Grants:IdeaLab/Reimagining WMF grants/FAQ

Reimagining WMF grants


Below are frequently asked questions about this consultation and the Reimagining WMF grants Idea. If you have a question that isn't answered here, feel free to ask over at the Idea talk page.

General edit

Why are we reimagining grants? edit

The current structure for Wikimedia Foundation grants has some problems we need to solve. You can read the consultation page to learn more about what we are doing to fix this.

What is wrong with the current structure? What problem are we solving? edit

In the Wikimedia movement, it is difficult for people with ideas to know where to get support from the Wikimedia Foundation. Processes are too complicated and committees are overwhelmed with too many types of grants. You can read about the problems and solutions we’ve been thinking about in the idea.

You’re always making changes to the grants programs. Why are we changing them again now? edit

Wikimedia Foundation grants have their current structure because we needed to experiment with different types of support. We made new grant types or options to respond to different needs. This worked while we were still experimenting to learn how to support many different needs. Now we know enough about what works and what doesn’t to make a better structure. We think the easiest way for applicants to apply for grants is to figure out what grant to apply for based on the work they are doing (e.g. they are doing a project, organizing an event, or making an annual plan) rather than by looking at a complex set of choices and checklists.

You're also running another survey! Why are you doing this? edit

We know the Wikimedia Foundation has been asking people in the community to participate in multiple surveys and consultations, and that the results of these have not always been clear or immediately available. We also know that getting feedback from people in the community is important before making a big change. We are running a survey alongside this on-wiki consultation because we know that not everyone will want to participate in a public discussion, and we want to capture private feedback as well. The survey will also give us useful data to inform where we should spend most of our time making improvements. That’s why the survey questions are focused on getting feedback about the idea, and on finding out what parts of the process are most difficult and most important to the people who engage with our grants.

We have tried to limit the number of questions in this survey, and to send the survey to people we think will have the most relevant responses (those already participating in the Grants namespace on Meta-Wiki). We commit to making the results of the survey available to the community within a month of when the consultation closes, and to sharing next steps based on those results (see When will the results be available to the community? below).

What is the current structure like, so I have something to compare this idea to? edit

Wikimedia Foundation currently has four grant types: Project and Event Grants, Individual Engagement Grants, Annual Plan Grants, and Travel and Participation Support grants (which now include Wikimania scholarships). These grant types are sometimes organized by kind of activity (e.g. annual plan, travel) and others are organized by who the grantee is (e.g. individual, affiliate), the type of resource offered (e.g. money, other support), and whether projects have an offline or online focus (e.g. Individual Engagement Grant that pays for someone’s time to build a tool, Project and Event Grant for a series of editing workshops). Grantees have to consider a complicated set of criteria before knowing how to apply. We want to make it easier.

Whose idea is this? edit

Siko Bouterse, Director of Community Resources, has posted the idea on behalf of the Community Resources Team. That team is responsible for making Wikimedia Foundation grants. The Community Resources team has developed this idea together, considering input from stakeholders (e.g. grantees, committee members, Wikimedia Foundation staff).

May I give feedback in my own language, or do I need to give feedback in English? edit

Feedback is welcome in any language.

Results edit

When will the results be available to the community? edit

We will report the results of this consultation on 21 September, and they will be available here. These results will include summaries of the input we receive through the survey, talk page discussions, and focus groups, and our conclusions and next steps for the rest of the year as we begin to take action.

What will you do with the results? edit

Your feedback from this consultation will be used to guide Wikimedia Foundation’s decisions about reimagining Wikimedia Foundation grants, and the results will be available to everyone in a public report.

We want to know more about how these changes will affect grantees, committees, and applicants before we make them. If we learn about a new great idea during the consultation, or if there are serious problems with the idea we’ve created, we may change our plans. Final decisions will rest with Wikimedia Foundation. Once we have reviewed the consultation results and made updates to the idea, we will begin making gradual changes to the grants programs. (See When will these changes be implemented? above for more information).

When will these changes be implemented? edit

We are planning to pilot the new "simpler process" type of Annual Plan Grants in November 2015, as this is an immediate need. This will involve making the Simpler Process option for Annual Plan Grants available to some organizations, pending the results of this consultation. Our current systems will continue to run without disruption for current grantees. We would then phase in changes to other grant types over the next one to two years. No changes will be made to grant rounds currently in progress, including the current round of 2015-2016 full process APG proposals. After we learn from the results of this consultation, we will share more detailed milestones for future changes.

Funding edit

Besides funding options, how does this idea consider other types of support? edit

This idea is focused on organizing options for funding, but other types of support are a part of each funding option. For example, Event Grants include logistical support (such as arranging travel or helping to organize events) and the options within each grant type will help Wikimedia Foundation provide more targeted support to grantees doing certain kinds of work. We also have specific questions in the survey and Idea discussion page to learn more about what types of support are working well or are most important.

What are the maximum amounts (funding limits) you're considering making available for each grant type? edit

The Simpler Process option for Annual Plan Grants has a funding limit of US$100,000. (see Why is the funding limit for the Simpler Process option for Annual Plan Grants set at US$100,000?) We are considering a funding limit for the Full Process option for Annual Plan Grants, but we have not yet set a dollar amount since we feel more discussion is needed. Your input would be welcome there! Project Grants have a funding limit of US$30,000 for Seed Funds and a funding limit of US$100,000 for Growth Funds. The Micro Funds option for Event Grants has a funding limit of US$500, so we can keep the process super simple. The Conference Support option and Travel Support option for Event Grants do not have funding limits, although we will make guidelines to help grantees know what amounts they should consider applying for.

Why are funding limits needed at all? edit

Funding limits set clear expectations for grantees about what amount of funding they can expect to get with each grant type. We think a process with funding limits is more fair for everyone, since it should help make decision making more consistent across all grant types, and makes sure funds are still available to newer grantees as they join the process. Funding limits also help us better define the legal and regulatory requirements for making each type of grant, so we can make sure our requirements for each program are as simple as possible, and matched to the right level of risk.

How did you set the funding limits for each program? edit

We’ve tried to set the funding limits at the higher end of what we think is needed, based on our analysis of budgets for past grants of different types, including Projects, Events, and Annual Plans. We’ve also considered the largest amounts we’ve seen in each program that lead to corresponding impact, and tried to keep the funding limits at those amounts.

Why is the funding limit for the Simpler Process option for Annual Plan Grants set at US$100,000? edit

We took a look at the amounts organizations received for annual plans through the Project and Event Grants program over the past year. The average spending of these organizations is US$14,500 for project costs, US$3,500 for operating expenses, and US$6,000 for part-time staff costs. Based on looking at both the highest and lowest requests, we see that US$30,000 for project expenses and US$5,000 for operating expenses would be more than enough for most organizations. Considering that some organizations may request office expenses, we added an additional US$5,000 to cover an inexpensive or shared office space. Most organizations getting Annual Plan Grants through Project and Event Grants don’t spend anywhere near US$60,000 on staff expenses (the maximum approved in 2014-15 for this type of grant was US$25,000 for six months), but we have also budgeted up to US$60,000 for staff expenses since this is enough to cover a full-time staff person, which these grants would now allow. We do recognize that a few organizations working in particularly costly countries may need to seek additional funding (outside of Wikimedia Foundation grants). (see Why are funding limits needed at all?)

We like the idea of simpler Annual Plan Grants. Why can’t all Annual Plan Grants have a simpler process? edit

We are simplifying the processes for all grant types through this idea, but each process matches the amount of funding and level of risk. The largest general support grants that the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) reviews are the most costly and highest risk, and so we need to make sure these grants go through rigorous review and that the organizations receiving these grants are able to manage general support funding.

We do, however, hope to learn from the Simpler Process Annual Plan Grants pilot if there are any further simplifications that can be applied to all Annual Plan Grants, including the FDC's review process. (See What are restricted grants, and what is general support?)

Staff edit

Why is there a limit on the number of staff funded by Simpler Process option for Annual Plan Grants? edit

In order to simplify the process for some Annual Plan Grants and support grantees to succeed, we need to put some limits in place. This includes a funding limit of US$100,000 and a limit on full time staff of 1.0 full time equivalents (FTE). Expanding staff beyond 1.0 FTE means that an organization has the capacity to take on more responsibility, and it increases the level of risk associated with the grant, so organizations requesting more than 1.0 FTE will need to meet more rigorous requirements and responsibilities of Annual Plan Grants using the Full Process option. Note that organizations using the Simpler Process option can also use outside funding sources to fund more staff. (see What does 1.0 full time equivalents (FTE) mean?)

What does 1.0 full time equivalents (FTE) mean? edit

FTE stands for full time equivalent. Staff are both permanent staff and long term contractors (contractors working for more than six months). A total of 1.0 FTE means that you have up to as many staff hours as one person working 100% of a normal work week (e.g. 40 hours in the US and less in some other countries). You can use part time staff to make 1.0 FTE. For example, one person working 50% time and two people working at 25% would add up to 1.0 FTE.

Grant-specific questions edit

What are restricted grants, and what is general support? edit

General support is a type of funding that organizations can use to pay for any organizational expense. Within the limits set by the grant agreement, organizations can decide how to spend grant funds. While these grants are more flexible, they also put more of a burden on the organization to do a good job of managing the funding and demonstrating impact.

Restricted grants, on the other hand, include a budget that is set when the grant is approved, and any big changes to the plan need to be approved by Wikimedia Foundation. These type of grants are lower risk, so the process for getting them can be simpler. Organizations getting this type of grant also get more guidance and support to make their plans, putting less of a burden on the organization during the application process and during the grant.

Why are we suggesting that Annual Plan grantees focus on two programs? edit

We want to see organizations focusing in the areas where they are achieving the most impact, rather than stretching their efforts across many programs. We also think this more focused approach will simplify the application and reporting processes for the largest grants. (see If Annual Plan Grants are focusing on only two programs, what will happen to small community projects and experiments supported by these organizations?)

If Annual Plan Grants are focusing on only two programs, what will happen to small community projects and experiments supported by these organizations? edit

We encourage organizations to continue to experiment with new ideas and support small projects within their communities, where this work is leading to impact. Small projects and activities don’t add up to a program with shared objectives and a shared theory of change, and so we expect less focus on these activities in the proposal forms and reports.

Are non-Wikimedia organizations able to apply for Annual Plan Grants? Can user groups apply for them? How does affiliate status affect ability to apply for different types of grants? edit

Non-Wikimedia organizations and all types of Wikimedia affiliates are able to apply for any Wikimedia Foundation grant. Ability to apply (eligibility) for Wikimedia Foundation grants will not be tied to any affiliation model. Any affiliate organization with an affiliate agreement with Wikimedia Foundation will need to be in compliance with that agreement in order to be able to apply for any grant, however.

Do I have to have a formal organization to apply for an Annual Plan Grant? edit

Annual Plan Grants using the Full Process option have certain legal requirements around charitable status in the grantee’s local country that require an organization to be legally incorporated, but Annual Plan Grants using the Simpler Process option do not have these requirements. Informal organizations may still apply for Annual Plan Grants with the Simpler Process option. Through this pilot, we hope to learn more about how we can better support the work of informal organizations through grants.

How are is the Simpler Process option for Annual Plan Grants simpler than Full Process option for Annual Plan Grants? Who will review them? edit

The Simpler Process option for Annual Plan Grants will have a faster, easier application process and will have lighter reporting requirements. These grants will not be reviewed by the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC), but by another committee as part of a less formal process.

Are Annual Plan grantees eligible to apply for additional grants? edit

Annual Plan grantees using the Simpler Process option can apply for additional funding, although they will need to have a good reason (e.g. a sudden opportunity they could not have predicted, a need to respond to an urgent crisis). Annual Plan grantees must still remain under the US$100,000 funding limit for their annual plans and any additional funding, whether this funding is granted through their Annual Plan Grant or as part of an additional Project Grant.

Annual Plan grantees using the Simpler Process or Full Process options can apply for Event Grants (using the Conference Support option), and may apply for Project Grants only at Wikimedia Foundation’s invitation (e.g. to support large scale technical projects). For Simpler Process Annual Plan grantees, conference support would not count toward the US$100,000 funding limit.

Annual Plan grantees cannot apply for Microfunds during their Annual Plan Grants, but they can encourage community members to apply.

What is the difference between Seed Funds and Growth Funds, besides the cap? edit

Seed Funds are for experimenting with new ideas or new implementations (versions of a program that are being done by a new leader or in a new way for the first time). Growth Funds are for growing or maintaining ideas that already have impact, or for making those ideas work as the number of people benefiting from or using the idea gets larger.

In Event Grants, do the Micro Funds and Conference Support options include participant travel? edit

The Micro Funds option supports local events and small 1-time costs. These funds may be used for local travel as long as they are within the approved budget. The Conference Support option may include funding for attendee travel arranged by the Wikimedia Foundation, the event organizers, or by an outside contractor.

Besides funding, what types of support might the Conference Support option get from Wikimedia Foundation? edit

Wikimedia Foundation may also provide some event organizers with logistical support for some movement events, and help arrange travel for people participating in the event.

What will reporting requirements be for each option? edit

We are waiting to get more feedback on the idea before making specific recommendations about reporting for each option, and some options may have a flexible range of reporting requirements. Our approach is to simplify reporting across the board, and make sure the amount of effort that goes into reporting matches the amount and level of risk for each grant type and grant.

What if my project includes events (e.g. a series of edit-a-thons, an awards ceremony as part of a contest)? How do I get funding? edit

A project is made up of planned activities that are intended to achieve a common goal. Some projects may include events as part of these planned activities. Some examples are: running a a contest with an awards ceremony at the end of the contest, hosting a series of edit-a-thons or outreach events around a common goal or theme, hosting a higher cost event (over US$500) with clear goals. For these types of activities, you can ask for funding through the Project Grant type.

If your project or event is up to US$500, you can ask for funding through the easier Microfunds option, which is part of the Event Grants type. You can apply for more than one grant using the Microfunds option if you are doing multiple unrelated events that don't make up a project.

If you are part of an organization and you already have an annual plan, you should include your project or event as part of an annual plan.

Microfunds are for events and small community projects. Why are they included as part of the event grant type? edit

Based on our experience with grants so far, we think most requests through the Microfunds option will be for events, but we want to make sure that small community projects also have a way to get funding. We see no reason to have two separate processes for microfunds for events and microfunds for small community projects. We think this would be unnecessarily complicated.

Since we think Microfunds will mostly focus on events, since other options in the Event Grant type include rolling applications, and since Travel Support and Microfunds are the two types of small grants and will have a lot in common, we think it makes sense to include Microfunds here. When we set up a way for people to apply, we can make the same Microfunds option available to people doing projects and to people doing events.