Update of Foundation organization (March 07)

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I thought it would be nice to offer a little update with regards to the organization, in particular from a "person" perspective.

I outlined the various areas of activities of the Foundation, to try to identify in which areas we were staffed and in which areas we were either understaffed or not staffed at all. By staff, I do not necessarily mean "employee" as it may be volunteers from the community, interns, pro-bono help, contractors etc...

But the fact is, when an area is under-staffed, the job either is not done at all, or poorly done by other staff members (on top of their regular activity), or poorly done by board members (who can not take care of what they should take care of). These under staffed areas or not staffed areas should be a focus of attention.

When I accepted to become chair of the board, I indicated that one of my priorities would be to work on the organization of the Foundation. I renewed that wish early 2007, making it a top priority along with "quality", "recognition as a charity" and "outreach".

I also wanted to give you a feedback on what has been achieved in terms of organization since then, and what is currently still not satisfactory.

I have identified several areas

  • Corporate and Financial issues (finances, accounting, audit)
  • Fundraising/Grants
  • Business development
  • Legal
  • Press/messaging and Communication
  • Events
  • Chapters
  • Software
  • Hardware/network
  • Charity activity
  • "Human resources"

And I was trying to identify which "departments" needed more work and if so, of which sort.

Financial issues

First, strictly speaking corporate issues.
We updated the bylaws at the end of 2006, first major update since the first version written by Alex Roshuk and approved by Jimmy Wales. The new version mostly intended to reflect the reality of our organization mission, activity, organization etc...
The second version was largely written by Brad Patrick, with some comments by the board. I believe these new bylaws will stand for a long time.
We have drafted a new vision and mission statement, which hopefully will be agreed upon soon.
We are also now listed as charity on GuideStar.

We successfully finished the audit of our 3 first years of operation at the end of 2006. This was a major work. We will go on having our statements audited in the future.
I must say that the new year is beginning slowly on audit matters, but I am not worried about that and think we have more pressing issues at hand. Audit company made us several recommandations for improvement, and a lot has indeed improved in the past few weeks. I'll plan an update for you on such matters after next board meeting.

Carolyn, our COO, is given us frequent financial updates (do not worry, we will not close in 3 months), and a part time bookeeper is currently being added to the team. We have set up a conflict of interest policy, confidentiality agreement is on its way. A lot has been done in the past few months. I wish that you understand how very important this area is, even though it is largely away from your eyes. As a charity, we have some obligations to respect. Since most of our revenue comes from donations, we also have a duty to be as transparent as possible. There were huge progress on this side.

On the less positive side, we were unable to provide at the end of the year a public annual report (too much to do).
We still do not have the 990 documents perfectly fixed and they are not uploaded on the Foundation side. It is on its way though.
There are still many internal controls to set into place as well (such as record keeping policy, reimbursement policy etc...). A large part of this should be done by the board itself.
We lack a proper bank, which would fit our needs.
We also would need help from professionals to advise us on international issues.

Fundraising/Grants

We just finished our biggest fundraising ever. The donor management has been greatly improved thanks to David Strauss. Thank you letters were a significant part of the office activity for a while.

On the not so positive side, we should be able to raise much more than we are currently doing, in particular from big companies and big charities. As far as I know, no grants were sought in the past months. And no formal feedback was offered in regards to last fundraising.

I am not entirely sure we currently have sufficient team on this. More volunteers may be of great help certainly.

We may find benefits in getting help from a fundraising professional (either as temporary contractor, or even better, pro-bono). Currently, we do only online soft fundraising, but we may decide for a more aggressive fundraising policy in the future (in particular in the USA).

Business development

Lot's of work has been done on this in the past few months. We got some new sources of funds, a brand new contract for datafeed, more customers. The income from this source is still pretty limited, but it is a big way to the future.

Most of our business development is of two kinds. Either services (such as setting up datafeed and getting paid for this), or brand use (such as getting royalties when a third party sell a DVD with Wikipedia logo on it).

Datafeed require more technical development, in particular to propose a wap feed which we do not have yet (tech volunteers here ?)

Brand require

  1. fixing trademarks issues
  2. brand strategy

I do not think we will hire more people in this very specific area in the next few months. However, I hope that we can get some pro-bono help to help us explore our brand strategy and brand marketing.

Business will increase our revenus in the future, but right now, it is costing a lot from a legal, administrative and technical perspective.

Legal

A lot has been done, a lot is still to be done. Our legal needs are of several types.

  • Litigation and conflict resolution (for all the various ongoing legal threats related to our projects content - this part is the most visible for you)
  • Negotiation and drafting of contracts (such as job contract, datafeed contract)
  • Intellectual property issues (such as trademarks)
  • Various legal counseling issues (such as confidentiality agreement, corporate issues, investment, chapter agreements...)

Our main problem on legal issues is coordination. We get propositions from various pro-bono lawyers, and legal interns. The legal area we cover is very vast, and needs close attention in the coming months.

Press/messaging and Communication

The area is getting more organized since the arrival of Sandy, who also receive some help from many many volunteers (comcom, various press contacts and interns). Press has become a huge issue in the past months, eating up a lot of volunteer time. Translation is only taken care of by volunteers, under the benevolent coordination of Aphaia.

There are many needs in this area, but a lot of it may be done by volunteers. Hopefully, the volunteer coordinator will bring much help on this.

Events

Right now, it is essentially Wikimania. At the board retreat, it was suggested we should do more events. Which is fair, but in all honesty, we can not absorb more than Wikimania. Doing events is probably more the job of local chapters, and I suggest we should have a common place where all events organized by chapters should be listed.

Events are very largely managed by volunteers. Last year, Delphine was paid for being Wikimania organizer. This year, KJ is paid part time by Wikia to help, and an administrative assistant will probably be paid by the Foundation to give an hand. All others are volunteers and we should give then a big thank you, because it is a lot of work to do, in rather stressful conditions. No staff member on this, but Theodonarian and several others are doing a fabulous job.

Chapters

The area is getting more organized since the arrival of Delphine, who also receive some help from many many volunteers.
Big commons areas betweeen Foundation and chapters is

  1. promotion of projects (which involve setting up of promotional material in common)
  2. press
  3. business development (such as DVD or datafeed)
  4. events

We are currently on defining guidelines for chapter creation, chapter recognition, brand use authorization. The hot potatoe is commercial brand use authorization.

Software / Hardware/network

To put it simply. We currently have 4 developers employed. Others are volunteers. The websites work with a handful of people, which is a true miracle. In the past months, Brad has worked hard so that we have better prices and contracts. So, on the bright side, lot's of work has been done, and contrary to other areas, that shows (the site is working smoothly).
On the less bright side, we have several software development for example, which have been pending for a long time. Mix of lack of people and poor strategy and priority management. Hopefully, more developers and in particular a CTO should come to strengthen the team in the coming months.

Charity activity

Now, I am thinking very very hard. Hmmmm. Not sure what we really did here.

The website is working ?
Being listed in GuideStar ?
Some of us were contacted by Unesco and participated to some talks ?

Well. We did things, but these were not part of a clear strategy :)

Human resources

I apology for the ugly term.

The office in St Petersbourg is now only populated with Wikimedia Foundation staff (Wikia staff has moved somewhere else).

We have a dozen people in the office or Tampa area.
Carolyn (COO), Barbara (essentially office assistant), Brion (our tech god), Sandy (communication). We also have nearby Brad (General Counsel) and Rob (hardware).
We also have half a dozen interns (some of them can be found on irc sometimes). We get pro-bono help from Lin, a lawyer working in the same building.
Not in the office, but contractors elsewhere in the world, Tim Starling and Mark (tech), Delphine (chapters).

Several positions are planned in the near future (from tomorrow to 6 months).

A part-time bookkeeper in the office (ongoing), to second Carolyn. More developers and in particular a Chief Technical Officer.
One or two volunteers coordinators (announcement just made) An executive director

A few more words on executive director. We hired a search firm to help us on this path. Current step is "interview of board members and staff to better identify what the Foundation is really looking for". I will inform you of the next steps so that community members may have the possibility to candidate.
On this very topic, let me clarify that the board asked that as much as possible, a priority be made for community members to be hired rather than "unknown people". As recently mentioned on this very list, this conflicts a bit with having our office in St Petersburg.

More positions might be opened in the future, but are not clearly outlined for now.

Amongst the two big issues we need to solve with regards to the people we employ are

  • as an employer, we still do not provide any benefits (such as healthcare). I have asked Carolyn to help on that, so that we propose more interesting opportunities for those willing to work for us.
  • we wish to involve people from all over the world, not restricting employees to USA only. Currently, those working "offshore" have to be their own employers (they are contractors). This is not sustainable in the long run, so we have to explore more international employment issues.

The fact of dealing with "online" employees put certain issues in perspective, such as traceability of what they effectively do.

We are still a bit in limbo regarding committees. Roughly, the techco, the comcom, the chapcom, the transco are working quite well. The fundcom had hard days, but is recovering. The spcom is basically dead etc...
We need to work more on this, and I believe the volunteer coordinator may be a great part of the answer :-)


Second, board itself.

The new bylaws and a relevant resolution caused major changes in the way board members are nominated or elected, numbers, terms etc...
I am happy to say that our current board is pretty good and well balanced. Whilst there are sometimes disagreements and tensions, we are much more efficient than before, thanks to various personal and professional profiles. There is still improvements to bring, but overall, this is a very good working board.

During this upcoming June, three of our current board members will finish their terms and new elections occur. One suggestion recently made was to clarify the skills we more specifically need on the board, and it is not entirely impossible that seats open for election be related to a certain set of skill rather than not. This will be discussed at the next board meeting.


I apologize if this was a bit long and possibly a bit confusing for some of you. I mostly meant to share with you some thoughts I had of some priorities to work upon. It is quick, but may ring bells.

If you guys know a professional fundraising person: raise your hand
If you guys know a professional in international employment: raise your hand
If you guys know a brand strategist, raise your hand
If you guys wish to be candidate on the next board and want to discuss the "skilled-oriented board membership", raise your hands

Just some food for thought

Anthere / Florence Devouard