Hi all,

As the topic of WMF salaries has come up again in another thread – a while ago I asked WMF accounts staff to clarify here on this list whether the "Salaries, other compensation, employee benefits" figure in Part I, Line 15 of the Form 990 related solely to the number of employees indicated in Part I, Line 5, or whether it also included salaries, compensation and benefits for any contractors listed in Part V, Line 1a of the Form 990, as people had been speculating here on this list. 

While the WMF chose not to reply here, I can report that they did eventually include a couple of notes in the Form 990 FAQ that answered this question.[1] They explain that Line 5, the number of employees, only includes –

"individuals that were issued W-2s in the calendar year. Thus, the total shown is the number of US-based full-time and part-time employees employed during the calendar year. It does not include non-US-based workers, as well as contractors which may be hired part-time or for specific assignments, as those individuals are not issued W-2s from the Foundation."

They explain further that the salary costs total in Line 15 –

"includes salary, benefits, retirement, wellness, and payroll taxes for full-time and part-time staff members in the US and outside of the US employed by Wikimedia Foundation or its Employer of Record. These costs as well as salaries vary significantly by geography. This number does not include fees paid to contractors, vendors, or consultants. Please also note that the amount shown is for the fiscal year (July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021) while other information in the Form 990 is as of the calendar year (January 1- December 31, 2020)."

So now we know that contractors are definitely NOT included in the salary costs total, but a number of non-US employees are. I have asked how many non-US employees there were in 2020, but have not received an answer to date.[2] 

However, as I have learned since, the Form 990 does actually enable us at least to determine an upper bound for the number of non-US employees there might have been. Schedule F of the Form 990 (page 29) tells us that in 2020, the Foundation had a total of 54 "employees, agents, and independent contractors" outside the US.[3] 

So let us put this information together. 

In the 2020 Form 990, we have 320 employees in Line 5, a maximum potential number of non-US employees of 54, and salary costs of $67,857,675. 

As the Foundation appears unwilling to tell us the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) this salary costs total relates to, and refuses to say how much of it was spent on US employees and how much of it was spent on non-US employees, we are restricted to using an informed guess to work out average salary costs overall. In doing so, we have to bear in mind the following:

1. The number of employees in Line 5 includes part-time staff and people that worked only for part of the year. It is bound to be higher than the actual number of FTE employees.
2. The number of employees in Line 5 relates to the 2020 calendar year, whereas the salary costs total relates to the fiscal year 2020/2021 – a six-month difference. So in that sense the number of employees in Line 5 is lower than it would be if it were based on the fiscal year, as WMF staff numbers increase all the time (the Line 5 figure increased from 291 in 2019 to 320 in 2020).
3. Only some of the 54 "employees, agents, and independent contractors" based outside of the US will have been non-US employees whose salary costs are included in the Line 15 total. After all, we all know that there are independent contractors outside the US, and they would have been included in the 54. 

So where does that leave us? Let us pretend that ALL of the 54 non-US people were actual employees included in the salary costs. This overestimate will perhaps make up for the fact that staff numbers increased in those six months. As for the fact that this new total of 374 employees includes part-timers and people who left during the year, let's just forget about that and assume they were all FTEs for the entire year. This will result in an overestimate of the employee number and thus an underestimate of average salary costs, but let's err on that side rather than overestimating salaries.

So we have 2020 salary costs of $67,857,675 divided among 374 employees (US and non-US, but excluding contractors). The average salary cost per WMF employee, then, is <drum roll>:


Bear in mind, however, that this is the 2020/2021 figure; present-day figures are likely to be about 10 per cent higher. So we've probably reached the $200,000 mark now or are very close to it – at least in the case of US employees, because remember, the FAQ points out that non-US employees may earn significantly less.

Of course, the WMF could always give us more precise data, such as the actual number of FTEs; employee numbers and salary cost figures for one and the same timeframe; separate figures for US and non-US employees; current-year figures, and so forth. I should be happy to see them, but have little hope that we will.

If you've spotted an error in my reasoning or think you can provide a better estimate, please do so and share your working. Many eyes make all bugs shallow.


On Mon, Jan 31, 2022 at 2:10 PM Andreas Kolbe <jayen466@gmail.com> wrote:
Dear WMF accounts staff,

Could you kindly clarify whether the "Salaries, other compensation, employee benefits" figure in Part I, line 15 of the Form 990 relates solely to the 291 employees indicated in Part I, line 5, or whether it also includes salaries, compensation and benefits for the 82 contractors listed in Part V, line 1a of the Form 990.

Thank you.