[Foundation-l] Update of Foundation organization
anthere at anthere.org
Mon Mar 5 14:34:44 UTC 2007
this is not an official announcement
I thought it would be nice to offer a little update with regards to the
organisation, in particular from a "person" perspective.
I outlined the various areas of activities of the Foundation, to try to
identify in which areas we were staffed and in which areas we were
either understaffed or not staffed at all.
By staff, I do not necessarily mean "employee" as it may be volunteers
from the community, interns, pro-bono help, contractors etc...
But the fact is, when an area is under-staffed, the job either is not
done at all, or poorly done by other staff members (on top of their
regular activity), or poorly done by board members (who can not take
care of what they should take care of). These under staffed areas or not
staffed areas should be a focus of attention.
When I accepted to become chair of the board, I indicated that one of my
priorities would be to work on the organization of the Foundation. I
renewed that wish early 2007, making it a top priority along with
"quality", "recognition as a charity" and "outreach".
I also wanted to give you a feedback on what has been achieved in terms
of organization since then, and what is currently still not satisfactory.
I have identified several areas
* Corporate and Financial issues (finances, accounting, audit)
* Business development
* Press/messaging and Communication
* Charity activity
* "Human resources"
And I was trying to identify which "departments" needed more work and if
so, of which sort.
First, strictly speaking corporate issues.
We updated the bylaws at the end of 2006, first major update since the
first version written by Alex Roshuk and approved by Jimmy Wales. The
new version mostly intended to reflect the reality of our organization
mission, activity, organization etc...
The second version was largely written by Brad Patrick, with some
comments by the board. I believe these new bylaws will stand for a long
We have drafted a new vision and mission statement, which hopefully will
be agreed upon soon.
We are also now listed as charity on GuideStar.
We successfully finished the audit of our 3 first years of operation at
the end of 2006. This was a major work. We will go on having our
statements audited in the future.
I must say that the new year is beginning slowly on audit matters, but I
am not worried about that and think we have more pressing issues at
hand. Audit company made us several recommandations for improvement, and
a lot has indeed improved in the past few weeks. I'll plan an update for
you on such matters after next board meeting.
Carolyn, our COO, is given us frequent financial updates (do not worry,
we will not close in 3 months), and a part time bookeeper is currently
being added to the team. We have set up a conflict of interest policy,
confidentiality agreement is on its way. A lot has been done in the past
few months. I wish that you understand how very important this area is,
even though it is largely away from your eyes. As a charity, we have
some obligations to respect. Since most of our revenue comes from
donations, we also have a duty to be as transparent as possible. There
were huge progress on this side.
On the less positive side, we were unable to provide at the end of the
year a public annual report (too much to do).
We still do not have the 990 documents perfectly fixed and they are not
uploaded on the Foundation side. It is on its way though.
There are still many internal controls to set into place as well (such
as record keeping policy, reimbursement policy etc...). A large part of
this should be done by the board itself.
We lack a proper bank, which would fit our needs.
We also would need help from professionals to advise us on international
We just finished our biggest fundraising ever. The donor management has
been greatly improved thanks to David Strauss. Thank you letters were a
significant part of the office activity for a while.
On the not so positive side, we should be able to raise much more than
we are currently doing, in particular from big companies and big
charities. Afaik, no grants were seeked in the past months. And no
formal feedback was offered in regards to last fundraising.
I am not entirely sure we currently have sufficient team on this. More
volunteers may be of great help certainly.
We may find benefits in getting help from a fundraising professional
(either as temporary contractant, or even better, pro-bono).
Currently, we do only online soft fundraising, but we may decide for a
more aggressive fundraising policy in the future (in particular in the USA).
* Business development
Lot's of work has been done on this in the past few months. We got some
new sources of funds, a brand new contract for datafeed, more customers.
The income from this source is still pretty limited, but it is a big way
to the future.
Most of our business development is of two kinds. Either services (such
as setting up datafeed and getting paid for this), or brand use (such as
getting royalties when a third party sell a DVD with Wikipedia logo on it).
Datafeed require more technical development, in particular to propose a
wap feed which we do not have yet (tech volunteers here ?)
1) fixing trademarks issues
2) brand strategy
I do not think we will hire more people in this very specific area in
the next few months. However, I hope that we can get some pro-bono help
to help us explore our brand strategy and brand marketing.
Business will increase our revenus in the future, but right now, it is
costing a lot from a legal, administrative and technical perspective.
A lot has been done, a lot is still to be done.
Our legal needs are of several types.
Litigation and conflict resolution (for all the various ongoing legal
threats related to our projects content - this part is the most visible
Negotiation and drafting of contracts (such as job contract, datafeed
Intellectual property issues (such as trademarks)
Various legal counseling issues (such as confidentiality agreement,
corporate issues, investment, chapter agreements...)
Our main problem on legal issues is coordination. We get propositions
from various pro-bono lawyers, and legal interns. The legal area we
cover is very vast, and needs close attention in the coming months.
* Press/messaging and Communication
The area is getting more organized since the arrival of Sandy, who also
receive some help from many many volunteers (comcom, various press
contacts and interns). Press has become a huge issue in the past months,
eating up a lot of volunteer time. Translation is only taken care of by
volunteers, under the benevolent coordination of Aphaia.
There are many needs in this area, but a lot of it may be done by
volunteers. Hopefully, the volunteer coordinator will bring much help on
Right now, it is essentially Wikimania. At the board retreat, it was
suggested we should do more events. Which is fair, but in all honesty,
we can not absorb more than Wikimania. Doing events is probably more the
job of local chapters, and I suggest we should have a common place where
all events organised by chapters should be listed.
Events are very largely managed by volunteers. Last year, Delphine was
paid for being Wikimania organiser. This year, KJ is paid part time by
Wikia to help, and an administrative assistant will probably be paid by
the Foundation to give an hand. All others are volunteers and we should
give then a big thank you, because it is a lot of work to do, in rather
stressful conditions. No staff member on this, but Theodonarian and
several others are doing a fabulous job.
The area is getting more organized since the arrival of Delphine, who
also receive some help from many many volunteers.
Big commons areas betweeen Foundation and chapters is
1) promotion of projects (which involve setting up of promotional
material in common)
3) business development (such as DVD or datafeed)
We are currently on defining guidelines for chapter creation, chapter
recognition, brand use authorization. The hot potatoe is commercial
brand use authorization.
To put it simply. We currently have 4 developers employed. Others are
volunteers. The websites work with a handful of people, which is a true
miracle. In the past months, Brad has worked hard so that we have better
prices and contracts. So, on the bright side, lot's of work has been
done, and contrarywise to other areas, that shows (the site is working
On the less bright side, we have several software development for
example, which have been pending for a long time. Mix of lack of people
and poor strategy and priority management. Hopefully, more developers
and in particular a CTO should come to strengthen the team in the coming
* Charity activity
Now, I am thinking very very hard. Hmmmm. Not sure what we really did here.
The website is working ?
Being listed in GuideStar ?
Some of us were contacted by Unesco and participated to some talks ?
Well. We did things, but these were not part of a clear strategy :)
* "Human resources"
I apology for the ugly term.
The office in St Petersbourg is now only populated with Wikimedia
Foundation staff (Wikia staff has moved somewhere else).
We have a dozen people in the office or Tampa area.
Carolyn (COO), Danny (Grants, business), Barbara (essentially office
assistant), Brion (our tech god), Sandy (communication). We also have
nearby Brad (General Counsel) and Rob (hardware).
We also have half a dozen interns (some of them can be found on irc
sometimes). We get pro-bono help from Lin, a lawyer working in the same
Not in the office, but contractors elsewhere in the world, Tim Starling
and Mark (tech), Delphine (chapters).
Several positions are planned in the near future (from tomorrow to 6
A part-time bookkeeper in the office (ongoing), to second Carolyn.
More developers and in particular a Chief Technical Officer.
One or two volunteers coordinators (announcement just made)
An executive director
A few more words on executive director. We hired a search firm to help
us on this path. Current step is "interview of board members and staff
to better identify what the Foundation is really looking for". I will
inform you of the next steps so that community members may have the
possibility to candidate.
On this very topic, let me clarify that the board asked that as much as
possible, a priority be made for community members to be hired rather
than "unknown people". As recently mentionned on this very list, this
conflicts a bit with having our office in St Petersbourg.
More positions might be opened in the future, but are not clearly
outlined for now.
Amongst the two big issues we need to solve with regards to the people
we employ are
* as an employer, we still do not provide any benefits (such as
healthcare). I have asked Carolyn to help on that, so that we propose
more interesting opportunities for those willing to work for us.
* we wish to involve people from all over the world, not restricting
employees to USA only. Currently, those working "offshore" have to be
their own employers (they are contractants). This is not sustainable in
the long run, so we have to explore more international employment issues.
The fact of dealing with "online" employees put certain issues in
perspective, such as traceability of what they effectively do.
We are still a bit in limbo regarding committees. Roughly, the techco,
the comcom, the chapcom, the transco are working quite well. The fundcom
had hard days, but is recovering. The spcom is basically dead etc...
We need to work more on this, and I believe the volunteer coordinator
may be a great part of the answer :-)
Second, board itself.
The new bylaws and a relevant resolution caused major changes in the way
board members are nominated or elected, numbers, terms etc...
I am happy to say that our current board is pretty good and well
balanced. Whilst there are sometimes disagreements and tensions, we are
much more efficient than before, thanks to various personal
and professional profiles. There is still improvements to bring, but
overall, this is a very good working board.
In next june, 3 of our current board members will finish their terms and
new elections occur. One suggestion recently made was to clarify the
skills we more specifically need on the board, and it is not entirely
impossible that seats open for election be related to a certain set of
skill rather than not. This will be discussed at the next board meeting.
I apology if this was a bit long and possibly a bit confusing for some
of you. I mostly meant to share with you some thoughts I had of some
priorities to work upon. It is quick, but may ring bells.
If you guys know a professional fundraising person: raise your hand
If you guys know a professional in international employment: raise your hand
If you guys know a brand strategist, raise your hand
If you guys wish to be candidate on the next board and want to discuss
the "skilled-oriented board membership", raise your hands
Just food for thoughts
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