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Wikipedians question Wikimedia fundraising ethics after "somewhat-viral" tweet

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By Andreas Kolbe

On October 11, a Twitter user pointed out that millions of dollars donated "to Wikipedia" had been used for non-Wikimedia grants. Above two pictures of Wikimedia fundraising banners, the user (@echetus) said:

If you use Wikipedia, you've seen pop-ups like this. If you're like me, you may have donated as a result.

Wikipedia is an amazing website, and the appeals seem heartfelt. But I've now learnt the money isn't going where I thought...

The tweet attracted well over 10,000 retweets and more than 35,000 "likes" (NB: perhaps helped along by OP's tasteful Haruhi av).

Knowledge Equity Fund overview deck
What was the Twitter user talking about?

The thread attached to the tweet focused on the Knowledge Equity Fund, "a new US$4.5 million fund created by the Wikimedia Foundation in 2020, to provide grants to external organizations that support knowledge equity by addressing the racial inequities preventing access and participation in free knowledge".

The money was transferred to an outside organisation, Tides Advocacy, sometime in the 2019–2020 financial year when the Foundation found it had a large amount of money left over because of an underspend. This transfer of millions of dollars of donated funds to Tides Advocacy bypassed established grants processes, and was not publicised at the time.

The creation of the Tides Advocacy fund thus remained unknown to the community and the public at large until December 2020, when the Wikimedia Foundation's 2020 Audit Report and associated FAQ were published, leading to instant controversy. Concerns expressed then focused on the secrecy of the grant, the break with the participatory grantmaking principles the Foundation had until then embraced, and the fact that the transfer coincided with Amanda Keton's move in the 2019–2020 financial year from General Counsel of the Tides Network and CEO of Tides Advocacy to General Counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Subsequently, in 2021, a little over $1 million was given to three U.S. grantees as well as one Brazilian, one West African and one Jordanian organisation in the first round of grants from the fund, leaving several million dollars in Tides Advocacy's accounts to this day.

Community questions

This October (the 12th to be precise), Wikipedian and former Wikimedia UK trustee and fundraiser Chris Keating inquired on the Wikimedia-l mailing list about the fund's status, specifically referencing the Twitter thread:

Meta (1) suggests 6 grants were made in September 2021 and that a second more community-focused round of grants would be made in 2022. No details of a second round have been published that I'm aware of; is this still active? Are there any public details of impact or progress reporting from the September 2021 grants?

There is also a somewhat-viral Twitter thread which focuses, alongside some general criticisms of Wikimedia fundraising, on two grants specifically from this fund and the WMF making itself a participant in US 'culture wars'. (2) I wonder if there is any response from the WMF to that?

(For what it's worth, my perception is that the Knowledge Equity Fund was initially a deliberate attempt led by US-based staff to have the WMF 'do something' to align itself with a broader progressive movement in the USA. I believe the main advocates for this have now departed, that it was never a particularly good fit with the WMF's overall approach to grantmaking, that the evolution of the WMF's approach to this fund was positive, but still if the whole thing is now forgotten about that's probably no bad thing).

Wikimedia Foundation Chief of Staff Nadee Gunasena replied on the fund's talk page on Meta-Wiki:

The short answer is that because the Equity Fund is a pilot initiative for us without any dedicated staff, it has taken us longer than we anticipated to hit some of our milestones. It’s been a learning process. [...] Our goal is to choose grantees for a second round of grants and to make that process visible. I can share more about the timeline there when I have more details.

Long-time Wikimedian Steven Walling and Wiki Education Foundation Executive Director Frank Schulenburg expressed their disagreement:

Hi Nadee, when I said I supported Steven's proposal, I meant specifically "Given that this is a pilot and there have been serious concerns expressed about the ROI and ethics of funding grantees not doing any work that has a direct measurable impact on Wikimedia projects, I would encourage you to stop". I've recently seen enough voices online expressing concern about the fact that they thought they donated to keep Wikipedia's servers running, but ended up having funded some other organization and cause. I think this is a reasonable question and I'm interested in hearing what the Wikimedia Foundation will be doing to ensure that the Knowledge Equity Fund is in line with generally accepted principles of ethical fundraising. --Frank Schulenburg

The discussion is ongoing at the time of writing.

WMF response to a user cancelling his donation

On Twitter meanwhile a user shared that they cancelled their donation after reading the thread and received the following response from the Wikimedia Foundation:

I can confirm your monthly donation has been cancelled, and you will see no further charges from the Wikimedia Foundation.

We always appreciate fair criticism and questions about our practices, as well as the opportunity to make our processes clearer and more transparent. With that said, the recent messages shared on Twitter about our fundraising practices and the growth of Wikipedia are misguided and don't reflect an accurate understanding of what it takes to sustain a top global website.

Since Wikipedia first started, the needs of the site have significantly evolved, and the Wikimedia Foundation has adapted in response to meet those changing needs. For example, the growth of Wikipedia to more than 1.5 billion visits a month has required making steady investments in our product and technology work to ensure the site loads quickly, is available across devices, and in readers' preferred language.

Because of our volunteer editors and the support of our donors, Wikipedia has become a go-to resource for millions of people across the world. We want everyone, everywhere, to experience its benefits and have the world's knowledge reflected in its articles so it's a better resource for you. That's why we are working to address gaps in knowledge in our projects. Part of that work includes increased support to volunteers, affiliate groups and other organizations working on issues like diversity and women's history.

Over the past fiscal year, we have increased grant funding to volunteers and groups working to address barriers to free knowledge by 51 percent year over year. We distributed grants across more than 90 countries around the world to help ensure Wikipedia continues to be a trusted place for reliable, relevant, and trustworthy knowledge.

We hope this provides more information about our fundraising practices and how we steward reader donations to best support Wikipedia, Wikimedia projects, and our free knowledge mission.

What stands out in this response is the claim that the Foundation "distributed grants across more than 90 countries around the world". The first thing to say here is that according to its most recent Form 990 tax filing, the Wikimedia Foundation spent over 95% of its money in North America and Europe. Grantmaking in the global South accounted for just 1.2% of revenue (see previous Signpost coverage for figures).

Moreover, a look at the overall budget shows that grants to the community, emphasised in the above response, are a very minor part of the overall budget and not constrained by any budget shortfall. In the Wikimedia Foundation's most recent audited financial statements, "Awards and grants" amounted to $9.8 million, of which $5 million (possibly $5.5 million) represented a grant to the Wikimedia Foundation's own Endowment held by the Tides Foundation. This leaves somewhere between $4 and $5 million for actual grants made to the community – a figure dwarfed by the Wikimedia Foundation's $50 million budget surplus in 2020–2021. There was no lack of money for grants.

The auditors also point out on page 14 of the financial statements that the actual sum transferred to Tides Advocacy was $8.723 rather than $4.5 million. They add that a part of this money ($4.223 million, presumably) would be used "to fund the annual operating expenses of other Wikimedia chapter organizations".

A side effect of this arrangement is that neither the Wikimedia Foundation's audited financial statements nor its Form 990 filings will now show if, when, or how this money is or was spent by Tides Advocacy to fund chapter organisations – just like there has never been any public accounting for the over $100 million in Wikimedia Endowment funds held by the Tides Foundation (see previous Signpost coverage as well as the WMF's Governance update in this Signpost issue). Whatever purpose these arrangements with Tides organisations serve – it is not transparency. AK

Lisa Seitz-Gruwell takes on additional role as Deputy CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation

Lisa Seitz-Gruwell is the new Deputy CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation

Wikimedia CEO Maryana Iskander announced last month that longstanding Chief Advancement Officer Lisa Seitz-Gruwell now also serves as Deputy CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation, in addition to her responsibilities for fundraising, strategic partnerships and grantmaking. Moreover, a recent advertisement looking for at-large directors of the Wikimedia Endowment described Lisa Seitz-Gruwell as President of the new Wikimedia Endowment organisation, whose application for 501(c)3 non-profit status has now been approved (see News from the WMF).

Other C-level changes announced by Maryana Iskander included Stephen LaPorte taking on the role of Deputy General Counsel, working closely with Amanda Keton, and Maryana Iskander herself temporarily heading up the Talent & Culture department in addition to serving as CEO. Nadee Gunasena's role as Chief of Staff has been broadened to include supporting the entire organisation and movement rather than just the CEO. As previously reported, Product/Technology is now headed by Selena Deckelmann, who came to the WMF from Mozilla, where she was head of Firefox.

Iskander said that while the Wikimedia Foundation's headcount had grown by over 200 since 2020, this growth would not continue. Instead there would now be a period of stabilisation. AK

Wikimedia Foundation stops publication of its quarterly "tuning sessions"

Less transparency

Nadee Gunasena, the Wikimedia Foundation's chief of staff, has announced that the WMF will no longer publish the presentation decks from its quarterly reviews or "tuning sessions" providing an update on each WMF department's progress against Annual Plan targets. Instead of this year's fourth quarter tuning session decks, which in the past were posted on Commons by mid-July (the WMF's fiscal year runs from July to June), there will now only be an unspecified but most likely very abridged "update" posted on Meta-Wiki "by mid-November" – a delay of at least four months.

The community and public are thus deprived of timely information that the WMF had been happy to provide for the past ten years – including reports of financials, staffing levels and partnerships that formed the basis of Signpost and media reports in the past. AK

Wikimedia Summit Report

The programme documentation for last month's Wikimedia Summit 2022 is now available on Meta. As announced this week on the Wikimedia-l mailing list –

The documentation consists of a description and summary of each conference session of each of [the] three days and topics to follow up on. Additionally, a short summary of the documentation provides an overview of the topics discussed, and has been translated into 6 languages by our colleagues from the Wikimedia Foundation.

The report on the Wikimedia Summit is available on Commons

An English-language report on the event is also available on Commons as well as on Meta-Wiki.

The Wikimedia Summit is an annual meeting of Wikimedia Foundation leadership – both trustees and executives – with affiliate representatives and members of movement committees. The event is usually held in Berlin, Germany. It was cancelled last year due to COVID; this year, around 150 people from around the world attended in person, with a similar number participating online.

Early indications are that this hybrid format – mixing in-person attendance and online participation – worked better this time round than at the recent Wikimania (see previous Signpost coverage). Survey results on this aspect will be reported around the end of next month, along with the event's budget.

Key topics discussed at this year's Summit included the Movement Charter, Hubs, and Revenues & Resources.

The run-up to the Berlin Summit also saw WMF board members coming together in person for a quarterly board meeting. During the meeting, it was decided to keep the size of the board at 12 members for the next two years, this size being deemed more effective than a larger board.

The minutes of the previous quarterly board meeting held in June 2022 were approved and are now online here. In addition to updates on the Universal Code of Conduct Enforcement Guidelines and the Movement Charter, the minutes also spell out the board's expectations for the 2022–2023 financial year:

FY22–23 is not anticipated to be a year of rapid growth. The Foundation anticipates 17% growth to a budget of $175 million with moderate growth in terms of staffing. Next year, the fundraising team will be increasing targets in each of their major streams, with a particular focus in Major Gifts. A motion was made by Tanya Capuano and seconded by Nataliia Tymkiv to approve the Wikimedia Foundation 2022–23 Annual Plan. The motion was unanimously approved.

The Annual Plan, as shown in the Resolution, envisages total expenses of $175 million. Total expenses in 2020–2021, the most recent year for which figures are available, were $112 million; the most recent projection for 2021–2022, in the third-quarter Finance and Administration tuning session deck, forecast total expenses of $142 million for the financial year ended June 30, 2022. AK

"Think big – open letter about Wikimedia Commons"

An open letter was published on Commons on 10 October, asking the Wikimedia Foundation to invest in Wikimedia Commons:

We, the undersigned, are involved with Wikimedia Commons, the central media platform of the Wikimedia movement. Commons is where the movement comes together: we take pictures, we upload files, we embed images in Wikipedia articles, we deal with legal questions, we teach others how to use Commons, we work with cultural institutions (GLAM), or we support Commons in other ways.

Commons is one of the largest online media collections in the world. It offers freely licensed files to everyone: via Wikipedia and other Wikimedia wikis, and also many other websites and individuals in the world. This makes Commons vital for millions of people on the planet.

But we are concerned about the present situation and the future of Wikimedia Commons. Our platform is fighting to remain relevant in a world that is dominated by visual platforms (such as YouTube, Instagram, flickr etc.) that are constantly evolving. Commons, in contrast, fails modern standards of usability and struggles with numerous foundational issues. [..]

At the time of writing, the open letter has attracted well over 200 signatures. AK

Brief notes

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End of the Wikimedia Foundation's regular public activity reporting

Additional context: This custom that now appears to be ending goes back more than the ten years stated in the article - these quarterly slide decks were the successor of monthly reports that the Wikimedia Foundation had been publishing since January 2008, when it had only a handful of employees and was just settling into its new office after moving from Florida to San Francisco. Per the then executive director, as quoted in the comprehensive overview at meta:Wikimedia Foundation reports, they originated as non-public reports to the Board of Trustees that she decided to make available on the public mailing list of the Wikimedia movement (the predecessor of today's Wikimedia-l):

You may know that I send regular reports to the Wikimedia board.

I don't see a really compelling reason _not_ to send the reports to foundation-l [as well]... Let me know if you find it helpful :-)
  – Sue Gardner, January 31, 2008

Apparently the new(ish) CEO Maryana Iskander does no longer not see such compelling reasons, so we are losing an important instrument of public accountability and transparency. (I assume that besides the anticipated "end of year" report, there will still be the annual reports that are standard for US nonprofits, but they are very different in content and audience.)

Regards, HaeB (talk) 04:19, 31 October 2022 (UTC)[reply]

This statement:

Apparently the new(ish) CEO Maryana Iskander does no longer not see such compelling reasons

while amusingly (and, presumably, intentionally) convoluted, isn't entirely fair to Ms. Iskander. If they were only ever made public at the whim of the Foundation CEO, and that public dissemination was never codified as any sort of policy, then she (unfortunately) doesn't really need a compelling reason not to share the reports -- she just needs any reason at all. The reason could be anything from, "I want as little scrutiny as possible on the shady activities the Foundation is planning", to, "The general public is too stupid to comprehend the Foundation's activities, and will only misinterpret and distort the important work we do", to simply, "I don't wanna."
(In much the same way that, in the United States, the President's State of the Union address is televised only by tradition -- the Constitution requires that the President report to Congress, and nothing more. Congress would thus be perfectly within its rights, and would continue to fulfill all of its legal obligations, if it decided for any reason to stop broadcasting the proceedings.)
Of course, one would expect any CEO (or Congress) considering a break with such an established tradition to think long and hard about the public's reaction to the move, and whether they were prepared to deal with the inevitable backlash. Some people might even argue that a spirit of transparency and accountability, coupled with the weight of established tradition, constitute compelling reasons TO continue making the reports public despite having no obligation to do so. Alas, one thing we can fairly conclude from Ms. Iskander's decision is that she is not one of those people.
Another fair conclusion is that we probably shouldn't leave things to tradition that would be better codified as explicit policy. FeRDNYC (talk) 12:46, 3 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]

WMF response to a user cancelling his donation

One of the things that stands out - and this is just one example - is the the WMF's total cluelessness of business communications. Instead of employing people who work on the 'client side' who have studied marketing, they make it up as they go. A 2-line acknowledgement would have been quite sufficient. That just makes it all worse, besides all the lying through their back teeth in the fundraising about being in desperate need of cash to keep the servers running. Mark my words, one of the days the volunteers here who get nothing better than a slap in the face for their efforts and treated like galley slaves here will mutiny. It's going to be interesting to see how the NPP team's meeting with the WMF this week will pan out. It's my guess it will just be the usual whinging and whining: "We ain't got no dough". I'm supposed to be part of that meeting, but at 01:00AM I've probably got better things to do with my time while the WMF do their thing strictly during office hours and get paid very handsomely for it. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 07:52, 31 October 2022 (UTC)[reply]

The problem is that WMF knew that the "galley slaves" won't mutiny. The number of editors that actively edit Wikipedia without knowing anything about WMF is astounding. I participated in RfA in few months ago, and all they have to say about WMF are praises, not one of them knew about the problems with WMF. And even when facing great injustice such as WP:FRAM, the number of editors that quit because of that case is almost none - most editors are happy to oppose WMF but continue to edit constructively. No matter how much we criticize WMF, they won't care unless it hit their pocket. ✠ SunDawn ✠ (contact) 01:39, 1 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
You're probably right, SunDawn, except that it's most likey the English Wikipedia more than any other Foundation project that pulls the donations in. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 12:24, 1 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Quitting Wikipedia is not an effective mutiny. Let's take a (semi-hypothetical) admin of 15 years who resigns in Framgate and leaves a very vocal and direct message on their userpage. The community takes a big hit—the admin even worked in important areas with a bus factor of 1 (themselves). It's big news to us. But to Maryana Iskander, it's nothing. Iskander wouldn't hear about it, or understand the significance if she did—she's not a Wikipedian. I wouldn't trust her to describe on a basic level what adminship actually is. Or how editing works.
There are great people who work for the WMF and are a part of our Wikimedia community, and understand far more than me about it. But I'm not convinced that the decision-makers contain many such people.
To speak to the WMF about fundraising and spending, we need to use a language Iskander can understand. I would suggest blackouts like we did for SOPA or co-ordinating in ways that can make newspaper headlines. We need to mutiny pragmatically. — Bilorv (talk) 22:23, 4 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
A pragmatic mutiny, that's an interesting idea Bilorv. I wonder what it would look like and what it would need to spark it off. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 23:06, 6 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
One effort underway is Wikipedia:Village_pump_(proposals)#RfC_on_the_banners_for_the_December_2022_fundraising_campaign by User:BilledMammal. Andreas JN466 23:27, 6 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
Iteresting. Shame the banners for November are probably going to be based on the same untruths as usual. I have a better banner that could have been run in The Signpost but it's too late for that. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 12:36, 7 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Problems with poorly supervised grants

See discussion last month. I've reviewed several grants and I remain deeply worried we are spending money on stuff that is a poorly disguised attempt to raid WMF coffers. A lot of grants are 1) being used for stuff that has ZERO connection with Wikimedia movement, 2) have little to no accountaiblity (people promise to do stuff, if they fail, I see no mechanism for money to be returned to WMF) and 3) seem to have very inflated costs (ex. one project I remember well asked for ~6k$ for open access publishing, whereas I know that the average costs of OA in this very field is usually under $2k, and a lot of similar research is published at no cost yet still using OA model). While I am sure some grants are being spent on worthy causes, the amount of problems I see here is very worrying. I am glad this issue is making more waves. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 11:44, 31 October 2022 (UTC)[reply]

There's a wide margin of open access fees, from US$2.5K in PNAS to US$11K in Nature. But better yet, publish it in WikiJournal which is already hosted in Wikiversity and funded by WMF through grants so WMF doesn't need to pay twice for facilitating open access publishing and contents can be quickly reused within Wikimedia movement. OhanaUnitedTalk page 17:59, 3 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@OhanaUnited To be clear, I was talking about OA fees in education journals. There are good journals in the field, well indexed, were OA fees are ~2k. The authors don't explain why they are aiming at a much more expensive journal (or which one it is). The best solution, frankly, is to do a pre-print and then go with closed access, it's win-win - open access and no fees. As for WikiJournal, I am afraid it's not indexed in anything serious (SCOPUS, etc.) so I personally wouldn't publish in it. It wouldn't count for my career, and until it is indexed in respectable indices, it's a toy for students or scholars from minor institutions which have no requirements of its faculty to speak of. PS. Worse, the way that the grants are written, the authors can totally do pre-publishing, or publish in WikiJournal, and keep all the ~6k for themselves and spend it on anything they want, they don't have to return it. There is no accountability here. That's the problem. Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 03:06, 7 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Piotrus: One of the three WikiJournals (WikiJournal of Medicine) has already been approved and indexed by Scopus. Other two's approvals are still in the works. As the old adage goes, Rome isn't built in a day. I agree with your last point. There needs to be better accountability to ensure that the items that are requested in the funding request are actually used for the project and not reallocated to unspecified purpose. OhanaUnitedTalk page 15:14, 7 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@OhanaUnited Great news re SCOPUS for WJoM. Can you update the info at WikiJournal_User_Group#Journals_in_this_group, which doesn't mention SCOPUS? Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 15:50, 7 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Funds are being poorly used

Given the state of New Page Patrol, the poor condition of the Commons mobile app, the absence of apps for projects like Wikisource, Wiktionary et al. and the apparent lack of developers for these basic (IMO) requirements, I don't think it is too far out for me to say that WMF is not using the available funds properly and maybe does not have its priorities in order. Ciridae (talk) 13:20, 31 October 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Hacker News discussion

There has been a worthwhile discussion of this article today on Hacker News: [1]

The sentiment there is quite clear, I believe: people would like more transparency. Andreas JN466 21:16, 31 October 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Lack of transparency is actually one problem I don't agree we have here. We are able to have this discussion about whether the use of funds was good or not because of the unusual amount of transparency at the Wikimedia Foundation about grantmaking. We know exactly where money went, when, and why. What's lacking is that the WMF hasn't listened adequately here and acted with urgency to address donor/reader/editor concerns about the grants. Steven Walling • talk 20:36, 3 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Steven Walling: I meant lack of transparency in the fundraising messages – though there is the additional aspect that the public (correct me if I'm wrong ...) has no way of knowing what happened to the other $7.5 million that were transferred to Tides Advocacy in 2019/20.
All the arrangements with Tides are actually the exact opposite of transparent. (The very purpose of Tides is to obscure money flows.) Andreas JN466 00:44, 4 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
A cursory search of the mailing lists shows they answered that years ago. The Tides Advocacy transfer, which was approved by the Board, went to annual plan grants for chapters (or affiliates or whatever we're calling them now) and to Knowledge Equity Fund. Both of those have grant proposals documented on Meta. As a general point, your propensity to cry wolf about seemingly every single donor dollar that flows through the WMF dilutes the effectiveness of constructive criticism from the community. Saying stuff like "The very purpose of Tides is to obscure money flows" also shows a pretty clear presumption of bad faith on your part. Steven Walling • talk 18:31, 4 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Steven Walling: Look, a grant proposal on Meta is not the same as a Form 990. Can you show me public documents identifying the amounts paid to the various affiliates and stating in which year the payments were made, for the full $4.223 million?
Tides Foundation manages donor-advised funds. You don't seem to be familiar with the concept. From our article:
In this type of foundation, individuals or other foundations contribute money to the donor directed foundation, and it then makes grants based on the stated preferences of the original contributor. This process ensures that the intent of the contributor is met while also hiding that contributor's identity. Because contributions to a donor directed foundation are not required to be made public, their existence provides a way for individuals or corporations to make anonymous contributions.
In other words, you can see that some money was paid to some organisation, but you can't see whose money it was. That is why I said it is "designed to obscure money flows". Here is a Democratic Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, calling it "dark money":
Whitehouse was willing to admit that, while the influence for years was largely Republican, Democratic dark money had also caught up — with groups like Arabella Advisors and the Tides Foundation playing a mirroring role with some Democratic Party members. “Now, Republican colleagues have faced massive attacks leveled through Democratic front groups,” Whitehouse said. “So perhaps this slime machine can be a bipartisan concern.” [2]
You might want to read up on this. Regards, Andreas JN466 19:04, 4 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
What you're saying makes no sense. We know exactly how much money the Foundation sends to Tides—it's not anonymous at all—and you can correlate that with the approved grants that are documented publicly on Meta including finance reporting. The actual problem is that money is going to grants that don't do any work that directly benefits Wikimedia projects. Which again... we know because it's all public. Steven Walling • talk 17:05, 5 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Steven Walling: Well, where for example can we see how much Tides Advoacy is paid for administering the fund? How much interest they have earned from WMF money? And where is there a summation that says affiliate grants approved on Meta and funded by Tides Advocacy add up to the $4.223 million that were sent to Tides for this purpose? Knowing how much money the WMF sends to Tides is surely only half the story; what really matters is transparent documentation about where this money ends up, and when.
When I looked for this information, I found m:Community_Resources/Grants_spending_analysis#Grants_funded_July_2020-June_2021, which divulges exactly nothing, beyond "Annual Plan Grants: administered by Tides Advocacy for Fiscal Year 2020-2021". There is not a single figure for the major rubrics, let alone individual affiliates. If you have found better links on Meta, I would be grateful if you could post them here. Regards, Andreas JN466 18:44, 5 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]
@Steven Walling: Since we discussed this three months ago, Tides Advocacy has released its Form 990 for 2021. I went through it and added up everything that relates to Wikimedia affiliates. As far as I can tell, the relevant amounts only sum to about $3.8 million. This would leave a $400k gap (a 10% commission would be an order of magnitude more than is customary). Would you have time to check my figures and let me know whether you come to a different result? The WMF have not replied to questions. For Form 990 links and sums see m:Talk:Knowledge_Equity_Fund#Tides_Agreement. Regards, Andreas JN466 20:10, 8 February 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Steven Walling, everything that Andreas says DOES make sense! I know about these things, as I do financial due diligence under U.S. jurisdictions IRL. It *IS* correct that donor advised funds exist for "the very purpose... of obscuring money flows". For Andreas to say so does NOT in any way "show a pretty clear presumption of bad faith". Democrats, Republicans, and special interest groups of all sorts use organizations such as Tides Advocacy as a de facto shield to conceal their grant-making activities. Tides Advocacy is a legitimate, U.S. registered non-profit entity. There are many organizations that are putatively non-profit but have not yet received a ruling by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service about their non-profit application status. In the interim, entities such as Tides Advocacy is allowed to temporarily "take them under its non-profit status wing" so to speak. Tides Advocacy does this only with organizations whose work is consistent with Tides own goals. Tides is not required to do any sort of audit of these organizations nor is it accountable for them.

Wikipedia was associating itself with Tides which involves additional hazards to WP's claim to NPOV and neutrality. I'm thinking of the specific example of the Black Lives Matter charitable foundation. Until BLM received non-profit organization status from the IRS, its funds were kept with Tides Advocacy, just as Wikipedia did. At that time (in 2018 or so) the Tides treasurer was Susan Rosenberg. She is a convicted felon and served time in U.S. federal prison for domestic terrorism about 25 years ago. I personally believe that she is a nice, responsible lady now, as I exchanged pleasant notes and emails with her in 2013 about matters unrelated to her past or to her work. Once it came to light about Susan's position at Tides in 2020, when there was a huge influx of funds to BLM which was still under the umbrella of Tides, it caused a big, potentially reputation-damaging brouhaha for BLM and Tides. This was because many people who lack Andreas's knowledge incorrectly inferred that a former Weatherman was the leader of BLM! Susan left her position at Tides but the media and detractors had a field day with it. Any use of organizations such as Tides (for left-wing groups that Tides approves of) or right-wing counterparts is the very definition of Dark Money as Sheldon Whitehouse described it. I will return with some links for reference.--FeralOink (talk) 19:41, 7 February 2023 (UTC)[reply]

We used to have discussions every year on Meta about how much money would be allotted to each Wikimedia "branch office" around the world, including number of staff, and sometimes breakouts of appropriate localized compensation and expense levels. I recall participating in those decisions for Wikimedia Norway in 2013 or maybe 2014. Are these budgetary decisions no longer done collaboratively and publicly by members of the Wikimedia community?--FeralOink (talk) 19:41, 7 February 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Latest financial statements released

The WMF has released its latest audited financial statements, for the financial year ended June 30, 2022: [3]. This shows

I have enquired what exactly the $12 million negative investment income means.

It's also odd that the end-of-year increase in net assets is so small. In the third-quarter Finance & Administration tuning session deck published in May 2022, the end-of-year increase in net assets was forecast to be $25.9 million. I wonder what happened. --Andreas JN466 12:06, 1 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Admin desysopped

I have to say I'm grateful that so many Wikipedians responded swiftly to the abhorrent transphobic comments stated by Athaenara, but jesus christ. Stuff like that is something you never hope to hear coming out of the mouths of Wikipedia admins; you edit Wikipedia for the good of the community, you don't expect to encounter such horrid abuse here, of all places (it's more the style of Twitter, if anything). Thank you to everyone who picked up on it, and everyone who also attempted to change their mind and get through to them on their Talk page; though I think it's an effort in vain, it is at least something to see more than just transgender users having to fight this for once.—Ineffablebookkeeper (talk) ({{ping}} me!) 12:43, 3 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Fundraising banner RfC

There is an ongoing RfC on the wording of the Wikimedia fundraising banners that are due to appear on Wikipedia in a couple of weeks' time:

Andreas JN466 19:16, 15 November 2022 (UTC)[reply]


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