2011-12 Fundraising and Funds Dissemination process

On October 17, Wikimedia Foundation Vice-Chair Jan-Bart de Vreede published a page on meta kicking off a discussion about fundraising and funds dissemination in the Wikimedia movement. On that page, he links to draft guiding principles for fundraising, and draft guiding principles for funds dissemination. He also writes this:

"After November 15th the Board will take the input that has been gathered here and make a final set of guiding principles. At that point we will ask Sue to develop, with community and staff involvement, one or more recommended scenarios for future fundraising and funds distribution that fits with these guiding principles (I know that a lot of you have already aired different ideas for the future as well). We hope to be able to complete this process at the chapter meeting in the beginning of 2012. Depending on how Sue wants to structure this, it could be that there will be meetups before then. After the Board has made its decision comes the hard work: implementing the chosen route in the months before the 2012 fundraiser and making sure that we have a good system to distribute funding between all the players of the movement."

A few days before Jan-Bart made his page, I had started doing some initial thinking on this scratchpad page. Today, I'm going to start consolidating and organizing things a little better, so it's easier for people to get involved. This page is intended to always serve as an introduction to the issue, and as such it'll feature a Q and A section that lays out the basics. I will update this page every now and then – other people should feel free to edit it, as well. Thanks. Sue Gardner 02:00, 21 October 2011 (UTC)[reply]

What is the goal of this process?

The goal is to figure out a system for fund-raising and funds dissemination that will work for the Wikimedia movement. We want to be able to raise lots of money in a way that fits with our values and our ethics, and move it around the world to fund high-impact activities that support the mission. The purpose here is to design a system that will meet our needs.

What's the process for figuring this out?

The first step is for the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees to determine the guiding principles for fundraising and funds dissemination for the Wikimedia movement. Currently, they are asking people to help them do that by contributing to this page, and this page. On November 15, the Board will finalize the guiding principles.
After that, the Board has asked me to develop one or more scenarios for fund-raising and funds dissemination, that satisfy the guiding principles it laid out. I will do that here on meta, in an open process that invites participation from whoever is interested. Also, the French chapter has volunteered to host a meeting on this general topic, which will be scheduled for sometime in February – so that will be part of the process as well.
I do not know what my deadline is for getting a final recommendation to the Board of Trustees, but for the moment I am going to assume it will be March 9. That will give the Board time to discuss the recommendation before it needs to meet and vote on it at its meeting concurrent with the chapters meeting in Berlin.
Some key components/milestones/deadlines: (this is draft)
Date Event
now Everyone prepares and plans and thinks and gathers data. Guiding principles are discussed on Meta.
mid-November Sue travels to Europe for F2F meetings with some chapter Boards -- UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Austria. Schedule TBC.
November 15 Sue begins on-wiki consultation
early January Board votes on guiding principles
February 4-5 Board reviews on-wiki consultation at quarterly meeting
February 17-19 Meeting in Paris, hosted by the French chapter
March 9 Sue gives recommendation(s) to the Board, Board begins discussion
March 30 Board votes on and publishes related resolution at quarterly meeting
March 31 Wikimedia Foundation staff and chapters work through next steps re implentation

Who should participate?

Anybody reading this page is a stakeholder in the process. If you edit the projects, or support them in any way, you are a stakeholder, and you should have a voice: everybody's opinion is welcome here. Paid staff are welcome to express personal opinions here too, if they want.

Why are people being asked to sign up on the Participation page?

You definitely do not have to sign up to participate. I am, however, asking anybody who considers themselves to be a key stakeholder, to sign up. That's because I am guessing that at some point in the process I will want to get information from key stakeholders, particularly chapters, and I may want someone to carry a question back to their group and try to figure out a consensus answer. So the purpose of the sign-up page is so that key stakeholders, particularly chapters, can identify someone in advance to be their main point-of-contact, in the event I need one. That's to prevent delays and dropped balls. If I don't have a main point of contact, I might e-mail random people, and find out afterwards I'm using a bad address or they're on a wiki-break or have quit the chapter. Things will likely just be smoother if there's someone who's identified themselves in advance as willing and able to make some time for this process.

Why should I participate in this process?

Nobody is happy with the current state for fundraising and funds dissemination, and so decisions are going to need to be made about how to improve it. The Board has asked me to work with community members to develop a recommendation. It will be making a decision in March. So, if the outcome is important to you, you should participate in this process: this is your opportunity to influence what happens. You are probably a key stakeholder if you want to fundraise (for example as a chapter), or if you want to receive funds (as a chapter, an individual, or a non-chapter organization). If so, you might want to think about your own BATNA -- "best alternative to a negotiated agreement." Basically, that means, you should consider what your alternatives are, in the absence of an agreement you can support. If your alternatives seem pretty good, maybe it makes sense not to invest too much in this process. But if you don't like your alternatives, that's an incentive for you to engage in trying to come up with a solution that's better.

Is this a consensus process?

No. The Board has asked me to consult with community members, but I will be the person responsible for creating the actual recommendation(s). I will try to achieve consensus, and I would LOVE to achieve it. But I can't in good conscience recommend to the Board something that I don't think is right for the Wikimedia movement, and I can't recommend anything that I think just plain won't work. I also will need to recommend something in the timeframe laid out by the Board, and it may not be possible to achieve consensus in the time we've got. This suggests that anyone interested should engage over the next four months, because if you don't, the decisions will need to be made without your input.

What happens if I don't like the outcome?

There are a couple of things you can do. You could submit an alternative proposal to the Board, and ask it to accept yours instead of mine. You could lobby it to reject my proposal without giving an alternative -- if you were successful in doing that, then presumably we would end up maintaining the status quo. Or you could just go to your BATNA, whatever it is.

How does fundraising and funds dissemination work today?

Somebody should feel free to refine this statement if I've got it a bit wrong: this is very high level, I'm going from memory, and it is probably a WMF-centric view. But super-fast:
Currently, the movement is bringing in 25+ million dollars annually. About 80% is raised via the annual fundraising campaign, in which banners at the top of pages encourage readers to make small donations (averaging about $25 each). Most of the donations to the annual campaign come from people in the United States, with significant amounts also coming in from Germany, the UK, Canada, France, Japan and Italy. Significant other revenue sources (500K+) include large foundation grants to the Wikimedia Foundation from grant-making institutions such as the Sloan Foundation and the Stanton Foundation, earned income to the Wikimedia Foundation resulting from trademark deals, and the occasional large individual donation to the Wikimedia Foundation. There are also many smaller revenue sources -- for example, Wikimedia Germany has received at least one government grant, Wikimedia Indonesia recently received a grant, Wikimedia France runs a merchandise shop, and the Wikimedia Foundation occasionally receives small grants from grant-making institutions. My knowledge is limited here: I don't know a lot about chapters' revenue streams.
Currently many people participate in the annual fundraising campaign by helping to write messaging, doing translation work and other localization activities, helping with testing, and so forth. Also, in 2010, 12 chapters acted as payment processors, which meant that donations originating inside their geographies went directly into chapters' bank accounts, and were afterwards shared with the Wikimedia Foundation according to a pre-negotiated 50-50 revenue split. Chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation also fundraise outside the annual campaign as described above: those revenues are kept by the organization that received them.
Currently, the Wikimedia Foundation operates a grant-making program that in 2010-11 gave out 879K in various grants (including 100K in Wikimania scholarships); some chapters also gave out grant funding. In June 2011 the Wikimedia Foundation created the Grants Advisory Committee, made up of volunteers from 15+ countries, charged with helping the Wikimedia Foundation solicit grant applications and give out funds.
At its meeting in Haifa, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees raised significant concerns about our current fundraising practices. Quoting: "Some chapters have received large sums of money early in their organizational lives, before they have built the capacity and financial controls to safeguard and best use those resources in pursuit of the mission. Some chapters have received many times their planned budget in a single fundraiser. Additionally, in some countries, transferring funds internationally has been limited by regulatory constraints. There are also currently no movement-wide controls applied consistently to all entities that receive donor funds. Some chapters, despite being well-funded, have not reported in a timely way on their activities, their financial status, and their use of donor funds, or have had difficulties following the regulatory requirements of their countries. This fundraising model has also contributed to significant resource disparity among chapters. Some of the largest fundraising chapters have revenue far greater than their stated need and capacity to spend, while other chapters receive revenue only from Foundation grants or have almost no revenue at all. The model also suggests that chapters are entitled to funds proportional to the wealth of their regions, which amplifies the gap between the Global North and South."
That is why today, we are embarked on this project to figure out how best to handle fundraising and funds dissemination, in response to the concerns raised by the Board.

Are we making decisions for 2012, or for forever?

I think we will always be fine-tuning how we handle fundraising and funds-dissemination: lots of non-profits have ongoing conversations about these issues, especially how to revenue-share well. And, we can always change our minds, and revisit whatever decisions we've made later on. But, the goal here is to set a direction for the future, that we'll adhere to until we change our minds. I am assuming that in March, we will make the big decisions, and then we will spend a year or two building systems and processes that will enable us to live up to what we've decided.

Throughout this process, does Sue represent the interests of the Wikimedia Foundation, or the interests of the Wikimedia movement?

I am aiming to think about what's best for the Wikimedia movement rather than what's best solely for the organization I'm responsible for, and I hope that other parties will try to do the same. I do have a fiduciary responsibility here, and so I cannot and would not make recommendations that would put at serious risk the Wikimedia Foundation's ability to do its job. But, I believe that the interests of the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia movement are very much in alignment. I am definitely willing to make compromises in support of what's best for the movement, where and if the interests of the Wikimedia Foundation and the movement overall diverge.

If you want to add a question, you can do it here.

And answers too.