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Chapters manual

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This is a manual for Wikimedia chapters. It is divided into several parts corresponding to the tasks in a chapter. Please contribute to this manual, by inserting answers, but also questions. What are the experiences of your chapter, what would you like to know from other chapters?

Organisation and human resources


Charter, bylaws etc.


Question: What are the typical goals you find in the charter (bylaws, the basic legal document) of a chapter?



Several chapters have adopted a strategy for the following years. The strategy document is the link between your charter and its goals on the one hand and your annual plans on the other.

Board organization


Every chapter has a board, which is usually elected by the general assembly (the convention of the members). The number of board members (also called trustees or directors in some countries) varies in the movement from 5 to 10.

Should the board members have specific tasks? It seems that in most boards they have. For example, one is responsible for international affairs, another one for cultural projects. For a board member, it is difficult to be familiar with all subjects.


  • Transition: from a volunteers organization to a mix of volunteers and paid people.
There are various chapters now that employ a professional staff. A good first step is to contact these chapters and benefit from their experience.
  • What are typical tasks for chapter staff?
Chapter staff are hired to bring the activities of volunteers to a higher level and to reduce the workload of board members.

Typical tasks are:

- Internal communication between, board, members and volunteers.
- External communication, such as newsletters, the site, social media, but also handling incoming questions from the public of the press.
- Day-to-day administration, invoices, payments, receivables, in close cooperation with the chapters' treasurer.
- Membership administration.
- Prepare strategic plans, annual plans, project plans, in close cooperation with the Chapters' board.
- Reporting, monthly, quarterly and / or annual reports, for the board, for the general council of the Chapter and for WMF.
- Fundraising activities
- Support activities such as collaboration with national institutions, the organization of the annual assembly or convention, a hackaton, other meetings. The role of the staff is mostly a supportive one in these cases, as for many activities the volunteers remain in the lead.
- For further info, don't hesitate to leave a message Grijz (talk) 20:01, 28 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]



WMNL office, after the 2012 renovation

An office is the hired place that a chapter can use permanently

  • as the work space for staff
  • for meetings (of volunteers, of board members)
  • as a storage place for promotional materials, the paper archive etc.

Question: Can't the staff work from home?

I suppose that a part of the staff of chapters with a number of employees (cf. WM DE) could work from home. However, one of the primary function of the initial staff is to hold the office. --Millosh (talk) 08:21, 30 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]





Annual plan and budget


Sources of money

Wikimedia donations, situation in 2012 after the introduction of the FDC process.

Member contributions


There are basically two concepts of membership. According to the first one, the association wants to have a lot of members in order to show how many people support the ideas of the association. This is a concept very suitable to associations which concentrate on 'advocacy', which pursue e.g. a political or social goal and are engaged in lobbying. The membership fee or contribution should be as low as possible.

According to the other concept, the association wishes to support people, maybe especially its own members. An association that is willing to spend much for its members might also want to ask a high fee from them. For example, an automobile association such as the ADAC is mainly a service organization, with services that cost a lot of money. Consequently, a member has to pay a high fee. (It is actually a kind of ensurance company, for the case that your car breaks down.)

How about a Wikimedia chapter? A Wikimedian might think, naturally, that the chapter should ask a very low fee:

  • We want a lot of members, to impress others, also hoping to gather active volunteers from them,
  • Wikipedia is for everyone, and also the chapter's membership should be affordable for everyone.
  • The main source of income are the Wikipedia donations anyway.

But the Wikimedian should also consider:

  • Registering members costs work (if done by a paid employee, even money). Do you really want to invest that kind of work for people who find the association not even worth a fee?
  • Having 50 active members is more important than having 1000 members who hardly support the association.
  • A chapter should have diverse sources of income. Membership fees are 'specified donations' the chapter can dispose of independently.
  • In general, the expenses purely for members (especially members conventions) should be covered by the membership fees.

To sum it up: the membership fee should be not too high, excluding poor people such as students or the unemployed. It should also be not too low, generating too few income and giving the impression that the membership is not much worth.

Some chapters offer a reduced fee for people with financial handicaps (young people, students, the disabled, senior citizens etc.). This is also common in other associations all over the world. But this means that your membership administration becomes a little bit more complicated.

Wikimedia Nederland, for example, offers its members to pay the full fee (24 EUR) or less with a minimum of 12 EUR. The member does not have to explain why it pays less than 24 EUR.

There are two separate issues here: (1) financial one and (2) motivational one:
  1. As Wikimedia chapters are not fun clubs for rich, there is no reason to keep the membership fee high, because more money would be get if membership fee is lower; i.e., it's more likely that you'd get more than 100 members willing to give ~10 EUR/year than 10 members willing to give ~100 EUR/year.
    The other financial issue is related to the areas where giving any sensible amount of money is an issue. For example, up to late 2000s, it was the issue in Serbia to give ~10 EUR/month. In such cases, chapter boards should have a way to free particular members from giving membership fees.
  2. Although amount of given money can correlate with the subjective worth of membership, that's just one of the secondary reasons for the involvement in organization. There are much more important reasons why someone would value membership in one organization, like how good the program of the organization is.
Said so, I think that the minimum should be (1) default membership fee (that heavily depends on GDP PPP of particular country / area) and (2) options for asking explicitly board (or some other body) for reducing membership fee up to zero. If someone is interested in organization and has money for membership fee, then paying it is enough to treat that member minimally active; if someone is interested in organization and doesn't have money, then expressing it to a relevant body is enough to treat that member minimally active. --Millosh (talk) 08:40, 30 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]

‘Unspecified donations’ (Wikipedia donations)


The largest sum of money in the Wikimedia movement are donations 'via Wikipedia', collected in the annual fundraiser organized by the WMF (and in rare cases by chapters). This money is called 'unspecified donaties' because the giver (the Wikipedia reader donating) did not specify to which Wikimedia entity it should go. It is the task of the FDC (a WMF committee) to ask for requests and to decide which request will receive how much money. A request can only come from an 'eligible entity' in the Wikimedia movement. At the moment, those are the WMF itself and a number of chapters responding to some conditions.

If your chapter wishes to receive a part of this 'unspecified' money, you can turn in a FDC request if it is eligible. Otherwise, your chapter can request a grant from the WMF (up to 50,000 USD).

External funds


External communications






Internal communications


See also: en:Etiquette_(technology)

Wikipedians are used to use wikis and communicate a lot via many communication channels. Alas, it seems that many Wikimedians find it difficult to receive exactly the information they need, in a way that does not consume too much of their time. For example, if you are subscribed to several Wikimedia mailing lists, you may receive much more e-mails everyday than you can filter or even read.

How can Wikimedians achieve better communications in the movement? They should ask themselves which information has to be sent to which person or which group, and in which way. Sometimes the best e-mail is the one never sent.

In your chapter, you may have already a chaos of communication channels: a chapter's mailing list, a chapter's wiki, one or several Facebook accounts, a website etc. Also, you have to deal with international communication channels, such as Meta Wiki or the mailing list Wikimedia-l. Maybe you find it useful to make a list of all the communication channels, in order to have an overview. Then, you might consider which channels is suited best for which target group and what kind of information. For example, WMNL has a page Communicatiekanalen on its wiki for exactly that purpose.

Have the courage to shut down a communication channel which you don't need! A superfluous channel costs you time, or it confuses your target groups. Why open a Facebook page if you use it for less than two posts per year?

The target or relational groups for a Wikimedia chapter typically are:

  • The members, and only them. Make sure that you have one channel that is used only for very important information to the members, for information absolutely every member must receive (such as an invitation to the General Assembly, or a change of the fee). Take for example a collection of the members' e-mail addresses they give you when they became a member; this is a one direction way, the board or a collaborator sends an e-mail centrally to the members. You should be very sparingly with this channel, because a member easily considers an e-mail spam if it does not interest him.
  • The members and interested partners or other people. This can be a newsletter sent by e-mail. (Maybe you want to send the newsletter only to paying members. But consider that the content is possibly free licensed anyway, and that writing the newsletter costs you some work. You might want to make that work for as many people as possible.)
  • Active members and other people (e.g. Wikipedians who are no member), who want to be informed more frequently, and discuss. For this purpose a mailing list is usually suitable.
  • Active members and collaborators may have benefit from a wiki for the chapter. Here you can store and discuss specific information necessary for running the chapter. Typically, if want people to edit a certain page on your wiki, you send an e-mail to the chapter's mailing list and link to that page with a specific question or ask for help.
  • Partners (outside the movement) and the general public should find the necessary information about your chapter on a good looking website. For the first time, you can use your wiki for this purpose, but don't forget that the target group of that wiki is a very different one. The website should be really suitable for people who have never heard of the Wikimedia movement. (It is okay to have on your website one general page in English, but not more. Your site will not be the most used place for international communication with the rest of the movement.)
  • International Wikimedians you can reach via Meta Wiki or international mailing lists. If you don't want that all board members are bombarded with the many mails on Wikimedia-l, one of you can be the 'guard' who watches what happens on Wikimedia-l, and informs the board colleagues if necessary. Keep in mind that this system of a 'guard' can only work if the guard is really dedicated, and if everybody knows what kind of information should be shared with all board members.

Volunteers and community




Talking about 'volunteers' or 'the community' can be tricky because some terms are used in several ways. Especially 'user' can lead to confusion: some people call 'users' only the registered Wikipedia editors, others use the word for our readers. Also, the 'community' of a Wikipedia language version is not necessarily the 'community' (or membership) of your chapter.

You might use the following definitions:

  • Community: the people editing Wikipedia on a regular basis; usually you consider the Wikipedia language version most important for your own country
  • Readers: people reading Wikipedia, including those who reuse the content
  • Members: everyone who paid the membership fee of your chapter
  • Volunteers: your active members
  • Donor: someone who gave money; you should distinguish between 'Wikipedia donors' and those who directly give to your chapter (maybe 'chapter donors'?)



Micro grants


A micro grant here means that the chapter gives money to volunteers for a small activity. Think of little money for a meetup. The procedure is usually very lean and simple.

Who in the chapter should decide on the allocation of money? What should be the maximum amount of money per activity? What kind of activities can and should be supported?

Projects and partners


International affairs


Participation international conventions

Wikimedia Conference 2012 in Berlin

As a chapter, you are supposed to be represented at the major Wikimedia conventions. Visiting a convention means that you can tell about your chapter and its activities, and that you can learn from others. The main goal of a convention is to talk to many people and to get an impression about a possible collaboration with them.

The two largest and most important annual Wikimedia conventions are

  • Wikimania, usually in summer, and the
  • Wikimedia Conference, in April. The Wikimedia Conference started in 2008 as a chapters meeting, and still the chapters play the major role in it. Every chapter is expected to visit and to give a short presentation about the previous 12 months in the chapter.

Other international conventions are dedicated to a specific subject, such as GLAM.

Whom should you send to a convention? It should be a person really dedicated to the movement, and capable to interact with others in an international (English speaking) environment. Often, but not necessarily, these people are board members or the WCA Council Member appointed by the chapter.

Wikimedia Chapters Association


The Wikimedia Chapters Association is the umbrella organization of the Wikimedia chapters. Every chapter (recognized by the WMF) can and should become a member. The WCA coordinates chapter activities and supports chapters which need help in their evolution. This Chapters Manual is an initiative of the WCA.

See also