The outlier problem is manageable I believe, given that the Form 990 lists
the compensation of the dozen highest-paid employees (going up to just over
$400,000 in 2019).
There were actually more people (four) north of $300,000 in 2018 than there
were in 2019 (two) – a reflection of long-term C-level vacancies, I
believe. So the average does tell us something.
As for people working at the Foundation easily being able to earn much more
in for-profit companies, the same applies to us, mate. :) Instead of
working for free on Wikipedia, you and me could easily be doing work
elsewhere that pays *much* better. :)) Also, I don't ask people in second-
and third-world countries to give me more money each year – pretending to
be hard up, while earning a burgeoning six-figure salary and living a
Levity aside, and returning to the topic of the upcoming fundraisers, I am
aware that there are many reasonably or even extremely wealthy people in
India who can well afford to donate to Wikipedia. And donating can be a
good feeling, for anyone who is able to afford it. On the other hand it
seems to me from watching social media that the people who are most
affected or even distressed by Wikipedia's meretricious claims of poverty
are often those who are *genuinely* not well off themselves. The messages
resonate with them, and they falsely assume Wikipedia is in a similar
position. :/ I wouldn't want people with $100 in the bank to give $2 so
that people in SF can pocket a six-figure salary.
Another point about fundraising from relatively poor people and countries:
overall, according to the most recent Wikimedia fundraising report, the
lion's share of donations in 2020/21 (around 94%) came from US, European
and Australian donors. So the main financial burden is borne by the richest
societies, which is as it should be. But it may be an idea to make a public
commitment that money collected in places like India will never go to pay
for expenses or salaries in the US, but will always be spent locally (again
without ever implying that continuation of local services is *dependent* on
It might also be good to increase the proportion of staff based in those
countries – which, to be fair, I believe the Foundation is already in the
process of doing.
On Sat, Mar 5, 2022 at 10:31 AM Strainu <strainu10(a)gmail.com> wrote:
Andreas, I understand this email won't address
your more serious
questions, but I believe it's fair to point out that the average salary
will tell you nothing relevant. Without drilling down on job family, your
results will be skewed by outliers.
I can name out of the top of my head 10 people working at the foundation
in 2019 which I believe could get half a million dollar offers from
software companies in the bay area (that's $500.000 per year before tax).
While it's likely the Foundation doesn't pay this much, they're probably
not paying at 50% discount either.
It's also worth asking if the salary costs include other type of
compensation,such as visa support or relocation costs.
Also, maybe a lawyer can answer some of the questions the WMF won't
answer, as they are familiar with form 990 and the "tricks" of filling it.
Pe joi, 3 martie 2022, Andreas Kolbe <jayen466(a)gmail.com> a scris:
To bring some sort of closure to this thread about Wikimedia salary
Wikimedia CEO Maryana Iskander did eventually post a response on
Meta. My question and her reply are copied in full below.
What please was the 2019 salary cost per WMF employee, per the most
Wikimedia Foundation Form 990?
According to the linked Form 990, the WMF had salary costs of
$55,634,913 (page 1,
line 15, "Salaries, other compensation, employee
benefits") in 2019, and a total of 291 employees (page 1, line 5). On the
face of it, this makes for an average salary cost of over $191K per
Is this the correct figure, or if not, what is the correct calculation
average salary cost per employee in 2019? Are there estimates for
more recent years? Thanks, --Andreas JN466 01:04, 17 February 2022
Hi Andreas - I am six weeks into the job and have seen your questions
salaries at the Wikimedia Foundation in various public forums. I
would like to try and give you a response. What interests me most is
understanding the motivations for your questions so that I can attempt to
share appropriate information. You are welcome to contact me directly at
for a conversation as I won’t
respond further here.What I
can share is the following:Calculating an average
salary based on the Form
990 is highly misleading. It produces totals that match our highest-paid
employees, as you see on the 990 form. This is true of many organisations,
not only the Wikimedia Foundation. As we will not release non-public salary
information in public forums, we accept that this number is much higher
than the true average salary. We currently have over 500 staff all over the
world that are in a wide variety of job types and levels, each of which are
paid differently and by location. An average is difficult to calculate and
while it may provide a data point, it lacks meaning for evaluating our
performance as an organisation. An average salary cost, even based on
non-public data, is not useful for most of the issues that concern me most.
We hire in over 50 countries, which is a reflection of our values as a
global movement, but introduces complexity in ensuring we can offer
competitive packages that will attract mission-driven talent, and
especially engineers who we need to support the technology obligations of
the Foundation. People are the biggest investment we make in supporting the
Wikimedia projects and community, so this is a topic of critical importance
to me. Finally, I have also checked that we are in line with other open
knowledge organisations (e.g., Mozilla, Creative Commons, EFF) in the
financial, salary, budget, and staff information that we
publish. MIskander-WMF (talk) 14:54, 17 February 2022 (UTC)[reply]
I'll just leave some general comments on
Maryana's response here.
1. An organisation committed to transparency shouldn't give a friendly
beholden inquirer any different information than a hostile one in
response to questions of fact. In both cases, the information should simply
be accurate. I have no desire to ingratiate myself.
2. As for my motivation, it's surely one that
any Wikipedian can relate
to: I would like the public to have access to accurate
sometimes write about these topics and assist journalists with
3. I don't accept that calculating an average
for 291 employees produces
a figure that matches "our highest-paid
employees". On the contrary, it
produces a figure for ALL "employees" in the strict sense of the word
(excluding freelancers). Even factoring in freelancers, the 291 employees
listed on the Form 990 were by far the majority of the total number of
people working for the WMF in 2019, and not some sort of elite.
4. I did not ask for the release of non-public
information. I simply
wanted to know how many people's pay, approximately, the
of $55.6 million represents. I thought it was 291, based on the "Total
number of individuals employed in calendar year 2019" given in the Form
990. Anne/Risker asserted the $55.6 million figure also included the pay of
the 82 contractors listed in Part V, line 1a. Which is it? Are some or all
of those contractors included in the salary costs total? The WMF won't say.
5. Salary costs are the WMF's biggest
expenditure item. They reached
$69M in 2020/21 – a tenfold increase in the course
of a decade. Throughout
that period of staff and salary growth, the Wikimedia Foundation regularly
and purposely created an impression in the public's mind that it was
struggling to have enough money to keep Wikipedia up and running –
donations were solicited by telling the public that money was urgently
needed to keep Wikipedia "ad-free", "keep Wikipedia online",
Wikipedia's independence", etc. Money used to fund organisational growth
should not be collected under the pretence of financial emergencies
jeopardising the continuation of basic services; members of the public
should know what they are funding.
6. Another Indian fundraiser is due to start in a
few weeks' time.
Former WMF CEO Katherine Maher acknowledged to me that
problems with the messaging in the last Indian fundraiser, resulting in
press stories that were "misleading and alarmist". I hope that the WMF will
do its best this year to ensure that the Indian press is accurately
informed about Wikimedia's financial past and present situation, including
the Wikimedia Endowment, and that fundraising messages, emails and
statements given to the press will not continue to imply that Wikipedia's
"independence", online "accessibility" or "survival" will
unless the Indian public donates money.
7. While I'm on this topic, the Wikimedia
Endowment, now well on its way
to the $200M mark, is completely non-transparent. It
has no public records
and no audited accounts; people have no way of knowing how the money is
invested, what if anything it is spent on, how much Tides and other
consultants and contractors are paid for holding and administering the
fund, and so on. In my view, both the community and the public are owed a
little more transparency than that.
> 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.
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