Thursday, December 29, 2011

What's Wikipedia's Annual Budget? Is Donating $5 Too Much? Too Little?

If you've been to Wikipedia lately, you've seen a photo of  Jimmy Wales and an appeal to make a donation.

I use Wikipedia a lot here so I've been thinking I should make a contribution.  How often do you use Wikipedia?  Do you think it might average, over a year, once a day?  Twice a day?  Three times?

Think about it.  OK, some days you don't look at it at all, but other days you might look something up on Wikipedia five or six times.  Or you might read something here or on another blog that comes from Wikipedia, in which case you are a second hand Wikipedia user.

Let's take twice a day.  That would be 730 visits per year.  At a penny a visit (it's worth that much isn't it?) that would be $7.30.  And they are saying that if everyone sends them just $5, they're ok.

There are three days left until the end of the year and their current fund raising campaign.

It takes less than a minute (if you don't put the wrong credit card expiration date in as I did) to fill out their form on their website.  

If you don't like to pay online, you can send a check:
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 98204
Washington, DC 20090-8204

OK Steve, so what's the budget already?  That's what the title said I'd get. 

Here's from their FAQ page:

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.

Why Should You Contribute?

Contributing your fair share or not is the difference between someone who believes in making the world a better place by giving back at least as much as he's given, or what economists call free riders.  People who sponge of the work of others.

Wikipedia isn't asking us to pay back the real value of Wikipedia.  They have lots of volunteers who give their labor free. (Their annual report says hundreds of thousands.) They're just asking for us to help out with things they actually have to pay for.  Imagine if you had to buy all the information you get from Wikipedia.  Hire someone at $25- $100 per hour to look it up.

Does Wikipedia  Spend It's Money Well?

OK, I've wandered way off from, "is it worth 1¢ per visit?" to writing how I imagine  Wikipedia works.  I don't know how efficient they are or whether anyone gets a $100,000 salary or not.  And if they do, whether it's money well-spent.  But . . .

. . . whenever I ask questions like those I have to go look, so here's from the overview financial page from their annual report (pdf):

Where the money goes
The Wikimedia Foundation continues to enjoy a stable base of revenue, stemming largely from its annual community giving campaign. In 2010–11, we doubled the number of small donors to over 500,000 individuals from all over the world.
Now in the second year of our five-year strategic plan, we are hiring new staff members, increasing the capacity of our server network to deliver Wikipedia and our other projects to the world, and intensifying our efforts to expand the reach of our projects in the Global South through on-the-ground initiatives.

44%  Maintaining our site and improving our software Operations and engineering, purchasing servers, maintaining and improving our data center, internet hosting, and software development and product engineering. $8,869,675

12%  Expanding our global reach
Improving access to Wikipedia on mobile devices in the Global South, public and education outreach, support and grants for our global chapters. $2,388,698

9%  Direct support to our volunteer community Researching community activity trends, increasing editor retention and recruitment, improving new technologies to help project editors. $1,889,084 

11%  Fundraising

Planning and development of our annual giving campaign, global payment collection fees (including Paypal and other fees). $2,142,217

6%  Board of Trustees administration and special projects Travel and professional development for our governing Board, as well as special research projects and initiatives to support the Wikimedia community. $1,172,654

18%  Administration
Benefits and related administration costs for Foundation staff, capital expenses, leases, training, travel, and other costs. $3,636,236

Total cash expenditures, including all capital purchases. $20,098,564
I just realized that was this year's annual plan.  Here's a link to the Wikimedia 2011-2012 Plan.

Charity Navigator gives them 65.49  points (out of a possible 70 points)  and four big stars overall.  Here's what they say that means:

4 Stars Exceptional Exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its Cause.

So here's the donate page link again.


  1. Well, I read your post and I think you forgot one thing. Everyone can write an article there or expand an existing one. Sharing your knowledge has worth as well (in my opinion more than $5).

    I don't use it much as Wikipedia has errors because of the fact I mentioned above and it can't be used in university as a valid source but it is excellent for a basic search.

  2. Ropi, "Sharing your knowledge has worth as well (in my opinion more than $5)." Are you saying:
    a. your contribution, when you add to Wikipedia, is worth more than $5? or
    b. the ability to have a place to post to the world on wikipedia and share what you know is worth more than $5

    I'm guessing a). I did mention they have hundreds of thousands of volunteer contributors. The $5 I think was aimed at the readers.

    And, of course, you have to be careful about accuracy on most websites. But your point is well taken - they do a good job of giving you an overview of the topic and then you can go do some fact checking.

    1. I meant answer "a". I am sorry if I wasn't clear.

  3. I love Wikipedia. It's an amazing resource. Take away Wikipedia and it would be hard to find good information quickly. There are so many crummy sites that will come up for a keyword, but just try to find the information on them. Also, you know you will never have to worry about getting a virus from Wikipedia. So I donate even though I do minor spelling and grammar editing when I see a need.

    I guess I don't see how contributing an article or taking time to edit is a valid reason not to donate $5. The only valid question, to me, is this one: Do you want Wikipedia to continue existing and growing, or not? I sure do, and here's why:

    Wikipedia is a collaborative effort that serves everyone. The amount of information people have entered on a volunteer basis is staggering. It shows us how great humanity can be at its best. It's a place where people passionate about their areas of expertise can educate the world about it, and where nitpickers like me get a chance to correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Better yet, it's all in one place, without any opt-in or agenda other than to inform.

    My point is that we're all in Wikipedia together. It's ours. It's humanity's. It's each of us reaching out to help millions of other people who, in turn, reach out and help us by keeping Wikipedia alive and vital. Just having such a thing exist as a way of linking us all together for the common good - so we can have a reliable and easy-to-find source of information - that's got to be worth $1 a person, don't you think? So if $5 is too much, donate $1. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that a billion dollars worth of time and expertise has been invested in Wikipedia by volunteers. Isn't access to it worth $1?

  4. "Take away Wikipedia and it would be hard to find good information quickly."


  5. Dean, I agree. There are plenty of other ways, but Wikipedia does give an overview which often gives the big picture better than other sites.

  6. According to this guy, wiki doesn't need the money? Not sure who to believe but this is another perspective:

  7. I used this site back when I was a kid, and they need the money. I suggest we all donate.


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