2018 Revenue strategy/Past

“The past” will consist of a retrospective and analysis on what got us to this point, looking at annual budget, growth rate, revenue and funding sources. It will be informed by financial reports, audits, fundraising reports, fundraising surveys, annual reports, and annual plans.

How did we get here?

  • How much have we raised?
  • How have we raised it?
  • What worked? What didn't? What have we learned?
  • How have we used it?


How much have we raised, and how?Edit


Very descriptive section

Evolution of the amount raised; breakdown by channel (e.g. banners, email, MGF), source (e.g. Wikipedia vs other sites), geography

Experimentation in 2007–2010 and many-small-donors strategy from 2010[1] [2]

Until now, we haven't really been intentional about what kind of revenue stream should fund what kind of activity.

Online fundraisingEdit

  • Banners
  • Email
  • Relationship with the community
  • A note on payment processing and relationships with affiliates (to be expanded below)

Major gifts and FoundationsEdit


Fundraising platform and technologyEdit

Links and topics to sortEdit

foundation:Fundraising reports


What have we learned?Edit

Revenue modelsEdit

Many small-dollar donors; major gifts and foundations; merchandise/store

Restricted vs. unrestricted grants

Research and experimentationEdit

  • Practice of research, testing, and experimentation in online fundraising
  • newer experiments like Fundraising/Updates/FBAdsExperiment
  • A lot of real-time research and experimentation on messaging / banners have significantly shaped how are campaigns have been running[3]
  • Testing ethos of the online team (A/B testing!) has made a huge difference -- we don’t assume anything; we don’t let the tests dictate everything, but they do inform what we do[3]

Donor motivationEdit

Top reason for giving: readers give because they use Wikipedia often and value it

Other top reasons: to keep Wikipedia online; no ads; free knowledge

Link to awareness: brand awareness, and awareness of nonprofit status

Governance and relationships between movement organizationsEdit

When it started in 2001, Wikipedia didn’t really have a business model. The site was hosted by Jimmy Wales’s company, Bomis, until he created the Wikimedia Foundation in 2003.

In its first few years, the Foundation, relying on a purely donation-based model, held small fundraising drives, as did chapters in an ad hoc manner. Fundraising goals and methods evolved over the years to keep up with the growth of the movement and the increasing popularity of the websites.

In 2008-2009, banner fundraising, payment, and revenue were governed by fundraising agreements between the Foundation and chapters. Most of the movement’s revenue came in from a large number of donors giving small amounts through banners.

By 2011, small, volunteer-run chapters were raising large sums in a way that was deemed by the Foundation to lack financial accountability and to be disproportionately favorable to chapters in affluent countries. The Foundation limited the chapters’ ability to conduct banner fundraising and created the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) to distribute funds across the movement.

In 2019, several affiliates are now financially self-sustaining, and others are supported by the Foundation through different kinds of grants. The movement is facing external challenges to its current fundraising model, and simultaneously the ambitious strategic direction for 2030 is calling for an increase in revenue beyond incremental growth.

Relationship with communitiesEdit

Striking the balance between too much and too little communication[3]

Communities are now part of how the Foundation creates the fundraising and annual reports.[3]

The Communications department has helped more effectively communicate with the communities.[3]

Relationship with readersEdit

Donor services

Working with OTRS


  • Years ago, the Foundation wanted to make progress on specific projects, but didn’t have the resources to do so[3]
  • Yet, even when it had more resources, it wasn't always able to make a lot of progress[3]
  • Wikipedia is complex and it’s created by a decentralized network of volunteers -- therefore its projects are also complex[3]
  • Fundraising team felt like it was always playing catch up during the first few years of big growth -- just keeping head above the water[3]
  • Now it feels like we have a greater bandwidth to be more strategic and long-term focused[3]
  • WMF was instrumental in creating a successful small dollar donor model that we now see in other nonprofits and political campaigns alike[3]
  • Now the WMF have strong small and large donor bases[3]

Banners and emailsEdit

  • 2009 Wikimedia Forever: External agency paid to write the copy. Lesson learned: “stay in house”[3]
  • Jimmy works[3]
  • Tested emails from Sue and other staff members[3]
  • Campaigns used to be 2 months long- using others allowed a break from Jimmy.[3]
  • Banners no longer shown to logged-in users

Public understanding and storytellingEdit

The level of public understand of how Wikipedia and the Wikimedia movement work is still an obstacle when talking with donors, particularly major donors. What do they need to know and understand about us?

How have we used our funds?Edit

Links and topics to sortEdit

Wikimedia Foundation Annual Plan

Wikimedia budget

Wikimedia Foundation reports, foundation:Annual Report, foundation:Financial reports

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. "Why Wikimedia’s new revenue strategy makes me happy". Sue Gardner's Blog (in en-US). 2010-07-17. Retrieved 2018-02-14. 
  2. "What’s *really* wrong with nonprofits — and how we can fix it". Sue Gardner's Blog (in en-US). 2013-10-20. Retrieved 2018-07-02. 
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Discussion 1