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WMF general donation FAQ

How and why does the WMF fundraise?


The Wikimedia Foundation is funded primarily through donations from millions of individuals around the world. The average donation is about $15 USD. We also receive donations through institutional grants and gifts.

In order to achieve our fundraising goals we fundraise both via email to previous donors and banners on Wikipedia. We use fundraising campaigns as an opportunity to inform readers about Wikipedia and how it’s different from other websites, while also raising the funds needed to support the Wikimedia projects and affiliates.

In 2013, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees defined the guiding principles that drives our fundraising strategy to this day. The principle of “independence” speaks to the value provided to our projects by the readers who donate to the Wikimedia Foundation. As stated in the Board approved guiding principles:

Part of the job of the Wikimedia Foundation is to ensure that the freedom and independence of the projects is never compromised. To that end, and also because it is extremely effective, we have deliberately chosen a revenue strategy in which a large majority of the funding for the Wikimedia Foundation comes from a large number of small donors in multiple countries around the world. This model limits risk, preserves independence by reducing the ability of any one organization or individual to influence our decisions, and aligns our fundraising practices with our mission by encouraging us to pay attention to the projects’ readers.

We are not considering advertising as a source of revenue. We do not believe that advertising belongs in a project devoted to free, reliable, and neutral knowledge. Introducing commercial interests could jeopardize Wikipedia’s reliability as a neutral source of information.

How are the fundraising banner messages created and how do they evolve?


Each year, the Wikimedia Foundation’s fundraising team tests hundreds of fundraising messages on website banners. This messaging is informed by feedback from surveys of Wikipedia readers and donors, community feedback groups, donor focus groups, social media sentiment, and donation rates.

The team continually looks for improvements to run more effective campaigns that limit the disruption from the reader experience, the campaign length, and number of banners readers see. We are grateful for the input and partnership with volunteers in improving campaigns for readers. In the past year, the fundraising team has made the following changes to campaigns in direct response to volunteer feedback.

  • The banner message no longer includes the number of reminder banner messages shown to readers. For example, "For the 2nd/3rd/4th time recently, we interrupt your reading to humbly ask you to defend Wikipedia’s independence." The message only references the first time we ask for a donation.
  • The message more prominently highlights Wikipedia as a place of learning and knowledge.
  • The line “98% of our readers don't give; they simply look the other way”  has been removed
  • The word “reliable” has been removed from the message.
  • The mobile message more prominently highlights our vision: “We are passionate about our model because at its core, Wikipedia belongs to you. We want to make sure everyone on the planet has equal access to knowledge.”
  • “Wikipedia is a place to learn, not a place for advertising.” has been changed to “We don't run ads, and we never have.”
  • More information about what donations support has been added to the small reminder banners on mobile:
    • “Here’s what your donation enables:
      • Improvements on Wikipedia and our other online free knowledge projects
      • Support for the volunteers who share their knowledge with you everyday
      • Resources to help the Wikimedia Foundation advance the cause of free knowledge in the world.”
  • An ‘I already donated’ feature has been added in all our fundraising banners and the thank you confirmation page to help donors dismiss banners across all their devices.
  • The Foundation discontinued the direct acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of donating. We began our direct acceptance of cryptocurrency in 2014 based on requests from our volunteers and donor communities. We made the decision to discontinue this practice based on feedback from those same communities.

Where does the foundation fundraise?


We fundraise globally in many countries across the world, so that readers worldwide can support and have a stake in Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects. While we do not have a list of all of the countries we fundraise in, you can see the breakdown of fundraising totals by region in our most recent Fundraising report, released in November 2022.

Can the community contribute fundraising message ideas?


Yes! Very much so!

We are always looking for new language suggestions to reach our readers to help them learn more about Wikipedia while we ask for their support. For example, the Dutch community recently (in September 2022) wrote a fully original banner that the team tested during the Dutch campaign in September. We ran the banners for 4 days towards the end of the campaign, and the overall result of the new banner was a 65% decrease in donations. While this exact message won't reach the revenue target for the year, there are interesting concepts to further develop. We followed up on this test with a productive conversation with the community after the campaign, and we are planning to work together on incorporating more of the ideas from that session into future banners for the Netherlands

Please leave your ideas on our Fundraising meta talk page and we will take this forward.

How does the Foundation allocate their budget each year?


The Wikimedia Foundation Annual Plan describes our budget for the current fiscal year. It contains a summary of our strategic goals as an organization, financial details on spending and revenue, and detailed explanations and risk analysis. We allocate 76 percent of our budget to programmatic work, 10 percent to fundraising, and 14 percent general and administrative expenses, which is similar to past years.

Does the community provide input into how the Foundation allocates its budget?


Historically, the Wikimedia Foundation’s plan was presented as primarily one-way information sharing of the organization’s work. However, this year’s annual plan more explicitly contributes to the wider and longer-term 2030 movement strategy and invited others to share their plans for the year in a two-way planning process. Over time, this may help us all better visualize the collective needs, efforts, and opportunities across communities and to identify further collaborations that could be developed or deepened by region, by project, or by another area of interest.

Why is the Foundation giving money to external organizations as part of the Knowledge Equity Fund?


Knowledge equity is not a goal that we as a movement can achieve alone. Our projects can only do so much if, for example, academic and mass media representation of marginalized communities does not improve, as that limits the citations and primary sources for us to build from. The Equity Fund will help us to build a robust ecosystem of free knowledge partners working to address the barriers to knowledge equity -- partners that we know will be critical as we work towards becoming the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge. The Wikimedia Foundation has several existing grant programs in place to support movement groups and affiliates on a variety of work including knowledge equity. The Equity Fund is an opportunity to try new approaches. That is why the Equity Fund is designed to support external organizations outside of the Wikimedia movement. It is meant to supplement existing grants into our movement, with a new method of investing in the ecosystem of free knowledge in order to benefit our movement

What about the Endowment and Enterprise? Do we still need to fundraise?


Yes we do. Both the Endowment and Enterprise help us to diversify our income and be more financially sustainable in the long term.

The Wikimedia Endowment was created in 2016 to serve as a permanent safekeeping fund to generate income to support the operations and activities of the Wikimedia projects in perpetuity.

Wikimedia Enterprise is a wholly-owned LLC that provides services for third party content reuse, delivered via APIs (application programming interfaces). It provides high volume, high reliability access to Wikimedia content, designed for the needs of commercial organizations, such as search engines, voice assistants, and technology startups. The creation of Wikimedia Enterprise is linked to our Movement Strategy recommendations as a way to both ensure the long-term financial sustainability of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects; and to ensure an improved User Experience for people reading Wikimedia content on our reusers’ platforms.

Why are Wikimedia Foundation employees paid $200,000 each?


This number is wrong and Wikimedia Foundation staff are not paid an average of $200,000. As we’ve mentioned before in response to this question, using the Form 990 data to calculate an average salary is misleading. It often -as in this case- produces totals that match some of our highest-paid employees. We hire in over 50 countries and almost 50% of our people are based outside of the US, which is a reflection of our values as a global movement. People are in a wide variety of job types and levels, each of which are paid differently and by location. An average is difficult to calculate and while it may provide a data point, it lacks meaning for evaluating our performance as an organization. Also, the Wikimedia Foundation has grown since this data – the budget increased in the past year with the addition of more than 200 new people since 2020. This will not continue in the 2022−2023 fiscal year as we stabilize our growth and also ensure that new resources are delivering maximum impact for our mission as per the draft annual plan