Talk:Funds Dissemination Committee/Funds application form

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Hi Sue, we have made a number of changes to the FDC application form. We have incorporated the changes that you made to the summary. Please let us know if you have any comments/questions on the changes made! Divya (talk) 17:45, 14 June 2012 (UTC)

It says at one point: "Provide a detailed budget or outline costs in the format below." Then the example provided in the tiny cell in the table is just "Wiki Loves Monuments". Won't anything more detailed than the title of the activity be required? I'd have thought at least an estimate would be required, broken into such categories as travel (X return airfares from A to B @ $X each; X hotel nights and per diem capped at X$ per day; etc ...). Tony (talk) 03:07, 17 June 2012 (UTC)

QueriesEdit

Precise deadlines. Sorry to be a bore, but from past experience it pays to be precise about deadlines. 1 March and 1 October ... does that mean by the end of those days, and does it mean UTC? I suggest the standard 23:59 UTC 1 March, and 23:59 UTC 1 October", if that is what is intended. People will misunderstand, I assure you, unless it's crystal clear. Tony (talk) 02:34, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

Rounds 1 and 2. OK, so because most financial years start between March and October, October is 1 and March is 2, which is not intuitive for a lot of people; so the first round the FDC will consider is Round 2. Is there any disadvantage to reversing it (the March round is 1, the October is 2)? I foresee fewer mistakes and greater intuitiveness that way. Tony (talk) 02:41, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

Use of tables is clunky and will result in the provision of scant information. The cells are pretty narrow and the example texts are breathtakingly short and skyscraper-vertical (unless you use a wide window on a wide screen, which many applicants from both South and North may not be able to, or wish to do). I was expecting applicants to be encouraged to provide greater detail than a single, vague, short bullet such as "Fits with the global strategy of increasing editor retention". Errr ... how? That was easy, done and dusted, all smiles, give us the money. Heck, anyone could shove that in for just about any FDC application: it gives the judges little to go by in determining whether the applicant has actually read the foundation's strategic objectives, let alone in assessing the extent to which an application is consistent with them. I'd have thought a paragraph in plain text was more appropriate. Are there key tenets of the foundation's strategy, some of which you might decide are pretty important and relevant to all applications, and some of which you might decide are optional. There's no link to the appropriate strategy pages on the application form. The system needs more and clearer instructions. Examples like that will encourage quick and dirty applications (and generic ones) and will make the judgement process difficult.

I thought the whole idea of launching the FDC was to encourage entities to shape their activities around the strategy? If so, why not make it easier (actually, possible) to judge each application in relation to it?

The same goes for the other columns; for example, "We have executed this event for two years now. We have the requisite staff and knowledge to execute effectively." Right, perhaps it was very ordinary for two years, and there were significant feasibility issues. But that's not obvious from the response, and why should the FDC/staff have to probe further ... causing more expense and not sending the right signals to entities. Requisite staff? Convince me some care will be given to choosing them: are they already in place, willing and able? Or perhaps people with X, Y and Z skills and experience will be recruited. But you have to tell people this kind of thing is required in the form.

Is this application form going to be used for major applications for six-figure sums as well as minor ones? If so, I'm expecting much more stratification of the responses. No one wants to hand out $300,000, or even a tenth of that, without knowing more detail. If the information is to be provided elsewhere, why have this table at all?

Invitations to repetition. Most applicants will wonder what the difference is between "Strategic objectives" and "Fit to strategy"; the examples show that the FDC doesn't know what the difference is either, with examples provided, "Increase editor retention" in one column, and "Fits with the global strategy of increasing editor retention" in the other. This is not helpful—it's counterproductive. Will applicants understand what "significance" means in this context? (I presume it means, why the project matters ... but in relation to what: the foundation's strategy or more widely, in the real world? This needs to be spelled out.)

One of the challenges in the design of most application forms for the funding of anything is to avoid repetition and to communicate to applicants what the categories really mean (the FDC needs the right information to judge them against each other, and to hold them to the task when they later report). The category fog makes lots of hard, fruitless work for applicants and judges, in fathoming how to write and judge a good application.

Viral convergence. This is well-established in grant application programs as competition intensifies and the net makes text-sharing universal. Since applications will be posted on-wiki, what will emerge is viral replication: applicants will peruse previous applications and copy/paste phrases, even whole paragraphs; these will become generic to a certain extent, and will make the judges' task of distinguishing good applications much harder. The partial solution is to explicitly require that responses be specific to the proposed activities. Again, these tables serve that purpose poorly. Tony (talk) 02:54, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

Thank you for these thoughtful comments. The most important one, I think, is that different levels of detail are necessary for different sized grants. If an entity is requesting $5000 for an event, then I would be quite happy with them giving the kind of detail given in the examples here. If they are requesting $50,000 for an event, I would want a hell of a lot more detail. I don't think we need a detailed breakdown of budgets (the FDC should trust the local governance processes to some degree), but a rough breakdown of particularly large budget items would be good, as wouldn't detailed explanations of the objectives of the event and how it is going to be achieved (as measured, although that is already in the table). --Tango (talk) 14:39, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
Agree that the table format isn't perfect. We'll be working on creating forms that can be more easily completed. We'll be working on this in the coming weeks, with the goal of having them done by the end of July. As part of that, we'll be asking for input from entities that are likely to apply for funds to test useability. LauraL TBG (talk) 16:28, 25 June 2012 (UTC)
One query from me. The template asks for the request as a percentage of the last grant received. Can we have some clarification about what that means? If the entity has previously received a grant from the FDC, then it's obvious, but a lot of entities will not have done (all of them in the first round!). --Tango (talk) 14:39, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
I'd noticed this too, and worried that 110% often means 2.1 times the previous (I added square-bracketed examples); and perhaps the solution to your observation about those that have no previous grants is to alter the wording to embrace that possibility.

On the more substantive issue, the need for much more detail in larger applications, the standard way out of this is for the grant body to have two forms: one, say, for less than US$10K, and one for $10K+ that dispenses with some of the tabular format and requires more details. My view is that the tiny examples are not worth the pixels for any size of grant.

I'm still confused about the type of grants the FDC will allocate to: I thought the advisory committee decided just two weeks ago that themed projects would not be funded by the FDC, which will be scoped around operating expenses for entities. Why ask whole-chapter-audit-type questions for a request for a $5K event? The funding of specific events seems to be in the ambit of the GAC. This goes back to my original query, that the form is wedged awkwardly between two functions. This needs to be resolved well ahead of Wikimania. Tony (talk) 03:16, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for your thoughts here - I saw your earlier points about the process being awkward - somewhere between an application for operating support and for project support. The reason why the application is sort of a blend is that we don't want to require eligible entities to fill out two different applications and go through two different process - one to get general support from the FDC and one to get project support from the GAC. We expect that entities that go through the FDC will have discrete projects that they are seeking funding for, in addition to their ongoing activities, which is why we have provided space for details on these separately. LauraL TBG (talk) 16:37, 25 June 2012 (UTC)
I understand. Tony (talk) 09:00, 26 June 2012 (UTC)

Structure of an Eligible EntityEdit

Structure of an Eligible Entity is a vital information and it should accompany the Funds Request Form. It is important for the FDC to know about an entity which has applied for fund and current structure of an EE can play a vital role in decision making. A detailed structure would come very handy. It may contain structure and composition of executive board, organogram (can be presented in a chart), volunteer/member base and any other body/group associated with the EE. Since EEs are expected to grow/change over time, a revised structure of the entity should be submitted with each fund request. Would love to hear what others think about this. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 18:29, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

Why is that relevant? The FDC allocates funds to the entity as a whole, not to individual parts of it. How they handle internal governance is an internal matter (other than basic due diligence that there is suitable internal governance to handle the amount of money requested, but I don't think an organogram or anything similar is necessary for that). --Tango (talk) 19:15, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
It is indeed very relevant and important. Grant making decision is not entirely objective; there are, if not more, as many subjective aspects as the objective ones. My few years of experience in loan appraisal say - it always aids your decision when you have an idea how the entity applying for fund looks like and how it functions. So, I feel there is no better way to know that easily and quickly. Although grant making is different from giving loans, both deals with money & are directed towards achieving something. Again, entities are expected to grow over time, so you would be able to grasp the growth of the entity better as time progresses (it will also add to the experience of the FDC members and enable them to monitor the growth of an entity over time). It will also increase transparency; knowing the structure would help the FDC members and other observers understand how capable an entity is in effectively and efficiently spending the money since this capability depends lot on the structure of an organization (but that doesn't mean that FDC members will have to intervene in this matter & would ask the EEs to change their organization structure). Moreover, it is not very complicated task to present a structure/organogram and an entity would just need to update that after one year. Presenting structure/orgaogram of an entity is not an alien thing, it has a wide range of use. So, I don't find any harm of adding it with the Funds request form. We will find more utility of it after the FDC becomes operational, believe me. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 17:01, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
The structures of entities can be very difficult to explain and understand. A diagram can often be misleadingly simple. Take WMDE, for example. Their board is made up of one person, who is the Executive Director. Normally, if I saw an organisation like that I would be very distrusting of it, but it turns out that's actually perfectly normal for a German organisation and they have another board that is more like the boards I'm used to. Because I'm not familiar with German company law, I'm not able to judge whether their organisational structure is appropriate and, if I tried to, I could very easily come to the wrong conclusion. They are, however, regulated by the German authorities, so I have to just trust that the German authorities are doing their job properly. --Tango (talk) 19:48, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

First of all, I don't find the German structure too complicated. It can be easily explained. Again, a structure/organogram does not only include the board/executive board/trustee board but also includes other staff positions (salaried staffs) and different departments/segments of the organization. From your comment (Tango), I found yet another great learning opportunity for the FDC members. Since we all want the FDC to become a center of excellence, getting to know about different organizational structures from different countries will add value to the experience of the FDC members. This learning may take a little effort at the initial years, but they will become more familiar with these differences in entities as time progresses. So, if I sum up, it will be a very useful information with multiple benefits. So why not have it? - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 16:45, 25 June 2012 (UTC)

"Affiliated organizations"Edit

The first question is: "Legal name of affiliate organization [national chapter, sub-national chapter, thematic organization, or third-party group]"

I understod that only national chapters and the foundation are within the FDC's scope. Tony (talk) 03:21, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

At the moment, they are, because there aren't any other affiliated organisations. Once there are (which will have to wait until the final decisions about how to approve them are made), and they meet the eligibility criteria (which will take at least two years after they are approved), then they will be able to apply for funds through the FDC if they want to. --Tango (talk) 19:51, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

Three financial reporting issuesEdit

The process should both avoid clutter and send signals that due precision is required.

In the first financial summary I've made the actual expenses look a little less like they've been cooked into whole thousands of dollars. This raised three issues:

  1. What is the foundation's standard practice in terms of rounding up or down reports of expenditure? The message in the examples was to round to the nearest thousand dollars, which I find unsatisfactory. On the other hand, no one wants to know the cents ... that would be noise. May I suggest that applicants be instructed to round up or down to the nearest US$10, as I've done in the top examples?
  2. "Explanation of variances from plan": Surely currency fluctuations with the $US are always going to cause variance; sometimes trivial, sometimes significant. Do applicants end up having to write "Currency fluctuation plus ..." in every cell?
  3. Inflation is typically a few percent. Does trivial variance have to be "explained"? Please consider exempting from explanation variances of less than X percent. (3%? 5%?)

Tony (talk) 01:45, 28 June 2012 (UTC)

Edits and queriesEdit

I've gone through it making minor changes as follows. Anasuya and others: please revert anything that is inappropriate.

  • Simplified and consistent formatting, including italics for all questions, and the insertion of a spare line between all bullets (not just some), to encourage applicants to set out their responses neatly, under each question.
  • Removed a few redundant wordings.
  • Removed a few "please"s (just two or three on the page are enough to set the tone).
  • Removed "Please provide the relevant information." as redundant.
  • Removed "Reflection from" from "Reflection on past activities and innovations", since some of the responses required are clearly not reflections, but hard info, facts.
  • Other trivials.
  • "Year-to-date progress"—I re-arranged it. Please take a look. I removed "Total" from the funding questions (the word wasn't included in the spending questions) to avoid conveying the impression that a single figure is expected (you do want more than a single figure, I presume? How much of a breakdown do you expect ... possibly give them an idea in the question? Or if you just want a single figure, perhaps stop them breaking it down by adding "(single figure)"?).

    In "year-to-date spending", I presume definitely committed or contracted spending of funds still in the bank account is intended to be included in the "planned", not the "actual". For this reason, I changed "Actual" to "Already spent". If this is not correct, the query could be changed to "Actual or committed".

  • The heading: "Key initiatives and objectives of the upcoming year annual plan" and "Additional context for the annual plan for which funding is sought" ... they'll be part-way into the current financial year; is the meaning of "upcoming" the year for which funds are sought? I've assumed this and changed it.

Important queries

Addressing the assessment criteria.

I think the table in "Key initiatives and objectives of the annual plan for which funding is sought" would be better in the bullet-point format used for more other sections. The rather-too-short examples are like skyscrapers unless you have a 27"-wide monitor and window. Frankly, if I were assisting a chapter to apply (I don't expect to be asked), I'd advise them to make a persuasive case for how their plan meets the assessment criteria on which they'll be initially marked. A persuasive case is difficult to make (and judge comparatively) in three words (e.g. ""Increase global participation" and "Expand reach", under "Which Wikimedia strategic goal(s) does this initiative address?", which is directly related to an important reason the Board of Trustees established the FDC system. The questions are "how" and "in what way" the plan will increase global participation and expand reach? Without details, judgements will be based on superficial information or there will have to be a messy to and fro process by staff or committee members to extract the relevant information. The details-provided issue also applies to the table "Other costs not included above, e.g., for specific one-time projects". I find it odd that a one-line entry be considered sufficient justification for specific projects.

On the other hand, the subsequent tables are very suitable, since they display just dollar amounts.

In my view, it's only fair to add a note to the section "Additional context for the annual plan for which funding is sought" pointing out to applicants that this is the residue of their case that their plan meets the 12 assessment criteria. I've been bold in adding something as a lead; please look and remove if I'm off-track.

On-costs for staffing?

Could it be made clear whether on-costs are included in stated staffing costs (e.g., insurance, superannuation, payroll tax, etc ... some jurisdictions have strict rules about these)? If I were designing this form, I'd add a separate question about this to ensure the entity has checked its legal obligations in this respect, and that there won't be a hole in the budget because of it.

Unimportant queries

  • Can the last question in "Basic information" be dropped? Surely the application is for the next round after the date of submission? I got rid of it, boldly.
  • "Current organizational staff (e.g., included in year-in-progress budget)". Should it be "i.e.", not "e.g."? I didn't change it.

Tony (talk) 07:02, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

Hi Tony, thanks so much for your edits on this. We've actually moved the funds request form (now known as the FDC proposal) to the new FDC portal. You can find it here. We're still making content edits to it now, but would definitely appreciate your copy-edit eye on it when we're through before we launch, perhaps tomorrow (Tuesday) end of day? Thanks as always for your thoughts on this! Meerachary TBG (talk) 16:25, 30 July 2012 (UTC)
Took ages. Best to put a big notice at the top when a page has been superseded. Tony (talk) 03:23, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
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