WMF 2016-17 Annual Planning Recommendation

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What this page is[edit]

The Community Resources team has been asked to advise WMF leadership on potential paths forward for community review of WMF's 2016–17 Annual Plan. To do so, we're starting with a list of standard good practices, and putting together a sketch of a proposed process for consideration. The aim here is to assist in bringing WMF's own planning process on-par with the standards of transparency and planning detail required of affiliates going through the Annual Plan Grant (APG) process, in line with the FDC's November 2015 remarks.

What this page is not[edit]

This does not yet represent a finalized process plan or commitment from WMF on the details of the annual planning process. The WMF executive team has indicated general agreement to increasing community review and following the FDC timeline to create WMF's annual plan, but other details still need to be finalized by the ED, C-team, and project owner for WMF's 2016–17 annual plan, in consultation with multiple stakeholders.

What this page could become[edit]

Staff leading the annual planning process may choose to update this page to reflect any final decisions made by WMF, to keep the community informed of the process that WMF intends to follow this year to complete its annual plan.


  • Until 18 December 2015: WMF Community Resource (CR) staff build out this page and consult with the FDC to improve it
  • By 21 December 2015: Recommendation finalized and handed to WMF executive team and annual plan project owner for making decisions
  • Early January 2016 (proposed): WMF finalizes decisions on annual planning process, CR continues to facilitate updates with FDC and advise as-needed
  • January–March 2016 (proposed): WMF finalizes strategy in consultation with community, and drafts annual plan
  • 1 April 2016 (proposed): WMF publishes draft annual plan for community and FDC review
  • April 2016 (proposed): Community comments on WMF annual plan
  • May 2016 (proposed): FDC reviews WMF annual plan
  • June 2016 (proposed): Board approves WMF annual plan


In October 2012, WMF applied to the FDC with a proposal request for “non-core” work only (grants, programs, some engineering, etc).

  • Reasons for this included: WMF wanted to have community review of the plan, help pilot the FDC process and show good faith, but because of the unique role of WMF in the movement, including "core" work in the FDC's allocation was not deemed appropriate.
  • Challenges to this approach included: Separating non-core from core presented difficulties for both staff and the FDC, handling COI and other issues appropriately for both staff and FDC (whose operations are funded by WMF's annual plan), adding WMF's plan in this form to the FDC round created significant additional work for both volunteers and staff.

The following year, WMF decided to apply with its full annual plan in Round 2 of the 2013–14 fiscal year. This time, however, the review did not include a dollar allocation, and it did not have a reporting requirement attached to it.

  • Reasons for this included: Trying to mitigate challenges based on learning from the previous year.
  • Challenges to this approach included: Still a large investment of time for both FDC volunteers and WMF staff, committee had relatively little influence on the plan because review occurs just before board approval, the FDC format was designed for affiliates; thus review of a plan this size (with much more complexity of budget and programs than any other affiliate) was a challenge.

For the 2015–16 annual plan, the WMF did not apply to the FDC and had a two-day community review period.

  • This was a regression in terms of both transparency and participation, causing deep frustration throughout the Wikimedia movement.

For the 2016–17 annual plan, the WMF faces some key challenges as well as opportunities.

  • Opportunities include: Rebooting the annual plan process to increase transparent and participatory community review, improve accountability and model good practices
  • Challenges include: The organization does not yet have an up-to-date strategy for building its annual plan, and the role of the CFO is currently unfilled (search underway).

Guiding principles and good practices[edit]

The following have been compiled from both the FDC process as well as other community consultations:

  • 30-day period for broader community review (before deliberations and decisions are made)
    • WMF to be specific about kind of feedback desired, and ask questions and recruit in appropriate places
    • WMF ED, C-levels and relevant program owners should be responsive to on-wiki questions
  • Bake-in adjustment period to act on feedback from community review (note: this is missing in current FDC process, due to crunched timelines, for all applicants)
  • Budget transparency (need to consider appropriate level of detail for different size budgets and breakdown costs by key areas)
  • SMART objectives for each focus initiative, tied to a multi-year strategic plan
  • Clearly articulate changes to
    • number of staff
    • org budget
    • planned programs and relevant deliverables
  • Accountability: WMF should report back on outcomes and budget spending with regular frequency. To that end, WMF should budget staff time to build systems to track, evaluate, and publicly share outcomes.
  • Designate a person to be annual plan process owner (in the past, this has been the CFO), with strong support from the ED
  • Show organizational learning, e.g. note programs or projects that are changing and why, or programs that will not continue
  • Demonstrate organization-level prioritization of activities and programs
    • Include additional documentation, appendices, backup for details
  • Commit to running a year-over-year annual planning process that maps budget to outcomes and reports back on those outcomes in subsequent years.
  • If FDC review is sought by WMF, WMF board and leadership commit time to adjust and finalize approval until after FDC recommendation is completed.


Note: In future years, WMF should plan in advance to make even more improvements to its annual planning process. So, this recommendation should be considered as something achievable for a transitional year given the present challenges described above. More customized and improved options should be explored for the 2017–18 plan, in partnership with the incoming Chief Financial Officer.

The following is a sketch for 2016-17 annual plan:

WMF goes through (slightly customized) FDC review for its 2016–17 annual plan
  • WMF submits an APG proposal on 1 April, using APG proposal form
  • 30 day community comment / question and answer period
  • WMF adjustments to annual plan based on community feedback
  • "Staff assessment" to be collaboratively developed by the ED's group, with possible support from others at their discretion
  • FDC reviews WMF annual plan, makes recommendations but does not make a dollar allocation. This approach would require WMF's planning timeline to have an adjustment period after the FDC's mid-May deliberations.
  • WMF reports in sync with other round 2 organizations, reporting on 6 month and 12 month progress


  • WMF modeling good practices in terms of review and planning, improve community trust from last year
  • In line with some movement values: transparency in particular
  • WMF reports back on same schedule as other orgs, at a minimum ( at six months and in annual reports)
  • Review process already exists, WMF annual plan owner does not need to create an entirely new process (likely to be either CFO newly on-board, or other WMF staff who are balancing other responsibilities)
  • External assessment incorporates input from those already holding movement context


  • Timing of annual plan (FDC recommends in mid-May, WMF fiscal year begins 1 July so not much time for adjustment based on recommendations)
  • Supporting the committee to do a thorough review with expert input from non-WMF staff, but with significantly less COI than if a dollar allocation was included in the process
  • Ensuring WMF can dedicate sufficient staff time (ie from finance and fundraising) to both go through the proposal & reporting processes, as well as the development of the proposal & community review, as all other funded movement affiliates do
  • Process without teeth (ie no penalty for board ignoring FDC recommendations), risks wasting volunteer and staff time
  • FDC may not have technical skillset needed to review large budget and software plans,

Other options considered[edit]

The following options have also been considered:

1. WMF goes through FDC’s full process (including dollar allocation)


  • Process exists, less setup required from WMF annual plan owner
  • Empowers the community with existing committee “teeth” to make recommendation to the board
  • WMF models good practices, goes through same setup as other large movement orgs
  • WMF has same reporting requirements as other orgs
  • In-line with movement values: transparency, participation, accountability, collaboration


  • Timing of annual plan: FDC recommends in mid-May, WMF fiscal year begins 1 July and org cannot legally operate without a budget
  • Supporting the committee to do a thorough review with expert input from non-WMF staff so that they can make an informed decision
  • Risk that FDC decides to not fund WMF’s budget (similar to what all other orgs face, but risk is at a larger scale)
  • Circular nature of Board/FDC with annual plan
  • WMF needs to ensure it can dedicate staff time (e.g. finance, fundraising) to go through the proposal and reporting processes
  • FDC may not have technical skill-set for reviewing large budget and software plans

2. WMF goes through an external reviewer with a community input period


  • Neutral party reviewing, less politics or bias
  • May be able to fill gaps in large/tech budget review (?)


  • Not clear who would have skills & expertise to take this on
    • Garfield notes, for example, that KPMG can’t do a useful one-off analysis of our budget
  • End-to-end process needs to be invented by WMF (with CFO req unfilled, this is a significant challenge)

Note: Might option 2 be better to consider in future years, if well-planned for and supported with staff?