In a nutshell, what is Wikipedia? And what is the Wikimedia Foundation?
Wikipedia is the world's largest and most popular encyclopedia. It is 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 430,000,000 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 twelve 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 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.
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 the Wikimedia Foundation, where does my money go?
Money you donate pays for staff salaries and technology. Even though Wikipedia and its sister projects together reach 430,000,000 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); legal, communications, and community advocacy (public outreach, community programs, legal defense); and learning and grantmaking (supporting chapter programs and growing Wikimedia worldwide). The remainder of our staff work in management, finance, and administration. Your support also pays for servers, bandwidth, and Internet hosting that allow us to keep Wikimedia's projects running and growing.
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 80,000 people around the world.
Where can I find more financial information?
The Wikimedia Foundation 2011–12 annual report covers the fiscal year of July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. Now in its fifth edition, the Foundation's annual report expresses 'how the world tells its story' through the incredible work of our multilingual projects, and describes the priorities, challenges, and achievements within our movement.
The 2013–14 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 Reports or our Annual Plan.
What are your plans? Where is this going?
As Wikimedia Foundation 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 430,000,000 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 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 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, the Wikimedia Foundation 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 Foundation 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 Foundation 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. Having trouble playing the video? View it on YouTube.
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 2014 Wikimania will be in London.) 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. 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 a number of projects including Wikipedia. We also lead and support the development of MediaWiki, the open source wiki software behind all our public websites.
The Wikimedia Foundation is not affiliated with WikiLeaks.
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. 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 comprised of ten members, with three seats elected directly by the Wikimedia community; two seats selected by the Wikimedia chapters; one Board-appointed "community founder" seat (reserved for Jimmy Wales); and four Board-appointed "specific expertise" seats. The Board is supported by an Advisory Board.
We have an office, located in San Francisco, California (USA), where most of our employees work. 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?
The Wikimedia Foundation 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 150 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 tax deductibility for details. Click here for details on how to make a donation via credit/debit card, PayPal, Amazon, or by postal mail. For all other types of donation, please contact us through donatewikimedia.org.
Why doesn't Wikipedia use ads for revenue?
We do not believe that advertising belongs in a project devoted to education, and one that is driven by the values consistent with a balanced, neutral encyclopedia. Our big, global volunteer community (the people who make Wikipedia) have always felt that advertising would have a major effect on our ability to stay neutral, and ultimately ads would weaken the readers' overall confidence in the articles they are reading.
We are not against the world of online advertising, nor are we against other organizations that host ads. We just know ads are not an appropriate thing to find in a project devoted to education and knowledge – and especially one that strives for balance and neutrality.
How much money are you hoping to raise?
The 2013–14 plan posits revenue of $50.1 million from a 2012-13 projection of $50.9 million, a decrease of 1.6%.
More details about our finances can be found in our financial reports. Here is our 2013-14 Plan (PDF), and here is the Questions and Answers page related to it.
Where can I learn more about your recent activities?
For the fiscal year 2011-12, please download the 2011-2012 Annual Report: PDF version (3.9 MB)
If you want to keep up with Wikimedia events more regularly, we recommend the following sources:
How can I donate via debit or credit card?
- To donate using any major credit or debit card (VISA, MasterCard, Discover or American Express), PayPal, Moneybookers, bank transfer; please visit our fundraising page. Our donation options support many (although not all) currencies.
What other options exist to allow me to donate?
Alternative ways to donate to the Wikimedia Foundation include:
Why does the Wikimedia Foundation not currently accept Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a form of crypto-currency; in their own words, "an experimental new digital currency that enables instant payments to anyone, anywhere in the world."(Bitcoin P2P Digital Currency. Retrieved 2 November 2011.) The Wikimedia Foundation's position on the matter is as follows:
The Wikimedia Foundation, as a donor-driven organization, has a fiduciary duty to be responsible and prudent with its money. This has been interpreted to mean that we do not accept "artificial" currencies – that is, those not backed by the full faith and credit of an issuing government. We do, however, strive to provide as many methods of donating as possible and continue to monitor Bitcoin with interest and may revisit this position should circumstances change.
The Wikimedia Foundation does try to make donating as easy as possible, however. For a list of ways to give, see Ways to Give.
Are my donations tax-deductible?
Please refer to the information on tax-deductibility for the details of tax-deductions and tax receipts.
Why is there a minimum donation?
We receive small donations from people who don't have much money, and we are really, really grateful to those donors.
Unfortunately it is 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 amount for their testing: a $1 minimum donation amount seems to deter them.
What is your refund policy?
If for any reason you wish to have your donation refunded, please contact us via email at donatewikimedia.org. We will need the following information in order to process your refund:
- Date of donation (All refund requests must be made within 90 days of donation)
- Amount donated (Donations above USD $10,000 are considered major donations and are subject to the applicable grant agreement between the Foundation and the donor)
- Payment method used (credit card, bank transfer, E-wallet, …)
Please note that some payment methods may not support refunds, or require refunds to be made through the payment method (card) utilised, so additional information may be required to process your refund. All refunds will be processed as quickly as possible, but processing times may vary depending on the payment method.
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: https://donate.wikimedia.org
Join us on social media by following our social media accounts:
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 donatewikimedia.org
For other questions see the Contact us page for more details.