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2015–2016 Q1 fundraising update sparks mailing list debate

Wikimedia Foundation revenue has risen fivefold over the past five years

Her concerns were echoed by Pete Forsyth, who opined:

Other posts acknowledged the fundraising team's responsiveness to community feedback, and the difficulty of meeting rising budget needs given declining pageviews. Wikimedia Foundation board member James Heilman said on October 15,


Space, the final frontier

Struck by Wikipedia

Geraldshields11 has submitted a grant proposal to launch Wikipedia articles into outer space. The project would include a number of articles on a 512 GB SD card to be included on a satellite launch scheduled for the end of the year. According to the proposal, the project would "increase name recondition of Wikimedia and its subcomponents" as well as "STEM coolness". G

Author donates one year's royalties to the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia blog reports that French author Antoine Bello donated an entire year’s royalties to the Wikimedia Foundation.


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I've always wondered what the all fuss was about when people complain about the WMF fundraising. It seems to me that they do a good job, present the case for donating fairly, and do it very quickly. If I remember correctly last year the banners were up for less than 2 weeks, and editors could dismiss the banners once and for all whenever they wanted to. What's the real problem Andreas and Pete Forsyth keep complaining about? Surely there must be something more than meets the eye.

In response to Forsyth "I have simply lost faith in the integrity of the critics of Wikimedia Foundation's fund-raising operation." Smallbones(smalltalk) 18:18, 18 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]

I think the banners were up for a full month - at least, based on the daily figures I saw (not, as far as I can tell, linked from foundation:2014-2015 Fundraising Report). More to the point, the issue is how the foundation measures its objective of offering the "best localized donation experience possible". Operationally, fundraising banners are selected based on A/B testing, and the ONLY explicit criteria is the extent to which a banner generates more donations. Factors such as intrusiveness, inducement of negative emotional feelings, whether the truth is blurred or not, whether a banner is more likely to lead to editing, etc., etc., are not measured, and therefore don't get factored into what is chosen to be presented. (And yes, donors are independently surveyed, but not in a way that clearly identifies better - or worse - banners, in the way that A/B testing does with regard to monetary impacts.)
I think it's also notable that although there were about 2,000 negative tweets about fundraising in 2014-2015 (about 7% of the total), it's unclear whether there was any analysis as to what were the specific issues mentioned in these negative tweets. Such negative feedback can be quite useful, if analyzed. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 20:54, 18 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
There was widespread criticism of banner messaging last December. For a sampling, see Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2015-03-18/Op-ed – people felt the banners were misleading as to the Foundation's financial situation, with some calling them manipulative and dishonest. There is anecdotal evidence, as that recounted by Pete, of people who donated in the belief that there was a financial emergency threatening the continued existence of Wikimedia sites online and who felt betrayed when they learnt that the Foundation is in fact wealthier than ever. The Foundation took over $75 million last year alone – five times as much as five years ago. $75 million would be enough to keep Wikipedia and all other Wikimedia projects online for 25 years. Most of the money is not spent on keeping Wikipedia online and ad-free these days, even though this is the hook the fundraising banners and Twitter messages (the hashtag is #keepitfree) rely on. (Incidentally, I believe most of the "positive tweets" are the semiautomated #keepitfree tweets of people who have just donated.) Donors need to understand what their money is used for. Andreas JN466 09:27, 19 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]

I fact that is not mentioned or taken care of is that while most NGO -from Caritas to Greenpeace to Amnesty International- are organised in such a way that donations to them are tax deductable in many countries, it's not the case for WMF. Donating to Chapters or Affiliated Organisations is deductable in many places but this fundraising campaing goes only to WMF. It is very relevant because not all of us leave in the US (I don't). B25es (talk) 18:39, 18 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]

  • Lighthearted approach, please! And thanks for asking. Did we mention beautiful natural places, whimsical graphical themes, cultural treasures, and happy, intelligent, or accomplished people with a gentle or goofy sense of humor, or a love of learning? --Djembayz (talk) 00:36, 19 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]

That scary banner is only suitable for times of disaster or mourning

  • For now, best to keep that very scary and effective banner out of public view, as it appears suitable for a travel warning billboard in a disturbed area / Amnesty International emergency appeal / wartime civil defense alert during air-ground invasion. FWIW, if you ever do need the scary banner, you'll know it, without a doubt. Let's prepare and plan for a world of peace, education and prosperity instead!
  • It is not ethical or in anybody's self-interest to use images that suggest a serious emergency or death in an everyday situation. If you do this, it is very easy to end up like The Boy Who Cried Wolf, as somebody who has given way too many false alarms for anyone to ever consider coming to their aid.
  • As someone who saw the damage of 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, I think it is a good idea for you to have a banner like this on hand for the WMF, given the realities of earthquake preparedness in the Bay Area. Again, if you use this sort of messaging when it is not a really serious situation, you lose credibility as being any sort of responsible person or organization.

Brings back memories of national mourning

  • Black banners like that bring back memories of the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and of Martin Luther King. You turned on the television and everybody cried, and you went to church and there was black cloth draped all over and everybody cried, and it happened not just once, but three times, first for JFK, and then for MLK, and then again for RFK. And then a year later you drove down the street in Chicago with the burned out buildings and the spraypaint graffiti that said "Blackstone Rangers" and you wanted to start crying all over again. And then came more riots and demonstrations and war and bitter, bitter arguments. Those dark days are over 45 years ago now, and I bet a lot of people who remember black cloth draped in public and people getting shot, losing some of the very best people who were bringing the country forward, a lot of people have to make an effort not to break out in tears, 45 years later, when we can't avoid the documentaries and it suddenly starts coming back to us. They were comforting back then, the draped black banners, because at least you knew you weren't alone in wanting to cry, but now they are not comforting, because they mean that nobody really remembers anymore what happened or what it meant. Somebody go look up Bobby Kennedy's speech in Indianapolis on YouTube about Martin Luther King and losing his own brother and then you will start to understand, maybe, what it is we have lost. I'm glad that this is just a data driven experiment for young people now, I am glad that you think about "venture capitalists" when you hear the words VC instead of the Viet Cong and body bags and the Vietnamese monks lighting themselves on fire on the TV while you are a kid eating dinner, and I am glad you can focus on fundraising and emergency preparedness without having to experience the traumas of earlier generations; but I am also a little sad that something has been lost about the basic dignity of acknowledging a shared sense of tragedy when all hope is gone, something that is an old, traditional symbol, truly from the heart, live and in person, with people you will face again and again over the weeks and months to come, and not simply some sort of disrespectful, revenue-generating "online social media event." --Djembayz (talk) 20:55, 19 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • the difficulty of meeting rising budget needs given declining pageviews. WMF like most organisations, has grown in proportion to the funds available. This will eventually mean someone will have to ask either "which functions are key to delivering the projects" or "which functions are key to perpetuating the size of the donation pool, the payroll, the executives' CVs." I hope they will ask the former and there are good signs recently. Ideally the questions should be asked long before the expenditure curve passes the income curve, but that seems pretty rare across all sectors.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 02:03, 19 October 2015 (UTC).[reply]

Budget growth over time

Wikimedia Foundation financial development 2003–2014. Green is revenue, red is expenditure, and black is assets, in millions of US dollars.

Could someone explain to me why "Better performing banners are required to raise a higher budget"? --Guy Macon (talk) 07:42, 19 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]

  • See the completion of that quote; "...with declining traffic". Wikipedia is in decline. It is more difficult to reduce their budgetary requirements than it is for traffic to decline. Thus, they need to get more money per traffic than in the past in order to maintain the current level of budget. Fast forward five years, and I think we'll see layoffs at WMF. --Hammersoft (talk) 17:27, 20 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Or we could simply reduce expenditures to 2010 levels now instead of doing it later when we are forced to do so, let the assets grow, and in roughly four years have an endowment large enough to run Wikipedia forever on the interest alone. I'm just saying. --Guy Macon (talk) 18:58, 20 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • There's been many suggestions over the years for the WMF to create an endowment. I haven't kept up to speed on debates about this, but as of 2 years ago, I believe it did not exist. As to reducing expenditures to 2010 levels. Umm, yeah...about that :) Seriously, the chances of that happening are nil. WMF's funding (and expenditures) have quintupled in the last five years. --Hammersoft (talk) 19:31, 20 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Well, staff levels have increased, from less than a dozen in 2007 to nearly 300 now, and are still increasing. There are more people working in fundraising alone today (about 20) than the Foundation had staff but a few years ago. Meanwhile, page views have declined. Yet readers are asked to donate to "keep [Wikipedia] online and ad-free", as though accommodating those declining page views would be jeopardised if they don't donate. Internet hosting, meanwhile, runs at a steady $2.5 million a year, according to recent financial statements. Now recall that the Foundation has taken over a quarter billion dollars over the past six years, according to the Foundation's own "Annual totals, 2009–2015" graphic shown above. Readers simply aren't given a full view of the situation, i.e. what exactly past donations have been spent on, and what yet more money is wanted for now. By the way, the 2015–2016 annual plan does call for several million to be raised for an endowment this financial year. The financial statements for 2014–2015 aren't out yet, but should appear any day, and will, I suspect, show the Foundation in possession of record assets. There seems to be no intent to communicate either of these facts to prospective donors. Andreas JN466 02:27, 21 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • When the financials come out, could someone who is good with image editing please create a graph like the one above with the new data? It might be useful for a future Signpost article. A title in English and a note on the bottom indicating what each color represents would also be nice. --Guy Macon (talk) 09:07, 21 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • It is misleading when the banner ad calls the WMF a "small nonprofit" when it has annual revenues of about US $75 million and a staff of about 280 people. I have volunteered for 45 years for many nonprofits with no employees or a handful of employees, and revenues orders of magnitude smaller. The WMF is far from the biggest nonprofit, but it is no longer small by any reasonable measure. They should drop that language. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 04:24, 23 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]

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