Sharing the Wikimedia Foundation’s Form 990 for fiscal year 2022-2023

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Each year, the Wikimedia Foundation publishes multiple financial documents to give insight into our budget and share how resources are allocated towards our mission of free knowledge. In addition to these financial documents, we also share context and highlights to make our financials more accessible and explain the work behind the numbers. 

The Wikimedia Foundation’s Form 990 for fiscal year July 2022 – June 2023 is now available on our website along with comprehensive FAQs available on Meta. The Form 990 is the annual tax form required of all nonprofits in the United States. It contains disclosures about an organization’s finances, governance practices, activities and more. This post contextualizes and explains key highlights from the form.

Key takeaways from the Form 990

The Wikimedia Foundation completes an audit report every year for the previous fiscal year, and then uses that data to complete the Form 990, which is submitted to the US Internal Revenue Service by May 15. The financial information for the Form 990, therefore, is largely the same as what appeared in the audit report, with some small differences due to differing accounting requirements between the two forms. You can find key highlights from the fiscal year 2022-2023 audit report here on Diff. Below, we highlight additional takeaways from the Form 990. 

High ratings for comprehensive governance policies

The Form 990 contains important information about an organization’s policies for critical governance issues. Part VI asks about the Wikimedia Foundation’s written policies around conflicts of interest, protecting whistleblowers, guidelines for data retention and governance practices, including those related to the Foundation’s Board structure, voting rights, and independence.  Third party assessment organizations such as Charity Navigator use these governance disclosures (along with other things like website disclosures and constituent feedback) to rate an organization’s overall health. Charity Navigator’s most recent evaluation of the Foundation is based on the governance disclosures in the Form 990 from the previous fiscal year 2021-2022; these disclosures have largely remained consistent for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. Charity Navigator awarded the Foundation the highest rating for its governance policies and practices. This rating is based on scores for Accountability and Finance, Leadership and Adaptability, and Culture and Community, for which we received scores of 100, 100 and 95 respectively. 

Reports of past leadership transitions 

The Form 990 covers compensation information (including severance) for the organization’s CEO, officers, key employees and 5 highest paid employees. For income tax reasons, this reporting is done on a calendar year basis rather than a fiscal year basis; therefore, this Form 990 covers calendar year 2022. Three senior leaders left the Wikimedia Foundation in calendar year 2022 under mutual separation agreements, receiving severance payments upon departure. Three additional senior leaders departed during calendar year 2023, which will be reported on next year’s Form 990. 

These agreements are approved by the Board of Trustees and typically take into account factors such as the salary, performance, level of responsibility, tenure at the organization, and services the executive provided during the transition, in addition to external market conditions for their type of role. While these agreements cover the 2022 calendar year, a formalized severance policy was published in 2023 that sets guidelines and severance amounts for Foundation staff going forward. 

Revenue primarily driven by donations

During fiscal year 2022-2023, our total revenue as reported in the Form 990 was $180.2M. This was made up of $173.4M in “contribution and grants” revenue (the money the Foundation receives through donations and grants), $3M in investment income, and $3.8M of “other revenue”, which included funds coming from Wikimedia Enterprise and other smaller sources. Our total revenue of $180.2M represents growth of approximately 7% from the prior year. 

Expenses growing slowly, in line with target

During fiscal year 2022-2023, our total expenses as reported in the Form 990 were $168.3M. This represents an increase of approximately 15% from the year prior, down from a 31% increase during fiscal year 2021-2022. This slowing rate of growth is in line with our budget goal under the 2022-2023 Annual Plan. Growth in expenses was driven primarily by personnel costs, as well as an increase to the community grants budget. The increase in personnel costs was driven mainly by the increased employee headcount from the prior year, fiscal year 2021-2022. Note that we do not expect to see similar headcount or other expense growth in the current fiscal year 2023-2024. 

The grants budget increased by 29%,1 meaning that growth in grants outpaced both overall expense growth (15%) and revenue growth (7%). The percentage of the overall Foundation budget that goes to supporting community grants increased steadily since fiscal year 2020-2021. This trend has continued into fiscal year 2023-2024 and is projected to continue for fiscal year 2024-2025.2 

Expense breakdowns align with Annual Plan goals

Our expenses in the fiscal year 2022-2023 totaled $168.3M, of which 43% went to technology, 33% went to support volunteers, 11% went to fundraising expenses, and 13% went to general and administrative support. 

Technology is the largest investment we make as an organization supporting one of the most visited websites in the world. In fiscal year 2022-2023, this expense category totaled $71.9M. You can read more about our technology work, as well as other goals we set forth for the organization, in the 2022-2023 annual plan.

Our second largest expense category is direct support to volunteers. A third of our expenses went to support volunteers totalling $56.1M, of which $24.7M is given as grants to community groups for their work towards the Wikimedia mission. You can find out more about the grants in this fiscal year in the Wikimedia Foundation Funding Report.3 

Our overall expense breakdown is aligned with the approach described in our 2022- 2023 Annual Plan, and is a fraction of what most top ten websites spend. There is more information on our commitment to good stewardship and efficiency available in our Annual Report

Diving deeper

While the Form 990 provides a comprehensive look at the Foundation’s policies, finances and activities, it is just one of the places we share this type of information. If you’re interested in diving deeper, you can also take a look at the Foundation’s audit report and FAQs, annual report, annual plan, fundraising report, and grantmaking report.

  1. This growth calculation is based on FY 22-23 grant expenses as reported in the Form 990 and FY 21-22 grant expenses in FY 21-22 Form 990, adjusted to include Wikidata costs of $4M. The Foundation began reporting Wikidata costs within grants in FY 22-23 and thus adjusted the FY 21-22 numbers for accurate comparison. ↩︎
  2. The 21% growth rate referenced in the linked FY 24-25 Annual Plan is based on a subset of the Foundation’s overall grant activity–it is the measure of grants going directly to Wikimedia community groups and affiliates. It therefore excludes certain grants taken into account in the 990, such as funds passed to the Endowment from planned gifts, and grants given to mission-aligned organizations outside the movement, such as funding for our research collaboration with Yale Law School. ↩︎
  3. The Funding Report is specific to grants from our Community Resources team and therefore does not include other grants activity that is not led by that team, including a collaboration on Wikidata ($4M), grants to the Wikimedia Endowment ($1.5M), grants for Knowledge Equity ($1M), and scholarships for 2 Wikimanias ($800K). ↩︎

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