Thanks to our tracker, we are able to avoid the accountant's nightmare depicted in the image.

Thanks to our tracker, we are able to avoid the accountant’s nightmare depicted in the image.

To ease the administrative burden of tracking grant expenses and to support a higher volume of volunteer activity, the Czech Wikimedia chapter (WM Czech Republic) created their own “tracker” – a lightweight expense tracking system that can be adopted by any organization.

WM Czech Republic has been utilizing this software since 2011 to implement our Mediagrant and Presentation&Outreach programs. These are two of the three Project and Event Grants that our chapter operates under – Mediagrant supports free media creation (see this or this blog post), while Presentation&Outreach deals with promotional activities of our chapter.  Having no executive employees, we needed to develop a procedure to make sure that all receipts are filed, approved, and catalogued. This requires a simple way of controlling the flow of money.

Petr Novák (Che), a member of our chapter, took initiative and looked at the options. First, he considered building the tracker upon a pre-made piece of software, such as Bugzilla. Then, he decided to start from the beginning and develop a completely new and lightweight tracking system. The result is freely accessible online and now includes hundreds of grant expenses. “I have spent about 70 days working on it over the three years – but I never killed the whole day with it”, says Petr Novák when I ask him about the tracker. He adds humbly: “It is a trivial app written in Python using the Django framework. Its sole purpose is to store information about tickets.”

Every „ticket“ (expense) has a catalogue number and includes one or more receipts. Routine tickets, such as minor travel expenses for Mediagrant photographers, are usually filed after the pictures are uploaded to Commons. For major expenses, tickets are written in advance and sent to our grant committee for review and approval.  The ticket page includes a description, list of expenses, a place to upload scanned receipts, and a link to the photos uploaded on Commons. The receipt is the only part of tracker that is not accessible to everyone on the Web since it might contain personal information.

Tickets also track cash flow. They can be marked as ‘draft’, ‘filed’, ‘approved’, ‘catalogued for reimbursement’, and finally ‘reimbursed’. All receipts are handed over to our part-time grant administrator who catalogues them for the accountant to archive. Most importantly, the time period between request for reimbursement and actually transferring the money is usually very short, making it an easy process for our volunteers.

Our tracker includes more than 500 tickets and the number grows on an average of about 5 per week. 76 people, both chapter members and collaborators, have registered in the tracker system and 43 have filed a ticket. A free software released on GitHub, anyone can install Tracker. Alternatively, you can contact me and I’ll put you in touch with Petr Novák who is willing to install the tracker for any Wikimedia organization on their server.

Tracker has allowed our chapter to support an increasing amount of volunteer activity and improve our administrative processes. It’s simple, easy, and will help your community and programs grow!

Vojtěch Dostál is a board member of Wikimedia Czech Republic. He would like to express his gratitude to Alexandra Wang from the WMF Grantmaking team for her immense help with the draft of this post.