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Individual Engagement Grants

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Attention: These pages are out of date. Please see the live Grants:Start for current information.

The Wikimedia Foundation is expanding its grant offerings to individuals. Thoughts are in progress here, please have a look and let us know what you think! I'm aiming to launch an open call for individual grant proposals January 15, so will be building out some program pages here soon. Note: name and other details of the proposed program are subject to final WMF legal/finance approval. Siko (talk) 17:35, 17 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]


  • Provide an avenue for direct support to Wikimedia community members around the world, as a complement to the existing support network provided by chapters and affiliated organizations
  • Support community leadership to solve community issues by investing in innovation for-community, by-community
  • Fill a gap in WMF grant-making by supporting individuals to lead on projects aimed at online impact, where the primary expense may sometimes be a person's time

WMF grants ecosystem[edit]


To date, the WMF grants program has made grants to both individuals and organizations. Organizations have received a larger share of Wikimedia grants so far. As the WMF invests more resources into becoming a robust and effective grant-making organization, we're looking at separating out different types of grants and tailoring the WMF grant-making department's support to grantees according to the needs identified for each type.

Current types of WMF grants[edit]

  • FDC grants – to eligible entities (chapters, thematic organizations, etc) for operating expenses, including paid staff, awarded via semiannual requests for proposals (RfPs)
  • Wikimedia grants – to smaller organizations and chapters as well as individuals, for reimbursement of expenses for things like travel, events, and other materials, awarded on a rolling basis
  • Participation support – to individuals, for reimbursement of expenses for travel specifically to non-Wikimedia events, awarded on a rolling basis

In the past, WMF has also supported some individual editors to work on online projects via the Fellowship Program. As this program winds down to free up staff resources (HR, tech, etc) for other priorities, we hope that some chapters will take on the role of funding their own fellowship projects. We recognize, however, that in some cases an individual editor may not have a local chapter to turn to for support, or a chapter may not have the capacity to support the endeavor. Some types of projects need an individual community member to lead the way, and sometimes a bit of funding is critical to support a contributor in spending enough time on a project to have lasting impact.

Adding a new kind of grant for individuals[edit]

To complement the existing types of support offered by WMF grants, we're looking at adding a new type of grant:

  • Individual engagement grants – to individuals or small teams of individuals, for support of time and expenses spent on multi-month projects leading to online impact, awarded via semiannual Requests for Proposals (RfPs)

Type comparison of WMF grants for individuals[edit]

Funding Support Duration Submissions Scale
Wikimedia Grant Expenses (travel, venue, outreach materials, logo gear, etc) Money, proposal planning and reporting coaching Single event, generally Rolling
Participation support Expenses (travel) Money Single event Rolling
Individual engagement grant Time and expenses (project materials, travel, outside services, logo gear, etc) Money, planning and assessment coaching, progress check-ins 6–12 months Semiannual RfPs, new cohort every 6 months 7 grants for pilot (budgeted at US$5k–30k per grant), 10–20 in round 2

Individual engagement grants[edit]

This new grant-making program will

  • operate under the umbrella of WMF grants
  • have a dedicated program head and advisory committee focused on individual grant-making
  • support a distinct process for sourcing and awarding grants to individuals working on multi-month time-intensive projects leading to online impact

Defining criteria[edit]

  • funding for short-term, time-intensive, project-based work, scoped to six months with potential to renew for an additional six months
  • grantees are individuals or small team of up to four people, not organizations
  • Wikimedians are the target recipients
  • payment covers anticipated project expenses, which can include the grantee’s time
  • support includes monthly check-ins with grantees, assistance with grant application and periodic assessment/community reporting
  • projects must be mission-aligned and are encouraged to aim for having an online impact

Types of projects supported[edit]

Some kinds of projects we imagine these grants might support include:

  • Community organizing, for example facilitating difficult community conversations about policy, processes, or other aspects of on-wiki life that software alone cannot resolve and on which volunteers are unable to spend sufficient time without support
  • Actionable research that forwards the community’s understanding of itself and leads to informed social change
  • Pilots to improve on-wiki social processes or other needs of the editing community that are not met by other means (e.g., WMF tech, chapter projects)
  • Creation of something innovative that supports volunteers, and is not being created by an organization (e.g., chapters, WMF tech)

How it differs from paid editing[edit]

  • Grantee’s time is spent fostering conditions that encourage editing by volunteers (e.g. editor recruitment campaigns, process improvements).
  • Grantees are not paid to directly create content (i.e. edit articles, upload photos, proofread pages) themselves
  • If a proposed project is already being carried out effectively by volunteers, it should not be funded via this type of grant

How it differs from fellowships[edit]

  • Grantees are not staff or quasi-staff, no HR touch-points, WMF accounts etc
  • Payments are processed in lump sum grants (perhaps in two payments total), not as hourly contractors
  • Anticipated expenses are included in the grant amount, not processed as contractor reimbursements
  • Support to grantees is provided in limited capacity from grant-making staff, other WMF departments do not support grantees (i.e., WMF tech staff time is not resourced to grantees)
  • Selection process involves a committee with staff support, rather than by WMF staff alone
  • In theory, someone could be a grantee more than once

Structure and process[edit]

The following is an outline of the structure and process for supporting this program.


  • Proposals recruited for submission semiannually with a modified version of the existing on-wiki grants submission form – proposal deadlines are a useful tool both for recruitment and for getting volunteer help to review submissions.
  • Proactive outreach should aim for diversity of submissions (country, gender, etc)
  • Project-based grant proposals could be solicited around an annual theme to encourage work aimed at specific movement priorities (e.g. community health, editor growth, policy, diversity, etc)?
  • WMF grant-making staff and advisory committee will be available to assist as proposals get prepared and finalized for submission



Input must be widely requested from the communities that proposed projects aim to serve – for on-wiki projects, reaching out to individual editors for input is particularly critical. The endorsement process in the fellowships program and elsewhere in the community has been a valuable source of community input, and could be leveraged as baseline input for individual grants.

We’d aim to include as many volunteers as possible in the endorsement process via:

  • clear timeline
  • published evaluation criteria
  • require grant applicants to notify relevant communities of their proposal and include in their proposal links to the announcement and to relevant community discussions thereof
  • use of communications tools like sitenotice and Global Message Delivery to appropriate-language Village Pumps

Advisory committee[edit]

A dedicated volunteer committee is needed to:

  • assist with preparation of proposals in the grants bakery and suggest proposal improvements as they do in the current GAC process
  • review the finalized submissions and community input, score proposals, and recommend a shortlist to be awarded grants

Because the process for individual grants would be aligned but not identical to that for other WMF grants, and because the needs of an RfP process are cyclical, it may make sense to develop a sub-committee for the Grant Advisory Committee to fill this role, or to develop a new committee rather than changing GAC into something it isn't.


If a grant application is submitted from a candidate in a geography with a local chapter, at what point should we bring the chapter into the conversation? I think it probably should be done as early as possible after submission, to determine whether the chapter could support this person with a grant instead. Not proposing a firm rule of "you must ask your local chapter before you can apply to WMF," as that is probably over-complicated, but rather I'm thinking of a conversation with the chapter as part of the selection process. Does this make sense to people?


Grants program staff can act in the following capacity:

  • be available to potential grantees for consultation in the proposal process
  • work alongside the community and committee in asking clarifying questions to assist with assessment
  • support the committee in their review process, providing evaluation criteria etc
  • do the necessary due-diligence on the committee's recommendations to ensure WMF's fiscal/legal compliance
  • finalize the list of grantees from committee's recommendations, based on available funding, feasibility and compliance requirements

Global learning and evaluation[edit]

We expect that some grants will result in more impact than others, and that some grants may fall short of their anticipated impact – failure is an inherently good risk to take when aiming for innovation. Lessons learned from individual grant-making and grantee's projects should feed back into the cycle of global learning, just as for other grants, so that we can grow as a movement, replicated successes, and keep making new mistakes instead of old ones.

Project learning and evaluation mechanisms[edit]

  • Monthly project update - grantees will be asked to submit a brief project update each month in a format of their choosing as is most appropriate to their project, in order to share process and lessons with the community along the way. This could take the form of an on-wiki newsletter or journal, blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, etc.
  • Midpoint project report - midpoint report on-wiki demonstrating progress and learning thus far.
  • Final project report - final report includes outcomes and lessons learned, and impact measurement against the project's targets and goals
  • At least 50% of grantees should be given a scholarship to attend Wikimania and/or another movement gathering to present their findings to the community in-person in addition to providing the above written documentation.

Programmatic learning and evaluation mechanisms[edit]

  • Monthly check-ins with grantees - program head will be doing monthly check-ins with grantees to assess progress and support needs
  • Reviewer survey - biannually after each award period, participants in the proposal review process (committee members + non-grant-seeking volunteers who participate in proposal discussions) will be asked to complete a short survey to help us learn/improve on the review process
  • Applicant survey - biannually after each award period, all grant-seekers will be asked to complete a short survey to learn/improve on the RfP process
  • Grantee survey - at the end of the grant period, grantees will be asked to complete a survey on their overall experience, satisfaction, support, etc.
  • Qualitative follow-up interviews - at about 1 year post-grant, it would be nice to do follow up interviews for case studies of past grantees, to understand the grant's longer-term impact on people and projects

Grant-making cycle overview[edit]

  • Community input on program plan/pages (starting with this page)
  • WMF legal/finance sign-off
  • Create application form w/ elegibility criteria and selection criteria
  • Recruit committee selection panel
  • Advertise RfP on-wiki, via outreach events, mailing lists, direct networking...sitenotice too?
  • Community endorsements
  • Committee + program head review applications based on selection criteria
  • Committee recommendations
  • Due diligence (fact-checking/CVs/references/skype interview) by WMF
  • Grants awarded
  • Grantee survey (3 or 6 months into the pilot)


Pilot (northern spring 2013)[edit]


Pilot the overall process, get a set of individual project-based grantees started and test assumptions and for system failures before WMF's next round of spring budget planning.


  • WMF legal approval
  • Devoted sub-page of grants on meta – internationalization-ready, with its own submissions process, eligibility and evaluation criteria
  • Application process and forms – this should be all done on-wiki
  • Proposal evaluation criteria and process – assessment rubric that guides community, committee and staff in selecting grantees
  • Committee setup – with relevant guidelines, call for members, etc
  • Proposal recruitment strategy – recruitment of ideas and grantees requires targeted outreach on-wiki, at key movement events, and through profiling existing grantees and lessons learned
  • Reporting and evaluation strategy – impact assessment and fit with cycle of global learning to foster continued innovation and replication of successes
  • Operationalizing payments – ensuring current grants payments operations work smoothly
  • Grants database setup – integration with the grants DB WMF will begin using to manage grant-making activities

WMF support offerings[edit]

  • processing of grant agreement and payments
  • proposal and planning support
  • 1 monthly progress check-in with grantees
  • assessment, learning and reporting coaching
  • crisis management support as needed


Cap at seven grants for the initial round, and aim to scale to 10–20 grants in future rounds.

Reasons to cap:

  • keep the experiment manageable
  • budget constraints
  • staff time

Budget no more than US$30,000 per six-month project grant, with most grants expected to come in at more like a few thousand USD.


  • Dec – community discussions, structure prep
  • Jan 15 – launch, promote, open call for RfPs
  • Feb 15 – round 1 proposal deadline
  • Feb–Mar – review/endorse
  • Mar 15 – grantees announced

Future growth (October? 2013)[edit]


Improve operations, scale capacity

Deliverables wishlist[edit]

  • fully fledged documentation/learning pipeline
  • operationalized payments
  • communications/promotion improvements
  • formal volunteer mentorship offering
  • translation assistance for documentation


Round 1
  • Aug/Sept – promotion/recruitment
  • Oct 1 – proposal deadline
  • Oct 1–31 – community input and staff review
  • Nov 15 – GAC(?) recommendations
  • Dec 1 – Grantees announced
  • Dec/Jan – Grantees startup
Round 2
  • Feb/March – promotion/recruitment
  • April 1 – proposal deadline
  • April 1–31 – community input and staff review
  • May 15 – GAC(?) recommendations
  • June 1 – Grantees announced
  • June/July – Grantees startup


WMF staff/contractor time will be needed for the following:

  • program head (50% FTE) > supporting overall process, committee, applicants and grantees
  • grants administrator (20% FTE) > grant agreements and payment processing
  • analyst support (30% FTE) > consulting on metrics plans, measuring impact and other tie-ins to globally-applicable lessons learned
  • communications support (periodic) > publicizing open calls, dissemination of lessons learned
  • design support (periodic > ensure good clear program pages make the process flow smoothly, etc

Measures of programmatic success[edit]

Some ideas about what measures of success for individual grantmaking at the programmatic level may include:

  • Number and percentage of grants resulting in anticipated impact
  • Programs/projects/services created and maintained by grantees or volunteers
  • Groups of people supported, empowered, or changed
  • Changes in the ways processes operate and volunteers do their work
  • Introduction of new methods to existing community roles and the creation of new roles
  • New perspectives and insight on issues
  • Changed, new, strengthened or simplified politicies
  • New participants involved in community activities and new networks of connection among them
  • New and diverse community leadership

Open questions[edit]

Please share any thoughts or questions you have...

  • Still looking into IRS requirements with legal/finance to ensure we're in compliance with US tax regulations.
    • Check SSA requirements also. --Pine 20:16, 17 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]
    • Check tax requirements for non-US grant recipients. --Pine 20:16, 17 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]
    • I think there's a US due diligence requirement when you award grants to non-US recipients regarding background checks for criminal or terrorist links, not that I expect criminals to spend their time asking for relatively small grants from WMF. --Pine 20:19, 17 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]
      • Yes, there is an OFAC check that WMF does on all grantees (individuals and orgs) as part of the due diligence process – we'll need to follow the same compliance procedures for these grants as others, with the addition of any specific IRS requirements for grants that include payments to individuals for some of their time. Siko (talk) 21:20, 17 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Need confirmation of legal limitations on grantee age – we should be able to grant to people under 18 with a guardian acting as fiscal sponsor.
  • Idea repository – with fellowships we found that it was easier to recruit when ideas could be proposed by anyone in the community (it helped get some people past the submissions barrier knowing they’d be supported by staff and community in developing project ideas collaboratively)...might there be an area of the grants bakery where community members could propose project ideas for anyone to pick up and run with?
    Absolutely, there might. Note that Grants:Bakery never took off, for some reason. No one ever used it. But again, we never exposed it in a deliberate manner -- it was just linked to from the guidelines. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 19:04, 16 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
    Ok, let's fire up the oven :-) Siko (talk) 03:47, 4 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • What other questions should we be asking? What's missing?
  • I would say a little more emphasis on collecting learnings/feedback, in preparation for a clearer and more detailed WMF process for collecting feedback and disseminating key lessons learned. For instance, ask grantees to agree to participate in feedback/review activities (even those which might occur after their grant period has concluded) when they apply for a grant. That could help increase the amount of feedback we get from subsequent surveys we circulate, or on pages like this. Jmorgan (WMF) (talk) 03:23, 29 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]
True, that L&E section above was looking mighty thin and outdated. I just added some more thoughts on feedback and reporting. See if things still seem to be missing now? I'm thinking that we'll need to build a grantee on-boarding section into the portal with info about reporting, feedback, etc for grantees, hopefully that will help everyone get in the mood to share info early and often. Siko (talk) 04:12, 29 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • Siko, are you the staff for this? 50% FTE Program head plus 20% FTE grants administrator plus 30% analyst equals 1 full FTE. Is the plan for you to be one person who does all of these things, or will this role be split among multiple people? --Pine 21:17, 3 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
To be totally honest, I made up those percentages as a guestimate at this point, hope you don't take the =1 FTE to be a precise number before we've piloted :-) The plan, though, is to split among multiple people: I am the 50% FTE Program head, I'm expected to take on some other responsibilities in the grantmaking team as well going forward so don't plan to spend all of my time solely on this program. Winifred is the grants administrator for the grantmaking team as a whole (this means she handles things like disbursing payments, etc), and we expect she'll help with some of this for the new program as well. The analyst 30% is probably the most made-up number...the grantmaking team has a Learning and Evaluation unit with more than one person whose job it is to analyze impact and outcomes, or do things that help us all analyze impact and outcomes - they're providing a service across several programs, and I expect we'll use some of this service for this program as well. Hope this makes more sense! Siko (talk) 22:18, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

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