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English Wikipedia editors: "We don't need no stinking banners"

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By Adam Cuerden, Andreas Kolbe, Bri, and Helloheart
Auditing the fundraising banners

Last month, we reported on discontent with fundraising on Wikipedia. It all came to a head this month, as a widely-participated "Request for Comment" survey rejected the current plans for the fundraising campaign. Luckily for us, given this all happened three days before publication, the closing admin, Joe Roe, provided a thoughtful, nuanced summary of the dispute and decision:

Maryana Iskander, Chief Executive officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, gave a detailed response to this, quoted below:

I'm sure we'll have an update of some sort next month as well. It's a bit inevitable once the fundraising campaign starts. Hopefully, though, it'll be entirely positive. – AC

WMF releases Fundraising Report and audited financial statements for 2021–2022 year

In related news, the Wikimedia Foundation this month published its –

Note that the Wikimedia Foundation's financial year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Fundraising Report

In 2021–2022, the Wikimedia Foundation took $165,232,309 USD from over 13 million individual donations, an increase of more than $10 million over the year prior. $58 million, or 35.1% of the donations total, was brought in by banner campaigns on Wikipedia. The breakdown was as follows:

2021–2022: Donations breakdown.
2021–2022: Donations breakdown.

For comparison, the donations total in 2020–2021 was $154,763,121 raised from over 7.7 million donors (a different way of counting was used this year), with banner campaigns bringing in $57.3 million, or 37% of the total.

As in 2020–2021, the Wikimedia Foundation ran a fundraising campaign in India this financial year (see previous Signpost coverage; note that while the 2021 Indian fundraising campaign was cancelled, the 2020 campaign was not held in the spring but in August, thus falling into the 2020–2021 financial year).

Consolidated Financial Statements

The Financial Statements reported an unusual situation: for the first time in its history, the Wikimedia Foundation reported a negative investment income: –$12 million. Investment income had been positive at +$4.4 million in 2020–2021 and +$5.5 million in 2019–2020. At the time of writing, the Wikimedia Foundation had not responded to questions about the precise circumstances responsible for the negative result.

For the 2022–2023 financial year, the Annual Plan envisages an increase in both income and expenditure to $175 million, representing a planned increase in revenue by $20 million and a planned increase in expenses by $29 million (20%, more than twice the rate of inflation) compared to the year prior (total expenses in 2021–2022 were $146 million).

According to the minutes of the June 2022 Wikimedia Foundation board meeting, WMF board members and executives looking ahead at the 2022–2023 financial year now underway anticipated "moderate growth in terms of staffing. Next year, the fundraising team will be increasing targets in each of their major streams, with a particular focus in Major Gifts." – AK

Brief notes

The results of the Wikimedia Summit 2022 participant feedback survey are available on Commons.
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Page views item is misleading

This note is very misleading:

Page views in September for all wikis have been up in relation to the past months with 23,657,615,038 views in comparison to 23,033,712,122 in August. Wikipedia has been growing in popularity since January of 2016, when page views were 20,865,413,322.

As the small print under the linked chart warns: By default, this data shows page views from automated traffic as well as human traffic. To focus on human user page views, please use the Agent type filter.

Filtered to human page views, there is no such "growing in popularity since January of 2016". In fact the October 2022 number (16,043,576,424) is lower than the October 2016 number (16,573,593,158). And this view shows that there has been an increase of over 2.7 billion in monthly "Automated" views from March to October 2022.

(In fairness to Helloheart, this is easy to overlook. It's a common fallacy to go with the default view of , I've seen several other people make the same mistake. The Foundation's team who maintains this tool should have fixed this and other usability issues years ago.)

Regards, HaeB (talk) 17:21, 28 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Re: Fundraising

Not really a comment on the discussion, but a datapoint: every year there are a lot of complaints in the Archive of Our Own community about fundraising to support the website & its staff. Enough complaints that a defense of fundraising for that website has been posted every year on Tumblr. This leads me to wonder if complaints about fundraising are common at other community-based projects (such as, for example, Internet Archive), & if not how they avoided this blowback. In some ways, we Wikipe[d|m]ians can be very provincial in our outlook. -- llywrch (talk) 18:47, 28 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This might be of interest. --Firestar464 (talk) 10:21, 29 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Llywrch: I've seen the complaints on Tumblr as well, though I don't think they're close to the same very specific objections to fundraising methods and the doling out of said funding. Some objections definitely seem to be in the "don't donate to people who support/host insert-thing-here I find objectionable!" camp, and the list of things that are 'objectionable' (on a website where you can really specifically tag content for what's in it and then...avoid that stuff) and 'shouldn't be allowed' are invariably silly (some people apaprently can't separate fiction and reality in their head). Those complaints, I don't think AO3 worries about; they're not based on anything reasonable to worry about.
But I have seen some that genuinely wonder what they do with all that money. It's true that they generally go over their donation goals, but it's worth noting that their owner, the Organization for Transformative Works, has some large main avenues that money goes down: legal advocacy (necessary for copyright-derived works, hello Anne Rice), archival services (the open doors project imports fanfic collections that can no longer be supported independently), an academic journal, as well as their own wiki and a directory of resources.
I don't think they have the same problems that we do, and I don't remember them ever having had to make a post about criticism with their funding; for a website that hosts derivative works of non-free content, providing solid legal support that doesn't leave creators trying to figure out a cease and desist themselves is incredibly necessary work. There's a writeup of a reddit post on the subject here on that does a pretty good rundown of all the arguments.
What probably helps also is that AO3 doesn't write their fundraising banners like we do...—Ineffablebookkeeper (talk) ({{ping}} me!) 12:41, 30 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
From what I've seen of the AO3 banners, they are indeed very different from the Wikipedia ones, and it seems like the complaints they get are not generally about the form or content of the banners. The Internet Archive is an interesting example because their banners are like ours—indeed, they frequently appear to be virtual copy-and-pastes (their current banner starts with "Please don't scroll past this" and talks about "the one in a thousand users that support us financially"). But IA is not primarily based on user-generated content the way AO3 or Wikipedia is, so the "why do they need my money?" question is more obviously answered.
Also, fan fiction is a traditionally social and participatory medium, and the stereotypical fan fiction consumer is extremely online; wank is not unexpected. I'm not sure who the (stereo)typical IA user is.
Finally, tangentially related, the Organization for Transformative Works (which is a membership nonprofit) just had their board elections. Some interesting comparisons to be drawn. —Emufarmers(T/C) 22:27, 1 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Re: "We don't need no stinking banners"

Quoted audit report data in the Notes section is mis-representative, misleading

Hi, I’m from the Foundation’s Finance team. I want to note that the meaning of the “investment income (loss), net” section of our annual financial audit is explained in the audit report FAQ section. In essence, the $11,665,241 number in the audit report represents the value of the assets we held as of June 30, 2022 vs June 30, 2021, which did indeed go down; this was a period of global economic downturn that affected most people. Most of this number is an unrealized loss, meaning that we held onto most of our assets and will continue doing so until markets improve, rather than selling at a loss.

In the article, this data is presented as unexplained, with implied questions about whether Foundation finances are mismanaged or wrongly reported. Neither implication is correct.--SLangan (WMF) (talk) 20:46, 29 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@SLangan (WMF): Thanks for your note. However, all it says at the place you link to is this:
"Investment income (loss), net" is primarily interest, dividends, realized gains/losses, and unrealized gains/losses earned on the Wikimedia Foundation's cash and investment portfolio. During this audit period, some of the Foundation's cash was invested in mortgage backed securities, U.S. Treasury securities, corporate bonds, and stocks (Note 3). It is the Foundation’s investment intention to preserve capital, income and liquidity over‎ capital appreciation, which has higher volatility."
This is completely generic and hardly likely to enable the average community member to understand what caused the loss, all the more so as there was an economic downturn in 2020 as well, and WMF investment income remained several million in the black.
What I actually say in the article above is "At the time of writing, the Wikimedia Foundation had not responded to questions about the precise circumstances responsible for the negative result." This is indisputably true. I asked on the mailing list on Nov 10:
Dear WMF Finance staff, I inquired over a week ago on Meta-Wiki why the WMF is reporting a negative investment income (–$12 million). There has been no answer to date.[1] I am a layperson, but how can an investment income be negative? Would you mind sharing what this is about? I was also surprised to find that the reported increase in net assets for the 2021–2022 financial year was "only" $8.2 million. The third-quarter F&A tuning session published in May (based on data as of March 31) forecast a far higher surplus, with an increase in net assets of $25.9 million.[2] Would you mind sharing what happened in the fourth quarter to reduce the surplus by so much?
And I asked a week before that (twice) on Meta whether more information could be shared, and received no reply in either place.
You replied on Meta today, which is greatly appreciated, but frankly I am still none the wiser as to which of your assets specifically went down by so much, and why and how a projected $25.9 million increase in assets at the end of the year (I am reading that right, aren't I?) was reduced to just an $8 million increase in the space of three months.
I am not implying anything. I am asking you to help us understand. Regards, --Andreas JN466 21:28, 29 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Please also note my reply on Meta. Best, Andreas JN466 13:56, 30 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No you are not reading it correctly. The projected $25.9 million and $8 million you quoted represent very different calculations, across different types of reporting and different periods of time. They should not be compared directly. We have answered more fully on the audit report talk page. --SLangan (WMF) (talk) 20:19, 30 November 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Taylor & Francis

"The Wikipedia Library has made Taylor & Francis academic journals automatically available for anyone with a Wikimedia unified login" – Anyone? Even if you don't meet the criteria? Nardog (talk) 04:58, 10 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]


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