Press releases/Omidyar Network Grant August 2009QA

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Questions and Answers

Omidyar Foundation grant to Wikimedia Foundation (from related press release)

What kind of support will Omidyar Network be offering to the Wikimedia Foundation?

Omidyar Network is giving the Wikimedia Foundation a package of support that includes $2 million (in four increments of $500K over two years), plus various forms of advice and expertise. For example, Matt Halprin will serve on the Wikimedia Board of Trustees, and will focus some of his attention there on supporting Wikimedia's strategy development project, as well as helping the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees with its general governance and oversight responsibilities. Omidyar staff will also be offering Wikimedia support in communications, strategic planning and recruiting.

What are the terms, or conditions, of the support?

The support is conditional on Wikimedia making progress towards its core objectives. Wikimedia has pledged to Omidyar Network to report progress in four key areas: financial sustainability, global reach, global participation rates, and the completion of Wikimedia's strategic planning process. Wikimedia and Omidyar have developed targets related to financial sustainability (the percentage of operating expenses supported by individual donations), global reach (global unique visitors monthly, as reported by comScore Media Metrix), global participation rates (defined as the number of editors with 5+ edits in the previous month) and the completion of the Wikimedia Foundation's strategy project.

Why is Omidyar Network interested in Wikipedia?

Omidyar Network understands the power of technology and mass collaboration to drive social good. It believes that all people have the power to make a difference -- to improve their own lives, and to make lasting contributions to their communities. As the most popular mission-driven website in the world, and the world's largest and most successful mass collaboration project, Wikipedia is naturally very interesting to Omidyar Network, and the work of the two organizations is naturally aligned. Omidyar Network wants to help Wikimedia grow and achieve even greater impact and success.

When did the Wikimedia Foundation first start talking with Omidyar Network?

The two organizations have been talking since shortly after the Wikimedia Foundation relocated to San Francisco from St. Petersburg, Florida in January 2008. It was obvious to both organizations that they have a lot in common and could productively work together.

Is it normal for foundations to offer a "package of support" like this one?

Many foundations choose to focus on offering restricted grants in support of particular projects or activities. By contrast, Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm. In Wikimedia's case, they offered an unrestricted grant, as well as expertise and support. To learn more about Omidyar Network, visit www.omidyar.com.

But Omidyar Network also makes investments in for-profit firms?

Yes, Omidyar Network believes that both non-profit and for-profit firms can achieve positive social impact, and it supports both kinds of work. In all instances though, Omidyar Network's goal is to help the organization be successful. For non-profit grants, ON's "return" is measured solely in social impact.

What other organizations does Omidyar Network support?

Omidyar Network supports organizations such as DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit which connects teachers with individual donors who fund classroom projects; GlobalGiving, an online marketplace that connects individual and institutional donors to community-based projects addressing health, education and economic development; and the Sunlight Foundation, which develops and supports technology that makes information about the U.S. Congress and government more accessible to the American public. It has also funded Guidestar, KaBOOM!, Ashoka, Creative Commons, Linden Labs, Meetup, Socialtext, and Wikia. To learn more about Omidyar Network, visit www.omidyar.com.

Does Omidyar Network's prior investment in Wikia create any kind of conflict of interest?

No. Wikia and the Wikimedia Foundation are independent organizations which share a founder, Jimmy Wales. Since Omidyar Network has a strong interest in social media and the online collaboration it allows, it's not surprising that Omidyar Network is interested in wikis, and has supported organizations that host wikis, including Wikia and Socialtext.

Is Omidyar Network grant to Wikimedia restricted or unrestricted?

This is an unrestricted grant.

Why did the Wikimedia Foundation invite Matt Halprin to join its Board?

Matt's background and skills are a great fit for the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, which has had two "expertise" (non-community) seats vacant since last April. Matt is a Board member of several other non-profit organizations, which means he will bring general non-profit governance and oversight experience to Wikimedia. His background at eBay gives him a good understanding of issues related to online community, trust, reputation, privacy and content quality: all key issues for the Wikimedia Foundation. Matt also has a background in strategy development, which will be useful for the Wikimedia Foundation as it embarks on its collaborative strategy development project. The Wikimedia Foundation believes Matt will be a terrific addition to Wikimedia's Board of Trustees.

Is Matt Halprin's Board seat an individual seat, or an Omidyar Network seat?

Like all Wikimedia Board members, Matt will be a member as an individual, not as a representative of any particular organization or constituency. All Wikimedia Foundation Board members have an obligation to put the best interests of the Wikimedia Foundation first, and to do their best to support and guide the organization, to help it achieve its mission and goals. The Wikimedia Foundation looks forward to Matt's participation on the Board.

When will Matt's term on the Wikimedia Board of Trustees expire?

Like all "expertise" (non-community) Board seats, Matt's term will expire on December 31, 2009. However, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees prefers not to have turnover in the expertise seats every year: it is likely that Matt, along with other "expertise" Board members, will be invited to stay on the Board in 2010.

What is an "expertise" Board seat?

There are 10 seats on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. As per the Wikimedia Foundation's Bylaws, five members are selected by the Wikimedia community, there is a Community Founder seat held by Jimmy Wales, and there are four members appointed by the Board itself to provide additional specific expertise. The goal of the expertise seats is to add skills and capacities to the Board that would otherwise be missing.

Who are the other people holding "expertise" Board seats?

Jan-Bart De Vreede, the Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees, holds an expertise seat, as does Stuart West, the Treasurer of the Board of Trustees. Matt will fill a third, which leaves one expertise seat currently vacant.