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
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 employee.
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 or
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.
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", "protect
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
6. Another Indian fundraiser is due to start in a few
weeks' time. Former
WMF CEO Katherine Maher acknowledged to me that there
were 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 be endangered unless the
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.
On Mon, Jan 31, 2022 at 2:10 PM Andreas Kolbe <jayen466(a)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.