The Longest Now


On building a global network, and collaborative fundraising
Friday February 24th 2012, 7:48 pm
Filed under: international,meta,metrics,wikipedia

Wikimedia has recently been discussing how and why we fundraise, and how we determine where to direct the stream of visitors to our shared global websites when we ask for donations.  In particular, two years ago we directed visitors to over 10 chapters who then each processed their donations directly; this was cut back to only 4 of the larger chapters last year, with clearer standards for accountability and financial transparency for those groups.

A few months ago our eloquent executive director, Sue Gardner, began a detailed consultation on the aptly named Meta-wiki to discuss ways to improve this process, which has grown organically over the past five years.  She is publicly drafting and annotating her own recommendations to the Board, which will be presented to us in a few weeks’ time.  Since this is such a transprent process, we have already had preliminary discussion at our last board meeting, resulting in a letter varying slightly with the draft recommendations at that point.  An annual community-wide finance summit, organized this year by the French chapter, was held last weekend in Paris, and these discussions occupied much of the agenda there.

My fellow Trustee and Wikimedia Treasurer, Stu West, recently published and later summarized his personal views on these matters.

I would characterize this view as “centralize all donation-processing”: he feels the global Foundation can gain economies of scale, and economies of specialization, by processing all donations centrally in the US, and then distributing funds back out to Chapters and other groups around the world — enough to offset the loss of tax-deductibility and other advantages to local processing. (choices of where to distribute, and donor relationship management, would still be made in a communal fashion.)

My own personal view is to “decentralize where excellence and desire meet“: I feel we should support decentralized processing by all highly competent groups with demonstrated skills in these fundraising matters, where they have some local benefit or other reason to process donors directly, and where they decide to take on that challenge.  The skills involved are not trivial; some will not develop them, others have no local incentives to do so, still others may not want the extra work entailed.  This include competence (and legal ability) to redistribute surplus funds raised to projects around the world, through whatever global allocation/prioritization process we build together.  Decentralization of this donor and fundraising work may lose some economies of centralization, but it will gain many others: including direct financial advantages in some regions (tax deduction, matching), and ensuring that we have redundancy of relevant expertise across our movement.

I repost below the comment (copyedited for clarity) that I left on his blog:

I interpret our Board letter in the opposite (positive) sense to Stu’s summary on his blog. I believe that at least some Chapters should payment process, because in some cases we already see that it offers a net benefit for the movement. And I think that any chapter that is sufficiently mature — skilled in dealing with donations, efficient in its work, meets a high standard of financial accountability, and has a history of supporting community-driven dissemination targets — and *wants* to payment-process for banner-driven donations, should be able to do so.

By this description (and reflecting on your four points above), such chapters, before they could process payments from sitewide-banner campaigns, would first have to be:

  • Already processing payments locally, managing their national messaging in sitewide campaigns, complying with local financial regulations, and handling donor relations. (They would already be processing payments from local email and media campaigns)
  •  Efficient in their financial work; so that this would not be significant additional time and money on top of their normal operations
  •  Demonstrably skilled in their financial work, and able to meet strict standards maintained by the Foundation and the movement as a whole.
  •  Lacking in a sense of entitlement, and participating in community-led allocation work to identify and support impactful work worldwide

This would be a limited set of large, respected Chapters. It would not be a natural step in chapter growth, and only those with a financial and donor-focused bent would be in a position to pursue it (or to implement it efficiently). Other options exist now and will only grow for smaller chapters. Some chapters will be founded in countries with strict financial laws that make it too difficult to distribute funds outside the country.

Enabling groups to grow in areas where they have demonstrated excellence and foresight is consistent with our culture of empowerment; and having more than one body competent to do any significant task is consistent with our culture of decentralization.



[MR 0a] Formal Wikimedia groups and roles
Monday June 06th 2011, 11:31 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,wikipedia

The Wikimedia movement consists primarily of hundreds of thousands of contributors, reusers, donors, and other readers who support the movement and the projects each in its own way.  However the most complex parts of the movement, with their own legal, financial, and bureaucratic issues, are the incorporated groups within the movement — the Wikimedia Foundation and chapters, each incorporated in its own jurisdiction — and the governance groups that oversee and inform the work of those groups.

At present, chapters are the only groups formally recognized by the WMF with standard trademark agreements and a license to pursue partnerships within their jurisdiction.  Another group type – a partner organization without geographic limits – is being proposed in one of the MR recommendations.    There are few global governance groups at present, only committees of the Foundation and its Board of trustees.  Two other bodies have often been discussed:  a community council with representatives from the editing communities of the projects, and a chapters network or organizational council with representatives from all chapters and similar formal organizations.

The initial work of the Movement Roles group has focused on the roles and responsibilities of these formal groups, which have some of the most explicit needs for coordination.  A related effort is needed to resolve these questions for informal groups – the roles of the more numerous individuals, small groups, and informal organizations that sustain the movement.



Movement Roles: Understanding roles and responsibilities in a broad Movement
Monday June 06th 2011, 6:25 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,international,popular demand,wikipedia

As Wikimedia has grown as a movement from a website and cool idea to a family of sites and a network of national and international non-profits, we have developed many ways to engage partners and the media, raise funds, and make large-scale decisions.  National chapters have become significant non-profits in their own right, and collaboration between chapters and the global Foundation has become more intricate.  For instance, chapters today run and support international events, offer scholarships and grants to community members, raise significant funds directly through the annual sitenotices, and run branding initiatives — including the global campaign for “Wikipedia as World Heritage Site” organized recently by Wikimedia Deutschland.

In 2009, during Wikimedia’s strategic planning process for the coming five years, a task force focused on movement roles was set up.  Its task was to research how individual contributors, Chapters, and the Foundation currently interact, and how they should ideally work together, and how this happened in other global organizations.  This was the most abstract part of optimizing operations, which included discussions of how we  guarantee financial sustainability, build partnerships and infrastructure, and influence public  perception and policy.

This group tackled questions of how the different parts of the movement develop strategy, make decisions across the movement, and communicate with one another.  A few initial recommendations were made, but these issues required more detailed discussion.[1] So a Board working group was created to continue the work.

This group chose to focus for its first year on the roles of formal organizations in the movement — the WMF and its Committees, Chapters, and other structured groups that should have similar formal recognition.  We tabled the equally complex issue of the roles of individual contributors, wiki projects, and other informal groups to a separate discussion.

The result of this work will be a set of recommendations to the movement as a whole – expressed in a movement charter that all formal parts of the movement can endorse, to the WMF, and to chapters.  The project and its recommendations are being developed on the Meta-wiki.  All are welcome to participate in the working group and discussions (or simply browse our meeting notes).   By Wikimania this year, the group aims to have recommendations on new models for organizations that the WMF should recognize (Associations and Partner Organizations),  on movement standards for transparency and auditing, and more.

I will post a series of updates about the project over the coming weeks, leading up to in-person discussions at Wikimania.  If you have questions about the project or any of its targets, suggestions about important issues we aren’t yet considering, &c – please let me know on my talk page.

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