Agree on the upper limit problem for smaller entities. Any thoughts on how to structure this into a guideline? --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 18:33, 4 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I can see no reason for such guidelines. You apply again with full justification. If you need more funding, you explain why. Tony (talk) 08:56, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
With small organisations 20% each year may not be practical as some additional spending involves step changes in size. Getting an office and or a first member of staff is likely to be more than a 20% increase in budget. Getting a sixth member of staff might easily fit within 20% annual growth. Is it entirely sensible to make it easier for a chapter to get its sixth member of staff than its first? There is also the issue of one off projects, a chapter that organised two big events 15 months apart could be in serious difficulty if the 15 month gap included a whole 12 month funding year - a maximum 20% increase year on year would create huge pressure to do something in that fallow year if only to protect the budget. WereSpielChequers (talk) 10:57, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I can fully understand the rationale behind the 80% minimum as is given in the draft, but I have difficulty understanding the 120% implied maximum, for the same reasons as WSC describes, and the growth rate issue that Tango identifies. I would recommend merging the years 1-3 'targets' into one, and simply specifying a minimum of 80% in order to ensure continuity and avoid disruption, whilst leaving the maximum up to the FDC to decide upon based on the budgets submitted. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 19:16, 17 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I think some guidance on what the maximum the FDC are likely to approve would be good. We don't want entities requesting far too much and the FDC having to reject them. Ideally, we want the FDC to be able to approve every request (with perhaps minor amendments). As I've said before, I would rather the FDC issued that guidance rather than it being imposed upon it in advance, though. --Tango (talk) 19:30, 17 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I would agree with you on 'guidance', but not really with the currently-written 'targets', since that's a very different philosophy. And I agree completely that the FDC should be issuing that guidance, rather than advance prescription. I'd be rather surprised if the FDC rejected requests rather than requesting modifications. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:01, 17 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thanks all for the discussion -- I made a few edits to this section to reflect the "guidelines" language -- it's definitely meant to be a "guideline" vs a "target," so entities can request more (or less) than the guideline amounts. Meerachary TBG (talk) 18:56, 18 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Multi-year grants


Several individuals and chapters have suggested that some kind of multi-year grants would be very useful to allow entities to plan more than one year ahead. I propose a simple way to do that: if it is justified by your annual plan and your 3 year/5 year/whatever plan, then up to 50% of your grant in any given year can be guaranteed to be repeated in the next 2 years. This guarantee would be subject to basic due diligence in the future years, but it would not be subject to changes in procedure (for example, it would survive the FDC being dissolved), changes in FDC membership with new people having different ideas, changes in strategy, etc.. The guarantee would also be subject to enough money being raised, but if our revenue drops by more than 50% then budget cuts can't be avoided - the guarantee should include an assurance from the WMF that it wouldn't increase core spending unless the FDC's allocation is at least enough to cover the guarantees.

I think it would be very rare for such a guarantee to actually make any difference, since I can't see the FDC or any replacement for it cutting an entity's funding by more than 50% (unless it failed due diligence, in which case the guarantee is void anyway), but it would mean entities don't just have to take it on faith that they'll still be able to get funding in future years.--Tango (talk) 19:25, 3 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

I think the funding guidelines already achieve the objective by providing close to an assurance (but not a guarantee) that funding will be quite stable in the next three years for entities that meet their commitments. If this mechanism works, I'd imagine the FDC would renew it for future years. I do think that applications should directly indicate the expected duration of the projects that an entity is proposing, so that the FDC can see transparently that there are commitments on the part of entities to some multi-year projects. This would be valuable information for analysis of future funding needs across the movement.--Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 18:41, 4 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
It's a very weak assurance at best. You need to remember that employment law is very different in Europe than it is in the US. It is much more difficult (and expensive) to make someone redundant, so you really need a high level of confidence that you'll be able to continue paying them before you hire them. I think that is the main reason chapters are asking for longer term guarantees of funding. As I said, the guarantee I propose is unlikely to ever actually come into play, so I don't really see any harm in providing it. --Tango (talk) 20:01, 4 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Barry, there are two possible problems in the assumption "close to an assurance (but not a guarantee) that funding will be quite stable in the next three years for entities that meet their commitments". One is the moral hazard of suggesting to applicants that if you get your basic compliance right, you're in for three years (when presumably the "plan"/"project" has been framed in the application as lasting for one year). A fuzzy timeline is an invitation for applicants to produce fuzzy projects with no particular milestones, or at least endlessly shiftable ones. Whatever the timeframe, it needs to be specific, with no particular expectation of extension, but the opportunity to extend if things go well and there's new rationale for further specific activity. That is the discipline I was hoping the FDC would foster—indeed instist on. So if the one-year aims and process look like being met, you go for your extension, and are audited on that basis. Without a specific timeframe in planning activity, there are no milestones, and no basis for auditing success or failure. The timing of applications needs to take this into account so that applicants don't learn whether their program is extended at the last minute.

The second problem is that if activities require the employment of staff—whether full-time or part-time—it's rather harder to attract good people when the timeframe is fuzzy. There's a premium lost through injecting uncertainty into the whole endeavour. What kind of flexibility will be offered to advantage movement projects in terms of employment, so that money ends up being well-spent and skilled staff are attracted to work on movement programs? Tony (talk) 15:29, 5 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Tony, have you read the text of this part of the proposal (at the bottom of the content page)? You should read the actual text, and see what you think of it. To your second point, you are correct that it's tough to hire good staff in an extremely shaky and unstable context, but I would say that our situation is not at all unusually shaky or unstable. Hardly any organizations have true guaranteed multi-year financial stability, and so well-run organizations actively work towards mitigating their risk of instability by taking steps such as building a reserve, diversifying their revenue sources, having a plan in the event of shortfalls, growing commensurate with their ability to get the growth funded, etc. I talk about this every year in the risks section of the Wikimedia Foundation's annual plan: the idea that perhaps we will not meet our revenue targets, that we might meet our revenue targets but at the cost of significant reader goodwill, and/or the idea that an unforseen major expense could eat up the reserve and cripple us financially. Developing plans and tactics to mitigate those risks is part of the ordinary running of an organization, and nothing more. Just a quick example: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation receives an annual allocation from the government of about a billion dollars, with no guarantees that it will remain stable over time. That's just how it is. In response to that, the CBC developed other revenue sources to ensure its financial stability. That's what a prudent organization does -- it analyzes its situation, and develops plans to mitigate the risks of uncertainty. Sue Gardner (talk) 15:49, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
That is all true, but none of it is an argument against providing some stability where we can. It is also worth noting that, while the movement's position in the world is very stable, internally there is a great deal of instability with the rules changing drastically at least once a year (hopefully the FDC will be the last drastic change, but we can't be sure it will). Multi-year grants are not usual - the WMF has received some in the past, as I recall - and I can't see any good reason for not providing them. --Tango (talk) 19:43, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I suspect this is largely a cultural thing, North America being more short termist than Europe. Sue's example of the CBC makes a salutary contrast to the BBC's multiyear deals with the British Government over the size of the license fee. In my view multi year grants make great sense for core funding, but annual grants are more appropriate for project work. Hopefully the FDC will move in this direction if it decides to globalise its perspective, otherwise we will wind up with an organisation where each level aims to build a "prudent reserve" and thereby the total reserves become excessive. Of course the other side of this is that the confidence of your commitments should not exceed your confidence in your income stream, and while the movement has done very well for several years at getting one off donations in an annual fundraiser, to make longterm commitments it would be better to have a more secure longterm income.WereSpielChequers (talk) 16:10, 7 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

(Outdenting.) Tango, I think it might be useful to contrast our circumstances, against the circumstances of the type of organizations that typically give multi-year grants. Multi-year grants are typically given by grantmaking institutions that have amassed a large pile of cash for the sole purpose of distributing it. The Gates Foundation has 37 billion dollars. Sloan has 1.7 billion. Ford has 745 million. It is not a surprise that those organizations have no difficulty committing to multi-year grants. Our situation is different: the FDC will be dependent every year on fundraiser performance, with all the risks that that entails. That makes it more difficult to commit to multi-year grants, because we cannot actually know with certainty that the money will be there when it comes time to disburse it. (That's particularly true because there are new Wikimedia organizations being formed all the time, and we cannot know that fundraiser revenue performance will exceed total growth in funding requests.) Having said that, I do think that to the extent we can reasonably and responsibly provide certainty, we should, and I believe there's language in the proposal right now suggesting "guard-rails" or guidelines, that should offer some security for organizations dependent on FDC funds. Sue Gardner (talk) 18:53, 7 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

My proposal explicitly wasn't to guarantee grants against a massive drop in revenue, it was to guarantee grants against internal changes (which are what people are most concerned about, I think - there is a risk that our annual fundraiser will fail, but it's very unlikely and there's not a lot we can do about it if it does). The constant changes in our internal processes for fundraising and fund dissemination mean people naturally don't have a great deal of confidence in them staying the same in the future. I'm not sure what parts of the proposal you are referring to, but there is nothing in there that even approaches the kind of assurance people are asking for. Can you give a reason for not making the kind of guarantees I proposed? --Tango (talk) 19:19, 7 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Tango, I'm confused -- maybe you & I are just misunderstanding each other. Have you read this section of the proposal, Special funding guidelines during transition to the FDC (2012-2014)? Don't you think that it provides assurances against internal changes? If that's what you're characterizing as "weak assurance," can you explain why you see it that way Sue Gardner (talk) 20:26, 7 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
a) That's only an interim measure, b) it's just guidelines on how much to request, not assurances on what will be granted and c) it offers no protection against the FDC being radically changed (or abolished) after a year (so far, no system we've had has survived more than a year without radical changes - I'm as optimistic as the next guy, but when it comes to the financial security of a charity you are entrusted with, you can't afford to be optimistic in spite of the evidence). --Tango (talk) 13:40, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Ah, I see. I may redraft that section of the proposal a little then: it's not intended to convey 'this is what you should apply for.' Indeed, an entity might reasonably apply for a number that falls outside the guidelines. Its intent is to offer guidelines for the FDC, not for applicants. So I will redraft it, to see if that makes things a bit clearer. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 17:34, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Three questions in advance of the FDC Advisory Group meeting this weekend


Hey folks,

I think everyone knows that the FDC Advisory Group (Richard Ames, Peter Ekman, Ali Haidar Khan, Osmar Valdebenito, Thomas d'Souza Buckup, Christophe Henner, Pavel Richter, Sydney Poore, Stu West, Jan-Bart de Vreede, Ting Chen, Crystal Hayling, and Kathy Reich) will be meeting at the Wikimedia Foundation office this weekend. Purpose of the meeting is for Bridgespan and the Wikimedia Foundation to get the AG's thoughts on the draft proposal thus far, so that I can iterate it further before submitting it the Board at the end of June.

The conversation here has been really good, and has already significantly helped to evolve the proposal: thank you. I think it would be helpful for the AG if the people here could answer three questions for them:

  1. If there's one aspect of the current proposal that you think absolutely needs to be retained in the final version, what is it?
  2. If there's one aspect of the current proposal that you think needs to change before the proposal is finalized, what is that? (You might know, and say, what the change should be, or you could just point out something you see as a serious problem without having to provide a solution for it.)
  3. If there's one aspect of the current proposal that you find confusing or open to possible misinterpretation, what is it?

I know it's a little artificial to restrict people to naming a single aspect for each of these questions, rather than having people make a full list of feedback. But people can make whatever comments they like elsewhere on this page: the purpose of this section is really to focus in on the highest-priority most-important issues people see.

If folks have the time & energy to answer those three questions, that would be great. (FDC AG members should feel free to answer too, and I believe we are planning to walk through a similar set of questions in the meeting itself.) The meeting starts Saturday morning PDT (UTC-7) which is late Saturday afternoon UTC, so in order for your input to be most useful, we would want to get it before then. Ideally a day or two ahead, so that the FDC AG members have time to read it, and maybe talk about it with each other, before the meeting officially starts. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 19:57, 4 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Definitely interested in hearing thoughts on the questions above. Here is the agenda for the upcoming Advisory Group meeting. LauraL TBG (talk) 00:59, 5 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Request for Bridgespan re templates


Hi Bridgespan. I know you've got the templates for supporting materials linked to from the bottom of the main Funds Dissemination Committee page, but could I ask you to also link to them from the bottom of the proposal page? I get the sense that the proposal page is the most-visited, and so I think people are likelier to see them if they're linked there. Also, I would like to make it obvious that they are part of the proposal overall [1], and like the proposal, would benefit from people's feedback.

And, could you create red links for any templates that don't yet exist (or aren't yet posted) but that you will be developing as part of this process? Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 20:33, 4 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

[1] To be clear, I am not planning to ask the Board to do a detailed review of each template and officially approve them all. I don't think the Board has time to do that, and I don't think it'd be a particularly good use of whatever time they have available for the FDC process. But, the templates are "real" (meaning, we will actually be using them), and I think it's important that they be as understandable, simple and user-friendly as possible. So to the extent that people here can user-test the templates by pointing out anything that seems unnecessarily confusing or complicated, I think that would be really helpful for everyone involved with the FDC process.

I've moved the template list to a separate page at Funds Dissemination Committee/Templates and transcluded it into the two places you mentioned. This will make it simpler to keep up to date, and means there is now an obvious place to discuss the templates: Talk:Funds Dissemination Committee/Templates (discussing each one on its own talk page divides the conversation too much and makes it difficult to follow). --Tango (talk) 22:56, 4 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thank you! LauraL TBG (talk) 00:53, 5 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Some notes and remarks from Pavel


First of all I would like to apologize for not having participated in the debate more actively; but I am thrilled about the quality of the ongoing debate, and I am looking forward to continue this in San Francisco.

The following is my feedback and my notes, which I have divided into thematic blocks that reflect in a structured way my thoughts on the current draft proposal: the participation aspect, the fund allocation and the need to consider the organizational dimension of the Chapters / fund-seeking organisations. There are several other remarks at the end, marked “Other”. I hope my feedback will be useful for the final shaping of FDC and please consider that I’m very open to any discussion on this matter. Thank you for the effort and time that have been invested into the FDC creating process so far, I am confident that together we can come up with a great instrument that will benefit our movement.


  • The draft proposal states in step 4 of the application process that the WMF staff will develop an objective evaluation of the application: although the approach of a global evaluation authority is understandable in the FDC context, I have the impression that the draft proposal overlooks a bit the aspect of subsidiarity in the movement structure. We all know how important independent processes and local accountability are, and I think it would be good if this was reflected also in case of the FDC. For example: what specific criteria would be applied in such global evaluation process and how would they differ from the criteria that the local Chapters bodies (like the Board and General Assembly) already apply in order to officially approve of the planned activities of the Chapter? Does it really make sense to have a global approval after the “local” approval”? WMDE is being held accountable for its activities already by multiple stakeholders and having another entity “overriding” it, raises some concerns not only in terms of accountability to the community but also in terms of pure necessity of such evaluation. Maybe one solution to this could be that every EE would have to make sure that not only its budget, but also the whole budgeting process be in the open and with community involvement? Having every EE commit to a collaborative budgeting process would ensure that all communities and stakeholder would be involved in the process, and it would encourage participation as well.
Hi Pavel. I am going to reply to some stuff here, but I am also going to aim to leave open room for other people to reply with their views. On the point of Does it really make sense to have a global approval after the “local” approval”?, I think that is a totally legitimate question. Here is a snippet from a mail I sent the Board on this topic, the other day:
[begin quote] "We are not the Boards of the FDC-eligible entities: they already have their own Boards. I do not think it makes sense for the WMF (staff or Board or FDC) to conduct the same level and type of oversight of the FDC-eligible entities as you do for me. That would signal a role confusion, and I think it would be damaging to those organizations. I really want to stress this: I believe that for the long-term health of the FDC-eligible entities, it is critical that the FDC process in no way weaken or smother or supplant their existing governance processes. Where those processes are strong, it would be confusing and wasteful for us to attempt to duplicate them. Where they are weak, we ought not to respond by taking over --- doing that would create a parent/child relationship that is not our goal here. Rather, our response to weak governance, where/if it exists, should be to create conditions that help it to strengthen. I propose that we should have that happen through the ordinary feedback loop of grant-making: we provide our view on the likely impact of organizations’ plans and on overall organizational competency, and we provide funding consistent with our view. When that’s done successfully, the process provides useful information for fund-seeking entities, and it provides incentive to act on the information. (Analogy: If Sloan were to tell me they were declining to give the WMF a grant because we don't have audited financial statements, that would be useful information for us, and we would start commissioning audits. That doesn't make Sloan WMF's boss, or responsible for overseeing the WMF. It does however create a useful feedback loop and direct incentives for WMF to adhere to industry best practices.)" [end quote]
In the snippet above, please note that whenever I say "we," I am talking about the entire FDC process -- not the particular role of the WMF Board, staff, or FDC. The snippet should be understood in that context.
So. In my view, the purpose of the FDC process is to make allocations to FDC-eligible entities, based on an assessment of the extent to which requested funding will enable those entities to move the needle towards realizing the movement's shared objectives, through a process in which assessment is a function of i) how much impact their proposed activities are likely to have and ii) how well the entities are situated, to execute them responsibly and well. The work then breaks down into three buckets of activity: assessing the likely impact of plans against the movement's global objectives, assessing the ability of entities to execute those plans effectively, and appropriately aligning the funding allocations with those assessments. The goal is simply to determine how the total allocation is shared out among movement entities, and in my view that need not supplant or undermine organization's own governance processes. Does that make sense to you? Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 20:13, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I like that three buckets summary of the FDC's role - can we get that added to the draft proposal as some kind of preamble? --Tango (talk) 22:25, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I see a fourth bucket of activity: reconciling duplicate work, and comparing/prioritizing programs across entities when their total budgets exceed available funds. This is something that individual entity Boards have little incentive or capacity to do. To date most chapters have been focused on national and not international projects, minimizing the potential for overlap, but that is changing. SJ talk  23:11, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • Furthermore, according to the draft proposal the FDC is supposed to become a center of excellence in the movement, ensuring high standards and effectiveness of actions. I was wondering which could be the role others stakeholders could play in the evaluation process? What is the role of local communities and Chapters’ Boards of Trustees in the reporting evaluation process? Could they be involved in the process in some way in order to contribute and share their view on the “lessons learned”?
  • In addition, while the draft proposal describes roles of different FDC actors, it seems that the role of Chapters/WCA is not being taken under consideration. Are there any specific reasons for not including this perspective into the process? Also, I think it would be worthwhile considering something like “Chapters selected FDC members” as well, analogically to the already very well functioning procedure of Chapters selected Board seats. This would most certainly have a positive effect on diversity of the FDC.


  • According to the draft proposal FDC can decide to contribute an additional amount of funds to the WMF operating reserves. While I can understand the rational behind this, I am a bit worried if this measure is in full accordance with the spirit and purpose of the donations. We should focus on developing programs worth spending the money on, we should encourage great new initiatives and we should improve functioning programs wherever possible. Putting money that was intended by our donors to be used for the advancement of free knowledge into the operational reserve should be a very rare occasion, and something of a last resort. If the FDC does not get enough funding requests worth funding, than I would think the Board of the WMF and other stakeholders, like the WCA, get the opportunity to actively find additional programs or initiate new community programs. As a side note, there is also a legal aspect that should be considered here: under German law for non-profits there is the so called policy of prompt usage of the financial means. According to this policy the money that has been fundraised in current year has to be spend until the end of the next one in order to maintain the non-profit status.
A small comment: I did not know that about German law. Or perhaps I knew it, but had forgotten. Does that mean the German chapter is unable to build a reserve of any kind? I wonder how common that kind of prohibition is, globally.
To your larger point: I think it's clear that the movement wants the Wikimedia Foundation to have a not-insubstantial reserve. The Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation has in practice put into effect a rule-of-thumb that the WMF reserve ought not to drop below six months of spending at the low point of the year (October). There have been discussions about whether the reserve should grow more quickly, and/or whether the movement should attempt to build an endowment. But I don't think I've ever heard anyone advance your view here, that there ought not to be a reserve that protects the projects in the event of financial difficulties (ie., lower-than-expected fundraiser revenues, unanticipated expenses, and so forth). The projects' continued survival is our top priority, in my view. Sue Gardner (talk) 20:13, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Just a quick clarification: Of course the WMF needs a reserve, and I have no opinion how big this should be. This is up to you and the Board to decide. Sorry for not been clear on this.
It was my understanding that the funds to be disseminated by the FDC are the ones after a) the core activities have been taken care off, and b) the reserve has been filled up to the level you and the board find necessary. So why would the FDC have the opportunity to allocate funds to the reserve as well? On the other hand, I have no ready solution for the case that not enough good proposals get to the FDC and it therefor can not allocate all funds. But that is another problem, one we should adress in the next days ere in San Francisco.--Pavel Richter (WMDE) (talk) 15:37, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Spending each year's income by the end of the following year wouldn't mean you can't have a reserve, it would just cap it at a year's income - that's a maximum of twice the current WMF minimum. I find it a little strange as it would not enable charities to save for major projects, I live in the UK and here it would be perfectly normal for a charity to fundraise for several years to build up a fund for a major building project. The UK charity commissioners don't generally have problem's with large reserves, as long as the charity has a plan as to what it will do with them. WereSpielChequers (talk) 23:51, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • The draft proposal suggests accepting applications two times per year due to various fiscal years of the Chapters: would it be possible, for purely informational reasons, to add a list of Chapters and their respective fiscal year dates? Furthermore, in accordance with 2 application deadlines, FDC will be proposing slates of allocations 2 times a year. While I understand that this is a practical solution, it also raises some concerns on my side. My understanding is that with two different application deadlines the FDC will not have any knowledge about the scope of the funding requests of the second round and without knowing how much money will there be needed to accommodate these requests, it will be natural for the FDC to be careful, spare and “penny-wise” while allocating the money in the first round. In case not enough applications will be submitted in the second round, it might lead to the unwanted situation when available funds that were originally planned for free knowledge projects will end up being pushed into the reserve. It would be great if we could come up with an idea how to prevent this from happening.
This is a very difficult issue, and the goal is to attempt to balance wanting to provide flexibility for eligible organizations, in terms of when they need to apply, against wanting the FDC to be equipped to make a single set of decisions in full possession of all relevant information. I think also somebody upthread suggested that the FDC might find it easier to manage its workload if there are two funding cycles. I suspect that there is no perfect answer, and we may evolve how we handle this over time. (For example, I think the French chapter recently voted to move its fiscal year around, in a way they thought would help synch it up with the FDC funding cycle. I am not saying that's necessarily the best possible answer, or that everyone should do that, but I think that is the kind of adjustment we will see happen naturally over time.) Sue Gardner (talk) 20:13, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Detail on the fiscal years of chapters who responded to the recent chapter finance survey can be found here.Libbie TBG (talk) 14:42, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply


  • The draft proposal talks about core expenses which include legal, fundraising, accounting, HR, governance and communication expenses. Does the draft mean the core expenses of the WMF only or does this term apply also for Chapters which have these kind of expenses (Chapters with staff and offices but also with project-related core expenses like fundraising costs, technical service, legal, PR, auditing)? Related to this, how do we address the fact that chapters and the WMF have to commit to multi-year projects, sign long-term contracts, build up capacity and infrastructure?
I think this is being discussed elsewhere on this page. Sue Gardner (talk) 20:13, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • According to the draft proposal the criteria for application evaluation are based on the criteria of the Grants Advisory Committee. As far as I know, the GAC criteria have been developed for project applications thus are extremely project-oriented. As you know and as elaborated above, in our work we’re not (only) implementing projects but we have a whole organization to run. I was wondering whether one could reflect this very different nature of a funding request in the criteria in order to shape it more accurately for this format. A reasonable step towards it would be defining how a funding request should look like and then adjusting the criteria accordingly. And last but not least: are the funding requests going to be evaluated just based on these criteria or will they also be weighted against each other?
A draft of the funding request template, as well as other supporting templates for the process can be found here. Libbie TBG (talk) 14:46, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply


  • Regarding “Roles and Responsibilities: I’m not sure how to interpret the fact that the description of the role of the WMF staff includes assessing potential for impact. In my understanding this was meant to be a core task of the FDC and not one of the supporting tasks of the WMF staff.
I just spoke about this with the Board. (Well, actually I spoke about it with Phoebe, SJ, Lyzzy and Arne, on IRC after a scheduled Board meeting had just ended.) Board members may want to comment here, as well as me. But I think the goal here is to preserve the time of the FDC, acknowledging that they are volunteers and that there are fixed deadlines built into the process that cannot be missed. We do not want the FDC to need to start from zero, with a blank slate, and to have to do all the work themselves. Therefore, the plan is for the staff to support the FDC by preparing materials for them. In my "three buckets of activity," above, the staff would be responsible for preparing materials that assess likely impact and assess organizations' ability to execute effectively. The FDC would be making the funding recommendations that appropriately align allocations against those assessments. That means that, when the rubber hits the road (please forgive that analogy, it may not translate well), the FDC is responsible for figuring out the actual allocations. I believe we want to reserve the FDC's time (which is necessarily going to be limited) for the area in which they can add the most value. Sue Gardner (talk) 20:13, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Of course, the FDC can do what it likes with the materials prepared for it by the staff. If it feels it should analyse impact or ability more closely itself, it is free to do so, and will probably benefit from not having to start from a blank slate, as you say. --Tango (talk) 22:25, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I would frame this as 'staff availability to handle a class of requests'. So the FDC is responsible for comparing the impact and priority of different projects, giving feedback along those lines, and allocating funds accordingly. Staff might provide routine analysis of all proposals, and the FDC can ask for staff support in preparing related materials or more detailed analysis. But the FDC would be free to make its own decisions on those matters. SJ talk  23:11, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • Eligibility requirements: The draft proposal points out to the possibility for smaller organizations to apply for the Wikimedia Grants program. It would be useful to add information about other possibilities like grants programs run by Chapters and other organizations.
  • According to the draft proposal funding cannot be used for legislative or lobbying activities. It would be very helpful if there was a precise definition of these two terms incorporated into the agreement. The definition of lobbying can vary from country to country and there are major differences regarding it between US and Europe. E.g. does lobbying mean giving money directly to a politician or does it also include organising political events? As a result we should all have a common and unambiguous understanding of what exactly can the funding be used for and for what it mustn’t. Also, this paragraph seems to be a funding restriction, although initially there was no restrictions planned. I was wondering whether there any other restrictions based in US charity law that need to be considered while spending the money?
I want to be careful about what I say here, acknowledging that I am not an expert in these issues. But in general, my understanding is that most/all chapters have other revenue sources, which in some cases are fairly substantial. I would be a little surprised if there were any chapters spending on lobbying or legislative activities, that did not have other revenue sources additional to the FDC. As long as the amount those organizations spend on lobbying or legislative activities (broadly defined, to be conservative, and using the American definition, because the purpose of this stipulation is to protect the Wikimedia Foundation's status as a 501(c)3 charity), does not exceed the unrestricted revenues they derive from non-FDC sources, I think those organizations would be fine to attest that they are not using FDC money for lobbying or legislative activities. I will ask Geoff/Garfield to speak further here, and obviously individual organizations would want to check their specific situations with the WMF and their own legal/regulatory advisors. Sue Gardner (talk) 20:13, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Asaf previously addressed this issue in part, the discussion for which can be found here and here. Big picture, we have constructed this so that the FDC does not need to deal with the complexities in this area of the law, and, for that reason, no FDC grants should be funding any type of political activities (permissible or impermissible). Instead, if a chapter wishes to engage in political activities, they should seek a grant from the Wikimedia Grants program (GAC). That program will have specialized and separately-tracked grants for permissible political activities. Put another way, the term "political activities" in the FDC statement is meant as a street sign, effectively directing potential grantees interested in such activities to the GAC. (I have corrected the language in the FDC statement to read "political activities" since the original version was not broad enough; U.S. law restricts more than just legislative lobbying.)
Here is why we are doing it this way. As you know, there are strict and enforced restrictions on the use of tax-exempt funds under the IRS regulations. You can find a summary of those limitations here. The use of WMF grants must comply with all the complexities and nuances of those regulations both in the U.S. and abroad. Different rules, for example, apply to lobbying legislators as opposed to presidents and prime ministers; to support of particular candidates engaged to campaigns as opposed to lobbying in favor of specific legislation; and to small expenditures vs. expenditures exceeding regulatory limits. Some of these activities are allowed, some are not. Some are well-defined, some are not. Those that can be defined and are permitted cannot exceed certain financial thresholds. All this needs to be spelled out in plain English and needs to be tracked according to auditing standards.
We don't believe any chapter or other organizations and groups would ever need a grant greater than $50,000 for political activities. For that reason, we want to have separate GAC grants for such activities. It allows WMF to monitor the use of that money more closely, ensuring it is used for the correct purposes and within the regulatory financial limits. In those grant agreements and supporting materials, there will be detailed, plain English definitions to ensure no misunderstanding depending on the needs of the specific grant and the type of covered activities. The high-level guidance of the IRS will always be available for grantees' understanding of the big picture. But we can monitor this with the grantees according to the specific objectives of the grants and define the parameters for the grantees according to those narrow objectives (as opposed to requiring grantees to understand the U.S. tax code as it applies to all situations).
Indeed, we anticipate that the larger chapters or other organizations and groups will not need WMF funds for political activities: they can use their own grants and donations outside WMF funding (and without U.S. restrictions embedded in the grants). If that is not possible, they can apply for a GAC grant for political activities (but will need to accept the U.S. limits).
As Pavel suggested, different countries have different legal restrictions on the use of the funds according to their own regulatory restraints on the activities of non-profits or tax-exempt organizations. Differences between countries are great, so each organization should know their laws in this area before employing WMF grants or their own revenue sources. (BTW, we are looking for any existing research that explains those differences; if we find anything, we will let people know.)
Geoffbrigham (talk) 00:11, 7 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
  • Regarding compensation: How about offering some attractive but not directly money-based membership perks? For example: a full scholarship for Wikimania, a budget for professional trainings (profitable also in members’ “regular” professional life), an invitation for a dinner with Jimmy Wales etc...--Pavel Richter (WMDE) (talk) 13:34, 5 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I like this -- it's a good idea. Thanks Pavel, for this and for your other comments. Sue Gardner (talk) 20:13, 6 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Presumably the FDC will have in-person meetings at Wikimanias, so their travel and accommodation would be an expense incurred carrying out their duties, which it is already agreed that they would be reimbursed for. Training members of this kind of committee is generally advisable, and the skills will be transferable to a lot of other situations, so it is quite valuable. Dinner with Jimmy, though... is that a reward? ;) --Tango (talk) 19:25, 7 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Tango, LOL. For many people, dinner with Jimmy would indeed be an important reward. When we were doing lots of major donor work, 'dinner with Jimmy' was reserved for the very biggest donors, because they loved it :-) Sue Gardner (talk) 17:36, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Should the WMF provide translation services for applications?


I've been thinking about this issue a little as I read the draft proposal prior to tomorrow's FDC meetings. Initially it seems like a good idea for the WMF to provide translation services for funding applications by FDC-eligible entities. But I'm not sure it's actually helpful to the process. Eligible entities, pretty much by definition, are not going to be small voluntary associations -- those entities will go to the other grants programs. FDC eligible-entities will almost certainly all have staff, and they will be organizations that are routinely running programmatic activities, spending cash, reporting on how it's spent, and so forth. It seems to me like organizations of that level of maturity should be easily capable of arranging, and paying for, professional translations. And I think it would be better for the organizations to have the translations done themselves, so that they can ensure they are comfortable with the work being done. Otherwise, if the WMF commissions translations, and the translators make mistakes, the eligible entity won't necessarily have easy recourse. They would need to complain to the WMF, who would then need to act as a go-between between the FDC and the entity. And the WMF would be hampered in doing that, because it wouldn't necessarily have fluency in the original language. This would all be quite time-consuming, which could threaten the EE's ability to meet the funding request deadline, and I don't see that the WMF involvement would actually any value to the process. So, I am thinking about changing the proposal to just say that materials need to be submitted in English, and eligible entities are responsible for having them translated if need be. Sue Gardner (talk) 19:56, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

I agree with your reasoning. Maybe an easy fix would be that EE´s can get the costs of translations back, regardless of the outcome of the proposal (but I have no idea how big of a problem these translation actually are, so maybe we do not need any fix?) There is, however, another aspect to this question: if the material is only available in the EE´s language and in English, how do we get community input / discussion from people who do not speak English or the EE´s language? --Pavel Richter (WMDE) (talk) 22:10, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I would prefer to see a few languages into which the most essential material (including proposal summaries) is translated; and a commitment to support that translation. Say starting with De/En/Es/Fr, covering both our largest chapters and the first or second language of most contributors. EE's using other languages would be asked to organize translations of their proposal into one of those languages.
As a matter of long-term planning, not just for the FDC work, the Foundation could use greater facility translating into and out of those languages - the strategy work we did three years ago did not fully take advantage of existing strategic work in German and French, and to this day we have limited cross-language dialogue in this area. This FDC process is one of many opportunities to fix that. SJ talk  22:47, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I agree that applicants should be responsible for translation. Apart from other practical considerations, the foundation should not itself be exposed to complaints that it erred in translation. But there's another consideration here: second-language speakers shouldn't be disadvantaged compared with native speakers where their English-language translation is, let's say, on the raw side. What can be done about assisting such applicants? Should the supporting staff perform fix-it jobs and return to the applicants for review and resubmission (provided the original submission was early enough)? Tony (talk) 08:50, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I agree, the WMF shouldn't do the translations itself, but it should pay for them. Requests to the FDC can include a budget for translation of the next year's request, but there will need to be a system for paying for an organisation's first request. Incidentally, I don't agree that all EEs will have staff. The eligibility criteria can easily be met without staff. I would expect new EEs to request funds from the FDC for their first staff members (excluding, perhaps, temporary stuff to run a specific project, which might be paid for out of a project grant direct from the WMF or a chapter). --Tango (talk) 14:30, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Bridgespan: should we merge the eligibility checklist and the letter of intent


Hey Bridgespan people -- I think we should likely merge the eligibility checklist and the letter of intent. The entity applying for funds is going to need to provide all that information anyway, so we may as well have them provide it up-front in the letter. That way, the WMF staff just needs to validate, not research everything from scratch. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 22:34, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Sure thing, Sue -- I just did this on the Templates page. Meerachary TBG (talk) 22:52, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Proposed revisions


I made a few edits and simplifications to sections mentioning the Board. Self-reverted; please review and apply where appropriate. I tried to clarify the Board's role (and areas where the Foundation as a whole, not the Board, has responsibility) without changing the spirit of the proposal. SJ talk  22:47, 8 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Most of those changes just make things crisper, but losing the bit about what the FDC is "The FDC is an advisory committee that serves at the discretion of the Board" is possibly a precis too far, all it leaves you with is that they serve at the discretion of the board. WereSpielChequers (talk) 00:12, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I suggested dropping that because we have never defined what an 'advisory committee' is. (Are all of our committees advisory? If not, what is different here?) I see your point; perhaps that term can be defined more clearly elsewhere. SJ talk  00:19, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
In practice some committees have delegated powers. If the FDC is doing an initial sift of proposals and only presenting those to the board that it recommends giving a grant to, then it is a gatekeeper to funds and has been delegated significant power. Of course that could be a smart design for the board, the FDC gets to be the mean guy who declines submissions whilst the board keeps the Fairy Godmother role of giving away money. If the board gets to see all applications with an FDC recommendation ranging from zero upwards, then there may seem to be little power with the FDC - provided the board has the time to properly consider the issue. Though in the current design with only one cycle of applications per year, all applications will go to the Board in one session and I doubt if in practice there would be much opportunity to change things at that meeting. Taking a hypothetical scenario, if one of the Board members asks "What happened to Ruritania? I thought they were planning to apply this year." and the FDC replies, "They did approach us, but they weren't quite ready, so we gave them some guidance and hope to see them apply next year." then it would be almost perverse for the Board to decide to award them money anyway. I'm hoping that the FDC will partially resolve this by moving to multiple application cycles so that if Ruritania are turned down on their first application they don't have to wait a whole year to apply again. But from the way the discussion is going on this page I suspect it won't do so until there have been a couple of lost opportunities. WereSpielChequers (talk) 08:19, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Ah, SJ -- I like your edits, thank you. I've never done this kind of editing, where someone makes & reverts edits, as (in effect, I think) a way to propose them rather than just changing the text. It's a lovely diplomatic way to do it, but in this instance I'm afraid time has overrun us, and the proposal has changed significantly since you reverted yourself. If you want to go back through and just make the relevant edits now, that would be great. If you don't have time, I will do it later this week, or ask someone else to. Thanks (and let me know if I'm misunderstanding, and there's some easy way to incorporate your edits without overwriting other people's). Sue Gardner (talk) 16:20, 10 June 2012 (UTC) Bridgespan is happy to go through SJ's edits and incorporate those that are still relevant! Libbie TBG (talk) 16:25, 10 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Evaluations and assessing potential


One of the topics above is the role of staff (WMF or other) in supporting the FDC, and assessing impact or measuring proposals against criteria. I think that as much as possible of the routine tasks of processing proposals - from evaluating clear-cut criteria to doing financial and legal due diligence - should be included in the review timeline, and delegated to staff. The Committee and Board can then focus on reviewing those evaluations (and improving their process where necessary), making allocations based on them, and working with proposers to improve their programs or collaborate better with similar programs.

I see five groups that engage in these sorts of programmatic decisions[ each year], with more or less structure:

  1. Community groups that want to see work done to improve their projects
  2. The chapters who review their own slate of programs and set plans each year
  3. The FDC, helping unify planning and funding across the movement
  4. The WMF grant and legal staff, who oversee grantmaking and funding
  5. The WMF Board, who approve the FDC's yearly budget and its slate of recommendations

It would be helpful to have a regular framework of evaluation and impact assessment, to support the FDC's work as well as that of the rest of the movement. The FDC will play a key role here, and should fit into existing processes and help align them with one another. This should be part of how we listen to our communities, our reusers, and our coordinators; an essential part of how we make the projects better each year.

Each element below can be published and discussed on Meta, with summaries translated into a few core languages.

Input into the overall funding discussion
  • A strategic evaluation of the biggest opportunities and problems that have not yet been addressed. How could each be addressed? Is it something where we have expertise within the movement? (by a strategy body)
  • A report on community suggestions and priorities, broken out by community and potential impact. (by individual communities / a strategy body)
  • A summary of movement risks (by the WMF Audit committee)
Input into the FDC's decisions
Summary of the overall strategy and context, plus:
  • Help drafting the initial proposals, reviewing them, understanding the criteria for them. (by clerks / community / staff)
  • Automatic evaluation of proposals according to basic criteria. (by clerks and/or staff)
  • Comments on the slate of approvals by WMF financial and legal staff - who are obliged to review them (due diligence) before funds are distributed. This could be done before the FDC submit their full recommendation to the Board. (by WMF staff)
  • Summary of non-FDC grants projected for the year (by WMF staff)
Input into the Board's decisions
FDC recommendations, risks and staff summaries, plus:
  • Reviews of any formal complaints or controversies in the above (by ombudsmen; published where possible)

SJ talk  00:07, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

This is a very useful formulation which shows how different 'stakeholders' (pardon jargon) could contribute to the FDC, so that it realizes its potential. The FDC is a novel idea, and I would really like to see it designed and constructed such that it gets movement-wide acceptance and realizes its potential to further movement goals. Building on this, it would be great if the FDC advisory group could work further to clarify the roles and responsibilities of each movement group - projects, chapters, FDC members, WMF staff, WMF board. I am deliberately shying away from using the term 'community', since all of us together form the larger wikimedia community. For those of us on the WMF board, such an exercise would also help us understand more precisely the board's role and responsibilities with respect to the FDC.
And overall, thanks for an excellent, meaty, and solid discussion that explores many aspects very constructively. Bishdatta (talk) 06:24, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Sj and Bishdatta, I spent some time in the WMF office yesterday talking with financial and legal staff, and came away from it thinking that we are on our way to having these roles fleshed out. Maybe not the specific details yet, but a good understanding that the FDC with be working with an already established organization that has people available to perform key tasks...such as formal reviews by the Financial staff of ways funds are spent. I see us adding volunteers off and on the FDC to the process at every juncture because we know that is the best approach to use to get our mission accomplished. :-) Sj, your framework is a good general outline of how I see the different roles working together. FloNight (talk) 14:23, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

It's in a mess


In fact, it's in such a mess that I can't even tell whether it's a good or a bad thing. As an independent grant-application professional in RL, I'll comment on just a few matters.

Fuzzy timelines and application cycles. Expectations of yearly extensions "once you're in the loop" threaten to undermine much of the reason for moving to FDC-based funding and auditing in the first place. What specifically is undermined is the discipline of apply – conduct – report – be audited – option to re-apply for extension with renewed aims and approach. Why is the timing so inflexibly bound to one-year units? Other bodies with yearly budges have accounting systems that manage this. Can't a project take 18 months? Or three? If the foundation is worried about year-to-year revenue, you proceed under the assumption that only a minority of projects will be approved as lasting for more than a year. Most grant bodies gain their flexibility by performing a balancing act involving the juggling of:

  • the number of grants approved;
  • the amount of trimming of individual budgets;
  • tweaking of their expected timeframes.

One size fits all. The FDC appears to be serving two quite different funding roles. One is to judge applications for recurrent "operating" grants for the chapters and other entities, vaguely and superficially dressed up as specific, themed projects (this is the uncomfortable feeling I get from the draft application form, both in the compliance information it requires ... which will apparently already be known by WMF staff, and in the WMDE "example"). The other role is to judge applications for specific, themed projects – presumably relatively modest in budget. At the moment, the draft application form seems to be wedged awkwardly between the two types. One solution is to call for applications in two separate categories, with partly overlapping but separately expressed aims, criteria, and minimum funding (I was aghast to see the notion of the minimum removed). Do you want to avoid encouraging chapters to shoehorn their operating expenses into themed projects?

Evaluation criteria poorly framed. The application form is the most obvious mess. It needs to explicitly insist on justification in relation to evalutation criteria – they are the anchor, the starting point. Apparently they're "roughly based on the criteria that the Grants Advisory Committee uses to evaluate request for funding that come through the Wikimedia Grants program." Can I say, these serve that GAC poorly: they are a bad fit for any applications process. They morph from rather too broadly expressed vision stuff at the top ("improve quality" of what?) into a mixture of more specific strategies for the whole movement. Not all of these visionary aims could possibly apply to every project for which funding is sought – even the operating grants chapters might dress up as themed projects. The section moves to a list of essential but technocratic compliance-type issues mixed up with points that are presumably of prime concern in shaping the aims and outcomes of each project. Only some of these points are suitable for framing responses in the application form(s). The section needs recasting.

Application form needs proper structure. The current draft form presents confusions in a number of ways. There needs to be a strong relationship with WMF strategies; but this relationship is queasy at best in the draft. A structure along the lines I've exemplified below with brief instructions in situ would be analogous to best practice, for research and infrastrastucture funding at least. Some idea of response lengths is required, and a decision is required as to whether explicit percentage weightings are to be used. While not essential, this might make the FDC's task more stratified and thus easier – points initially awarded could of course be disregarded or changed by the FDC. (Background and aims would not normally attract a percentage weighting, a fundamental but necessary irony of this kind of process.) The percentages don't add to 100 because I don't have a clear picture of the totality. Certainly many of the requirements of the application are binary (e.g. you comply legally or you don't) and as a prior hurdle will presumably not occupy the FDC's judgemental process (nor the form, please). Is the form an audit instrument as well as one to judge the quality and competetiveness of each project (or plan, a most unsatisfactory term IMO)?

This is just a quick example cobbled together:

Sample form in part


  • Write up to several paragraphs explaining the context of the project.


  • Write a brief, clear statement of aims. This may or may not be expressed as an overall aim (one or two sentences stating the ambition) and specific aims (often bulleted).


  • Write several paragraphs on why the plan matters to the WMF movement, the relevant WMF sites(s), and in broader terms.
  • If the project will add new knowledge to or spur innovation in the Wikimedia movement, this should be explained.
  • Clearly state the anticipated impacts.


  • Clearly set out how the project will be conducted. It may or may not be appropriate to section this into stages or phases.
  • Include a proposed timeline showing that the activities are logically sequenced and realistically framed in relation to the duration of the project.


  • Outline any risks or weaknesses and how these will be minimized.
  • Provide information on the availability and readiness of volunteers and other non-financial resources required to execute the project.


  • Provide a set of milestones by which the FDC can later measure your success. [needs more detailed instructions]


A few random points about the whole process:

  • Overheads looking large in relation to funds disseminated. I think I'd be personally upset if we found the allocations process (including monitoring and auditing) was 15% of the value of the funds. Two staff are ?$250k, FDC meetings another ?$100k, other staff input and costs $150k, so there's $500k per annum already. The process needs to be efficient – this hasn't figured as a concern anywhere, as far as I can see.
  • FDC framed as very weak. I'm horrified to see the bloat and crowd mentality ... either we trust the FDC or we don't, and if it needs fixing, we doso. Ombudsperson? right of appeal? Open on-wiki commentary? This will make it very messy, and all will reduce the freedom of the FDC to act efficiently, fairly, and fearlessly. In fact, the FDC itself is looking very weak now, hedged in on all sides. It strikes me that in addition to the two necessary factors (board oversight and the role of the WMF staff) the FDC is going to be hamstrung – and ultimately scandal-ridden – by some of these other factors. If used at all, they should be closely constrained. Otherwise, why have the FDC at all? This invitation for post-decision bickering and on-wiki commentary bloat looks like bad process and bad PR; let the FDC get on with the job; then review its operations.
  • Support staff. Two WMF full-time sounds about right (but I don't abide the quanta provided by that other foundation – about $X million per person, etc ... very arbitrary). There seems to be equivocation over whether they should have contact with applicants, even directly assisting them in their preparation. There are fundamental risks in building in this relationship between the FDC and applicants, but I note that it's established practice in the UK's research grant system (the EPSRC, possibly renamed now, has open phone and email contact with applicants ... and people seem to like it). I lean towards minimal contact, allowing staff to communicate with applicants concerning non-compliance, obvious deficiencies in the form, translation queries, and a good idea that could be fixed with a little advice, particularly from the South. The FDC's relationship with these support staff seems to be conceived without much depth of thought; I'd assume that FDC oversight will be the guarantee that the staff are even-handed in relation to their employer, the foundation. At the moment, the system seems to allow the staff to take over almost all of the FDC's role; they need to be explicitly accountable to the FDC (messy, isn't it, that they must also be accountable to the WMF person they report to ... maybe it can be arranged to work).
  • A ceiling on grants for individual projects would force some of the larger chapters to conceive their applications in greater focus and detail, rather than applying for megabucks to run their bureaucracies. Maybe there need to be several categories, like "small grants", "large grants", etc.
  • I'm pleased to see that excess funding will go into the rainy-day fund. How will the FDC be encouraged to constrain its granting this rather than setting its benchmarks low to justify spending all of their allocation? It can be hard to voluntarily sacrifice spending power.

In short, I'm skeptical that as currently framed this will be anything but a disaster for the foundation. Prove me wrong.

Tony (talk) 13:24, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Hello Tony1, Thank you for your detailed comments. Some of the items that you brought up are already on the agenda for us to discuss. [3] We're closely following the talk page comments and will be discussing the different ideas and options presented here. Many of the topics are things that we are already thinking through. I'm optimistic that our final version will be a better than a mess :-). And that with tweaking over the next few years it will be a great plan. FloNight (talk) 14:04, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Tony1, Good inputs. I a bit more optimistic that we can figure it out and we'll probably make mistakes in the early iterations. Your comments above are really helpful in pushing things in the right direction. There is new work that Bridgespan is going to share on the application form and evaluation criteria. It would be great to have your critique on these when they get posted. Best, --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 17:20, 9 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
+1, thanks for this great feedback Tony. SJ talk  16:31, 18 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Tony, thank you for your comments. We have made revisions to the Grant application form and have added an Evaluation Rubric to add more structure and clarity. We welcome your thoughts. -Divya (talk) 20:42, 18 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

FDC Advisory Group meeting notes


The summary and detailed notes of the FDC Advisory Group meeting is available for review here. Many thanks to the Advisory Group members for their time and deep engagement. The next step will be for Bridgespan to integrate the results of the discussions into a new revision of the Proposal.--Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 20:08, 10 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Thanks Barry, for staying after the meeting with Sydney and Thomas and Richard to get the notes posted. And I want to add my thanks too to the Advisory Group, who did really good work this weekend, and to the staff and Bridgespan for supporting them.
Recapping next steps on the proposal -- yes, Bridgespan will be editing the proposal to integrate the agreements we reached this weekend. Also, they are going to add in SJ's proposed edits from last week. And later this coming week, you, Bridgespan and I will meet to continue refining the proposal.
I just looked quickly through its current state, and at a quick glance I am guessing I will want us to spend time on these areas: i) The assessment and improvement process (currently reads a bit like a wishlist rather than a realistic plan); ii) dispute resolution process, which I think got some good discussion this weekend, raising issues we will need to resolve and iii) perhaps a walk-through/role-play of the application process. I am worried the application process might be unworkable in ways we haven't surfaced yet, because we have not walked it through beginning-to-end, and I'd like to look for ways to streamline/simplify it wherever we can. But that's just off the top of my head -- I am happy to also do other things, if there are areas you &/or Bridgespan are identifying as needing attention. Thanks Sue Gardner (talk) 21:36, 10 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Thank you for sharing the notes so promptly (you didn't even make us wait until Monday morning!). It looks like some very good discussions were had. There are a couple of conclusions I disagree with, but it looks like all the issues were considered so I won't try and drag us backwards. I look forward to reading the revised proposal and discussing what will, hopefully, just be a few finishing touches. --Tango (talk) 22:40, 10 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Changes to the draft proposal based on the Advisory Group's discussion and input


Libbie and I have made some edits to the proposal, including:

  • Discussion item 4: Use of surplus funds - Included language clarifying that the FDC allocation will be set once a year by the Board in the annual planning cycle, and that it exists independent of fundraiser performance. This is detail that is included in the Board resolution.
  • Discussion item 5: Applicant eligibility requirements - Changed eligibility criteria from "two consecutive grants" to "two grants successfully completed."
  • Discussion item 6: Application timeline - Clarified that entities will specify on on the Letter of Intent if they intend to apply for Round 1 or Round 2 of funds. This information will allow the FDC to balance allocations across the two rounds (which was a concern raised by the Advisory Group)
  • Discussion item 8: Role of the FDC in evaluating proposals - Including in the evaluation criteria a process to acknowledge and assess the process that applicants take to develop and vet their proposed plans with their own Boards and communities
  • Discussion item 9: Role of the Ombudsperson - Added section under "Roles and Responsibilities" to define the role of the Ombudsperson
  • Discussion item 11: Term lengths for FDC members - Changed to 2 year terms and removed term limits
  • Other changes made based on Advisory Group discussion and input:
    • Responsibility for translation: The proposal was modified to clarify that entities are responsible for translating application materials into English, rather than relying on FDC staff to do this. This change was made to reflect the fact that eligible entities should have the capacity to engage the community in translation and/or pay for the cost of translation, and that it would be better for them to control the translation process to ensure the application they submit reflects their intent.

LauraL TBG (talk) 23:54, 11 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Two more edits from the meeting this weekend:

  • Discussion item 12: Established expectations for FDC members and outlined process for dealing with member inactivity
  • Discussion item 13: Enhanced the criteria by which the FDC process will be evaluated
  • Discussion item 14: Removed reference to the honorarium and enhanced examples of potential perks for FDC membership
  • Other changes:
    • Added a section outlining the role of the FDC Chair

Libbie TBG (talk) 17:08, 12 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

I don't understand item 4. The board resolution says "All funds raised via the Wikimedia project sites will be distributed via the recommendations of the FDC, with the exception of Wikimedia Foundation core operating costs and the operating reserve as described above." The core operating costs and operating reserve will be determined in the annual plan, and then everything else goes through the FDC. Where has this concept of an "FDC allocation" come from? --Tango (talk) 00:35, 12 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Tango. Are you saying the same thing??? Core + Reserve + FDC allocation = Total??

Since the donation stream doesn't have a finite stop date/time the board will have to determine the 'total' available for division at any one time. Regards, Ariconte (talk) 01:01, 12 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

The resolution implies there shouldn't be an explicit FDC allocation, it is simply whatever is left after the core and reserve are subtracted from the total. That means it very much depends on the total. Item 4 contradicts that. --Tango (talk) 01:10, 12 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
Hi Tango, I think we're all saying the same thing. Each year, the Board of Trustees needs to make a determination about how fundraising money is distributed across the three categories we outline: core expenses, the reserve, and the FDC. Determining the need for core expenses is clear-- these funds have very little flexibility. But the allocation between the FDC and reserve is a little more nuanced- how much goes into reserve will be somewhat determined about how much it is estimated the FDC will need to support high impact activities in the movement. Similarly, the FDC allocation will be limited by the need to build and maintain a healthy reserve. This is why we're thinking about this more as an allocation and not just the left-overs. Does that make sense? Libbie TBG (talk) 15:28, 13 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
It makes sense, but it is the completely wrong way to think about reserves. The only reserves that should be kept are those that are necessary to give the WMF the needed security. Money shouldn't be kept as reserves just because you haven't got anything better to spend it on - if that's the case, you shouldn't be raising it in the first place. I don't know the official position on this in the US, but the UK charities commission in very clear in its guidance on reserves [4] and I believe in Germany this position is elevated to an actual legal requirement. Whatever the official position is in the US, it is still good practice to only hold such reserves as are necessary and the WMF should follow that good practice. --Tango (talk) 18:22, 13 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

One more set of edits:

  • Discussion item 3: Clarity on the types of grants to go through the FDC - Added in some detail based on an in-depth, but inconclusive discussion about which entites MUST apply to the FDC (rather than through the Wikimedia Grants Program). This text is still work-in-progress, but it attempts to clarify the distinction between the FDC and the Wikimedia Grants program, and define terms of "general operating support" and "project support". This is mostly aligned with the draft criteria suggested by the Advisory Group, except in two cases:
    • I've added in detail that eligible entities that are applying for project funds of more than $50K should go through the FDC, as I think it is appropriate to build in that level of scrutiny for requests over that dollar amount. This is consistent with how other grantmaking organizations do this - in those contexts, smaller projects can be approved directly by program officers, larger requests are subject to board approval, etc.
    • While the Advisory Group discussed the possibility of having entities that are applying for general operating support below a certain amount to be able to chose betweeen the Grants Program and the FDC, I think this adds in a potential for unhealthy gamesmanship, so I've put into the proposal that all entites requested general operating support should request it from the FDC. LauraL TBG (talk) 22:28, 12 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
      • Update: just removed stipulation that project grants over $50K should go through the FDC - for the purpose of streamlining, FDC will handle general operating support, Wikimedia Grants program will handle project grants. LauraL TBG (talk) 01:11, 15 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Nominations for the FDC


A new page for FDC member nominations has been created as well. See Funds Dissemination Committee/Nominations --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 20:10, 10 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

The intro talks about self-nominating, but there are sections for nominations and self-nominations. Is the intention that either is ok? If so, I advise against having two sections - if both are ok, they should be treated equally, and that's easier if they are all together. --Tango (talk) 22:35, 10 June 2012 (UTC)Reply
I think both are OK; I will merge the section heads. Regards, Ariconte (talk) 22:43, 10 June 2012 (UTC)Reply

Impact measures


Sue has commented on the proposal itself about impact measures, I'll copy that comment here rather than reply on the proposal, since that could quickly get messy:

This feels to me like a very heavy lift. #1, A lot of the work the movement is doing rig