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Research:Wikimedia First Employee Survey

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
This page documents a completed research project.

Project Summary[edit]

Increasingly, entities in the Wikimedia Movement (for example, Chapters and thematic organizations) are interested in hiring staff to alleviate the workload of local volunteers.

Hiring a first employee in an entirely volunteer-led movement is a difficult process. Three particular points of difficulty are:

  1. Determining if and when an employee should be hired
  2. Creating and detailing the role/profile of the first employee
  3. Onboarding/orienting a new employee (i.e., transitioning a new employee into the organization and movement through training, goal-setting, etc.)

As more entities are receiving funds for staff from (or are on the verge of requesting funds) from the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) Grantmaking team, it is important to understand what conditions are best for bringing on a first employee and how to do it well.

Key Questions[edit]

The key questions we are attempting to answer in this study are:

  1. How many groups across our movement have brought on paid staff at some point in their lifecycles? What are the different forms of this employee (e.g., part-time, long term; full-time, short-term; contractor; intern...)
  2. What are the range of roles for which entities hire the first employee? What are the activities involved? Is there a typical job profile that works better than others?
  3. How does an entity/group determine if it is the right time to bring on an employee? What needs was that employee trying to meet at that point in time? What local contexts are most conducive to a first employee?
  4. What is the typical amount of time it takes to fully orient a first employee? What is the average tenure of a first employee?
  5. What are good practices in onboarding a first employee?
  6. What are the common challenges of bringing on a first employee? How does the role of volunteers and/or the board change with the first employee?
  7. How does an entity get funding for an employee and plan for sustained funding?

Anticipated output[edit]

The output will be particularly geared to encourage further conversations around:

  • General environments that indicate potential benefit of hiring a first employee
  • Good practices in defining the role of the first employee
  • Good practices in onboarding a first employee
  • Common pitfalls in bringing on a first employee
  • Questions to ask yourself when deciding to bring on an employee



We will conduct a simple survey. The survey will be distributed to one representative from each movement entity that has brought on a paid staff at some point.

Survey questions

The final survey questions (including logic) is on Commons.


We will publish on meta a summary of the learnings.


  • Week 1, September: develop survey text (with community)
  • Week 2-3, September: distribute survey
  • Week 4, September: analyze survey results
  • Week 1, Oct.: publish results
  • November: publish results