Followup: Thanks Brad, Delphine, Anthere, SebMol & Ilario for your responses. Everyone else: post yours too 🙂 (I like starting a discussion on blogs, btw; it is less immediate than mailing lists but it feels more personal in a way, and gives everyone a chance to really expand and explore their own thoughts).
Anthere raises great points about what actually happens now for small chapters. I have been thinking the last few days (actually much longer than that, but I have been reminded of it recently) that I have no real idea how the current non-fundraising chapters feel about fundraising. If you’re in a smaller chapter, what do you think: would it be helpful to have base operating expenses funded with grants every year? Would it be helpful to get some other kind of guidance, or only project-based grants? What would make it more possible to do more projects in your home country (the end goal!)
Lots of people bring up controls and better controls. I think it is likely that we will all be on the same page about a few ideas (phrased here in my words, not Stu’s):
* We (everyone) have a responsibility to manage donor’s money well, legally and transparently
* Every group that handles money should be able to give assurance to every other part of the organization that it is doing so well and legally, with good documentation and reporting
In other words: we are accountable to the donors first and foremost, to each other, and to responsible stewardship of the projects. (And if we can’t agree on this, why not?)
Delphine talks about fiduciary duty. As I wrote below, here’s my layperson (non-accountant) understanding — the WMF board is not the only entity that should be worried about financial controls, but we have a specific and clear duty to do so, and to make sure that money that comes in through Foundation-run projects (i.e. project banners) is handled well. Our “duty” is corporate — to the organization and to the donors.
Part of this is a moral duty. We are a serious organization; we want to be around for a long time; we believe in information transparency; and we need to get it right. That duty remains regardless of organizational structure (i.e. whether there is a US chapter or an international audit committee or whatever), and whatever structures are set up should make sure that it is addressed.
I like ideas about increased international reporting structures. I am still trying to sort out what the best ideas would be, both philosophically and practically. Delphine is right: the WMF is totally worried; we take the fundraising seriously and want to get it right, as we all do. As for why these questions are still/again on the table — things have changed since the beginning. We’re raising 2-3x more money now than just a couple years ago; there are way more chapters; and priorities for the WMF have changed (taking on mission-based work like the global south). We’d be fools not to revisit the question of funding.
All that said, I personally think the principles of good process and good communication are very important; we shouldn’t have this conversation in a closed room. (Either the board room or WMF office or the chapters list!) I’m grateful that Stu started this blog conversation; and I will try my best to make this an open process as we go through this round of discussion.