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Funding is a very important aspect of the survival and growth of the Wikimedia infrastructure and mission.
In the early days of Wikipedia (the first project that would later come under the auspices of the Wikimedia Foundation) after it was created in January 2001 by Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales, Wales was Wikipedia's sole benefactor. He paid for Wikipedia's bandwidth and for its domain names (which were relatively inexpensive, considering the small size of the early project), and as processing needs increased, he bought a new $3,000 server solely dedicated to Wikipedia and its related projects, rather than co-sharing space on a Bomis, Inc. rack.
Around early 2003, however, plans emerged to form a non-profit organization to manage Wikipedia's and Wiktionary's finances. Such an organization would be able to accept donations legally. And it could also recruit employees. Thus, on July 19, 2003, the WikimediaFoundation.org domain was created.
History of yearly fundraising
Since then, every year the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) has successfully increased its previous year's fundraising goals. First, budgets were in the few hundreds of thousands of dollars, then a million, then a few million, and most recently (2009-2010) the Foundation raised well over $10,000,000. A significant portion of every year's budget is set aside in a savings account for longer-term planning.
Past and continuing corporate sponsors of the Wikimedia Foundation include:
- 17 February 2010 : 2M USD from Google Inc. Charitable Giving Fund of Tides Foundation. This grant is unrestricted.
- 25 August 2009 : 2M USD from Omidyar Network. This grand is divided in 4 equal part which comes at a 6 months interval. The last quarter of this grant is dependant on milestones.
- 20 August 2009 : 500k USD from the Hewlett Foundation. This grant is restricted to operational support
- 26 January 2009 : 100k USD from the Mozilla Foundation. This grand is restricted to "help coordinate improvements to the development of Ogg Theora and related open video technologies."
- 3rd December 2008 : 890k USD from the Stanton Foundation. This grant is restricted to usability improvement (see wmf:Wikipedia Usability Initiative)
- 27 March 2008 : 500k USD from Neeru et Vinod Khosla
- 24 March 2008 : 3M USD from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. This grant is divided into 3 yearly grants of 1 million USD and dedicated to "financial and operational sustainability, increasing quality, increasing and broadening participation, and distributing our material beyond the wiki environment."