[Foundation-l] Putting the Foundation back in WMF

Florence Devouard Anthere9 at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 18 21:16:16 UTC 2007

Thomas Dalton wrote:
> On 17/11/2007, Robert Rohde <rarohde at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Endowments and contingency funds are nice, but right now that's all
>> academic.
>> After 26 days this drive is at $725k.  Even running the drive for the
>> planned 2 months, nearly 80% longer than the longest previous drive, it will
>> be a huge surprise to come anywhere close to the $4.6M the foundation wrote
>> down for their "budget".
>> Rather than talking about how to put money away for the future, the
>> immediate discussion needs to be  A) how to raise money more effectively,
>> and/or B) how to make do with less.
> A good point. The easiest way I can see to spend less in the short
> term is to delay the move to SF.

Even if it were possible, it would be a bad idea.
First point is that it is not really possible; we are in the middle of 
the move already. Second point is that we precisely need to move also to 
get nearer to those potential donors. We were simply too isolated in 

I haven't done the sums, so I don't
> know if that would be enough, but it would help. There are a lot of
> benefits to the move, but right now it would appear we simply can't
> afford it unless things greatly change. The other big expenditure is
> the appointment of an ED, but I'm not sure delaying that would be a
> good idea - we're never going to have a stable foundation until we
> sort out the governance.

We have such a person and we are already spending money to pay her. So, 
the only way we can actually decrease this cost would be by removing her 
or cutting down her salary (and most presumably, to be significant, the 
cut would have to be quite large, so it is probably not an option).
I believe NO one on the board and on the staff would like to see a 
vacuum in that position again.

I have also been wondering what we could cut down. And to be honest, 
very little.

Tech has been reduced to the minimum, however, additional positions have 
been planned. So I could expect we can save on some of the additional 

Office of the ED. the office of the executive director covers salary of 
the ED, salary of the assistant, relocation to San Francisco (eg, travel 
to SF to select offices etc...) and consulting (eg, fundraising 
consulting, communication consulting, branding consulting etc...)
I do not know if a full time assistant is really necessary. Relocation 
is already ongoing. Consulting... in the absence of staff in certain 
areas... is pretty necessary, but we can be more careful on this. Not 
sure how wise it is in the long run.

Board expenses.
I included in that budget, board meetings (4 a year), advisory board 
meeting (minor expense), wikimedia chapter meeting, other travel by 
board members and minor other expenses (communication stuff, 
registration to websites...)
I do not think cutting down the number of face-to-face board meeting 
would be reasonable. Wikimedia chapter meeting was already delayed. We 
can stop reimbursing board members of their travel expenses, but that 
would be a very sure way to make sure to lose hours of effective free of 
charge work. A better direction is to not hesitate to ask waivers for 
expenses when we can.
Honestly, little to cut down here.

Wikimania has never been a cost to the Foundation in the end. Sponsors 
have always covered it. We might consider trying to make it a revenue 
source perhaps ?

Finances and administration look pretty high. But I do not think there 
is much to scratch here. A significant part of it is simply financial 
fees (paypal etc...), audit, accounting costs etc... We do not have a 
big fancy office. etc...

Overall, I think the B) how to do with less, is not really a sustainable 
option. A) is certainly a much better direction of thinking; As well as 
C) other sources of revenue.

And yeah, concepts of putting money aside for the future are very nice 
on the paper. But reality is that we need that money now. I have been 
told at the beginning of the fundraiser that we had two "promises" of a 
big matching donation. Not sure when they will show up really. Or even 
if they will really show up a matching donations or regular donation.
What I do know though, is that we are not counting propositions of big 
donations by hundred, nor even dozen.
I have been asking a lot around me in the past few weeks and bottom line 
is that every big foundation giving money just do not want to spend it 
on "infrastructure" and for all those people, we are just this, 
infrastructure. You might always try to argue that "servers" are not 
"infrastructure", but really "our core program", that does not matter. 
In the mind of philantropists, "servers" or "bandwidth" are just 
infrastructure, that's not sexy, they do not want to fund this.

And to be fair, I do not think that "we are saving languages" is the 
right pitch either. It is more sexy, but what those guys want to see are 
rationale, timeline, figures, proof of concept, partnerships etc...
So, what we need to really work on in the near future are a "collection 
of grant propositions", which we can show around to philantropists. 
"What you will invest in" and what do you get in exchange.


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