Grants talk:Annual/Draft

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NOTE: This discussion is understandably affected by that other discussion. Whatever the outcome of that discussion, and whatever the Board ultimately resolves, the WMF is interested in developing a good process and set of criteria for offering unrestricted operating budgets to chapters, via grants based on annual plans.

Therefore, please let us try to discuss that process and those criteria here, and leave the larger issues of fundraising over there. Thanks! Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)


Board turnover[edit]

I am concerned about the requirement to have less than 50% turnover of the board. There is always a difficult balance to be struck between continuity/stability and accountability/bringing in new blood. I think chapters should be free to decide for themselves where they should be in that spectrum. If there is evidence of a problem caused by too high turnover that makes it appear that the chapter may not be able to abide by its obligations, then it makes sense to proceed with caution, but I don't think there should be a hard-and-fast rule about turnover levels. At the moment, Wikimedia UK (which fundraises, so wouldn't be signing this agreement, but that isn't really important) has in its constitution that all board members resign at each AGM. That means the level of turnover is in the hands of the members - they can choose to re-elect members of the outgoing board, or to elect new people. The current board has only 3 out of 7 members that were on the previous board, although the previous board only had 5 members due to not enough people standing, so depending on interpretation WMUK may or may not qualify for a grant under that rule. I will be proposing an amendment at the next AGM to bring in 2 year terms and staggered elections (I brought a similar motion to the previous AGM, but it was defeated due to problems in the details), but WMUK's place within the Movement shouldn't be conditional on the outcome of that vote. --Tango 00:26, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

Also, stability can be achieved despite a high board turnover if there is a stable staff (it would be far from ideal if the entire board were to change in on go, but you can manage fine with significantly less than 50% staying on if the day-to-day stuff can be handled by the staff while the new board gets up to speed). --Tango 00:36, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Second this, my chapter has had a 100% turnover over its last two terms (after mid-term resignations are taken into account). That said, it's been less than 50% at each election (33% at the last one), but potentially locking out chapters because people have had to resign for health or personal reasons seems a bit harsh. Craig Franklin 02:18, 31 December 2011 (UTC).
Certainly, 50% was just a placeholder number, and should have been replaced before publishing -- I changed it to 61%, which allows for a change of up to three members in a typical five-member board without being considered unstable. There can be additional flexibility in assessing stability in cases of resignations (rather than replacement by elections). Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Still sounds like an unhealthy motivation for me to re-elect someone. With this requirement you may in certain situations be saying to the members of an independent organization that if they don't elect the right people (imagine that only 2 of the 5 are up for re-election), you will not even consider their grant request, even if the other candidates all are experienced within the chapter one way or another, and can be much more active than the two who suck at their job but happen to be incumbant. It also would make it impossible for a chapter to 'fire' its board for doing a bad job (for example, because they don't work hard enough to fulfill our common commitments), and allow another group of candidates to take over who are more up to the job. I would rather not impose requirements that could influence elections in such an unhealthy way. Effeietsanders 08:12, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree. Chapter board are elected by members and those members shouldn't have any restrictions on who they vote for imposed on them by the WMF. --Tango 12:21, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
After further thought on this, I agree with Effeietsanders. Although I'm sure it's not the intention, it does seem to be fraught with potential problems with being seen to influence the elections of an independent body and subsequent charges of WMF intimidation or interference in the democratic processes of a chapter. It could also blow up in the WMF's face by making it hard for chapter members to throw out an anti-WMF board and replace it with a pro-WMF one ;-). Perhaps a more general statement about "administrative stability" being desirable or somesuch? Craig Franklin 13:21, 4 January 2012 (UTC).
+1, this is a slippery slope if the WMF starts to impose restrictions on who can be a board member and when or how of independent organisations. If you are afraid that a given board cannot handle the money, you might decide to transfer the money in instalments, and make the transfer of any given instalment conditional on good behaviour with the previous instalment. --Dami 16:37, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I see and appreciate your points. Do you see mine? I.e. do you understand the concern? Do you share it? If the answer to both is yes, can you propose some other concrete metric to address this concern? We're trying to avoid nebulous terms such as "administrative stability" that could make it seem arbitrary to approve X and deny Y. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 17:44, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
It might make sense to spell out your concerns, as I am not sure we think of the same things. I believe you want three things in the event of changes in board leadership: 1) a treasurer-type person who is willing and able to continue and maintain the necessary records and reports required for the grant; 2) a commitment to continue and fulfill an agreed-to plan even if the chapter leadership changes; and 3) a continued ability of the chapter as a whole to fulfill its plan under the grant. I think, it helps us to better think about solving this question if we see what you want.
For example, the duty arising from 1) is a contractual requirement that the chapter would need to fulfill even if they don't like it. If the board change happens mid-year, you should think about contractual penalties and structures if they become unwilling or unable to fulfill it. If the board change happens before applying for a new grant, then they would actively be applying to take on these responsibilities regardless of the fact that the board is new. (What would help is an audit of how much administrative overhead the grant includes; [if things go well, I would like to have this quantified in the reports we do on the grant we got this year]; so the board can make an informed decision).
2) is again a contractual matter if a board change happens mid-year; if the new board cannot be committed to fulfil the plan, they would have either to abandon it or request a modification under the terms of the contract. If the board change happens before the plan was submitted, they would have the opportunity to submit a plan that they can committ to. I think 3) is the point you are most afraid of, and one that I will have to think about to offer suggestions on – at this point, it seems unlikely that you can set up a metric for this that you can evaluate without some "human" (subjective) element (e.g. have a person who sometimes has conversations with chaptersfolk to get a sense of what is going on – this is a bit off-topic here, but I think it is high time the WMF started to have someone on its payroll with this duty). --Dami 18:07, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I certainly do understand the benefits of stability and continuity. That is why, as I've already mentioned, I'm proposing the introduction of staggered elections for the WMUK board. That will only get implemented, however, if the members of WMUK decide they want to implement it. That is how it should be. How WMUK chooses its board isn't my decision any more than it is the WMF's. Even if the entire board changes, the chapter is the same legal entity. All its obligations survive the transition; it has the same objects written into its constitution; it has the same members holding the board to account. If the new board goes rogue then there are ways to deal with that, but the assumption should be that the new board will continue where the old board left off. They may have different ideas about what and how things should be done, but they'll still be running a Wikimedia chapter and we should assume they will behave accordingly unless there is evidence to the contrary. In fact, you can have a lot more faith in chapters being stable than you can the WMF due to chapters being membership organisations. For a chapter to go properly rogue, you would need to overcome dozens if not hundreds of members. The WMF could go rogue with just 5 or 6 board members going off the rails. --Tango 23:17, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
@Asaf: I see your concern, I just don't agree it is that major. I know many student organizations which have a 100% turnover in the board every single year - that is simply how they work. And they can handle quite significant budgets as well. The most important thing is that there is a proper knowledge transfer process in place when that happens. Perhaps that would be something to focus on - but I don't believe that this should be part of a grant requirement, but much rather of suggestions which will work out differently in each country anyway because of cultural, legal and people differences. Effeietsanders 08:42, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Asaf, yes I do understand the concern and to a degree I share it. Obviously, if a chapter or other organisation is in a state of administrative chaos it would make one think twice about granting money to them. However, in this case I think that the proposed medicine is worse than the disease. I'm not exactly sure how to fix it, do you know of any other large granting organisations that also find this a concern, and how do they deal with it? In situations where the WMF has received large grants, has this been a clause or concern of the granting institution (that you know of)? Craig Franklin 11:18, 5 January 2012 (UTC).


Thank you for all the comments above. You made good arguments, and I am now convinced this requirement may end up doing more harm than good. I have therefore removed it. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Excellent, thankyou. Craig Franklin 06:31, 7 January 2012 (UTC).


I disagree with the prohibition on deficit budgets. If a charity has reserves that are larger than are reasonable and necessary (either due to underspending the previous year or due to the required reserves reducing for whatever reason) it is entirely proper to run a deficit budget and spend some of those reserves. I think you mean chapters shouldn't plan to go into debt, which is a good requirement, but that isn't what the word "deficit budget" means to me. --Tango 00:26, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

Agreed here as well. WMAU is planning at this stage to run a deficit in this financial year to burn through some of the cash reserves we've previously accumulated. Craig Franklin 02:19, 31 December 2011 (UTC).
Correct again. Fixed. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Much better, thanks. --Tango 12:22, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Splendid. I can think of particular situations where it might be justifiable for a chapter to borrow money (large scale capital expenditures for long-term projects, for instance), but those would be the exception rather than the rule and I'm sure that the WMF would be willing to discuss in good faith any cases where that might come up (right?). Craig Franklin 13:17, 4 January 2012 (UTC).
Right. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 17:44, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Great :-). Craig Franklin 01:23, 5 January 2012 (UTC).

Policies relating to staff[edit]

The draft says that all sorts of policies have to be in place before hiring staff. Those kinds of policies are very difficult for a board without much experience running non-profits to write and I think it makes a lot of sense to have them written by experienced staff as one of their first jobs. --Tango 02:24, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

Here I disagree. I think if the board cannot resolve questions such as a hiring policy on its own, it is not ready to do any actual hiring. Chapters would be encouraged to compare, learn from, and ste--adopt policies from the WMF or other chapters. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I would suggest to at least broaden the wording here and replace board with 'chapter'. We happen to have many different chapter structures, and in some structures it might actually be a different body which has authority over this kind of policies etc. And do we in the end care whether the policies are set by the General Assembly, Board of Trustees, Fiscal Council, Board of Executives, the Director or YouNameIt? As long as it is in accordance with their (approved) bylaws. Effeietsanders 08:15, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I disagree. You don't need a policy for a one-off event, which is what hiring someone to write the policies would be. For one-off events you can just decide what is a good course of action for that specific case. You can't just adopt policies from a body in a completely different jurisdiction. Hiring policies need to depend heavily on local employment law and custom. It might be worth looking at what others do for ideas, but if you are going to use someone else's policy as a template it needs to be from a similar body in your own jurisdiction (in these matters, chapters tend to have more in common with similar non-profits in their own country than they do with other chapters). You are better off seeking specific legal advice on how to go about your first hiring. Trying to put everything down on paper in full generality before you are ready to do so is a mistake. --Tango 12:27, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think it's entirely a good idea to direct chapters looking to hire to the Foundation's hiring policies for use as a template. Labour laws, payroll taxes, and hiring customs and practices differ widely across different countries, and a chapter just adopting the WMF guidelines is setting itself up for serious legal trouble. My advice would be to go and engage a professional payroll and recruitment firm or consultant to advise on the best practices and policies to adopt in a particular territory, rather than picking up something that may be totally inappropriate. Craig Franklin 13:13, 4 January 2012 (UTC).
Certainly, I don't suggest that chapters would have to adopt these policies from either the WMF or any other source as-is! I merely point to one possible source of assistance to chapter boards (or assemblies, yes), most of which will have had little or no experience in developing such policies. As you say, professional HR consultants are another source. Commissioning an HR consultant to help the chapter develop policies, by the way, should not be considered hiring staff, but rather engaging professional services, so there's no chicken and egg problem here. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 17:44, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

It would be nice to see a concrete example of how such a policy would look like. I don't think it is the best idea to set up a very detailed HR-policy that can handle every contingency of a 100-member organisation for a chapter hiring its first employee or even the second one (the example list of "evaluation, budget oversight, termination of staff" is probably part of the employment contract of the employee at this point). Also, as has been noted, its not a best idea to give tasks to the board of the chapter, for the reason, that it will then need to be defined in a separate agreement (or in notifications like with the UN system e.g. [1]) what is the "board" for any given chapter, and secondly, that in more advanced chapters, most functions of the board (such as the day-to-day HR) are taken care of by staff. --Dami 16:45, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

I'll amend the "board" mentions to a more inclusive phrase. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 17:44, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Just to clarify, do you mean this as the WMF hiring policy (if there is an other one, it doesn't come up with an easy search on the WMF website)? --Dami 18:16, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

That is certainly a component of what could be considered the "hiring policy" of the WMF. But I meant that in a more comprehensive way, to include other (more prosaic) HR questions, such as timing, severance terms, reporting structure, etc. What we aim to see is that a chapter has given these issues thought before asking for a budget to fund a hire -- not necessarily some one comprehensive document. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Grant agreement[edit]

The draft says you have to be able to sign the standard grant agreement. I think experience has clearly shown that standard agreements don't work - they have to be tailored to each chapter due to the different legal situations they are all in. I know that means more work for the WMF, but I don't think it can be avoided. Also, is there a draft grant agreement available somewhere (I know there is the transitional one, but I would expect a lot to change from that one given the additional experience and time to think and discuss that we've had since it was written)? --Tango 02:24, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

We're confident most chapters and jurisdictions allow the use of a standard grant agreement. Should difficulties arise, I'm sure our legal team can tweak and improve the standard agreement to adhere to and comply with whatever is needed. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
You can't have a prerequisite that only "most" chapters can meet. And could you please answer my second question? --Tango 12:29, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps, rather than "standard agreement", the approach of a "template agreement" could be taken. It would contain all the basic legal terms and conditions, and then on a bilateral basis the WMF and the Chapter could add or alter terms to meet any unique requirements that a particular body might have. I know in terms of the existing "standard agreement", Wikimedia Australia felt that there were various clauses that were inappropriate and others that were omitted but necessary, and we're generally happy that the WMF has been quite accommodating to our concerns in that regard (without, I must add, being a total pushover and giving us everything we wanted). Craig Franklin 13:16, 4 January 2012 (UTC).
I was not proposing a prerequisite only most chapters would meet; I was proposing that most chapters can already sign a standard agreement, and furthermore that we can make sure our standard agreement be made signable in any other jurisdictions as well.
One standard agreement is important to reduce overhead in both legal work and the effort expended to ensure compliance and follow-up.
Tom, re the transitional agreement, there have not been significant changes, actually, from the latest version up on the Internal wiki, but we (all) might tweak it a little before we put this proposed policy in place. Perhaps some of the changes requested by e.g. WMAU would make sense to make part of the standard agreement. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 17:44, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
If you are customising it to work in other jurisdictions then it isn't standard anymore. --Tango 19:18, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think it is worthwhile to argue about semantics concerning an agreement that is not even in draft form. Hopefully, we can all air our concerns before the draft-to-be is finalized thus save the WMF some time and expense in the future, and on the other hand, I am sure the WMF will act in good faith if the standard agreement does need to be customised further. --Dami 19:31, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
My concerns aren't about the agreement but about how this page refers to the agreement. That is a worthwhile discussion to have at this time. --Tango 23:06, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I did not mean customizing, I meant we hope to be able to make minor changes as needed to accommodate other jurisdictions and make that the new standard version. Incidentally, that's what Creative Commons are hoping to do with CC 4.0, to replace the "portable" model of the 3.0 licenses. I don't know for sure that is feasible; glad I'm not in the Legal dept. Anyway, see description of change below. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I suggest to remove the "standard" from this clause. After all, we're talking about *prerequisites* here, which are needed to even enter the process. It may be obvious that if a chapter has a good reason to tweak the agreement, the foundation should consider this, but that can be dealth with elsewhere. An agreement is needed for sure, whether that is a standard agreement or a tweaked one is for later and individual negotiation I'd say. Effeietsanders 09:51, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for this suggestion, it makes sense. The prerequisite is really that the chapter be willing and able to sign a grant agreement. We would all prefer it to be a standard one, if at all possible, but yes, some minor tweaks are conceivable. I have changed the prerequisites section accordingly. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Privacy policy[edit]

The current draft states: "Commitment to adhere to WMF Privacy Policy" - I suggest to broaden this a bit to allow a local version which adheres to the local laws. The current wording could be interpreted that every single clause there would have to be followed - and there are some that are US or Foundation specific. Effeietsanders 09:48, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Agreed. What we really want is compatibility with the WMF's privacy policy. Thanks for pointing this out! Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Non-profit status[edit]

I am not entirely sure I agree with this requirement. In general I do agree that chapters in general have to be non-profit. However, does it for the grant agreement matter whether this has been formalized? For the fundraising I can imagine it is a huge thing, but if it is in a specific country just more efficient to not pursue this status, wouldn't that make sense? I guess it is nice to have, but again not sure it should be a prerequisite. In some countries the consequence of this requirement might be a *lot* of unnecessary bureaucracy. Effeietsanders 10:34, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

I think the current phrasing -- "having or pursuing non-profit status (where available under local law)" -- allows enough flexibility. We do want chapters to pursue a non-profit status -- if it's, say, a complicated process taking three years, it's fine for a chapter to be in the "pursuing" category rather than the "having" one. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 01:50, 18 January 2012 (UTC)

Nice/need to have[edit]

Building forth on the previous paragraph, would it make sense to split this prerequisites into a "requirements" section and a "nice to have" section? For the Nice to Have section I would imagine that this takes the form of "comply or explain" - where it would be OK under circumstances for a chapter not to comply, but they would have to explain why they don't. That way we can tackle a lot of the exception situations and focus on what is *really* important and central here. Effeietsanders 10:34, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

That's a good point. I will work on separating the pre-requisites into must-have and highly-preferred. I need input from our legal and finance depts. on that, so it will take a few more days. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 01:50, 18 January 2012 (UTC)

Program plan[edit]

Strategic plan[edit]

I don't like the requirement to follow the "Wikimedia Strategic Plan". That plan was never ratified by the chapters (or the community), so I don't consider it binding on the chapters. While it was widely consulted on, the final version was only ever approved by the WMF board. Chapters should work to further the movement's mission (there has been some work on defining exactly what that is as part of the Charter discussions, but I think we all know roughly what we're here to do), but they should have some freedom to decide what aspects of that mission to prioritise. --Tango 01:17, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

supporting volunteers means to support what they _want_ to do. voluntary work is black and white, either one likes to donate the time or not. following a strategic plan restricts voluntary work to the ones who like it, and it restricts the supported work to what a couple of persons "currently see", so the direct consequence is to loose volunteers, and ideas. following the mission is enough for volunteers, imo. --ThurnerRupert 02:42, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
The current text speaks of alignment with the Wikimedia Strategic Plan, not following it. This is an important distinction. The Wikimedia Strategic Plan is something we invested heavily in, in order to have a basis for discussion of what we are trying to accomplish together. It's a framework for collaboration, not a constitution that must be followed. If there were chapters that refused to make reference to a document in their own strategic plans, that would strike me as trying to make a point at the expense of working together (see the relevant en-wp essay), and I would prefer that the WMF not waste its time trying to collaborate with an organization that takes that kind of position. Making reference to a shared document is not subservience, it's simply a commitment to working together. Alignment need not be 100% in order to be alignment. -Pete F 01:05, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
It's not a shared document, though. It's a Foundation document. I don't see any reason why chapters should be expected to refer to it when putting together their own plans (although they would probably want to look at it, since there's a lot of useful stuff in there even if they come to different conclusions). --Tango 01:12, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Furthermore, in some cases the strategic priorities don't really apply to a chapter (especially one without above average resources): e.g. supporting the Global South doesn't make sense for an organisation located in the Global North that was set up to have local activities; similarly, maintaining the infrastructure is something one cannot really do, and thirdly, the priority about "supporting innovation" is quite vague and trying to do the same things as the WMF would not be "innovation". Also, the other two priorities need to be interpreted for the local context.
Normally, a chapter would signify its support for the WMF Strategic plan by monetarily supporting the WMF (e.g. through transferring portions of the fundraising income), but with the grants, this is not possible. I would advise, to put a greater emphasis on being mission, vision, and values-aligned than following the WMF strategic plan (which is already halfway through by the time the grant programme becomes alive, and as I said might not be a perfect fit for everyone). --Dami 16:52, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I am really not sure why there is a need to mention the strategic plan here. Really, what is important is that the WMF chapters and other grant recipients have the same objectives - this is already a pretty good framework for collaboration. This is already required from the chapter's agreement, and while it does no harm to repeat it in the grants agreement, I see no point to refer to another set of objectives. It is another blow in the independence of chapters, with very little benefit (if any !). Schutz 07:03, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree that the chapters are unrelated with WMF about the objectives but: a) the chapter must have its own strategic plan (otherwise there is no sense to fund unrelated projects); b) in general they state in the bylaws to harmonize their objectives with that of WMF. So the requirement of strategic plan could be changed and can be the strategic plan of the chapter, but indirectly this plan is related with that WMF. What must be saved here is the concept that there is no sense to fund isolated projects because the GAC cannot analyze the request if there is no strategic plan. In my opinion a strategic plan is mandatory to fund a chapter. --Ilario 09:23, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
I think small chapters should be moderately closely aligned to the WMF strategy initially, as they often cant create a stable strategy without broad community engagement, which can be a chicken and egg problem for some regions. It might be helpful for the WMF board to 'endorse' the strategic plan of each chapter when they create their own plan. As strategic plans are longer term documents, this would bring a sense of long term assurance to the relationship without it being a direct relationship. John Vandenberg 09:38, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Just want to endorse what John has said above. It has certainly been irritating to me that we've tried to get folks at the WMF to look at our own strategic plan, and I've gotten a lot of responses along the lines of "yeah, I flicked through it, looks good", which of course leaves plenty of room for a volte face in the future when it becomes convenient to do so (although I acknowledge a lot of very useful feedback and advice from Phillipe in formulating said plan). Also agree with Ilario that having some form of strategic planning (even if not in 100% alignment with the Foundation) should be seen as a highly desirable thing for a chapter. Craig Franklin 13:08, 4 January 2012 (UTC).
I, for one, did take an interest in the WMAU strategic plan, appreciated the process (in writing), voted on the ideas in that Web thingy, and sought to participate in online discussion on the wiki, but could not, as the wiki that discussion was taking place on was editable only by members. Craig may recall my asking about that, at the time.
I am happy to commit to personally review and offer an opinion on any and all strategic plans developed by chapters. Indeed, I am happy to collaborate in their making, too, if desired. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 17:44, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I have sent Asaf a longer private email about this, but he was not one of the people I asked to have a look at this (which was an oversight on my part, not his). My comment should not be read as a dig at him. Craig Franklin 11:33, 5 January 2012 (UTC).

Chapters and the Strategic Plan[edit]

  • Granted, when the WMF explicitly adopted the Strategy process and derived its own Strategic Plan, it did not and could not create any such commitment on the part of the chapters. Nevertheless, the Strategy process was a movement-wide process (to the extent the movement bothered to take an interest in it, which is on the one hand not very wide in absolute numbers [i.e. clearly most Wikipedians never visited, much less edited, the Strategy wiki], and on the other reasonably representative of a broad number of perspectives), and it behooves all chapters (as distinct from individual unaffiliated community members) to at least review the Strategic Plan and respond to it in some way.
  • A chapter could explicitly adopt, or at least endorse, the Strategic Plan, or it could adapt it or derive its own strategic plan based in part on the Strategic Plan, or it could, conceivably, reject it wholesale, in which case it would be interesting and useful to hold a conversation about it.
  • Having said that, perhaps some of the chapters represented in this conversation would like to discuss and prepare such explicit statements regarding their chapter's stance of the Strategic Plan? It would help us know, for one thing, whether we are pondering an abstract question or whether there's a significant proportion of chapters wholly rejecting the strategic plan.
  • As Pete pointed out, alignment does not mean 100% acceptance; it can mean adopting even a single strategic goal, e.g. "we will encourage diversity by focusing on outreach to women", "we will stabilize infrastructure by growing the donor base in our geography". Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps it would be good to consider something else as well here. When the strategic plan was built, I recall that some issues were not considered, because they were for the chapters and not for the WMF to do - the Strategic Plan was WMF focused. That is all fine. 'GLAM' is an example of that - it is definitely not directly in the strategic plan, but it is a big focus point for many chapters, because that is what they are best at. Also it should be considered that the strength of the smaller membership driven organizations is that they are more flexible than the big international multi million Wikimedia Foundation. What about a wording along the lines of "where the WMF strategic plan has been considered"? That recognizes that it is an important environmental factor, but doesn't make it prescriptive. If the membership of the chapter considers this factor important enough (and with a good plan, they will) then naturally it will align itself. If the membership disagrees, and thinks that in their country there is a very specific opportunity to pursue which has priority for some reason because it is local only - please let them. Because that will also mean that they are behind that, and they will make it happen. Volunteers who feel ownership of a plan are much more willing to invest time and energy into it than volunteers who feel that a strategic plan is forced through their throat from above. Effeietsanders 10:44, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm afraid "where the WMF strategic plan has been considered" would be too lax; for a large unrestricted operating grant, we would expect at least some overlap ("alignment") with what was identified as our strategic focus. As has been pointed out, different groups have different passions, and certain topics matter more or are more appealing in certain geographies, and that's fine. But a mature chapter -- as we expect all recipients of these annual grants to be -- should be able to devote at least some of its resources to strategy-aligned work, even as it supports more local priorities as well. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:27, 4 February 2012 (UTC)


I disagree with the requirement to only have a small reserve to cover unforeseen expenses during the year. Chapters need to have long-term reserves (in order to cover essential expenditure should they not be able to get necessary funds next year) as well and if their only real source of funds is WMF grants, then that reserve will need to come from a WMF grant. Also, WMUK has always included in its budget an additional reserve called the "Opportunity Fund" which is intended to be spent on new opportunities that arise during the year that we didn't know about at the start so couldn't include in the budget, which I think is a good idea. (I can't actually see that item in the current WMUK 2012 plan, so perhaps the board has decided to do away with it, but I still think it's a good idea even if they don't.) --Tango 01:17, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

certain laws, like in austria, germany, and switzerland, punish with prison officers of organisations who run bankrupt. having only such a short planning period and no reservers might qualify as provoking the bankruptcy should it occur. --ThurnerRupert 03:05, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Yes. Changed 'small reserve fund' to 'adequate reserve fund'. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Budget review[edit]

It should be considered that the strength of the smaller membership driven organizations is that they are more flexible than the big international multi million Wikimedia Foundation. Perhaps we should also allow more flexibility in their budgets and plans - to preserve that strength. I am no fan of having a thorough review of the whole chapter budget when that has already been done by the membership. However, at the same time there has to be a discussion between the different chapters what is a fair distribution, and the opportunities are an important argument in that. Perhaps we can try to strike a balance here, where we allow for a fairly non-specified budget (i.e. "Wiki Loves Monuments" as a budget post, but not more specific than that. "Public facing events" but not "Wiki takes Schiermonnikoog".) which has been discussed first with the membership (I think this is crucial).

I am not sure what shape exactly this could take in the wording, and would welcome suggestions. There has to be some kind of review because otherwise the sky would be the limit. Alternatively, we could split the process in two - setting a 'basic allowance' based on discussions once a year, and then working from there on project basis. But I'm afraid this makes the whole thing quite strained as well. It is something I'm struggling with and probably most people are. Effeietsanders 10:48, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Certainly! As you can see in the annual grants that have been given this year (without the process described here), none of them goes into quite as much detail as mentioning Schiermonnikoog :) "Public facing events" is a reasonable line item for an annual grant. This level of grants is intended for organizations that have shown the maturity and good judgment to warrant entrusting them with the task of designing successful and meaningful outreach events without asking for a detailed plan up front. That's what makes these grants "unrestricted" -- the implementation, within broad categories, is up to each grantee organization. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:27, 4 February 2012 (UTC)

Grants vs direct fundraising[edit]

Hi Asaf and all,

I'm afraid that I personally continue to believe that the approach of providing grants to mature Wikimedia chapters, rather than enabling and supporting them to directly raise funds for the Wikimedia movement, to be a huge mistake.

Given the inherent benefits of having self-sustaining chapters (rather than having them depend on the WMF, or any other organisation); that chapters can fundraise much more effectively in their local geographies (in terms of fundraising methods, donor communication [both via banners/landing pages and via email in response to donor enquiries], and donor follow-up [both with regards donations, and involving donors in local activities]); that chapters will always be better able to determine the optimal ways to distribute funds within their geography than the Foundation (or any other chapter) can do; and that it's nearly always going to be financially beneficial to collect funds in a local currency rather than carrying out large numbers of international transfers of small amount of money; I really can't make sense of the WMF's insistence on trying to solely provide grants to chapters rather than helping them fundraise directly. I could understand this if the WMF had invested time and energy into fully supporting chapter development and professionalisation and found that this didn't work - but from my experiences over the last few years I can't believe that to be the case...

This makes me rather reticent to participate in figuring out the best way for this grants process to take place, since that might appear to be endorsing the whole ethos behind having a grants process for mature chapters in the first place.


Mike Peel 01:17, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
(Personal viewpoint)
P.S. Of course, I have no issues with the WMF providing grants to chapters in the 'start-up' stage - that makes complete sense - but that doesn't seem to be what is being proposed here.

NB: this is a copy of the email that I have sent to internal-l on this topic. Mike Peel 01:17, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that the grant process described here and chapters doing direct fundraising are mutually exclusive. I can see two types of chapters receiving grants through this process. Firstly, chapters in countries where it isn't feasible to raise as much money as they can usefully spend. Secondly, chapters that have progressed beyond the point where per-project grants make sense (eg. they want to hire staff) but aren't yet ready to fundraise themselves. I don't think the first category needs much discussion, but I will elaborate on the second.
The WMF board's letter sent round after their Haifa board meeting (let's call it "the Haifa letter") specified some quite sensible criteria a chapter should meet before being allowed to fundraise. I'll quote the relevant passage here:
"An organization can directly receive donor funds as a payment processor if the following criteria are met:
  • There is sufficient money raised in the geography to merit the logistical effort.
  • The organization offers tax deductibility or other incentives to local donors.
  • Regulatory issues about any international funds flows are fully resolved.
  • The organization's current financial resources are not enough to fund proposed program work.
  • The Foundation can confidently assure donors to the chapter that their donations will be safeguarded, that our movement's transparency principles will be met, and that spending will be in line with our mission and with the messages used to attract donors."
The first criterion covers my first category of chapters, the others relate to my second category. The fourth criterion is pretty irrelevant (it just covers chapters that have so much sitting in the bank that they don't need any more funds this year, which should be a very rare occurrence). The other three can take significant time to achieve. WMUK started fundraising before we met those criteria, and it wasn't an ideal situation. We had to include special clauses in our first fundraising agreement because we hadn't yet got all the legal advice we needed to figure out how to share revenue with the WMF (and it's still not completely cleared up now, from what I can tell). We had a very large sum of money in our bank account before we had any written financial controls to safeguard it and even those controls weren't very good (I know because I wrote them). Our first good quality controls are only being finalised now, when we've almost finished our third fundraiser where we're going to raise about £1m). This is also the first fundraiser where we've been able to offer tax deductibility (although there are other advantages to local fundraising without that, so I don't consider that too big a deal). WMUK might have been better off working from grants for an extra year or two rather than starting to fundraise before we were really ready. We're finally getting everything sorted now because we've started to professionalise. There is a strong argument for professionalising before fundraising, not after. It would have been easier to professionalise if we hadn't had to put so much effort into fundraising.
The only real downside to delaying fundraising is that you don't gain experience in fundraising. WMUK's current fundraiser wouldn't be going so well if we hadn't learned a lot of lessons in the last two fundraisers. I'm not sure you can justify having chapters fundraise before they are really ready just so they can get some experience sooner, though. If there were a way to ease chapters into it so they don't have to take on so much responsibility all at once, then there might be a case for fundraising sooner, but I can't see such a way (the split landing pages we used to use didn't work very well - it's hard to tell from the numbers we have, but I think we lost quite a lot of donations due to confusing our donors - and I can't see any other approaches being much better). --Tango 01:56, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
I'd just like to echo what Mike has said here. I continue to believe that moving from a model where multiple parties share movement funds according to their needs, to a model where a single entity within the movement controls all funding, binds other entities to its own strategic plan, and can withdraw support on a whim, is a monumental strategic blunder. It prevents chapters from engaging in any sort of long term planning or commitments, it sends the incorrect message to the community that chapters are just branch offices of the WMF, and puts the paid staff of the WMF, which I believe is largely unaccountable to the community and our readers, over and above the chapters which are directly run by and represent the interests of the community itself.
I will participate in these discussions, simply because I want to get the best deal for chapters possible, but that participation should not be interpreted in any way as endorsement for the principle of chapter dependence on the WMF through grants. (copy of my email to internal-l). Craig Franklin 02:29, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
+1, mike, craig. a clear separation of "income" and "spending" would be appropriate imo. on the income side, this means that the foundations main key performance indicator is "income of movement" and not "income of foundation" in future, so there is no battle if a $ goes to a chapter or wmf, but a clean working together to increase the total income. this would be natural as wmf states they support the work of millions of volunteers as well, without them beeing employed by wmf, or bound to follow wmfs plans. --ThurnerRupert 03:15, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
The question of which chapters get to fundraise on the projects (all chapters get to fundraise on their own, of course...) is a separate one from this conversation, and is being discussed elsewhere on Meta. Let us please focus here on how to get a good process for grants based on annual programs, and leave the fundraising question discussion out of this one. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
The two are highly related. Only you and the rest of the staff know, the context of this discussion in the last couple of months. It is unfair to review a process intended to replace the previous process for chapter funding, without a full disclosure what the intention and the end-goal is. Theo10011 00:00, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
I did not intend to comment much, for the same reasons outlined by Mike, but seeing that all chapters are likely to be bound by this agreement, I'll add some comments, but this is not an endorsement of the grant process vs fundraising. Schutz 07:53, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think discussing the details of this form of grantmaking implies anything about one's position on who gets to raise funds on the projects. It really is a separate discussion; obviously, if the board decides one way rather than another, a chapter may find itself depending on this process where it did not expect to otherwise. But that's just all the more reason to make sure this is a good process, right? And in any event, whatever the board decides, some chapters would still depend on grants, including graduating to grants based on annual plans, so again, we need a good process anyway. If anyone is still refraining from contributing to this discussion for fear of affecting the other discussion, I'd like to better understand what the concern is. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:41, 4 February 2012 (UTC)


Time for discussion[edit]

The draft currently only gives 1 month for the chapter, GAC and WMF to discuss the grant. Since there are likely to be a lot of grant proposals coming in at the same time, I'm not sure 1 month will be long enough. I propose increasing that to 2 months (perhaps with an accelerated 1 month process for chapters that get their proposals in early). --Tango 02:27, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

There are some kinds of grant for which 1 month would be a very long time. If a grant has been carefully prepared, is relatively straightforward, and is for a low dollar amount, for instance, it might not be very fair to the applicant to make them wait so long. This may not be true of general operating support grants, which may require more extensive review. It would make sense to me to have two or more classifications, where lower dollar amounts map to shorter review periods, and vice versa. -Pete F 01:12, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
Even a straightforward, small grant could take a while to consider if everyone is busy with other grants. If you give a shorter time to some grants that means you want to prioritise them at the expense of the other grants. That isn't necessarily a bad idea, though. Either way, I think the GAC should be allowed to write their recommendation early and then the process moves straight onto the next step. --Tango 01:16, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
We picked 1 month as a minimal time frame we expect to be able to commit to, for making a decision about a complete and clear proposal. Most proposals require some clarification, expansion, and Q&A before they can be assessed, so many of those may actually take longer than a month in total. We still think we should aspire to 1 month rather than 2, and we can always change this process to allow 2 months if we see we absolutely can't make it work within 1 month. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

A side proposal[edit]

Would the Wikimedia Foundation be willing to subject its programme plans and budget through whatever process we come up with here as well (including third party review in the place of WMF review)? After all, if it's good enough for chapters, surely it's good enough for the foundation? Craig Franklin 02:40, 31 December 2011 (UTC).

I support this proposal. I'm not sure what third party would review it, though. Perhaps the GAC can just be the final reviewer? --Tango 02:59, 31 December 2011 (UTC)
Regardless of whether or not this is desirable, I think that this is not a practical suggestion. The fact of the matter is, and Craig can attest to it himself, being a member of the GAC, it is all the GAC can do to handle the current (not too intense) flow of grant requests, and there is absolutely no way it could provide the sheer amount of oversight and timely attention needed to review and comment on the amount of plans and budgets behind the WMF's monthly operations. Even if some separate entity is formed to supplement the GAC for this purpose, I find it hard to believe the community can provide the level of sustained attention required to routinely oversee all WMF operations.
Aside from the practical question, I also think it's not a reasonable proposal in terms of governance and organizational behavior, but I propose to postpone developing this discussion, or to carry it on elsewhere, to better focus on finding a process that makes sense for grants based on annual plans. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
The GAC can be expanded if it needs to be. A large proportion of the WMF budget would be very easy to review - no-one is really going to have many questions about whether it is a good use of money to continue paying to host Wikipedia, for example. Why is it reasonable to expect chapters to go through this process if it isn't reasonable to expect the WMF to? --Tango 12:34, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree that the GAC might not be the best entity to actually engage in this oversight for the reasons that Asaf points out, while I would obviously take part in having a look at the WMF budgeting there is no way I could cover the whole thing in any acceptable detail myself. However, I must disagree with everything else that you've said here, Asaf. I do not understand why it is reasonable to expect chapters to provide this level of public scrutiny of their plans, while at the same time it is unreasonable to expect the Foundation to do the exact same thing. After all, the funding is coming from the same source - movement fundraising, and I don't see how it can be justified to apply different levels of public scrutiny and transparency to spending depending on the entity doing the spending. Obviously, there are other reasons why I think this would be a good idea, among them that it would be seen as a gesture of genuine good faith from the Foundation towards chapters and other entities, and it would obviously mean that whatever grant process we arrive at is not unduly punitive. I also disagree that this is not worth discussing here - the issue of "how is the movement to be funded" is linked intimately to "let's come up with a way for parts of the movement to request funding", and the two cannot be separated. Craig Franklin 13:05, 4 January 2012 (UTC).
+1. Asaf, please don't underestimate the community: if the 110-member organisation can find the people to internally review and scrutinize the WMF plan, I am sure the 100 000+ members of the community will find collectively the time to do the same. Also, from the other side, if the 100-member WMF cannot handle the scrutiny, it should think twice about pushing this scrutiny onto chapters. --Dami 16:56, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I have expressed my own opinion above, but on this matter I cannot speak for the WMF, as I do not have the authority to commit the entire WMF to this. This request can be brought up for consideration by Sue Gardner and the executive team, and would perhaps be taken up with the Board of Trustees as well.
I still think it is entirely infeasible. The 100,000 number, as we all know, does not translate to 100,000 potential reviewers of ("boring") pages on Meta. Many of us with chapter backgrounds (I come from a chapter, as most of you know) know very well how difficult it is to get a significant portion of the editing community to take an interest or participate even in "non-boring" things like the chapter's programs and activities, let alone its financial report and plans. That said, let's agree to disagree about the feasibility, because we're both basing this on intuitive estimates, and there are few hard facts. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 17:44, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Asaf, I know you don't have the authority to make this sort of commitment, I was hoping that Barry or Sue could come and do so. I would disagree though that nobody would come, my own experience in doing these things for WMAU is that you get plenty of feedback ;-). Even if we assume for a moment that you are right and I am wrong, and nobody is interested and comes along, what exactly has been lost by opening the planning up for wider scrutiny by the community? However, I am continually amazed and inspired by the commitment and skills of members of the Wikimedia community, and I think you'd get more interest than you'd expect. Craig Franklin 11:15, 5 January 2012 (UTC).
Asaf, great work on this draft so far. I feel very good about this process knowing that you are heading it up. As for this specific suggestion: I think it is a good idea. Bishakha and Schiste and I discussed this with a few current and former board members from a few largest chapters at Wikimania. It would be a big change for the WMF -- and a valuable exercise in planning and transparency. It is hard to get a yearly plan ready an extra n weeks in advance for yet another layer of review. Noone likes to have outsiders who haven't lived in their budget/shoes all year making offhand suggestions for improvement. But that might improve empathy among all of the groups that must suffer such public scrutiny. (For the first year, I would suggest that this review be a non-binding recommendation to the WMF. After a year's experience, we could discuss more seriously whether we could set up a permanent process that all movement groups would abide by - including, e.g., guarantees for a named set of core services, multi-year approvals, &c. as needs demand.) To the question of finding qualified, interested people: it is in the long-term interests of our movement that we invest in this skillset: strategic planning, forecasting, review, auditing. Let's not put it off any longer. SJ talk | translate   07:06, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
This might be obvious, but the Foundation's annual plan is already reviewed by the community. Each year the WMF Board of Trustees reviews/approves spending plans. The WMF Board is elected/appointed by the global community (3 elected mostly by editors, 2 appointed by chapters, 1 Jimmy, the rest appointed by the other six). So the WMF annual plan is already approved by the community, through the Board it elects/appoints. Wouldn't having an additional review process be redundant? Stu 21:36, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
The same reasoning would apply to chapters (where the plans are approved by the general assembly = community; or the board, elected from that community). Nevertheless, the WMF BoT is not an independent body when it comes to reviewing WMF plans, and its members have to act in the best interest of the WMF and not as representatives of the community or chapters (their background might influence them, but I highly doubt they can speak the collective view of the community in the way a public review [e.g. through a general assembly with chapters] might surface). A second issue is transparency - if the detailed spending plans were public (i.e. at least to the internal community) - this would be less of a contentious point and anyone could draw their own conclusion whether the BoT has done a good job with the review.
I must agree with Bence here: the WMF Board is not set up to be an independent reviewer of the WMF's annual plan from the movement-wide perspective, any more than each Chapter's board is of their own plan. There are the usual social pressures for an institution's Board to be lenient in review of its own plans in many cultures, including in the US. And each sub-movement group (WMF or Chapter or other) is focused on a subset of movement issues.... at some level, the different issues compete for priority. To date we have always had a surplus, bit the first year there is a shortfall, conflicting priorities will be a real problem. SJ talk | translate   07:06, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Hmmm. I completely disagree, SJ. My review as Treasurer, and my recommendation to the rest of the Board, are highly focused on our movement-wide vision and whether the plan is the best possible use of resources in pursuit of it. If your review has been on some other basis, or if you have not taken the review seriously because you feel as a Board member you don't need to, then we need to talk. Let's follow-up offline. Stu 08:43, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
However, your point that the BoT is capable of reviewing the plan underscores my previous point, that it is not impossible to find ten community members who would be willing and able to provide an independent assessment even of the WMF's plans. --Dami 21:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
But the WMF board is drawn from across the movement, not just from within one geography. So I do think it more likely it will naturally have a movement-wide perspective, and therefore that the plans it approves will reflect the interests/desires of the global community. That's a clear difference from a chapter board.Stu 22:08, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Also a clear difference is that the WMF's activities are supposed to be global. Chapters are expected to provide a legal framework for local initiatives, so it completely makes sense that it is local people who will do the reviewing. (It is a side point, that if my back of the envelope calculation is not entirely incorrect, the WMF BoT has members from 4-5 countries, while e.g. WMHU has members living in 4-5 countries and we are open to anyone, as are the majority of other chapters [citation needed] :). It is impossible to represent all facets of the global movement in a 10-member board, and we shouldn't make such claims, and that is why I think that greater transparency and access is needed to the community as a whole into decisions, plans, etc. - be they the general community commenting on WMF plans, or a local non-chapter member Wikipedian commenting on the plans of the local chapter -, because the elected boards with the best of intentions cannot know what its community thinks if it doesn't ask them. --Dami 22:18, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
With regard, specifically, to the annual plan and budget, I agree with Stu. However, I think there is a closely related issue that could really use some attention: grant funding received by WMF. WMF has published proposals and reports for its own grants in a few cases. But this is by far the exception, not the rule; many of the grant proposals and reports produced are not available to the general Wikimedia community. The Public Policy Initiative is the clearest example, I believe, of freely published proposal and reports (disclosure: I was heavily involved in this as WMF staff):
I am also pretty sure there was a public report on the Ford-funded Multimedia Usability Initiative, but after about 15 minutes of searching, I can't find it (illustrating the problem).
I would love to see a renewed commitment to publishing and organizing proposals and reports for external grants. Ideally this would include a decision about what wiki (Meta, maybe?) should be used to house them, so they don't end up spread out all over the projects. I think this would serve the dual purpose of providing some transparency into how WMF works, and providing useful examples for chapters and aligned organizations about how to construct proposals and reports.
As a side note to this side proposal, the OER Foundation has committed to a model of freely licensed and openly distributed proposals, and has some interesting things to say about the idea: -Pete F 22:01, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
I think we're happy to share whatever reports we prepare for our major grant-givers. I am told most of our major donors are happy with the Annual Report (have you seen the new one, folks?). The PPI report you cite above is one exception. Occasionally, some donor would ask a specific question, by e-mail, and get an answer. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Stu, I have to disagree with you in the strongest possible terms that the Board of Trustees is representative or can be said to represent the community in any meaningful way. What you are arguing for is called virtual representation, where a token handful of individuals from the "community" are consulted, and their views are taken to represent the entire community (this can also be extrapolated to the recent Po Sciences debacle, where "community consultation" seems to have consisted of talking to a single (if well respected) member of the community). I don't know if you're a student of history, but last time "virtual representation" was seriously argued for, it didn't work out all that well. I also take issue with the very idea that the Board of Trustees is "elected/appointed by the global community " - 30% are directly elected, 20% are elected on a very limited franchise, and the rest are all appointed. I think it's a very creative interpretation to argue that Jimmy's seat is a community seat, given that only he may sit in it and it's appointed on a formal basis by the rest of the Trustees. Craig Franklin 11:07, 5 January 2012 (UTC).
Craig, I understand your perspective. But know that the Board also gets bombarded with other equally strong points of view that it has to play a community-wide leadership role. Mostly that POV is that someone has to be a leader, because we need someone responsible for thinking globally and movement-wide about some issues (e.g. legal stuff, movement wide organizational structure, cross-project issues outside narrow scope of stewards). Here's a question for you: who do you think should play that role? If not the Board of Trustees, then who? Jimmy used to be the God-King and play that role, which IIRC wasn't particularly popular.Stu 19:49, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Stu, if I were given the power to completely restructure the way that the way that the movement was governed, I would add enough community-elected seats to the Board of Trustees (possibly separated into two tranches to provide electoral feedback more than once every two years) to make direct community elected seats the majority. I would also deliberately make the position of Executive Director and Chair of the Board of Trustees weak so as to disperse decision making authority as widely as possible. Having "god-kings" or all-powerful leaders tends not to work out in the long run, if only because we're all fallible and an error or mistake by a powerful leader type has much more serious consequences than an error or mistake by a leader constrained by powerful checks and balances.
I think we're really getting off topic here and cluttering Asaf's page up, but I'd be interested in continuing this discussion with you elsewhere on Meta if you are willing. Just nominate the place :-). Craig Franklin 12:28, 6 January 2012 (UTC).
I nominate The ideal Wikimedia board of trustees. SJ talk | translate   07:06, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Hiya Stu, I am sorry but this smells a bit of hypocrisy. I can point you to a dozen threads and pages on Meta where community members repeatedly ask for information about spending on a particular project by WMF. They repeatedly complain about lack of transparency when only the annual spending is shown like a regular finance report that most organizations are legally bound to release, but the actual spending per project is still kept hidden. Yes, the board and the audit committee are there, but they are apparently not fulfilling the expectation of the community repeatedly on these issues. I also want to relay a complaint I have heard, that the same people whether appointed or elected have been in those oversight positions for several years now, ~5 years. Since the budget has expanded exponentially in that time, they might not be fulfilling the expectation of the community. The reports, and the procedure have not changed much while the budget grew from 2 million to 25 million. The expectation about accountability from WMF should also go up.

Also, to Asaf, your point about feasibility being an issue to subject WMF to this process, is laughable. You are forgetting that board of trustees and the audit committee are volunteers not paid employees. They can be expected to look through and review all those boring pages, but people who actually *want* that information and repeatedly ask for it, are deemed to not have enough time or attention? GAC is a volunteer organization, so is the board and the audit committee. GAC is expected to review 40 odd chapters in 40 countries with 40 different laws and requirements, and yet when it comes to WMF, it won't be feasible? Theo10011 00:39, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Actually, the GAC is not expected to "review 40 odd chapters" at all. It is expected to review grant proposals, from however many chapters and other organizations they may come. And I think I am fair when I say it has had a hard time providing adequate attention and feedback even at the fairly low frequency of grant submissions we have had so far. I have been trying to discuss ways to increase the GAC's capacity, but that conversation itself seems a little stalled.
So yes, I still think it won't be feasible to expect volunteers to provide a level of scrutiny beyond what the Audit Committee does, for the WMF's day-to-day spending decisions. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)


For the sake of clarity, I will point out:

  1. I have only expressed practical reservations (i.e. I think it's infeasible), and did not comment on the desirability of the idea.
  2. As far as I can tell, the Foundation is willing to submit to another layer of review, possibly along the lines suggested in the Fundraising discussion ("FAC" or whatever). This can be discussed as a natural part of that more-structural discussion.

Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:50, 4 February 2012 (UTC)

Missing the target[edit]

As far as I read and have heard in more discussions up to now, the focus of this program regrettably is to ensure, that WMF has had one's fill of acting responsible in distributing the money. Of course this is important and I wouldn't like the WMF to act otherwise.

But it is pretty regrettable, that WMFs plans seem to stop here. Money is a very useful resource. And it's good, that chapters are pushed to make plans and to think over, what to do with the money they can lay their hands on. But there are some more resources and skills and some of them are even more important than a large budget. Acting in a professional and responsible way, learning about running projects from the beginning to the end, communicate, network, budget etc. These skills are much more basic than making vague plans to spend money only. Regrettably there are no offers currently by the WMF to the "chapter-community", which would help to build up these skills, which would be so very useful for the "mission" and all the stakeholders interests.

The current program, ensuring that money is distributed in a correct manner, is necessary. But - it's only a component of a larger program hopefully to come, with a shifted focus from getting rid of financial and jurisdicial responsibilities to enabling volunteers. Enabling to be taken literally, learning to be able, to be offered opportunities of empowerment. By the currently most powerful organisation in the wikiverse. I know, these thoughts are pretty general, but I can't stand not to express them. Denis Barthel 11:23, 31 December 2011 (UTC)

Sure, funds are just one way the WMF can, and does, support chapters. It's not quite true the Foundation does not offer any other help; beyond a lot of informal support in the form of advice and (non-financial) resource sharing done over e-mail and on the projects, the WMF has been funding a pilot program for organizational development.
Certainly, more could be done; as there is already quite a bit of trepidation on the part of some chapters about the degree of influence the WMF has on chapters, I think it would be best if interested chapters clearly and explicitly articulate what kind of non-financial support they would like to receive from the WMF, and we would be happy to consider and respond to such requests. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
On the pilot program: my understanding is that it is being paid for by the chapters involved, which are in some cases funded by a grant from the WMF. That's not the same as saying that the WMF has been funding the program. This has caused considerable confusion amongst some in the past, so it would be good to get the facts straight here.
On non-financial support from the WMF for chapters: it would be really good to brainstorm about this, but I gather that this page isn't the place for it. If someone has the time to set up a new page to discuss this, that would be fantastic. I don't think that only "interested chapters" should participate - this is an issue that will affect every single chapter, whether they are currently interested or not, and whether they currently exist or not. Mike Peel 18:16, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, no offense meant, but: Informal support and a well-hidden pilot almost nobody knows about and which has to be paid by the chapter (though the project is exactly what is needed) is rather close to "the Foundation does not offer any other help". Especially if it is said, that chapters should find out about their needs themselves, which confirms my saying that a given focus on "money" is much to narrow - please expand your mind on "enabling" and a program will easily follow. Just think of a consultant, providing certain workshops and materials in certain stages of a chapters evolution (chapter founding and first projects, strategical development, program planning, professionalizing), a handbook "Running a chapter", etc. pp. If only half of the WMFs energy on "chapters money" would be invested in "Enabling", the chapters world probably would be much more efficient and diverse. Regards, Denis Barthel 10:36, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
That pilot was announced at the time, is not well-hidden, and will be discussed again when its results and learnings are ready. That's why it's a pilot project -- we hope to learn from it, and possibly expand/redeploy it in the future, after suitable discussion, changes, and with appropriate public announcements.
As the funding section in the program description clearly states, participating chapters' costs are supported by the WMF wherever necessary. How is this a problem?
Finally, Mike, Denis, and anyone else interested: I am truly interested in discussing the various non-financial ways we could help chapter development. We have a Chapter development page right here on Meta; may I propose we take up this bit of the discussion there, and stick to discussing grants based on annual plans here? Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Clarity (Prerequisites §)[edit]

The "Prerequisites" section opens with a reference to U.S. law, but then immediately lists a number of things specific to Wikimedia: a chapters agreement, the Wikimedia privacy policy, etc. This makes for a disjointed read, and portrays fuzziness where there was an implied commitment to clarity.

Ideally, I think the list would provide the general provisions of U.S. law (perhaps the law does require a current contract, for instance), annotated with the Wikimedia specifics (e.g., Chapters Agreement). So those lines, for example, might read:

  • Current contract outlining the relationship between the entities (link to relevant § of U.S. Code) (In our case, a Chapters Agreements)
  • A privacy policy adhering to XYZ standards (link to relevant § of U.S. Code) (In our case, the privacy policy)

Of course, the link to relevant § of U.S. Code part is not completely necessary…but it couldn't hurt. -Pete F 00:56, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

It does talk about good governance and partner relations as well as US law. You are right that it would be good to be more explicit about which parts are legal requirements. --Tango 01:20, 1 January 2012 (UTC)
I'll have to consult with our legal team to respond to this; I may be able to read Homer and Plato in the original, but the US Code is territory I dare not walk alone... Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
Interested in their response. Let me reiterate the principles I'd like to see addressed here, so as not to imply that the specific format I suggested is the only way to go:
  1. (Absolutely necessary, in my opinion) The introductory text before the bullet list needs some editing and expansion. If it's going to introduce the current list, it needs to spell out more clearly that the list is a synthesis of several kinds of needs.
  2. (Nice to have) Some kind of description of how U.S. law, California law, good governance (as defined where?), and the practicalities of chapter relations constrain the WMF. I think an introductory section of 3-4 sentences, with links to Wikipedia articles or similar, would go a long way toward helping the reader understand the thinking that went into the list. I find this sort of transparency VERY useful; I think it helps keep everyone's expectations/understanding aligned, and paves the way for generative discussion down the road.
Anyway, I understand that the legal team's input is important here -- but if it should turn out they don't have the resources to fully engage with it, I think there's lots that can be done to improve this section without making strong claims about the law. -Pete F 23:53, 6 January 2012 (UTC)


So, I've re-arranged the prerequisites section for better (I hope!) clarity. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 00:37, 8 February 2012 (UTC)


The metrics are unclear to me. Having only 1 month is possible for GAC to decide but GAC must have some parameters to discuss. For instance a strategic plan is a good start, but the GAC must also have an operational plan and check if the project is planned within a more systematic plan or if it is an isolated request. Also for "post mortem" the GAC must evaluate the success of the project if the objectives are fixed and if the project returns the parameters to be evaluated. --Ilario 09:51, 2 January 2012 (UTC)

Yes, an explicit list of criteria is part of this proposal. Or did I not understand your comment?
As for reporting, as we have discussed on the GAC's talk page, evaluating grant reports is, and should be, part of the GAC's mandate. It is important that we keep reviewing past grants to assess how much of an impact grants had vs. expected impact, and to thereby continually improve the quality of our decision-making. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 03:57, 4 January 2012 (UTC)
It's different. The metrics of WMF have no value if the plans of the chapters are different. What I would see is a strategic/operational plan of the chapter to measure the success/insuccess but the section "Program plan" is "de facto" imposing the strategy. In general what must be admitted is that the strategic plan of the chapter must be aligned with the strategic plan of WMF, this is sufficient because is the General Assembly who decides the priorities. If in one language there is no lack of editors and there is no needs to grow the community because it's wide and stable, I don't see to repeat again that the annual plan must have a mandatory point about the "growth of the Wikimedia community". In general I see in the proposal some points that can be ambiguous about the evaluation of the results and can generate problems for the board of chapters because they have to follow the General Assembly's decisions. --Ilario 13:21, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, I'm still not sure what you mean. How does the "Program Plan" section impose a chapter's strategy? As was discussed above, what we want to see is at least some alignment with the movement Strategic Plan document. That still leaves a chapter a lot of independence in setting its priorities and the relative portion of its time/budget for particular activities and programs. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Wikimedia Affiliated organisations[edit]

Although the concept of "wikimedia affiliated organisations" is not fully finalised yet, the annual grant programme seems to be open to support them as well.

I might have a different conception of a Wikimedia affiliated organisation than is the current general thinking, but I would imagine that say Creative Commons Ubundalunda undertakes to support Wikimedia-related activities in Ubundalunda and to this end is counted as an affiliate. This situation requires some thinking whether we should support the full annual budget of this organisation (after all, half of it would go to support CC activities), and to what extent should we support their administrative costs (e.g. should we pay for their accountant; should we only pay for programme staff dealing with Wikimedia issues)?

The question is interesting, because chapters, like the hypothetical Ubundalunda affiliate, as individual organisations can conceivably decide to run or support activities that might not be something the WMF itself does, e.g. supporting local languages the WMF finds unimportant because they are unlikely to have a Wikipedia, or supporting other free culture communities in the country – as independent organisations with the vision of "Ensuring free access to all knowledge to all." these would all be sensible activities for a chapter to consider doing (and especially so for affiliates that might have independent agendas outside supporting the Wikimedia projects).--Dami 19:46, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

This proposal is for when we do choose and want to fund an organization's operational budget based on an annual plan. That's why it mentions chapters all over. It is unlikely that we would find ourselves wholly funding organizations such as CC wherever.
That said, there is nothing preventing such an affiliate organization (and, really, until such time as the AffCom and related recommendations from the movement roles process are in place, it makes little sense to engage in what-ifs around it; we shall just have to wait and see, and adapt as necessary) from submitting a mission-aligned annual plan and requesting funding for it. If the GAC and the WMF consider it a good use of movement funds, such an affiliate could get funding for that plan (it may well be only part of that organization's annual plan). Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough, I only brought this up as it is included in the draft. What is perhaps more interesting is whether legally independent WMF branch offices (e.g. WIPT) would apply for funding through this same grant programme? --Dami 10:21, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Have the chapters actually read this?[edit]

I just had a look at this draft. Have the chapters seriously looked at this? It starts with about 10 legal agreements that a chapter needed to have signed as a pre requisite to even be considered, one of them is the contentious grant agreement. Then it goes on to set an arbitrary criteria for chapter "functioning well". Together there are about 16-17 pre-requisites, 7 of whom are not even specific. The proposed process then goes on to flesh out and empower the WMF and the role that staff person in charge will have. I am not sure about #8 and the US specially designated nationals list, but this is not something I see commonly, is this the first time this is being added? would the chapters be subject to US embargos too now? since WMF being a US entity is not allowed to be deal with organizations that US has embargos with or deems unfit.

I have 2 concerns, GAC's role is the only thing I didnt see being developed more, I thought it was one of the major points. Instead, the draft restates the major point that GAC, is only in an advisory position, which the staff person will disagree whenever they would want. GAC still appears to be a headless entity to be pointed to, and share the blame and be celebrated and touted when they agree on the same points.

I would recommend chapters to take a look at this again, and consider all the implications. It might be much more restrictive and binding with arbitrary criteria that leave the chapters in a weaker position. This really doesn't give a lot of room to maneuver and just end up as branches of a central organization, bound in red-tape and requirements.

Regards. Theo10011 00:16, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

With regards to the "specially designated nationals" list, I think there would be serious penalties if the WMF transferred funds to someone who then transferred them on to terrorists or drug cartels or something. I think it's less of a "we don't want you to do business with people that the USA doesn't like" and more of a "we can go to gaol if you do business with people on this list". From that perspective, that particular clause seems eminently reasonable to me. Craig Franklin 01:25, 5 January 2012 (UTC).
Craig I expanded this point on Internal-l. But my point was not about this legislation itself but the implication of it. This is an example of a US law being passed to an international organization. You can not cherry-pick which you conform to and which you dont, this is setting the wrong precedent. US trade embargoes, a future iteration of SOPA, Patriot act or other US laws that might conflict several EU privacy laws. Can a chapter ask WMF to conform to a local law like say the one that resulted in the it.wp blackout? It is not about this list itself, but more about why this list? and what is next after this? Regards. Theo10011 01:30, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Theo, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. There can be serious penalties and consequences for the Foundation (and the movement) if something untoward happens with the money. This clause is simply to protect them from that possibility. It's not a matter of expecting non-US entities to follow US law, it's a matter of the US-based Foundation following US law. Craig Franklin 10:57, 5 January 2012 (UTC).
The SDN issue has been explained elsewhere, but let me echo Theo's comment differently -- have the chapters read this? Have all those reading this page done their best to get as many chapters (in the body of their representatives...) to read this? We have so far heard from just a handful of people, but this proposal is relevant to _all_ chapters, whether or not they are currently in a position to apply for such a grant, and regardless of the outcome of the larger discussion about movement funds. As I stated above, this avenue of funding, alongside the existing project/event-based grant programs, will be available to chapters, no matter what. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 22:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Some thoughts expressed in form of proposals[edit]

Fundraising activities[edit]

I think these grants should be to supplement the funding that can not be obtained by the entities themselves. And that should not be a disincentive to those who are working on raising funds.

It is planned, "include all revenue sources of the chapter That are expected to support the plan, not just the proposed grant funds" but I propose to add that they necessarily have to implement a fundraising activity and add a mechanism to systematically reward efficiency in this activity.

Otherwise it may appear that the system sends the message that penalizes those who collect funds by receiving less than if they had done nothing to raise funds. First because they have what they raised and second because the effort to raise funds left them with less capabilities for activities.

For chapters participating in the annual fundraising campaign, the efficiency can be measured by comparing the amount collected by the WMF before the chapter fundraising agreement (updated by the growth of overall revenue) with the amount collected with the chapter. And also taking into account the money raised from other sources.

In the case of chapters that do not participate in the annual campaign it can be measured by comparing the money collected by the WMF with that collected by the chapter using alternative routes.

If in the future there are affiliated organizations that are neither territorial nor linguistic and so we can not measure the WMF fundraising in their topic, then this efficiency can be evaluated by examining the activities adressed to raise funds ant its results.

This efficiency would have to assess the funding, so that those who raise additional money have an incentive to do so out-weighting the efforts devoted. --Gomà 00:56, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Information to the stakeholders[edit]

In my opinion a critical factor to consider is the impact of actions in the editing community. The practices of fundraising, relations with the press, frugality in spending, and hiring of presonal practices can have a positive or negative impact on the community of editors that can create an indirect impact as or more important than the direct of the plan. I therefore propose to define and extend the information and feedback. On the one hand state explicitly the need to inform the affected projects-languages communities in the other hand extend the comments on the proposal to the evaluation committee and establish a criteria of hight weight in the favorable comments from the community of editors. --Gomà 00:56, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Selection of what activities are financed and what not[edit]

What if we can not fund everything that is asked? I propose that the plan has to separate the general fixed income and expenses to run the entity an the variable revenue and expenditure related to each activity. In the evaluation process give a score to each activity. I propose that all annual plans be evaluated simultaneously and fund activities until exhausting the budget according to the assigned scores.

In the future the entities that act as payment processors in the annual fundraising campaign could also follow this procedure and determine in this way the portion of the money raised they have to refund to WMF (or the additional GRANT they will receive from the WMF if the raised money is not enough to fund the activities). Being efficient in the campaign would be rewarded as I have already suggested before but I think that the work plan should play the same level as those of others. --Gomà 00:56, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Separating fixed from variable, and scoring/prioritizing is important. Comparing scores or priorities across grants/organizations is much harder, and may not be feasible until we have developed a great deal of community skill in doing this... but since we are all pursuing the same higher-level set of goals, this sort of skill is essential to learning how to accomplish our work well. I agree that annual plans should be evaluated simultaneously, but suggest that this be separated from the grant review -- it is its own well-defined task, and probably equal in breadth each year to the processing of all individual grants. SJ talk | translate   07:11, 7 January 2012 (UTC)