Talk:IRS tax related information/2020 Wikimedia Foundation Form 990 Frequently Asked Questions

Latest comment: 1 year ago by Jayen466 in topic Tides Foundation

Comments and questions

Please leave comments or questions on the Wikimedia Foundation’s Form 990 for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2021.

Employees and salary costs


You explain that on page 1, Part I, Summary, line 5, "the total number of individuals employed in the calendar year 2020" represents "the number of individuals that were issued W-2s in the calendar year. Thus, the total shown is the number of US-based full-time and part-time employees employed during the calendar year. It does not include non-US-based workers ..."

You further say that on page 1, Part I, Summary, line 15, the category “Salaries, other compensation, employee benefits” includes "salary, benefits, retirement, wellness, and payroll taxes for full-time and part-time staff members in the US and outside of the US employed by Wikimedia Foundation or its Employer of Record."


  1. How many "full-time and part-time staff members outside of the US employed by Wikimedia Foundation or its Employer of Record" were there in the fiscal year that the number in line 15 relates to (July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021)?
  2. How many US-based full-time and part-time employees were there during that same fiscal year?
  3. How much of the amount in line 15 relates to US-based employees, and how much to employees outside of the US? --Andreas JN466 07:47, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply
@Hogü-456: I note that the Form 990 contains figures on "employees, agents, and independent contractors" outside the US on page 29. There was a total of 54 "employees, agents, and independent contractors", so this must be the upper limit for the number of non-US employees.
320 US employees plus a maximum of 54 non-US employees means the 2020 salary costs of $67,857,675 were distributed among a maximum of 374 employees. Salary costs per head were therefore at least $180,953.8 – and quite likely significantly more, as many of those 54 would have been contractors. Assuming, for argument's sake, that only half the 54 were actual employees, we would have $67,857,675/347 = $195,555 as a the average salary cost figure per head (some of whom will have been part-time or worked only for part of the year). Andreas JN466 13:50, 2 June 2022 (UTC)Reply
@Hogü-456 and @Jayen466
As we’ve mentioned before in response to this question, using the Form 990 data to calculate an average salary is misleading. It often produces totals that match some of our highest-paid employees. As we will not release non-public salary information in public forums, we accept that the average number is much higher than the true average salary. We hire in over 50 countries and almost 50% of our people are based outside of the US, which is a reflection of our values as a global movement. People are in a wide variety of job types and levels, each of which are paid differently and by location. An average is difficult to calculate and while it may provide a data point, it lacks meaning for evaluating our performance as an organization. As we have shared before, we are in line with other open knowledge organizations (e.g., Mozilla, Creative Commons, EFF) in the financial, salary, budget, and staff information that we publish.
Also, the Wikimedia Foundation has grown since this data – the budget increased in the past year with the addition of more than 200 new people since 2020. This will not continue in the 2022−2023 fiscal year as we stabilize our growth and also ensure that new resources are delivering maximum impact for our mission as per the draft annual plan. SLangan (WMF) (talk) 14:00, 29 June 2022 (UTC)Reply
User:SLangan (WMF), could you please explain why the total should match some of your highest-paid employees? The $68 million figure is, after all, for ALL employees (US + non-US).
(I understand that the mean will always be higher than the median in a distribution skewed towards the higher end. But the top salaries are only about twice the average here, which limits this effect – it's not like there is one person earning several million dollars.) Regards, Andreas JN466 14:40, 29 June 2022 (UTC)Reply
Hi Julia, I hope you had a good holiday! I would like to ask you to help me with a question, just to be sure I'm understanding things correctly:
The FAQ says that the Line 15 "Salaries, other compensation, employee benefits" total "includes salary, benefits, retirement, wellness, and payroll taxes for full-time and part-time staff members in the US and outside of the US employed by Wikimedia Foundation or its Employer of Record. These costs as well as salaries vary significantly by geography. This number does not include fees paid to contractors, vendors, or consultants" (my emphasis).
On the WMF Staff and Contractors page, over 200 people working for the WMF are currently identified as "contractors". This means their pay is not included in the Line 15 totals on the 990 forms, right? Best, Andreas JN466 13:39, 3 August 2022 (UTC)Reply

Tides Foundation


The WMF gave the Tides Foundation a cash grant of $5,529,704 (p. 42 of 60 in the pdf). Am I correct in assuming that $5,000,000 of this represents the annual $5,000,000 the WMF has been putting into its endowment?

If so, what was the other $529,704 for? --Andreas JN466 09:00, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply

Yes that is correct, $5,000,000 is the annual contribution from the WMF to the Endowment. The remaining $529,704 are funds received from planned gifts which WMF has contributed to the Endowment. You can find more details about the Board resolution in this here. Best, JBrungs (WMF) (talk) 06:18, 1 June 2022 (UTC)Reply
Thank you, Julia, that makes sense! These planned gifts are then "pass-through", right? Meaning they won't show up in the Foundation's revenues or expenses. Best, Andreas JN466 15:27, 2 June 2022 (UTC)Reply
Actually, I think I was talking nonsense there. The fact that the $529K showed up in the financial statements shows that they were not "pass-through". Andreas JN466 14:45, 6 November 2022 (UTC)Reply

Katherine Maher's salary


Schedule J (page 48/60 in the PDF) indicates a base compensation of $404,053 for Katherine Maher, with the note "(THRU 4/30/21)". Now, the FAQ states that "the compensation of our officers, key employees, highest paid employees and independent contractors [is] based on the calendar year 2020 - so January 2020 to December 2020". Could you confirm that this also applies to Katherine Maher's salary?

I'm only asking because the note "(THRU 4/30/21)" refers to April 2021 (a date that falls outside the 2020 calendar year), causing doubt whether the base compensation figure only relates to a period of ten months (July 2020–April 2021 inclusive) or to a full year's salary (for the 2020 calendar year). Thanks, --Andreas JN466 11:15, 22 May 2022 (UTC)Reply

@JBrungs (WMF): Could you confirm please which it is, ten months or a whole year? Andreas JN466 05:45, 14 June 2022 (UTC)Reply

Jones Day


In the Form 990 at Part VII Section B. Independent Contractors Jones Day was mentioned as the highest compensated independent contractor. What kind of legal services have they done for the Wikimedia Foundation. I prefer if the Wikimedia Foundation pays employees instead of paying a contractor. From my point of view this is better than taking services and paying for them. After my point of view it is also cheaper if you pay employees instead of a contractor for a service.--Hogü-456 (talk) 19:43, 24 May 2022 (UTC)Reply

It is difficult to hire staff with the full range of specialized skills that may be needed, especially for legal issues that may require expertise about a specific jurisdiction or area of law. It is common for non-profit organizations to rely on outside legal experts for a range of support and advice, and this is true for the Wikimedia Foundation.
There are often legal reasons why the Foundation needs outside counsel / lawyers. There are also tasks that require specialist knowledge that would be more expensive to hire in-house. We do scrutinize value for money in whichever service we procure. SLangan (WMF) (talk) 14:01, 29 June 2022 (UTC)Reply

Part VII - Number of individuals who received more than $100,000 of reportable compensation


User:JBrungs (WMF), Part VII of the Form 990 (p. 8) says the "Total number of individuals (including but not limited to those listed above) who received more than $100,000 of reportable compensation from the organization" was 197. Are all of these

  • US employees?
  • a combination of US employees and non-US employees?
  • a combination of US and non-US employees and contractors?

Could you give us a rough idea of the relative numbers of each, as the case may be? Regards, Andreas JN466 15:35, 21 June 2022 (UTC)Reply

@Jayen466 see above response. SLangan (WMF) (talk) 14:02, 29 June 2022 (UTC)Reply
One thing to remember here is that each year, many people join or leave the WMF. (See e.g. [1], describing 58 people being hired in the space of six months, and 105 being hired in the six months after that.) In other words, each year the Form 990 captures many people who only worked part of the year. Naturally, many of them will have received less than $100,000 of reportable compensation from the organization, even if their annual compensation does exceed that figure. That is correct, isn't it? Andreas JN466 14:53, 29 June 2022 (UTC)Reply

What do "Program Services" outside the US include?


Julia, another one for you: Page 29 gives a figure of $563,058 for South Asia. Would I be right in assuming that this includes funding for CIS-A2K? If so, why is this funding classed as "Program Services" rather than "Grantmaking"? (It would be wonderful if you could find out before the weekend, as I have to meet a deadline with this one.) Best, Andreas JN466 12:44, 23 June 2022 (UTC)Reply

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