Membership fees

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

For general details about membership, see Membership FAQ.

For more on relationship between chapters and Wikimedia Foundation, see WMF and local chapters

This proposal is considered agreed upon. Proceedings to implement are at Membership set up. Anthere 12:49, 28 Jul 2004 (UTC)

This proposal is largely outdated. Consider with caution and talk with us first :-) Anthere 12:58, 12 Jun 2005 (UTC)


Opening to membership: why?[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation will soon be open to membership.
This does not mean you will need to pay to read articles or to participate. Participating by donating is only one way to participate, and joining the community with full editing rights is completely free. Opening membership means that the Foundation will also recognise as members people who are financially contributing to the project.

All types of people can help Wikimedia projects. People can help by editing, by giving money, or both. Setting separate membership for those editing and those giving money is only in recognition that these two ways of giving are good, are necessary, and are appreciated.

It is important to remember that anyone with an account on any wikimedia project and participating in that project is/may be by default a volunteer active member unless they opt out. A participant may be a member just as an editor; they may also choose to be a member as an editor and a donor.

Why is setting membership important?
It is important because it is the safest and strongest and least controversial method of financing. Small individual donations do not come with strings attached, as opposed to grant money which sometimes may.
Encouraging a strong level of community financial support will make the organization healthy in the long term.

Membership classes[edit]

According to current bylaws, the following membership classes may be found:

  1. Volunteer Active
  2. Contributing Active
  3. Sustaining
  4. Sustaining/Corporate
  5. Honorary
  6. Life

Life, honorary, sustaining and sustaining/corporate are not affected by this proposal.

  • The only current life member is Jimbo Wales. This member does not pay fees.
  • An honorary member is anyone the board feels like making a member for free, in tribute or in recognition of a major impact on the project. They do not need to contribute. A typical example would be Richard Stallman. Members at this level do not pay fees, but cannot vote.
  • Sustaining members are essentially honorary positions, to give a special thank you for some people who have been contributing a lot to the project. These do not pay fees, but have the rights given the contributing active
  • Sustaining corporate are essentially honorary positions, to give a special thank you for some corporations which have been giving funds the project. Important, these organisations do not hold any voting rights. The board will decide which level of donation will grant corporate membership.

This essentially leaves Volunteer Active and Contributing Active.

Part of the point of having two categories of members is precisely to recognize that people who give money have slightly different interests from people who give time, and therefore deserve separate representation at the board level.

Volunteer Active members are participants who are editors, but not paying fees. Their participation is not measured in terms of “money” but in terms of personal involvement. According to the bylaws, a volunteer member is anyone with at least one account, and who has registered their membership with the Foundation.

Contributing Active members may be of two types:

  • They can be participants who are editors, and who are paying fees. They choose to help the project both with their brain and with their purse. The only difference between the contributing active and the voluntary active members is that the former have the right to vote for their own representative. This does not mean they have any more power, but rather that they have a representative who focuses on representing their needs (i.e., perhaps focusing more on how the money received by donors is spent...).
  • They can be anyone willing to give us money to be a member. This does not require having an account on a Wikimedia project. These can vote.

Note, a modification of the bylaws is planned to reflect this precision.

Other details about membership are covered by the Membership FAQ.


Where to join[edit]

Becoming a member (active contributing) will be possible through the wikimediafoundation website, which will host all membership-related pages and an online dues-paying system.

The membership system will be common to WMF and its chapters (but only if local chapters desire it so, of course). This will have several benefits:

  • less work for local chapters to organise their membership and dues system; once the local chapter is registered, all they need is to
    • add references and specific goals for their chapter on wikimediafoundation website;
    • translate relevant pages and forms to their country's main languages (the wikimediafoundation site will be multilingual, but will not at first be in every wikimedia language);
  • a Paypal or similar system for those who can use such a system; a paper form for for those who cannot.
  • It will allow easy checking of who is member and who is not (especially when we have a united user system).
  • It will reinforce the feeling of a worldwide project, though respecting diversity.

However, this unified registration may be undesirable depending on local situations. Each case will be studied separately.

Contributing members may have an account or may not. It will be asked however, during registration, as we might plan special benefits for contributing members being editors as well.

The membership pages[edit]

The main membership page will be on the wikimediafoundation website, in several languages if possible. (Most worldwide organisations propose a half dozen languages; we should perhaps aim at this.) A limited number of languages can be managed on one page only. Languages suggested are en, de, ja, fr, es. Above 10 would probably become cumbersome. However, very obviously, in case local chapter membership pages are hosted on this website, they will need to be in local language(s).

The membership pages should explain

  • the global organisation of the membership system,
  • the details of membership (notes about the difference between a volunteer and an active member, etc...),
  • the existence of local chapters,
  • where to go for related information (e.g., the membership FAQ, financial report etc...),
  • how to a "become an active member" (a link to the membership application).

The "membership" page should be linked from various places in the individual projects (perhaps in "user preferences" and from "special pages").

Application for membership[edit]

A form will be available either to fill in online, or to download and send by postmail—this is mandatory for the german chapter.

Example, the form for membership in the German Verein

The form for membership will ask

  • membership type (as an editor or not),
  • user name on a wikimedia project if applicable (of the type anthere@fr),
  • how much will be contributed (regular dues, or low dues),
  • real name and address for tax needs if applicable,
  • whether this membership should be made public or not.

A check of the length and degree of contribution will be made in case low dues are selected.

Additionally, it is strongly suggested that over time, another form section is added to allow members to indicate preferences for how to use part of their contribution/fee.

Member information storage[edit]

The member's private information (name, address...) will be stored in a separate database (not on the same servers as the wikimedia project).
A membership flag however should be stored in the Wikimedia database, so as to easily check whether the member is allowed to vote or not, or to list the person as a member if one chose that information to be made public.

Membership and dues[edit]


We will distinguish two amounts:

  • regular dues, which will be 60 dollars,
  • low dues, 6 dollars.

A contributing active who does not have an account on any Wikimedia project will have only the option of paying 60 dollars.

A contributing active who is also an editor, will have two options: the regular due (60 dollars) and the reduced due (6 dollars).

A certain portion of membership fees will be string-free—based upon Foundation decisions (for example 30 dollars).

Note, several people, here and on the mailing lists voiced their concern over a standard fee of 60 dollars. It is well possible that a standard fee of e.g. 30 dollar[sic] would bring in more money, because more than twice as many people would be willing to contribute. Also 30 dollar[sic] seems more in line with what similar organisations dare to ask from the general public. Anyone who wants to contribute more can do so as an extra donation. Erik Zachte 20:36, Sep 21, 2004 (UTC)
This is true Erik, but it is also true that any contributor may participate (if he[sic] desires to do so) with the low dues of 6 dollars, and increase the amount by giving up to 30 dollars. Anthere
Of course there are several ways in which users can give any amount they like. I'm concerned (and some others too) about the psychological effect of making 60 dollar[sic] the standard. This is a lot of money for most people. It may look to people that if they give 30 dollars they are not a full member morally (even if in fact they are). It is always bad to provoke negative thoughts in people when you want them to open their purse. Of course this argument can be likewise held against 30 vs 15 dollars, or 15 against 10, but 30 dollars seems more on par with what other org's with their cumulated experience ask from members. Erik Zachte 23:00, Sep 21, 2004 (UTC)
I understand your concern Erik. I must say that I feel not able to estimate a negative impact or not. We tried to retrieve typical values of organisations we know. As far as I am concerned, the lowest prices I pay are around 25 euros, and the highest around 50 euros, which is roughly 60 dollars. Jimbo and others suggested values around 100 dollars, which may be in perspective with their american[sic] culture and level of life. The resulting 60 dollars was already the consequence of a consensus between all of us, and I guess finalized. We also thought that in any cases, people had the possibility of paying the low price, and that if necessary we could always lower the price next year (while strongly raising it afterwards is not seen so well). Anthere
But how does one know if it was a succes[sic] when one does not know how much one would have received on a $30 fee? Would a poll shed light on this, where people tell what their personal limit would be? Or was that done already? I'm not an economist, but I heard about price elasticity, meaning that when you would sell 100 limonades[sic] at $1 you might sell 20 at $2, so there is an optimum price. 'Inviting' people to opt for the $6 fee may be counter productive. Erik Zachte 23:42, Sep 21, 2004 (UTC)
Just a message mentioning that students have a negative net income so please don't forget about us. There is only so much you can do with a student loan. --Haggis 16:51, 13 Jun 2005 (UTC)

More on the reduced fee[edit]

That reduced fee will be available for those who would have great difficulty paying the standard fee. This reduced fee is quite low so as to accommodate most cases. For those who may not be able to pay 6 dollars per year, we remind that all editors are volunteer members of the Foundation by default, and suggest that the grant system be explored if needed.
We also hope that most users will join by paying the regular fee.

The reduced price will allow the contributor to be a contributing member, and to vote. Nothing else.

We need to set barriers, so as to avoid people joining as participants, while they are not really—or opening new accounts just to pay less (hehe). Joining with a reduced fee will require that the editor has an account open for at least 3 months. To avoid abuse by sock puppets and people who have stopped participating in the project, they also need to have at least 200 contributions in the past 3 months to be eligible to join (so that one who has basically left the project won't be able to join as an active contributor with reduced fees). This is all meant to focus on those truly belonging to the editing corps, and will help eliminate jokers and sock puppets.

More on the regular fee[edit]

Those who can afford the regular fee might also get a couple of benefits, which are currently under discussion.

More on dues[edit]

Dues could be paid once per year, or the member could ask that a monthly amount be taken from his bank account (for the 60 dollars fees).

During registration, we will suggest that people can donate more (membership due + donation). In case of donations, we will ask people to their preferences for its future use.

More on sustaining/corporate membership[edit]

We propose that corporations helping with funds will be members when they make a donation of an amount around 500–1000 USD. This amount should be given to the Foundation itself directly.

Relationships between local paying members and global paying members[edit]

A paying participant registering to a local chapter will be a contributing active member of the local chapter AND a contributing active member of WMF by default, providing that there is an agreement between the local chapter and the Foundation.

The local chapter will make it possible that part of its revenues are refunded to the Foundation, or that part of its revenues are spent to cover global needs. Federally-based membership organisations may review the remitted proportions each year and set payments in one direction against support payments in the other, setting the percentages by need at each end. However, all this will have to be set case by case depending on local legislation.

The agreement type is currently under discussion. See see WMF and local chapters