Frequently Asked Questions 2009
Where does my money go?
To people and technology. Even though Wikipedia and its sister projects are one of the top five most-visited websites in the world, we employ fewer than 35 people; see our staff overview. Roughly half work on technology, a small team supports our public outreach and volunteer cultivation activities, and the remaining staff work in fundraising and administration. In addition, your support helps to pay for the technology infrastructure (servers and bandwidth) that keep Wikipedia running and growing.
Fundamentally, the Wikimedia Foundation exists to support and grow the enormous network of volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia and its sister projects -- more than 100,000 people around the world.
In a nutshell, what is Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is the world's largest and most popular encyclopedia. It's online, free to use, and free of advertising. Wikipedia contains more than 14 million volunteer-authored articles in over 250 languages, and is visited by more than 330 million people every month, making it the number five most-popular site in the world. It is a collaborative creation that has been added to and edited by millions of people during the past eight years: anyone can edit it, at any time. Wikipedia is the largest collection of shared knowledge in human history, and the people who support it are united by their love of learning, their intellectual curiosity, and their awareness that we know much more together, than any of us does alone.
Where can I find more financial information?
Our Annual Report explains our programs and key financial information in more detail. You can download a copy of the 07-08 Annual Report (3.7 MB PDF), and if you donate online, we will email you when our next Annual Report is released.
If you want to study our numbers in greater detail, we provide you with access to financial reporting and planning. To understand better how your donation is used, you can see a detailed explanation of our spending in the Annual Plan Presentation to the Board of Trustees (PDF). This includes:
- Summary of strategic spending priorities
- Comparison of the 08-09 actuals vs. the 09-10 plan
- 09-10 departmental budget breakdown
- Summary of top spending increases in 09-10
- Organizational chart
- Hiring plan for 2009-10
We've also written a Questions and Answers page related to the plan. Additional financial information, including copies of our audited financial statements up to the most recent fiscal year (2008-2009), can be found on the financial reports page.
Is the Wikimedia Foundation a charity?
Yes. The Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA. You can review our letter of tax-exemption and our financial reports and annual filings.
Why should I donate to the Wikimedia Foundation?
The job of the Wikimedia Foundation is to provide easy access to information for people all over the world—free of charge and free of advertising. We are a non-profit that depends on your financial help to do that. Your donation directly supports some of the most popular collaboratively-edited reference projects in the world, including Wikipedia, one of the world's top five most-popular sites and the largest encyclopedia ever compiled in human history.
What are your plans? Where is this going?
As the organization's founder, Jimmy Wales, put it: "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge." That’s where it’s going — and we need your help to get there.
Every month, more than 330 million people around the world use Wikipedia. It's available online, on your mobile device, on DVD, in books, and many other forms. We aspire to reach even more people, and to continually improve the quality of information that we provide. To do that, we are:
- making it much easier to contribute knowledge. We've recently launched a large-scale initiative to improve the user experience both for adding text and multimedia. You can find more information on the project website.
- creating learning and training resources to recruit more contributors: teachers, professors, students, photographers, filmmakers, scientists, librarians, archivists, curators, hobbyists, and many others. We're working with a growing network of 38 grass-roots Wikimedia chapter organizations around the world to reach out to these people, and encourage them to help us make Wikipedia better. More information can be found on the project website.
- developing new technologies and processes for quality assurance that do not conflict with Wikimedia's fundamental openness. For the technically interested, this includes technologies for flagging edits and for detecting potentially problematic changes.
- consulting with our global community of editors as well as experts, volunteers and thinkers around the world to develop innovative strategies for reaching more people, with higher quality resources, and for increasing the number of volunteers. More information about our five-year strategy project can be found on the project website.
- building a rich dashboard of metrics to support the work of the Wikimedia movement. See our monthly report card and our statistics portal.
Finally, it is our mission to protect the work that has been done so far: to reduce the risk that disaster or technical failure could eliminate portions of our work, and to ensure that it is regularly copied in many places. We're not an excited start-up company that will fade away in two years -- we're in this for the long term.
How do you balance keeping Wikipedia open with making it more reliable?
We believe increased participation makes Wikipedia better. At the same time, we must maintain the tough standards that have made Wikipedia respected by scientists, academics, journalists, and foundations.
What is the Wikimedia Foundation?
The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is the parent organization of various free-content projects, most notably Wikipedia, the award-winning online encyclopedia. Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia in January 2001 and created the Wikimedia Foundation in June 2003. From the beginning, we have existed for one reason: the free and open sharing of knowledge. We don’t sell information and we don’t accept advertising. Your donation makes our work possible. We bring the educational content from these projects to people in as many forms as possible. In particular, we help disadvantaged communities with limited connectivity to access and contribute free educational content.
We own more than 400 servers used to run our projects, along with all the associated domain names and trademarks. We support strategic software development on the MediaWiki software and related tools, which allow more people to participate and the existing volunteer community to work more effectively. This includes tools specifically related to ensuring high quality. We develop learning resources, support workshops and strive to think intelligently about other ways to bring in new contributors and to grow Wikimedia as an international movement for free knowledge.
In all this, we are supported by local chapters organized in many different countries.
Which projects do you support?
The Wikimedia Foundation supports Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia and one of the five most-visited websites world-wide. From the founding of Wikipedia in January 2001, and the incorporation of the Wikimedia Foundation in June 2003, our growth has been staggering. The English-language Wikipedia, our first project, has expanded to more than 6,000,000 articles today. All Wikipedia languages combined contain more than 47,000,000 articles.
Besides Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation also supports:
- Wikimedia Commons, a media repository containing more than 43,000,000 freely usable images, videos, and sound files
- Wikibooks, a project to create free textbooks
- Wiktionary, a multilingual dictionary and thesaurus
- Wikisource, a library of source documents
- Wikinews, a citizen news website
- Wikiversity, an interactive learning platform
- Wikiquote, a collection of quotations
- Wikispecies, a directory of life on Earth
We lead and support the development of MediaWiki, the open source wiki software behind all our public websites. We help to organize outreach and community events to encourage people to contribute to our projects, and we provide downloadable offline copies and database archives of Wikipedia content.
More information may be found on the page about our projects.
How is the Wikimedia Foundation run?
The Wikimedia Foundation has a staff of 302, led by the Executive Director, Sue Gardner. The staff supports the work of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who contribute content to the Wikimedia projects. Wikimedia is also supported by countless volunteers participating through committees, as interns, or on an ad hoc basis.
The Board of Trustees articulates the mission and vision of the Wikimedia Foundation, reviews and helps to develop long term plans, provides oversight, and supports the Wikimedia Foundation's fundraising efforts. It is the ultimate organizational authority of the Wikimedia Foundation as defined in its bylaws. See Meetings for published Board minutes and Resolutions for published Board resolutions. The Board is partially elected from the community of contributors to the Wikimedia projects. The Board is supported by an Advisory Board, chaired by Angela Beesley Starling.
We have an office, located in San Francisco, California (USA), where most of our employees are working. All board members and remaining staff work remotely.
How is the Wikimedia Foundation funded?
The Wikimedia Foundation receives donations from more than 50 countries around the world. The average donation is quite small, but their sheer numbers have ensured our success. People make contributions year-round, and once a year the Wikimedia Foundation makes a formal request for donations.
We are not considering advertising as a source of revenue.
The Wikimedia Foundation has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status in the United States. Donations made from other nations may also be tax deductible. See deductibility of donations for details. Click here for details on how to make a donation via PayPal, MoneyBookers or by postal mail. For all other types of donation, please contact us through donatewikimedia.org.
What is the Omidyar Network?
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment organization founded by Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, and his wife Pam Omidyar. It is dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives.
Omidyar Network has generously offered to provide up to $500,000 to match individual donations between $100 and $9,999 made during the Wikimedia Foundation's 2009-10 fundraising drive. The purpose of the matching grant is to encourage people to donate a slightly larger amount than they otherwise might have. The Wikimedia Foundation depends on hundreds of thousands of individual donations every year both to ensure financial sustainability, as well as continue to grow and achieve a positive, far-reaching social impact through Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
The matching funds are part of a grant of up to two million dollars over two years from Omidyar Network to the Wikimedia Foundation in support of its core objectives.
How much money are you hoping to raise?
For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2010, we have budgeted $9.4 million in expenses, and an annual operating reserve of $1.2 million. We are hoping to raise $10.6 million throughout the fiscal year, and at least $7.5 million through our campaign.
We plan to raise the remaining revenue through our other fundraising activities throughout the fiscal year (including major gifts and foundation support) and through mission-friendly business development activities (such as licensing the Wikipedia name and logo for commercial uses).
Who else is supporting you in this goal?
Most of our funding comes from individuals -- people like you. We also receive grants from community and private foundations, as well as in-kind contributions from corporations. They can be seen on our Benefactors page.
Where can I learn more about your recent activities?
For the fiscal year 2007-08, please consult our Annual Report.
How do I donate?
To donate, please visit our fundraising page. You can donate using any major credit card (including VISA, Mastercard, Discover or American Express), PayPal, Moneybookers, bank transfer, or by sending a cheque to the Foundation. Our donation options support most (although not all) currencies.
Where do I send checks?
Send checks to:
- Note: donations by check are processed directly at our centralized lockbox location which is in Washington, DC.
Our preference is for checks in U.S. dollars, drawn on U.S. bank accounts. Checks in currencies other than U.S. dollars, or from bank accounts outside the U.S., can be very expensive for us to process, which reduces the value of your gift. If you do not have a U.S. bank account, you can maximize the value of your donation by giving via Paypal or wire transfer.
Where do I send forms, letters or other materials to the Wikimedia Foundation?
Please send all correspondence, including Payroll Deduction applications and Matching Gifts forms, to our secure lockbox address:
- Note: donations by check are processed directly at our centralized lockbox location which is in Washington, DC.
Can I make a stock donation to the Wikimedia Foundation?
The Wikimedia Foundation accepts stock donations. You can make a donation by transferring stock from your brokerage to ours by providing your broker with our name, investment account number and DTCC clearing number.
- Account holder name: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Financial broker: Smith Barney
Investment account number: 546-0356C-14-782
DTCC Clearing account number: #0418
Are my donations tax-deductible?
Please refer to the list of countries for the details of tax-deductibility.
If I make a donation, how do I get my tax receipt?
If you donate by PayPal or credit card, you'll receive a tax receipt by e-mail, as long as your e-mail address was included with your donation. Donations by check over $50 will receive a tax receipt by mail, if you gave us your return address. You may also request a tax receipt for your donation by writing us at givingwikimedia.org (please include your contact information, the method you used to donate, and the amount of your donation).
Can I give you a targeted or restricted donation to be used for something very specific?
Charities based in the United States, including the Wikimedia Foundation, are required to honor restrictions requested by donors. This means that if you specify your donation needs to be restricted for a specific use, we will either honor your request or return your donation. But before you decide to do that, please consider that unrestricted donations are much more useful for us. Every restriction imposes administrative overhead and planning costs, and increases internal complexity.
Why is there a minimum donation?
The minimum donation amount is $1. We receive small donations from people who don't have much money, and we are really, really grateful to those donors. Truly, if the gift is meaningful to you, it's meaningful to us. But, it's not uncommon for people to use donation mechanisms such as ours to test stolen credit cards to see if they work. Those people typically use a very small dollar amount for their testing: we find a $1 minimum donation amount seems to deter them.
What can I do to help you spread the word?
Spread the word any way you can! Tell your friends and family. Tell them what Wikipedia means to you. Ask them if they use it and if so, what it means to them. Put buttons and banners on your blog. Use this text as the signature file on the bottom of your emails:
We’ve created the greatest collection of shared knowledge in history. Help protect Wikipedia. Donate now: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Support_Wikipedia/en
How can I contact the Foundation?
See the Contact us page for details.