Fundraising/2018-19 Report

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Fundraising Report 2018-2019, Wikimedia Foundation


We are happy to share our annual fundraising report, our opportunity to provide insights into how the Wikimedia Foundation earns revenue to support its groundbreaking projects and operate one of the world’s top-ten websites, Wikipedia.

No other non-profit fundraises quite the same way. We are fortunate to have the support of over 5.5 million donors[1] from nearly 30 countries, with an average donation of $15 USD. Thank you to every donor who supports our mission.

When we consider new fundraising strategies, we never lose sight of the Wikimedia movement’s vision statement:

We imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

We believe that knowledge is for everyone and this inspires us to take an inclusive approach to asking for donations. Wikipedia is for the student, for the executive, for the firefighter, for the artist. Everyone who donates to Wikipedia, no matter the amount they give, has one thing in common: they find it useful and accessible.

Thank you.

Key Stats

Donation Totals by Continent

Donations by Continent From FY1819 Wikimedia Fundraising Report
Donations by Continent From FY1819 Wikimedia Fundraising Report
Note: All amounts rounded in USD.[2]

If you would like to help translate fundraising messages or provide feedback on how we localize our messages in each region where we fundraise, please visit our hub on Meta to get involved.

Donation Totals by Sources

$112.9 million raised from 5.5 million donors[3]

Donation Totals by Sources from FY1819 Wikimedia Fundraising Report
Donation Totals by Sources from FY1819 Wikimedia Fundraising Report
The above figures are expressed in USD and reflect gifts received during the 2018-19 fiscal year, excluding commitments for future donations. Major Gifts are donations of $1,000 USD and above, though the yearly total includes gifts under $1,000 that still fall under Major Gifts, such as donor-advised funds.[4]

Our revenue increased this year

Total Wikimedia Revenue from FY1819 Fundraising Report
Total Wikimedia Revenue from FY1819 Fundraising Report
Note: All amounts expressed in millions and rounded in USD.[5]

Our average donation size decreased by $0.25 USD

Average donation FY1819 from Fundraising Report
Average donation FY1819 from Fundraising Report
Note: All amounts expressed and rounded in USD.

Key Stats: English Campaign

Our English language fundraising campaign runs across six nations (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States). It includes emails to donors and online fundraising appeals—“banners”—on Wikipedia. This campaign typically generates 50 percent of the Wikimedia Foundation’s annual revenue.

Due to the high percentage of revenue concentrated at one time of year, in 2017, we decided to spread out our testing and expose English-language readers to banners earlier in the fiscal year. Our goal was to mitigate financial risk, improve the donor experience, and broaden the pool of donors. We exercised the same strategy in the 2018/19 fiscal year.

Online Fundraising English Campaign Banners and Email:
Share of Revenue by Source FY18/19

Share of FY1819 English Campaign Revenue by Source
Share of FY1819 English Campaign Revenue by Source

The share of mobile banner donations increased this year by 6 percentage points. The share of desktop banner donations decreased by 5.5 percentage points. Email donations were relatively consistent.

Online Fundraising Banners

Online Fundraising Banner From FY1819 Wikimedia Fundraising Report
Online Fundraising Banner From FY1819 Wikimedia Fundraising Report

We continue to see a shift from desktop to mobile in terms of pageviews and overall impressions to Wikipedia. However, our desktop donation rate is, interestingly, still twice our mobile donation rate.

Addressing the Social Proof Question

The online fundraising team often receives questions and comments about the use of negative social proof in our fundraising messages. Social proof is the phenomenon that people are prone to copy the actions of others; for example, if an individual is exposed to a group of people doing or buying something, they are more likely to do so themselves.

One of the most recognizable phrases in our fundraising banners takes the opposite approach, stating:

“... fewer than 1% of readers give.”
“... 99% of readers don’t give.”

The online fundraising team has tested, dozens of times, removing this fact from our materials. Our donation rate drops when we try. This past year we engaged with some experts in the field and asked them to explore further why we consistently see this finding. Is there something about a non-profit or a donation context that alters the rules of social proof? We plan on continuing to conduct tests this coming year in hopes of finding conclusions around the fundraising and non-profit context of social proof.

Mobile Large Banner Changes

We are consistently surprised that our mobile large banner, quite heavy in text, performs so efficiently. We have repeatedly tested removing large sections of copy, and seen the donation rate drop. This year, there were community requests to make the banner shorter and less prominent; we responded by reducing copy and removing or altering parts of the design to make it as efficient as possible. While these changes reduced the banner’s donation rate, we felt these changes were in everyone’s best interest. We worked together with the community to think through how the Foundation fundraises online, and how we message to our readers and donors.

Looking Forward: Recurring Donations

We are excited to focus in the coming year on increasing the number of our recurring donations, which are an important and sustainable source of revenue. We have just begun testing and look forward to sharing promising results in the near future.

Online Fundraising Email

The Wikimedia Foundation email program continues a healthy rate of growth. We raised 19 percent more revenue in comparison to the previous fiscal year, and received 25 percent more donations overall.

Online Fundraising Email from FY1819 Wikimedia Fundraising Report

It is important to our team to keep donors engaged year after year, but also to respect the space we take up in their inbox. That is why we have maintained our strategy of sending a maximum of three email appeals per donor per year. Historically, the middle appeal (what we call ‘Email 2’, shown here) received the lowest conversion rate, as it lacked the novelty of Email 1 and the urgency of Email 3, so we invested extra creative energy in improving our Email 2 donation rates.

A milestone test is displayed here, including a new way to honor donors’ consistent contributions with badges earned each year they give. This copy and design element has brought about a consistent 8 percent improvement in donations per email across multiple countries and languages. It helps to reinforce a sense of pride in being a donor to Wikipedia. We are continuing to test badge names, content and designs, and are excited to continue to share these with donors in the coming year.

Looking forward: Strengthening Relationships

Our testing program allows us to learn a great deal about our donors, but that can make it easy to optimise for a certain kind of message that is only meaningful to some people. Going forward, we plan to strengthen the ways we customize and test email messages so that they are meaningful to a wider variety of current and potential donors. We are thrilled to have increased team capacity to cultivate long-term donor relationships and educate more people about the movement. We look forward to using email as a tool to bring more donors into the Wikimedia community.

Major Gifts

More than 1,600 people and institutions made gifts of $1,000 USD or more in the 2018-19 fiscal year. Thousands of others contributed through donor-advised funds and other methods that also fall under Major Gifts. These Major Gifts totaled $14.1 million, and included $1.1 million from and $1 million from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation.[6] This year also marked the first year of a three-year grant from the Siegel Family Endowment, which is supporting the Wikimedia Research team; and the final year of a three-year grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which is helping fund the structured data on 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 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.

Matching Gifts

More than 31,500 gifts were made through corporate philanthropic programs this past year. The matching gifts and payroll deduction programs let employers match employees’ individual gifts to the Wikimedia Foundation, doubling or even tripling the original donation amount.

These gifts totaled $1,380,839 USD, and included employee-generated gifts totaling $448,279 from Google, $207,542 from Apple and $161,649 from Microsoft. Revenue through the program increased by 36.85 percent during the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The Endowment

We launched the Wikimedia Endowment in January 2016 as a dedicated and permanent funding source to realize the power and promise of Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia free knowledge projects. Our mission is to ensure access to knowledge over the long term.

To date, we’ve raised $41 million[7] toward our initial goal of raising $100 million over 10 years. We are on track to reach our $100 million goal ahead of schedule. This past fiscal year, we raised $14.6 million from 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.

We also began to build out a robust planned giving program, including launching the Wikipedia Legacy Society as a way of honoring donors who plan to make a gift through their will to support Wikipedia. Planned giving is a way of collecting pledges for future donations, typically through wills and estate planning.

Last year, over 10,000 donors expressed interest in learning more about planned giving as a way to support the future of free knowledge. Planned giving presents an opportunity to both grow and sustain the Endowment over the long term. We’ll continue to expand our outreach and cultivation of planned gifts in the years to come.

From Our Supporters

“You bring so much joy to my curious mind!!”

“Thank you for always being accessible when I am in a need of a reference and looking for information. Hats off to your hard work!”

“I do appreciate so much being able to learn without cost, and at the press of a button, at any time of day or night. Aged 58, I wasn’t brought up in such a world, and it still seems a miracle to me.”

“Wikipedia is a tremendous learning resource for the whole world, and getting more so by the day. I don't think there's a parallel for it in the entire past history of humanity. More than ever, it is especially important as an unbiased factual reference point...”

“Wikipedia does a really commendable job of striving for objectivity and honestly acknowledging areas where there may be several different viewpoints.”

“I like the site being open-minded even about the most controversial topics, I love that they avoid opinions and stick to facts.”

“We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you. Thank you all editors, even the anonymous ones, because you all make an effort to make knowledge accessible for everyone. I mean, Wikipedia is an astounding feat, you should be proud.”

“Be yourself. Be as you are. Be free of charge and without advertising. Don't sell your users’ data. I've been watching you grow for years and I’m proud of you. Thank you. Thank all of you!”

“Wikipedia is just a wonderful site. ... It’s helped me in emergency situations when I’ve needed information instantly. It’s also just a great way to learn new things for fun. THANK YOU”

“Knowledge and culture are the basis to human progress. Mutual respect and peace are impossible without it. We need a lot more of it for everyone so keep on the good work because you really make a difference.”

Read more messages from supporters

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.

  1. Last year we published "7+ million donors"; it should have read, "7+ million donations"
  2. Continent totals may exclude anonymous, canceled and some offline donations.
  3. Last year we published "7+ million donors"; it should have read, "7+ million donations"
  4. “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 directly) and offline donations.
  5. The figures represented from prior years may exclude canceled and some offline donations. The amounts listed in this fundraising report do not conform to the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and differ from revenue reported in our Independent Auditors’ Report and Internal Revenue Service Form 990 Tax Return.
  6. Major Gifts’ fundraising total is $14.1 million when it includes donations under $1,000 that still fall under Major Gifts, such as donor-advised funds.
  7. The Endowment reimbursed $87,330 to the Wikimedia Foundation for payment processing fees related to contribution transactions.