Fwd: [WikiEN-l] Another perspective

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Fwd: [WikiEN-l] Another perspective

michael west-3
Not sure if everyone is on the WikiEN mailing list, but it is perhaps relevent.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Florence Devouard <[hidden email]>
Date: 7 Mar 2008 14:45
Subject: [WikiEN-l] Another perspective
To: [hidden email]

Please allow me to offer you another perspective. As Chair of Wikimedia
Foundation Board, member since 2004. And as founding member of Wikimedia
France, and currently on its board as well.

I'd like us to go beyond the current discussion... and maybe think a
little bit ahead, reflecting on the future.

Some of you may have some experience of being a member of a non profit
association. In most cases, a small organization.

Some of you may be living in a country where there is a wikimedia chapter.
(if you are not sure, please check:

The first Wikimedia Chapter born in 2004, just a few months after the
Foundation (the German Chapter). The following one was the French
chapter, which was created in october 2004. Many other chapters
followed. And many more are to come.

Chapters are usually associations of users, and registered as non
profits. The revenue essentially come from membership fees, donations,
grants, and sometimes commercial income (eg, royalties). In majority,
donations and membership fees.

I bet that if we were to ask the casual Wikipedia editor if he is aware
of the existence of chapters, he would probably open big surprised eyes
For those who heard about chapters and are maybe even thinking of
creating a chapter, or joining a chapter, it is very likely that in
their mind, in terms of MONEY, the Foundation is the BIG SERIOUS stuff,
whilst the chapter is merely a side-happy-thing.

(Note: for those of you who do not know chapters, please check out what
they are doing. Chapter activity is properly amazing. Consider joining.
UK chapter and Australia chapters in particular)


I saw so many discussions related to the finances of the Foundation,
such as allegations of misuse of donors money, mismanagement, poor
governance, insufficient control... that I really wonder if people here,
really realize that the Foundation is still -somehow- a small
organization. We now have a staff of 15 and a 5 million dollar budget;
and this is still very tiny. But fact is, the Foundation is less than 5
years old. And 5 years ago, the Foundation was merely a piece of paper.
We had to grow to follow Wikipedia growth. Back in 2004, we were very
very very tiny. And we try to do the best with the resources we had.
I welcome discussions on how we ensure controls, to the limits that it
is meant to be constructive and will not have more negative sides than

Now... to go beyond this, a thought....

Have you EVER discussed the possibility that the money received by
chapters from donors, be somehow, misused ? that the chapters might have
poor management ? that the chapters might have poor governance ? Have
unsufficient control ?

Has any chapter travel expenses reimbursement policy ? Bank savings
policy ? Confidentiality agreement policy ? Conflict of interest policy ?

Is any chapter audited ?

When I write this, I am pretty sure I am hearing your thoughts. "OH, BUT

And why not ?

Why not ?

The money received by the chapters come from donors just as well. In the
name of Wikipedia. If there are so many discussions and criticism on how
we handle the Foundation (in the name of "we must respect the wishes of
donors") why is there no discussion and no criticism on how we handle
the chapters ?


The facts we are currently discussing are 3 years old.
In 2004, the organization revenue was 80 000 dollars.
In 2005, the organization revenue was 380 000 dollars.

As a matter of comparison, which I find myself interesting, the german
chapter got a significant amount of donations during this winter
fundraiser. You'll find exact figures here
In two months, the chapter collected USD 208,000.

The german chapter currently has only one staff member (Arne Klempert).
I do not exactly know much their annual revenue is, but could I try a
guess ? Perhaps 300 000 dollars ? 400 000 dollars ?

Very likely, more than what WMF got in 2005. Back in those times about
which complaints are now made upon Jimbo providing his receipts with delay.

I'd like us to project ourselves in the future. Maybe in three years
from now.

Where will the Foundation be ? I am not sure.
Where will chapters be ? I could guess that a couple of chapters will
enjoy a similar revenue to what the Foundation is getting RIGHT NOW. And
maybe chapters will even be the biggest source of the revenue of the
Foundation. Who knows ?

What I know is this

* if you want a really clean organization overall, with full respect of
the donors, then the controls must be discussed and set at all levels
and in all organizations. Not WMF only. (I am not saying that any
chapter do anything wrong; this is long term perspective).

* the levels of control must fit the degree of development of the
organization. An organization of 10 000 dollars (one of our new
chapters), of 400 000 dollars (Wikimedia Germany in 2007) or of 5 000
000 dollars (WMF in 2008) do not require the same controls. There is no
sense to expect very tight controls from an organization which is not
even able to afford a real accountant (WMF in 2005).

* it is *urgent* to clarify the relationships between the Foundation and
the chapters, in particular the financial one. The longer we wait, the
more difficult it will be, because there will be more actors to deal
with, and because the more money is involved, the more power is
involved, the more politic is involved, the dirtier it is likely to become.

The past is the past. You may trust me or not if I tell you that past
issues have been fixed. But please look at the future as well.


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