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Questions and Answers about the Wikimedia Foundation's 2014-2015 Annual Plan
2014-2015 Annual PlanQuestions and Answers
What's an annual plan?
An annual plan is an organization's financial plan for the fiscal year. This year, as in the three preceding years, the annual plan is rooted in the five-year (2010-15) Wikimedia Foundation Strategy, which was developed collaboratively on the Strategy Wiki in 2009-10. That work, together with recent efforts to narrow the focus of Wikimedia’s programmatic work, formed the basis of this plan, which was created by the Wikimedia Foundation's senior leadership based on guidance given to it by the Board of Trustees, with support from the staff of the Wikimedia Foundation.
In addition to reflecting only unrestricted spending, the operating budget is primarily a cash-basis budget, so it doesn't include in-kind revenue and expenses, nor non-cash expenses such as depreciation. This is a common practice for budgeting purposes. Of course, our annual audited financial statements do reflect restricted funding as well as non-cash revenue and expenses, in order to conform to generally accepted accounting principles.
What is the current state of the 2014-15 Annual Plan?
The 2014-15 plan was approved by the Board of Trustees on June 30, 2014. The 2014-15 fiscal year began 1 July 2014 and ends 30 June 2015. This plan is built consistent with WMF practice, under the supervision of the former Executive Director, Sue Gardner.
As a reader of the Wikimedia projects, how will my experience change as a result of this plan?
The Wikimedia Foundation’s number one priority is growing Wikimedia’s volunteer community in size and diversity (see below). The underlying hypothesis is that the diversity of knowledge that Wikimedia projects can offer reflects the diversity of Wikimedia’s community. Retaining our existing community of volunteers is as important as bringing in missing voices, so increasing diversity requires an increase in the overall size of the population of contributors; it means taking the contribution to Wikimedia projects from a niche activity into the mainstream of society.
Indeed, one of the premises of Wikimedia projects is that the distinction between “reader” and “contributor” should be only a weak one: Every person on the planet should be empowered to share in the sum of all human knowledge, which refers to both learning from others, and contributing where possible.
With that said, there are a number of efforts supported in the 2014-15 Plan, some explained in detail in the list of high priority programs, which will affect the reader experience more directly:
- Most notably, we are continuing to invest in Wikipedia Zero, a program designed to eliminate data charges for accessing Wikipedia on mobile phones in developing countries. For people with limited disposable income, data charges can make the defining difference between treating a service like Wikipedia as a luxury, or using it as an essential public learning source, such as a library in the physical world.
- We are continuing to improve the user experience on mobile devices. In the last year, we made significant improvements to the mobile site, especially the formatting of complex articles, display of tables and citations, etc. We will continue to improve the mobile reader experience, and put increased emphasis on a user experience that is optimized for tablets as well for both reading and editing.
- We will continue to improve site performance and reliability. We are going to complete the decommissioning our current secondary data-center location in Tampa, Florida in favor of our new data center in Dallas,Texas that can continually serve as a reliable failover in case of any outages in our Ashburn location. In combination, these investments help ensure that readers are served cached copies with high performance whenever possible, and protect us against major outages (e.g. disaster-related) that could affect both readers and contributors.
As a volunteer contributing to Wikimedia projects, how will my experience change as a result of this plan?
Much of our engineering effort is focused on modernizing and improving the experience of contributing to Wikimedia projects, and helping guide new contributors towards a rewarding and productive experience. In 2014-15, this will include:
- Foundation 2014-2015 Annual Plan.pdf&page=29 Site performance and architecture: We make Wikimedia sites faster (by improving performance of the existing code and the execution environment) and we keep them maintainable.
- Foundation 2014-2015 Annual Plan.pdf&page=32 Wikimedia Labs: We provide the community a space for experimentation and tool hosting.
- Foundation 2014-2015 Annual Plan.pdf&page=33 Mobile web development: continued development of the readership and contributory experience on mobile web, including partnership with other product areas such as VisualEditor, Flow, and Growth.
- Mobile web mentorship: enabling the WMF to be an engineering/product organization prepared for development in a multi-device world by ensuring that the required expertise exists in all development teams.
- Foundation 2014-2015 Annual Plan.pdf&page=34 Mobile app development: continued development of the Android and iOS Wikipedia apps, including partnership with other product areas such as VisualEditor, Flow, and Growth.
- Foundation 2014-2015 Annual Plan.pdf&page=34 Wikipedia Zero: partnerships with mobile operators and others to provide free access to Wikipedia on mobile devices, primarily to users in the developing world where data costs can be prohibitive.
- VisualEditor: a rich-text editor that is designed to serve as the default editing environment for our projects.
- Flow: a structured discussion system initially targeting the talk namespaces in our projects, including user-to-user discussions.
- Growth: features aimed directly at acquiring more contributors and encouraging them to contribute more (e.g., teaching new editors via interactive guided tours, providing task suggestions to drive further contribution).
- Multimedia: features aimed at improving the media experience, including media contributions.
- Content Translation: functionality aimed at making it easier to translate Wikimedia content from one language to another -- a class of contribution not currently well-supported by the software.
In addition, we will continue to rebalance our grant programs toward our support to individual contributors through grants, both directly in the form of grants to individuals for projects, events and travel, as well as through our grants to Wikimedia organizations and groups who support individual contributors. In particular, our Individual Engagement Grants (IEG) program.
If I am involved with a Wikimedia chapter or other entity contributing to the Wikimedia movement, how will my experience change as a result of this plan?
All grant programs for chapters and other entities in place in 2013-14 are still in place with this annual plan.
- Annual Plan Grants (reviewed by the nine-member Funds Dissemination Committee or FDC), that offer unrestricted, general support funds for the annual plans of recognized Wikimedia organizations (chapters and thematic organizations).
- Project and Event Grants (reviewed by the 28-member Grant Advisory Committee or GAC), that primarily support offline projects and events run by Wikimedia organizations and emerging groups.
- Individual Engagement Grants (reviewed by the 17-member Individual Engagement Grants Committee or IEGCom), that support experimental projects led by individuals or small teams, and are primarily aimed at online impact on Wikimedia projects.
- Travel and Participation Support (reviewed by the three-member TPS Committee), which is run in partnership with the German and Swiss Wikimedia chapters, and supports the active participation of Wikimedians in non-Wikimedia events.
What is the strategic context for this plan?
Please see the section “Background and Context to the 2014-15 Plan” on page 3 of the Annual Plan.
What are the 2014-15 plan targets?
Please see the section “Key Targets and Milestones” on pages 19 - 21.
What's the total budget in this year's annual plan and how does it compare with previous years?
The total operating budget for the 2014-15 plan calls for $58.5 million in spending, including $8.2 million in spending allocated for grants. In comparison, 2013-14 projected spending is $49.2 million with grant spending remaining at $8.2 million.
What are the main increases in spending for 2014-15?
The total increase in spending in 2014-15 compared with 2013-14 projection is $9.3 million or an increase of 19%. The largest increase in spending on a dollar basis is $3.8 million for additional spending in Engineering and $3.7 million in Finance and Administration, which includes one time expenditures of $1.7 million for space expansion and $1 million to cover the transfer of Wikimania to Finance, along with increases for insurance, Office IT equipment and professional services.
Which movement groups will participate in the 2014 annual fundraiser, and what will happen to the money they raise?
Wikimedia Germany and Switzerland will act as payment processors during the 2014 campaign. As per the Board’s resolution, all funds raised via the Wikimedia project sites would thereafter be distributed via the recommendations of the FDC, with the exception of Wikimedia Foundation expenses and the Wikimedia Foundation reserve.
What is proposed to happen to the Wikimedia Foundation reserve in 2014-15?
In 2014-15, the Wikimedia Foundation does not plan on growing the reserve.
It’s worth noting that the WMF has consistently, without exception, over-achieved its annual revenue targets. That means that every year, the WMF has ended the year making a larger contribution to the reserve than was planned. It is fairly likely we will exceed our planned contribution to the reserve in 2013-14, as well.
What is the thinking behind the reserve in 2014-15?
It is normal for organizations to plan to have reserve or contingency funds. Reserve funds are critical for an organization in the event of unplanned expenses, emergencies and/or revenue shortfalls.There is a wide range of opinions about what size reserve fund a healthy non-profit needs, but a best practice is typically believed to be somewhere between three and twelve months of average monthly spending. Technology companies typically set their reserves at a minimum of 18 months.
The Board of Trustees has established that it would like the WMF reserve to never drop below six months of total spending. The 2014-15 plan therefore calls for the reserve to stay at a minimum of six months of total spending throughout the year.
How many people are you planning to hire?
We plan to grow the Wikimedia Foundation staff from a projected 191 to 240 , an increase of 26% over the prior fiscal year.
Will all the jobs be advertised publicly?
Yes. Our general practice, with rare exceptions, is to advertise all jobs on the Wikimedia Foundation website, as well as on relevant job sites. In some cases, we may decide not to post individual positions, but rather to announce general availability of vacancies in a certain area.
How is growth changing the Wikimedia Foundation?
Our growth is slowing as we shift focus from fast growth towards consolidation and execution. In 2014-15 there will be very little staff growth at the Wikimedia Foundation, with the exception of Engineering.
What is included in the “Management and Governance” spending in the Annual Plan?
Management and Governance includes costs for the Board and the Advisory Board; including the costs of face-to-face Board meetings, other travel costs (e.g., attendance at Wikimedia conferences and other events), an allocation for board development, as well as salaries for the office of the Executive Director and expenses for consultants and contractors supporting Board work.
What is included in the “Engineering” spending in the Annual Plan?
Engineering expenses include bandwidth and hardware costs, salaries for the Engineering and Product Development staff, costs for technical contractors and consultants, as well as other miscellaneous costs. Please refer to pages 11-15 of the Annual Plan for more detail.
What is included in the “Fundraising” spending in the Annual Plan?
This includes payment processing fees, salaries for fundraising staff, consultant and contractor costs, and other miscellaneous fundraising expenses.
What is included in the “Legal, Community Advocacy, Communications, Human Resources, Finance and Administration” spending in the Annual Plan?
This includes the staff for legal, community advocacy, communications, HR, finance and accounting, office administration, office IT support, legal fees, and expenses for consultants and contractors. It also includes general operating expenses such as rent and other facilities costs, some staff development and staff meeting expenses, recruiting expenses, fees for the annual audit, and other miscellaneous costs.
What is included in Grants?
This is the amount that is projected to be given out in grants to the Wikimedia movement. It does not include the administration cost of the grants process.
What is included in Grantmaking?
This includes funding for the staffing for all the Wikimedia grants programs, Wikimania support, and grants evaluation, as well as the administrative costs to support our volunteer committees, including the meetings of the FDC.
What are the biggest risks of this plan, and how will you mitigate against them?
A detailed risk assessment can be found beginning on page 23 of the Annual Plan.