The Wikimedia Foundation annual fundraising report offers a view of our fundraising strategy and learnings over the past fiscal year.
A cornerstone of our fundraising program is listening—to our donors, to our communities of volunteers, to Wikipedia readers, and to Wikimedia Foundation staff. We incorporate feedback into the strategies we use to educate readers about our mission and provide them with opportunities to get involved.
We all know the world is changing at breakneck speed, but the ideals of the Wikimedia Foundation remain the same: We imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. Each year, with your support, we edge closer toward that vision.
To the millions of donors from the nearly 30 countries where we fundraise in over 20 languages; to the tens of thousands of passionate and generous volunteers; to the millions of readers and free knowledge enthusiasts; and to the Wikimedia Foundation staff who keep it all going:
Donation Totals by Continent
If you would like to help translate fundraising messages or provide localization feedback, please visit our hub on Meta to get involved.
Donation Totals by Sources
$100 million raised from 6+ million donations
Our revenue increased this year:
Key Stats: English Campaign
Our English fundraising campaign runs across six nations (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States). It includes emails and online fundraising appeals, and it typically generates 50 percent of the Wikimedia Foundation’s annual revenue.
In 2017, we started fundraising in these areas much earlier than in the past. Instead of waiting until late November and December to run banners and email at high traffic levels, we spread the new campaign across the last three months of the year at limited traffic levels.
- We aimed to reach more readers, more consistently in order to give them a chance to donate, as opposed to only soliciting readers during one concentrated time at the end of the year.
More time to learn, improve
- By spreading out our testing, we had more time to make UX improvements (especially to mobile banners), feature quotes and pictures from the volunteer editor community in banners, and iterate more often.
Better donor experience
- By spreading out the timing of the campaign, we were better able to respond to questions from readers and monitor any issues with the donation process.
- The timing allowed for a more stable approach to fundraising, as we weren’t relying solely on a few key weeks. The former, more concentrated campaign strategy meant that unforeseen variables during those weeks could have had a large negative impact on the fundraising results.
English Campaign Banners and Email:
Share of Revenue by Source
In 2017, we saw a significant growth in the share of donations from mobile banners; we nearly doubled the amount we raised from mobile compared to the previous fiscal year. One reason for this was that we launched the mobile campaign earlier than in prior years, allowing more readers to view the mobile banners. We also iterated towards a significantly different design, which we discuss later in this report.
Online Fundraising Banners
Some of our greatest learnings from fundraising banner appeals happened early in the fiscal year, largely due to our new campaign schedule (mentioned above).
Pay the Fee
One highly impactful improvement was offering an option for donors to cover transaction processing fees, in effect allowing the Wikimedia Foundation to keep the full amount of the intended donation. These fees are individually quite small, but when added together they contributed significantly to this year’s overall revenue.
At right, we've provided an example of how this option appears in our fundraising content. Our initial concerns that the addition of this option might impact overall conversion rate were unfounded; asking this question has no impact on overall giving rate, but does increase the average gift amount.
Another one of our successes this year was our implementation of “community banners” featuring the photos of, or quotes from, Wikimedia contributors and staff. In addition to supporting donations, these banners also supported the recognition of the hard work our volunteers and staff contribute to make Wikipedia possible.
A testing result worth noting occurred during our Italian campaign. We wanted to see what would happen if we revised some of our most famous, winning phrases: “If everyone reading this gave $3, we could keep Wikipedia thriving for years to come. The price of your coffee this Thursday is all we need.”
A Metro ticket was suggested by our translators and community members as an alternative, universal daily item to replace coffee, and it performed as well as the coffee phrase. We are always particularly excited when finding successes that help us make our language more localized and appealing to specific audiences, and we will continue to work on similar improvements in all of the countries where we fundraise.
How did we get those amazing mobile gains?
We nearly doubled the amount we raised from mobile banner donations from 2016 to 2017. As mentioned earlier in this report, we launched the mobile campaign earlier than in prior years, allowing more readers to view mobile banners which, in turn, increased donations. However, our mobile donation rate is still half the donation rate of our desktop banners, so there is certainly room for improvement and growth.
Changes to the design and message of the banners also contributed significantly to the increase in mobile donations. A fresh idea from our team’s designer was to make the banner appear as if we were sending the reader a text message. Paired with more copy and an improved interface, the new mobile concept resulted in a 40% improvement to our donation rate.
The most obvious change is the length of the copy; it’s nearly twice as long. We were pleasantly surprised to find that this content, pulled from our desktop and email campaigns, resonated with readers. We even re-tested shorter and different varieties of copy to ensure that people were, in fact, reading the content, and that it moved them to donate. We found, as we often do, that genuine messages from real people work. For comparison, here’s a snapshot of the large mobile banner from the start of our campaign, vs. the later iteration incorporating all the changes mentioned above.
Online Fundraising Email
With over 7 million emails sent to donors in 20 countries, email continues to be a huge part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s revenue model. We emphasized international localization and sent donors heartfelt, mission-driven appeals from Jimmy Wales and Executive Director Katherine Maher.
Newsletters have proven to be an excellent tool to educate and involve donors. We saw phenomenal engagement with our end-of-the-year newsletter content. With this in mind, we will continue to strike a balance between giving our donors relevant content and respecting their time. Next year will be an exciting time for the Foundation as we continue to fine-tune our non-appeal email campaign.
More than 1,500 people and institutions made gifts of $1,000 USD or more in the 2017-18 fiscal year. These Major Gifts totaled $9.86 million, and included $650,000 from Craig Newmark, who celebrated his 65th birthday with a donation that matched other donors’ gifts in his honor. Also included: the second year of a three-year grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which is helping fund our Wikimedia Commons project that’s making it easier to share, access, and reuse freely-licensed photos, audio, and video available on Wikimedia Commons.
Major Gifts – whether $1,000 or $1 million – help the Wikimedia Foundation diversify our revenue stream, and allow high-capacity donors to make a critical impact on our mission. Many of our Major Gifts donors choose to be recognized on our Benefactors page.
Launched in January 2016, the Wikimedia Endowment is a dedicated and permanent funding source to realize the power and promise of Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia free knowledge projects – ensuring access to knowledge over the long term.
In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, we added $8.5 million USD to the Endowment, which now totals $27.5 million and puts us on track to reach $100 million over 10 years. We’ve raised the money through a combination of major and planned gifts (such as bequests, wills, and trusts), Endowment Advisory Board engagement and giving, and support from annual campaign donors. Many of our Endowment donors choose to be recognized on the Endowment website’s Benefactors page.
From Our Supporters
"It's impossible to calculate the impact [of] access to information and knowledge you have provided, as the leaders in what I first dreamed the Internet would be."
"Wikipedia helped me to build a career as a translator. I feel a duty and an immense joy now that I'm earning enough to share."
“I think Wikipedia represents the best of what the Internet should be—open and accessible.”
“I can usually find an article on topics that are interesting to me. It is especially important that Wikipedia remains accessible to blind and visually impaired users who use screen reading technology. Thank you.”
“[I like Wikipedia’s] fundamental democratic nature. I find it heartening that so many are interested in sharing, putting in so much time and care producing articles the quality of which I'm inclined to trust. All following from a simple open door. I think that's beautiful.”
“I depend on [Wikipedia] for my first layer of information. With so much disinformation online I appreciate you so much.”
Report Talk Page
Thank you for reading the report. Please visit our talk page to discuss this report with us. We are happy to share information about fundraising at the Wikimedia Foundation and look forward to your feedback. We will respond to comments and questions to the best of our ability.
- Continent totals may exclude anonymous, canceled, and some offline donations.
- “Other” may include donations from the Wikipedia sidebar, Wikimedia Foundation "Ways to Give" page, Wikipedia app, social media platforms, and also some checks, anonymous, spontaneous (e.g. visiting donate.wikimedia.org directly), and offline donations.
- The figures represented from prior years are revised and may exclude canceled and some offline donations; the queries used for this trend chart have been updated this year for greater accuracy. The queries used by the WMF fundraising team to report on revenue may differ from our form 990 for specific accounting reasons. After reviewing community input on the style of presentation of this data in the FY1617 report, we have revised our trend chart format.
- The figures represented from prior years are revised and may exclude canceled and some offline donations; the queries used for this trend chart have been updated this year for greater accuracy.