Wikimedia Deutschland/2012 Programme Plan/WMF Feedback
Feedback by the WMF
Thank you for the work that you and your team did to prepare the program plan. It is an important step forward for the movement to have a shared view of the range of activities that chapters and WMF have on their agenda, as it provides a basis for better target setting, resource allocation and collaboration. We have now had an opportunity to discuss the plan internally.
This is the first time we are going through this process and there are learnings all around. On our end, we didn't anticipate the size of the fundraising plans and are now caught in a situation where we don't have a structured approach in place to make allocation decisions in a transparent fashion. We had hoped that most of the requests would be under the 150% level, however many are above this threshold. So, we are in a situation where we are going to have to improvise as best as we can. We know this is not a perfect situation and may not be smooth, but we would rather be open about the situation and deal with it than make decisions behind closed doors.
We are not comfortable with the fundraising target that Wikimedia Germany proposes and we would like you to adjust the program plan downwards to reflect the concerns that we have about the plan.
Our concerns are as follows:
1. Aggressive fundraising growth targets - The assumptions for the growth of fundraising are aggressive. By our estimation, you are predicting a 69% increase in fundraiser proceeds. While this is lower than last year's growth rate, it is ambitious to create a base plan with such a high growth rate, particularly given the much larger base off which you are growing from this year and the potential for the current economic uncertainty to impact fundraising in Europe (though, we don't know if it will actually have an effect). From the WMF perspective, we are not willing to set your fundraising target using such an aggressive assumption, as failure to meet this target would come out of WMF's share. If we are fortunate to have the fundraiser perform in such a strong way, we could adjust targets upwards retroactively.
2. Aggressive organizational growth - We are concerned that you are trying to grow your organization at too rapid a pace. It isn't clear what your 2011 spending has been, but it appears that you are planning a greater than 50% increase in spending and probably staff. This raises two questions: can you manage the growth? Is the growth warranted? We cannot answer these questions from San Francisco, but we are concerned that you are creating risks to your organization's ability to manage your activities soundly and sustainably. From a movement perspective, we must also question whether some of the growth in programs in Germany are the highest priority uses of the funds? As a movement, we will spend more on local programs in Germany than any other country by a wide margin. Is this really warranted? (Don't think we can answer these questions now, but it should be something that WMDE considers) There is no shame in creating a moderate plan for growth and saying no to programs that are nice to have, but strain the organization's capacity.
3. Consideration of WMF's share - We are concerned that your assessment that it preferable to invest more aggressively in domestic activities rather than invest in the global work of WMF. This may not have been the intent, but it is the result and is not acceptable. Chapter spending should not come at the expense of support for WMF's global technology and program investments which are guided by a movement-wide set of priorities and we cannot accept this. While chapter boards have responsibility for setting local plans and advancing their own local needs as an organization, the means of fundraising creates an interdependence between the chapter and WMF. In this year's fundraising agreement, we provided chapters with latitude to use their own judgment to set targets, however we assumed that chapter boards would make tough decisions on what is realistic, that they would consider in their decisions the impact of local decisions on the global movement including WMF and the effort required in the fundraiser. We also would expect that as chapters reach a sustainable size of operations (which WMDE has in our estimation), a greater share of funds raised would be allocated to WMF for global work.
In summary, this is the first time we have done this and there are bound to be bumps in the road...and important learning for the future. But, the plan as presented is overly optimistic - both on the potential for fundraising and on the spending plans - and allocates too great a share of funds to domestic spending vs. global. In good conscience, we couldn't support these plans as is. We request that you locally revise your plan in this light before we finalize on targets for the fundraiser. We should aim to get this finished by the end of October. This is the responsible thing to do. We look forward to receiving your revised plan and target.
Happy to discuss this in a phone call.
Feedback from WMDE
thank you for your feedback regarding our plan. Let me start my response with some more general remarks:
a) Throughout your comments, it appears to me as if you had some fairly specific expectations about the planning process: about the total amount of money you expect to receive from Wikimedia Deutschland, about how and where we could grow as an organization, about what would constitute a "fair share" of money that should be used in Germany, and so on. Am I right? Yet, from what I can recollect, I don't remember you ever mentioning before that these expectations exist or what they are. It would have been very helpful if you had shared them when we started engaging in our planning for 2012. I do remember having asked you a couple of times over the last months, but don't appear to ever have gotten a clear response.
b) It appears as if you view total fundraising revenue for the movement as a "fixed pie", and that money spent in Germany necessarily equals less programs outside of Germany. Yet you provide little substance for this view. As you (rightly!) have pointed out numerous times, Wikimedia doesn't primarily fundraise for maximum revenue--we fundraise as much as we need in any given year. That is why we never know beforehand how long the fundraiser will be. A couple of years ago it was full two months; now we aim for something like 45 days. If you are indeed concerned that the Foundation or some chapters may have to cut spending because fundraising is not as successful as expected, what is stopping us from instead extending the fundraising period or engaging in new, (for us) non-conventional fundraising methods? I have difficulty seeing how cutting good programs from chapters rather than reaching for more revenue is an approach that will advance our mission worldwide.
c) I must also say that, in all honesty, I am rather surprised about the general nature of your remarks. It particularly appears as if you have underestimated the amount of thought, deliberation, and professional expertise that has gone into making our plan. We had intensive, multi-day workshop sessions with staff and outside consultants. We have gone through a great number of revisions after consultation with my board, chapter members, and the German project communities. We event went as far as touring through Germany, presenting the draft in five citities and gathering as much feedback and input as possible. To make it short: a lot of work and consideration went into this plan. Considering this extensive effort, it seems odd that the Foundation would second-guess our revenue projections, our expectations regarding organizational capacity, or our ability to execute the plan in its entirety.
Having said that, I'd like to provide a short summary of the financial bottom line we set out in the plan. First, the revenue side: our fundraising target for November / December 2011 is to raise 3,800,000 €, compared to 2,300,000 € the year before (+65 %). After deducting the fundraising costs of 220,000 €, we plan to use 2,040,000 € for programs by Wikimedia Deutschland and to transfer 1,540,000 € to the Foundation, compared to 1,057,000 € last year (+45,7%). All non-restricted online donations that we will receive after the fundraiser will go to the Foundation as well, which we expect to come up to 400,000 €. So by the end of October 2012, the Foundation will have received up to 1,940,000 € out of Germany. If the fundraiser does better than 3,800,000 €, this number will naturally be even higher.
Now, regarding the spending side: in 2012, we plan to spend 2,440,000 € on all our activities except Wikidata, compared to 1,773,000 € in 2011 (+37,6%). On top of that, we will, at the suggestion of the Foundation, develop the new Wikidata project (more infos here: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/New_Wikidata), for which we will expect to receive restricted grants totaling 870,000 € for 2012.
With all of this in mind, I would now like to delve into three main concerns you state:
1. Aggressive Fundraising Target: You state that you find our fundraising target to be overly aggressive. Unfortunately, you provide no further reasoning why you feel that the target is indeed too aggressive. Would you mind elaborating on your point further? Specifically, based on what concrete data do you think that our fundraising target is too optimistic? From our perspective, the target is ambitious, but realistic. Wikimedia Deutschland has engaged in a number of activities this year to further increase our fundraising potential, among them researching donor motivations and applying the results in our appeals, improving and testing messaging and payment mechanics, hiring one of the best fundraising consultant firms, and strengthening the relationships with community members to create a more compelling story. Based on our findings, our historic experiences fundraising in Germany both in economically strong and weak periods, and our increased fundraising staff capacity this year, we are confident that this target can certainly be met, and will actually likely be exceeded.
If you are asking specifically why a 65% increase is realistic, I'm happy to name a number of arguments that support our expectation. First, we are much better in doing fundraising this year than the year before--we have better concepts, more people, better technical infrastructure, more preparation. Second, we will specifically target women as donors because our research shows that only 16,5% of our donors are female yet overall female donorship in Germany is actually higher than male donorship. And last but not least: we have only just begun to convert readers into donors. During the last fundraiser, approx. 77,000 people donated to Wikimedia - out of 23 million people in Germany that use Wikimedia content every month. That is, in all reality, not the greatest conversion rate; and there seems little reason to believe that we could not reach twice or more that much.
Yet it's only prudent to consider what happens if plans are not met. Wikimedia Deutschland has always been committed to support international Wikimedia activities. We have done so, historically, through transfers to the Wikimedia Foundation, to support the operation and development of the websites as well as for international projects to reach our common strategic goals. Wikimedia Deutschland has always and will continue to run its own international programs. We fund the Toolserver, we pay for the annual Wikimedia Conference, we contribute towards the Wikimania scholarships, etc. In the unlikely event that we miss our fundraising target, we are willing to keep the same commitment to our international programs as well as retain the ratio of total fundraising proceeds transferred to the Foundation.
2. Aggressive organizational growth: In your e-mail you expressed concern that our organization is growing too fast. Unfortunately, similar to the fundraising target, you do not provide any further reasoning for why you consider it "too fast" or what "not too fast" would look like. It is indeed true growing an organization according to a plan is no easy task, as Foundation has also demonstrated this past year as regards hiring and spending. I am fully confident, however, that Wikimedia Deutschland is indeed capable of growing as an organization as we have outlined in our plan. The source of my confidence here is similar to why I think our fundraising target is realistic: becase we have spent a lot of time, effort, and professional experties into putting together our plan.
You also raise the question whether the proposed growth is warranted in Germany. Personally, I think it is. It is, because, if we achieve everything we set out to achieve next year and execute all the programs we set out to execute, we will still have a tremendous amount of work left to do. We will still have only 13% female editors. We will still not reversed the decline in editor growth, although we might have stopped it by then. We will still not have educated students about media literacy in more than 46,000 schools throughout Germany. 400 out of 418 universities and colleges will still not work with their students on improving Wikimedia content as part of the Campus Ambassador Program. Only 1,500 Wikipedia editors will have benefited from our scholarships, participated in workshops financed by us, and so on. So no, we are nowhere near finished with our work in Germany.
3. WMF's share: As I pointed out, over the next twelve months, the Foundation will get up to 1,940,000 € from donations received in Germany. In addition, Wikimedia Deutschland will use between 200,000 and 250,000 € to support international programs, such as the Toolserver, Wikimania, Chapters Conference, exchange programs with other chapters / communities, and so on. Plus we will spend 870,000 € towards the development of Wikidata, which will benefit all Wikimedia projects worldwide. So in total, nearly 1,100,000 € will be spend on international projects by Wikimedia Deutschland and anothter 1,940,000 € will be provided to the Wikimedia movement by Germany. I cannot see how that would possibly be interpretated that we plan our programs "at the expense of the WMF".
You know me, and you know that I am happy to work with you on solving these problems in a constructive way. So what I think we need is a good and productive discussion over the coming months about the role of the Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland, about growth strategies and the distribution of funds nationally and internationally. Unfortunately this is a long-term discussion, not something to be decided short-term, and certainly not something to be cleared with only a few weeks before the fundraiser.
I have to hand in the final budget proposal for the chapter's General Assembly on Friday. Therefore, while I appreciate all your thoughtful feedback, we will stick with our plan as proposed online. Our 2012 plan is surely ambitious, but not overly so. It is unquestionably reasonable and definitely doable. And it clearly falls within the movement priorities stated in the Foundation's strategic plan. I hope that I was able to alleviate some of your concerns. I am looking forward to our continuous discussions on how to best serve the mission we have all subscribed to.