Hi Sam,

From looking at the pages about Indonesia and CIS you link to, they seem to relate to 2021, no? 

All the figures I mentioned are from the 2020 Form 990, released by the WMF just a few days ago. I believe the WMF would have made sure they are complete. 

(The 2021 form is not due until November 2022. However, I anticipate that the WMF will ask for an extension, as has been its practice, to delay publication of the 2021 Form 990 until May 2023.)

Now, you explain eloquently in your email why it has not been possible to send much money to the Global South. You cite a lack of mature organisations, a lack of good ideas, "starting in a valley", etc. 

But you completely elide the fact that the Indian public has just been told that the situation is the complete opposite of what you describe. It has been told that "Although a lot of the money is raised in the more developed Western markets, most of it is actually flowing into the global south, where the growth will come in languages and users."[1] 

Are you then fully at ease with that apparent mismatch?

Do you think the Indian Express should publish a correction to reflect the real situation, as you describe it in your mail?


[1] https://archive.ph/RaCwX#selection-875.433-875.614

On Thu, Jun 2, 2022 at 8:42 PM Samuel Klein <meta.sj@gmail.com> wrote:
An uncharitable + personalized take, Andreas...  But an important topic.

That grantmaking line you found doesn't seem to include APGs; Indonesia and CIS would be another $500k.

My view:
 + Grants, exclusive of APGs, are mostly going outside of NA + Europe. 
 – Few new organizations lately have reached the size / capacity of having regular APGs. This greatly limits what we can accomplish regionally.

 = The other limit on $ diffusion right now is a shortage of good ideas for how to use funding locally to advance the projects, and people to implement them. We can't fund communities that don't have funding bottlenecks, or that don't exist. Recent proposals are a mixed bag. 
 + The new grants program is giving community members experience in evaluating + soliciting ideas, and increasing the supply of funds. Which starts the bootstrapping process. +10
 – We're starting in a valley: total funds disseminated outside the foundation has been low for years, due in part to the WMF encouraging other orgs to limit growth. 
[Q for former-APG affiliates: how is this changing for you? how are you setting budget targets?]

Outside grantmaking, more Foundation efforts seem to be focusing on underrepresented regions, and community members have been hired by WMF from those regions as liaisons and facilitators. We'll have to see if that is effective. (There are also negative side-effects from any framework where most funds go to salaries, and from engaging active multilingual community members in a way that obliges them to a central org. We need to watch out for these.) 

I'd like to see us develop a better movement-wide understanding of a few interrelated goals, before getting worked up about the specifics of current resource allocation: Five questions:

 . BootstrappingHow should we support + invest in regions w/ no current community?
 : Subsidiarity: How much of this work should be run by local UGs, hubs, WMF, other [UNRWA]?
 DiffusionWhere we have full capacity, what are healthy distributions of $, labor, focus?
  Tactics: In equilibrium, do all orgs grow/shrink together? How do we prioritize across orgs?
 ⸭ Peter paradox: Under what conditions does paying people strengthen local community? 

We may have answers to most of these questions implicitly embedded in current processes. But I have not seen explicit answers or discussions in many years.


(apologies to anyone who feels individually called out above.  except AK, who invited it :)

On Thu, Jun 2, 2022 at 9:13 AM Andreas Kolbe <jayen466@gmail.com> wrote:

More than 75% of the money we raise globally goes to two things. One is to give money back to the volunteer community so they can launch a new language. Two is about half of it goes to the infrastructure. You need to have databases and put it on the cloud and make sure it’s reliable,” he said. Although a lot of the money is raised in the more developed Western markets, most of it is actually flowing into the global south, where the growth will come in languages and users.


This diverged sharply from my understanding of WMF finances. So I looked at the records to try to fact-check these statements.

I found the Foundation raised $163 million in the 2020/2021 financial year.[1] But it actually only spent $112 million of it (69%).[1] If the WMF kept 31% of its revenue to itself, it obviously can't have spent "more than 75%" (i.e. over $120M) of the money it raised on anything. 

This is a trivial point. But I was even more astonished by the other statement in the article, that most of the money raised "is actually flowing into the global south". 

Raju was talking to an Indian audience. This article was timed to coincide with the start of the Indian fundraiser – Indians are currently faced with fundraising banners on Wikipedia as well as emails soliciting repeat donations.[2] So I appreciate it is a good soundbite that might motivate Indian citizens to reach for their purses and wallets. After all, few people in India feel it is their job to send financial aid to the US, right? 

But is this soundbite really true? 

To fact-check that claim, I looked at the official figures in the latest (2020) WMF Form 990 tax return detailing WMF spending outside the US. According to the Form 990 section "General Information on Activities Outside the United States", spending on activities outside the US amounted to a total of $20,076,181 in 2020.[3] This means well over 80% of WMF expenditure was in the US.

The Form 990 also provides a breakdown by global regions, detailing the precise amounts the WMF spent in each region. Again, I found this paints a very different picture to what the Indian public has been told in the Indian Express.

First I added up all the amounts (Program Services, p. 29, and Grantmaking, pp. 30–31) that were spent in Europe and North America (excluding the US). I arrived at a total of $14.8M – which means that 73.5% of the total spending on non-US activities was in these regions of the affluent north. 

This left only $5.3M, or about 3% of total WMF revenue in 2020/2021, for the entire rest of the world, which also includes countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, which are not usually included in the Global South. The actual money flowing into the Global South is thus even less than 3% – hardly "most" of the money raised.

Raju mentioned the volunteers. I thought, let's leave Program Services expenses (which presumably would include servers and caching centres abroad) out of the equation and look at Grantmaking alone (pages 30 and 31 of the Form 990). 

The Grantmaking total for activities outside the US given in the Form 990 is $3,475,062.

Almost exactly $1.2M (35%) of that went to Europe and North America (excluding the US). 

So total grantmaking in the entire rest of the world outside Europe and North America was $2.3M, or 1.4% of the money the WMF raised in 2020/2021. 

Again 1.4% is not "most of the money raised", by any stretch of the imagination. And the Global South only accounts for a part of that 1.4%.

Lastly, as Raju was speaking to the Indian public, I wanted to find out how much money the WMF actually spent on grantmaking in India. The Form 990 only gives grantmaking totals for "South Asia" – which along with India includes other major countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan. 

These totals are $75,198 (grants and other assistance to 22 individuals, certainly not rank-and-file Wikipedians, given the average amount) and $3,339 (grants to organisations). This yields a total of $78,537 for all of South Asia.

I make that 0.048% of the WMF's 2020/2021 revenue. Only a part of that may have been spent in India. 

Please verify these figures for yourselves; I have provided the sources below. If I have made a mistake somewhere, please tell me.

It occurred to me that perhaps some grantmaking figures in 2020 were particularly low because of the Covid pandemic, which began in the spring of that year. But Covid was a global pandemic affecting countries around the world. So all countries would have been affected equally. And Covid was not as serious in India in 2020 as it was in 2021. 

I also know the WMF increased its grantmaking budget for the current year. But even if grants to South Asia were to increase a hundredfold compared to 2020, they would still represent only 5% of WMF revenue. Such is the gap between what is said in the Indian Express and the reality on the ground.

Allow me to make an appeal to your conscience. 

The Wikipedia idea is to provide neutral and accurate information to the public. I would say that Wikimedians – especially Indian Wikimedians – who believe in that idea have a job to do here, because based on the above, what the Indian public has been told in the Indian Express simply does not match the reality. 

Look at it like a Wikipedia article. If you found an article making claims so wildly at variance with published facts, would you let them stand? Or would you at least start a discussion on the talk page, to try and find out why there is such an apparent discrepancy?

Let's have that discussion now, here and on social media.


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