[Wikimedia-l] fundraising status?

Matthew Roth mroth at wikimedia.org
Thu Dec 27 19:22:36 UTC 2012

On Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 10:18 AM, James Salsman <jsalsman at gmail.com> wrote:

> During the past year has the ratio of the Foundation's top executive
> pay to the pay of junior staff and contractors increased by more than
> 50%?

James, I'm not going to get too far into the other specifics of this really
(for me) perplexing and troubling thread, but I personally wish this piece
of your litany would stop. I'm only speaking for myself here, so if others
have a wildly different view on compensation at the Wikimedia Foundation,
then I'll let them speak up. Having worked in non-profits, from small (a
transportation advocacy group in New York City with 25 employees or a
non-profit news outlet in San Francisco with 3 employees) to larger (
Doctors Without Borders/MSF in NYC, 130 employees there and thousands
worldwide) and now here, I can say the salary is quite competitive when
compared to other non-profits.

>From what I understand of the history of the organization (I started
working here June 2011),   the salaries have been pegged to be somewhere
between similar non-profits and similar tech companies, understanding that
our sweet spot is both as a tech company and also as a mission-driven
change-the-world type of place. I know we hammer "mission" all the time in
our recruiting material and in our fundraising material, but it really is
true. I don't think anyone who works here will do well if they are not
mission-focused. If I can generalize a lot, we believe that the work we are
doing is valuable and that counts for a lot in our consideration of whether
or not to work here.

That said, I'll re-iterate that the salaries (when compared to similar
non-profits) are quite good. In fact, I was surprised by the offer I got
when I started: it was $20,000 USD/year higher than I was expecting it to
be for a position with no management requirements (this was when I worked
on the fundraiser last year, my current position has more responsibility).
Similar positions at other Bay Area non-profits had additional
responsibility and provided much less pay. The other serious job I was
being considered for at the time of my hire here was as director for an
entire communications department for a division of the City of San
Francisco and it was exactly the same compensation as the position I took
here (I mention this to compare to another public-minded sector that I
would have been interested in).

>From your links to Glassdoor and from what I've heard from my
programmer/developer peers, I understand that other large
outfits/corporations in the Bay Area often pay higher for equivalent
experience. That being said, I also understand that one is often part of a
massive team with a tiny job that is repeated over and over and over. Here,
one can have one's hands in all kinds of interesting projects and the
exposure is quite a bit more, given how small our teams are and how huge
the web property is.

We also have excellent benefits. I was recently married and my wife will be
joining my health insurance on January 1 because it is more generous than
hers (she works at an emergency room in the premier hospital in the area).
In addition to a wide variety of options for our health plans, we can opt
for Health Spending Accounts, which the Foundation pays into with every
paycheck. Given that I am young and (blessedly) my healthcare bills were
low last year, I have nearly $5,000 saved up since I started at WMF for use
on health-related expenses. With my wife joining my plan, the amount the
Foundation pays into my account will now double, so we will very likely be
able to cover the entire cost of having our first child by the time we
decide to start a family some time next year (and having a kid in the U.S.
is expensive business to be sure). That's a tremendous burden off my
shoulders when considering my near future and it makes me quite grateful to
my employer.

I don't live an extravagant life, but I am able to afford a good home in a
good neighborhood (Glen Park, San Francisco) with a relatively comfortable
commute, which usually takes me 30-35 minutes by bicycle or public
transportation. At the end of my first year here, my manager and I went
through a formal review process and I ended up getting a raise, so that now
with 18 months of experience, I feel my compensation has grown with my
experience. If I had stayed in my last position in journalism (granted it's
a pretty rough market for journalists), I would be making 40% less than
what I make now.

That's not to say there aren't really stressful parts of this job and that
it doesn't carry its burdens. I don't mean to single you out for what I'm
about to say, because it could come from any number of threads on any
number of lists, but this is the most current iteration of a type of thread
that I find contributes a great deal of stress to my work here. There are a
number of assumptions that strike me as bad faith and many of them are
targeted at people I work with (some of them I consider friends), so it is
very difficult for me to read this. There is so often acrimony and rancor
on Wikimedia-l toward people I regularly rely on, that if my job weren't in
Communications and I didn't feel like I should keep up to date on threads
like this in case there are serious issues I should monitor, I would
probably unsubscribe from the list (leaving Internal-l in deep in the
recesses of my inbox where I don't see it every day lowered my blood
pressure significantly). It's just not fun to feel like you or others you
work with are being assailed, often times for reasons that don't make sense
to you.

In this case, since I started here (working on last year's fundraiser) I've
constantly felt the pressure to minimize the impact of the fundraiser by
not keeping banners up too long. Last year that pressure was coming from
WMF peers and community who expressed their ire about how big/imposing the
banners were (on what was then Foundation-l and the staff lists). Then that
pressure came in the form of ridicule and mocking on blogs and in the press
around the left-orientation of the banners from the 2011 campaign. None of
that was fun to read and it was even less enjoyable because I had a hand in
a lot of the work that went into those banners/appeals.

So when the fundraising team this year was able to raise so much money with
a relatively small burden (measured in having banners on Wikipedia X time
the banners were up), I believe we were all quite ecstatic. I know that
first test day on November 15th, when they brought in nearly $2 million, I
went home for the weekend with quite a smile on my face. And that
contentment was not for my own work, but for the Foundation as a whole and
for the health of the projects.

I'll let others get further into the weeds on your list of questions if
they like, but having had now nearly a decade of non-profit experience, I
think what the fundraising team has accomplished is really remarkable and
I'm sure most of their peers at other outfits would love to replicate their

I guess I should stop now. Cheers and Happy New Year.



Matthew Roth
Global Communications Manager
Wikimedia Foundation
+1.415.839.6885 ext 6635

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