In a nutshell, what is Wikipedia? And what's Wikimedia?
Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) is the world's largest and most popular encyclopedia. It's online, free to use for any purpose, and free of advertising. Wikipedia contains more than 47 million volunteer-authored articles in over 298 languages, and is visited by more than 430 million people every month, making it one of the most popular sites in the world.
It is a collaborative creation that has been added to and edited by millions of people during the past ten years: anyone can edit it, at any time. It has become the largest collection of shared knowledge in human history. 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.
The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects. Together these sites are the fifth most visited web property in the world. The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA, and exempt (since April 2005) from paying taxes under section 501(c)(3) of the US Internal Revenue code which recognizes it with the status of a public charity. You can review our letter of tax-exemption and our financial reports and annual filings.
Our mission is to empower a global volunteer community to collect and develop the world's knowledge and to make it available to everyone for free, for any purpose. We work together with a network of chapters in many different countries to achieve this goal.
If I donate to Wikimedia, where does my money go?
Money you donate pays for staff salaries and technology. Even though Wikipedia and its sister projects together reach more than 430 million people every month, we employ only 302 people; see our staff overview.
Our staff is divided into three program departments: technology (website operations, software development); community (public outreach, reader relations and community programs, fundraising), and global development (supporting chapter programs and growing Wikimedia worldwide). The remainder of our staff work in management, finance, and administration, which includes legal protection of our work. Your support also pays for servers, bandwidth, and Internet hosting that allow us to keep Wikimedia's projects running and growing. If you donate to a local chapter in your geography, your donation supports both the Wikimedia Foundation, and program activities in your country.
Above all, the Wikimedia Foundation exists to support and grow the vast network of volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia and its sister projects – more than 100,000 people around the world.
Where can I find more financial information?
The 2009–2010 Wikimedia Foundation Annual Report covers the previous fiscal year (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010) with a look-ahead to the next. This is our third annual report. The Wikimedia Foundation Annual Report is a summary of the organization's financials, program activities, milestones and accomplishments.
The 2011-12 Annual Plan is our budget for the current fiscal year. It contains a summary of our strategic goals, financial details on spending and revenue, and detailed explanations and risk analysis.
Click the images below to download copies of our Annual Report or our Annual Plan.
What are your plans? Where is this going?
As Wikimedia founder Jimmy Wales put it: "Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge."
We're serious about this vision. Every month, more than 430 million people around the world already use Wikipedia. It's available online, on your mobile device, on DVD, in books, and many other forms. We aspire to reach everyone, and to continually provide more and better information.
Supported by an intense community-driven planning process, in 2010 the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees set "big, hairy, audacious goals" for Wikimedia. These five-year targets (PDF) include increasing Wikimedia's global reach to 1 billion people and the number of articles in Wikipedia to 50 million. We're also setting out to dramatically increase and diversify participation, and to measure and improve quality of all Wikimedia content.
Wikimedia is not a traditional organization. It's a global movement. The core of the work is done by thousands of volunteers worldwide. This volunteer community is supported by a network of organizations, with the Wikimedia Foundation at its center, working in partnership with geographically focused local chapters in 37 regions or countries. It's our volunteer community that enables us to accomplish so much with so little.
These are some of the activities we're focused on right now:
||Operating the world's fifth largest web property. At its heart, Wikimedia requires operational excellence to continue to exist. As of 2011, we're operating several hundred servers in three locations. While our global traffic continues to grow, our aim is to provide the best possible site experience to everyone in the world, to maximize uptime, and to ensure that all the information in Wikimedia projects is safe and secure.
Photograph: Wikimedia servers in our Florida hosting facility.
Giving Wikimedia's volunteers the best possible tools to do their work. The core technology that makes Wikipedia and its sister projects possible, the wiki, was invented in 1995. Things have changed quite a bit since then. Wikimedia projects run on an open source wiki software called MediaWiki, which we develop and improve. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to contribute knowledge, and to give volunteers and readers great tools for assessing and improving article quality. In some areas, we lead and innovate. At minimum, we must keep up with key trends in the ever-changing web we're part of. Because our software is open source, everyone can use and improve it.
Photograph: Affinity diagram created based on Wikipedia usability research.
Developing recruiting resources for new volunteers. Wikimedia is made of people. To grow our global community, we need to excite people about the prospect of being part of it – and help them with their first steps. To this end, we develop and maintain a library of outreach resources, such as videos and screencasts, but also printed "how-tos" and other more targeted resources (for teachers, librarians, students, and others). See the bookshelf of outreach resources.
Video: Wikimedia volunteers speak about their motivations, shot at the Wikimania 2010 conference (best played in Firefox).
Staging outreach and community events world-wide. Once a year, hundreds of Wikimedia volunteers come together at Wikimania, in a different location around the world each year. (You should come! In Summer 2012 Wikimania will be in Washington DC, USA.) And, Wikimedia's chapter organizations have staged dozens of additional events, competitions and conferences around the world. Some are targeted at recruiting new volunteers; some give the community space to think about its work, and to do it. Recognizing the value of people coming together because they are passionate about Wikimedia's mission has been key to our success.
Photograph: Participants of the "Free Your Knowledge" student competition in Indonesia listening to an introductory presentation (2010).
||Partnering with cultural institutions. Galleries, libraries, archives, and museums protect and make available the world's history, culture and knowledge. Their mission is to serve and inform the public, just like Wikimedia's. We've successfully partnered with cultural institutions around the world – not just in working with them to make digital reproductions available for free, but also in improving Wikipedia articles and other content related to their collections and archives. Wikimedia chapters are playing a lead role in organizing conferences and meetings targeting the cultural sector, and executing partnerships.
Photograph: Wikipedia volunteers at a "backstage pass" event organized by the British Museum (2010).
||Working with the educational sector. In the age of the open web, there's the potential for student projects to be more than just exercises. Pioneering professors have long assigned Wikipedia writing as coursework to their students. Everybody wins: students get an audience for their work, teachers successfully motivate their students, and readers get better articles. Wikimedia chapters have also reached out to schools to develop media literacy and to promote responsible use of Wikipedia in the classroom.
Photograph: Indiana University students of Barry Rubin's Seminar in Urban Economic Development are improving Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework.
Providing access to Wikipedia everywhere. The next billion people to discover the web will do it using mobile phones, some without ever having touched a laptop. We need to make sure that our sites and services work both on modern smartphones and (to the extent it's possible) on lower-end devices. Our current mobile version is a start and we'll continue to improve it (including moving beyond the read-only experience). And for people with no or intermittent Internet access, we're supporting copies of Wikipedia that can be used completely offline, including projects like the WikiReader, offline readers for desktops and smartphones, and printed versions of Wikimedia content.
Photograph: Wikipedia's mobile version works on the PlayStation Portable – and on your smartphone.
Informing our decision-making with facts and data. Analytics, research, experiments and forecasts are essential to make good decisions in a complex environment like Wikimedia. The Wikimedia Foundation Report Card and the Statistics Portal provide a wealth of up-to-date analysis which helps us understand the impact of our work. The Strategy Wiki is a public planning space where longer term trends are analyzed. Research projects provide us with in-depth analysis and experiments, supported by the volunteer-driven Research Committee. We're data nerds – what else would you expect from the kinds of people who love working on an online encyclopedia?
Illustration: Projection regarding availability of mature language editions useful to different segments of the world's population.
The Wikimedia Foundation isn't a start-up company that will fade away in a few years. We're in this for the long haul. Everything we do is aimed at providing you, and the rest of the world, with free and immediate access to all the world's knowledge. Join us!
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 5,500,000 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 texts containing more than 3,200,000 proofread pages in 49 languages
- 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.
The Wikimedia Foundation is not affiliated with WikiLeaks.
More information may be found on the page about our projects.
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.
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. The Wikimedia Foundation 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.
We strive to operate highly transparently, and have published key policies and financial information.
How is the Wikimedia Foundation funded?
Wikimedia is funded primarily through donations from hundreds of thousands of individuals, but also through several grants and gifts of servers and hosting (see benefactors).
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.
How much money are you hoping to raise?
The 2011-12 plan posits revenue of $29.5 million, a 24% increase over projected revenue of $23.8 million for 2010-11.
More details about our finances can be found in our financial reports. Here is our 2011-12 Plan (PDF), and here is the Questions and Answers page related to it.
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 2009-10, please Download the 2009-2010 Annual Report: PDF version (5.0 MB)
If you want to keep up with Wikimedia events more regularly, we recommend the following sources:
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 check to the Foundation. Our donation options support many (although not all) currencies.
Can I make an automatic monthly gift?
Yes. The Wikimedia Foundation supports monthly recurring giving - you can sign up by going to this page. Monthly recurring donations are processed by PayPal, but may be funded using any of their approved payment methods, which include credit cards. You will be required to set up a PayPal account. Recurring gifts happen once per month, on the anniversary of the date you made your first monthly gift, and continue for 12 months. During the twelfth month, you will be sent a notification asking you whether you wish to continue the gift. If you do not, do nothing. The gift will not automatically renew. If you wish to extend it for another year, follow the instructions that will be provided then.
Can you withdraw my monthly gift directly from my bank account?
While the Wikimedia Foundation can not directly withdraw your gift from your bank account, you may fund your PayPal account that way - see PayPal for up-to-date instructions.
What if I need to cancel my automatic monthly gift?
We understand that circumstances may change. If you need to cancel your monthly gift, log into your PayPal account, locate the "subscription creation" line item, click "details", and then click "cancel subscription". You will not be billed any further monthly payments. Alternatively, you can cancel by contacting the Wikimedia Foundation (email givingwikimedia.org) with your name, your email address, and a telephone number (so that we can let you know it has been cancelled).
Where do I send checks?
Send checks to:
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 98204
Washington, DC 20090-8204
- 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 credit card, 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:
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 98204
Washington, DC 20090-8204
- 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. 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://donate.wikimedia.org
How can I contact the Foundation?
If you still have questions or concerns please feel free to contact us. For donation questions you can email donationswikimedia.org
For other questions see the Contact us page for more details.