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By Phoebe and Sage Ross

Omidyar Network gives $2M grant, new board member to the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation announced a new addition to the Board of Trustees on 25 August: Matt Halprin, a partner of the philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network and former eBay executive. Also that day came news that Omidyar Network is making an unrestricted $2 million grant to the Wikimedia Foundation (see Wikimedia press release). Omidyar Network, a hybrid non-profit and limited liability company (LLC) created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, describes itself as "dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. We invest in and help scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic, social, and political change." Through its LLC component, Omidyar Network has invested in a number of social media companies, including a $4 million investment in Wikia, the for-profit wiki company co-founded by Jimmy Wales. Through its non-profit component, it has awarded grants to Sunlight Foundation,, and Creative Commons, among other non-profit organizations.

Following the news of the grant and Halprin's appointment to the Wikimedia board, a number of Wikimedians expressed concern over the appearance that a seat on the board had been purchased. In a podcast interview with Halprin at Wikimania, Andrew Lih (User:Fuzheado) inquired about the connection between the grant and the board seat (see partial transcript). According to Halprin, the grant is not directly tied to the board seat, and while the Omidyar Network prefers to place its partners on the boards of organizations it provides financial support to, the decision to put Halprin on the board was based on his relevant expertise.

A Q & A released by the Wikimedia Foundation notes that while the grant is unrestricted in how it can be used, full funding is dependent on meeting several objectives:

The support is conditional on Wikimedia making progress towards its core objectives. Wikimedia has pledged to Omidyar Network to report progress in four key areas: financial sustainability, global reach, global participation rates, and the completion of Wikimedia's strategic planning process. Wikimedia and Omidyar have developed targets related to financial sustainability (the percentage of operating expenses supported by individual donations), global reach (global unique visitors monthly, as reported by comScore Media Metrix), global participation rates (defined as the number of editors with 5+ edits in the previous month) and the completion of the Wikimedia Foundation's strategy project.

The Wikimedia Foundation has not yet revealed the specific targets for percentage of funding from individual donors, global reach, or global participation rate.

New board members and roles

Two new members have joined the Wikimedia Board of Trustees, while one was formally welcomed. The new members are Samuel Klein, who was recently elected by the community; and Matt Halprin, who was announced at the Wikimania press conference. Arne Klempert, who was chosen for one of the two chapter-appointed seats this year, was also formally welcomed. Domas Mituzas, who had been on the board since 2008, stepped down.

New board officers were also chosen at the recent Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees meeting during Wikimania. Michael Snow will continue to serve as chair and Jan-Bart de Vreede will continue as board Vice Chair. Kat Walsh is becoming board executive secretary, while Stuart West continues as board treasurer.


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Ok. So the $2 million bucks is nice, Thank you Mr Omiyar. But a little background would be nice. So how about a follow up article please. Was he going to be offered a board position before he offered the $2 million. Or is $2 million the new price tag for a seat on the foundation board? With good faith assumed of course, the absense of a good explanation on this is a bit disconcerting. Is there a report on this somewhere else? —Charles Edward (Talk | Contribs) 17:31, 4 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]
we reported what we know about this; I don't think there's a good explanation elsewhere except for the press releases & press release Q&A. -- phoebe / (talk to me) 03:14, 7 September 2009 (UTC)[reply]


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