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Grantmaking season—rumblings in the German-language community

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By Tony1 and The ed17
FDC workshop at Wikimania 2013 ... complex issues surrounding the roles of employees and volunteers, growth rates, and programs are still unresolved
The next twice-yearly round of Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) grantmaking is soon to close for community questioning and commentary. Ten nation-based Wikimedia chapters and one thematic organisation are asking for a total of more than US$5M of donors’ money from the Foundation’s renamed annual plan grant process. Aside from Wikimedia UK ($708k), the three biggest asks are from the German-speaking chapters: Wikimedia Germany is asking for $2.4M and Wikimedia Austria $311k; the German-language-related Swiss chapter has applied for $500k (the German and Swiss chapters are now the only two affiliates that directly process funds from donors in their own jurisdictions, under special arrangements with the Foundation; this gives them large sources of revenue aside from any WMF funding they might receive). Of significance to the FDC's process will be an examination of the governance, transparency, and financial reportage of all applicants.

The generosity of German readers and to a lesser extent other direct donors has enabled Wikimedia Germany to grow—uniquely among the chapters—into something resembling an industry, with more than 50 employees expected in 2014 (up from 43 this year) and an activities portfolio that far exceeds that of any other WMF affiliate. At the start of this month the chapter published its draft 2014 annual plan, which will be considered for adoption by the chapter's general assembly on 30 November. The draft plan shows annual revenue of $6.6M for this year (of which nearly $0.7M was not spent and has been brought forward), rising to $7.2M in 2014, an increase of nearly 9% (inflation in Germany is about 1.4%, according to Software development is slashed by more than a third, from $1.71M to $1.13M, largely because of the winding down of substantial project work. Communications/PR will be boosted from $440k to $611k. The evaluation of programs will cost $264k. "Administration" costs will almost double to $1.24M, much of this due to "higher rent for the larger premises needed to accommodate new staff", whose numbers will rise from 2.0 to nearly 4.5 FTE, including a full-time intern. The salary, bonus, and overheads for the executive director, Pavel Richter, and the costs of his full-time assistant (but in the table listed as 1.5 FTE plus a 0.5 FTE intern), will remain at $305.5k. The board will again have an almost full-time assistant plus travel and accommodation costs, rising a third to a total of $167k.

A statement by the chapter's auditors complains that they were given access to the draft only nine weeks ahead of the assembly: "Since the Executive Director had to be reminded that the published draft needs to include a statement by the auditors, the inspection was performed on short notice and the budget draft was initially published without the statement by the auditors. "The Executive Director and the Supervisory Board are expected to make next year’s budget draft available to the auditors in a timely manner."

The auditors were concerned about risks involved in "the fundraising agreement" with the WMF, and that many chapter members had wanted more detailed information on planned expenses (a point that seems to be evident on the talk page). The auditors stated that they too are:

In reply to this somewhat scathing report, the executive director rejected the auditors' concerns about stability of funding after next year, stating that he "will of course negotiate appropriate agreements with the Wikimedia Foundation in the years to come". Of the auditors' complaints about lack of financial detail, Richter wrote: "the financial items are broken down in a more detailed manner—as was requested—in the programs’ operational goals themselves. The financial tables have been structured ... to make this year’s and last year’s figures comparable." Flexibility would be impossible "if we are expected to predetermine them all the way down to the level of single events and workshops."

The publication of the draft plan has been associated with critical feedback from the community on the talk page of the German-language version of the plan, some of which is similar in theme to queries on the talk page of the chapter's current FDC application. The feedback is consistent with the historically difficult relationship between the editing community and the chapter in Germany. For example, concerns have been expressed about the reportage of projects in the past financial year. A controversial collaboration on fact-checking between the chapter and ZDF, a German public television network, has come under fire; deployed in the run-up to last month's general election for the federal parliament, the project has been branded variously a success and a failure. The collaboration sparked major controversy in the editing community in April, leading to a community vote against the concept. However, the chapter disregarded the vote at the time and continued with the initiative. Now, Wikimedia Germany has publicly acknowledged that the project "has to be considered a failure".

The FDC applications by the Austrian and Swiss chapters have also resulted in interesting comments. Of the Austrian bid, FDC member Anders Wennersten wrote in a similar vein to those who feel the German application lacks detail: "I understand that you need more staff but am concerned over the proposed growth way above guardrails. Could you elaborate on resources needed for adminstration [and] express this need in terms of [full-time-equivalent staffing] and break it down into types of [administration]". The Signpost notes that the application states that "being a service provider for the Austrian community (and also neighbouring communities, e.g. in Germany) is centrepiece for WMAT's self-conception and strategy", although it is unclear from the text how such staffing would be allocated, and how the Austrian, German, and Swiss chapters will minimise wasteful overlap, given that Wikimedia Germany will have nearly 6.5 FTE employees in its communities team in 2014.

At the Swiss application talk page, Wennersten asked questions about what he described as the uncertain focus of the education program and the justification of a half-time administrative assistant, when "experience from other chapters indicates that the need is usually somewhat smaller, like 0.25 FTE". A question from an anonymous editor was asked about possible conflict of interest in the appointment of the former president of the chapter to the position of chief science officer; readers are invited to peruse the thread to judge this matter for themselves.

The Wikimedia Foundation encourages community queries and comments on all 11 FDC applications until the end of October, when the formal assessment process will start.

In a related issue, there has been a debate on the Wikimedia mailing list—initiated by the chair of the FDC, Dariusz Jemielniak (User:Pundit)—concerning the fact that the WMF is eligible to apply for funding from its own FDC, and does indeed do so (to the tune of more than $4M in the first year). The view of one correspondent, Nathan, was that "from both a practical and legal perspective the authority of the FDC comes from the WMF; this is the fundamental problem with having it purport to 'review' the Foundation's spending and activity." Risker, from the English Wikipedia, wrote that: "the opportunity for conflict of interest is extremely high, and there's pretty much no way that the FDC can make recommendations on the overall budget (and the very sizeable portion of said budget that is largely dispensed based on their recommendation) without crossing the line into at least perceived conflict of interest." Pundit subsequently defended the FDC against claims that it might be merely a rubber stamp in this respect. The results of the thread are inconclusive.

In brief

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==Little correction==

The auditors consider it critical that [last year's 8th] General Assembly’s resolution. The 8th General Assembly was not in last year, but in 2011. --DaB. (talk) 23:07, 27 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Thank you: corrected. Tony (talk) 23:55, 27 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Impact of funding

So, affiliates have asked for more than US$ 5 million. It's a lot of money. Also, 8 out of the 11 organizations are European (the other three are from Argentina, India and Israel).

I'm worried about the impact of this funding. Wikimedia should fund projects that have an impact on a large number of people, especially those who usually get the least from other entities, and in a meaningful way.

With pretty much zero resources, in WM Uruguay we managed to produce over 7,000 photos in Wiki Loves Monuments 2013, a lot more than many countries with larger populations and stronger chapters.

With a little money and a strong community, a lot could be made in underdeveloped countries like mine. That's what the foundation should do: promote to build strong communities and fund projects with major impact. --NaBUru38 (talk) 01:01, 28 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Funding is only available to chapters which request it. That means having a vibrant group that has clear, definite goals, and ones that will be advanced with money. Apparently there are more chapters in Europe than other areas that are organized enough to request funds. If WM Uruguay can use money to advance it's goals, then they should draw up a proposal. Dozens of independent individuals do not require funding, an organization with employees does. --NickPenguin(contribs) 01:31, 28 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
We talking about much less money, that's founded in Germany. The german Comunity has a right, that some of the money comes back - the people give it at first for their own Wikipedia version. Since Founding Wikimedia Germany alwyas was willing to give a lot awy. Money, knowledge etc. But Wikimedia Germany only reached the point were they are now, because of the ywere the first. They had the forst meet-ups, the first chapters, made the first bigger conferences and so on. So there are structure. Structures they only there because we worked hard in Germany on it. Next year as a chapter for 10 years! And not the germans are guilty, that the WMF not wanted other bigger chapters between the Foundation. Maybe this will change in a post-Gardner Foundation. Because only local structures can work for a strong Wikimedia. Think global work local is here really a good idea. Marcus Cyron (talk) 01:53, 28 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]
@NaBUru38: It is not a either-or. If WM Uruguay needs money from the FDC, just ask for it. WMDE collects the hole 2.4M€ from German donators – gives it to the FDC and claims it back. In addition it collects 3M€ just for the WMF and the other chapters. That’s more than enough money to distribute it to chapters that are not that well-funded. Heck, if the FDC would need more money I’m sure that WMDE would collect more if asked. --DaB. (talk) 12:25, 28 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Rejection of the definition of "German" instead of "multilingual"

Interesting but considering Switzerland as "German" speaking chapter can create some unsatisfaction because Switzerland is a multilingual chapter. I think that the reason of the increase (but also the justification of the high FTE) may be connected easily with that point. I think that the solidity of the Swiss chapter is a little miracle considering that there is no other chapter having 4 languages to manage (the example of India for instance is not valid because the English language is used a lot). And this miracle has been realized underspending (Switzerland receives more money from donations than the overall budget of the chapter). So Switzerland has not only realized a solid chapter and faced a lot of cultural conflicts, but also underspent and I can assure that it has been a real challenge because Wikimedia/Wikipedia is strongly structured per language and not per country. It would be great to spent some sentence about this point otherwise the article may be a little bit not neutral. --Ilario (talk) 12:14, 30 October 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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