Fundraising 2011/Chapter Materials/Donor Survey Wikimedia Deutschland 2011

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detailled results

Wikimedia Deutschland conducted a big survey among its donors in July/August 2011. We wanted to know, what donors think about Wikipedia, how they use it, why they made a donation and much more to find out more specifically who they are, the people whose support is so important to Wikimedia.

Key facts and outcomes[edit]

Key Facts

  • 4000 donors were chosen randomly out of a sampling frame of 70.000 and invited to participate in the survey
  • ~ 1400 donors filled out the questionnaire, that is the response quote accounts for 33 %
  • main topics of the survey: knowledge of, worries and attitude towards Wikipedia, motivations to donate, donation behavior relating Wikipedia and in general, attitude towards the projects of Wikimedia Deutschland, demographic issues


  • our donors are real Wikipedia power users (meaning: readers)
  • 24 % of the participating donors at least once created content in Wikipedia
  • the donors agree very much the stated attitudes towards Wikipedia and motivations to donate
  • the projects of Wikimedia Deutschland are consistently rated as very worthy of support by our donors
  • nearly half of the participants are likely to support Wikipedia on a regular basis
  • 17 % of the respondents exclusively donated to Wikimedia and not to any other organization in 2010
  • demographic issues: only 16 % of the responding donors are female, the average age is 48, the donors have a high education level and higher-than-average income

Summary of the results[edit]

Who are our donors and what kind of relationship do they have with Wikipedia? How do they use the largest online encyclopedia and what do they especially like about it and why have they donated? We wanted to find answers to these questions by conducting a large survey among our supporters. After the survey was accessible online in July for two weeks and numerous donors participated in it, the results are now available. And they show above all: our donors are real Wikipedia power users.

More than 4,000 donors were selected at random and asked in an email for participation. Nearly 1,400 people accepted our invitation and agreed to complete the questionnaire. This corresponds to a rate of 33 percent and represents a great result! It demonstrates the strong support that we have from our donors and allows for the representativeness of the statements of our survey.

Usage of Wikipedia and knowledge about the online enyclopedia

That our donors like to use Wikipedia and that they do so on a frequent basis, this we already assumed before conducting the survey. But the result is clearer than we would have thought. 36 percent of donors use Wikipedia on a daily basis and nearly 50 percent use it at least once a week. Even 24 percent have already created content or do so regularly. If these numbers are not amazing in and of themselves, a comparison with the ARD / ZDF Online Study 2011 brings to light the enormous difference to the typical Internet user. Only 9 percent of those who have ever visited Wikipedia use the online encyclopedia on a daily basis. 33 percent use it weekly. Only 3 percent of online users who have visited Wikipedia once have contributed content to it.

Our donors clearly know about the fact that our authors are volunteers. A large majority of those who answered our survey believes that the articles are written by unpaid writers. Overall, 63 percent of participants believe that is necessary to register in order to actively participate in Wikipedia. In fact, it is rather the case that you can simply start creating content on Wikipedia without any registration process and without any proof of knowledge. Here we can learn that we still have to better educate people about this openness towards participation. Because Wikipedia is based on the ease of participation. Wikipedia’s vision of collecting the knowledge of mankind is based on the principle of making it as easy as possible to each individual to contribute his or her own knowledge.

Attitude towards Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects and motivations to donate

In general, the respondents agreed to a great extent with the views of Wikipedia mentioned in the survey and the motivations to donate to a great extent and are rather unworried about the future of the online encyclopedia. Charitable and open-access, ad-free and non-commerciality are, among other things, reasons why the donors like Wikipedia and support it.

But what actually motivates people to get involved in Wikipedia with a donation? Compared to making a donation to a traditional charity, support for Wikipedia is distinguished by one distinctive feature: the donor is the user of what he donates to and profits from his or her own support. Typical motives such as compassion are rather unlikely in connection with Wikipedia. Even the factor of self-interest possibly does not play an insignificant role. On the other hand, we assumed that gratitude and the vision of a fair and equal access to knowledge could be of central importance.

Various questions concerning attitude and motivation ought to throw some light onto the state of things. However, the results do not pretend to give a clear path. Due to the consistently high approval rating in regard to the answer guidelines of the corresponding questions, there is a lack of the necessary selectivity for comparability. However, there are several indications that Wikipedia is perceived primarily as a handy information tool. In a ranking, in which the participants should bring three statements into order according to their degree of consent, the strongest support with 56 percent was the description of Wikipedia as a useful information service. At any rate, 27 percent view Wikipedia first and foremost as a way to having equal access to knowledge and for 18 percent the fact that this is as a voluntary community project lies in the foreground. This attitude is particularly evident when comparing two statements about the effect of their own donation: While 59 percent of respondents agree very much with the statement that their donation will ensure the future availability of the online encyclopedia, only 9 percent agree with the statement that their donation will make for a fairer world. The findings, however, also point in a different direction. That access to knowledge for people with lower incomes will be ensured, has an equally high approval rating as motive as the vision of a historically unique place of exchanging knowledge. In addition, the answers show that gratitude plays an important role.

In our survey, the projects of Wikimedia Germany were presented in another important part and the donors were asked there about what areas the donations should be used in. This fact is particularly pleasing: all projects are consistently rated as very worthy of support. Whether it is media competency in dealing with Wikipedia, the political commitment to the freeing of content or the commitment to accessibility in the use of the digital encyclopedia - the donors who took part in the survey agree to a high degree that it is worthwhile supporting this concern. This is also reflected in the way in which our donors want the donated funds to be used. A large proportion of respondents wants much of the money or very much of it to be used for educational projects and political commitments.

The support of our donors, therefore, goes beyond the mere maintenance of access to Wikipedia. Does this stand in contradiction to the tendency of the above-described motivations? Not necessarily! As seen, the motivations are anything other than clearly interpretable and clear-cut. Furthermore, the result is due in part to the survey itself. In the questions dealing with motivation, there are only predetermined answers to choose from, which relate directly to Wikipedia. The projects and goals of Wikimedia Germany do not appear. This is a point on which future surveys could build, thus providing more accurate results. From the project reviews and the desires of the users, it is clear that donors support free knowledge in a broader scope and would like to promote it.

Demographic issues

Demographically, there is a preponderance of male donors: only 16 percent of donors are female. This figure is especially surprising given the results of the ARD / ZDF Online Study, according to which the gender distribution among Wikipedia readers does not vary very much: 72 percent of males and 67 percent of female Internet users visit Wikipedia at least occasionally. Generally speaking, what characterizes the majority of donors is an above-average income and a high educational level. Even 12 percent of the participants have a doctorate. The average age is 48 years. Our donors are thus younger than the "typical donor" in Germany.

That people who do not have an affinity for donating support Wikipedia becomes evident when considering that 17 percent of respondents in 2010 did not donate to any other organizations. Since they nonetheless gave money to the online encyclopedia, it is obvious that Wikipedia plays a big role in their lives. But also for just under half of the participants who spent their money differently the supporting of free knowledge belongs to their most important donations. This strong support is also illustrated by the fact that almost 50 percent of respondents can imagine setting up a regular donation. We can only be grateful for this willingness to support Wikipedia!

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