Wikimedia chapters/Creation guide

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This is an easy-to-read introduction into the process of creating a Wikimedia chapters. While it is not exhaustive and does not take into account differences between jurisdictions, it is the first stop for anyone thinking of forming a chapter.

Arrow icon.svg What are Wikimedia chapters?
Arrow icon.svg Why should we apply?
Arrow icon.svg What are the eligibility requirements?
Arrow icon.svg How do we create a Wikimedia chapter?
Arrow icon.svg How do we apply for recognition?
Arrow icon.svg We have been approved, what should we do next?
Quick links
* Wikimedia chapters

What are Wikimedia chapters?
Main page: Wikimedia chapters

Wikimedia chapters are independent non-profit organizations founded to support and promote the Wikimedia projects within a specified geographic area. Like the Wikimedia Foundation, they aim to "empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally". Chapters use a name clearly linking them to Wikimedia and are granted use of Wikimedia trademarks for their work, publicity, and fundraising. Currently, 41 chapter exists.

Recognition from the Affiliations Committee allows a group to apply for using the Wikimedia trademarks, access to unique grants, and additional affiliate support; however, recognition is not required to do any of the work a typical Wikimedia user group, and groups are encouraged to consider that model if they do not yet meet the requirements of a chapter.

Why should we apply?

Recognition from the Affiliations Committee allows a group to apply for using the Wikimedia trademarks, access to unique grants, and additional affiliate support; however, recognition is not required to do any of the work typical chapters do or might do, it is an optional extra step with connected benefits and some requirements.

Benefits of becoming a recognized Wikimedia chapter includes:

  • Use the Wikimedia logos consistent with the Wikimedia Foundation's Trademark Policy without any additional approval. chapters may use other logos not part of the Trademark Policy (such as the Wikimedia Foundation logo) pursuant to a trademark license with the Wikimedia Foundation and approval by the Wikimedia Foundation legal team.
  • Receive large, but limited, quantities of Wikimedia merchandise for use in activities and outreach efforts.
  • Public recognition of the group's affiliation with the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Affiliations Committee Liaison support during and after the approval process.
  • Apply for Annual Plan Grants after successfully completing two other Wikimedia Foundation grants and meeting other eligibility requirements.
  • A short name clearly linking the group to Wikimedia.
  • Exclusive use by a chapter of the Wikimedia name and brand within the group's geographic focus area.
  • Communications and public policy support from the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Two scholarships to attend the Wikimedia Conference, held annually in Berlin for Wikimedia movement affiliates.

Without recognition, groups may still:

What are the eligibility requirements?
Main page: Requirements for Wikimedia chapters

The requirements to set up an officially recognized Wikimedia chapter are designed to be help groups meet the movement's expectations for them once they are recognized.

  1. Wikimedia supportive mission
    The mission of the organization must be in line with the mission and vision of the Wikimedia Foundation, as well as the guiding principles of the Wikimedia Foundation and principles of movement affiliates. Regardless of the chosen legal form or incorporation method, the chapter must have goals similar to those of the Wikimedia Foundation, and its activities should not stray from them.
  2. Geographic focus
    The chapter is geographically based/anchored in a legal jurisdiction. Unlike projects, which are language-based, chapters are entities which need a geographic base. This implies that they must be anchored in a country/jurisdiction which offers them the base for their legal structure. This base should be in the region in which they wish to serve. While there can be multiple user groups serving a similar or single geographic area, there can only be one chapter covering their designated geographic focus area.
  3. Legal structure
    The chapter must have a legal structure/corporation that is legally independent from the Wikimedia Foundation. Chapters are meant to give a real-life structure to projects that might arise from contributors or external parties in line with the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation. However, chapters are not meant to operate the Wikimedia projects nor to be legally responsible for the content of the projects. In order to achieve that, it is necessary that the legal structure chosen for the creation of a chapter is clearly independent from the Wikimedia Foundation. The organization's governing documents, generally by-laws, must be reviewed and approved by the Affiliations Committee.
  4. Critical mass of active Wikimedia contributor involvement
    The chapter must involve at least ten, preferably at least twenty, active contributors to the Wikimedia projects. An active contributor is defined as a members with 300 or more contributions to a Wikimedia project on a registered account that has existed for more than 6 months in good community standing (meaning they are not currently suspended or otherwise prevented from participating). While chapters should welcome the input of people who are not active contributors to the Wikimedia projects, they should not stay too far from the community. The active involvement of contributors to the Wikimedia projects is necessary for a chapter to be able to bring real-life initiatives tied to the Wikimedia projects to life. Initial membership should broadly reflect the intended scope, geographic area of activity, and chosen languages of operation of the organization.
  5. At least two years of activities
    Groups must have two years of demonstrable programmatic results prior to applying for chapter recognition. Ideally these activities should be done as a recognized Wikimedia user group. These activities, and their results, must be documented on-wiki, ideally on the group's Meta-Wiki page. Wide outreach efforts to encourage participation and involvement in setting up and shaping the organization are necessary. Activities should be a mixture of online and offline activities designed to encourage participation on the Wikimedia projects. The group must be up to date on its activity and financial reports prior to being considered for recognition.
  6. Capacity, or planned capacity, to meet the future expectations
    Something that makes chapters and thematic organizations unique from user groups are the increased expectations. Does your group have the capacity to meet the expectations of chapters once you receive recognition? This will be something both the Affiliations Committee and Board of Trustees will consider in reviewing your application. If your group does not have a track record of activities which indicate that you will successfully be able to meet these expectations, that can cause your application to be denied. Consideration will be given for the financial circumstances of the group, realistic demands in your group's focus area, and plans to secure future funding to meet these expectations.

How do we create a Wikimedia chapter?

Step 1: Gather the people

At the most fundamental level, chapters are about people: a group, bound geographically, which wants to contribute to and support the Wikimedia projects as a whole in ways other than editing.

For long-term sustainability of the chapter, the Affiliations Committee recommends that you gather a community of at least 20–25 people who are interested in creating or joining the chapter. Make sure that your group has the required number of people before proceeding.

(During step 3 or 7, you might find out that the laws of your country may require a greater number of people to participate in the creation of the organization.)

Step 2: Decide what is the best way forward

Before moving forward, discuss among yourselves the advantages and disadvantages of setting up an organization; organizations take a lot of time, effort and resources once they are set up. Is it necessary to set up a chapter to achieve your goals? How will setting up an organization help achieve those goals? Can you accomplish those goals as a Wikimedia user group?

Once you have a group of people interested in pursuing the goals, determine whether there are like-minded organizations in the area (for example chapters or user groups) that might be able to host your projects or provide initial help in setting up. Is there already an existing organization that you can connect to instead of starting your own?

Then you can think about what the mission is of the organization you'd like to start. Is this mission broad and is your group primarily geographically focused, or is it more narrowly defined? Try to draft your mission jointly with the whole group and make sure everybody agrees on that.

Once you are certain that a chapter is the best way forward, contact the Affiliations Committee and any other Wikimedia organizations that might be active in the area and let them know about your plans.

Step 3: Develop your goals and structure

When you have your minimum group of people, start a conversation on your future chapter's goals and structure. Try these questions:

  • What do you want to accomplish as a chapter? What is your mission?
  • What kind of activities do you want to engage in (e.g. outreach, fundraising, public relations, publishing)?
  • What kind of structure would be best for the organization? Would a board and membership structure be the right model?
  • What would be the roles and responsibilities of the board and your assembly? Who would decide what, in practice?
  • How do you imagine your organisation in a two years' time? In five years' time?

In determining your goals and structure, you may want to contact existing chapters for advice and ideas.

Step 4: Select your chapter name

See also: Affiliates naming guidelines and Affiliates logos best practices

When you set up your pages on the wiki, you'll need to give a name to your chapter.

The legal name of the chapter should be "Wikimedia [name of country in local language]".

Examples of acceptable names:

  • Wikimedia Wikiland
  • Wikimedia United Places of Objects
  • 维基媒体示例 (Wikimedia Example)

Not acceptable to use:

  • Wikimedia Foundation of Wikiland
  • Wikipedia Wikiland
  • Wikiland Wikipedia
  • Wikiland Wikimedia

Step 5: Set up a wiki page for your group

Once you have a group of interested people, it's time to document who you are and to set up some means of communications. For the external world, you need to designate two contact people who can be identified to the Wikimedia Foundation; within the group, think about setting up a wiki page where people can join; perhaps set up a mailing list or talk page or other forum to discuss your projects.

Step 6: Receive recognition as a Wikimedia user group (Optional step)

While not required, groups interested in becoming chapters are strongly encouraged to first begin as a Wikimedia user group. The requirements and expectations for user groups are intentionally designed to allow for less resource intensive operation of a group. A two-year track record is required of all chapter applicants, and both the Affiliations Committee and Board of Trustees are more likely to feel confident about your group's suitability to become the formal representative of the Wikimedia movement in your subject area if your group a track record as a recognized user group in good standing.

Step 7: Conduct online and offline activities for at least two years

So, you have some interested Wikimedians, and you have some basic idea about the kinds of activities the group would want to have as an officially recognized Wikimedia chapter.

This is a perfect time to begin running programs, which will give your group a concrete experience with running Wikimedian activities/events, strengthen the group's internal cohesion, increase motivation, and potentially draw in additional activists.

Here's a little secret: nearly all activities and programs performed by chapters can be performed by non-chapters. Aside from fundraising and certain types of government outreach, any group of Wikimedians with the will and dedication to execute a program can do so, and the Wikimedia movement has resources in place to help you do so:

The Wikimedia Foundation may grant you ad hoc permission to use the Wikimedia trademarks (e.g. the Wikipedia logo, Wikimedia logo) for specific events or activities; the Foundation may provide funding for your program via the competitive process called the Wikimedia Grants Program; other Wikimedia organizations may offer funding, advice, and other resources.

Applicants are required to have developed and conducted offline and online activities over at least two years prior to seeking recognition as a chapter.

So select a program you'd like to run in your community or territory, making sure the scope is manageable and achievable for your group and your resources (especially human resources, i.e. time and skills), before proceeding with the legal aspects of chapter creation.

Step 8: Draft your chapter's fundamental documents

Your chapter's bylaws (statutes, or whatever the name of this document is in your language) should define the goals and objectives of your association in time and space. They should be precise and to the point. Avoid definitions that are too vague or restrictive.

When drafting the documents, you need to take several factors into account (in the order given below):

  1. the laws of the country/state
  2. Wikimedia Foundation's requirements for chapter creation
    • the primary goals of your organization should be in line with those of the Wikimedia Foundation, i.e. to promote free content and support the Wikimedia projects.
    • where possible, a non-profit status (or a status that allows you to tend towards non-profit)
    • avoid ties to political statements/groups that do not fit within the scope of Wikimedia projects

To ensure that these factors are taken into account, we advise you to peruse the bylaws of other organisations in your country and then adapt those to the Wikimedia requirements and guidelines. Don't try and translate existing Wikimedia chapters' bylaws, as legal language differs from one country to another and what seems evident in one country may make no sense in another.

If you have a lawyer in your group, make sure they are a strong part of the writing process; remember that you are ultimately responsible for the legal compliance of your organisation with the local laws.

In every part of this process, do not hesitate to ask the Affiliations Committee for advice.

Step 9: Apply for recognition

Once you've gathered the group, the wiki page, legal documents, and the big ideas on what you want to do, contact the Affiliations Committee and request to apply for chapter recognition. The Affiliations Committee will review your application and governing documents, and then will submit them to the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation to approve the creation of your organization as a Wikimedia chapter. Usually, before final approval, the Affiliations Committee will ask a number of questions and possibly suggest changes based on experience learned from other Wikimedia and non-profit organizations. In this case, final approval will be given once your group has had a chance to review and answer the suggestions and to make any changes your group has found useful.

Keep reading below for help on applying for recognition.

Step 9b: Submit your bylaws for review

When your chapter's goals and organization are agreed and your documents are ready (but before you do anything that would make the association official, like opening a bank account, holding a founding assembly, or registering with your country's authorities), you should translate them into English and submit them to the Affiliations Committee for approval.

The Affiliations Committee might ask for a lawyer-approved translation of the bylaws, in which case it will provide the necessary budget to translate the bylaws.

Step 10: Register with the authorities

Once you've received Foundation Board approval, you can register your association by the standard means in your country. You will need to sign a chapter agreement with the Foundation. At this stage, other agreements may need to be signed between the Foundation and the chapter.

How do we apply for recognition?

Once you've gathered the group, the wiki page, legal documents, and the big ideas on what you want to do, contact the Affiliations Committee and request to apply for chapter recognition. The Affiliations Committee will ask you some questions, review your application, and if appropriate will recommend the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees recognize your group as an official Wikimedia chapter. The Board of Trustees will then vote to approve or grant recognition based on the application, discussions with the Affiliations Committee, and recommendation from the Affiliations Committee. Recognition automatically renews each year. Recognition can be suspended or removed if necessary of if a group becomes inactive or is no longer compliant with their agreement.

Delays during the application approval process most often arise from incomplete applications or applications that need to be modified before they can be approved. To prevent this from happening and help expedite your group's approval process, please double check this list before submitting your application:

  1. Does your name meet the affiliates naming requirements? It is best to agree on which language your name use and how it will be localized before beginning the chapter recognition process. Group discussions amongst Wikimedia chapters regarding their name can take time, and generally you want to avoid having to re-engage in that conversation after your application has been submitted. You may contact the Affiliations Committee to seek input on your name before submitting your application.
  2. Does your group have a clear plan and programmatic track record that is consistently and clearly explained? If your Meta page explains your chapter's plans or activities in a way that differs from your conversations with the Affiliations Committee - that may delay the application's approval. Your plans should clearly and concisely explain what your group hopes to accomplish and who would be interested in joining. We recognize this may evolve over time, but you should have a clear commitment to a specific plan at the time of your application.
  3. Are your two primary contacts willing to identify themselves with the Wikimedia Foundation? Sometimes privacy concerns might cause someone to change their minds, which can delay the final steps in the chapter recognition process. At least one of these contacts should be authorized to legally sign documents, such as the chapter agreement, on behalf of the chapter (usually the president of the governing board).
  4. Is your group ready to accept new members and already include at least ten active Wikimedia contributors in good standing? Groups which have a closed or limited membership model may require more discussion and review. Groups which do not have at least ten active members who are also active Wikimedia contributors in good standing will not be approved.

We have been approved, what should we do next?

You can now focus on your day-to-day business and promote Wikimedia projects according to your mission. In the coming days, you will be put in contact with Wikimedia Legal and asked to sign the Wikimedia chapter agreement. While you are required to sign this agreement, you do not need to wait until the agreement is signed to continue planning and implementing activities and ideas.

If you want some hints about possible projects, you can always look at what other organizations have accomplished or are currently doing.

By this time you will probably need some money or other resources—for example, you may have to pay registration fees, set up a bank account. The first source of funds should be the community behind your organization (e.g. if you have set up a membership organization, now is the time to collect membership fees).

If you need more money than you can reasonably hope to gather from your group, you can ask the Affiliations Committee to provide you with some additional funding to get you on your way. The Wikimedia Foundation also issues grants to chapters, and they are not necessarily limited to money.

The money (or your time) is necessary even if the registered chapter does not do anything. Usually after registering the legal entity, you'll need to prepare and provide regular reports to the tax authorities and some other state bodies—even if there are only zeros in the reports.

Remember, you can always ask the Affiliations Committee as well as other affiliates for help, and it's possible for Wikimedia user groups to apply to the Foundation for grants. On the other hand, we would also like to hear from time to time about your activities; you can publish public reports or contact your Affiliate Liaison.

Good luck!