Talk:Fundraising and Funds Dissemination/Recommendations/Archives/2012-01

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Table of contents

Just for the sake of readability I would like to request to have the __NOTOC__ tag removed. I would make reading and navigating the document so much easier.. --Johannes Rohr (WMDE) 11:21, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

I'll run that by Sue, Johannes. She'll see it herself, I know, when reading this page, but I may be able to bring it to her attention sooner. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 11:27, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Sure -- this makes sense to me. Thanks Sue Gardner 20:36, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

This section is believed complete. If there are new issues or outstanding concerns related to this, please start a new conversation. Maggie Dennis (WMF) 01:24, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Community vote

Is it programmed a vote by the Wikimedia community? It would be a good practice before any important change like this one. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 23:11, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

I doubt it. The board decisions haven't really been open for votes in the last year. Community disagreement is becoming more and more common with these decisions, it seems. Everyone realizes, if this was put up for vote, it would be heavily voted and criticized against WMF position. I'm really disappointed. Theo10011 23:19, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
There are two main problems I can see with putting something like this to a vote. 1) What proportion of the community will actually understand the issues? Most Wikimedians are content to get on with creating free content and don't concern themselves with the politics of the WMF and chapters (if they even know what the WMF and chapters are). Having ill-informed people voting doesn't gain us much. 2) The community (at least the English community, I can't speak for other languages) tend not to like simple majority votes. Everything has to be a "rough consensus" (which is code for 2/3 supermajority, in most cases). I doubt any proposal for how to raise and disseminate funds could ever reach 2/3 support. --Tango 23:38, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Recommendation based in a inaccurate survey

I saw the recommendation #1 and got to the Q&A to see the reason for it, and found this:But wouldn't people prefer to donate to local organizations and not the Wikimedia Foundation?

Which is based in the survey from 2 years ago, and is based in a question I actually questioned about the results here:, waited more than one month and asked again:, and after several reminders and ask again during a Office IRC hour, Mani bothered to answer that she didn't know:

So how that same result can be used now to "prove" that the donors don't want to donate to chapters? Béria Lima msg 12:13, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Hi, Beria. I'm not sure it's based on the same survey. According to the page to which Mani directed you ([1]), the survey you were talking about was conduced in April of all Wikipedia users, 5,073 in total. According to Sue's footnote ([2]), that data seems to be drawn from a donor survey with 3,760 participants, conducted in August. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 12:34, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Maggie is correct - Beria, you're conflating surveys. The one that is referred to for the Q&A is from the donor survey, which was commissioned by the Foundation, executed and designed by Seachange and Rand, and analyzed by Q2 Consulting. It's not the one that Mani was responsible for. It actually, I think, predates her involvement with WMF. Philippe (WMF) 18:20, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Maggie, do you know if the raw numbers from that survey are available? Because they certainly don't match with the numbers that came out of the general survey of editors that Beria is referring to. More generally, I would also question the validity of talking exclusively to Foundation donors (not a particularly representative group) and asking them whether they'd prefer to donate to the Foundation or someone else, and using that to justify this course of action. Craig Franklin 12:44, 5 January 2012 (UTC).
I don't know, Craig, but I will try to find out. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 12:46, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Craig, what raw numbers do you want that aren't available in the report? It broke down the cross-tabs, I believe. But I can see if I can get whatever you'd like from that one. Philippe (WMF) 18:21, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Philippe, hoping for something like this, if it's available. Simply because I'm the sort of dork who enjoys number crunching in Excel :-). Craig Franklin 08:16, 6 January 2012 (UTC).

There are gaping holes in this assumption. First, most donors don't know the difference between Wikipedia and Wikimedia, instead of educating or gauging what they know first, the survey skews the sample group to begin with. Then the point Craig made that these are WMF donors, why not WMDE donors, ask them the same question? Either way, a Donor survey conducted by WMF is being used to argue that WMF alone should deal with donors, convenient. Theo10011 13:22, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Do you mean "commissioned by WMF"? (As I read it, the survey was actually conducted by Q2 Consulting, LLC. I could be wrong there, but it's under their imprint. :)) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 13:28, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

I was going by Fundraising_and_Funds_Dissemination/Recommendations/Q_and_A#But_wouldn.27t_people_prefer_to_donate_to_local_organizations_and_not_the_Wikimedia_Foundation.3F, maybe the mention of this agency and the commissioning coming from WMF might benefit from being mentioned there? I have no idea about this agency. I stand corrected. Thanks. Theo10011 13:40, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

The survey was designed by Seachange, commissioned by Rand for the WMF, and analyzed by Q2 Consulting. Philippe (WMF) 18:22, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Is the methodology for this public? How people were selected? What sort of representation was done on a global level? American donors operate in an area where there is no national chapter. This is different than Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Serbia, Bangladesh, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Indonesia, Philippines, Netherlands, Spain, etc. Do you know if the methodology and the results were broke down based on national origin of the donators and what differences there were in geographic responses? This seems very important and necessary to make informed decisions on a global level. --LauraHale 20:02, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Philippe provided the links to Fundraising 2010/Survey and Fundraising 2009/Survey below. These may answer some of your questions, at least as regards methodology and selection. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 13:43, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
This kind of questions is indeed very dependent on how you pose the question. For example, in the footnote that Maggie refers to, the question (with an audience where 45% lives in the US and 80% doesn't know there is a chapter in their country) stated: "Next time you donate, would you say you would rather donate to the Wikimedia Foundation that operates Wikipedia, or to the national chapter representing your country?". There are several flaws with that - and if posed the question this way, I would probably also have answered WMF. Because for the WMF it does explain what it does, for the chapter it only says "represents your country" - which is not the activity of a chapter. It doesn't mention that the chapter also supports Wikipedia (in other ways, for example through supporting the community in that country) etc. Also, there is no 'representing' involved of course, it sounds more like a political thing - and that is not what it is. It also fails to mention that the chapter still shares in several costs that would have to be made either way, that the WMF also spends money on non-hardware goals etc. Quite misleading if you want to draw conclusions from it for this purpose. Effeietsanders 15:31, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Please note that the content and design of this survey was done openly, on the wiki, at this page. Much of the language was also worked out publicly, on the wiki here. Several chapters members were involved in the design, and at least one (very) vocal critic of the Foundation was involved in the design. Philippe (WMF) 18:26, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Even if the survey have been collectively written, it doesn’t change the fact that the question is phrased in a way it’s probably more advantageous for the WMF as Effeietsanders explained. I aggree writing neutral questions is quite difficult, but here the result is quite expected given the phrasing. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 21:13, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Philippe, this is the first I am seeing this survey. This might have been around the time Rand left? or maybe he left after or during this? The page and the vocal critic you mentions only makes a single question. There are 4-5 people who commented on the entire page, and maybe 9-10 points at most. I am surprised why the chapters weren't consulted or participated in this but that is another point. This also brings the second question, why is a 2 year old survey being used now? A survey, commissioned by a WMF staff member who left soon after. I only see 3 chapter people commenting, not several, maybe I'm wrong? It does mention alex, casey making minor corrections. I'd be more interested in reading the discussion about the result of the survey, can you point me to it pb? Thanks. Theo10011 22:44, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

P.S. Found the survey results, the pdf anyway, but no discussion about it. Maybe there is another place? Theo10011 22:46, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Theo, it's not the first you've seen of the survey... it was linked from the 2010 fundraising pages on the master template, all year last year, during the fundraiser. Philippe (WMF) 02:37, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Just a comment on the survey response. When I developed these recommendations, the response to that survey question was not a factor in my thinking. We do not have robust data that conclusively tells us what donors' intentions are, mostly because of the kinds of issues that Effeietsanders has raised --- basically, it's extremely hard to construct a question that will yield useful results, because donors just don't have a good-enough understanding of who we are and how we operate to be able to give us an answer that accurately reflects whatever their wishes might be. We stuck that survey response into the Q and A because it's one of a very few pieces of insight we have on the issue, and I think its usefulness is limited but not zero. But to be clear: it was not and is not determinative in terms of influencing my recommendations. Thanks Sue Gardner 02:00, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
For the record: I did not want to suggest there was bad intent from the side of the WMF by putting together the survey (sorry Philippe if you felt that way), but how it is written and whether there was an imput period wouldn't influence my opinion on what kind of conclusions you can draw from a survey question anyway.
Sue: Perhaps it is then better to not use that survey question in the Q&A? That way it is also not suggested that it is one of the reasons. Effeietsanders 08:13, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Here you go: I've changed the Q and A page. I think it's worth keeping the response itself, but I've put in a bunch of caveats so people don't misinterpret it, or think the Wikimedia Foundation is misinterpreting it. Thanks Sue Gardner 21:33, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Sue, you are calling the data inconclusive yourself and saying that the recommendations were independent of them, while using that same inconclusive data as an addendum for your biggest and most contentious recommendation. Either remove it and state that it is your opinion, and not based on any conclusive data or defend its use. Using it and then dismissing it yourself, is complicating and frustrating those who are trying to read and follow up. As Effe suggested, can you please have someone remove it, and re-word your recommendations to reflect that it is either based on inconclusive data or your feelings? Thanks.Theo10011 20:13, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Pb, correct me if I'm wrong but the survey draft started in February of last year, and most of it seems to have been completed by June-july according to the talk page. I was hired sometime around october/november, there is no way I could have known or participated in it. I did notice the link in the sidebar but never really paid much attention to what it was for, like several hundred other people. Theo10011 20:13, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

An alternative analysis of fundraising effectiveness

Given the flaws mentioned above in Sue's analysis of the effectiveness of the WMF and chapters at fundraising, I thought I'd have a go at analysing it using a different approach. I have calculated (and I would ask people to please check my maths) that the 4 chapters that fundraised this year raised 26.3% of the funds (according to this Google Doc spreadsheet, ignoring funds raised after 31 December so as to compare like-with-like, although this means FR, DE and CH lose out on the big last day boost) and represent 13.7% of the world's GDP (according to the IMF figures here). You cannot directly conclude from this that the chapters did better than the WMF would have, but I think it is very clear that the chapters were very effective (although, it should be noted that if you remove Germany the figures go down to 10.2% of funds from 8.5% of GDP, so still better than rest-of-world, but not by much, so really it's WMDE that is super-effective, but the others are still effective). I would appreciate it if someone at the WMF could provide me with a breakdown of the WMF's revenue by country so I can do a better analysis (it may be that the WMF's statistics are being dragged down by a few wealthy countries where very little is raised - eg. China, perhaps?). --Tango 21:16, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

I'll see what figures I may be able to find. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 22:15, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Thank you! --Tango 22:52, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Tango, I've got the latest numbers for you. Like the numbers Sue used, they are preliminary figures, evolving as data comes in, but I'm sure they'll be helpful in figuring out trends. If you've got any questions about it, please let me know, and I'll try to get you answers. If I've managed to do the "sharing" correctly, it should be visible as a Google doc spreadsheet to anyone who clicks here: [3]. If you encounter any issues, please let me know. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 11:10, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
These are measured in dollars, that has some advantages for WMF planning but could explain the misconception as to whether donors are more or less willing to donate to a local chapter. It is possible that both the WMF figures and the Wikimedia UK figures as to UK donations are correct, provided they are in different currencies and the dollar has done well against Sterling and the Euro in the last year. If so then what the WMF is encountering is not that donations in the UK and Europe are growing more slowly than elsewhere, it would be that the weakness of sterling and the Euro is partly masking the success of local payment processing. Remember most people in the UK are earning the same or less in in sterling than we did the previous year - so to measure the success of UK fundraising as opposed to US fundraising in the UK you need to measure the percentage change in donations in sterling as that is the currency that the donors earn and the currency that they donate in. WereSpielChequers 11:29, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I've just looked up the USD-GBP rate and it has hardly changed (it changed a lot during the year but has come back to the same level). The mid rate for 31 December 2010 was 1.5470 and 31 December 2011 it was 1.5455. That change isn't going to have a noticeable impact on anything. The Euro has weakened against the dollar by about 2.3%, which is worth taking into account but isn't likely to change any conclusions. The Australian Dollar and Swiss Franc have both changed by only about 0.1%. So basically, currency movements haven't been significant (but you are right that we need to remember to check them). --Tango 12:39, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
As mentioned by email, the figures for Wikimedia CH are wrong -- they include only the fundraiser, not the period July-November, despite what the column says. And indeed, change in exchange rates can make a large difference too, so we are comparing apples and oranges here. And we should add to this table money that was fundraised in CH that does not fall within the fundraiser agreement (e.g. a person who made a large donation specifically to WM CH): while not part of the agreement, it's part of the money received through the chapter's fundraising effort, and shows why they are efficient. Schutz 12:24, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, Maggie! I'll look over them properly over the weekend. --Tango 12:39, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Cost of international transfers

It has been repeatedly stated that the cost of international transfers is a significant negative. Please could this be quantified. What exactly are the costs that have been incurred in past international transactions both to and from the foundation by both payment processing chapters transferring money to the foundation and grant recipients receiving grant funds and returning unused grant funds. Seddon 07:56, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

The total expense for transferring funds from WMAU to the WMF last year was AUD$60 - and that was only because we did two transfers instead of one. It may be different for other chapters or countries. Craig Franklin 08:20, 6 January 2012 (UTC).
Thank you for that craig. Do you have information on the exchange rates at the time of transfer and the dates of the transfers as well as total amounts? Similar information from other chapters would be greatly appreaciated. Seddon 08:24, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
For the 2010/11 financial year, the WMF requested $USD132,854.48, and we transferred $AUD127,727.60. So I make that an exchange rate of 1AUD = 1.04USD. We did raise the exchange rate issue with the WMF and were told not to worry about it. Craig Franklin 12:13, 6 January 2012 (UTC).
For WM CH, if we transfer money to the WMF account in France, the cost is actually zero (and it is indeed an international transfer). If we send the money to the US, the cost is... 2 CHF (<3 USD) per transaction. Schutz 08:59, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I believe that international transfers from WMUK to WMF currently cost something like £40 - which is fairly negligible compared to the amounts that we've transferred thus far. Those costs will be going down as we're in the process of switching to a new international transfer system ( I suspect that the bigger issue is actually converting the currency into USD - given that conversion rates fluctuate so much, it's important to try to make these transfers at the right time to get the most amount of USD for GBP, which I gather our new transfer system will let us do (but I doubt that most systems, such as Paypal, do this to the customer's benefit). Note that using GlobalPay wouldn't make these problems go away - it would actually make them doubly worse since you'd have to convert money granted back to WMUK via GBP -> USD -> GBP, hence doubling the costs and the currency conversion risks/inefficiencies... Mike Peel 09:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
The question is a little bit complicated. The cost has basically an impact in the donation. I meant to explain that a donor who transfer money in another bank account with international transfer may have some additional costs, this could happen also by credit card. It means that it makes sense to collect the funds locally and after to transfer outside with an unique transaction. --Ilario 10:32, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree, what is really important are the costs of the exchange rate. Let's make an example: the exchange rate is really variable, for instance the exchange USD/CHF at the end of October was 0.86, now is more or less 0.94, it means a difference of ~0.10 CHF. Imagine that we receive the donations in CHF in an account in USD, we may lose the original amount of the donations cause the exchange rate. The chapter will receive this money partially back as a grant, but it means a new conversion and again a lose of the original value. So my questions is: does it make sense to collect the money in USA and receive them back in the original country with the risk of the exchange rate? Why a double conversion? In the other hand if the exchange rate is favourable, this may be advantageous, but it seems really stupid to me that WMF should keep a bank account in Swiss Francs to save the real value of the donation. --Ilario 11:19, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
The thing with exchange rates is that if someone is donating in anything other than USD, it has to be converted at some point. Whether that happens when the donor makes their initial donation, or when the funds are transferred from a chapter to the United States is immaterial; it has to happen. And when exchange rates are factored in, the foundation may get a windfall or it may make a loss, there's nothing really that can be done about that. The only possible mitigation is holding it in a chapter's account and playing the exchange market to try and get the most favourable rate possible, but I'm not sure it's entirely ethical to do that sort of thing with donor funds. Craig Franklin 11:34, 6 January 2012 (UTC).
At least, when a local chapter is a payment processor, exchange rates are not an issue for money raised in this country that is used in the country (the share that is kept by the chapter); that's already a large proportion of money raised that won't need to be exchanged. That's a pretty strong advantage of local payment processing. Schutz 12:10, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Correct, and agreed. However, I think it's reasonable that some portion of the funds eventually make their way to the WMF, so at some point the issue will raise its head. You can't avoid it, even by going to a completely centralised or completely decentralised model. Craig Franklin 12:15, 6 January 2012
Of course, you can't avoid it, but it's already a big win if you can avoid it on part of the total revenues (>50% in the case of WM CH this year). Schutz 12:26, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Getting down to it

"This is the kind of point that it would be great to get down to, because then we can really focus on solving for it."

Some ideas taken from internal-l, anonymized unless the authors want to claim them.

Allocation, comparative review

luckily we're still only considering how to share of funds raised, not yet how to share our shared bounty of public media, volunteer effort, or editorial/curatorial attention.

1. How do we decide who is allowed to spend how much and on what?

  • How do we do this now, when we have as much cash as we need? Then how do we prioritize in lean times?
  • Who acts as the 'we' here, how does it change over time?
    Suggestion: have separate review of annual plans for all significantly-sized groups, and of specific requests for funds; similar but distinct skillsets.

2. When is the accountability associated with applying for and potentially being denied money a good thing?

  • WMF takes a strong position of not relying on grant funding [to maintain independence]. Chapters also don't want to be too reliant on it. But grant hurdles help establish goals and articulate processes, they help us measure progress outside our own echo chambers - both WMF and chapters.

3. How can we develop better ways to spend money when it is available, matching available funds to active programs?

  • We regularly have the chance to advocate for major content holders to release their work under a free license (cf. recently: the Korean national dictionary project) but no idea how to value such work, or compare it to other active priorities
  • We don't know what levers we could push in these scenarios. We have returned a donation we were unable to spend.

Fundraising skill, privacy, security

privacy and security and legal requirements are sometimes used unintentionally as brinks to end discussion.

1. Learning to fundraise professionally: when is the long-term benefit worth the short-term cost?

  • to fail, improve, succeed, report, account for it - may have some short-term risk, but is valuable for organizational growth for a chapter (and valuable to the movement long-term)
  • The benefits increase and the risks drop the more often we do this and the better we get at this as a movement.
  • Risk: short-term increased variance in accountability, crispness? (yet authenticity?) of donor engagement
  • Counter-risk: failing to develop deep and broad expertise in this core set of skills.

2. How does centralizing payment processing remove privacy and security risks?

  • Seddon claims ~300,000 donors tracked by chapters that have processed payments to date. What is the concern about donor privacy that would impact future donors but not these? Is there an advantage to stopping the flow of donors to those groups, compared to ensuring they have world-class programs and procedures?
  • What does WMF do to protect donors that others do not at present?
  • Is it possible to share donor management tools across all movement groups, to allow local followup while ensuring system and data security?


WMF and Chapters all seem to respect the idea of a distributed movement and independence. Different people see independence in universal grant-making, in high-accountability payment processing, and in wholly independent fundraising (Poland!)

1. What would make Chapters or other movement entities truly independent? How might this be risky, when is it worth the risk?

  • True independence comes from having an established base of supporters, and warm personal relationships with them. This includes relationships with partners, donors, politicians, content liberators; and other volunteers and organizations and [community, regional] leaders.
    Chapters currently excel in regional politician and content partnerships; a few have great donor relationships.
    Risk: establishing permanently a group that later becomes ineffective.
    Risk: amplifying other risks (say, 'learning to fundraise professionally) -- can be minimized by bootstrapping one with the other.
'True independence' may be a bit of a myth, but a diversified donor base - or a diversity of fundraising strategies: institutional grants, individual donations, generating revenues if possible - does usually lead to financial independence for an organization, as opposed to relying on a single donor, only one funding mechanism, or 'putting all your eggs in one basket'.Bishdatta 18:21, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

2. How should we ahare donor relationships, to maximize benefit to the donors?

  • We all need to be wary of the impulse to hoard relationships, rather than empowering supporters to find one that is most meaningful to them. (every group thinks 'clearly the most meaningful relationship is with me ;)')

Sharing priorities and discoveries

Each day sees many strategies, many plans, and many new things learned

1. We all have different strategic plans, aiming at the same large set of goals. When is this a problem for prioritization or allocation?

  • Some feel that the 2015 strategic plan developed by WMF and the community was for all groups across the movement, others feel it was just for the WMF.
  • This often becomes a source of opposition, rather than a chance to learn from one another.
  • The plan itself notes tasks left to Chapters (outside the scope of that doc).

2. How can we learn from one another when we can't overcome our simplest language barriers?

  • The Strategic Plan is still available only in English (with partial translations in a random set of languages), years later.
  • Language barriers are hurting all planning discussions.
  • Across even our ~35 chapters, we rarely hear any reports in English from half of the active communities -- and many highly active editing/curating communities simply don't engage on Meta or in meta-processes. Our Internal lists have almost no non-English traffic.
  • Fixing this - by investing in community development and professional support - is no longer expensive compared to our annual communication budget, or the complexity of the international reviews and assessment considered above.

3. How can we develop measures of success in our core work: content coverage, educational impact, usefulness vs. alternatives?

  • Are we measuring our strat plan targets? Do other groups have their own targets? (cf. Indonesian success targets for writing contests)
  • We need outside feedback. We are not keeping up with developments in our own fields (There are hundreds of complete courses and thousands of popular videos under free-content licenses that are not yet on Wikimedia projects), while tracing ruts in familiar curatorial tracks.
  • We need ways to act on such feedback. When we get consistent messages re: major areas we do not cover well, we know not how to proceed

Strategic innovation, the many uses of data

take 9 wikimedians, get 10 views on what our strategy means for short-term priorities

1. Many of the chapters that were deeply involved in crafting their own fundraiser have tried methods quite different from the global online campaigns. How can this innovation be captured in our data, identity stories, and visualizations?

  • WMF data sometimes present everything as a small set of aggregate numbers, underplaying the value of such innovations.
  • Chapters sometimes claim that those innovations were tied to payment processing (though this is not always so - cf. Spain's publicity campaign two seasons ago)

2. A few arguments, from all sides, have built on estimates of available data that had to be quickly revised... or have summarized established data quite boldly. Is there a better way to reason from data?

  • Are there ways to share raw data and its visualizations, and to have inline deeplinks to source data? (this would improve all of our projects!)
  • <obligatory WikiData joke>

tax deductibility

This is often mentioned and then droppped without tackling just how important it is in each country's case. the overlap between WMF and chapter capacity to take tax deductible donations in some countries is often downplayed, but surely important

1. Local organizations that can receive tax-deductible donations get a direct boost to funds raised. Those that receive tax breaks as institutions may get a similar bonus. How significant is this, and are there alternatives?

  • Do we track data (for us particularly, for each country major donor country) about the impact on donation volume? Where is getting this status a priority, and what value should the movement put on it there?
  • Where are there alternatives to having a tax-deductible chapter for taking tax-deductible donations?
  • In some countries, WMF is able to accept t-d donations independently. In a world where mature chapters aspire to process their own payments, how would this work? Should this be begrudged/allowed/preferred until the national group qualifies for tax deductibility?

Wikimedia Foundation sites

See also: Wikimedia projects

There is a typo here: "would not be able to use the Wikimedia Foundation sites to do so" -> "would not be able to use the Wikimedia sites to do so". ~ Seb35 [^_^] 19:21, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

How is that a typo? Nathan T 00:29, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
The websites we are referring to are those owned by the wikimedia foundation. There are more sites which I consider to make up the "Wikimedia sites" which would include those run and operated by the chapters (the toolserver being the most prominent example). This wording is accurate. Seddon 19:18, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
It's not really. A better phrasing would be 'would not be able to use the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation to do so'. The sites belong to the community (right to fork and all that), not to an organisation, and we shouldn't forget that... But this is a side-issue here. Mike Peel 19:22, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
This is not right. The sites belong to the Wikimedia Foundation. Much of the content on the sites belongs to its many creators, and is licensed to others. Much like an office building; a real estate company may own the building, but its contents aside from infrastructure belong to others. Nathan T 19:26, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Except here, the office building goes under the name of 'servers', not 'sites'... Unless you're thinking of different infrastructure? Mike Peel 19:30, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
We're verging into the silly at this point, but a "site" can be conventionally defined as a URL, the design and structure of its pages, the contents of those pages and their functions. A "site" can be moved from one server to another without changing its ownership, and in this case the WMF owns both the sites and (many of the) servers. In any case, the community is not formally an entity nor does it have any ownership rights. Nathan T 19:59, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
It could be for you a bad phrasing, but it’s for me a major issue (not only this small occurence, but also all others, as well as the general spirit). By saying Wikimedia sites (or perhaps better Wikimedia projects, following Seddon’s remark) it means it is a community website (neither the WMF created alone WP, neither the editors created alone WP, neither the Chapters, etc.); by saying Wikimedia Foundation website it would rather mean WMF has the authority on the websites, and the community (editors, chapters and other stakeholders) just has a right to use it, although editors also are a core stakeholder in the success of WP (and hence the successful fundraisers).
I aggree WMF owns trademarks, domain names, servers and operational staff, but the fundamental asset of the projects is the editors. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 22:05, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Recommendation 4

Not much to say about this apart from "I like the idea", although the devil will of course be in the detail. The proposed FAC should be an actual diverse body, not dominated by any one particular segment of the movement, and it should not be a toothless tiger like the GAC, if this is going to work. Craig Franklin 12:21, 5 January 2012 (UTC).

The current wording is unclear on whether the decisions on this committee would be binding on the WMF or whether it would have a veto as it currently does (I think that veto is what Craig is refering to as the toothlessness of the GAC). That is a very key point. I would also propose (as I mentioned on one of the other hundred meta talk pages where we are debating these issues) that the WMF's core spending goes through the same process. To use someone else's example from one of those other talk pages, the WMF shouldn't be free to buy gold-plated server racks without it going through the approval process. I think we can trust the committee not to refuse reasonable proposals from the WMF to spend money on servers. They should be able to rule on whether those proposals are reasonable, however. --Tango 12:56, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

IMO this is the most crucial of Sue's recommendations. How and whether this recommendation is implemented determines whether this set of recommendations, as a whole, leads to a more centralized vs. a more decentralized Wikimedia movement.
If done well, it will accomplish the latter, because it will devolve power from Boards and chapter bureaucracies to the community at large, and also rely on the wisdom of many smart people who aren't part of the community. If done poorly, it will turn into either a toothless committee with little bits of input on the margin, or a Soviet style planning process.
While changing to a WMF payment processing is a big deal for chapters which are either currently payment processing or hoping to do so in future, this recommendation would, in my opinion, be a far more significant change with more far-reaching consequences.
Here are my two cents:
1) Like Thomas says, it's essential to give this body real power. That means that vetoing its decision needs to be a major overriding action and an active effort, rather than the reverse (its recommendations are being reviewed and approved by the real decision-makers). There will be boundaries within which we'll have to remain for reasons of fiduciary responsibility, but it should be possible to delegate some of the authorities vested in the Board to a larger body that's in large part community-driven.
I'd be in favor of considering the Board election model really seriously at least for the majority of seats. This model has the advantage that it's already understood in the Wikimedia community. There's an election which is widely announced, candidates present their positions, and there's an expectation that those candidates will have authority vested in them. If that authority is somehow overridden, this will cause major and legitimate outcry and should only be done if circumstances fully justify it.
I'd also suggest at least experimenting, as well, with direct vote as a mechanism for program/impact assessment and importance ranking (perhaps surfacing both reader and contributor voices through distinct processes). It shouldn't be the only mechanism, but it could be a very valuable input to the final decision and ranking, and counter some of the problems that occur in large-scale resource planning.
2) Regarding core vs. non-core, I agree with the proposal of keeping them separate, at least for now. We don't know if the model as a whole is workable yet, and the Board has a fiduciary duty to not experiment with the organization's fundamental ability to serve its mission. If the model successfully survives a planning cycle or two, I think it would be more appropriate to consider moving the core spending through the same process.
--Eloquence 02:25, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Erik, I have to agree actually with most of what you're saying here. So far, my view is that the WMF strategy has been all stick, and finally we may just be getting a carrot :-).
Like I said, the devil is really going to be in the detail. Unfortunately my experience in dealing with the Foundation has been that many of these sorts of initiatives are often just cynical attempts to paint a varnish of decentralisation and consultation over a core of centralisation and command. But, the fact that you've put it straight in these terms makes me cautiously optimistic that this time might just be different. If this is indeed a genuine effort to bring chapters, the community, and volunteers into the tent and let them make substantial contributions to movement decision making once more, you will have my full and unconditional support to make it work. Prime issues I think that need to be addressed quickly is "who sits on this body?", "when can the Foundation override its decisions?" and "how soon can we get started?"
I have some ideas on how I would like to see such a body constituted and working, but I think it would clutter this page a but if I listed them all out here, would people prefer I stick them onto a subpage somewhere? Craig Franklin 11:44, 6 January 2012 (UTC).
I don't know how lengthy your ideas are, but I think it may be better to try to keep things in one place, if possible. :) What about a subsection here, in a collapse box if necessary? More easily accessible than leaving the page and would keep conversation together. It can always be split out later if need be. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 13:02, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I've gone ahead and created a brainstorming page with some specific open questions here: Fundraising and Funds Dissemination/Funds allocation brainstorming. (It could be transcluded and collapsed on this page if that's useful.) I'll add some thoughts of my own over the next few days.--Eloquence 20:05, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
That sounds like a good idea to me, Erik, to make sure that newcomers don't lose sight of it. Alternatively, we could more prominently link it somewhere, perhaps at the top of this section. I worry that newcomers will lose it as the page grows too long for them to easily digest. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 20:14, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, Erik. I've just posted some thoughts there. They aren't particularly well thought through and aren't at all carefully written up (which is why I thought your brainstorming page was a better place for them than here), but hopefully they'll kick start some discussion. --Tango 00:55, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

While I believe a (very) strong community committee is warranted for the review of grants, I do not find this proposal in its current form viable. It essentially creates a new board of trustees responsible for the distribution of >$10M. When $1-2M was raised globally, something like this might have worked. WIth $30M+ raised this year and growing, perhaps the primary legal responsibility of a WMF Trustee is the oversight of the foundation's finances (the donors' money). Not our only responsibility, but certainly a primary one from a legal standpoint. Delegating authority for that to a different body seems inappropriate if not illegal. The critical point is decision making authority vs. strong input / recommendation. I can easily imagine a body that reviews and recommends approval of grants and that these recommendations would be approved by WMF and/or the BoT (depending on size, probably) 90%+ of the time. But complete delegation of this responsibility doesn't seem feasible. Mhalprin 03:27, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Thank you Matt. It is heartening to know that there are two opinions on this within the board. Craig and others have made compelling arguments, I never thought this proposed committee could be a viable solution at this juncture. Regards. Theo10011 03:42, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

As I understand it, 9-10 years ago there was concern about Jimmy as a God-King with too much power, so the Foundation was created as a balance. Now there is concern about the Foundation having too much power, and from that stems the idea of a FAC. It seems like the cycle will just repeat itself again -- soon the clamoring will start that the FAC has too much power and must be replaced by something else. Shouldn't we just do the hard work now to sort out a best possible and realistic system, rather than kicking the can down the road? Stu 04:28, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Or, you know, at the risk of sounding hopelessly idealistic, we could come up with something that works and will continue working. For what it's worth, the reason you state was not the primary driver for the creation of the Foundation in the first place, although it may have influenced some people's thinking. Craig Franklin 05:52, 7 January 2012 (UTC).
Good point and thanks for info, Craig. Regardless of history, the issue as I see it is a fundamental tension between our decentralized culture and the challenges of our newfound wealth. Together, over the past few years, we have all built some extraordinary capabilities in raising funds to pursue our vision. That has given us tremendous resources to pursue free knowledge. But if we want to continue to have access to resources at that scale, we have to accept the responsibility to our donors to ensure every contribution is spent wisely and with the greatest impact. That requires a concentrated effort to analyze spending and opportunities and allocate donor funds effectively. Some system has to play that role, and some group of people has to carry out the work of that system.
Whoever plays that role -- the Foundation, the Board, a new entity like the FAC, whatever -- it's going to be hard and time-consuming and painful. And frankly it's not at all fun -- you have to make some hard decisions, say "no" to people, and at times be very very unpopular.
But it's a role that has to be played. We cannot just ignore that responsibility to our donors for a few months or years until a Volunteer Council, Movement Roles, the FAC, or some other group is able to focus on the issue, come to agreement on a system, and then build the capability to carry it out consistently. That is why, in my role as the Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, Chair of the Audit Committee, and long-term member of our community, I have pushed and will continue to push Sue and the Foundation very hard to play the assertive role it is playing now. It just has to be played. Our obligation to our donors has to be fulfilled. We have to try, and an imperfect system of grants and project plans and annual reporting is infinitely better than no system.
If you have a problem with the current system, come to me and complain. Come to the Board and complain. Do not personally attack Sue and her staff. Do not challenge their professionalism. You are completely misdirecting your frustration. Get angry at me. Get angry at the Board. Flame us, but don't flame the 90 incredibly committed, incredibly passionate believers in our cause who have chosen to devote not just themselves but their careers to our mission. We are incredibly lucky to have them in our movement, working with us to build our shared vision.
Even more appropriate, get angry at life. Get angry at the amazing impact we are having. Because what we are experiencing is a natural outgrowth of our success. It is what happens when you build something that helps a half a billion people a month. When over a million people want to support you with donations. This is what is called ironically in English a "high-class problem." For all the hand-wringing that's going on, we are incredibly fortunate to have this wealth to spend.
This tension is understandable. Our culture is decentralized. That's what attracted a lot of us to the projects in the first place. That's what made our projects so great. And as volunteers, most of us like the luxury of being able to choose exactly what we work on. But if we want to continue to have such amazing resources to pursue our cause we are going to need a system to help us allocate and monitor the use of donor funds. And that will involve a different kind of decentralization, and perhaps a different degree of decentralization, than we are used to. That's what we have to accept. Everything else – the nature of the system, who operates it -- is just a detail.
So in the end I'm saying I agree 100% with Craig. We all need to accept that there has to be some system in place to make tradeoffs in a sincere effort to ensure donor funds are spent well, whether it is the Foundation, the GAC, or a new FAC, or a peer review process, or a Magic 8 ball. And we need to accept that sometimes we won't personally like the answers that come out of that system. But we still need the system.
And that brings us to this amazingly long discussion page, and to Sue Gardner. Sue and her team are making an extraordinary effort to reach out for feedback, input and help in figuring out the right answer for what this system to be. They chose to do this a month ahead of the board meeting, six weeks ahead of the Finance meeting in Paris, and three months ahead of the Chapters meeting, to ensure as much time as possible for collaborative problem-solving. I applaud what they are doing. I think those who respond to their outstretched hands by slapping them aside with a wave a rhetoric and bile are letting our entire community down. Take advantage of this opportunity. Join the discussion. Please. We need all of you and your best thinking so our community and movement can figure this out together. Stu 07:58, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Stu, thanks for your post above. There is no need to get angry, but it is an emotional outcome of all this frustration. My point is, we never actually worked on a system for accountability. It always started with No direct chapter fundraising. I know that system or process would be something extremely hard to come up with, but how about giving it a chance? how about actually trying to fix this problem rather than give up and take it all away? How about a bit of trust first? All the projects are there because of the trust in people's goodness. Donors place their trust in us, why cant WMF try and place its trust in the chapters? give them a chance or a system to fail or succeed? Theo10011 14:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I must agree here with Theo. Inasmuch as I understand the Foundation's concerns, I think it would be very helpful if they assumed good faith and provide mechanisms to allow chapters to be more accountable, rather than assume that all chapters are unaccountable and we should centralize fundraising control in the Foundation. While this may sound very radical (and probably irrational), I'd like to see us prove you guys wrong, or at least let us prove you guys right. --Sky Harbor (talk) 14:36, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Das ist nichts als ein Wasserkopf irgendwo weit weg, wo nur noch Leute mit sehr guten Englischkentnissen sich unterhalten. Meiner Ansicht nach ist genau das Gegenteil der richtige Weg. Es gibt Entscheidungen, die zentral getroffen werden müssen, alle anderen sollten dezentral getroffen werden. --Goldzahn 16:50, 7 January 2012 (UTC) Vielleicht noch einen Hinweis: Ein guter Teil aller Metadiskussionen in de:WP betreffen das Handeln von WMDE. Diese Diskussionen sind offen für alle Wikipedianer einzusehen und alle können daran teilnehemen, nicht zuletzt weil sie in der Muttersprache geführt werden. Diesen Diskussionsbeitrag hätte ich niemals in Englisch schreiben können und so wird es vielen ergehen. Eine solche Umstellung wäre zumindest für uns ein sehr großer Rückschritt und würde sicher auf wenig Zustimmung stoßen. PS: Das Sprachproblem war bereits im strategy-wiki offensichtlich. Bin mal gespannt wir hier damit umgegangen wird. --Goldzahn 17:14, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Goldzahn, mein Deutsch ist sehr schlecht, aber ich habe versucht zu übersetzen. :) Ich denke, "Wasserkopf" muss ein Idiom werden. Ich kann nicht verstehen, Ihr letzter Satz. Ich bin sicher, jemand wird es fix! --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 20:25, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Poor translation (please improve!) This is nothing but an oversized - hydrocephalic-like buerocracy [happening] somewhere far away, where only people with very good English skills talk. In my opinion, the opposite is exactly the right way. Some decisions need to be made centrally; all others should be made locally.
Perhaps a hint: a good part of all "meta" discussions in de:WP concern the actions of WMDE. These discussions are open for all [German-language] Wikipedians to view and all can participate, not least because they are conducted in their native language. This discussion post I would never have been able to write in English, and so it will be for many others. Such a change would, at least for us, be a very big step backwards and would certainly meet with little agreement. PS: The language problem was already evident in strategy-wiki. [I will look forward to how the language problem will be treated here.]
Thank you for the translation. I hope I made my point clear. Now I will try to write in English, I hope it will be understood. If everything worldwide is going through a English speaking body, there has to be a good translation service, even an international help service, so that the non-English speaking community has the same possibility to get a grant. If not, the non-English speaking editors would have a problem. --Goldzahn 12:09, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Comment moved from content page

I'm moving a comment from the content page to here, so that it doesn't get lost (and so that Sue can be sure to see it and answer it). Philippe (WMF) 10:02, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Sue wrote:
"And yet, in the UK we saw only a 21% increase in donations from 2010 to 2011, which was less than the average country increase. This is not a lot of data to go on, but it seems to suggest that tax deductibility is not a significant driver of donations."
To this, Mike Peel writes: (This is completely inaccurate - please check your sums again! Mike Peel 09:38, 5 January 2012 (UTC)).

I'm not at all sure where Sue got this number from, and the context it's used in is extremely misleading. We're still working out the numbers, but there's a summary of the current understanding of them at wmuk:Reports_3Jan12#Chris_Keating_.28incl_Fundraiser.29 - the bottom line is that we saw a 41% increase in donations, and that's _before_ Gift Aid which adds an extra 25% onto the donations it applies to (this gives us an extra ~10% overall). Mike Peel 10:13, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
As I mentioned in my long comment above, it would be nice to have all the figures mentioned by Sue in a wiki page or a Google Doc, broken down by country. For WM CH, we do not have final numbers yet either, so it's difficult to make comparions (I know WM FR also receive payments by check, which take longer to be processed), and none of these figures should be used as arguments in the discussion (yet). Schutz 10:26, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
The correct figure is an 81% increase, not a 21% increase. This is a very regrettable inaccuracy. The Land 10:37, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Figures for reference (from here: WMUK for 2011/12 raised a projected UK£ 873k (US$1.36m), of which UK£87k (US$136k), or was "extra" 11%; theoretically if every UK donor had been a UK taxpayer, had not used up their limit, and had filled in the form, WMUK could have raised an extra 25% or US$305k; in practice, what they managed to achieve is considered high. Not sure if doing it all from the US (and so losing this 10-20%) would save that much money, but that's not my call. :-) -- James F. (talk) 12:05, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm confused. Chris/Land's email to wikimediauk-l on New Years Day said WMUK had raised £1,014,176, which is very different to £873k (I believe the 81% increase Chris mentions about is based on the £1m figure, since that is vaguely consistent with my memory that we raised just under £600k last time). It is worth noting that the current UK total is based on assumptions about how much we'll actually get from the recurring donations over the next year and doesn't include any allowance for those recurring donations continuing into future years. It is possible that everyone will cancel their direct debits within a few months and actual total will be significantly below projection and it is also possible that those direct debits will continue for many years and the actual total will be significantly above projection (I think the latter is far more likely than the former). --Tango 12:47, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
In addition to the apparent errors in the numbers (which, while unfortunate, are to be expected in a first draft) I have concerns about the statisically methodology. The countries where a chapter fundraised last year and the WMF fundraised this year is not a random sample of the chapters that fundraised last year. The ones that continued to fundraise were those most able to do so effectively. A lot of the chapters that ceased fundraising are ones for whom 2010/2011 was their first attempt at fundraising. It's not all that surprising that the first attempt isn't very successful, but that doesn't mean the whole concept of chapters fundraising is invalid. --Tango 12:47, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflicted) Just to clear this up, hopefully once and for all. The total raised during the Fundraiser by Wikimedia UK was £1,015,000. This is an increase of 81% on the £560k raised in 2010. The increase in donations was 43676 in 2011 as against 32364 in 2010, a 31% increase. The average donation also increased significantly because of our focus on Direct Debits. Many of the Direct Debits set up this year will still be paying in 2013 and subsequently, so the lifetime value of those donations is rather higher than the £1 million for 2012 suggests.
£87,000 of this total is Gift Aid (i.e. tax we can reclaim on donations made to us), but that is a bit on the low side - we saw a lot of progress in collecting the relevant declarations during the fundraiser, next year's figure would be higher.
The figures are in the spreadsheet James linked to above, which is very thorough, but in being thorough creates room for misinterpretaton.
I am happy to discuss this further, on- or off- wiki, and will be writing some reports on the success of the Wikimedia UK fundraiser later this week. The Land 13:09, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
(continuation to Tango) I aggree with the poor statistical methodology, as I said above in my paragraph Effectiveness. You cannot say (or if you have figures, please show them) you raised more than a chapter would have raised without having tested (see § above). And please share your raw data: you are really speaking about tripling the last year’s amount, not doubling? BTW France doubled its result compared to the last year. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 17:26, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
I would like to see the raw data too. How is the "average increase" calculated? Is it (total raised in 2011 across all countries)/(total raised in 2010 across all countries)-1 or is it (amount raised in country X in 2011)/(amount raised in country X in 2010)-1 calculated for each country and then added together and divided by the number of countries? They will likely give very different answers due to the extremely variability of the amounts raised in countries that don't raise very much (eg. £1000 in 2010 and £3000 in 2011 is a 200% increase, but not one we want to pay attention to). It's often useful to look at the absolute numbers rather than the relative numbers, since you lose a lot of information if you just have percentages. --Tango 17:54, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Hey folks. What I published was super-early provisional data that's been updated since I wrote that text, and I think will continue to be refined over time. I just talked with Zack; he tells me that Maggie will update the text here with the most recent numbers, and somebody will also be publishing the spreadsheet. I don't know when that will happen -- I am guessing probably tomorrow. Thanks, Sue Gardner 01:34, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Sue. It seems like the final figures are so different from those you included that just updating them doesn't make sense; they counter, rather than support, the point you made with them initially. Nathan T 02:49, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Of course that won't be such a problem if the conclusions are corrected along with the stats. WereSpielChequers 13:36, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Okay, I made a bunch of changes based on the updated information that was published earlier today, and I also pulled back from giving percentages based on absolute numbers (since they will continue to change as information is updated), to instead make slightly more general assertions that likely will continue to be supported by updated numbers. If anybody thinks the point I'm making on the page is inaccurate, please say why here. Thanks Sue Gardner 21:50, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Sue. I note that you now say "By contrast, in the UK we did not offer tax deductibility for donations in 2010, and in 2011 we did. And yet, in the UK we saw a lower-than-average increase. As best as I can tell, that's still a false statement - WMUK saw a much higher than average increase in donations (as Chris says above, we saw an 81% increase), and when you fold in donations that went straight to the WMF then it still seems to be either on par with, or significantly above, average (I believe that Chris calculates 43% here; I calculate circa 57% excluding currency conversion variations [4], compared with 42.3% for WMF based on $20.7 million vs 14.5 million as per [5]). But still: these numbers aren't definitive enough for drawing any conclusions on this issue yet, so please refrain from doing so until they are. I note that the UK donations received directly by the WMF appear to have decreased by 50% this year - I'd love to know why that was (hopefully it was due to improvements in geolocation, such that more donations went directly to WMUK rather WMF, rather than for any other reason). I'm afraid that as far as I (personally) can tell, you seem to be drawing the conclusion that you'd like to see here, rather than a conclusion that's supported by the data (an issue that seems to pervade this document, I'm afraid). Mike Peel 22:12, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I've done a little more research and it turns out that two of the countries where the chapter fundraised in 2010 and the WMF in 2011 that show more than 150% growth (ie. the WMF raised more than 2.5 times as much as the chapter) did fundraise in 2009 as well (Italy and Russia), so my explanation above that the chapters did poorly in 2010 due to inexperience doesn't hold particularly well for those two. Can anyone offer an explanation for these statistics? --Tango 00:44, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Christophe Henner - Drop the data, focus on the issues

Hi everyone,

The following is my personal point of view and does not reflect in any Wikimedia France's.

I love data. Data is literraly my job, at least part of my job. But, data isn't the answer to our issue.

As we saw the past few days, the same datas are used to back both position (WMF fundraising and everyone fundraising), henceforth I guess we should stop using data to discuss this issues and work it the other way around, what issues are solved by each structure.

So first, let's list the objectives and issues of our fundraising (based on Sue's and adding some) :

  • Maximising donations
  • Cultivating our donors
  • Creating a relationship with our donors
  • Accountability of the payment processing organisations
  • Transparency of the payment processing organisations
  • Fairness in money sharing
  • Efficiency of the fundraiser
  • Money transfer
  • Minimising legal exposure
  • Independence of the organisations
  • Involvement of the community

I don't think I've missed any, if I did, please feel free to add it :)

What struck me when I've read Sue's recommendations is that the recommendations are made to solve two kind of objectives/issues. A first set we could call "legal" and a second one "cultural".

Legal would be everything that is forced to use either by law or by good practices.
Cultural would be everything that is forced to us by our donors or volunteers culture.

Once this is being said, let's do a wikitable to sort them out !

Legal Cultural
Accountability of the payment processing organisations Maximising donations
Transparency of the payment processing organisations Cultivating our donors
Fairness in money sharing Creating a relationship with our donors
Money transfer Efficiency of the fundraiser
Minimising legal exposure Involvement of the community
Independence of the organisations

So we have more legal issues than cultural issues. If I use this wikitable and extract data I would say that ~54% of our issues would be solved by WMF processing all of the donations. Great ! Let's do that. Oh but wait, I said I wouldn't use data.

A good part of my job is to help companies to help them integrate new media in their structure and governance. When I work on this kind of projects, what I do first is to assess what kind of issues can be solved easily (mainly by training) and wich can't (deep change in the company "spirit", global governance overhaul, etc.). What can be solved by training are not issues I care of, they're easy to solve.

I mean training someone is really easy. However issues that needs a "governance" overhaul are horrible to handle. So what I try to do, is find the solution that solves most of the issues that are complicated to solve and I don't care for the others (I already knwo how to solve them, training or hiring).

Issue Type Solution
Accountability of the payment processing organisations Legal Easy. There are standards to respect. We define them and have all the organisations that wish to fundraise to meet them.
Transparency of the payment processing organisations Legal Easy. Same as above.
Fairness in money sharing Legal Easy to design complicated to implement. It's the 4th recommendation, a "neutral" body. I would go even further than Sue, but the idea is there.
Money transfer Legal Easy. If there's no legal work around, as in Germany, we can have operational work around. I proposed it to Barry while negotiating the fundraising agreement. WM FR cannot transfer more than 50% to WMF, but on top of those 50% we could give grants. So let's say that above 50% of our donations it goes to grants. This is a viable solution. There might be others.
Minimising legal exposure Legal Complicated then easy. Complicated to define all the legal threat around the payment processing. But once they are identified, we have to fix them. And identifying them isn't tide to wether WMF or Chapters are fundraising.
Independence of the organisations Legal This is one is tricky. I do totally agree that Chapters are definitely dependent on Wikimedia Foundation. Ever was. And whatever the structure we end up with, Chapters will be dependent on WMF. So this isn't really an issue, whoever fundraises, we depend. We either depend on the Grant giving process or the fundraising agreement. Little difference for me.
Maximising donations Cultural Complicated for WMF, easy for Chapters. Ok so, I agree that part of maximising donations can be done through A/B testing. But an other part is cultural. "Wikipedia Forever" isn't gonna work in France. Period. You can translate it, but if you're not french, kind of hard to grasp wht could or couldn't work. So, if WMF really wants to solve this issue, it has to get consultancy for the main countries it fundraises in.
Cultivating our donors Cultural Complicated for WMF, easy for Chapters. Same as above. Even worse in fact. How could WMF organise events with the donors of every single countries in the world ? Or contact them at the right moment. Will WMF staff be able to keep up with local news so they wouldn't send newsletter at the wrong time ?
Creating a relationship with our donors Cultural Complicated for WMF, easy for Chapters. Except if WMF is gonna have staff fluent in every main languages and having the time to answer to donors questions, well they couldn't built a strong relationship. Even worse, for France at least, as next year your main topic of discussion with the donors would be to explain to them why they ad a tax deduction last year and not this year.
Efficiency of the fundraiser Cultural Tricky. There are too many variables to take into account when calculating the cost of the fundraising. And if we want to be correct, we would have to confront the cost difference with the difference in income. There's no way to do that. Saying solution A would decrease fundraiser costs wouldn't be based on any extensive study.
Involvement of the community Cultural It isn't easy or complicated. Why do people edit Wikipedia ? Because they can see and appreciate the fruit of their work. Even if people starts to edit for the ideal, and the ideal is a strong motivation, what makes people stick to the projects, is the reward. The reward to see their work online. Useful. Appreciated. It's kind of the same as gardening. Would you garden your neighbour garden for free ? I would not. Here it's the same. How volunteers could get motivated to spend days working on the fundraiser if, in the end, they work, and the fruit of their work goes to Wikimedia Foundation with no guarantees whatsoever that they will get it a fair share back.

Having WMF being the sole donation processing organisation would solve quiet quickly most of the legal issues, but wouldn't solve cultural ones.

Having a mix structure, as we actualy have, would solve organicly cultural issues but would need work, time and resources to solve the legal ones.

I would like us to be around for decades. And I know WMF too.

And in 10 years, all Wikimedia organisations could be able to get to beyond expectations accountability/transparency. But even in 10 years, Wikimedia Foundation will not be able to cultivate donors/create a relationship, fit to the cultural standards as well as a chapter could. If you don't agree, please come with supra strong arguments.

As I said before, both on list and in person, I'm backing the board 100% regarding the accountability issues. They are important, urgent and critical issues to be solved. Even if the how was not good back in August (but hey shit happens), I do totally agree with the board decision to have higher standard regarding payment processing for both chapters and foundation. As I said back then, following the board letter, we had figured a ladder (who can or can't fundraise) but not the steps in between. We are really close to a system that could be fair and sustainable.

But, having WMF being the only donation processor is solving the short term issues and creating new long term issues. But now that we are close, the first recommendation would drive us to more debates, hard feeling, harsh words, etc. We don't want that. All of this is preventing all of us to do much more interesting stuff for the projects.

So here we are, crossroads of what we are as a movement.

We can take the easy path, Wikimedia Foundation being the only donation processor and solve all of our short term issues and not being able to cultivate donors in non-US countries, not able to really engage donors. Or we can take a more complicated path, which we already are on by the way, and define really high standards, having a mix system between WMF and chapters, defining new "committee" to ensure a fair treatement of all the organisations. Struggle for the next few month to get everything perfect. And then, being able to cultivate our donors and create a strong relationship with them.

I know we all want what's best for Wikimedia Movement. And I hope we'll find the best solution possible. But going down the easy road wouldn't help us improve our long term fundraising capability and would create a lot of involvement issues within the chapters. And if we really want the sum of human knowledge freely accessible to everyone we need involved and highly motivated wikimedia volunteers. And chapters helps providing that. Chapters made many amazing things happened, and being able to fundraise, to "garden" their very own organisation, to be empowered with their "destiny" allowed that. Just empowering people with editing Wikipedia lead us to have an awesome free encyclopedia.

I hope Sue you'll make the "right" recommendations, and if not, I hope the Board will. I do not want to imagine how things would be if not. Schiste 14:10, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

I disagree. I think that fallacies exist on both sides of the argument. When the cost of transfer is less than 0.01% (in the case of both WMAU,WMCH and WMUK) of the total transfer (so less than the cost of a night in a decent hotel room in most major european cities) it is a fallacy to state that the cost of international transfers is something to prevent chapters fundraising. Particularly when the return for example with WMUK being a charity is around 10-15%. There are many idealistic values and I will happily put those forward. But just as the foundation SHOULD remove fallacies stated by the chapters in defence of payment processing, so should the chapters do likewise. We all have a responsibility for any decisions made to be based on factually correct understandings rather than assumptions. Seddon 19:12, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I’m not sure to understand your remark; why are you speaking about the cost of international transfers? Perhaps, if it is linked to the example of a maximum 50%, this is due to French tax issues, not to the cost of transfer. This should better explain this specific example. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 00:25, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Hey Schiste, I will have to sit down and spend some time thinking about this in detail to respond, but thank you for making this post -- this is awesome :) I love tables (maybe not table syntax, but I do love tables). -- phoebe | talk 22:09, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Ahh, Schiste, I had started to draft a reply of my own, and here you have mentioned most of what I was going to say about legal vs. cultural, and short-term vs. long-term solutions. Thank you.
I will add one thing I have noticed: some Wikimedians who care about this topic, don't see why 'payment processing' is an important part of fundraising, and imagine that centralized processing is simply more efficient and easier to optimize. Maybe it is so efficient, they think, that it overcomes any advantage to donations being tax-deductible. Others don't understand what a good donor relationship or an efficient fundraiser entails, and again assume that centralized means more efficient / more reliable / better donor relations. So we are not all speaking the same language yet. SJ talk | translate   03:05, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I think your metaphor of a ladder without steps captures the current situation - so the question then is: How does one add steps into the ladder? I remember that you had brought this up in Haifa, and was struck by it then too. But even now, after so much water has flowed under the bridge, this remains a powerful metaphor, and a good way to think about this issue. Bishdatta 18:08, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
maybe i miss something but the whole structure looks pretty artificial to me. for a start: "legal" is nothing more (or less) than codified cultural convention and especially "transparency" - i tend to argue - is (for this "wikiculture") everything but (just) a legal issue (in the technical sense); its a "core value" "forced to us by our donors or volunteers culture" (which doesn't imply that it is not adopted freely as well. i think all entities involved do that in theory up to a point).
in other words: "legal" looks pretty much just like "cultural", artificial separated just for persuasive/argumentative reasons, without providing these reasons (no compliance about that as such but i would like to learn the reasons for it in the specific way outlined before i comment on the other the substance of the contribution). the point also applies to concepts like "fairness", etc. - anything but just technical stuff.
a minor side point: data matters, there is no way around it. example: i haven't seen that chapters are doing very well in "cultivating donor relationships" on a large scale until now -> i still would like to see conclusive hard evidence for the claims made here, not just singular examples of a chapter (or three).
wikipedia as a project usually provides the substance of donor-relationships by providing them with something they value and contribute to in a way by handing over money in return; neither wmf nor chapters as such provide something like it on a significant scale.
if i recall rightly, Zack tried to seal the perception gap between project & orga in his first fundraiser year by naming Sue "Wikipedia CEO" (or something like that) on a banner and there was an outcry from chapter people within hours - rightly so and we shouldn't loose sight of this fact by toying around with hypothetical potentials of what could be done in theory (i don't dispute that it could).
thus far & thanks for thoughts and work Schiste, regards --Jan eissfeldt 04:53, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Context- Flawed and one-sided

The entire section about geography/language divide is ridiculous. It ironically starts out with calling the existing mechanism flawed. WMDE is somehow different because the "overlap is high" in germany between language and geography? I am not sure what that is supposed to mean. Why WMDE is being singled out instead of a dozen european chapters with identical overlap. Maybe because WMDE was allowed to fundraise from the beginning? was that because of this "overlap"?

It goes on to denigrate EU chapters and exalt the global south bodies as if they are being marginalized, sadly, they are the same Wikipedians from a different country. This might not have sunk in yet, that global south chapters might want the same things as EU chapters, freedom, independence, they might be critical of WMF as much as other chapters.

Depending on the outlook if all entities were considered one, WMF would be the biggest chapter, ten times the size of the next one. It would be based in one language and one geography, all the arguments being made against the chapters would apply ten folds to WMF. Considering some of the recent criticism and questions about WMF accountability, I'm not sure what high moral ground one organization can take to criticize the other for not being responsible. Theo10011 13:19, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Re the first paragraph; I think WMDE was used as an example, and the example works in some respects, but there may be a better way of making the point. According to the English Wikipedia, there are 178m (98m native) German speakers, and 81 million people in Germany (not all of whom speak German) - necessarily making German citizens a minority of all German speakers, not unlike other European nations with an eponymous language. Nathan T 18:32, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Quick roughtly factual note:
  • High overlap speakers/citizens (apart Germany, not totally true as Nathan pointed out): Italy (partly), Finland, Norway, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania…
  • Weak overlap speakers/citizens: Spanish, Portuguese, English, French
Regarding the Global South, this is needs to be defined. I've done a quick search on meta. There is not a page that defines what the term actually means. --LauraHale 20:17, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Laura. I just did a quick search of my hard drive, and here is the definition that has been used by the Wikimedia Foundation. I forget its origin (an international aid organization or the UN, something like that). It is also on the wikis somewhere, perhaps on strategy. Thanks Sue Gardner 02:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
"The Global North is comprised of Canada, the United States, Hong Kong, Macau, China, Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Vatican City, Australia, New Zealand and Russia.
The Global South is comprised of Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Democractic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, The Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, North Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgystan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Naura, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papau New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.''
Nathan, my comment was in context of WMDE -WMDE was the only chapter mentioned in the board letter about fundraising and intentionally given a pass to be allowed to fundraise, which 99% of other chapters were not. If the logic there was that some "overlap" between geography and language facilitated, I would like to know. Either way, it makes an assumption that germany doesn't suffer from some issue that all of europe does. Movement roles discussed the abstract of the language vs. geography issue, but this is turning it on its head and taking an unrelated albeit a real issue, and unnecessarily making it a part of this conversation. Would it help if the chapters tomorrow choose to make language based distinction rather than geography based? it is the same people, with the same issues and the same opinions. I can take 4 languages and start a "language chapter", It might satisfy some myopic shortcoming that is marginalizing all the people from my part of the world, but it is not going to change my opinion, it is not going to have an effect on fundraising. A Wikipedian from the non-privileged part of the world - Theo10011 21:30, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
The Haifa letter doesn't mention any chapters by name. Sue sent an email to internal-l on 8 August 2011 that said it was the Board's opinion that only WMDE should fundraise in 2011 (it's clear from the Haifa letter than their intention was for other chapters to fundraise once they could demonstrate they were ready). I'm not sure how accurate her understanding of the board's position was, though - Ting had to correct her on at least one point in that thread. I would rather hear about the opinions of the board from the board... --Tango 21:48, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
To clarify again: that was not the Board's opinion. Having many chapters serve as payment processors was in line with the Board's comments; we primarily wanted to ensure there was a high bar, with well-defined standards, for anyone processing payments. Some trustees may have thought only WMDE would be able to completely meet those standards last year; others hoped all interested chapters would manage to meet them. SJ talk | translate   03:05, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm not sure I fully follow your objection. I understand Sue as making the argument that the (typically) nation-specific nature of the chapters is not an extension of any fundamental characteristic of the Wikimedia movement nor any distinction normally used by the Wikimedia community. Many of the best arguments for nation-specific chapters are legal and financial, but these are seemingly mooted if chapters no longer have a role in raising Wikimedia funds. While Sue didn't explicitly list alternatives, it's quite conceivable that there are better organizing principles for groups supporting the Wikimedia mission - among them, as you say, languages.
Sue implicitly made this connection with her example of WMDE; language is a logical demarcation method for supporting organizations, but one that rarely coincides well with the current chapter system. In her view, the exception of WMDE seems to illustrate the rarity. You can see from my previous comment that I don't really agree, since there are nearly a hundred million German speakers living outside Germany (more than the population of Germany itself). Nathan T 23:57, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
I've seen such an argument made before, and I'd like to contribute to killing it before it grows, if I may Nathan. :) Why do people think chapters do their work in just one language? There are several countries that have several languages spoken in each of them, and in those cases the work of the chapter reflects this: workshops in different languages, blog posts in different languages, etc. A chapter may be located in one country, yes, but it can (and actually does) do activities in several languages. I'm thinking of WMES in particular, but I'm pretty sure other chapters, like WMCH for instance, do exactly the same in the same case. Let's not lose sight of that. Thank you, Raystorm 17:22, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Ideas on global accountability

There are some ideas discussed above and elsewhere about some initiative to reframe accountability across all pats of the movement. Some people feel this has already happened; others feel that there are separate standards for small groups, grant requests, Chapters, the WMF, and external partnerships.

Theo: can you consolidate some of your essays into a specific process or recommendation? SJ talk | translate   18:17, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Not at this juncture, sorry. Theo10011 18:41, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I first want word from the board, that this entire process is indeed about accountability and nothing more. That chapter fundraising will be permitted if concerns about accountability are addressed. Without it, any discussion, ideas or suggestion would be just noise and an exercise in futility while the mind of the people in charge, is already made up. Theo10011 18:49, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

I dont want to proceed further, so I might as well leave my thoughts on this. I didn't have a single fix-all solution in mind. Nothing directly structural can fix this. There are a number of central problems and a whole host of local ones. The approach Movement roles took was an open one, but it wasn't lead with the right focus. There needs to be some high level central discussions and deliberations, followed by localized one. You can not expect every chapter to come to the table to agree and disagree together. Someone has to take the initiative and give each one its time and listen to their focus. So for this purpose, I created 3 categories of chapters based on their fundraising status, partly covered in evolution of chapters-

  • 1) Category 1 - Immediate importance- these are the chapters who fundraised already, and will likely want to do again. They can be called legacy chapters, startgin with WMDE, WMFR, WMUK and a couple of others I am leaving out. Majority of them will have some staff, either part-time or full. Some an office-space and rent and bills. They would have majority of bills that would be required to be paid above anything. They need fundraising more than anyone else.
  • 2) Category 2- Intermediate importance- these are chapters who want to fundraise in the short term, less than 3 years to be exact. Chapters like WMPT, Wm spain and so on. They have to be dealt differently. Mostly grant based, they might have a part-time employee based on a grant but they would be discussing or investing in infrastructure for fundraising.
  • 3) Category 3- Lower importance- New chapters, recently approved chapters, inactive chapter, or chapters in hibernation, even older chapters that have no intention of fundraising. They can always decide to fundraise and change their category.

Now, the issue comes about accountability. Chapters in Category 1 would require the most focus. There is also a structural issue, where each chapter in category 1 should be exposed to the same audit or accountability standard the WMF is. There are 6 possible approaches that I thought of, that could be taken. The first one, is a Movement Auditor, a person or an entity with a couple of professional auditors/accountants. They would have to be payed employees and not volunteer, ideally they should not be representatives of any audit firm. They would have to be independent of everyone. Not at all related to WMF, ideally located not in SF. They would be answerable to the board alone as a separate entity, with a pubic wiki they would be required to curate with every single report of WMF and chapter. They would also subject each chapter once an year to a performance review. Do bear in mind, that this would be separate from the legal audit WMF and every chapter already have to comply with. The idea of movement auditor would be, the auditor of the movement's money, every single cent raised in the name of the movement would be accounted by this entity. Beyond direct recommendations to the board, performance reviews, the auditors role is only of an investigator/reviewer. The onus would be on the board to take disciplinary action and not on WMF.
Anyway, this was one of the thoughts I had, I have more ideas but they need proper fleshing out first. I wanted to propose a process called movement accountability initiative to last till the chapter's meeting to come up with the exact specifics of these proposal after discussion with all the stakeholders. But I have been told to leave my ideas somewhere public, and someone might or might not review them. Phoebe - I wasn't bluffing. This is off the top of my head, I know 'we' can do better. Theo10011 01:15, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Personal view: I think the tiered approach to Accountability that you have proposed is entirely feasible, and I've put accountability in bold, because I think that is the central issue at play. It also puts in some of the steps in the 'ladder' that Schiste/Christophe refers to in his post. I would like us to consider such alternate proposals, including any others, along with the original proposal. Bishdatta 06:32, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

The next issue is, what I earlier referred to as the "central authority problem". WMF is unwilling to take the active role in chapter governance and oversight, the fact that there is or has been not a single person in a staff of 90 for chapter relations, cements my point. We are left with 2 options at that point about who should provide governance and help to chapters when needed-

  • a)Expand the role of an existing body
  • b)Create a new body to fulfill that role

The options for existing body are- Chapcom, BoT and WMF. All 3 are existing entities that have been around for years. ChapCom first, ChapCom is an entirely volunteer based community lead committee. It is currently in-charge of approving chapters. They would be the most logical fit for expanding the roles to cover different areas related to chapter governance, after the approval process. The issue is, ChapCom is already suffering from volunteer fatigue, they would need to undertake a great amount of responsibility and work that would need to be done on a daily basis. The next option is WMF, the track-record for WMF-chapter relations has been bumpy. Increasing WMF role in this is going to lead to an even more confrontational role on a daily basis. WMF is equipped to handle this better than any other entity but not the best-match, since it should be considered the largest organization in a group of 40. The third option is BoT, while the BoT are completely volunteer based and experts in various fields, they usually don't take an active in non-profit governance and oversight especially when it comes to organizations that have their own board.
So, the 2 options here are- ChapCom or the BoT. Both are volunteer based entities, and community trusted. But neither one is set up to handle the huge influx of responsibility and undertaking this would be. So, to that purpose, proposing an intermediary organization or person, to aid both bodies would be a possible solution. A movement auditor in the case of the BoT, directly employed and answerable to the board alone. Similarly, ChapCom can have a couple of paid positions, be it full-time or part-time to aid in actual day-to-day work, while using the ChapCom as the final decision making authority.
The next logical solution is another organization, considering WMF is the only entity in charge of all the movement's money, this role might be more confrontational. There is also the chance, that their might be actual competition between the two body at some point, as a movement, that is a good thing. Competition will only improve both parties. This body can be, a council of chapters, WM global, WM europe or several dozen other variations. I and several other people have proposed multiple solutions to this already, some are on this page. Whether this is a direction that would be considered or not, is a decision that rests with the board and WMF. I would be willing to flesh out those 4 bodies (4 of 6) that can fulfill the middle role in this model, but the decision to consider them is the board's.
In conclusion, I would suggest adhering to the category system to consider these or any scenario. To re-iterate

  • Category 1 - Fundraising chapters - most likely with Staff and offices.
  • Category 2- Grants based chapters - most likely considering fundraising, and investing in infrastructure for fundraising with a target of 1-3 years.
  • Category 3- Small grants based chapters - limited grants, mostly chapters who have not decided their future course yet.

My earlier point covered the Category 1 Chapters mostly. There is substantial focus that needs to be invested in category 2 chapters as well. Category 2 is where the seeds for good practices, ideal conduct and accountability are needed to be sown. Organization who receive proper support and nourishment at this stage will be able to grow in strong independent organization that won't need as much oversight. I plan to cover these chapters in the next update I write here. They are the subject of 1-2 possible solution on how to address this issue structurally.

Thanks for reading. Regards, Theo10011 12:30, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for a thoughtful, detailed view. Couple quick comments.
First, as I've said elsewhere in this page, I'm not yet convinced that creating another entity is the right answer. Our community is suspicious/distrustful of centralized power. It's probably one of the very core pieces DNA for many of us. A long time ago, when there was concern Jimmy had too much power, the Foundation was created as a balance. Now the Foundation is the focus of fears/suspicion. Your proposal above dismisses the Foundation out of hand, I think entirely because of our shared community personality that is frequently afraid of central power. (BTW, the idea the Foundation doesn't have resources to support chapters is patently wrong and you know it).
If we create another entity, I'm certain that after some time it will be viewed as having too much power and off we'll go to create yet another. So my instinct at this point is that another entity isn't the right answer. We have to figure out a way to balance our fear of centralized controls with the duties we have to our donors and to ourselves to pursue our vision most effectively.
The more I think about it, the more logical it seems that the entity that executes accountability / funds allocation is NOT the first problem to solve. First we need to identify the criteria for success/performance in pursuit of our vision, how our movement will go about making tradeoffs, etc. Only once we have the model in place should we then move to the question of which entity can best execute it.
Second, and i know I sound like a broken record here, your note above assumes the goal is to create what you call "fundraising chapters." That is not the goal!!! Our goal is to make the sum of all knowledge freely available to every single person. We should find whatever model is most effective in achieving this goal. I am 100% convinced that giving power to a decentralized group of individuals worldwide is the right model. As I discussed on on my blog, I'm not yet convinced that local legal entities in dozens or hundreds of countries globally is the right model.
Ensuring our community has access to financial resources to pursue the mission is critical. That's why i've pushed so hard over the past four years for the Foundation to invest in fundraising capabilities. And as a movement we need to get that money to where it can best be used -- in support of individuals, GLAM, WLM, and yes even chapters. But the driver of how to spend donor money has got to be making the most possible progress in our global vision of making the sum of all knowledge freely available to every single person. That's why I think the old chapters fundraising model -- a big portion (up to 50%) of revenue automatically stays in the country it is raised from -- is unequivocally the wrong answer for our movement. It's about impact on our pursuit of the vision, not about entitlement.
So, where does that leave us? We need a system to evaluate impact. I totally agree with you on that. It will be difficult and challenging to sort out, but I am 100% convinced we as a community can do it. And I am really happy to have you so committed to helping sort it out. Once we figure out that system, then we can figure out how to operate it (e.g. which entity does the heavy lifting). Stu 17:39, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Stu, here are some counter-points to your arguments-
a) I actually said that another entity is probably not the right decision. It is a logical idea that I and others have proposed, but it would involve a lot of bureaucratic, structural changes that I don't think we have patience and resources for, to consider at this juncture.
b) I actually never said WMF doesn't have the resources for this role, to the contrary, I said WMF is probably the best equipped entity to handle it, with relatively limitless resources compared to the chapters. There is no denying that. I did however say that the track-record and the history, between the two has been bumpy. Along with - after several years of operation and expansion, there is still little or no dedicated staff person or resources for chapters. This is not by design or any limitation of resources but by choice. My assumption is, it seems to be a role WMF is unwilling to venture into. If I am wrong then please correct me.
c) I never suggested that "fundraising chapters" as the goal of our movement. We, for whatever reason chose a model which has chapters all around the world, I was not a party to that decision. But when that has been the route chosen, those chapters have to be legally registered organizations, that need to be independent of the foundation. Our goal in this context should be making those organizations independent so they can pursue the same mission in their part of the world by the route of their choice. You assumption that it is not the goal, would imply that WMF is or should be the only shepherd of furthering that goal, I strongly disagree with that.
d) All my concerns, from the day I started discussing this has been - I do not want WMF to be sole entity in charge of every single cent that is raised or moved in the entire movement's name, all across the world, covering everyone and everything. I have already made my points several times, that one entity, one person, one system is prone to failure, mis-management, the more money WMF raises, the greater this problem compounds.
e) And that is my point, we never really tried to work on a system. If the current terms are not agreeable, then let's re-evaluate and discuss them. If the model doesn't work, let's fix it. Let's not concentrate more and more power in one entity.
I also have to say, the point you raised multiple times about WMF being the replacement for Jimmy as the god-king, isn't exactly how most of us view it. Jimmy said himself the other day, how little there was back when he actually was the god-king to preside over, now, there is several dozen times more money flowing through, more responsibility. If you also look at some of the comments on this page, and talk to certain people, they would inform you that the god-king still exists, he was just replaced by Sue. I don't hold that opinion, but all this reaction is directed towards a single person who is making the largest decision for the entire movement. In certain people's opinion, the board isn't really taking the lead it should, or waiting for a clear sign.
Thanks for taking the time to read and reply. I enjoyed your blog too. Regards. Theo10011 18:51, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Stu, I agree with you that we need to find a way to balance our desire for decentralisation with our desire (and legal requirement) to be responsible with donor funds, etc.. I'm not sure what, if anything, you are proposing as a way to do that, though. I disagree with you that we shouldn't be trying to answer the question of who makes the decisions yet. I think we are all broadly in agreement about the end result we want. There are some details to be worked out, but I don't think we should get bogged down with those and put off answering the difficult questions. I also disagree (to an extent) with your prediction that a new entity would inevitably end up with the same complaints being raised against it as the WMF is facing now. One key problem with the WMF is that it was created without ever really defining its purpose and the extent of its powers. While people do complain about the decisions the WMF makes, a lot of the complaints are actually about it making decisions at all. There is a lot of disagreement about what authority the WMF has. While we could try and better define the role of the WMF, I think it would be much easier to start from scratch. I don't think we can ever eliminate all ill-feeling towards those with power, but I think clearly defining that power can go a long towards reducing that ill-feeling. There are also significant advantages to having the operations of the sites legally separate from the big decisions about money (see Erik's brainstorming page for some details on that). --Tango 21:54, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Response from Chris Keating (The Land)

I thought I would respond at length on some of the points Sue raises. For those who don't know me, I am a board member of Wikimedia UK and was the lead person for Wikimedia UK in the 2011 fundraiser. I am also a professional fundraiser and have worked for a number of British charities, universities and political parties. To the best of my knowledge I am the only professional fundraiser on any of the Boards in the Wikimedia movement, so I probably have a unique perspective. (And for clarity, this is a personal response, not a Chapter view, etc, etc)

I'm mainly going to talk about chapters and payment processing, though I appreciate that the idea of a new international body to make funding decisions would be a very interesting one and a big step for the movement to take.

Chapters payment processing

First, I'd like to say that the Wikimedia Foundation's fundraising team is very professional and effective and I have enjoyed working with them over the last few months. They know what they are doing and their work involves a lot of skill and judgement, supported by some quite sophisticated technical tools. It isn't something where it is easy for volunteers to just jump in and sort stuff out. It is therefore a challenge for chapters to fundraise effectively.

However, that said, I disagree with Sue's statement that it is always more efficient for the Foundation to handle donor data, payment processing, and so on. There are now enough examples to the contrary for me to feel that this would definitely be a mistake. Here are my responses to the various arguments Sue has put forward. The Land 13:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Could you share some of these examples? Bishdatta 18:15, 7 January 2012 (UTC)


I think Sue has a point about economies of scale. It would be interesting to see how payment costs compare between Chapters and the Global Collect alternative. I suspect Global Collect would be cheaper on the whole, though I'd be surprised if the overall impact was more than a percentage point. I am less sure there is a great deal of duplication between the Foundation and Chapters; things like databases are probably a bit more effort while decentralised, but also the Chapters relieve the Foundation of a bit of a burden of customer service and add a wider range of ideas and experience to the overall campaign. The Land 13:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Efficiency should not be measured only by "payment costs" but by global fundraising costs. The cost of fundraising must also take into account stuff like staff, setting up a crm, getting sound advice, getting tax-deduction status and so on. Basical analytical accounting gives this information.
Cost of fundraising for WMF last year: 11% (source:
Cost of fundraising for WM FR last year: 5% (source: (should be higher this year, but still much below 11% !) Anthere 17:04, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Obviously WMF's fundraising expenditures would have to be significantly higher than those of any chapter.
1) Chapters this year have generally copied messaging, designs, and practices from WMF that were developed with WMF resources (storytellers, form developers, analytics staff, engineers, etc.). This French landing page is a 1:1 translation of a WMF letter; the banner uses WMF-developed code and WMF-developed designs; WMF technical staff assisted with the campaign management, etc.
2) WMF handles vastly more transactions of a vastly higher complexity than any individual chapter, dealing with a multitude of currencies, jurisdictions, payment systems, etc. It's also performed comprehensive international legal analyses and audits, and spends huge amounts of time and effort on conversations like this one.
3) WMF undertakes fundraising programs at scale beyond the annual campaign, including grant-writing and reporting multi-million dollar grants, major gifts cultivation and outreach, and others, all of which are included in the above number.
So, it isn't remarkable that the fundraising costs for chapters are relatively low. What is remarkable is that there's a fair amount of initial bootstrap work required on both the chapter's and WMF's part to make payment processing work and to run a successful campaign, and there's still a significant ongoing cost to maintaining those systems. Those costs hardly reduce WMF's fundraising costs overall, but instead add to the fundraising costs for the movement as a whole. Perhaps that's worth it in the right configuration -- that's what we're discussing.--Eloquence 04:49, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Could we have some drilled-down information for the Foundation's fundraising costs? Then we would be able to establish a like-for-like comparison and identify areas where one party is freeriding on the other. The Land 19:42, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think that's a useful framing. The question about efficiency is whether the investment in local infrastructure (and relationship development, and legal analysis, and international coordination, etc.) is worth it. And obviously it's not going to be worth it in every instance. Is it worth it in some instances? Probably, but that's not the only question to ask.--Eloquence 20:24, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
There's also no reason why chapters and the WMF shouldn't be able to join in a consortium (formalised or not) to get better fees. Moreover, considering that the WMF has a single bank account outside USA (in Europe) and Sue doesn't even know how it's used (source: IRC office hours) nor people are allowed/invited to send money there, I doubt that the multiplication of payment systems owned directly by the WMF an scale up and be effective and efficient. Nemo 21:23, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Please see foundation:Ways to Give/en for supported currencies and bank accounts (you'll have to attempt a wire transfer to see bank account info). These accounts are managed by Global Collect . We can support most chapter-supported payment methods, and many which aren't supported by chapters.--Eloquence 04:53, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Anthere, Nemo, these are not the best arguments I've heard from either of you. Anthere, comparing cost of fundraising across two different entities in two different jurisdictions with two different accounting standards is nearly impossible. And even if numbers were correct, a major reason that WM FR's fundraising costs are low is because the foundation does so much of the heavy lifting in terms of systems, testing, infrastructure, etc. If you want to make a point about relative cost of fundraising, you've got to take these into account. Nemo, I'm not sure what point you are trying to make. Is your argument that the Foundation doesn't accept donations in enough currencies/payment systems? Or that the funds collection process isn't cost effective enough? I'm not sure because you don't cite any specifics. The fundraising team has done and published tons of info on this stuff -- see Fundraising_2011 for one example. Let us all know your specific concern and specific suggestion so we can engage on them.
Please, you are both incredibly intelligent and devoted Wikimedians. This collaborative process to sort out fundraising and funds allocation is so important. We need you at your best here with thoughtful, well-reasoned, detailed suggestions. Stu 07:42, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
The Foundation also has a certain part of its of fundraising costs (e.g. Storytellers, Production Coordinators)that benefit everyone taking part in the fundraiser - effectively provided free to those Chapters that are payment-processing. So I don't a raw comparison of "fundraising cost %" necessarily helps. Some comparisons of payment processing charges, currency conversion costs, and the like would be helpful. Though conventionally the analysis of data precedes people making decisions about what the best way forward is, whereas this whole process involves a proposal made on the basis of very little evidence and then a big argument about what the data actually says. The Land 12:48, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Governance issues

(fund transfers, legal exposure, fraud, etc). I am not sure this is so fundamentally linked to payment processing as it appears. Many of the risks would equally apply to grant-receiving chapters. Furthermore, centralising things in the USA creates risks of its own. Say the U.S. Government imposed sanctions on a country where the Wikimedia movement was doing some work. With everything centralised in the US, there would be no possibility of continuing any work there. With a decentralised system, programme work and funding could continue via a different nation which was taking a different approach in its foreign policy. The Land 13:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

I totally agree with your first point here. "Payment processing" is just a convenient shorthand for an operational component of the real issue. The real challenge for us is how do we make the best use of donor funds. Where in our movement can each dollar of donation have the most impact? That's the really hard issue. The problem I have with our old model of payment processing is that it automatically gave a big percent of the funds raised in a country (~50%) to a single entity (the local chapter). With no assessment of whether than entity could do a better job with those donor dollars than some individual or entity elsewhere in the movement. And the quality of governance/transparency of a particular entity is still not the whole story. An entity could be perfectly run and perfectly managed, but still not be able to make better use of a donation than someone else in our movement. The standard for allocation of funds donated to our movement needs to be whether a particular entity/project can achieve more toward our vision with those donor dollars than another entity could. Our old system with its 50-50 split did not address that. That's why it was the wrong model. I don't know what is the right model, yet, but see the section Theo started down the page on "Ideas on global accountability" for some thinking on the issue. Stu 07:20, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
+1 to Stu, that's the heart of the issue. Any fundraising model that creates default entitlements or earmarks just because an organization is payment processing is inherently broken. It may be possible to overcome this with local payment processing, but it would be hard.--Eloquence 04:02, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think it would be that hard. You just need to draw a very clear line between fundraising and fund-dissemination. Have the annual plans of fundraising chapters (and the WMF) go through exactly the same review process as non-fundraising chapters. Get fundraising chapters and the WMF to give a range what they think they can raise with different amounts of effort and aggressive tactics (eg. WMUK might say they think they can raise $1m without breaking a sweat and $3m if they really go all-out and don't worry too much about how annoyed everyone is getting with them). Then, once all the plans have been reviewed, the fundraisers can be given targets within that range such that we get a good balance between being able to afford programme work and not being unnecessarily aggressive with our fundraising. There is no need for there to be any connection between the amount raised in a given country and the amount spent there (with the exception of legal issues like the French 50% rule, but I expect those can be dealt with). --Tango 12:57, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Legal issues aside (Geoff wants to prepare a bigger overview on those in the next few days), I think the connection between fundraising and funds dissemination is hard to break. This is never going to be an apolitical process. Chapters which (for whichever reason) receive a large amount of money in the fundraising campaign will always be in a good position to, in the funds allocation discussion, say: "But, we raised this money because donors supported our specific programs. We raised that money because of how effective and trustworthy we are. We raised that money because we're a very good and mature organization. We raised that money because our volunteers are putting in all this effort." And they'll be in a better negotiation position than e.g. another entity in the same geography, or some tiny entity in the Global South with three volunteers that's trying to grow an organization.
Think about the press release just put out by Wikimedia UK, for example. Wikimedia UK raises over £1 million. Chapters will (rightly) want to take credit for fundraising successes. Credit means reputational currency. Reputational currency means negotiation power. Negotiation power means ability to obtain higher shares in fundraising allocation discussions. This has a distorting impact in current discussions about which geographies should receive how much, and it would have an even larger distorting impact if we adopted the movement roles recommendations.
Frederic made the very argument about chapters being entitled to benefit from money they raise in the fundraiser on the discussion of alternative recommendations. He wrote: "Firstly, because I think that a chapter who performs really well in the fundraiser, should be allowed to benefit from it." I don't think this is at all an uncommon view, and I think if we're being intellectually honest, this is a reason why payment processing is seen as an important privilege for chapters. But it is a privilege which will always reinforce the gravitational pull towards investing in rich countries. How else could we explain the very imbalance of investment in Western Europe vs. the Global South we have today?
I think if we lived in an apolitical world where these things didn't matter and everyone would rationally subject themselves to a fair process of allocation, these issues would be solvable. But these are fundamentally political issues and I worry that they're not solvable in the current model.
I do think that WMF should consider giving entities selective right to fundraise directly for their programs, with a cap negotiated upfront by the FAC process. If they outperform WMF at doing so, and their programs are approved upfront, then that's great. It would be fair and transparent, and put claims to the test whether raising for what organizations actually do with the money is effective. That would be more honest, more straightforward, and less politically problematic than the current model.
I'm working on a bit more of a scenario-based comparison here, will move it to the main discussion soon but feel free to comment/edit.--Eloquence 18:25, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Actually, I would be grateful if you could withdraw your suggestion that we put up that blog post "to get a greater share in future fund allocation discussions". This is silly and marginally offensive. We put up that blog post to thank our donors and inform our partners in exactly the same way that the Foundation has sent a press release about the global campaign.
Over half of Wikimedia UK's income from this fundraiser is going directly to the Wikimedia Foundation. While we are naturally proud of the programme work we do in the UK and seek to expand it, I do not believe we ever negotiated about participation in or the distribution of funds from the fundraiser on the grounds you suggest. In future discussions about funding distribution, our work will stand on its merits.
I also suggest you stop treating "politics" as a problem. This is a movement of (largely) volunteers with different viewpoints, different opinions and different priorities. That means there are politics. You have a choice between handling those politics skillfully or handling them ineptly. It is very much in the movement's interest that the Foundation starts handling it skillfully. The Land 20:07, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi The Land. I'm sorry if you're offended -- I wasn't making a specific point about the specific motivations of that specific blog post or a specific intentions of the specific volunteers of Wikimedia UK, or the specific negotiations between specific entities. I thought that was clear, but sorry if it wasn't. That doesn't negate the underlying argument. It's absolutely irrelevant what the specific motivations are, or whether Wikimedia UK's decision making processes are a model of rational choice without the slightest degree of self-interest. What's important is that we're creating a dynamic where some people (the large payment processors) are more equal (and more influential) than others. That won't come out in every discussion, and it won't influence every decision, and we can certainly do our best to mitigate it through clear policies and principles. But it's a very real disadvantage of empowering some entities, and not others, with the responsibility to payment process, especially insofar as we're also talking about the wealthiest geographies.--Eloquence 20:17, 11 January 2012 (UTC)


I suspect that fundraising would be the cause of much less friction if it weren't for the continual changes in the area. We are now on the 3rd system for movement fundraising in 6 months. One was agreed back in March, then the Foundation decided to scrap it in August as well, and this new proposal differs quite markedly from the discussions in August. I am not sure that it is wise to say that because the Foundation repeatedly keeps moving the goalposts again and again, prompting yet another round of debate, that Chapters and the Foundation cannot work productively together in this area. I am also sure that if these proposals are adopted as they stand the effect on relationships between Foundation and Chapters will be very negative. The Land 13:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Excellent points Chris. You've articulated the concerns and implications quiet well here. I hope the board members and Sue read these. Thanks for this. Theo10011 14:51, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Fair point - agree that continual changes in anything can hardly lead to good working relationships. Bishdatta 18:11, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm totally sympathetic to this point. I wish things could be stable too, and I deeply appreciate how difficult constant change is on relationships. But, the reality is that our movement, our projects, our organizations, our fundraising capabilities, the global economy, the regulatory environment, etc., are all changing so quickly that we must constantly a) adapt to our new situation and b) improve things based on the lessons we learn. I wish I could tell you that more stability is coming, but unfortunately I just don't see it. But that's a good thing, mostly because the change is flowing from the successes our movement is having. Stu 07:09, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Things are certainly changing, but are they really changing that quickly? Has much really changed since Haifa? We have experience from one more fundraiser, which seems to have gone very well across the board (Sue says there were some problems, but hasn't given any details so I can't give much weight to that). I can't see anything that has happened since Haifa that justifies a change from the board's position that any chapter that can meet the necessary criteria (which were strict, but nowhere near impossible to achieve) should be able to fundraise. --Tango 12:30, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Any model which incorporates local payment processing by chapters will be the source of continuing tension and strife. It risks creating a "ladder" structure where chapters feel that in order to be good chapters, they have to learn how to payment process, and there's constant tension about whether it makes sense, whether we can overcome legal barriers, whether we can fairly allocate funds, etc.
It's not surprising that this is where Sue has ended up after many years of these discussions. It is in effect an attempt to find a stable long-term solution to many of the issues we've been facing.--Eloquence 04:56, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Just because questions are difficult doesn't mean we should just avoid them. I also don't think having the WMF do all the fundraising would avoid them. We would have just as much tension over whether *that* makes sense, whether we can fairly allocate the funds raised by the WMF, etc.. I don't see the need for tension over whether we can overcome legal barriers - that's a fairly easy question to answer (either we come up with a solution, in which the answer is "yes, we can find a solution", or people stop coming up with new ideas and we conclude that it can't be done - no need for tension there, just open and honest discussion about the problem). The issue of chapters for whom it doesn't make sense to fundraise feeling second-rate is a real one, but I expect it's one we can deal with if we try. --Tango 12:49, 11 January 2012 (UTC)


I am surprised to read that there is "no evidence that donors care about tax-deductibility". Until November, the Foundation's position was that tax-deductibility was very important, and it was a core part of both the March edition of the Fundraising Agreement and the August Board Letter on the subject. I can see no reason why this should have changed.

Within the Wikimedia community, there is only one new data point since November, which is the UK experience in this fundraiser. From November 3rd we were able to offer Gift Aid, which is a UK scheme where charities are able to reclaim income tax already paid by donors on donations received. The value of donations received by Wikimedia UK increased by 66% compared to 2011, a better increase than was seen in many other rich nations which saw effective fundraising campaigns in both 2010 and 2011, e.g. the USA, Canada, or Germany . The actual value of tax we expect to reclaim from those donations is about £87,000, and if you include that then we saw an 81% increase year-on-year in donations. (If you take a longer time horizon then the increase is even bigger, because of our focus on recurring income - see below). I find it impossible to see in this evidence anything that suggests that British donors don't care about the tax effects of their donations.

Futhermore, it's not just the Wikimedia movement that has evidence on tax-deductibility. I was just reading this paper from a researcher at the University of Bristol who found that donors would tend to give more in the event of favourable changes to tax deductibility in the UK. Other academic papers are referenced in that link and I am sure research has been conducted on this point in other nations as well.

Finally, I would question the value of deliberately preventing donors from making their donations tax-deductible, which is what is being proposed. Many donors value the ability to reclaim tax on donations. They would not be impressed if the Wikimedia Foundation took an administrative decision to prevent them from doing so in future. It is not effective donor stewardship. It is, in fact, the opposite of effective donor stewardship. The Land 13:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)


It is true that most of the increase in fundraising effectiveness recently has been led by the Foundation's fundraising team. However, it is fairly easy for a other entities in a decentralised fundraising operation to "cherry pick" the best results of the Foundation's work and then enhance it. Active fundraising chapters have the opportunity to conduct additional testing based on their local circumstances about things that wouldn't necessarily occur to the Foundation.

For instance, after this year's fundraiser, we can be fairly confident that including a photo on a donation landing page will increase donations in Germany, but not in the UK or the USA. This was something tested by Wikimedia DE, Wikimedia UK and by the Foundation and different nations had different results. I don't believe this would have been picked up by the Foundation's team on its own.

Another example; Wikimedia UK decided to focus on asking for recurring Direct Debit donations this year in a way that is unique in the Wikimedia movement. British charities generally try to recruit donors who will give a recurring Direct Debit gift because they are much more valuable in the long run. The 7,200 people who signed up for Direct Debits in the UK this autumn will contribute £280,000 in 2012, but over the next 5 years those donations will be worth well over £1 million, even if one uses a cautious assumption about how fast people cancel them. That is another increase in fundraising effectiveness thanks to a chapter initiative which the Foundation had nothing to do with.

Finally, effective fundraising requires effective use of donor data. There are now records going back some years of donor details and deciding to switch fundraising away from chapters will mean that those records become unavailable to future fundraising. This could be particularly important for higher-value fundraising in future. We know that Wikimedia UK, for instance, has received a number of smallish donations from wealthy individuals. It would be a potentially massive opportunity to develop relationships with them and follow them up with a view to making much larger gifts in future. The Land 13:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

I have various standing orders running from my bank account to charities that I was active with in the 1980s. Inertia in such relationships means you can afford to think very longterm indeed, and I would suggest that the UK chapter plans for the longterm. Even if in its reporting to the WMF it has to take a much more short term view. WereSpielChequers 09:26, 8 January 2012 (UTC)


The Foundation's fundraising messaging is about how wonderful Wikipedia is and how vital it is to keep Wikipedia free. The Foundation doesn't go into a great deal of detail in any of its fundraising appeals, emails, etc about the work it does. There is no mention of (say) Global South outreach or visual editors. Chapters tend to use the same messaging. Chapters, equally, don't put up fundraising banners about the work they are doing with the Palace of Versailles or the British Museum or the German National Archives.

If anything, some chapters do more to communicate the true breadth and depth of the Wikimedia movement than the Foundation does. Last year, Wikimedia Deutschland wrote to all their donors with a letter enclosing a copy of their "Wikimedium" newspaper. This year, Wikimedia UK is sending thankyou letters that include a lot of information about some of our recent outreach work. The Foundation does not, to the best of my knowledge, do anything like this. So in Germany and the UK, chapters are taking responsible steps in line with good fundraising practice to inform donors about the Wikimedia movement and consolidate their support. In the rest of the world, donors don't hear anything more than "keep Wikipedia free". The Land 13:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Thank you for mentioning this - I, for one, had no idea about this. Bishdatta 18:14, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Err. Just for the record.... Wikimedia France thank you letter does tell the donors about what is being done locally by the chapter.
Last year, I remember well that one of the appeals spoke specifically of our action in the Museum of Toulouse and displayed some of the pictures coming from that action. This year, we had several different banners, with editors pictures and each banner lead to different appeals. Some of the appeals were about Wikimedia France actions specifically (I'll put one sample below my message here, designed for loggued-in users). Other appeals focused on Wikimedia Commons or on Wikinews for example.
Finally, we send Wikimedia France annual report to our big donors
In short, not only UK and DE do that. Other fundraising chapters did as well and went beyond the "keep Wikipedia free.
Anthere 16:54, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Apologies, I wasn't aware of that! Glad to hear Wikimedia France does so as well. I wonder if I have missed out any other chapters. For what it's worth, the UK's recent letter is available here.
Not to mention that the WMF actively opposed giving more information to donors, because this reduces donations, which is mentioned briefly here: «customized, specific messaging, which runs the risk of being less effective (if it impedes donors by being too long or detailed, or by introducing decision points)»; "decision points" hides a very long discussion about what links should be put on landing pages (the WMF gives no information whatsoever and invites chapters to do the same, because otherwise people click links instead of the big donation button). This whole thing is not about transparency. Nemo 21:18, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Nemo, you've taken a comment from a highly tactical discussion of landing page layout optimization, removed it completely from its context, and tried to make a much bigger point with it. If you really want to assert the Foundation "actively" opposes transparency to donors, then please go ahead and assert but with real analysis/data. Stu 07:57, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Voilà dix ans que Wikipédia existe en langue française !
Voici un, deux, cinq, neuf ans peut-être, que vous nous avez rejoint dans cette formidable aventure. Vous avez sans doute commencé par corriger une faute d'orthographe, modifier une tournure, ajouter un lien. Puis vous y avez pris goût. Vous avez pensé qu'il était beau de partager son savoir, et utile de bénéficier de celui des autres. Vous avez alors ajouté un paragraphe, créé un article. Vous avez discuté avec d'autres contributeurs, défendu votre point de vue, fait de belles rencontres. Vous avez été découragé, parfois, mais jamais longtemps. Et vous contribuez encore aujourd'hui que les liens rouges se font plus rares, que la barre du million d'articles a été franchie.
Wikimédia France vous a accompagné dans vos actions. C'est peut-être dans un de ses ateliers qu'on vous a présenté Wikipédia ; vous avez été accueillis de manière privée au château de Versailles ou au muséum de Toulouse pour y prendre des photos ; vous avez obtenu une accréditation presse à un concert…
Plus que jamais, vous avez envie que Wikipédia demeure un lieu de vie, de discussion et de savoir. Vous savez qu'il reste beaucoup à faire, des ébauches à reprendre, des articles à sourcer, des vandalismes à effacer, des catégories à ajouter. Vous vous dites « wikipédien » en souriant, mais avec une certaine fierté. À juste titre !
Afin de permettre à chacun de contribuer dans les meilleures conditions, les structures française (Wikimédia France) et américaine (Wikimedia Foundation), toutes deux sans but lucratif, agissent de concert. Elles ont aujourd'hui besoin de votre soutien : et de même que tous les édits sont importants sur Wikipédia, il n'est pas de petit don quand des millions de personnes s'en acquittent.
Voici dix ans que, tous ensemble, nous avons un peu fait changer le monde en permettant à chacun d’accéder partout et toujours au savoir – à tous les savoirs – et de le partager. En donnant, nous faisons progresser la plus grande aventure humaine actuelle.
Rémi Mathis, Président de Wikimédia France

Dependence and sustainability

Speaking for myself here, not for the board. There's a few key themes that have been raised in this and previous discussions. The Board has given ourselves a deadline to hash this out, and make a decision for the WMF; it's not easy, and there are many contentious points. So following Sue's lead I'm going to try and think through various issues for myself in public.

  • Dependence versus independence -- many people have raised the issue of dependence or independence of chapters on the WMF. This post explores that issue in particular.
  • Currently, all chapters are dependent on the WMF to sign a trademark/chapters agreement, and on the WMF Board of Trustees to approve chapter creation. In the future, even if this moves to an AffComm decision as suggested by movement roles, the WMF will very likely still hold the trademarks of the projects & Wikimedia name, licensing them in some way to the chapters. And, the reason for being for all chapters is to support the Wikimedia projects, which are hosted by the WMF though governed on a day-to-day basis by the community of editors (who may or may not belong to chapters, and largely do not). The chapters have very little say currently in activities related to the hosting of the projects; they (like the rest of the community) are dependent on WMF for that basic infrastructure.
  • Currently, those chapters who do not payment process and have never payment processed (the large majority) are dependent on either asking for grants from the WMF, in a to-date fairly uncertain and rocky process, or some other revenue stream (e.g. membership dues). Many if not most have been hindered by lack of funds; despite this, many chapters have not asked for grants, preferring to rely on other revenue sources or doing projects that don't require much money.
  • Currently, those chapters who do payment process donations directly are dependent on signing a fundraising agreement with the WMF (which starting this year included budget approval, a source of tension and overhead for everyone) and working closely with the WMF fundraising team; site banner space is still controlled by the WMF. Revenues are uncertain ahead of time for the chapter, since they depend on the generosity of donors within that particular country. There have been complaints that fundraising agreements are vulnerable to a single-point-of-failure (acceptance or rejection by a few key staff members), thus leading to unhappy dependence on the WMF for the chapters.
  • Proposal for the future:
  • improve and stabilize the granting infrastructure, and move grant-making and budget review decisions away from the WMF and to a community body (to both increase community review and remove the single-point-of-failure problem). Offer annualized grants so chapters and projects can have a stable revenue stream throughout the year, regardless of the whims of donors. This process is proposed to encompass WMF spending as well, removing some decision making from the WMF board directly so that we all can more easily make global decisions and see who is funding what (and so more people, including non-affiliated community members, can have input on the annual plan process).
  • All chapters would still able to raise funds in all the other ways (i.e. membership dues and grants), keeping the status quo of funding for many chapters.
  • All chapters whether they come from a poor country or rich country have access to funds, regardless of how much people in their country are able to donate. Fundraising costs for payment-processing chapters diminish dramatically; overhead for chapters who may newly apply for grants will increase, but that overhead cost would likely be there in any grant or payment-processing scenario.
  • Under this scenario:
  • presumably local fundraising messaging could still be developed and deployed; and data could still be shared with the chapter about local donors for outreach purposes (subject to the privacy policy etc); however, chapters would be more dependent on the WMF to share this information (however, there is already a dependent information-sharing relationship in place, and those who haven't participated in the fundraiser have never gotten this information).
  • Chapters would not have the assurance that locally donated money would go to the local entity (of course, that's already true in any place that doesn't have a chapter or where the chapter doesn't fundraise). The WMF would lessen its dependence on local chapters being able to transfer big sums around around, which is a consideration for nearly every chapter that is payment processing; however, for granting, every place that gets a grant would be dependent on the WMF's ability to send money there (the WMF has a fair bit of practice with this, having given out a good amount of money to individuals and groups in all kinds of places already).
  • There are arguments on both sides about transparency to donors, and benefits to donors and the movement to donating locally, versus to the global projects; while crucial to the genesis of this proposal they don't seem to have much bearing on the independence/dependence question, so I will leave them out.

So would chapters become more or less dependent on WMF funding under this proposal? They are already quite dependent in every scenario we've tried out over the years; and there is a significant coordination cost to working with the WMF fundraising team and transferring money back and forth. That coordination cost under this proposal would be shifted rather than lessened, but shifted to a community body rather than the WMF, providing an equalizing mechanism for all movement participants.

There are as ever a great number of potential pitfalls in this proposal; the largest one seems to be the difficulty in getting a fair and community-governed funds distribution committee going. There are also a large number of pitfalls in the current model, however. I'll try to think through these in a future post. I am taking it for granted that every chapter and the WMF all have independent governing mechanisms, including individual boards.

Is this an inaccurate summary? If so, on which points? Are there other things to consider on the question of independence/dependence? -- phoebe | talk 18:58, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

  • p.s. one consideration might be that of laws, and whether US laws would apply to grants in a way that would be harmful to chapters; but I don't see a clear argument in that thread yet that really makes sense nor do I know the legal details. So I will just note the issue here as one possible aspect for others to expand on. -- phoebe | talk 19:13, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Control and independence is a tough subject. Naturally people want freedom in decision making, most particularly when it comes to money. In the Wikimedia community, the monetary freedom of the WMF and of chapters have been inextricably linked - the more freedom the WMF gives to chapters, the less it retains for itself. This is the fundamental tension underlying this debate, and we shouldn't mistake or disguise the clear intent of the board and Sue to recover a greater degree of control over the collection and use of funds.
While most people are, I think, willing to stipulate to the various risks and responsibilities expressed as concerns by the Board and staff (fiduciary responsibility and liability with respect to financial controls, inter-organizational disclosures, etc.)... It sort of defies logic to question whether the proposed change will result in greater or lesser dependence of chapters. The motivation of the Board in this debate, greater and more muscular control over funding (whether delegated or not, as delegation does not alter the legal and moral responsibilities of the Board), is crystal clear and has been telegraphed both explicitly and implicitly since the Board letter was released. The proposal can be characterized as granting liberties which the chapters already have while eliminating those they have previously enjoyed; chapters always were able to raise funds independently, but there is no reason to expect that oversight requirements under a system where the majority of funding is received by grants will be in any way less onerous than in the current system of budget approval and comprehensive chapter agreements.
Of course, some (or even many) chapters may see improved prospects in this new system. Chapter-based payment processing privileges developed nations, both because of the relative ease of institutional development and the comparatively greater potential for raising money. Additionally, a purely grant-based funding model is more conceptually friendly to non-geographically oriented organizations, which may encourage the formation of "chapters" focused on specific languages or issues.
This is all not to say that I disagree with Sue's recommendations or the thrust of the Board letter. I've said before that it was inelegantly managed and the source of significant harm to relationships with dedicated Wikimedians, but the Board has serious moral and legal responsibilities that make a better grip on funding an inevitable development. It is, however, disingenuous to try to present these recommendations as an avenue for improved chapter independence. Nathan T 00:29, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I wasn't trying to make an argument one way or another; I just think this is one of the fundamental issues that as you say is underlying a lot of the tension, and we haven't really explored assumptions about it as thoroughly as we might. -- phoebe | talk 00:38, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
While I have the highest degree of respect and admiration for you and your work, Phoebe... It strikes me as disingenuous for you, an officer of the board, to pose the question of independence in this way without distinguishing it as rhetorical (and then providing the obvious answer). Do I mistake the seemingly clear motive of the board when I say that it desires better oversight over spending and, as a natural consequence, over recipients of funds? If not, then proposing this discussion of "more or less independence" just confuses the issue and quixotically promotes debate on a question for which the Board already holds a clear answer. Nathan T 00:54, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Here's my motivation for raising this topic. Yes, a large part of the driving force behind the Board's Haifa letter, and working out the fundraising process now, is that the WMF Board was concerned that there was not enough oversight of donor money when it came to fundraising through chapters. However, I have heard some rhetoric to the effect of "if we go to a grants-only model then chapters will become branches of the WMF and lose all independence", and similar. Frankly, I don't think that's true. I think that chapters are already largely dependent on the WMF, and the WMF dependent on chapters, in ways that lead to lots of fighting currently; and that a grant program would actually provide an opportunity for increased independence to the majority of chapters that don't fundraise at all. And, in Sue's current recommendations, I think the recommendation to have a community review body for both chapter grants *and* WMF programs lessens dependence on both sides, counterbalancing any other effects. But: I am willing to say that my thinking is faulty, or there are other arguments that I haven't considered; so I wanted to think through the question in public. It may just confuse the issue -- if so, I apologize -- but the issue is already pretty darn confused. -- phoebe | talk 01:04, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

If all of Sue's recommendations were adopted and implemented well, it would materially alter the power dynamics in a completely new way, because it would introduce a new funding body that both WMF and Chapters would become dependent on. And if that funding body maps closely against a combination of the community's will, and the insights of wise and smart people who represent additional voices which aren't contained or not contained sufficiently in the community, then this will be a valuable decentralization of power rather than the opposite.--Eloquence 02:51, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

As written, I don't see how that can be true. Here's the header: "The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees should commit to delegating movement-wide allocation of funds (excluding Wikimedia Foundation’s core operating budget) to a newly-formed movement body." Delegated authority is not surrendered authority; the board remains the final arbiter, in a legal sense, and thus retains all the responsibilities and liabilities that led to its desire for change. I can't imagine the board making a big deal out of oversight and fulfilling its fiduciary obligations, and then irretrievably delegating its authority to another body while retaining all the risks. If Sue intended that the WMF board actually surrender final authority to a different committee... I'd be really interested to hear the legal implications of this proposal from an expert in corporations and non-profit law. Nathan T 02:58, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Having veto power and delegating decision-making are not incompatible, though. And it would, indeed, be a new thing to say "we ask for funding decisions from this community body" (rather than say, the wmf staff). -- phoebe | talk 03:05, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
So the authority would still be being exercised by the board, but by a different intermediary with a different composition. Depending on how that body is composed, I can see it contributing to some different funding decisions; I'm not sure I would say it would materially alter the power dynamics, but it might give a wider array of people more direct input. Given the necessary restrictions the board would have to place on the funding committee (i.e., the type of oversight exercised would still have to be rigorous and of the sort chapters might resent), I'm not sure that wouldn't just shift the burden of friction from one group to another... but maybe the chapter reps would feel more ownership if they formed part of the composition of this committee. That would make the chapters not more or less dependent-in-fact, but it could have a different feel. Nathan T 03:35, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Just bear in mind that we're talking about two sets of decisions: one is grants, to anyone/any body that is not directly a part of the WMF; and the second is vetting WMF programs. It would, in fact, be a huge change for how the WMF is run to go ahead with Recommendation 4; and yes, I think the goal would be for the whole community to feel greater ownership in what gets funded, everywhere in the movement. As for veto power, a lot of it is cultural norms I think -- the Board (and I am not speaking for the board here, but just my understanding of the situation!) would have to really commit to trusting the results and decisions of that funding committee for it to be effective. (As would the chapters and everyone else funded by it). -- phoebe | talk 22:24, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
If you were to go for such a centralised solution how would you avoid such a centralised body becoming inefficient, remote, bureaucratic and inflexible? Are there any organisations that operate on a similarly international level to us that have gone down the centralisation route and avoided such pitfalls? WereSpielChequers 03:54, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
There's no way such a body can work and do what's expected to do if it doesn't have the legal right to do so. What could work is that the new entity has the trademarks and so on, delegates fundraising (and other administrative activities) to the WMF, takes the money, redistributes it among all players. It seems very hard to change the bylaws so that such a structure can be implemented within the WMF. This could finally resolve also the "WMF=USA chapter" and the "WMF as gatekeeper of the Wikimedia movement" problems, although it's not necessary to change fundraising to do so. Nemo 22:09, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

What's a better solution?

I am curious what better ideas people have. If you were going to redesign our fundraising/dissemination system, and had to: ensure oversight of donor money and transparency; meet all other goals; reduce fighting; adhere to the fundraising & dissemination principles; serve the mission -- what would you do? This is related to Stu's question about how would we design the movement if we had to do it from the ground up. And for what it's worth, no, I don't want us to simply repeat what we did last year or the year before -- there were simply too many problems, on both sides. But if you want to, then let us know why. -- phoebe | talk 22:43, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

ps. I am asking because if folks find the proposals fundamentally flawed as-is (and I personally don't think they are), then I want to know what better ideas are on the table. -- phoebe | talk 03:59, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think the only solution is to move responsibility for this kind of thing away from the WMF. The WMF does a great job of running the servers, handling legal matters, doing outreach, etc., but whenever it tries to assume a leadership role within the movement, it ends badly. I think the movement does need some leadership, but it can't just be the biggest entity filling the power vacuum. We need to actually design a system that meets our needs, has legitimacy and that people will accept. I proposed one possible such system on my blog a while back (when I find time, I'll go over it again in light of experience we've had since I wrote it - the details need work, but I still think the basic principle is sound). If other people have other ideas how we can have some leadership in the movement without the problems the WMF trying to take on that role causes, I would be very interested in hearing them. --Tango 22:52, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
I thought at the end of August 2011 about a very near model. Like in your model, my model is the creation of an entity (your name of Trust is very good) whose the Board would be composed of 1/3 "WMF" representatives, 1/3 community members, 1/3 chapters members; until here quite the same as your model. The main difference apears that in my model I thought that newly-created entity would operationally run the sites and would give fundraising aggrements to all other entities which want to fundraise through the sites; this entity would have an operational technical team, an operational legal team and an administrative/finance team and would have no extra job. The other jobs would stay in the domain of "WMF", which I call Wikimedia International (but can be called WMF as well) given it would coordinate global activities like global programs (Global South, global Editors decreasing, global advocacy, MediaWiki development, support to innovation, etc.).
The core idea of these two near models is to distribute true power to communities, and in mine also having a very stable entity (an endowment?) which would be dedicated to run sites. I can expland a bit if you like. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 23:44, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
I considered something closer to your idea, but decided it was better to keep the hosting with the WMF. The WMF is doing a decent job of hosting the sites, so why change what isn't broken? One of the key principles I used when formulating my idea was to try and change as little as possible. On a day-to-day level, there would be very little impact on anything under my proposal. I thought that increased the liklihood of it ever getting adopted. --Tango 12:51, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
The structure you envision reminds me of a lot of the governance experiments proposed for the English Wikipedia; interesting thought experiments that haven't necessarily been thought all the way through and don't actually address clearly identified problems or make any substantial improvements. You seem to acknowledge near the end of your post that a major component of your proposal is a cosmetic change - the Trust will have been conceived as a governing body, rather than become one by default, even though you anticipate it will act in a manner virtually identical to the Board. Except now we would have two governing committees, with all the potential for bureaucratic complexity and conflict that entails (the WMF, as a non-profit corporation, would need to continue to have a boarD). We would additionally have two entities with legally independent responsibilities and liabilities that may conflict - so they would need to, for example, make duplicate expenditures on legal advice and representation that could quite conceivably be contradictory. All the while, the experience for chapters will be more or less unchanged.
The only element with any substance is the composition of the Board - you grant greater authority to chapters and the voters in the Wikimedia community. Perhaps you can address Sue's counterargument against devolving power to chapters - why are chapters, which do not represent either the projects or their audiences, the best and most legitimate source of leadership of the Wikimedia movement? Nathan T 00:43, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Don't underestimate the importance of psycology. Transfering things to a new body means that body can have a fresh start without all the baggage of the controversial decisions the WMF has made. There is also a significant change in that these big decisions would be being made by the volunteer board of the Trust, not by WMF staff as they tend to be now, since the Trust wouldn't have lots of staff. I don't see the creation of an additional entity as a big deal - we're creating new chapters at a rate of several a year and they each have their own board and their own responsibilities and liabilities and all the same potential for conflict. --Tango 12:51, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Hi phoebe, you may recall I had a few thoughts on this subject. I actually had structural solutions and models that might have worked. I referred to them last year, I never got a chance to address or discuss them. The thing is, I know I can do better, I know we can do better than this. There just has to be some decisions that need to be made by Sue and the board - the first without which this entire process is pointless is, if all the requirements for accountability are satisfied and all the stakeholders comply and accept, will the chapter be allowed to fundraise or not? if the discussion starts with, no more chapter fundraising, then I am sorry to say this entire process appears to be a ruse. Regards. Theo10011 22:59, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Theo, you've been posting long emails on the lists nearly every day for weeks now. I find your saying that you have never gotten to discuss your thoughts a bit of a stretch. -- phoebe | talk 01:37, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Ok phoebe. You are right. I am honestly tired of this. You've formed some opinion of me from before without a single direct interaction, that I am somehow less unaware than you or prone to drama, and that might define most of your interaction and opinion of me. You are characterizing me almost as some rambling narcissist, you honestly don't know me, I am not in the habit of lying. So, I guess there is nothing more to say except feel free to ignore all of my long emails. I apologize to have subjected you to them. If you do wanna look, go look through all my weekly long emails and see the one in november, before Jan-bart started the process and Sue went to europe, Subject:Structural problem. I expressly said, I have a couple of ideas and I am being told are not needed, because the staff and the board think they have this covered. After that most of my emails have been responses. Theo10011 03:06, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Theo, please do flesh out your structural ideas and models -- on a new page, perhaps? I don't believe anyone thinks "they have this covered" -- even the most specific proposals so far have been somewhat vague. And I agree with you that we can do better than the best ideas proposed so far. Sue's draft recommendation may currently say 'all payment processing by the WMF', but there is a reason this is being discussed in public; that should not limit the community discussion. SJ talk | translate   03:05, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Phoebe, one radical alternative would be to decentralise - the actual figures will probably show that this is the best route financially, and more importantly decentralisation has a much better fit with the wiki culture. But, and this is a key difference, we need a matrix structure where we can when appropriate operate at language level or topic level. The last is the biggest opportunity - we currently have wikiprojects operating in language based silos and we should be enabling them to collaborate better across languages. Actually running the servers and maybe developing mediawiki software should remain a WMF function, along with domain registrations and probably legal. While trademarks, application development, GLAM and Outreach could all be decentraliased. WereSpielChequers 03:33, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't know what decentralise means to you without specifics in this context, of fundraising and funds dissemination -- can you clarify? -- phoebe | talk 03:59, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Better solutionS would be : check the problems case by case, chapter by chapter, and try to find solutions adapted to each issue with each chapter, and try to help chapters experiencing a problem to resolve it. I understand how much it would be relaxing to think that there is ONE massive solution applying well to all, and I do understand how it's intellectually interesting to virtually rebuild the movement from the scratch. But it's not realistic, and IMHO that's not the way our movement should be directed. We are worldwide, we are numerous, we have an history, and we are differents, and this is not the problem but the solution. WMF has a paid staff dedicated to resolve these problems, I'm sure that this staff is able to provide finely worked and localized recommandations (with the help of the chapters, of course). And if this staff is not able to do that, oh well, we have a major problem... Kropotkine 113 09:59, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Not actually starting from scratch

Just a quick point Phoebe - do bear in mind that we are not actually building a system from the ground up. Indeed, there are probably about 200,000 people who have donated to chapters in the past. Their contact details and giving histories are on the chapters' databases. Some of them have recurring gifts set up to the Chapter. To fundraise from them effectively we ought to make use of that information and the work that certain Chapters have done to build relationships with donors. Switching to a Foundation-only model would mean we took a step backward with that data and those relationships. It would also stop donors from making tax-deductible donations as they have done in the past, which is scarcely something in our donors' interest! (PS am trying to resist engaging in this conversation too much before I have the chance to respond at length this weekend). The Land 12:06, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

I suspect that if someone has a direct debit setup to one legal entity we can't readily transfer that to another legal entity, especially if that is overseas. Donor mailing lists may also be organisation specific. WereSpielChequers 13:51, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Yes, of course we're not actually starting from scratch; if we were, this would be a very different debate. I am wondering though what an ideal solution under that circumstance would be though. -- phoebe | talk 15:38, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
I'd suggest less centralised rather than more and "bottom up" rather than this awkward hybrid of a "bottom up" membership and a "top down" HQ. I'd also like to see more of a "right to organise", and a matrix of bodies rather than a hierarchy. Signing off new versions of mediawiki and certain things about Wikimania and dispute resolution between different parts of the movement might benefit from globalisation, but for many things a geographic entity is helpful. To be frank I was rather negative about the UK chapter a couple of years ago, but their involvement in GLAM and fundraising has been very impressive. People do expect an organisation to have an ability to coordinate multiple activities in a geographic area. That said we could do with more activities that are either language focussed or topic focussed. We now have the death anomalies project running across ten languages, and it has made me very conscious of our need to be able to work across boundaries of language as well as within them.
On a bigger picture view I think we would be more robust as an organisation if we didn't just have multiple datacentres but multiple owners of datacentres. Currently if a court case took out the Foundation it would stop editing on all projects overnight, whereas on a more distributed model if we lost one organisation and its hardware in a courtcase we could still have a separately owned datacentre in another country (with SOPA it probably makes sense for us to plan for a non US datacentre anyway). Of course in that model you'd want ownership of the domain names subdivided as well, and this wouldn't just be a legal precaution. As anyone who has tried editing in parts of the world where connections to North America are constrained, our readers and editors would gain huge advantages in terms of response time from a more distributed processing model. WereSpielChequers 17:19, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

2011 Fundraising targets

Given all the back-and-forth about chapter's plans for the 2011 fundraiser, I'm not sure what the final decisions were. Could the WMF and the 4 fundraising chapters please let us know what their fundraising targets were and how they compare with how much they actually raised? Can the chapters also be clear about whether their target includes a share for the WMF or not (and if so, how much)? Thanks. --Tango 19:28, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

At WMF, on our fundraising team, this is how we approached our targets: The WMF needed to raise about USD 29,500,000 total from all revenue sources. Most of that would be the fundraiser. We only wanted to raise as much as we had to from the fundraiser (i.e. banners on the site). But because our fiscal year ends June 30, that means we need to do some guessing about future income from other sources (such as foundations). In the end we raised about 24,000,000 in the fundraiser. Depending on how much money comes in between now and June 30, we'll probably be over budget by one or two million. There's always a chance though that if all our assumptions are too optimistic, then we could fall short by a little -- which is why we aim for a small surplus. Extra money helps us add to the reserve, which is only about 6 months of operating budget, I think. Zackexley 20:50, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, Zack. Where does revenue shared with you by chapters factor into those plans? --Tango 21:00, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I try to make a small summary. The US are (the numbers out of WP) 312.811.000 people, Germany 81.768,000, means factor 0,26 (if u take the smaller country it goes approx. four times in the bigger one), Germany raised approx. 3.800.000 €, means 4.835.000 $ - compare that with the overall sum [6] and not included France, the UK and the rest of Europe? Why should the control over the money be in the US if you are not even able to raise an equal amount of money compared to the number of inhabitants? This is ridiculous...--Angel54 5 01:48, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Wherever the developers are who maintain and enhance mediawiki software, and wherever our servers are, we can expect that a proportion of the money raised globally will need to be spent there. Currently we have two datacentres and our main office in the US, so we should expect a large proportion of our funds to be spent there, though as I've pointed out elsewhere it would make sense to aim over the next few years to be less dependent on one country, especially since the SOPA business means we can no longer assume that the US will always be the best place for us to run our computers. It is also misleading to look at headline figures of spend per country, aside from currency fluctuations, as a purely hypothetical example, if you spend $100,000 on computers in the US do you count that as $100,000 spent in the US? Or $15,000 spent in the US and $85,000 in the country where the computers were assembled? Or $15,000 spent in the US, $10,000 in the country where the computers were assembled and $75,000 in the country where the chips and other high value components were made? Better in my view to accept that we all use the same servers and software and wherever we spend that money it comes from all over the world.WereSpielChequers 18:44, 9 January 2012 (UTC)


Here is the detail of the sharing agreement between WMF and WM FR Online fundraising funds sharing agreement between Wikimedia France and Wikimedia Foundation

  • Duration: 1 year from 1st of July 2011 till 30th of June 2012
  • Reports of amount raised will be due every month.
  • Transfer of money will be due
    • 30th of November 2011 for collecting months July 2011-August 2011-September 2011-October 2011
    • 28th of February for collecting months November 2011-December 2011-January 2012
    • 31st of July for collecting months February 2012-March 2012-April 2012-May 2012-June 2012
  • Revenue share
    • Revenue to be split 55:45 in favor of WM France to the point where WM France's fundraising target for 2012 is met ( WM FR's fundraising target is 550 000 euros)
    • After that point, 100% of additional revenue goes to WMF to reach WMF's fundraising target
    • In the unlikely event that the total share of WMF reaches 50% total funds raised by Wikimedia France during the annual fundraiser (early November till January) , then French donors will be redirected to WMF's landing pages.
    • If that happens after the annual online fundraiser is over (from February on), we'll figure out how to deal with the situation
  • Fundraising costs
    • Fundraising costs of Wikimedia France will be by default 10% of the total raised till 700 000 euros is collected (10% from 0 euros till 700 000 euros). Beyond that sum, fundraising costs are considered to be 8% of sum raised (8% from 700 001 on)
    • For each month, all fundraising costs are estimated then deducted prior to the share. The fundraising target does not include the fundraising costs. As such the 55/45 applies until Wikimedia France has collected 550 000 + fundraising costs
    • At the next annual close of accounting books (in Spring 2012), the actual fundraising costs for year 2011 will be known. In Spring 2013, the actual fundraising costs for year 2012 will be known. The final share due will be reconciled in Spring 2013 based on the actual fundraising costs.

WM FR annual fundraising target was 550.000 € (for the chapter) plus fundraising costs.
WM FR has globally collected 1.000.000 € during the fundraiser itself (rough figure). Accordingly, default fundraising costs (to be actualized next year, likely to be slightly lower. When clarified by accountant, the difference will go back to WMF) are 70.000 + 24.000 = 94.000 euros.
Total amount raised after deduction of costs: 906.000 euros. WM FR will get 498.300 euros from the share (55%) plus fundraising costs. WMF will get 407.700 euros from the share (45%). The same 55/45 will be applied till WM FR share has reached 550.000 € for the entire time of the agreement (september 2011 till june 2012). I am reasonably confident that we will reach that value and probably go a little bit beyond it. Overall we are happy with the results. Anthere

Thank you! --Tango 21:39, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Wikimedia UK

The Wikimedia UK fundraising target can be found in our 2012 Activity Plan. Essentially we set ourselves a target of raising £999k during the Fundraiser, including the income tax we can reclaim on donations received (called Gift Aid). At the same time we said we would give £500,000 of that to the Foundation. We raised during the fundraiser the amount we needed to, though with a different distribution of £ raised between Paypal, Direct Debit, and Gift Aid. We are now in the process of finalising our 2012 budget, but expect the final budget would closely follow the Activity Plan. (again, this summary is provided for information, not a formal statement on behalf of the Board, etc etc) The Land 21:24, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Thank you! --Tango 21:39, 8 January 2012 (UTC)


Is this schedule still accurate? notafish (board member of WMDE) noted that she only learned about the plans from this page on meta. Did Sue talk to (some?) chapters in November?

It seems to me that we have a very tight schedule – not much time to discuss this proposal which poses fundamental questions about how we organize the Wikimedia movement. --Tobias talk · contrib 19:31, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Sue talking in Germany on November 20th: --Manuel Schneider(bla) (+/-) 19:38, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
I can't remember she said something about removing all incoming from the chapters in the talk. --DaB. 19:43, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
I didn't say that. She didn't talk about this in her talk at all, but she was there and talked to the Chapters. Plus there was a meeting with the german board after this public talk. We don't know what has been discussed then. Sue was also with WMAT and we discussed with her fundraising issues. But at that time WMAT was already dependent on grants and all she said then was that there will be a new model which she will have to figure out and this is why she is visiting the chapters and listening to them. --Manuel Schneider(bla) (+/-) 19:47, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
what does "only" mean? if its about the wording: no. if its about the topic: Sebastian is publicly taking part in the debate at least since oct. 2011 (july, if you count his blogpost but that's not directly process-internal) and Delphine contributed here on meta on nov. 6th - long before Sue came to meet - among others - the german board in person.
they couldn't possible "not know" what was on the table in principle and how the process was designed, regards --Jan eissfeldt 01:25, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Might be. But delphine said, that she didn't know. Regards, --Kellerkind 12:48, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Far from everything

For me it's enough. If the board will say yes to this, the porcelain betwenn a lot of people from ather comunities than the englisch language ones will be destroyed. What Miss Gender and her stuff here has shown for ideas are big kiks betrween the legs of the Comunity. After the image filter I don't have longer time to discuss anything with the Foundation with Mistress Gardner at the lead position. Miss Gerdner sayd so often she will do anything for a better mood in the comunity. Sorry, when I read about such ideas without any respect for the chapters, where the real work will be done, I'm out of anything good. It's so frustrating - since some months only bad news, very, unbeleavable bad news come from the Foundation. But the Foundation bubble will burst. Such ideas will cost us a lot of authors in project who are not en:WP. But Miss Gardner only thinks on en:WP and her personal projects of a "global south". Miss Garnder - please go finally and take your terrible ideas with you. You've done more bad things to the Wikimedia movement than the worst trolls ever could done! Marcus Cyron 23:04, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Mightbe, Marcus didn't hyve a look in the Knigge's dictioonary, but nevertheless, you should read his edit twice to understand the content. Soon it could be the oppinion of a great majority of the editors. Regards, -jkb- 00:16, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
I find personal attacks like this completely disgusting, clear evidence the poster is more interested in destroying community than building it. If you have points to make, make them about policies and decisions of the Board. Do not personally attack Sue and her staff. Do not challenge their professionalism. Don't flame the 90 incredibly committed, incredibly passionate believers in our cause who have chosen to devote not just themselves but their careers to our mission. We are incredibly lucky to have them in our movement, working with us to build our shared vision. Stu 18:00, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
I am going to assume good faith here, given that the user identifies as having only "en-1", that the message was not meant to sound as confrontational and as insulting as it did. I'm sure any such attempt to make comments "in deutscher Sprache" would come off as similarly hamfisted. Craig Franklin 11:39, 10 January 2012 (UTC).
@Marcus Cyron: Wo ist das Problem? Ich bin beispielsweise nur ein kleiner unbedeutender Schreiber in der deutschsprachigen Wikipedia, aber ich brauche keinen Verein Wikimedia e.V. Deutschland. Dieser Verein ist durch nichts und niemanden legitimiert! Ein paar Leute nehmen ihn vielleicht Ernst, weil er dazu gedrängt wurde, ein bisschen Geld zu verteilen, oder? Die Wikimedia Foundation ist natürlich genauso überflüssig, denn die eigentliche Arbeit für die Wikipedia machen die anderen.
@Stu: I don't think that this comment was a personal attack. That was a criticism of the wikimedia foundation in total, and Ms Gardner represents this organization with a lot of awful marketing phrases. That's her problem, she could act different, if she would listen to normal authors and could be a little sympathetic. I assume you are american, and maybe you know the musician Frank Zappa, he said a lot of years ago: "We're only in it for the money." - and this is the biggest problem of the wikimedia foundation. -- 03:31, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
@Marcus. Nobody is perfect, everyone paid staff or volunteer will make some mistakes. The WMF has come up with some figures which the chapters are disputing, and some recommendations that might be sensible if their figures are correct. Please can you give Sue and her staff and indeed the chapters a little time to check their figures, revise any errors, and come up with figures that both the chapters and the WMF can agree. Hopefully if the Foundation figures are as wrong as the chapters are suggesting Sue will correct not just her figures but the resulting recommendation. In the meantime, please could you moderate your words and rewrite what you said? As a German speaker you may not realise how aggressive you seem in English. WereSpielChequers 19:00, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Recommendation 2

Part of this recommandation is trivially true ("All movement entities should be free to fundraise outside of the wikis operated by the Wikimedia Foundation"), as it is outside the competences of the board of trustees to decide whether such entities fundraise outside of the wikis or not. However, the second part of the recommendation ("in ways that are consistent with the guiding principles for fundraising laid out by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees") is puzzling: I did not find anything about this in the chapter's agreement, so see no reason why the BT should guide the way other movement entities fundraise in any way (as long as they respect the chapter's agreement and operate within the law, of course). I am not sure what outcome is expected from this recommendation ? Schutz 08:24, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

I don't think this has much to do with the Board. We should have movement-wide fundraising principles that all fundraising groups agree on - and those should be noted or linked to in the Chapter or trademark agreements. We don't have any such principles at present. The Board is considering a resolution that suggests some initial high-level principles, which I expect will be improved and replaced over time through public discussion. So the wording here could be changed to 'with Wikimedia's fundraising principles'. SJ talk | translate   03:05, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I would phrase this as such:
"All movement entities are of course free to fundraise outside of the wikis operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. However, the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees, as part of its duty to the wider movement to ensure that we are not all damaged by rogue actions, will withdraw or cancel licensing/Chapter agreements if a movement entity acts in a way that brings the movement into disrepute, as set out in the movement's guiding principles for fundraising that are affirmed by the Board of Trustees."
Is that clearer? Certainly, I would agree with this (both as a statement of current practice, but also as where we want to be, I think). -- James F. (talk) 12:09, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
If the actions of a chapter bring the movement into disrepute, that can and should be addressed through the chapters agreement. It seems to be completely out of place in a discussion about funds dissemination. Craig Franklin 12:22, 5 January 2012 (UTC).
Generally agreed. SJ talk | translate   03:05, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree. Chapters are free to do whatever they like if it doesn't involve the WMF. The WMF has no say whatsoever about how chapters fundraise independantly. The chapter's agreement includes certain provisions about not acting in a way contrary to the movement's interests, but it doesn't say chapters have to obey the WMF's fundraising policies. (There was a draft of a new chapters agreement that said chapters have to obey all rules of the WMF, past and future, but that was summarily rejected as an incredibly flawed agreement and the whole thing was thrown in the bin.) --Tango 12:51, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
What I think is not addressed here is what we mean by "rogue actions". I'm not sure if these recommendations come with a glossary or with a set of implementing rules and regulations, but as much as I have faith in the Foundation to act in the best interests of chapters, I do not want to see it go overboard and suddenly decide to declare a chapter's actions as being "rogue" when the other party may deem it to be otherwise. --Sky Harbor (talk) 13:13, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

But you seem to assume "all mouvement entities" are only chapters. It seems to me that Sue outlines above that we should go much beyond chapters, but also welcome various organized groups (such as the Amicale). Are those groups included in the "mouvement entities" ? If so, how is this recommandation going to be implemented ? By having these non chapters sign a sort of "whatever" agreement ? if not, how is the WMF going to enforce non respect of those guidelines ? By reputation ? How could it be done ? Anthere 13:36, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

This would be a nightmare to actually enforce. It just gives an option to WMF, and upper-hand if legal actions are indeed needed. Theo10011 22:46, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

I have to agree with the concerns of Anthere. How would this recommendation be implemented with non-chapters? How will compliance be enforced, or non compliance be penalized? Thank you, Raystorm 17:14, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Query: As I understand it, the major part of the reasoning behind Recommendation #1 is that the WMF Board is liable for all monies raised through assets it owns (which includes the domains and the servers). But doesn't this also include the trademarks? If not, why are the trademarks treated differently? If so, doesn't that mean that (say) Wikimedia UK couldn't raise funds under its name, but only asking as "Wiki UK Ltd"? This is of course the reason why WMUK (in both forms) doesn't have the trademark in its formal name, which would likely be an issue for others. James F. (talk) 13:02, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

The WMF certainly has a duty to make sure its trademarks are used responsibly, but it's a matter of proportionality. There is a big difference between allowing a partner organisation to use your trademark to show that they are partnered with you and allowing that partner organisation to use your top-5 website to solicit donations. --Tango 02:18, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

And if we shouldn’t search maximum efficiency?

By thinking about all these discussions, perhaps Sue’s model is the right for a maximum efficiency, or perhaps not (I don’t affirm neither undermine, such an affirmation would need an in-deep report and comparison with other models -- in mathematical terms, you would have to do a minimization over all models given a set of constraints :). In fact I’m not sure it is the right question (we should discuss the solutions but also the problems). Let’s go, my thought is: "Perhaps we should not search a maximum efficiency".

First, let me precise I don’t want the efficiency removed from the set of guidelines, just weaken this assumption in our models. From what I understand of the Wikimedia movement, we are not organized in a "efficient" manner. Else chapters shouldn’t exist and more (professionnal) editors should be hired to speed up writing of articles and other ressources. I don’t think this is our soul.

Given, as Sue wrote it on her scratchpad, our current organization enable "soft failures", and the number of volunteers make us like ants exploring a region, finding ressources and asking help from others. So perhaps a funds model we have implicitely in minds shouldn’t search to reach the maximum efficiency, but should search to give to each ant of the movement the possibility of experimenting soft failures. Because we ants are happy exploring the world, and Wikipedia shows an "irrational" project can function, perhaps even better than a "rational" project (phrasing inspired from Popo le Chien’s blog). In other words, we do not want to be machines, we are human. And ants.

~ Seb35 [^_^] 18:03, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

That's a really interesting and valid point to make, Seb. I agree that perfect efficiency isn't the right goal. That would lead to conservatism and a lack of risk-taking.
And yes I agree that the wiki model is not always "efficient" -- many edits are reverted, or later revised, etc., so there's a certain value our community has been able to derive on the projects from chaos. But one thing I really believe, as I've heard Jimmy say, is that "An organization is not a wiki." Our community has proved amazingly effective at mass collaborating on encyclopedia content. But it has not demonstrated similar aptitude for mass collaboration on organizational issues (e.g. the failure of the movement roles effort, IMHO, despite a lot of time and money, to drive any real closure). That's not surprising -- a wiki and an organizational design are completely, profoundly different kinds of problems.
So while it's totally acceptable to have lots of back-and-forth and inefficiency on the projects, it's very different in the world of organizational and financial matters. The threshold for error is lower because the stakes are so much higher. A bad edit to an article can hurt a fairly limited number of people, and is usually fixed quickly. A bad scandal or organizational blow-up could permanently damage the reputation of our movement and its projects. So we have to be careful.
Where the threshold is I don't know. In my day job as a manager and finance executive, we usually put a monetary figure to it. So for example you might let $1,000 be spent with fairly limited oversight. But if someone wants to spend $100,000, you'd insist on much more oversight. On the Board i sometimes think about things on these terms. I'm totally fine with lots of experimentation, trial-and-error, etc., as long as financial stakes are low. In fact, I totally agree with you that it is really healthy for us. Maybe that limit is a few thousand dollars or even a few tens of thousands of dollars. But once the financial stakes get significant the standard has to change and the tolerance for trial-and-error has to go down.
For what it's worth, from my oversight of the Foundation plans, and from what I understand about the evolvoing grants program, this is the exact model in place. There is definitely room for some inefficiency/experimentation/iteration, just within limits. Stu 05:59, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

So what

are u planning now. At first it was, I remember

  • the picture filter. (So the communities were not interested?)
  • the new ToUs (they didnt show their enthusiasm either?)
  • now this one (they will have to apply for grants, soso?)

U r planning centralism. Lawsuits? Please apply to any court in California. What a mess.--Angel54 5 23:39, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

If you have something substantive to say in support of this collaborate effort, please say it. If you just want to make vague complaints, please don't waste space on this page. Stu 18:02, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
I know, the Board is interested in proposals how it is done, not what is done. But thats ur problem, if u cant deal with critical points of view about the strategy in general. I will not propose anything, what makes European chapters and communities addicted to executive decisions made in the US. They have been bad enough in recent history. The tendency is something substantive urself - I never ever heard about a government over the whole world (there are countries with independent interests). U could deal with those interests, but thats not ur point of view...--Angel54 5 15:00, 9 January 2012 (UTC) And btw. those kind of grants proposed reverse are bound to be trashed - try to tell an american citizen what is of interest in Germany, France or Britain...u wont even understand the topic, right? How can u then distinguish if a project in Iowa is of more interest than one concerning the Alpes (they are not in the US, u see?). Not a single author will believe that stuff - and u r taking them for granted, treating them like they were ur employees (thats the biggest fault). Ur employees u can release, the freelancers will go on their own. Thats the vision I have over the next yrs. (and thats when the last admin will switch off the light)...--Angel54 5 17:31, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Let me put in a counter question: Why are u where u are now? Optimizing is a secret hobby of all those management people thinking they know better (leaner organisations, cleaning out double positions and so on). All this process goes on, until something shrinks to a "healthy organisation" - controlling to be cost effective. But u have to consider that, if controlling gets too far, the organisation itself will be destroyed, if it isnt enough there are losses in effectiveness. So why are u trying to change something that brought this site to (I dont know if its true in reality) No. 5 of Internet. Are u planning a buyout (Google perhaps)? I ask that question cause of both this processes are often similar in history of enterprises (who try to raise the worth first to get a better payment offer).--Angel54 5 14:52, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Question flowchart -- design questions for various scenarios

Please see and contribute to Fundraising and Funds Dissemination/Questions flowchart
Moved to a subpage

I have been thinking about all the questions that one needs to ask and answer -- whether about Sue's proposal or about an alternative, such as chapters continuing to payment process. Below is a long list of those questions. This can go to a subpage if it gets too crazy (maybe if people start answering the questions :) ) Feel free to add in other questions too. Many of these questions are from the discussion above and on the list -- thanks everyone. -- phoebe | talk 03:27, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

  1. Scenario: WMF is the only payment processor
    1. how does localization of donor appeals etc happen?
    2. how does localization of payment methods etc happen?
    3. how do folks in various countries get tax-deductibility?
    4. what do you do with existing chapter donor rolls – private info etc
    5. how does the wmf communicate with local donors?
      1. how does the chapter communicate with local donors?
    6. how do chapters “grow organizational capacity” (and what does this mean exactly)
    7. how does money get distributed?
      1. Grants (annualized and one time)
        1. how does grants committee make decisions
          1. who is on the committee, and who decides
          2. where do grant guidelines come from
        2. how do chapters et al know that annual programs will remain stable
        3. how do you ensure accountability of money – i.e. no embezzlement
        4. how do you measure accountability – i.e. money is being spent on what it is supposed to be spent on (movement roles recs a good place to start, for instance)
        5. How do you measure program metrics, who measures these and how?
        6. how do we ensure the best group to do something gets the grant?
        7. how do you measure effectiveness and alignment to mission, i.e. why spend the money that way in the first place?
        8. Who do grant recipients report to?
        9. Who keeps an eye on the whole process?
      2. How do you transfer money internationally?
      3. how does money get distributed to WMF programs
        1. under aegis of board of trustees
          1. how does this body maintain community/chapter trust?
          2. How does it incorporate chapter/community feedback & ideas into planning?
        2. via community recommendation body
          1. how is this body made highly functional?
          2. How can body be trusted/adopted by all players?
          3. Does board still have veto rights?
        3. How do you ensure accountability – no embezzlement etc?
        4. How do you ensure program metrics, who measures these and how?
        5. how do you ensure program effectiveness and alignment to mission, i.e. why fund that in the first place
        6. Who does the WMF report to?
    8. is there an endowment and if so how do we fund it? How do we ensure long-term stability of hosting the projects, with associated work?
  2. Scenario: Some chapters payment process, some never will
    1. how do you pick which chapters payment process?
    2. Who picks what chapters payment process?
    3. What are guidelines for payment processing?
    4. How much do they collect (e.g., to a budget, as much as possible, etc)?
      1. If only to a budget, who reviews these budgets?
      2. If as much as possible, how do you prevent extreme chapter & country disparity (i.e. rich vs poor)
    5. how is funding distributed to chapter programs?
    6. How is funding distributed to wikimedia core mission, i.e. funding the servers?
    7. how is funding distributed to non-core wikimedia mission, i.e. editor decline? (all other questions about distribution, per above, also apply here)
    8. How is funding distributed to other groups, i.e. non chapter affiliated volunteers?
    9. How are chapters that don't payment process funded?
    10. Do chapters contribute to pooled grants?
    11. is there an endowment and if so how do we fund it? How do we ensure long-term stability of hosting the projects, with associated work?
    12. How do you ensure:
      1. donor privacy
      2. coordination with WMF fundraising team
      3. timely reporting
      4. Donors know who they are contributing to, why, and what that group does
      5. accountability, i.e. no one is embezzling funds
      6. accountability, i.e. money is being spent on what chapter says it is being spent on
      7. program effectiveness and alignment to mission -- i.e. why spend the money that way in the first place
    13. how do you deal with transferring money internationally -- esp if laws preventing
    14. Who does localization? (i.e. who coordinates with translators etc)
    15. Does fundraising agreement equate to other exclusive agreements as well, or just fundraising?
    16. who reviews chapters?
  3. Scenario: All chapters aim to payment process, eventually
    1. all the same points as scenario two, with additional questions:
      1. how does this work for chapters that are very small or are in places with limited donation possibility
      2. how does this work for chapters in places with extremely difficult or unfriendly laws
      3. how are non-chapter groups/volunteers in those places funded?
        1. How is community input given to this?
      4. At what point and who decides which chapters are ready to fundraise; what is the standard?
      5. who decides what new chapters there are (could be lucrative, under this model). Who reviews?
  4. Scenario: something else entirely
    1. describe here. be bold!
    2. Hypothetical scenario proposal: WMF payment processes. All chapters and formal groups get baseline funding for conference travel and program work. All chapters get additional fixed amount of money based on their membership count. All other funding comes from revenue generated off the sites. Interest groups can be a part of this scheme if they are an approved group via affcomm. Grants program is open to all. (This is how one of my library organizations operates -- just food for thought! This set up means that the entire local group focus is on program planning, b/c otherwise money is fixed).
    3. advertisements, no one payment processes
    4. etc.
  5. All scenarios:
    1. how can we minimize fighting and maximize trust?
    2. How can we maximize efficiency and minimize administrative stuff, so we all can do program work?
    3. How do we take advantage of what we've got?
    4. How do we do the right thing with donor money?
    5. How do we steward the projects for the long-term future?

Wikimedia Foundation has been *unable* to find any evidence

"However, the Wikimedia Foundation has been unable to find any evidence suggesting that tax deductibility is an important incentive for donors giving small amounts of money, and the Wikimedia movement's experience thus far shows no correlation between tax deductible status and amounts donated during the annual campaign".


Reading that, I didn't believe my eyes. This is completely absurd, price elasticity of tax deductibility is well studied and very high (why to do you think a vast majority of developped countries offer this ?) As a matter of fact it is common that 60 to 70% of money donated to charities is tax-deductible. I would certainly not choose to give my money to a non tax-deductible charity, because it means that for the same amount given in the end, my donation is three times less effective than giving to someone else.

Please Ms Gardner, give us an estimate of how much your brillant move would cost to the wikimedia movement, once donors realize this. Economic data *is* easy to find. But Ok you are unable to find it, let's give a hand => first google scholar result here : "we estimate tax price elasticities by nonprofit type. We find (..) a private foundation elasticity of -2.0" "How Does the Incentive Effect of the Charitable Deduction Vary Across Charities?"

  • I'm just a volunteer and a small donor Ms Gardner, but please
    • remind me how much Wikimedia money goes in fact into your pay/expenses/benefits ?
    • ... And please compare this to the cost of your brilliant "out-of-the-box" idea..

Millions are at stake here, Millions. --Ofol 15:33, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

We fall under the public charity category rather than a private foundation, don't we? So the relevant number is -0.8, not -2.0. I think that essentially means that, for every dollar less than goes to the tax man, charities get 80 cents more. That is still quite substantial. It wouldn't surprise me if it was a little less for us, though, since we tend to receive lots of very small donations and I believe tax deductibility tends to be more important to people donating large amounts (which is why private foundations show such a large elasticity). Of course, it's a completely different situation in the UK - here, the money goes straight from the tax man to the charity, so the elasticity must be at least -1 (for donations from basic rate tax payers, anyway). --Tango 15:54, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Another point: Elasticity is about how likely the donation is to happen in the first place, not how effectively the donations are spent. A dollar donated to organizations whose donors don't benefit from tax deductibility buys just as much as a dollar donated to one whose donors benefit from tax deductibility. WhatamIdoing 02:03, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
How much tax deductibility matters depends on your donor base. In the US, about two-thirds of people don't itemize their income tax returns, so they get zero benefit from the tax deductibility. Those who do itemize tend to be:
  • high-income people (especially people with annual household incomes over US$250,000), and
  • people with large mortgages on their homes (so they can claim the mortgage interest deduction).
Additionally, donors who care about tax deductibility tend to be:
  • making relatively large donations.
To the extent that Wikipedia's donor base looks like young adult with a moderate income and no mortgage payment who is giving less than $50—that is, a donor with zero of the three characteristics named above—tax deductibility is completely irrelevant: the typical donor receives no tax benefit whatsoever for making that donation. WhatamIdoing 05:12, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Firstly this ignores the "greying of the pedia" as not all our donors fit that stereotype; Secondly this may be how tax and charity works in the US, but it needs globalising. In the UK where I am things are very different. A young adult with moderate income would be paying 20% tax and would expect a charity donation form to include a box for them to tick to confirm that they were a UK taxpayer and they wanted the tax man to add 25% to their donation. Other countries will have their own quirks, which is why decentralisation is the way to go. WereSpielChequers 09:39, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
@WhatamIdoing : do you have figures about what « Wikipedia's donor base looks like » in US ? It would be very interesting. Kropotkine 113 10:54, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
The WMF does not appear to collect such information. However, a substantial number of donors are also editors, so the donor base for the annual campaign is likely to be broadly similar to the editor base. The typical editor is single, white, childless, male, and in his 20s. Additionally, the typical donation is about US$20–25, which is not the size of donation associated with concerns about tax deductions, even among people who benefit from such deductions. WhatamIdoing 17:44, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Do you have any evidence that a substantial number of donors are editors? Just looking at the number of donations and the estimated size of the editing community would suggest otherwise. --Tango 20:14, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Are you sure? Just the English Wikipedia has 16 million accounts at the moment. More than 58,000 editors responded to a survey in March 2010. Three hundred thousand people edit the English Wikipedia each month. Since some people edit one month but not another, the number of people who edit at some point during any given year is even larger, and people self-identify as editors even if they haven't edited for a very long time.
Additionally, the demographics for readers and editors are pretty similar. Readers are slightly less educated and slightly younger (approximately two years, so the median reader is still in his 20s). Readers are just as likely as editors to be single and childless. The only real difference between readers and editors is that about one-third of readers are female, compared to only one-sixth of editors. That still leaves us with the typical reader being male, however. WhatamIdoing 02:03, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
If you exclude people that only make one edit then that 300,000 number comes down quite a long way. I don't think you gain much by including such people in statistics about editors. --Tango 12:27, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
That number comes down a long way only if you exclude people who make one edit per month rather than one edit ever. I believe that (as with any other charitable activity), the aggregate or "lifetime" involvement matters more than the per-month activity level.
But it doesn't much matter: we have surveyed non-editor readers, and except for their gender, they are almost identical to our editors. Our typical reader is still a single, white, childless male in his 20s, and single, white, childless males in their 20s are not the kind of donors that typically care about tax deductibility. WhatamIdoing 16:59, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps not in the US where they mostly don't qualify for it. My experience in the UK is the opposite. The only single white childless males who won't qualify to tick the GiftAid box are those who don't pay tax, and I doubt if many of them donate money. So our typical UK donor will be a UK taxpayer, and after testing various versions, by the end of the campaign the UK was getting 60% to tick the box instructing the tax man to give an additional 25% to the UK chapter as a refund of Income tax already paid. Other countries may be as different as the US is from the UK, we should be cautious about extrapolating from either example. WereSpielChequers 10:50, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

As for WMFR's fundraising, 58% of online donors did ask for a tax receipt. Important : it's an opt-in (the tax receipt is not sent by default. The donor must request it specifically) :

With regards to the gift amount (yes = I want a tax receipt) :

  • donation in the range [0-15] € : yes : 7194, no : 10927 --> 40% request a tax receipt
  • in the range ]15-50] € : yes : 11929, no : 3943 --> 75% request a tax receipt
  • in the range ]50- ∞] € : yes : 1861, no : 304 --> 86% request a tax receipt

It looks like your assumption is not worldwilde relevant and that's why decentralization of payment-process is the way to go.

Kropotkine 113 10:54, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

There certainly are differences between countries. For example, in the US, a tax receipt is unnecessary for donations of $250 or less. Requesting a tax receipt and benefiting from a tax deduction are not the same thing. A substantial number of those requesting the tax receipt may well be requesting a receipt for their own household bookkeeping (i.e., to make sure their credit card bills are correct). WhatamIdoing 17:44, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Diversity is Strength

As an alternative scenario, lets look at the way other big successful global NGOs organise their governance and fundraising. Probably the best models would include charities such as Greenpeace that have a global mission but a relatively centralised set of valuable capital assets (they have fewer ships than national organisations, we have fewer datacentres than we have chapters. Having capital assets means that you are more vulnerable to being sued, but a decentralised ownership of those assets means you can survive even if some components have to make big payouts - a certain religious organisation that has had to make recent high profile payouts is worth emulating here.

As an alternative strategy and also as a response to SOPA and similar problems I would suggest that our strategy should be to move at least one datacentre to a country/chapter with more progressive legal environment. Announcing that as our strategy would give some more clued up countries an opportunity to position themselves as open to such investment, jobs projects. Currently if the WMF was sued we have a single point of failure, I think that is unhealthy. WereSpielChequers 09:55, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Sounds great in theory, but IIRC this analysis has been done many times in our community and each time the conclusion has been the U.S. is the right home for the data centers. IANAL so I don't really know the right answer. What country to you believe could be a better? Why? Stu 18:07, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Let me put in a counter question: Why are u where u are now? Optimizing is a secret hobby of all those management people thinking they know better (leaner organisations, cleaning out double positions and so on). All this process goes on, until something shrinks to a "healthy organisation" - controlling to be cost effective. But u have to consider that, if controlling gets too far, the organisation itself will be destroyed, if it isnt enough there are losses in effectiveness. So why are u trying to change something that brought this site to (I dont know if its true in reality) No. 5 of Internet. Are u planning a buyout (Google perhaps)? I ask that question cause of both this processes are often similar in history of enterprises (who try to raise the worth first to get a better payment offer).--Angel54 5 14:52, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Angel. The project is in the country where it started, and we can't move to quite a few other countries because the law in those countries is less favourable to us. I'm British, I don't upload certain images that are out of copyright in the states but are arguably in copyright here, but I suspect that if we moved the project to Britain we would have to delete some of the images that we hold. And that is before we start thinking about the European directive on Data Protection. As for selling to Google, the WMF is legally a not for profit, and the data is under an open licence. I don't see how the Foundation could go down that route, even if it wanted to. WereSpielChequers 18:25, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
@Stu, I don't know if the analysis has been rerun since SOPA, but as far as legal risk is concerned we are now in a different era. There are several factors to look at re the siting of our datacentres:
  1. Legal environment. We need a legal environment where we can do what we do and not get sued or closed down by the Government. Currently China and many other places would be impossible, and pre-SOPA the US was as good as we could hope for.
  2. Proximity to the spine of the Internet. The better connected our datacentre is to the Internet the faster the response times we can offer people globally. But with multiple data centres we should be at multiple nodes on the spine.
  3. Continuity and Disaster recovery. I was relieved to hear that we hadn't put the datacentre in an earthquake zone. Though the more datacentres you have the more risk you can take, provided the risk is datacentre specific.
  4. Cost. Historically the US has been pretty good on this metric, but Iceland, Canada, maybe Norway, and other cold countries with cheap electricity are currently looking very attractive for datacentres.
  5. Infrastructure. Can we recruit or import people with the right skills and will we be able to get the right parts and engineers to fix things quickly?
If we only had one datacentre then I would be surprised if the best site was outside the US, but with more than one it would be surprising if the best site for the second one was in the US. With multiple datacentres we should be thinking globally, both to spread our risks but also to make it easier to read and edit our sites in parts of the planet where Internet connections are slow, especially connections to North America (Internet speed and lack of local caching is probably the biggest constraint on our growth in some parts of the world). Also we are now sufficiently big and symbolically important that we could approach suitable small countries and tell them what our legal requirements are. This is where small countries can be very accommodating to outside investment. WereSpielChequers 16:53, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

A pretty picture

X axis: Percentage difference between amount raised in 2010 and amount expected based on total raised and proportion of GDP. Y axis: Same for 2011. Bubble size: Area is proportional to GDP

I've spent some time playing around with the amounts raised in each country in 2010 and 2011 and the result has been this graph. I've compared the amount raised in each country to the amount that would have been raised in each country if we raised the same total but shared between countries in proportion to their GDP. I've only included countries where we raised more than $10,000 in both 2010 and 2011 and where the GDP is over $100 billion (small numbers tend to fluctuate wildly, so are difficult to analyse - these countries represent 98% of the total raised in 2011 anyway). The amounts raised are the grand total columns in the Google Docs spreadsheet (as they were at about 10pm GMT last night) and the GDP is 2011 nominal from the IMF. The colour shows whether a chapter fundraised both years, a chapter in 2010 and then the WMF in 2011 or the WMF both years. The line shows X=Y, so a country above the line has improved its position relative to everyone else and a country below the line has declined relative to everyone else.

Now I have the pretty picture, I'm not quite sure what it says. It is clear that we make a disproportionate amount of our revenue from a few wealthy nations where we do very well and we make very little everywhere else. The countries where we do very well, working down from the top right, are Germany, US, Switzerland, Canada, then the two red dots either side of the 45 degree line are Israel (above the line) and the Netherlands (below the line) and then the UK. The big country at the bottom left which we make virtually nothing from is China. The big country just above it and to the right where we make a little, but nowhere near what we would expect to from the GDP is Japan.

It is very obvious that the red dots (the countries where the WMF took over fundraising from a chapter) are mostly well above the line, and more so than any other countries. However, it doesn't look like those countries were doing particularly poorly last year - they are spread out throughout the main bunch. There also doesn't seem to be a correlation between how well they did in 2010 and how much they improved - they've all improved by about the same amount. If the improvement was because the chapters did a bad job last year, you would expect to see the biggest improvement in the countries that did the worst last year, but that isn't the case.

I can't believe that the red dots all being where they are in a statistical fluke, but I can't figure out what has happened. Can anyone else?

--Tango 13:32, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

I'm wondering about the red dots as well. We would really need to look at some individual country campaign comparisons. Where performance increases, there are specific factors responsible - improvements in banner messages, appeal texts, landing page formats, fundraising emails, payment options, etc. I suspect that in some cases the Foundation has implemented a strong 2011 campaign in areas where the 2010 campaign did not follow best practice. (Though I would struggle to generalise from "some chapters were not very good in 2010" to "chapters shouldn't bother with fundraising...") The Land 14:58, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
This is interesting, I guess, but can you help me understand what point you are trying to explore with this analysis? if you are trying to measure the efficacy of fundraising activity in each country, how are you controlling for differences in philanthropic giving in each culture? IIRC, there are huge differences in that so you'd have to take into account for this to be at all useful. Would be interesting to see analysis; I think I've even seen it somewhere on meta or the fundraising list or maybe it was the strategy process/wiki. Stu 18:12, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
One of Sue's reasons for chapters not fundraising anymore was that the WMF had done so much better this year than the chapters did last year in countries where the WMF took over fundraising. I wanted to explore those numbers in more depth and try and work out what was going on. I failed to reach any real conclusions, though. There is definitely something going on, but I can't tell what it is. I'm controlling for national differences by comparing 2010 and 2011 - the potential donors in 2011 were the same people as in 2010, regardless of who was doing the fundraising, so the national differences tend to cancel out.
I'm trying to work out a) if the apparent massive increase in donations in countries where the WMF took over fundraising compared to countries that had the same fundraiser in both years is a real effect (which is certainly seems to be - it's hard to quantify statistically, but the graph is pretty striking) and b) why this might be (which I haven't got anywhere with). I was expecting one of two outcomes: either the effect wasn't real and Sue was just seeing a pattern in the numbers that wasn't there (which is very easily done) or the effect was real and was due to the chapters doing badly in 2010, which would tend to present itself as larger increases from 2010 to 2011 for countries that did worse in 2010, since there was more room for improvement. Neither of those seem to be the case. The effect is really there, but it isn't correlated with how well the chapter fundraised in 2010.
There is still some difficulty in accessing how well a chaper did in 2010 due to differences in philanthropy, etc., but I would still have expected to see some pattern rather than a roughly equal increase for almost all the countries that changed fundraiser. --Tango 20:06, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Got it. I actually understand the chart now so I see how you're trying to control philanthropic tendencies in different countries. It's really interesting analysis. One way to take the analysis further is dive deeper into the execution differences between the different years. For example, for a given data point, was there more experimentation/iteration/testing when the foundation ran the fundraiser than when the chapter did? Tracking that data is a huge pain though.
One observation that comes to mind when I read this keys off of Seb35's comments on efficiency a bit further down the page. Is maximum efficiency really the goal here? Intellectually, of course, it is. But on the other hand IMHO our global fundraising efforts have become so successful that I'm not sure an extra few percentage points of efficiency in any given country are that huge a factor. Big systemic differences in efficiency are clearly important -- just look at how much extra fundraising Zack and team and community have been able to drive with systems for testing/iteration/etc. over the past two years. But an extra percent or two I'm not sure matters. Especially when you consider that if we were slightly less efficient we could just run the fundraiser another day and cover the difference.
Another observation I have is a gut opinion about where our movement most needs help from meta-oriented volunteers. Improvements in localization/stories etc. for fundraising clearly make a difference. And because it is easily measurable, it's natural to focus on fundraising. But to my points above, and I admit I haven't looked at data the way you have, my gut is there are higher priority ways for volunteers in each country to add value. Our movement has developed such a fundraising machine that I don't feel that is where we most need help. What our movement really needs is help with program work -- driving more editing, freeing content, etc. But we haven't found or at least adopted a good way to measure that, so it can naturally get less focus.
If I could wave a magic wand, I would find ways to measure these items and get this data in front of everyone the same way that fundraiser data is available. IMHO the single most important class of performance measures for the long-term health of our movement is the number of new or active editors. But, our chapters are organized by geography while our projects are organized by language (this is IMHO a fundamental weakness in our geography-based chapter model). So while Erik Zachte and team compile the data by project at, we don't have it and can't at this point get it by country or chapter. So with some exceptions (maybe Germany?) we couldn't measure the performance of a chapter or of meta-oriented volunteers in a country based on the number of editors in its core project. Stu 06:52, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree, additional analysis would be great, but I don't think we have the necessary data. Sue is arguing that the WMF is significant more effective at fundraising than chapters. If that is true, then it is a strong argument for the WMF doing the fundraising. Whether or not it is true is what I've been trying to work out. I'm not sure I agree that chapters having better things to do is a significant issue. As with the WMF, chapters seem to be moving towards hiring staff to handle fundraising rather than using volunteers. Apart from economies of scale, it makes little difference whether fundraising is done by WMF staff or chapter staff. --Tango 12:25, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Wikimedia UK - gross misrepresentation

There really has been a gross misrepresentation of the funds collected by Wikimedia UK. The values do not whatsoever take into account the different fundraising philosophy by the chapter that prioritised the long term sustainable growth over the short term benefits of jumping from year to year whilst at the same time fulfilling the 150% growth limit on the budget. This year Wikimedia UK became the first organisation to use direct debits and as a result did sacrifice the short term one off benefits but has dramatically improved the long term sustainability of the movement. 36% of the total estimated to be taken by Wikimedia UK from the 2011/12 fundraiser was taken from direct debits.

Ignoring any benefits of gift aid (UK tax benefit for chaity), the average life span of a direct debit is around 5 years, declining each year at rate between 10% and 20%. Taking that into account the actual lifetime worth of the direct debits this year puts a value of $1.5 million at a rate greater than 20% drop off a year. If you take the more optimistic look of 10% that's $2.0 million dollars. That doubles the value of the Wikimedia UK fundraiser even if the money isn't in the bank. This really should be acknowledged. Seddon 08:04, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Hi Seddon, good point that direct debit revenue needs to be calculated with a projection of future revenue, but there are two variables that you need to use to measure it. As well as the attrition rate there is also the discount you apply to future revenue. If we were in debt that would be fairly simple, basically you apply a discount rate to account for the interest you'd incur in the meantime, in effect you calculate the difference between repaying a debt now or in the future when you have the money. Since we don't have debt the equation is more academic, you could allow for the interest we'd earn if that was already banked, but that is currently pretty minimal. Also there is the issue of length of plan, the UK chapter is clearly taking the long view of things - it now has a revenue stream that will still be useful in a decades time. The WMF on these figures seems to be ignoring future Direct debit revenue altogether. My experience of UK charity fundraising is that many charities expect to pay more in marketing costs to acquire an new direct debit donation than the donation is worth in its first year. But in the longterm that is worth doing, both because it gives a more efficient return to the charity and because the charity has the security of longterm income. WereSpielChequers 10:38, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

No more payment processing greatly removes privacy and security risks - a false dichotomy

So there are two parts to this argument currently chapters have around 300,000 donors across 12 chapters donor databases (~85% of which are amongst DE, UK, FR and CH) right at this very moment. These have been collected across the last two years (so its probably more). We must remember that those 300,000 arn't just going to go away, the privacy and security issues are not simply going to disappear. If the problem exists, we have to deal with it either way, whether or not chapters continue to payment process.

The second issue is that if chapters are being encouraged to fundraise from sources outside of the banners, the issues of privacy and security remain and should not be considered lesser. The risks of data protection breaches does not change, particularly if chapters become successful at alternative fundraising. We need to think of this no matter what the situation is and its not a viable argument for the end of payment processing. However its a issue we need to think about whatever happens because if it is as real as sue says it is. The work that has to be done is going to exist no matter what. Seddon 08:12, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Good point about the existing donor bases, but alternative fundraising can involve lesser issues re security and Privacy. For example if we create/endorse a charity calender that is sold through normal retail channels for charity calenders, we won't know the names of the buyers. Privacy and security issues about donor identities only come up when you know the names of your donors; If we get involved in en:Payroll giving then we won't know the identities of those donors. WereSpielChequers 10:38, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Iron law of oligarchy

I have read this document four times along with its talk page (that had been changed since I last read it - I hope to catch up tomorrow) and all related threads and I agree with some of its points. However, I do not think that the points raised here lead to the conclusions outlined or that the actions suggested will come anywhere near solving the problems.

This document start by stating that it will probably reach no consensus. My experience shows that this is euphemism for we'll do it this way no matter what anyone thinks. No matter how much it is unlikely that we'll reach consensus we should strive to one. But leave consensus aside, how about majority? A few supporters? To the best of my knowledge, to date, despite Gigabytes of talk and threads, I did not see a single supporter from outside the WMF. However, I did count several and several people who object. Are they all wrong? I will also refute a future argument about supporters that are afraid to publicly admit that. The answer to that is that there are more people being afraid to object and their number is larger than those who support. Since we cannot count these nor those we cannot consider their opinions.

Sue writes that the current situation is damaging to the the individual and organisational relations in the movement. I do not really see how this resolves this. Moreover, the suggested path definitely damages the the relations in the movement. Moreover over this moreover, it damages the entities in the movement. I do not think that all chapters should fundraise (and I disapprove the term payment-process that was forced upon us), I (personally, others in my board disagree) don't think that WMIL is in capacity to fundraise in the near future. However, I do not think that making an a-priory decision that no chapter should never be able to fundraise is a good suggestion. Sue also write it's not very efficient and isn't effectively safguarding against various risks. I do not know how to argue about efficiency, but the proposed way introduces other risks that arise when one puts all the eggs in a single basket. Indeed, we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Let's start with finding something good.

Sue writes that any chosen way should be consistent with our vision, values and mission, the vision has does not deal with the issue at hand but the mission statement clearly mention the collaboration with a network of chapters, a collaboration that Sue doubts its effectiveness.

Now, since we agree that people are our biggest asset I don't really understand the point of alienating people. Currently, the most active people in the movement are those taking part of a chapter. This may change in the future (as I agree with Sue that the movement should consider supporting other forms of organisations) but at the moment chapters are what we have. If we want to change this we should first build an alternative, and only then damage things that already work.

Sue writes that chapters are not the only player in the movement and that they are not the right tool for every purpose. I completely agree with that. She also argues that the Wikimedia foundation overlooked the importance of the other movement players. Good! start looking at those again. However, you do not suggest any way of doing so. The idea that reducing the weight of certain players will automatically increase the power of others is not backed up with any evidence where things stand at the moment it more more likely that the WMF absorb all the power that chapters used to hold rather than a miracle Syrian editor jumps in. The WMF should support other players, perhaps there would even be a place for non-chapters-grouped-wikimedians in the board or OTRS-editors or commons-elected-board member but currently, all we have are chapters.

Another argument that is based on bad rhetoric at best is that "this is why the number of editors involved with their chapter is fairly small". This is flawed twice, first it is flawed in the underlying assumption that the number is fairly small. This is obviously isn't true for all chapters. Some chapters are better positioned with their communities than others. The second flaw is that the conclusion derives from feelings rather than data. I once did a non-scientific survey among editors on why aren't they taking a more active part of the chapter's activities. The most common answer was that writing in Wikipedia is their hobby. They signed for an online writing project and they don't want to be bothered with other activities that require wearing pants.

I also believe that the model that privileges geography above all is wrong. This is why I was so upset when we had to sign the chapters agreement with the WMF. While negotiating the details of the agreement with Moushira I argued that there are communities in my territory that would not agree to be affiliated with a formal Israeli entity and that while I don't agree with their choice I do not with to block them from grouping. The answer I got is that there is nothing to do, chapters are defined by territories and that is it. Now, these are all examples of bad decisions the WMF has done. We learn that having a large staff does not make you immune from making bad decisions. It also mean that consolidating more power to the WMF means that the future bad decisions it may make have even larger impact. This is why it's good to divide the power so no one's mistakes have dramatic impact over the entire movement.

The biggest fallacy I see in this document is that all arguments are symmetric with respect to the chapters and the board:

  • "The Wikimedia foundation has given the chapters two board seats on the Wikimedia foundation Board" <--> "The board always ask the WMF staff to draft recommendations and collect data for them". If the board had asked me to write recommendations about fundraising they would get something completely different. Everyone has their role in the movement, the chapters are supposedly those who does the "real world work" hence are represented in the board, and the staff are those who does the data collection and recommendation drafting hence having access to the board meetings (a privilege others don't share). Had there been any other player who thinks they should be represented in the board this should have been positively considered.
  • "There is fairly small number of editors involved with their chapter work" <--> "There is even a smaller number of editors involved with the WMF's work".
  • "It is signing agreements that effectively give chapters 'exclusivity' in their geography and committing to consulting with chapters before the Wikimedia Foundation takes any action -even meetings- inside their country. <--> Why should the Wikimedia Foundation have meetings in other geographies to begin with.
  • "All of this is rooted in an assumption that chapters are the central player in the Wikimedia movement" <--> "all of this is rooted in an assumption that the WMF, through its staff is the movement".

Almost all arguments are symmetric, which is very troubling.

"So what should we do" you ask? Primum non nocere. Then, we should discuss some ideas calmly (these and others). I, personally agree with some of the things written here and disagree with others but there is not equal-level discussion here. The process is too hasty, on August, without giving anyone a fair notice Sue had presented to the board an apocalyptic scenario that required taking immediate action without letting anyone presenting the other opinion. Now, we get this long set of ideas to be presented to the board on February. Those who wish to participate are subject to this strict timeline. Some had argued that they lack data to make alternative suggestions. Even if they are given this data, it takes time to process it. The chapters meeting is coming, why shouldn't this be discussed there? You claim that the chapters are only one player among many others and hence other opinions should be heard. What has been done to hear other non-chapters opinions? If you really want to have an open discussed about this, Wikimania is the right place as it is the place where other type of contributors participate. There is no real reason to make this decision in a hurry.

About the recommendations themselves: I don't really see what of the arguments that were suggested until this part support recommendation #1. People raised major doubts about the validity of the argument and the data that suppose to support this recommendation. I think we should first agree on those, once you agree on the fact, it is much easier to know what to do.

About recommendation #2, I don't really see what is the decision to make here. Of course chapters can fundraise outside the wikis and of course they should do so with alignment with the movement guidelines. I do not think however that it is smart movement-wise to let the WMF board be the one that lay our those guidelines and I'm not even sure that the WMF board is in position to make such decision.

Now, of course that ED wants to increase its power. This is the Iron law of oligarchy. Despite what is publicly communicated, this document, with its recommendations gives the WMF more power over the chapters. It is bad for the movement due to its content, the world view that guides it, the results it will achieve and the process that was used to create it.

A note on language. I had no problem reading this documents but had to search the dictionary what "colloquialisms" means. Tomer A. 21:52, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Thank you for taking the effort to write this - much food for thought. I like very much your positive long-term vision of the movement, including the reminder of the value of people, the framing of a movement as a set of relationships among people and organizations, the possibility that a chapter that is not ready to fundraise now may be in a readiness position some day, and the point about not wanting to block other groups in a country from doing their own thing. Bishdatta 05:20, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

The best path to independence

I want to talk a little here about independence. This will be a little long. I'm sorry about that, but I am aiming to be as clear as possible -- there's a tl;dr at the end :-)

I'm going to start by repeating something I said a few months ago on internal-l.

An important problem here is that the Wikimedia movement currently seems to want three things:

  1. We want the chapters to be entirely independent of the Wikimedia Foundation;
  2. We want the chapters to have a share of movement resources;
  3. We want the Wikimedia Foundation to be a responsible custodian of donations that come in via the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Those three goals conflict with each other. As I see it, we can choose to sacrifice one or more of them, or we can try to find ways to balance among them. The recommendations I've drafted are an attempt to find that balance.

For the last several years, the Wikimedia Foundation has tended to err on the side of supporting chapters in being able to payment-process, even if we weren't 100% positive they were equipped to do it well. What the Board of Trustees said to us all in Haifa was that it was concerned that the third goal (being a responsible custodian of donations) was receiving insufficient priority. It wanted the Wikimedia Foundation to take seriously its responsibilities to donors, and to “raise the bar” for compliance, by more thoroughly vetting chapters' ability to payment-process before letting them do it. Many chapters representatives were upset by the process by which that decision was made and by the timing of it, but I haven't heard anyone arguing with the substance of the decision itself. Indeed, many people have applauded it, and quite a few chapters representatives have told me privately that although they were angry about how it was communicated, they were glad about the decision itself: they didn't believe their chapter was equipped to payment-process, and they were relieved when the Board of Trustees took the decision out of their hands.

Meanwhile, for the past year, many chapters have been expressing increasing unhappiness about the Wikimedia Foundation's attempts to raise the bar in terms of compliance. By “raising the bar,” I mean things like the Wikimedia Foundation developing more robust and detailed legal agreements, tracking chapter compliance with them, asking chapters to demonstrate that they are publishing plans and activity reports, reviewing program plans, monitoring compliance with local laws, and so forth. Generally, chapters have seemed to resist and resent the Wikimedia Foundation's efforts to review and evaluate aspects of their operations. I understand this and I sympathize with it. They are independent organizations, and it can be very uncomfortable for an organization to be reviewed and evaluated by another party, particularly if they feel there's a risk of a relationship developing that's basically “head office” and ”subsidiary.” So, things started getting uncomfortable and unpleasant when the Wikimedia Foundation first began making efforts to more effectively ensure payment-processing chapters' compliance about a year ago, and it got worse after the Board asked me to raise the bar further. That does not mean we should stop 'raising the bar.' As many of us have acknowledged and agreed: it is the right thing to do. But, it comes at the expense of chapter independence, which is making the chapters unhappy.

So. If we were to continue to have chapters payment-processing in future, here is what I anticipate would happen:

  • The chapters that meet the requirements for payment-processing would continue to have (or to feel they are having) their autonomy eroded by the Wikimedia Foundation. Why? Because the Wikimedia Foundation can't ignore its responsibilities. Therefore, the Wikimedia Foundation will continue to require payment-processing chapters to prove they're in compliance with relevant local laws, and we will need them to get in compliance where they currently are not. Chapters will need to prove that they have no privacy issues, no potential data leaks, and appropriate insurance. We will need to further tighten up our legal agreements and introduce auditing to ensure they're complied with. We will need to begin to ensure the messaging to donors is honest and accurate, and that plans and reports are published. We will need to review and approve revenue targets and program plans. All of that will feel like the continued/increased erosion of autonomy for the chapters. I would anticipate increasingly difficult relationships, with some potentially deadlocking in disagreement.
  • Meanwhile, I anticipate that chapters which did not payment-process in 2011 *will* aspire to payment-process in 2012 and beyond. (I noticed the other day that the Philippines aspires to payment-process in future; I am sure many other chapters also do.) Those chapters will face a bumpy, uncomfortable road, trying to demonstrate to the Wikimedia Foundation that they are ready to payment-process. Probably some will argue that they are ready before they actually are, which will force the Wikimedia Foundation to prove those chapters are "not mature" or "not professional" enough, increasing chapters' alienation and offence.

I would like to avoid that. I think it would be unpleasant for everyone, and would lock us into relationships that are fundamentally adversarial.

I think that the key to avoiding it, is avoiding chapters payment-processing donations that come in via the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. Why? Because when chapters payment-process during the annual campaign, it can be argued that they are acting as an arm of the Wikimedia Foundation. That poses a number of challenges. One is, the Wikimedia Foundation has a fiduciary responsibility to donors that come in via the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, and sending donors to independent entities can only work if the Wikimedia Foundation has a great deal of visibility into the operations of that independent entity, as well as understanding of it, and influence over it. Which flatly contradicts the desire for chapter independence.

In sum: if the chapters payment process, IMO they become much more interlinked and interdependent with the Wikimedia Foundation. Independence via payment-processing is a fiction.

So I looked for another solution.

If chapters don't payment-process in the annual campaign, much of their requirement to demonstrate compliance to the Wikimedia Foundation simply evaporates. They still need to comply with local laws, but they don't need to prove compliance to the Wikimedia Foundation. It's still in their interest to create plans and fundraising messaging and activity reports, but they are not accountable to the Wikimedia Foundation for doing it. There is no need to negotiate revenue targets with the Wikimedia Foundation, nor is there necessarily a need to share program plans. They do not need to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Wikimedia Foundation that they have no privacy issues, no potential data leaks, no local fundraising compliance issues, and the appropriate insurance to cover risks.

That's what led me to the Funding Allocations Committee. I think it's worth exploring, in part because I think it increases chapter autonomy rather than eroding it.

Here's why.

The Wikimedia Foundation can't entirely relinquish control over money given out via any process: that would be irresponsible. *Payment-processing* requires the tightest control of all financial relationships. Money given out via grants requires less control on the part of the Wikimedia Foundation, relative to a payment-processing relationship.

If we build a FAC, the Wikimedia Foundation could not relinquish total control over the money given out by the FAC. However, the Wikimedia Foundation could restrict its role to due diligence ensuring money will not be misspent. The level of due diligence required for a defined portion of resources is significantly less than the level of due diligence required for an undefined, theoretically unlimited amount of resources. For small grants this could be a very lightweight checklist; for bigger grants it would be more extensive, but still much less than would be required for payment-processing. The purpose would be strictly to ensure money was used for the purposes requested.

Meanwhile, the FAC, with decision-making authority delegated by the Wikimedia Foundation, could be constructed to do all other vetting of proposals. Is the proposal a good idea? Does it make sense? Will the activities proposed be beneficial for the projects? We could collectively design a FAC that handles all of that.

The result would be, I think:

  • A world which allows chapters more autonomy, not less;
  • A world which enables the Wikimedia Foundation to appropriately safeguard donations coming in via the sites it operates;
  • A world in which chapters (and other movement players) have access to the resources they need to get their work done, and the work is funded in a way that's transparent and provides for appropriate accountability to the movement as a whole.

The reason I’m posting this here is not to defend the draft recommendations (although of course I do believe in them, or I wouldn’t have written them). My purpose is to lay out some of the thinking that went into them. Essentially, I believe that if we continue with chapters payment-processing during the annual campaign, then we are on a path towards continuing the erosion of chapter autonomy, that is making so many chapters unhappy. (And frankly, is also very difficult for me and the rest of the staff.) If we want to preserve or increase chapter autonomy, I think we will need to come up with something other than a solution in which chapters payment-process.

In summary, I think that leaving behind the model of chapters as payment-processors and adopting a Funding Allocations Committee-type model to allocate funds may best balance among the three needs (chapter independence, chapter access to resources and responsible custodianship by the Wikimedia Foundation) we have, in a way that will improve relations across the board. I believe it would reduce a major source of tension, and would help us focus on what matters: how to ensure that good programmatic activities get funded in a way that best provides accountability to the international Wikimedia community. Thanks Sue Gardner 00:16, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Thanks Sue for offering an in-depth view of your thinking on this issue. Once payment processing is off the table, what level of due diligence would you anticipate for chapters receiving large "operating" grants? Moreover, with the issue of undefined, potentially unlimited diversion of funds behind us, will the Foundation turn its attention to scrutinizing the operations of those organizations with whom it has shared its name and other trademarks? If I were a chapter leader, I'd wonder if close scrutiny wasn't as easily justified by protecting the goodwill inherent in the marks... and if a resumption of such scrutiny was inevitable as a result. Nathan T 00:51, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Nathan. Bah, this page is hard to navigate, and I am not always sure that I'm replying in a place that's helpful :-(
Thus far, the Wikimedia Foundation has scrutinized the chapters in many different ways. Let me try out a new construct here, dividing the scrutiny into three types:
  1. Scrutiny that is legally required of anybody receiving movement monies, with the level of seriousness determined by the amount of money at stake. Depending on the amount of money at stake, this might include for example something as simple as showing identification or providing receipts, to something as onerous as providing a detailed budget breakdown with various kinds of support, as well as showing evidence supporting the idea that the organization can effectively execute on what it is proposing.
  2. Additional heightened scrutiny, required of any body participating as a payment-processor in the annual campaign. This is by far the most serious level of scrutiny that would ever be required, because acting as a payment-processor is the role with the largest-possible amount of responsibility, requiring the greatest-possible amount of mutual trust and interdependence. This level of scrutiny would include, for example, but is not limited to, requiring the chapter to provide proof that is has created and is complying with gift policies and donor privacy policies, that it has created robust systems for privacy safeguards, fraud protections and security measures for preventing data theft and phishing, and that it has sufficient financial controls and auditing practices to ensure it's in compliance with appropriate standards, laws and regulations. This level of scrutiny IMO requires external auditing by the Wikimedia Foundation or a party approved by the Wikimedia Foundation. This level of scrutiny is not currently happening to the degree that is actually required.
  3. Scrutiny related to the purposes to which the money will be put, that go beyond legally-required minimums that aim solely to ensure money is spent responsibly. By this I mean evaluative scrutiny that attempts to assess strategic impact. This might include determining whether the initiative is worth doing at all, how well it fits with the needs and goals of the Wikimedia movement, whether it would likely be effective in meeting its goals, how it interacts with other priorities, and so forth.
To date, the Wikimedia Foundation has been applying type 1 and 3 scrutiny to all chapters receiving funding, and type 2 scrutiny to all chapters aspiring to payment-process in the annual campaign. I understand what you're saying, when you say chapters might fear ever-increasing scrutiny with no upper limit. But what I am proposing here is this: that the Wikimedia Foundation apply type 1 --minimal, legally-required, unavoidable-- scrutiny to anyone who wants funding received from donors to the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. Because we have to do that: it's our responsibility and we can't duck it even if we want to. That type 2 scrutiny goes away (except for the Wikimedia Foundation itself), because nobody is payment-processing in the annual campaign, on the Wikimedia Foundation-operated sites, except the Wikimedia Foundation. And that type 3 scrutiny move to a community funding body --an FAC or whatever it gets called-- so that decisions about what projects and initiatives warrant funding are made by a trusted global body of community members, rather than by people in San Francisco or any other single geographical jurisdiction.
I hope this makes sense! -- obviously what I have written here is over-simplified: in reality it would be somewhat more nuanced. But this is the gist of what I am thinking at the moment. It's not easy to try to flesh this stuff out in text only :-) Thanks Sue Gardner 04:03, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Hi Sue. I really wish you'd actively raised these issues with chapters during your November travels, because there are so many misunderstandings here that I'm finding this all to be rather unbelievable. To pick just one example from many: "Therefore, the Wikimedia Foundation will continue to require payment-processing chapters to prove they're in compliance with relevant local laws, and we will need them to get in compliance where they currently are not." - I can't believe that there are any chapters out there that don't want to ensure, and to prove, that they are, "in compliance with relevant local laws" since it's de facto a legal requirement for them to do so - and that they should be happy to publicly demonstrate that compliance. If that is not the case, then the WMF should naturally be assisting them to ensure that this is indeed the case. I'm simply gobsmacked that you might think otherwise. I'll provide a more detailed reply in the next few days (I would provide a more detailed reply right now, but I have to get some sleep before heading to London in a few hours time to host and run a Wikimedia workshop over the weekend), and I'm sure that others will reply to your points quicker than myself, but I would strongly encourage you to reconsider what you have written here. Mike Peel 00:54, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Sue, you describe a lot of problems you are trying to resolve - non-compliance with local law, dishonest messaging, privacy issues, data leaks, etc.. Could you please clarify - are these actual problems that have been and are being experienced or are these just hypothetical problems? If they are actually happening, then something certainly needs to be done, but I would like to see some evidence of that. If they are just hypothetical, then all you really need is for the WMF board to be able to tell with reasonable confidence that they haven't started - the report from each chapter's auditors in that chapter's annual report should go a long way towards providing that assurance. If there are specific questions you feel need answering that aren't covered in those reports, it shouldn't be too difficult to ask the auditors to look into those matters at the same time as they are doing the rest of their audit (we'd have to pay our auditors a bit more, but that isn't a big problem, the movement isn't struggling for cash). --Tango 01:10, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Tango. I might write a little more here later, but I did want to respond quickly to this point, because I have been thinking about it while I wrote the draft recommendations, and struggling a little with how much to say. Yes, there are actual, current issues. There are compliance issues currently faced by payment-processing chapters which I do not talk about publicly because I don't think it would be particularly helpful: the relevant chapters are aware of them, and I do not want to embarrass or damage them in any way. But you asked, so I will tell you that. Separately, I think people can determine for themselves whether they think the messaging used is accurate. I think it's a grey area, but I am not tremendously comfortable with what we're doing, currently. I do want to also say again though: my goal here is not to criticize the chapters, nor is it to give ammunition to critics of the chapters. They are good people doing good work. I just believe that on balance, there are better ways to fund the movement's activities in a truly decentralized fashion, than via country-based payment processing. Thanks Sue Gardner 03:28, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for your reply. I think it will be very difficult for us to have a proper discussion about these topics without all the relevant information being out in the open (and past conduct of chapters is an extremely important factor in predicting future conduct, so this information is highly relevant). If necessary, we can take this part of the discussion over to internal-l, but I don't think that is necessary - if we're doing something wrong we should be open and honest about it, even if that is damaging.
I'm afraid I can't just take your word for it that chapters have had significant problems because the Foundation's past record with claims of problems at WMUK hasn't been good. I heard numerous claims in Haifa (from WMF board and staff members) that WMUK was a big part of the problem because we have $1m sitting in the bank not doing anything. This was simply untrue (we had raised $1m during the fundraiser, so had had that much in the bank for a short time and we time our year-end to come just after the fundraiser, so it was that time that our annual accounts reflected, but by Haifa we had already transferred about half of that to the WMF).
The Foundation also blew out of all proportion the fact that we were a little late in filing our accounts. It looked bad because it was our first set of accounts and Companies House (the relevant UK regulator) automatically begins proceedings to strike off companies that miss the deadline by even a day, but that's just an administrative thing to get companies that were founded and then never did anything and never filed anything off the register as quickly as possible. If you are an active company that has just had a few delays in getting your accounts together, you are at no risk whatsoever of getting anything more than a small monetary penalty. At no time was there a credible risk of WMUK being struck off.
Until I see some details, I have to assume that you are being similarly inaccurate or disproportionate with these new claims (because the alternative is assuming chapters are misbehaving, which seems the less likely of the two). --Tango 15:45, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I really don't know where to start. This entire narrative is flat-out wrong and full of holes. You first start out by saying, that chapter representative privately communicated to you that they were relieved to not payment process? Let me get this straight, a chapter fought to be able to fundraise, invested in infrastructure, set up all sorts of legal precedents, some even applied for tax-deductible status, then re-invested for next year, hired staff, rented offices,and in the end, from the handful of chapters that actually went through all this trouble, they wanted you to take it away from them? This sounds like an extremely odd position. Even if that assumption is accepted, if one chapter had cold-feet, the most logical option was punishing everyone else with a single brush stroke? You do realize, no one was forced to fundraise, they could have bowed out by their own volition at any point.
The other argument, about unhappiness with compliance requirements, I have been on Internal-l for over an year, and in close proximity to chapters for around the same time. I never saw WMF make a concerted effort to put across any responsibilities or a system. The first attempt was taking the fundraising away, then Sue starting this process several months later and then finally deciding no one is competent or trust-worthy enough to fundraise except WMF. I don't know a thing about this FAC, and frankly I think it is the carrot at the end of the stick while you whip the horse. No one has any idea what this proposed committee is, how it would function, WMF couldn't get a single committee or project to work. Now when there is incredibly heated and important issue, this a fabled committee that no one has any idea about will fix all our problems. Incidentally being proposed by the same person denying everyone else their independence. How convenient. Theo10011 01:32, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Dear Theo, rudeness does not suit you, nor anger improve your reasoning. Chapters that were relieved were presumably ones that had not invested in infrstructure, but were debating whether they should build up that infrastructure because it seemed like the only way to get significant funds.
Sue - I also love it when you share your thought process like this, thank you. As to compliance with high standards for privacy, financial accountability and the like: I hope that we all do become more accountable to one another, no matter how much of a nuisance it is at first. That is part of growing up as a movement - it's not just about some groups being accountable to the WMF. We all need to start being accountable to the highest global standards, since we all influence how the Projects and how Wikimedia as a whole is perceived. We need to do this regardless of how the fundraising process develops. SJ talk | translate   03:05, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

I missed you Sj <3. I'm sorry but I have been getting more and more frustrated by this process lately. Theo10011 03:48, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

And I you! I hear you... I see threads of progress everywhere, but the way it is happening is exhausting everyone. I will try to channel positive energy. SJ talk | translate  

Hi Sue, thanks for explaining your thinking a bit, and I will say that I do support the concept of the FAC (or as I've retermed it in the Recommendation 4 brainstorming page, "FDC"). However, I do want to correct one thing you say here. Chapters recognise the need for financial responsibility, and we've been saying it from the start. I'm dismayed any time an allusion is made that we don't and the real purpose of our opposition is so that we can be reckless with donor money. I think the resistance you're encountering is not based on a reluctance to better account for money that's donated, the resistance is based upon the unaccepted principle that the Foundation is the only logical person to manage the distribution, the unaccepted principle that the money belongs (morally speaking) to the Foundation as opposed to being entrusted to the movement as a whole by our donors, and lastly and perhaps most importantly, the very aggressive fashion in which these changes are being pursued by senior WMF management (to the degree that I've had WMF employees, who will remain anonymous, telling me off the record that they think you're going in much too hard). Of course, I may just be the outlier there, but I am a bit worried that you don't even seem to understand why the friction has developed. Craig Franklin 08:41, 7 January 2012 (UTC).

Hi Craig! This page is getting kind of nightmarish, I read your comment yesterday, and have had a lot of trouble finding this section again today. In this comment, I'm meaning to reply to you, Tango, Mike Peel, Schutz, Kropotkine, and possibly also Joseph Seddon and others, pulling together some threads from various parts of the page. I am not going to respond individually to all the comments: I'm going to try to make one comprehensive response here.
So a number of people on this page, and on simultaneous conversations on internal-l, seem to be assuming that I believe the chapters that have payment-processed have done a terrible job. I want to be clear: that is not what I believe. Based on what I've observed, I would say the chapters have done about as well as might be expected of organizations that are young and evolving – certainly, no worse. There have been, and continue to be, problems. But they are normal and predictable ones, nothing unusual. I have never seen anything that suggests to me corruption or an intent to be reckless.
I wonder if people assume I believe the chapters have done a terrible job, because that's the only argument they can imagine that would justify a proposal that the Wikimedia Foundation do all the payment-processing on Wikimedia Foundation-operated sites. If so, I would like to say that that is not what I think. I believe the Wikimedia Foundation should do all the payment-processing on Wikimedia Foundation-operated sites, not because the chapters would do or are doing a dreadful job, but because on balance, I believe the Foundation doing it is the most efficient and effective and simplest and safest way for the payment processing to happen. The chapters don't need to be terrible for centralized payment-processing to make sense.
I want to point out for anyone who doesn't know -- I am the person who first decided to enable chapters to payment process in the annual campaign. The Board didn't make that decision: I made it. So, when I say that I think the Wikimedia Foundation should do all the payment processing, I say it as a person who used to believe the opposite. I was in favour of chapters payment-processing, I started the practice, and after several years experience with it, on balance I think it was a bad decision and needs to be rethought. We're a young movement and we're learning --- we shouldn't be rigid, we should be continually reflecting on what we're doing, and refining it to make things work better. That's what the "bigger context" section on the other page is all about.
I also want to say that "who payment-processes in the annual campaign on the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation" (maybe I will start calling this WPPSOWMF, or something, because I am tired of typing it) is far from the most important question facing us, and I always feel a little disconcerted that so much energy gets expended on it. Somebody commented on my talk page recently that people are spending a lot of time on this conversation that could be spent doing work that advances the mission, and I agree. The only real purpose of payment-processing during the annual campaign is to responsibly and effectively bring in money, in ways that don't expose the movement to risk. What really matters is how money gets disseminated, and by whom, and for what. That's a much more complicated, and important conversation. So I'm going to leave this page now, and go start reading this one. Thanks Sue Gardner 03:05, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Hey Sue, This is very interesting and helping me grapple with this more deeply. I have questions on two of the three goals you've articulated at the top, so putting these below each point.

"We want the chapters to be entirely independent of the Wikimedia Foundation."
Do we? I thought we wanted chapters to be able to function autonomously, but given that chapters have agreements with the Foundation, is it feasible to have a goal which makes them entirely independent of the Foundation?
"We want the Wikimedia Foundation to be a responsible custodian of donations that come in via the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation."
I would rephrase this thus: "We want all Wikimedia entities to be responsible custodians of donations that come in via the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation." Regardless of whether some of these 'donations' go directly to movement entities via payment processing or indirectly via other mechanisms, such as grants, we do want them to be responsible custodians of these donations. And in the case of grants, the Foundation becomes a donor to other entities within the movement, so we still want them to be responsible custodians. This goes to the heart of the financial accountability issue, but calls on only the Foundation to be a responsible custodian.

I am also having a hard time understanding why "the chapters that meet the requirements for payment-processing would continue to have (or to feel they are having) their autonomy eroded by the Wikimedia Foundation." On the contrary, I would imagine that chapters that meet the requirements for payment processing would have strong financial and other controls, thus they would be organizationally stronger - because they could only process if they meet the accountability criteria. Getting direct donations would also give make them financially stronger, by giving them flexibility on how to spend this money - as opposed to grants, which are tied to specific programmatic activities. So, to me it seems like those chapters that meet the requirements for payment processing would have more autonomy, rather than less. Bishdatta 19:02, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Grants are no longer necessarily tied to specific programmatic activity. You may have missed the announcement, but we are actively discussing an unrestricted grants proposal based on annual plans, to formalize the kinds of grants that have already been given to WMAR, WMAT, WMHU, WMNL, and WMSE. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 21:04, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, Asaf. I had missed this announcement and fully agree that this is a step in the right direction. Despite this, I still think there is an 'autonomy gap' between a general purpose grant and income via payment processing, but I'll hold further thoughts on this for now. Bishdatta 16:07, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Bishakha. I do agree that we want everyone to be a responsible custodian of donor funds, and I believe everyone wants to be a responsible custodian of donor funds. But, this is the text the Board published in July: “Because of its role as operator of the websites, the Foundation has to be satisfied that any organization directly receiving donor funds will treat them with an appropriately high level of care and transparency.” And, the Board also said in the same letter that a chapter may be allowed to payment-process in the annual campaign only if (among other things) "the Foundation can confidently assure donors to the chapter than their donations will be safeguarded.” That's the language I'm responding to, that positions the Wikimedia Foundation as being responsible. I don't see it as letting other entities off the hook (nor do I think they want off the hook), but the language the Board is unambiguous about the Wikimedia Foundation as an entity with direct responsibility. Thanks Sue Gardner 03:16, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I for one welcome our new WMF overlords. Chapters no longer have to deal with independence, individual donors, or payment processing. All that matters now is what the WMF thinks of the chapter, and apparently they like WMSE a good lot. The future for chapters lies in successful lobbying in San Francisco. Instead of convincing Swedish donors to give to WMF rather than the Red Cross, we now only have to convince WMF to give to WMSE rather than WMUK. Destructive? Perhaps, but so far it has paid off. We remain loyal to San Francisco. --LA2 22:32, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
I really do not think we should be lookin at this as loyalty to one or another organisation whether that is to chapter or foundation, or WMUK or WMSE. That kind of thinking makes relationships rigid and this whole process is about shifting and adjusting relationships. I have had the privilege of working with the foundation as a contractor as well as being a trustee for Wikimedia UK for two years. I do not consider my involvement here to be one of taking the side of either chapter or foundation since I have a very high opinion of both.
What we are, or at least should be, doing here is trying to make the decision that is the best for the whole movement, that gives as many people opportunities as futhers the movements missions as much as possible. I do not talk about the mission of the chapters or the foundation, I mean the movement as a whole. I am prepared to accept that WMF or WMUK or WMSE may have to shift how they operate, and who they give or receive funds to and from. We must be open minded and make a decision that is the best for the movement. Not for one or all of the chapters or just the foundation. Seddon 00:30, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Sue, I understand that the "payment-processor" question is not the most important to you. However, it seems clear (from the discussion on this page) that it something very important to chapters, for many different reasons already mentioned (if only because chapters are in contact with local donors, the ones we risk to alienate if we remove their opportunity to do tax-free donations, and we do not want this, even *if* (and that's a pretty big if) it was proved that it was more efficient not to offer anymore tax-free donations in the countries that currently support it). So we cannot simply brush off this long discussion as being not important and focus only on other issues. Schutz 09:28, 9 January 2012 (UTC)-

"I am the person who first decided to enable chapters to payment process in the annual campaign.", sorry, that's nonsense. The German Chapter participate in the Foundraisings YEARS before you joined the WMF. --DaB. 15:11, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
The German chapter first payment-processed, in an extremely limited fashion, starting in 2006. I joined the Wikimedia Foundation in 2007. In 2010, I decided to enable chapters to payment process in the annual campaign, for the first time receiving all donations originating in their geography.
More detail: 2006 was the first year that some chapters (Germany, Switzerland and France I believe) received donations directly through the annual fundraising campaign. In 2006, we did that by offering a “split screen” model: visitors to the German Wikipedia, for example, were offered a choice of donating to the Wikimedia Foundation, the German chapter, or the Swiss chapter. All three were presented as options simultaneously to the donor, on the same page. It was clunky and it created non-ideal decision points for donors that no doubt deterred some, but it is what we did.
I joined the Wikimedia Foundation in summer 2007. In the run-up to the 2007 campaign, Arne Klempert (then-ED of the German chapter) asked me to continue with the previous year's arrangement. I was very new, and I wasn't sure whether the arrangement was a good one. But, I had been told by my Board that Wikimedia was a decentralized movement in which chapters play an important role, and that the German chapter was particularly responsible and effective. And I knew that the German chapter had commitments to paid staff and to programmatic activity that it expected and wanted to uphold. So I said yes.
In the years between 2007 and 2011, an increasing number of chapters has participated in the annual fundraising campaign, and in the 2010 campaign we moved from a “split screen” model to a model in which chapters directly received and processed all payments originating inside their geographies. When I say "I decided" to enable chapters to payment-process, that is the decision I am referring to: I chose to take that path. The Board did not instruct me to do it: I felt it was consistent with us being a decentralized movement. I think it was a reasonable decision to make and I am not ashamed of it, but I do think, knowing what we know now, that it was the wrong choice.
As I've said elsewhere on this page, I believe that the purpose of payment processing is simply to bring in money effectively, efficiently, with minimal annoyance to readers and minimal risk to the movement. I believe that funds *dissemination* is where our energies should focus -- as a movement, we should be aiming to design a system that allocates money fairly and transparently to many different types of movement actors (large and small, organized by geography and language and activity type, individuals and groups, etc.). I believe the Wikimedia Foundation should not be in charge of making decisions about who gets the money -- I believe that, within the limits of its fiduciary responsibility to donors, the Wikimedia Foundation should give that responsibility to an international body of community members that is trusted by the Wikimedia community. Easier said than done I know, but I believe energy put into carefully designing such a system would be rewarded: it would enable an ecosystem of actors to flourish, for the benefit of the whole movement. Sue Gardner 03:31, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I think the first instance of Wikimedia Germany being referred to on Wikimedia Foundation donation pages was in 2004, when Elian added it as an option to the German donation page. I'm not sure about the arrangements surrounding that.--Eloquence 03:58, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

The best path... to autonomy

The narrative and path of thinking of Sue is indeed interesting. A couple of short comments (this page is already very long)

  • the premise "We want the chapters to be entirely independent of the Wikimedia Foundation" is probably incorrect for most chapters (it may be a correct assumption in Sue's view). We all know that we are not independant from one organization to the next. None of us is looking for a full independance. Nor should the WMF. As a reminder, the misssion statement of WMF is [7] In collaboration with a network of chapters, the Foundation provides the essential blahblahblah. Organizations working in collaboration are never independant. What we are looking for is a decent amount of autonomy. What we are looking for is a relationship which would not be top-down. But a certain degree of dependance is perfectly alright, if not suitable :)
  • secondly, the paragraph starting with Meanwhile, for the past year, many chapters have been expressing increasing unhappiness about the Wikimedia Foundation's attempts to raise the bar in terms of compliance is far too generously sprayed with generalization and are forgetting the other side. many chapters have been expressing increasing unhappiness about the Wikimedia Foundation's attempts to raise the bar in terms of compliance is true.... but is forgetting that many chapters have also expressed their plan support in setting up a value system, controls of compliance, guidelines and so on. Generally, chapters have seemed to resist and resent the Wikimedia Foundation's efforts to review and evaluate aspects of their operations is largely correct as well, but is letting aside the fact that chapters involved in fundraising activities this year have voluntarily agreed and been compliant to this, and even pushing other chapters to be more transparent as well.
  • thirdly, the next paragraph about We will need to further tighten up our legal agreements and introduce auditing to ensure they're complied with [...] All of that will feel like the continued/increased erosion of autonomy for the chapters. I would anticipate increasingly difficult relationships may be correct... or not. The difficulty would likely come from unreasonable expectations or from expectations being communicated too late. I remember asking in Paris to Geoff what would be next on our plate for next year fundraising. I need that information to plan ahead and set up the operations plans for fundraising as early as possible. Geoff listed some expectations for next year, such as the security audit. We collectively agreed that it was a reasonable move and a positive one going into the right direction. Knowing that well ahead, we also have time to implement this requirement. Should we fail to implement it, we would understand that we can not fundraise next year, which would be okay given that the expectation was provided in advance and was a fair one and we would be responsible for failing to implement it. Being told in advance and requests being reasonable are the bed for mature and good professional relationships. There would be no reason for any difficult relationship in such circonstances.
  • Meanwhile, I anticipate that chapters which did not payment-process in 2011 *will* aspire to payment-process in 2012 [...] Probably some will argue that they are ready before they actually are, which will force the Wikimedia Foundation to prove those chapters are "not mature" or "not professional" enough, increasing chapters' alienation and offence. is unlikely to happen IF the requirements are clearly communicated and communicated well in advance. You are a professional in SMART goals Sue. Set up SMART expectations, with auto-review systems by which chapters-expecting-to-be-payement-processors might at least pre-audit their system and probably self-exclude themselves in 95% of cases with no offense or humiliation.
  • for those reasons, I do not follow your position concluding I think that the key to avoiding it, is avoiding chapters payment-processing donations that come in via the sites operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. I think the answer is rather to 1) set up very crystal clear expectations (with ratios, deadlines, review obligations, blahblah); 2) in a timely-fashion; 3) whilst avoiding unexpected changes at the last moment; 4) with self-audit systems and auto-control amongst organizations

There is nothing new with such path. When an organization request a grant from a fund for example, there are guidelines which permit the organization to "guess" which chances to be accepted there are and which permit the organization to do its best to fit within the guidelines. As long as the organization can see that it is not within the guidelines, it is up to it to decide not to do it or to decide to put effort to fit.
The true requirement is not about "request for independance", it is about "autonomy". We do not want to be fed the fish. We want to catch the fish ourselves. And if to get that fish, we need to hire the fishing spot and agree not to dirty the grass, we can do it. Anthere 16:40, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Schade einklich,

Resolved. Translation is underway. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 14:38, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

daß es nicht einmal Zusammenfassungen in verschiedenen Sprachen für die relevanten Kernsätze gibt. Ziemlich mau für ein international tätiges Projakt. -- smial 11:02, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

We discussed here everything one time at least: "+1. The general problem of nearly all discussions and decissions on the meta is the huge majorizing and dominating by English speaking users...". Regards -jkb- 11:40, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Notfalls müssen wir uns eine Stellenbeschreibung ausdenken um Sue beim Worte zu nehmen. Denn bei ihrem Vortrag hat sie ja geäussert, das sie dafür gerne jemanden Einstellen würde. Und damit das dann nicht wieder nur an einer Person hängen bleibt, das ganze gleich für 2 ausgeschrieben. Damit das ganze nicht gleich wieder Versandet, würde ich euch bitten um eure Wunschvorstellungen, was der / die Mitarbeiter/in in diesem Job mitbringen sollte um für diesen Job bei der WMF beschäftigt zu werden. Damit werden zwar nicht alle Probleme gelöst, das wäre aber immer noch besser als der derzeitige Zustand, wo sich viele Beklagen aber immer wieder auf ein Wunder hoffen. Gruß --Frank schubert 20:46, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Sue Gardner wrote overleaf, we should report, if we have a desire for a translation. It would be fine, and i think, Smial and jkb would find it just as nice, if this page could be translated immediately into the german language. --Alupus 20:47, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Tja, so hält man sich schon einen Haufen unnötiger Kritik/Arbeit vom Hals, wenn man die Diskussion nur auf englisch führt. Das ganze wirkt doch arg exklusiv. ST 14:46, 10 January 2012 (UTC)


Just a quick note to the following sentence: «For example, in Italy in 2010 Wikimedia offered tax deductibility via the chapter, and in 2011 we did not. And yet Italy was a very high-growth country in the 2011 campaign». As it's already been said elsewhere by Xaura, it was expected for the donations from Italy to increase a lot, because of the strike, which raised awareness of the importance of Wikipedia etc. Zack replied that Italy's increase was in line with the average and not surprising, while this page seems to imply otherwise, so there seems to be some confusion. In any case, I don't think those comparisons have any value to understand the effect of tax deductibility, at least in Italy. Nemo 21:46, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

According to the comparison spreadsheet, the difference was 151% relative to 2010. This is well above most geographies, but it is consistent with the generally extraordinarily high increases we're seeing in geographies that switched from chapter payment processing to WMF payment processing. (The one exception is the Netherlands, which has seen an extraordinarily low increase according to the spreadsheet.)
What evidence is there that the blackout increased donations? It occurred in October, more than a month before the fundraiser. In general, we've seen spikes associated with events to be relatively ephemeral. The pageview statistics for Italian Wikipedia also don't suggest any unusual short term or long term traffic growth associated with that specific event. [8] --Eloquence 08:58, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Since it was the first Wikistrike in the history of mankind, I doubt there is much evidence. Some could be gathered by surveying donors and asking them if it mattered! My suspicion is that by taking Wikipedia away in Italy, and launching a campaign about how important it is, the Italian community made people remember how much they value about Wikipedia and why they can't just assume it's always going to be there. In that way I suspect the massive public relations impact of the Wikistrike supported the messaging in the fundraiser. (October is actually quite close to November, really.) However we should also look at what banners, landing pages and payment methods were used; if the Foundation increased donations in Italy, it did so by better messaging and form design, not by sprinkling magic pixie dust. Alternatively, if the 2010 fundraiser in Italy was a model of best practice, then the Wikistrike is perhaps the main variable that has changed. The Land 10:28, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
The problem with that reasoning is that, as Erik says, the strike was only in Italy but the massive increase is consistent across most of the countries where the WMF took over fundraising from a chapter. It is possible that there is a different one-off reason in each of those countries that happens to have roughly the same impact, but it seems unlikely. I agree the difference is unlikely to be caused by pixies, but it was caused by something. I just wish I could work out what... --Tango 12:17, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I don´t know if you know, but the italien strike was known all over Europe. Even big newspapers informed their readers about this. For example, in the de:WP about 900 editors (link) signed a letter to support italien Wikipedia (which was linked on our mainpage, says 20339 views in october 2011) and such happend in many Wikipedias. In Europe there is a community around such things like rights on the internet, even political partys on this topic are there. In Germany this party (en:Pirate Party Germany) will presumbly come into the national parliament in two years (more than 5%). --Goldzahn 12:40, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
But we don't see a similarly large increase in other European countries, just the ones where the chapter fundraised last year and the WMF this year. --Tango 18:06, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Actually it is a little more complex than that. Two European countries where the chapter fundraised last year and the WMF did this year were Hungary and the Netherlands. They both had far smaller increases than any of the countries where the chapters continued to process. Of the others, for Russia we have the explanation that this year we are accepting rubles but in 2010 we didn't, and Italy may have something to do with the strike. That leaves Austria and Sweden, plus there are two non-European countries where the WMF took over this year. WereSpielChequers 18:41, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Hang on, are you saying a chapter fundraised last year without accepting their local currency? That seems rather odd... are you sure you've understood correctly and it wasn't that the WMF didn't accept roubles last year (which is largely irrelevant because they weren't fundraising in Russia)? --Tango 21:13, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm quoting Nemo re Russia and Rubles. But I can think of several things that might make make Russia a country where the WMF is more popular than a Russian chapter would be. For starters only about 80% of Russia's citizens are Russian, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the other 20% were more generous to a global charity than a Russian one. WereSpielChequers 00:14, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
@Eloquence Hungary also had an even smaller year on year gain than the Netherlands, so that is at least two countries where we seem to have lost out by moving from chapter fundraising to the Foundation. I suspect we need to be more sophisticated in what we are doing here, clearly the UK as a whole has done much better by having a UK chapter, however I'd be pretty sure that in Scotland we'd do best by having a Scottish chapter, but a WMF appeal to Scots without any tax advantage would probably outperform anything that said UK or worse England. Wales would be an interesting one to test, while in Northern Ireland ideally you'd segment by religion, the Catholic minority would respond best to a global or Irish appeal and the Protestants are I expect responding well to a UK appeal. Of course much of that is out of our reach, but it should be quite easy to segment by language, I'd suggest that for next years fundraiser we test UK v WMF banners on the welsh language wikis. This may be one of the phenomena that affects other countries, neither Hungary nor the Netherlands have areas that want to secede, whilst Russia has lots of non-Russian speaking communities and I would expect them to differentially be more willing to donate to the WMF than to a Russian chapter. Would it be possible to segment the Russian results by the language of the project they were viewing?
As for the countries where the WMF appears to have outperformed a local chapter, one possibility is that in at least one country the perceived level of corruption may be such that people in that country would rather donate to a US based charity than one in their own country. Clearly that won't apply in every country and I would expect that in the UK and many other countries there is more confidence in a local charity than a global organisation, but in some countries people may have less trust in a local institution than a global one, and of course least trust in an "occupying" institution.
Lastly and most prosaically I would anticipate that countries where we only took dollars in 2010 but accepted the local currency in 2011 will tend to give us the biggest increases - and that is nothing to do with chapters re Foundation, except that unless you take it out of the equation it inflates the overall Foundation result versus the Chapter ones. WereSpielChequers 13:06, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
Eloquence, I don't know whether Italy increased "more" than expected: you and Zack say no, Sue and Xaura say yes. I was just pointing out that there's no clear evidence to say what's being said.
I don't think that "mature" countries (as in, countries where our fundraising infrastructure was already good enough) should be compared to smaller countries and countries where new currencies or payment methods were available (as Sue already points out for Hungary and the Netherlands). In the spreadsheet, the only other big countries which experienced such an increase seem to be Australia and Russia; in the latter WMF offered local currency for the first time, I don't know about the former (we don't have a list of new currencies and payments systems anywhere). Also, if I read #A pretty picture above correctly, Italy seems to be the country (and the "red dot") improving most.
Again, those numbers can be interpreted in various way, I don't have a safe interpretation to offer. Nemo 16:17, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I don't buy the WikiStrike hypothesis without any evidence to support it. --Eloquence 04:09, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm sorry but I don't see eny evidence in support of Sue's arguments that it's WMF to have increased the donations in Italy, instead. So, what this means? Do you think that the donations have been increased because the banners have been more interesting? --Ilario 18:51, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Questions from a Board member

So I did a post last week on my personal blog asking for feedback/input on a few key questions. I haven't gotten many responses, perhaps because this page took off about the same time. So I'm reposting my blog here in hopes of getting some feedback. I'd really appreciate your perspectives.

RfC: Geography and Wikimedia
Posted on January 4, 2012

Ahead of our scheduled WMF Board meeting in early February, I’ve been thinking through a really hard and thorny movement-wide issue. Last time I was dealing with a similarly hard issue, I put some rough notes/questions up here and asked for your thoughts and help thinking through the issue. I’d like to try another Request for Comments with a related but bigger issue.

Let me set this up as a thought experiment. Imagine that we can all go back to the beginning of our movement. Imagine that we have a clean slate and can start fresh. But also imagine that we have the benefit of the past 10 years of experience, and with it all the lessons we’ve learned about ourselves and our strengths and weaknesses as a community.

Let’s say our objective is to define the basic structure of a movement that will most effectively help our community pursue our vision over the next 100, 200 or even 500 years. Long-term impact is the primary objective.

If we could start over, how would we organize our movement? In particular I’d love input on three questions:

  1. Are current political/legal boundaries the best primary organization model for our movement? Or instead would we choose to build things a different way, say around each of our projects, or languages, or some of the passions among our community (e.g. a GLAM Chapter), or other special interests and topics (e.g. arbcom, comcom, translate-l)?
  2. Should we give special rights to certain kinds of movement entities (e.g. special rights to pick board seats outside of elections, exclusive access to things like the trademarks, preferred access to donor funds)?
  3. Are legal entities worth the effort on a large scale? Our current chapters model is leading us to having a hundred or more legal entities globally. Is this worth all the overhead involved? Or would informal associations and affiliations be fine in many cases?

Below are some notes that I’ve kept as I try to think through the issue. They aren’t intended to be comprehensive. Feel free to review or ignore as you think through and respond to the above questions.



Background notes

The different kinds of affiliation in our movement:

  • Many editors/contributors have no organizational association. They work on their own, editing articles and making contributions without a great deal of interaction with others in the community.
  • We have many loose, informal affiliations. Talk pages provide a place for editors with a shared interest in a particular article. WikiProjects bring together editors into cross-article collaboration. Village pumps provide another project-based way to build community. Other affiliations include interest groups such as GLAM, projects like Wiki Loves Monuments, and the many groups of volunteers brought together by mailing lists like comcom and translate-l.
  • We have a global Wikimedia Foundation entrusted with the trademarks and with the responsibility to operate the websites and technical/legal infrastructure behind the projects.
  • Finally, we have country-based chapters which receive significant special rights.

We started with geographic chapters in 2003. The model has developed so that these geographic organizations now receive rights unique in our movement including a) exclusive geographic right to use the trademark, b) preferred access to donor funds from the annual fundraiser, and c) the right to appoint two of the ten Trustees on the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation.

We’ve had one chapter grow into a large organization (Wikimedia Deutschland), and few others hire small numbers of professional staff, and others in varying degrees of development. A number of chapters appear to be defunct, with minimal or no programmatic activity.

There has never been a clear definition of success for a geographic chapter. I ask most chapter members and chapter leaders I meet what their organizational objectives are and I get widely varying answers. Few say they have a role representing or serving the editing community. So it’s not a surprise that when I ask editors about the role of the chapter where they live, I often get a shrug and a disinterested look.

As a result, we do not have a way to assess the performance of geographic chapters. How do you measure impact in a specific country when our projects are all cross border? Is it odd that a global movement is trying to organize itself around existing nation states?

Exclusive trademark use, preferred access to donor funds, and the right to appoint trustees are a really big deal. Should other groups receive these rights? ArbCom is critical, but receives no such special treatment. GLAM effort have been an extraordinary success. It has brought together a global community sharing a strong passion. It has spawned projects like Wiki Loves Monuments which are amazing in helping pursue our vision. Yet it has no special access to donor funds. It has no exclusive right to the trademarks. It has no right to appoint Board members. Is that appropriate?

Is this conflict a core driver of the failure of our movement roles effort, despite 18-24 months of effort, to drive any resolution? As someone not that involved in the movement roles effort, it seems the team has assumed that geographic chapters will be the core of our organizational design. Maybe that foundational assumption is just not the right one.

Legal entities, and fundraising activities under the Wikimedia name, create a huge amount of overhead. As the Board’s Treasurer and Chair of its Audit Committee, I have very high expectations for any legal entity granted use of the trademarks or access to donor funds. Do we get enough value out of having legal entities to justify the extra effort and overhead?

Let’s assume that fundraising or access to funds isn’t much of a priority for our movement now. Over the past 10 years our community has cracked the code on how to approach our global readership for donations. We are essentially now in a position where we collectively are able to raise all the money we can practically spend in pursuit of our mission.

I'm not sure how useful a question this is. We aren't starting from scratch. We are where we are. We also don't have 10 years of experience trying out all sorts of different ideas. We have 10 years experience down the route we've been heading down. This is the route we know about. Any discussion about radically different approaches will just be wild speculation. I suggest we concentrate on the situation we find ourselves in. What is working well? What isn't? What can we do to build on our successes? What can we do to fix our problems? Let's not get distracted by speculating about what might have been. --Tango 00:24, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I completely disagree, Tango. We are trying to build something that will last for decades, or centuries, or forever. We are only a few years into it. We should always be asking ourselves, What is the right approach for the long-term? FWIW, for me as a Board member every issue I look at, every decision I make, I am thinking about the impact on our movement over the next few decades and about how we set it up best to continue succeeding in the future, long after all of us have moved onto other things. My three questions aren't about "what might have been." They're about "What should be?" Where we are now is the starting point. "What should be?" is the ending point is what we are striving to achieve. Stu 01:27, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I never said we shouldn't be thinking about the future. This whole discussion is about the future (although I wouldn't try and think more than 25 years in the future - it's impossible to know what the world will be like in 25 years time, particularly when technology is so important to us, so it's incredibly difficult to plan for it). I was disagreeing with your suggestion that we should ignore the present. Let's discuss where we go from here, not where would like to have gone 10 years ago with the benefit of hindsight. Unless you have a time machine, that's just a distraction. --Tango 12:23, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I think that creating "a clear definition of success" for geographic chapters would be desirable. It would have been hard to do in 2003, because we didn't have any experience with this kind of entity, but it should be possible now. Chapters that "fail" (which may need to be assessed on a sliding scale) should lose most or all of their special privileges over time. For example, failed chapters don't get to vote for a Board rep, which would increase the value of the successful chapters' votes.
Officially, I'd make the trademark a non-exclusive right, but in practice, I'm not sure that I'd license it to anyone else (in at least a substantial majority of cases).
As the geographic chapters are not generally as productive as some other endeavors have been, I'd also be inclined to cut the chapters' Board reps to one seat, but I still see the value in having one representative on the Board who understands and focuses on this group. WhatamIdoing 18:38, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Thanks Maggie, and a proposal for moving the pros-and-cons of chapters payment processing

Hi Maggie! Thanks for your work summarizing the discussion here: I think it's helpful. I have read all the text, but there is a lot of it, and summaries help.

I am thinking it might make sense to pull out the pros and cons related to payment-processing (the 'hidden' text) from the Recommendations page, and create a new page for those arguments. I'd propose that it start with the existing text, but be open to editing by everyone, with the goal of neutrally capturing at a high level what we know at this point, about the pros and cons of various arguments. Not with the goal of containing lots and lots of data and analysis (that could happen on its talk page), but with the goal of summarizing what is known and not known, at a fairly high level, in document mode not discussion mode.

To be clear: as I understand it, there are two competing potential models for payment-processing on the non-chapter Wikimedia sites. 1) The Wikimedia Foundation handles all payment processing on the non-chapter sites, and 2) A mixed model, in which the Wikimedia Foundation plus some/many/all chapters payment-process on the non-chapter sites. Nobody is proposing a model in which the Wikimedia Foundation does not payment-process, because of course there are many countries in which there is no chapter. And, obviously, nobody is proposing that chapters not payment-process on their own sites.

If this doesn't meet with any objections, I think we should do it. It would result, I hope, in a page that is easier to read than the long discussion page here, and it might move us closer to a shared consensus understanding of the various issues.

Thanks Sue Gardner 02:50, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

  • The page has been created at Fundraising and Funds Dissemination/Pros and cons. I have copied over your words, Sue, and started the talk page with an explanation of the purpose. I'll leave it to participants to begin to work with it to create a high-level summary, if they'd like to help. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 14:07, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Recommendation 1

About tax deductibilty. Your arguments are extremly weak. I suggest a very simple experiment. During next fundraising and for banners displaying in France (for example), just put a big, black, and bold warning saying « By donating to an US organization you are not eligible to tax deductibility. If you want tax deductibility, please go to ». (You know, those warnings that make it sure that WMF is fully transparent with donors). And let's see what happens. Kropotkine 113 08:52, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

We've run an even bigger experiment: We've given chapters banners, landing pages, payment processes, and other means by which they could maximize every single local advantage that they have in payment processing. And in the 2011 fundraiser, all the geographies which changed from that model to payment processing operated by the WMF made dramatic gains in revenue. Whatever advantages there may be in local tax deductibility, they are vastly outweighed by the disadvantages. The final numbers are still rolling in, but this result isn't going to change, and a full comparison spreadsheet will be made available soon.
You can also simply reason that, of course, if a chapter did everything that WMF does at least at the same level of quality, and adds the option of tax deductibility, of course it will do better. Getting to that point takes a very large amount effort (which easily outweighs the actual fundraising revenue of most geographies), and even if you do, you still have the other disadvantages that Sue mentions. --Eloquence 02:03, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, this argument has been thoroughly debunked on this page. The choice of chapters that fundraised this year was not a random sample from those that fundraised last year: they were all chapters with some (or a lot) of experience in fundraising; they did already pretty well in the previous year, and it is obvious that they could not increase the amount of money they fundraise as much as other countries. If you want to get figures that make sense, what Kropotkine proposes is basically the only solution: make sure everything is the same, and randomly send donors to the WMF or to the chapter. Then you have no confounding factor anymore, and you can actually make conclusions. There is *no way* you can make any conclusion about causation with the current data, so please don't do it. Schutz 09:14, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Schutz, I wouldn't have told better with my poor english :) @Eloquence : this year WMFR has reach a 90% increase in funds raised. Do you really think that WMF will make a "dramatic gain in revenue" next year in France with a warning saying "By donating to an US organization you are not eligible to tax deductibility" ? Well, I hope for you, but let me think that this has not been fully thought through. Kropotkine 113 10:43, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Erik - really, a set of final numbers, which aren't even presented in the currency the donations were raised in, doesn't count as analysis. What were the actual differences between 2011 and 2010 fundraising campaigns in Italy, say, and what contributed to this year's success? Equally, why did Wikimedia DE do so well in 2011? Just looking at an aggregate figure (in USD - and no, donors do not decide how many dollars they are going to donate) does not give a proper business case for a decision. The Land 12:34, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Also: you are forgetting here that chapters (and the WMF) had targets for their fundraiser. WM CH (at least) did not fundraise as aggressively as it could have because we knew (even before the fundraiser, but it was crystal clear after just a few days) that both our and the WMF target would be reached. So, in balance, we choose not to annoy donors by using aggressive banners, or contacting past donors and ask them to donate, for example, because it was not needed ! Given that the WMF itself set/approved the target, there is no way you can come afterwards and compare these figures (which show that we already collected more than expected) with country-specific data for which there was no specific target and use them to justify the fact that we actually perform poorly; this is dishonest. If WMF had said "we want to see which fundraising method works best, so please, provide everything you can and get as much money in as possible", we would have worked differently (apart from the lack of preparation time due to a late decision by the WMF). But that was not the rule: the rule was to achieve a certain target, and we did. We can do not better than 100% success, and comparing any other figure is meaningless. As mentioned above, if you want hard data, we need to plan an experiment that will provide them. Schutz 12:39, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for that good point and example, Schutz. Is there some record of discussion about whether or not to use aggressive banners, contact donors, &c? The question of 'what is needed' and 'how much to annoy donors' is an important one each year, of course. SJ talk | translate   03:05, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Last year, the board letter basically proposed that only chapters which satisfy a certain number of criteria (transparency, accountability, etc) and for which fundraising made sense (because it was efficient, and added significant value to the donors) should fundraise. I don't see how the arguments provided in the recommendation justify that this case-by-case approach should be replaced by a "the WMF does all the fundraising from the wiki sites": no reason is given why a chapter which can satisfy the criteria of transparency, effectiveness, efficiency, etc, should not fundraise. While speaking in my own name, I'll give a detailed example related to Wikimedia CH. This is just one anectodal example, but one counter-example is enough to disprove a generic claim. As a reminder, the WMF itself came back to WM CH to suggest we should fundraise this year, because we were able to provide local payment methods, and to respect local laws in a way that was impossible for the WMF.

  • Transparency: while these points are fair, there is no strong arguments that say that fundraising chapters can not satisfy these requirements. Handling the mixed model of payment does not seem to be a problem (at least, we should try !).
  • Effectiveness: the numbers cited seem anectodal (it would be nice to provide a link to the actual figures for each country, 2010 and 2011, so we can have a closer look -- I did not find the details of donations to the WMF per country, and would be curious to see which countries saw their donations tripling), and it would be a stretch to assume (without further evidence) that there is causality link. Also, while the banners are down, the fundraiser is not finished for WM CH, because there is a delay before we receive all donations on our bank accounts, and we are clearly above the 43% figure (as a side note, with regards to my comments above: averages are not useful here; we should look at each chapter separately, and see where things work well or not). Also, as mentioned above, while the text mentions all the local payment methods that the WMF has introduced this year, it should also indicate that it could not do so in some countries. Despite what is written in the text, there is absolutely no doubt that the fact that WM CH can offer both local payment methods and tax deducibility (whatever happenend in other country) contributes to higher donations (the large number of people who have asked us for tax receipts and for printed payment slips is a strong argument in this direction). But this could be easily tested, in the same way that we test banners.
  • Efficiency: again, this paragraph does not apply to WM CH. For most donations we receive, the fee induced is exactly 0, and the low amount of our administrative fees is really hard to beat ! Otherwise, with regards to the hiring of staff, there are little concrete arguments in the paragraph. It may make sense for local chapters to hire staff to fundraise or not, but this should be appreciated on a case-by-case basis (is it worth it or not). As indicated in the document, the WMF still expects that the community should develop and translate localized methods, something that could easily justify hiring local people.
  • Easy transfer of funds internationnaly: WM CH has consistently transfered money to the WMF, without any problem, earlier than expected (we have already transfered 100'000 CHF from the current fundraiser to the WMF before the end of 2011), and even when it had no obligation to do so (during the earliest fundraisers). So this not an argument in favor of centralized payment.
  • Robust controls: as for transparency, there is no reason why chapters could not satisfy these requirements. Even with a grants agreement in place, chapters will handle large sums of money, which remains donors' money even if it was not received directly, so robust controls are required anyway. WM CH has put in place some internal controls, and is also audited by an external accounting firm, plus it has to report to the tax authorities to justify its tax-free status. We can go further, and I think it should be a goal. As for the laws of probabilities, the argument seems pretty useless to me. Larger organizations with more employees will have a higher probability that any one of them will commit fraud; and if the money available is larger, the resulting damage will be larger too. The argument could be reversed by saying that letting chapters fundraise allows us not to put all our eggs in the same basket.
  • Legal exposure: centralized payments means all donations from Swiss donor go through the USA; this can only increase the legal exposure, in comparison to donations that remain in one country. For the donors themselves, it also means they have a tighter control on their donations (they know the relevant laws, and it is easy for them to complain in case of a problem, while there is not way a Swiss donor will go to court in the US if he believes his donation was mishandled). I find it hard to believe that the WMF is better suited that a local organization to make sure it can comply with local law; in addition, this would imply significant legal expenses, detrimental to the efficiency. As a matter of fact, WM CH also works with one of the top firms in the country (although I would not consider this a real argument, but only pure marketing -- the fact that we work with compentent advisors should be enough).
  • Independence: clearly, being a payment processor does not bring independence to a chapter. But it would hard to argue that a chapter is less independent when fundraising that when it is receiving a grant -- and the contrary is quite obvious: with a grant, a chapter simply receives a lump of money. When fundraising, even through the WMF wikis, the chapters can at least influence the amount received (by acting locally), and build experience with fundraising in general. I must entirely disagree with the conclusion that "Decentralized payment processing is not a path that leads to chapter independence from the Wikimedia Foundation". Decentralized payment processing does not prevent chapters from fundraising locally -- in any case, not less than if they were receiving a grant.
  • Relationships: suffice to say that I entirely disagree with what is written here; I don't see how simply saying "payment-processing is off the table" will make chapters reply "ok, then, let's move on to something else". In any case, we are here in the realm of speculation, and I don't think this is a strong argument either way.

So, to repeat myself: I don't see how a general prohibition on payment processing by chapters could be a good thing, when it seems clear that some chapters could (potentially at least) fulfill all the requirements for an efficient and transparent fundraiser. Schutz 09:35, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

I won't go into as many words, but an approach of "no fundraising through WM sites by anyone but the Foundation" seems to go far, far, far beyond what the Trustees asked for in the Haifa letter. Craig Franklin 12:27, 5 January 2012 (UTC).

Hi, my points about the (hidden) arguments. I’m obviously speaking on my own.

TRANSPARENCY I regret the lack of a precise vocabulary (in the whole process).
As an example here, "donor" in "The Wikimedia movement's experience thus far tells us that in a decentralized payment processing model, it is more difficult to be transparent with donors."
Who are the "donors"? To my mind, a donor is rattached to an entity and gives to someone: here are they WMF-donors, Movement-donors, Specific-chapter-donors, Wikipedia-donors, Commons-donors? Given the specific phrase, it’s for me a nonsense. This specific phrase sounds as if WMF should be "transparent" regarding the whole Movement.

EFFECTIVENESS Like Schutz, I would like the figures. Additionnally I find quite doubtful to compare uncomparable figures given the very (very) important number of parameters involved to explain different amounts. At least, a core parameter is to compare figures in the same countries: what would have been the collected sum by WMF in a chapter-fundraiser country; tests could have been done by having a 50%-banner for WMF and the same 50%-banner (and appeal, geographies, etc, but always precised tax-deductability and actual use of the money) for the chapter in the same time.
So I find the [citation needed] is rather a [data needed].

EFFICIENCY "[chapters] hiring of staff and engagement of third-party payment processor companies. These are unnecessary additional costs.": is it not the same for WMF hiring staff or third-party payment processors like Global Collect? is it also "unnecessary additional costs"? One should recognize collecting money is not free for anybody.
This argument of efficiency of a centralized online-fundraising should be balanced with the cost of the distribution (strictly money-speaking), as well as the resulting feeling inside and outside the movement and the workload created.

  • Fund distribution costs money even if WMF has zero costs international transfers, in staff time; and it costs volunteer time (you speaks in #4 of a full-time volunteer position, it’s probably quite rare, at least on the long-term, so probably a high turnover in these positions)
  • Feeling in the chapters movement: besides the legal danger for the chapter to be dependant of a foreign foundation (non-profit status/independance status), chapters volunteers (I feel, not speaking for everyone) would not mastering their own budget, and it could unmotivate some (me at least), feeling they are exploited by a foreign big company which don’t take care of them.
  • Feeling in the projects communities: don’t know exactly, project communities seems to have a light interest in the wikipolitical topics, apart when someone wants to do some specific project with a budget
  • Feeling in the public: don’t know exactly (I’m too involved), but I have the feeling it would reinforce the feeling Wikipedia is a big machinery governed by a big company (which becomes to be very true indeed)

The [1] note is related to transparency, not efficiency, and some are not suppressed by your centralized model (report, auditing).

I do not continue now, ’must return to work, still spending another lunchbreak to read and write wikipolitics; perhaps I will continue with the other points.

Anyway I find as usual it’s a poor accountability the WMF offers to the movement, negating role of chapters and other groups (yeh, you sandwich-technique the chapters). As usual very (very) sad WMF again impose a decision process 1/ we take a decision 2/ we expose it to you 3/ you are unhappy, vociferate, roar during some time (generally during the week-end) 4/ we try to enforce it anyway. I am really mistaken if it is again that process? (’try to stay polite as requested). ~ Seb35 [^_^] 13:33, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

In terms only of your question about the timeline, Sue plans to present her recommendations to the Board on February 3rd. She plans to finalize her recommendations in late January, and is inviting feedback during these several weeks to help shape her thoughts, so she may be able to consider and perhaps incorporate feedback and input from the community. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 17:58, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
"she may be able to consider and perhaps" This translate into Sue will not listen and not incorporate? That Chapter and community feedback is awesome, but unlikely to lead to Sue changing her recommendations? This is very, very, very disheartening. :( The Stakeholders who this impacts get no voice before the Board in fundraising. :( --LauraHale 19:51, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
Laura, I'm right here, and I am listening. When I first started asking questions and talking about this issue back in October, I said that I would try to achieve consensus, but that in good conscience I wouldn't be able to recommend anything to the Board of Trustees that I don't think is right for the Wikimedia movement, or that I think will not work. I'm here, I'm listening, and I hope to incorporate changes and feedback as the discussion progresses. Thanks Sue Gardner 02:12, 6 January 2012 (UTC)
And while the Board has asked Sue for her recommendation and will take it most seriously, we are also reading the discussion here. Please consider all of this an issue that we need to resolve together. Feel free to suggest something altogether new as well (see below). SJ talk | translate   03:05, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Sorry if my language was inadvertently misleading. I intended to use the modal verb to indicate a condition to permit: "inviting feedback so [that condition having been met] she will be able" as opposed to intending to suggest doubt. It's common usage hereabouts, but "can" would certainly have communicated itself more clearly. If you're in doubt of what I mean, please ask before being disheartened. :) I'm happy to clarify. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 11:59, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

About MINIMIZING LEGAL EXPOSURE: In reality you are creating a single point of failure. Imagine a US-Judge stops the money-flow because of the new Stop Online Piracy Act. Wikimedia worldwide would come to a halt, because all our money is in one bank account. --Goldzahn 11:47, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

I don't believe that the single point of failure argument, or arguments about the US jurisdiction becoming less favorable to free speech, are arguments in favor of decentralized payment processing.
If we want to really protect against a WMF failure, we'll need to set up a trusted organization specifically for that purpose, with funding, a budget and plan of action in case of an emergency switchover, as well as clearly defined triggers. The jurisdiction of that organization shouldn't be picked according to where the most money is, but according to what a good backup for the US jurisdiction would be.
With the current chapter configuration, it seems much more likely to me that in the event of a catastrophic failure or conflict we'll end up with one or multiple forks of specific languages in arbitrarily chosen jurisdictions. Having money floating around is not equivalent to having an emergency plan.--Eloquence 04:25, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

About tax deductibilty: Just ask the WMDE, how many tax receipt they sent in 2010 and sum up – that's the money you would clearly loose (you only need a tax receipt if you spend more than 100€ in Germany, for lower values a bank-receipt is enough). Most germans (who spend more then 10€ or so) do only spend because it reduces their tax, so I guess the money-river from Germany to the WMF would shrink to a streamlet. --DaB. 16:22, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

That's clearly untrue. Donating only reduces your tax bill by a fraction of the size of the donation - you still have less money after donating than you did before (unless you have some incredibly complicated finances managed by a team of accountants finding odd loopholes). The tax deductibility is certainly part of the motivation for some people, but it's very rarely the entire reason. The fact that someone requested a tax receipt doesn't mean they wouldn't have donated if it wasn't available, it just means that they're taking advantage of what is there. They may still have donated without the tax-receipt. --Tango 12:34, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I assume it is the international funds allocation committee who will control the trademarks, rather than the San Francisco based servers and software organisation? Their leverage is therefore limited to attaching conditions to trademark licensing agreements and cancelling those agreements if the licensee doesn't comply with those conditions. The objective of cancelling a trademark license is not to stop a rogue licensee but rather to make it clear that we don't agree with that rogue and to limit any public relations backlash on the rest of the movement. Yes? --Filceolaire 10:44, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

Just a short note from Wikimedia Germany

Sue’s recommendations have sparked a vigorous global debate, as seen here, on various mailing lists and on local village pumps. What Sue is proposing in her draft goes far beyond a mere funding concept. Instead, it constitutes a proposal for fundamentally reshaping the global Wikimedia movement, with profound impact. Accordingly, each of the four recommendations is accompanied by a body of comprehensive supporting arguments. These arguments warrant thorough perusal. And this is exactly what we are currently doing: We are scrutinizing and analysing, we are compiling information and gathering data. In that context, the ongoing discussion on all communication channels are of central importance. We will continue to follow the debate closely and to consider seriously all arguments presented.

Obviously, Sue’s proposal has been preceded by substantial preparatory work. Given the complexity and the potential implications, such an approach is fully justified. This also means that we have to take all the time necessary to come up with an appropriate response. The issues and questions raised are of the utmost significance for our future. They are extremely profound, indeed: How are we going to ensure that our practice of both collecting and using donations continues to adhere to the highest international standards in all places, remaining fully open, transparent and honest? What mechanisms should be in place in every Wikimedia organisation, to ensure these standards are met? What procedures are most beneficial to the Wikimedia movement and consistent with our values? And how do we make sure that activists world-wide have full access to all the support they need for their efforts to generate and promote Free Knowledge? How do we guarantee that our movement stays united, in the spirit of mutual support and global solidarity? I believe that, given its long-standing experience and its special expertise in the area of fundraising, Wikimedia Deutschland has a role to play and a lot to contribute to answering these questions. However, to do so we need to take some time. Therefore I would like to kindly ask for some more patience until we are ready to deliver the comprehensive response we feel obliged to give.Pavel Richter (WMDE) 17:25, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Somewhat late, Mr. Richter. As far as I know u shouldnt ask questions here but give answers to the community in Germany. Lost your gym bag? This isnt about asking but answering: Where does the German community go? that would be my question under those new circumstances. That u agree with Mrs. Gardner shouldnt be sth new. What will be the outcome for the German chapter and the German community?--Angel54 5 15:44, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Angel, I guess the german community will solve this without you as well when not better. Regards, -jkb- 15:55, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
U made a point. But I trust in u then...--Angel54 5 16:08, 12 January 2012 (UTC) (See my short note two sections above).--Angel54 5 16:16, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

My own recommendations

I have decided to write my own set of recommendations here: Fundraising and Funds Dissemination/Recommendations by Tango. Please feel free to comment on the talk page. --Tango 22:59, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Do chapters want non-monetary support from the Wikimedia Foundation?

This is probably not the perfect place to ask this question, but I will put it here for now. Asaf, you and I had been talking about this on Friday -- if you want to move this discussion somewhere else, please feel free. But I would like to get it started, which is why I'm posting here, now.

I am curious to know if chapters want non-monetary support from the Wikimedia Foundation, and if they do, what type. Below is a list of types of non-monetary support frequently offered to non-profit associations, according to the the Centre For Effective Philanthropy. I am curious to know: if the following types of non-monetary assistance were available to your chapter from the Wikimedia Foundation, which do you think your chapter would want to take advantage of? (Just to be clear -- I'm not asking for a commitment. This is just a kind of straw poll. Feel free to just write whatever you think: it doesn't need to be in any particular kind of format and it doesn't need to be an official view.) Thanks Sue Gardner 23:25, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

  • general management advice
  • strategic planning advice
  • financial planning advice
  • support developing performance measures
  • encouragement or facilitation of collaborations
  • insight and advice related to our field
  • introduction to leaders in our field
  • research or best practices in our field
  • seminars/forums/convenings
  • board development/governance assistance
  • information technology assistance
  • communications/marketing/publicity assistance
  • use of [Wikimedia Foundation] facilities
  • staff or management training
I'm very much interested in the 8th point, the research thing. What I would really like is: if the WMF does any research like the Summer of Research in 2011 (which is great!), you could involve the chapters much more in such things. So maybe give the chapters (at least those willing and able to conduct such research) money or hire specialists or whatever is needed for doing parts of the research on their own, especially for the projects these chapters are supporting most (like the language version of Wikipedia for the language(s) most commonly spoken in the country of the chapter). I have the impression that research is usually done for/in the English Wikipedia, which is just one of 800 Wikimedia projects. So what I mean is, you plan to do a certain type of research and you do it on enwiki, why not also doing the same on dewiki, eswiki and ruwiki (or any others) under the guidance of the respective chapters (who probably know these communities better or have better access to them)? Comparisons of different projects might help a lot. Btw., everything else on your list is of course welcome, too. ^^ --თოგო (D) 02:02, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Basically not. I agree that a common strategy is important and that the support of WMF is important (and probably required), but the real problem of WMF may be that they have mostly a "global" overview but don't have a feeling about the local communities and the local environments. Basically there is not a global solution that can have success everywhere "as is". --Ilario 19:11, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I think this is an interesting idea. It wouldn't necessarily be easy to deliver well, but if it was done well, it could be very useful. Thinking back to my own experience over the last year, Wikimedia UK has made use of two external facilitators with different specialisms (one teambuilding, one governance) as well as valuable assistance from Wikimedia Deutschland and the Foundation. This has been very valuable. While we've done OK with our own commissioning and a few favours, I think it would be beneficial if this kind of training and development work could be packaged so that it is easy to access, perhaps particularly for chapters in places which don't have such a thriving non-profit sector as the US or Western Europe does.
There are some areas where we'd have to be careful that what was being presented was Wiki-ized, so to speak - there are specific challenges and issues we face, and a "generic not-for-profit consultant" might be used to operating in quite a different environment. It would (it almost goes without saying) be important to draw on our collective volunteer experience alongside staff or consultants. (PS, I know this didn't quite answer the question you asked, but hopefully it's still useful). The Land 22:14, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I think it is less a question of the wants of a chapter, but its needs. After having been involved in growth processes in two chapters (DE/AT) I am convinced, that starting a chapter from scratch is a stoney way to go, but only while walking it you discover, what skills would be of use. Simply said: you don't know what you need in the beginning and thus you cannot want it :). As I said elsewhere: 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 / professionalization). Or, when a chapter is founded, a member of its board should be invited for a three-day-training "Running a chapter in 21 hours" ;) to the WMF or WMDE headquarter, and leave basically trained and inspired at the same time (mind, running a chapter, especially a small one, can be very frustating, let's be supportive!). Regards, Denis Barthel 09:08, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Interesting question: If u think u can do something for the communities try to talk to them (perhaps not personally but by so else who reports). The invitation, that the WMF would be accessible for grants will rising and falling with that matter of communication. Not everything that arouses interest in the US will be interesting for Europe and vice versa - and if u take newer communities the same in a more different kind of matter. Than u have to build - and thats a model - sth like the United Nations. (I know, a strange analogy...)--Angel54 5 16:30, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi Sue. The answer is "yes", to all of these questions. In fact, some participants might remember that I brought this up almost a year ago in Berlin, and I was told that there was plans to provide resources specifically for chapters (I think that we're talking about the items listed on page 30, and the "Head of Chapter Development" from page 47, of this document). Obviously, this hasn't happened yet which is somewhat disappointing, although I suppose there are reasons which I'm unaware of why not. Nonetheless, I think it would be very helpful if such assistance could be provided, so the message could shift from "You haven't met arbitary criterion X! Bad chapter! *whack*" to "You haven't met criterion X (which was discussed by your chapter rep). How can we assist in making sure that you do meet it going forward?". I do at the same time acknowledge some assistance on an ad-hoc basis from WMF staff, but they obviously have other priorities and it would be good to have someone who doesn't have to juggle chapter questions and other responsibilities. Craig Franklin 02:40, 14 January 2012 (UTC).
I also think all points are important, but especially the first three and the last one. Raystorm 19:13, 15 January 2012 (UTC)

recommendation #1

Deutsch: Stellt euch Leute vor, die z.B. auf der deutschsprachigen WP-Seite dem deutschen (oder österreichischen oder schweizerischen) Chapter etwas spenden wollen. Was wollen die? Natürlich wollen die meisten einfach, dass Wikipedia weiterexistiert. Aber viele denken vielleicht weiter und wollen, dass mit ihrem Geld etwas in ihrem Land passiert (also in dem Land des Chapters, dem sie etwas gespendet haben). Wie kann die WMF also sicherstellen (mit dieser Empfehlung Nr. 1), dass genug Geld für Projekte zur Verfügung steht, die nicht vor dem Fundraiser planbar sind? Selbst mit einem Wirtschaftsplan, den z.B. das deutsche Chapter lange vor dem Fundraiser gemacht hat (und was sicherlich jedes Chapter tun sollte), können kurzfristig Projekte entstehen, die in solchen Plänen nicht berücksichtigt wurden. Würde die WMF dann zusätzliche Gelder für solche Projekte überweisen, wenn sie im Laufe des Jahrs gebraucht werden? Der Grund warum ich das frage ist, dass glaube ich die WMF (bzw. irgendwer von da) nicht so ganz glücklich mit unserem (des deutschen Chapters) Wirtschaftsplan für 2012 war, da man es zu viel Geld fand, was da ausgegeben werden sollte (aus welchem Grund auch immer). Mit dieser Empfehlung hätte also das deutsche Chapter weniger Geld erhalten, als mit dem Wirtschaftsplan angefordert, und ihm wäre wohl im Laufe des Jahres das Geld ausgegangen, wenn alle geplanten Projekte so zustande gekommen wären.

Same in English: Just imagine people who donate on let's say the German Wikipedia page to the German (or Austrian or Swiss) Chapter. What do they want? Of course, most just want that Wikipedia can continue to exist. But, a lot of them might think further and want that something happens with that money especially in their country (of the chapter they decided to donate to). So, how can WMF guarantee (following this recommendation #1) that there will be enough money for projects in the countries of the chapters which might not be plannable ahead of the fundraiser? So even with an economic plan that for example the German chapter has done way ahead of the fundraiser (and that probably every chapter should do) there might be projects coming up that have not been considered in any such plans. Would WMF then transfer more money for such projects if needed during the year? The reason why I'm asking is that I remember that the WMF (or someone there) was not happy with our (German chapter) economic plan for 2012, because they found it too much money that we want to spend (for whatever reason). So with that recommendation, the German chapter would probably have got less money than requested in the plan and would maybe have run out of money during the year if all the planned projects had come together... --თოგო (D) 01:46, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Hi Thogo,
the flip side of the issue is that WMF's mission is to bring the sum of all human knowledge to every person on the planet. That means, likely, that a fair share of donations in wealthy countries will have to go to support mission activities in poorer countries. That's why any fundraising system that creates entitlements or earmarks based on a nation's wealth is fundamentally unfair.
No entitlements, no earmarks. That's where we have to start. Yes, there should be great and wonderful programs in Germany, but they have to be measured and compared against programs in India, in South America, in Africa, in Eastern Europe ... I'm not worried about Germany getting disadvantaged. All gravitational pull will always argue for increasing funding to wealthy countries. People who are materially advantaged tend to have fewer problems making their voices heard than those who are not. I'm much more worried about ensuring that communities, projects and efforts which are disadvantaged get a fair hearing and the funds and support they need.
To answer your question: WMF is also generally giving grants to chapter and community programs throughout the year, via the process at Grants:Index. And WMF has funded entire operating grants for chapters in excess of any money that could be raised in their geography, e.g. a $100K operating grant to Argentina.--Eloquence 04:16, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
In my view paying that much to a chapter could only be a starter. How many chapter are there? This page says 38 at the moment. The UNO knows 194 sovereign states. --Goldzahn 10:06, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
It's absolutely only a starter, which is why a new process for annual operating grants is under discussion.
You can make many valid arguments, but the idea that WMF isn't wanting to fund chapters isn't one of them. The only question is how that can be accomplished fairly and without prejudice.--Eloquence 20:19, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I would say, that chapters qualify by the results of projects. In this way a chapter with many active members could "earn" more foundation-grants. (Off topic: One of my old proposals at my homewiki is to create an international "marketplace" for projects. That means, that WMF and chapters would "pay" on this "market" for projects. A local project is put in this market and WMF or a chapter says that it will pay for it. In this way everyone could see what is happening around the world. In my view this "market" could be even open to organizations outside the wikimedia-world. I know that such a market is a silly idea, but I like markets as an organizational method.) --Goldzahn 21:22, 11 January 2012 (UTC) In this way a chapter with many active members could "earn" more foundation-grants, because it could do more projects. The second part of the sentence is new. Sorry. --Goldzahn 13:55, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think membership is the best metric, but yes, grants should certainly be based on concrete demonstration of impact.--Eloquence 21:34, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
"That means, likely, that a fair share of donations in wealthy countries will have to go to support mission activities in poorer countries." and that's why you got over 1 Million € last year and will get ~2 Million € this year from the WMDE; that's more than enough to spend it in poor countries, it is just your decision (question: how much money of your own 20M$ plans the WMF to spend). --DaB. 14:09, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree - a fair share of wealth means: How much did the US put in this "funding pot". Lets call it that way, they are approx. 4times more inhabitants than if u take Germany. But the statistic always only shows, what WMF got. Which countries were that? I couldnt grasp the statistic provided by Google. Which donations were raised in the US (with over 300 Million people)? If u can, than please show us the numbers of US donations.--Angel54 5 16:01, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Hi DaB., the problem is that you're no longer talking about a socially just process of funds distribution where money is allocated to wherever the need and impact is likely to be highest, but about a default earmarking/entitlement that's purely based on where the money is raised. As Wikimedia's (not WMF's) activities continue to expand while its fundraising growth is going to likely slow down, we need to find fair and socially just ways to allocate funds to global spending priorities. Maybe Germany should get 1M, 2M, 3M -- but it shouldn't get it just because it's Germany, but because the proposed activities and estimated impact of those activities justify that level of spending, relative to other opportunities.--Eloquence 08:45, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
It is not about "getting", but about giving and keeping. WMDE gave the WMF 1M€ last year and will give ~2M€ this year – that's more then enough to operate offices/make advertising/help editors in dozens of developing countries; I doubt that the WMF will give the half of their own money away. All we ask in return is, that we can develop our own chapter further – and that needs own money and not some "grants" from the WMF that we will get or not (you can not hire people if you don't know if you can pay them next quarter/next year). --DaB. 14:59, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

Two fundamental questions

The two fundamental questions that we should first ask are the following:

  1. Do we believe that funds allocation should be completely independent of fundraising?
  2. Do we believe that nation-based chapter organizations should play a privileged role in the Wikimedia movement relative to other organizational models?

I believe Sue crafted her recommendations on the assumption that the answer to the first question is yes (i.e. that allocation should be exclusively based on where impact can be the highest, and need is the greatest), and that her answer to the second question is no (i.e., that consistent with Movement roles/recommendations, we want to encourage many different types of affiliated organizations, not all of which will be geography-based).

If those are the assumptions you make, then it's very hard to reconcile this with a model where nation-based chapters are the only organizations which can obtain the right to payment process. Because it unquestionably makes moving money around harder, because it unquestionably creates influence, prestige, and privilege (not least of which is full access to the nation's donor file) which risk distorting funding decisions.

It's just really clear that in that model, nation-based chapters in wealthy countries will have the largest programs and the most influence, and it's WMF's job to play a somewhat counterbalancing role to "shift money to international programs". User:DaB. wrote above, about Wikimedia Germany: "and that's why you [WMF] got over 1 Million € last year and will get ~2 Million € this year from the WMDE; that's more than enough to spend it in poor countries". The underlying assumption is clear: there's one nation-based organization, and about half of the money it raises, or a very large chunk, should be invested solely in its programs. There's a default entitlement built into this assumption.

If we want a more decentralized (!) movement, with more organizations playing many diverse roles and acting as equal peers, then being able to allocate funds independently of where they are raised, and being able to disburse them freely, and not creating specific privileges for nation-based chapters, becomes more and more important.

Centralized payment processing enables all this to happen fairly smoothly. I do believe the only other model that can be fully reconciled with the above answers to what I'd call the fundamental questions is a hybrid model where WMF runs the annual "Support Wikipedia" campaign, and approved organizations that have demonstrated the ability to a) do good work, b) payment process/fundraise responsibly, (which would include but not be limited to nation-based chapters) run "Support our programs" campaigns on WMF sites. I honestly doubt that any message other than "Support Wikipedia" type messaging actually would resonate with most donors, but that could be empirically tested. If this hybrid model made sense financially, it could be a nice way to combine the advantages of empowerment, which Liam asks for above, with the benefits of fair allocation of funds and decentralization beyond nation-based organizations. --Eloquence 08:18, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

"funds allocation is independent of fundraising" is not the same as "allocation should be based on where impact can be the highest, and need is the greatest". The first position is Sue´s position, the second is yours and maybe that of Jimmy Wales (I guess). Sue says that the new body should decide where to spend the money. The next question is, is the Global South in a position to absorb a lot of money? As far as I remember, on the mailinglist foundation-I there was a letter a few weeks ago from India, that tells that the community there are not so pleased with the way the foundation is acting there. In my view the problem was that the foundation hired a local contractor and they pushed the local community aside. With good reasons, in my view. Editors are difficult to handle (time is money), in India and everywhere. Now we are at question two. The foundation is building new organizations, for example Regional Ambassadors and pay for local contractors. For me, it is obvious why. Because the money is there, the foundation can improve its outreach very fast and the foundaton can influence those people. I´m not against that, but it is just a way around the editors, like me. The question the foundation and most chapters don´t want to answer or don´t know how to answer is how to manage an organization of people who do what they want and not what the organization wants. Maybe that is because Wikipedia was an unsuspected success. In my view the foundation´s position is that editors should write articles and a new meta-organisation with boots on the ground (e.g. Regional Ambassadors, local Fundraisers) should do outreach and fundraising. Again, I´m not against this, but I don´t like it. --Goldzahn 10:28, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
Since you have asked the question, I will answer it.
I don't believe that complete independence between fundraising and fund use is a viable long-term solution. At the moment, most of the income comes through the annual fundraiser. This is something which could continue to develop (in my view, less than optimally, but nonetheless) with a Foundation staff team controlling the whole global campaign. However, as we grow we will naturally want to fundraise across a wider range of sources, as recognised by the 2nd of Sue's points. This will require decentralised initiative and is only viable if there is some kind of incentive for people to invest time and money in that initiative.
A "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" approach where all income goes into one big pot and is then doled out by a group of Platonic guardians would mean no-one had any incentive to spend time or money or undertake risks in order to grow the size of the pot. In consequence, we would raise significantly less for the movement than we might on a longer time horizon. Note that this does not preclude an arrangement where much or most income is distributed by a FAC, nor does it preclude a FAC determining the terms of engagement between movement entities who are generating new streams of income and the rest of the movement.
I also believe there are some things which will continue to differentiate Chapters from non-geographical movement entities. Access to many forms of fundraising opportunity is one of them, because many forms of fundraising - particularly when you look beyond the annual banner campaign - are geographically based and wrapped up in local considerations about (say) non-profit status. An American citizen can't make a tax-efficient gift of appreciated securities to a movement entity which is registered in France. A Briton cannot donate via Payroll Giving, and an Italian cannot donate via the "cinque per mille" scheme to a movement entity registered in Australia or the USA. Whether you want to use the loaded word privilege to describe this is your decision, but I wouldn't. The Land 12:48, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
My response:
1) Do we believe that funds allocation should be completely independent of fundraising?
Yes, I believe that to a large degree it should. Of course, it is not possible to completely divorce the two concepts for both legal reasons (e.g. France can't send more than 50% overseas) and human reasons (e.g. The Land's reasoning immediately above), but it should be the normative position from which budgetary discussions should start. Every year there will, of course, be people making the argument "we raised in xyz country so we should spend it in our country too". This is unavoidable. But if/when there are obviously successful projects being run with that 'international' money then that criticism will die away quickly.
2) Do we believe that nation-based chapter organizations should play a privileged role in the Wikimedia movement relative to other organizational models?
I would be careful to separate out the value-judgement that the English language has on the word "privileged" and focus on the definition that means "different". Yes, Chapters should have a different/unique role in the Wikmedia movement that separates them from other potential affiliate organisations. A university student "friends of Wikipedia" club, or an "Open Source <country>" association are both viable affiliates for our movement that should have access to certain grant opportunities. However their rights and responsibilities should be manifestly different from those allowed of a Chapter - including that a Chapter has the right to fundraise using the Wikimedia Marks and can nominate people to the WMF board. To paraphrase what Goldzahn said above, reducing the Chapters to the same position as any other potential affiliated organisation is a way around the existing community - to make them all beg for scraps off the WMF's table to run projects when/if the WMF chooses to not run the same project directly itself. Wittylama 23:43, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
I think the distribution of funds should be largely, but not completely, separate from fundraising. There is a strong argument for motivating entities to fundraise well by allowing them to keep some of the extra money. That should be a fairly small consideration, though.
As for the privileged position of chapters within the movement: chapter have a privileged position in terms of what they can do for the movement and the movement should recognise that. Chapters are able to do things that non-geographically defined groups and entities can't (tax deductible fundraising is the obvious one, but various others have been mentioned in these discussions). Fundraising is hard work, it shouldn't be considered a privilege. By fundraising, chapters are contributing to the movement and the movement should thank them for it.
I'm not convinced the prestige issue you mention exists. I think a highly successful chapter (or other entity or group) that issues regular press releases and reports to the movement about the brilliant things it does will be prestigious whether it funds those things directly or through grants. We don't have any evidence of that yet, since substantial grants to chapters have only just started (and to other entities and groups are still on the drawing board) so we can't see the results yet.
There are advantages to chapters fundraising (eg. access to donor files), but they benefit the movement as a whole - the chapter isn't being advantaged at the expense of another part of the movement (the WMF isn't able to make good use of donor files from thousands of miles away, so it isn't losing out). --Tango 19:28, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
About point 2 the answer is surely yes. The chapters are legal associations and can be involved in legal issues connected with WMF projects. It seems to me honest that the chapters face risks and for that the chapters must have a privileged role together with other legal associations connected with Wikipedia. --Ilario 20:07, 15 January 2012 (UTC) - separate the server operation from the Funds Allocation

At the moment the office in San Francisco operates the servers, develops the software, runs the fundraiser and organises outreach.

My suggestion is that this gets split down three ways.

  •, a wholly owned subsidiary of the WMF, operates the servers, develops the software and runs the fundraiser, on a contract basis for the WMF. Over the future could expand, hosting services for other charities, opening software development shops and server farms in other countries.
  • The WMF is mostly concerned with funds allocation. They have small office in San Francisco but they also operate in other countries. Regional offices of the WMF (one per continent?) would have the authority to authorise small donations. Larger projects would need more approval.
  • Outreach work would, in general, be financed by the WMF but carried out by people not employed by the WMF so the outreach work carried out in the USA by the WMF would move to a new WMUSA chapter.

National Chapters would also be able to finance projects anywhere in the world, legally independent of the WMF but cooperating in practice, giving us a lot of flexibility and legal deniability. WMDE, for example could finance a safe sex information campaign in Pakistan with explicit pictures but WMF and Pakistani Wikipedians would have deniability.--Filceolaire 13:52, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

Edited--Filceolaire 09:21, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
I still think that puts too many eggs in one basket. We already have two datacentres, I'd like us to have more, and in different countries and owned by different bodies within the movement. I'm also reluctant to have one body handling the bulk of the movements funds, as we've seen there are big advantages in having chapters fundraising in many key countries as people seem to give more to a national body than a global one. Whilst the movement is much more secure if there is no single point of failure in our design that could be used to shut us down. Such decentralisation would give us a much more robust structure. Also I'm not keen on the continent offices idea, I see that as a compromise that loses the advantage of a global body - theoretical consistency and some economies of scale but without the advantages of a national chapter. Continental offices would still need to employ people to do things that volunteers could do if the task were spread around the chapters, and they still wouldn't have the extra rigour of local knowledge re costs that would come in with Japanese people looking at the costs of a Japanese outreach event and Indians at the costs of an Indian event. So Continental offices would have the disadvantages of both the global and chapter options without the advantages of either. WereSpielChequers 10:02, 18 January 2012 (UTC)

Short term v Long term

If you compare a program dominated by instant and short term fundraising against one skewed to medium term fundraising and you only take into account the money raised in the first month then you are bound to over estimate the relative results of the instant campaign, that seems to be part of the problem with the WMF analysis, and one of the reasons why they came to the false conclusion that the Foundation had done better than the chapters in the 2011 fundraiser. It is much better for a charity to look at the type of money needed and pick the appropriate fundraising mechanisms. So an emergency appeal to deal with a humanitarian disaster will tend to emphasise instant fundraising - they need the money now to buy tents, blankets and food. Whilst a cultural institution that has ambitions to leave a permanent legacy should be consciously skewing its fundraising towards longterm revenue streams. In that sense the UK chapter is making better progress than the Foundation, but I'd like to see a strategy than within fifty years the legacy department will be the largest revenue stream, primarily with legacies being solicited for an endowment fund. Then if we have that as our medium term strategy in the longterm the Chapter would hopefully get to a stage whereby it has a reliable and adequate revenue from endowments. Putting a greater value on longterm revenue is not just a more efficient way to collect money, and a better fit with our organisational needs, it also puts us in a much stronger position as a cultural repository. There are Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums out there choosing whether to release contents to us or to our commercial competitors, and at the moment we are losing the contest. We are partly losing because of things that are difficult to solve such as it being so much more difficult to load images to commons than to the more successful of our competitors, and partly because some institutions are not yet ready to release under as open a license as we use. But one thing we could and should be doing is emphasising not just that we are a not for profit, but that we are an organisation with longterm plans and an ability to offer some longterm commitments. The UK chapter now has a longterm revenue stream sufficient that I suspect it could credibly commit to maintaining an online read only mirror of Commons and possibly the whole project for several decades. If it were to do so I believe that would be a major positive in our relations with the GLAM sector. If the Foundation or other parts of the movement were to move to a long term strategy then we could make archiving commitments that were bigger in scale, utility and length. I think that a lot of editors would be more comfortable if they knew that the movement was planning to ensure that the works we are creating were going to be available for the foreseeable future. WereSpielChequers 14:01, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

As far as I can see, WSC is talking about credibility. This is a very severe question: An example, Im a teacher and each year responsible for exams that allows the right to study at a German university. Do u really think that WP facilitates my job - no. It isnt credible, cause the content is not credible at all in my subject of study. In the long term people will notice that there is more emphasis to put on content (and right content) and thats why there will be donations at a decrease in the future. I actually have to warn my pupils to use WP as their knowledge base. It doesnt do my pupils any good, because their contests will be in vain. Thats the truth. How can u be more credible in the future, if u always talk about the money and where it goes - thats the wrong angle to discuss. Discuss how u can support the society. Would be the right kind of question, JFK did that I think. And on the other side theres Liza Minelli with "Money, money, money are the rich mans world." I agree that such a vision (the last one) is indeed short-lived and u will not get honored for that in the long term. And thanks a lot for that sentence before saving, I was involved in the discussion on those new TOS. Another can of worms. --Angel54 5 19:35, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

So the main question should be:

  • How can I put quality in line?

and sincerly not:

  • How can I build a mass product?

Thats the main questions the Board and Sue as an executive will have to discuss. Which way lads to more progress (and more donations perhaps)? What of both is long term thinking, what short term?--Angel54 5 19:47, 17 January 2012 (UTC) And btw. we had this discussion in Germany - a cooperation with a leading German pic archive ([9]) for historical pictures. The result will be that they do not longer release their material to WP after a trial period. Thats how u lose credibility...--Angel54 5 19:59, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

Hi Angel54, no I wasn't talking about the credibility of the product. While most of my editing is in the more problematic bits of Wikipedia I'm very conscious that nowadays it is a lot more difficult to find typos than it was when I started editing in 2007; I also like to think that we've made a difference with the death anomalies project, and I suspect there are many other areas where quality can be demonstrated to be improving. But this page is about fundraising, and my comments were about fundraising. When I was talking about short term versus long term fundraising I was talking about the speed with which the money comes in. If you ask people for a donation then if they agree they give you money. If you ask them to set up an arrangement with their bank to pay you something once a year then you get some money and then in a years time you get money from most of the people who set up such bank transfers, and ten years later you will still be getting a significant proportion of those annual donations. One of those is a much longer term fundraising strategy than the other. Where credibility comes in is that if you have a significant amount of income that you can reasonably expect to get in twenty years time then you can make much more credible commitments for twenty years time. If in fifty years time we have a stable income including an endowment that can sustain a copy of the project indefinitely then we will be in a position to credibly promise that we can keep the data entrusted to us available for as long as Human civilisation persists and can support digital technology. I would like us to pursue such a financial strategy. WereSpielChequers 09:43, 18 January 2012 (UTC)
I do understand what u r saying - this was perhaps an extension I wrote. Reliability means to hold up a high standard delivered by the product. Only if u try to gain such a high standard (and people will be trusting u that u are able to uphold this in the next - lets say 5 yrs) , then people will be willing to donate sth in such a form like u described. Then they will not only donate once, but regularly. I think this is sth that has to go hand in hand. Without trust ull get no donations.--Angel54 5 16:13, 18 January 2012 (UTC)


I propose adding here general remarks about the facilitation of the discussion. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 23:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

  • Summary: Given the extensive length of the page (and the whole discussion about fundraising), I try to summarize each intervention. It will allow new readers to have a first general insight of the discussions, as well as a support for recall the interventions of each one. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 23:13, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Nutshell: Maggie proposed a "nutshell" form to compress topics involved in a section. The proposed nutshells are less extensive than the "summaries" and gives a higher-level than the summaries. (Maggie, you can remplace this comment to precise your idea.) ~ Seb35 [^_^] 12:26, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Hi, Seb. :) This came up on the internal-l list, where people were concerned about keeping up with particularly lengthy sections. If the nutshells prove useful, my hope is that they will alert people to major discussion points in sections, to help them figure out where to read and response. They are signed and timestamped for transparency, both so that they know who I am and can check to see if major updates follow the datestamp. Conversation about what to do when archiving sections (necessary to keep the page accessible, as it is already growing quite large). Perhaps place them on the archive index? --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 21:14, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Per mailing list conversations, I'm going to collapse some longer sections after they've been nutshelled. This is an experimental model, but it seems like a viable alternative. :) The goal of nutshelling and collapsing, of course, is to keep the page usable for new and existing contributors, while archiving is essential to keep it accessible to readers with accessibility challenges, such as some mobile users and those with slower connections. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 13:46, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Conversation has slowed down enough that I plan to push back archiving schedule now. We should still be able to maintain a usable talk page for everyone. Unless there's an explosion of activity, I don't plan to archive anymore for the next couple of days. :) Also at this point, unless conversations start getting very long again, I don't propose to "nutshell" conversations until they've been stale for several days to facilitate the ordinary structure of talk on Wiki projects. Please let me know if this choice seems suboptimal. The goal is to keep the page and its contents readable and facilitate conversation. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 15:26, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

In terms of the nutshells and collapsing, I just wanted to touch base to see if people would prefer, now that the conversation has slowed down, if I stop collapsing the sections (at this point, I am waiting several days before nutshelling and collapsing). As I mentioned, this has been done pending request Sue and per mailing list conversations to enable easier review of the page. Please let me know if you think this is no longer necessary. --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 11:53, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

Tax deductability

I wonder how tax deductability shall be preserved when the payments are directly processed by the WMF in the United States. Currently, donations to the German chapter are tax deductable. In Germany, this requires a German non-profit corporation that works for some common good which is approved by the Internal Revenue Service. This is currently done by Wikimedia Fördergesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung. I wonder how this is expected to be organized if the recommendation for fundraising as it stands now gets implemented. --AFBorchert 17:14, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for raising this issue. This is a real problem because tax deductability is a major incentive for making donations in this country, even for small donations. After all you have a choice which organisation to give to. And then, tax deductability is a sign of seriousness and respectability to a donor, the organisations that get this status are controlled by the tax revenue service. The German model developed by WMF and WM Deutschland can probably not be changed in this respect. It would certainly lead to a substantial loss of donations.--Aschmidt 20:50, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

The same problem exists here in Switzerland and probably in several other countries too. --Horgner 11:31, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

This isn't just a financial motivation issue, it also affects the types of fundraising that we can do. For example here in the UK registered charities can fundraise through EN:Payroll giving, from my personal experience a very good way to get money from high earning twentysomethings; Now that we are a registered charity we can do these sort of things. But it isn't just a matter of what extra we can do whilst decentralised, it is also a matter of how much we would diminish by giving up a local presence and charitable status. However much we publicly claimed it was simply a centralisation measure, there would be a reputation risk that our critics would suggest that the true motive was to hide our activities and be less transparent with money. Unless we can demonstrate other examples of multinational charities that have successfully centralised without contracting it will be difficult to convince the press that our motives are both sensible and "clean". WereSpielChequers 18:08, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I think the most useful thing we could do is figure out how similar organizations handle it. The physical location of the processor is probably not the single most important fact in determining whether a gift has tax advantages, and it's possible that the WMF could implement central processing while preserving tax advantages. But there's really no need for us to re-invent the wheel; surely some other organization has already figured this out and could just tell us. WhatamIdoing 18:32, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I would be surprised if many countries gave charitable tax breaks to foreign charities. I know that the UK doesn't, as the UK chapter discovered getting registered charity status in the UK is not easy, but it does come with huge advantages. We have already qualified to get over $100,000 back from the tax man via Gift Aid. Tax deductibility, where the tax returns to the donor not the charity may not motivate donors in the same way, it would be interesting to find out. As for not reinventing the wheel we don't need to ask, we can observe. There are plenty of multinational charities that have created charities in multiple countries, I think it should be up to the supporters of the centralisation proposal to find a successful multinational charity that has chosen to go down the route that the Foundation proposes. WereSpielChequers 00:58, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
As I already pointed out we re-organised our chapter's structure only last year in order to bring it in line with German tax legislation. There is no other way. If you collect money in this country in order to give it to a foreign body you have to pay taxes. Period.--Aschmidt 01:45, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
Sure, Aschmidt, but that doesn't mean that the WMF couldn't create a small organization in each country that does nothing except fundraising, and which happens to have hired the WMF to process the donations on a computer system located in the US. That would still result in you giving to a "German" organization, but all of the money would be processed by the US office.
I don't know what the costs and benefits of that approach are, but there do seem to be thousands of multinational charities in the world, so presumably some of them thought it worth doing. WhatamIdoing 18:26, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
We need to differentiate between getting the WMF to do the processing on behalf of a chapter and a chapter merely being an office of the WMF. In many countries the tax advantages of charitable status will come with obligations that limit the uses to which the money can be put. If that limits us to doing things that we want to do anyway then that isn't necessarily a problem "the 0.22% of global funds raised in country Y can be used to fund a limited number of things including the 0.23% of global expenditure that takes place in country Y plus potentially about 20% of other expenditure" scenario. But in the scenario "the 3% of global funds raised in country Z can only be spent in country Z and we can't see how we can spend that much money in that country" we would have a problem. As the norm in multinational charities does seem to be getting local National organisations I think we know what the tried and tested option is. It would be interesting if the WMF could name a Multi-national charity that has decided to centralise in a similar way to their proposal, especially one that has done so successfully. WereSpielChequers 13:50, 18 January 2012 (UTC)
But WSC I can't think of another charity which operates on such an international scale. Our projects all operate worldwide. Our main source of funds is via the fundraiser which is run simultaneously in every country. Most other international charities are organised on a national basis. Each of their projects are based in one country and the overseas projects are usually each 'owned' by one of the national chapters. At least that is how it seems to me. Filceolaire 22:59, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

I've watched this for a while. Here are my thoughts

I've watched this discussion for a while and thought about it a lot and here are my conclusions:

There doesn't seem to be any consensus that the WMF doing all the online fundraising should be adopted as a basic principal. The arguments for this are all about efficiency and effectiveness. Even if the WMF is more efficient today that doesn't mean it will be always so. The efficiency arguments lead to a pragmatic policy of trying different routes and seeing what works.

There is a strong feeling that having local groups with real power to do stuff will help with outreach to new editors, to other organisations, to the press etc. and that fundraising should be an important part of that process.

My recommendations is that there should be a variety of different arrangements and each organisation in the WikiMdeia movement should find the level at which they are comfortable. Typical models would be:

  • Unincorporated group of people who work together to edit or on outreach or whatever. No funds change hands. Includes wikimeetups, online wikiprojects, secondary school wikipedia clubs.
  • More organised local group. Sells tee shirts and memberships. Has a bank account. Gets a grant from a another WMF organisation for certain activities. Does some local publicity for the on-line fundraiser. Organises training, mentoring, parties, free culture advocacy. Example - University clubs.
  • Independent organisation receiving a grant from wikimovement to support a specific project e.g. a film, a Somali cultural centre in London creating schoolbooks.
  • National or regional groups. Has a phone number and bank account, membership and officers. Provides spokespersons for press interviews. Formally incorporated. Fund raises via merchandise sales and donations but also receives grants from WMF. Makes grants to local groups and projects and monitors how that money is spent. Participates in the fundraiser by issuing press releases, localisation of landing pages.
  • Registered charity - like the national or regional group above but is registered as a charity with the additional reporting requirements and restrictions on actions associated with that. The online fundraiser landing page may have an "If you are a *country* taxpayer click here" link to divert some funds to this group.
  • Funds processor - the online fundraiser landing pages directs donations to these. Which funds processor you are directed to depends on various factors.

In general groups would not become funds processors until they had already been operating at the other levels for some years. Local empowerment comes from having the authority to spend money. Local fundraising is part of local outreach (donations of hand painted advertising, cakes for the wikiday party, sale of tee shirts and mugs) and is associated with driving funds to the online fundraiser as much as anything else. All groups would get involved in the online fundraiser. How the funds are processed would become a minor background technical issue. Filceolaire 12:34, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

Hi Filceolaire. Can you read my comment above, replying to Liam, and tell me what you think about the issue of decoupling fundraising/payment-processing from funds entitlement? Thanks Sue Gardner 23:11, 22 January 2012 (UTC)

Questions flowchart

Fundraising and Funds Dissemination/Questions flowchart

Phoebe's Questions flowchart has been moved to its own page. Please feel free to contribute to it. :) --Maggie Dennis (WMF) 14:54, 27 January 2012 (UTC)