Transparency helps nonprofit stay true to volunteer roots

The Wikimedia Foundation's communications function has grown from a grassroots effort to a more structured team that mobilizes initiatives worldwide.

Company
The Wikimedia Foundation

Team size
Seven

What's new
Volunteers help spread the word on a local level

The Wikimedia Foundation's communications function has grown from a grassroots effort to a more structured team that mobilizes initiatives worldwide.

Yet the free content nonprofit still holds true to its roots. In addition to seven full-time communications staffers it relies on a global network of about 30 paid and volunteer PR managers to localize its message in international markets.

Head of communications Jay Walsh and his team stay in contact with PR managers, shaping strategy and providing resources for them to share Wikimedia's mission in their regions. The managers, many of whom are not professional PR practitioners, communicate through a 100-member email list where they can circulate information. "These volunteers are coming with a desire to make Wikimedia better understood locally," says Walsh.

The communications team maintains a blog, reaches out to press, maintains social media sites, and mobilizes campaigns.

"Having a small staff compels us to think differently. We work more efficiently and have turned our organization into a much more open entity," Walsh says. "We have to be transparent, fast-moving, and brave. If we operated in any other way our volunteers would lose faith in us." 

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