[WikiEN-l] Foundation audit

llywrch llywrch at rdrop.com
Tue Feb 12 20:14:33 UTC 2008

(apologies if this appears twice)

Anthere wrote: 
> When some board members of your organization are publicly accused to 
> misuse the donors money to promote their own business, how do they answer? 

Since you asked, my suggestion is to simply say "They don't" -- & provide detailed evidence that this is not the case.

Let's look at the travel budget, since that is the one which is appears to be attracting the most controversy. If all of the air travel is done by Economy Class (you know, the way the rest of us travel), then say so. If it isn't, then make it the rule from this moment forward. I've travelled Economy & Business class in the past, & given my druthers I'd want to travel Business -- especially for those long journeys between continents across those wide oceans. But whenever someone insists on flying Business or better on the Foundation's money, they need to be told, "Business class to this place costs 5 times or more than Economy. If we send you Business Class, that means either 4 other people can't travel where we need them to go or we take the money from a project that is at least as important -- if not more so -- than you." 

This applies to accomidation for staff and board members while on the road. If the rule is that people either stay with friends or at economical hotels, tell us -- or again make it the rule. I don't think anyone expects that travelling staff & board members stay at flophouses, but if the board can prove that they are being frugal with the funds it will attract more donations. (And if you need help with finding Wikimedians willing to offer a bed and a meal to travelling staffers, tell the membership & let's get something organized.)

Recently I've been doing business with a local non-profit run by the Catholic Church. I think it's fair to say that the Catholic Church in their operations is nowhere near as transparent as the Wikimedia Foundation. For the work this charity has been performing on my account (my wife & I have just adopted a child), they charged us a serious amount of for everything -- IIRC, somewhere around $15,000, and the two of us are not rich people. The folks at the charity were not in the least apologetic for that amount; the director at one point said in a general meeting, "The offices we are using are donated, the furniture we use is donated -- every dollar we get we try to put it towards providing services for the birth mothers in terms of housing, food, medical care and counselling both before and after the child's birth."

I honestly hope that every employee of the Wikimedia Foundation is not only professing but doing their jobs with an attitude like that -- where every dollar is going to support one of the Wikimedia projects, & keep them flourishing. And while I'll admit that I have my reservations, I believe that this is the case. However, if this is not the case, then there is a serious problem here that no amount of PR is going to solve.


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