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Wikimedia Foundation Report, February 2008

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ED Report to the Board: February 1 - 29, 2008

  • Weeks of: February 1– February 29, 2008
  • Prepared by: Sue Gardner
  • Prepared for: Wikimedia Board of Trustees

My Current Priorities


1. Development of fundraising strategy emphasizing major donors and foundations
2. Continuation of major donor cultivation initiatives already underway
3. Goal setting for final two quarters of FY 07-08
4. Investigation of grant-giving and funding opportunities from philanthropic foundations
5. Establishment of new SF headquarters, including ongoing orientation of new staff

Recent Weeks


St. Petersberg Closes


On January 31, the Wikimedia Foundation's office in St. Petersburg was closed. Oleta McHenry continues as our accountant there until March 31, and Rob Halsell continues as server tech out of Tampa. We're enormously grateful to Barbara Brown (office manager), Sandy Ordonez (head of communications) and Vishal Patel (business development), who have now wrapped up their paid employment with the Foundation.

New CFOO Starts


On February 4, Véronique Kessler started as Wikimedia's new CFOO. Véronique is a CPA who comes to us with more than 15 years of managerial/financial experience with a wide variety of organizations, including the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, Stanford University, brokerage firm Charles Schwab, the venture capital and investment firm Berkeley International Capital Corporation, the Walden International Investment Group, The Fremont Group, Wells Fargo bank, and Deloitte & Touche.

New Staff are Oriented


On February 11 and 12, a staff retreat was held in the new San Francisco office. Its purpose was to provide the new staff with a basic orientation to the Wikimedia Foundation, and to introduce them to each other and start building the team. The agenda included a walkthrough of the Wikimedia Foundation's vision, mission, values and goals, an MBTI exercise, collaborative development of an organizational timeline, a review of the org chart and discussions about roles and responsibilities, and a “big picture” presentation from me laying out a mini-SWOT plus organizational goals. Pat Hughes developed the agenda and facilitated the retreat: in attendance were Véronique Kessler, Jay Walsh, Cheryl Owens, Erica Ortega, Mike Godwin, Cary Bass, Erik Möller and me.

Establishment of the San Francisco office continues. A new healthcare insurance provider is in the works, replacing the one we used in St. Pete. We have business cards. The conference rooms are fully set up, and we have whiteboards, a lounge, working phones, a small kitchen, and a not-yet-working refrigerator :-) The Wiki Wall competition has concluded, with nine photos of Wikimedians now prominently on display. We've established the Wikimedia corkboard featuring dozens of photos from Wikimedia events around the world, and have set up monitors featuring information displays for visitors (e.g., real-time recent changes from IRC, the László Kozma near-real-time-changes map, etc.). Our library's growing and O'Reilly has sent us more copies of “Wikipedia: The Missing Manuals” to give to visitors :-)

Goals-Setting Begins


During the last two weeks of February, we began developing staff goals covering the latter half of this fiscal year: January 1 to June 30. Because this is our first-ever attempt to create goals and track progress, it will doubtless be a clunky and imperfect process: we'll refine it as we go, and do better next time. We're doing this because publicly/visibly setting goals is a way to have a conversation about where we're headed as an organization and what's important to us. Usually, 80% of goal-setting will be obvious and straightforward documentation of what we already know, and 20% will be more serious, substantive conversation about where we're headed.

These are our overall goals so far: they're a work-in-progress :-)

  • Achieve organizational maturity
  • Achieve financial sustainability
  • Increase quality and perception of quality
  • Increase distribution beyond the wikis (e.g., DVDs, USB sticks, books, etc,)
  • Encourage and broaden participation (e.g., Wikipedia Academy)

Fundraising Initiatives Underway


We have just engaged a Bay Area firm to help us develop a fundraising strategy. That will take place over the next few weeks, and I expect will result in us allocating the majority of our energy to major donor identification and cultivation, with a lesser emphasis on foundations and “minor donor” efforts. Obviously there's quite a bit of major donor work already underway, and it won't be held up by this process. We've also brought in a contractor to help with the donor cultivation process over the coming months.

On March 4, the Foundation staged its first ever social event in the new San Francisco office – a two-hour networking party intended to cultivate potential supporters. Jimmy and I gave short speeches, and the rest of the evening was spent in informal small group conversations. Upshot: The event was well-executed (thanks Jay!), and we learned a lot, including fine-tuning some of our ideas about major donor cultivation. We got a few immediate small offers to help, and we hope we've stimulated conversations that will lead to more support down the road. We will be staging more of these in future, probably 4-6 annually.



In the absence of a head of partnerships, we've focused our energy on a small number of potential large scale institutional partnerships; these initiatives are ongoing, and will likely not produce results for several months.

New Staff Recruited


During the last week of February, we've been interviewing candidates for an open software developer / IT support position. The successful candidate will be announced within a few weeks. We have also been interviewing accountants, and that person will be announced soon also.



(At this time, the monthly report only covers work done by paid staff, and a lot of technology work is done by volunteers. A good way to track key technical changes is to read the Wikipedia Signpost's weekly “B.R.I.O.N.” report: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost.)

The FlaggedRevs extension, chiefly developed by Aaron Schulz who was contracted by the Foundation last year, has been approved for initial test deployment on two experimental wikis; these are expected to go live shortly. Erik, Philipp Birken and Luca de Alfaro met to discuss the future of the extension and other quality initatives.

A security vulnerability in Squid was fixed. A feature to hide maintenance categories was implemented. Red links are now annotated as “not yet written.” Various bugs and inconsistencies fixed.

We've begun inventorizing all equipment in the SF office.

Other News

  • The audited 2006-07 financial statements have been publicly released.
  • The credit card usage policy was approved by the board.
  • The 2007-08 financial statements were released to the board and

published on the Foundation website.

  • Mike has revised some important legal agreements.

In Coming Weeks

  • We continue to explore consortium options in Amsterdam. Mark and Erik meet with Kennisnet March 11 and 13.
  • Erik and Mike continue work on the license migration issue with Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation.
  • Véronique will develop a payout process for the Greenspun illustration project.
  • Brion will test the wiki-to-print technology developed for us by PediaPress.
  • Erik will begin coordinating strategy development around domain name management.
  • The board will have its first meeting in San Francisco in early April.
  • The board has asked me to take up the treasurer search. I have asked Erik to coordinate the search process.
  • The board has asked me to review the Wikimania security issues. I've asked Mike to commission a routine conference site assessment from a professional firm, with a special focus on issues facing LGBT participants, and within the context of us being an organization that's highly-visible and not uncontroversial (e.g., Muhammad pictures, etc.). We'll ask for an overall threat assessment, as well as a set of recommendations on how to best reduce risk. I'll report progress to the board in April.
  • The board has asked for a proposed data retention policy. Mike is working on this with Brion and Tim Pozar, a computer scientist and privacy expert. It will be delivered to the board at their April meeting.
  • We are planning a party welcoming ourselves to San Francisco; targeted for April.
  • Fundraising strategy will be finalized by end of March; meanwhile, major donor cultivation efforts continue, and we begin to explore opportunities with foundations.