[Wikimedia-l] Wikimedia (Foundation) endowment

Ting Chen wing.philopp at gmx.de
Mon Mar 18 07:20:27 UTC 2013

Hello dear all,

at first thank you very much MZ for put this together. This is a quite 
hot topic both for the board election, which is coming soon again, and 
also on the board.

The following is my personal opinion why WMF should not build an 
endowment. The rationale from me are the following three:
1. WMF doesn't need an endowment
2. An endowment poses extra risks and problems for the WMF
3. From some aspect an endowment is contraproductive for the WMF even if 
we ignore the risks.

Let me explain in more detail:

1. WMF does not need an endowment.

For most NGO and non-profit organizations, an endowment is a method to 
mitigate the risk of unconstant income and unsecure funding. With the 
endowment the organization is indepenmdant on the ever changing 
fundraising result or on its dependance on grants. The WMF is not facing 
these problems. The WMF is not dependant on one or few grants, and it is 
not dependant on some big donations. The fundraising model of the WMF is 
based on microgrants from hundreds of thousands of participants, and 
practically from every region of the world. This makes it less 
vulnerable for example on changing economic situations. This is 
especially the case since we are not exhausting our fundraising 
potential (and as I understand the current strategy, we are not planning 
to exhaust this potential), and we have a fairly good strategic reserve. 
For the year 2009 for example we were all a bit nervous on our 
fundraising result since at that time the financial crises began to 
seriously impack the world economy. But at that year we doubled our fund 
raising result, achieved our goal before the targetted fund raising 
deadline. This trend kept for the last few years, independant of the 
world economy. It proves the robustness of this fundraising model. In 
comparison to most other non-profit organizations we are in a lucky 
situation that this model works for us. It certainly does not work for 
all organizations. And because the model is robust and it works well for 
us, we should not simply do what everyone else does: try to build up an 
endowment. If we don't need it, we don't need it.

2. An endowment poses extra risks and problems for the WMF

An endowment is a very big bunch of money. And if you have that money 
somewhere in your safe, it won't be any benefit. You need to invest it 
so that it get's return. An endowment is actually pretty similar like a 
bank. And as a bank, you need experts to take care of investment, of 
risk management, and all other things. Either you need your own experts 
(actually you always need your own expert at least for overseeing), or 
you need to buy experts. You need to trust him. Either way it means that 
you must pay the bill. And, the following is really my very personal and 
unprofessional opinion: There is no 100% security if you are a bank. 
Lheman Brothers were rated by all agencies as AAA until it went 
bancrupt. Even the United States Treasury Security is not as secure as 
it seemed to be. I trust the hundred thousand people who give us 10 to 
100 dollars more than the few experts, when it comes to security. And 
the work "ethic" investment was already mentioned here in the list. I 
believe we can debate forever if investment in United States Treasury 
Security is ethic or not.

3. From some aspect an endowment is contraproductive for the WMF even if 
we ignore the risks

I believe the Wikimedia projects represent a culture: the sharing 
culture. Even if it is not explicitely stated in our vision and mission, 
the Wikimedia projects are avant gards of this culture, and they get 
their strength from this culture. The annual fundraising campaign is one 
of our most effectful method to propagate this culture, even it is not 
designed so. I know many people, my colleagues, friends, people who use 
Wikipedia daily, but never think about how its service is maintained, 
until the annual fundraising campaign. Often it is at that time when 
people tell me: "Oh, I just see you are fundraising again, I am happy to 
make this contribution to show my support." Normally people never say 
this, until at the end of the year when our fund raising banner is on 
our project pages. I know for a lot of you the banners are annoying. But 
I also know that for a lot of people, who are not so involved in our 
projects, the banner is the reminder of our sharing culture. It is the 
time when they feel that they need to contribute something, and it 
definitively make them happy to do so. It makes them to feel also to be 
part of it. Our annual fund raising campaign is not thought to be a 
propaganda for the sharing culture, but in effect it is a very effective 
propaganda for it. And I believe it would be a los for all of us, if we 
don't have it any more.

So far, my thoughts. As I said all my private opinions, and some of them 
certainly very primitive and unprofessional. I am happy to get feedbacks 
and critics and learn from them.


Am 14.03.2013 06:48, schrieb MZMcBride:
> Hi.
> I've started collecting notes about a possible Wikimedia or Wikimedia
> Foundation endowment here: <https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Endowment>.
> Any additional relevant links to past discussions or thoughts about this
> idea are welcome on that page, its talk page, or this mailing list.
> MZMcBride
> _______________________________________________
> Wikimedia-l mailing list
> Wikimedia-l at lists.wikimedia.org
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimedia-l


Ting's Blog: http://wingphilopp.blogspot.com/

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