[Foundation-l] An article to read

Sue Gardner sgardner at wikimedia.org
Mon Apr 14 00:00:11 UTC 2008

Thomas Dalton wrote:
>>  I figure the WMF would excel at that. Maybe still too small to avoid
>>  fluctuations, I would nevertheless put this number out, track it over
>>  the years, and compare it with other charities.
> The way the WMF works, pretty much all the money goes on
> administrative stuff - everything else is done by volunteers. You'd
> have to decide what administrative stuff directly furthers the goals
> of the foundation and what stuff just keeps the foundation going (the
> hosting would probably fall into the former category, and is a very
> large proportion of spending).
You're right.  The Wikimedia Foundation is an unusual charity in that 
almost all of its mission-related (project-related, program-related) 
work is done by the volunteers. The staff essentially does whatever's 
left over - core technical functions, legal support, keeping the books, 
coordinating media and public relations activities, etc.

Generally, what Dirk says is true - the smaller the percentage of a 
charity's budget going to overhead, the leaner and more efficient the 
charity is.  But in this regard, we're not comparable to other 
charities, because our spending on overhead is completely dwarfed by the 
massive amount of mission-driven work going on, that's not visible in 
the financial records.

I make a point of talking about this with donors, because I think it's a 
big strength of ours - that so much of the effort and energy that goes 
into the projects is 'free.' If you're a donor, this essentially means 
that any donation you make will have a disproportionately large 
real-world impact. 

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