Fundraising/2019-20 Report

Fundraising Report 2018-2019, Wikimedia Foundation


While you read this report, editors around the world will make around 6 edits per second on Wikipedia. No other top 10 website is run by a nonprofit, and our unique model necessitates a unique fundraising strategy. Wikipedia is supported by people — people around the world who read knowledge on the site, editors who contribute their time to add and improve articles with up-to-date information, and donors who chip in to keep Wikipedia thriving. We are proud to present our 2019-2020 fundraising report and share insights into how the Wikimedia Foundation earns revenue to sustain Wikipedia and other groundbreaking free knowledge projects. Thank you to every donor who supports our mission to ensure that everyone, everywhere, can share in and access free knowledge.

Each year, we try to bring the same integrity and transparency to the way we fundraise as we do to building knowledge for the world. With a community of almost 6 million generous donors by our side, we’re confident we can make a world in which every single human can freely access knowledge.

This year, thanks to our readers, editors, and donors, we were able to deliver over 16.7 billion pageviews per month and distribute reliable, fact-based information to the hundreds of millions of people who wanted to make sense of the extraordinary events shaping our world.

Thank you.

Key Stats

Donation Totals by Continent

Donations by Continent From FY1920 Wikimedia Fundraising Report
Donations by Continent From FY1920 Wikimedia Fundraising Report
Note: All amounts are rounded in USD. Certain fundraising campaigns, e.g., those across Latin America, were postponed into the next fiscal year due to COVID-19. Anonymous donations and donations made offline, totaling $6.73M, are not included in the continent-specific breakdowns.

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 email to get involved.

Donation Totals by Sources

$124,131,047 raised from over 8.7 million donations

WMF revenue raised by fundraising channel FY1920
WMF revenue raised by fundraising channel FY1920
The above figures are expressed in USD and reflect gifts received during the 2019-2020 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.[1]

Our revenue increased by 9.9% this year.

Total WMF revenue by Fiscal Year for the Annual Fundraising Report FY1920
Total WMF revenue by Fiscal Year for the Annual Fundraising Report FY1920
Note: All amounts expressed in millions and rounded in USD.[2]

We received 20.8% more donations in the 2019-2020 fiscal year compared to the previous year.

Our average donation size decreased by $1.43 USD.

Average donation size for FY1920 WMF Fundraising Report
Average donation size for FY1920 WMF Fundraising Report
Note: All amounts rounded in USD.

Key Stats: English Campaign

Our English language campaign fundraiser — the most extensive campaign we run each year — spans six primarily English speaking countries: Australia, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and New Zealand. This campaign generates nearly 50 percent of all revenue earned per year.

We run weekly banner “pre-tests” beginning in the new fiscal year in July in preparation for this extensive campaign. These tests allow us to improve our technical system to process a high volume of donations, enhance the donor experience, mitigate financial risk, and provide more readers an opportunity to donate.

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

Online Fundraising Banners in 2019-2020

This year, our mobile fundraising banners had an improved performance: an increase of 14 percent in mobile banner revenue and 25 percent in mobile banner donations when compared with last year. Fundraising on mobile devices has been a challenge for the past few years. Readers were less familiar with donation payment options on mobile devices, and our banners were not optimized for the mobile experience. In recent years we have made improvements to the donation experience to make it easier for readers to donate on their phones, and mobile payments overall have increased in popularity and frequency. This year, the share of revenue raised from mobile and desktop banners was nearly the same for the first time. This is a milestone for our fundraising program, and we are excited about the growth in support from our mobile readers.

Monthly Recurring Ask

For several years, we have offered readers the option to donate once or make a monthly recurring donation. Consistent with our fundraising goals of sustaining long-term donor relationships, we added a new “monthly ask” feature this year that encourages readers who are in the process of making a one-time gift to become monthly supporters. As a result, we saw a 55 percent increase in total revenue raised from recurring donations and a 74 percent increase in the total number of recurring donations. We are still improving the functionality, phrasing, and placement of the new monthly ask to make it clear and easy for our donors to make a recurring donation. As a starting point, we inserted this new monthly ask in the banner for a reader to see upon beginning the process of making a one-time gift.

Example of Monthly Recurring Ask in a FY1920 Fundraising Banner
Example of Monthly Recurring Ask in a FY1920 Fundraising Banner

“Don’t Scroll Away”

A simple, yet effective phrase that we were surprised to see resonate with readers worldwide was simply asking readers not to “scroll away” from or “scroll past” the fundraising message in the banner. We believe that addressing the context in which people donate helps improve the donation rate.

Example of a fundraising banner in the U.S. in 2020
Example of a fundraising banner in the U.S. in 2020

Portal and App banners

We expanded our fundraising appeal banners to appear on the Wikipedia homepage portal and in the Wikipedia mobile apps in recent years. We are still in the very early stages of learning about these new channels. So far, we have tried portal banners in France and Japan as well as in Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States. As more readers download Wikipedia mobile apps, we want to ensure it will be easy to donate there as well.

COVID-19 Impact

When the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in early 2020, volunteer editors from across the world rushed to action. The Wikimedia Foundation’s utmost priority throughout this period has been keeping Wikipedia online and available for the world. Traffic to Wikipedia increased significantly at the start of the pandemic as readers from all walks of life turned to the site to serve their knowledge needs, including trusted information about COVID-19 and its spread around the world. Thanks to volunteer editors, Wikipedia has more than 5,200 articles about COVID-19 across 175 languages,at the time of publication. Wikipedia is there for students who are learning at home, people who are sheltering in place, and anyone who needs a trusted source of unbiased information.

We made adjustments to fundraising campaign schedules in response to rapidly changing global events, but continued to see an outpouring of support for Wikipedia. Many readers wrote messages of appreciation for Wikipedia, which they found even more valuable during the pandemic.

From our donors:

"In these days that I spend in the solitude of my home, only with my cat, Wikipedia is a "life saving" tool. It is I who thank you and the whole community for the work that is done every day for Wikipedia. Every day I consult her mainly out of curiosity, but also for work issues (I'm a teacher). Thanks again!" / Donor in Italy

"It is people and organizations like yourselves that we require in this torn world of the COVID-19 pandemic. You that reminds us, that conscientise us and makes us aware of social and political conditions, especially as a precursor to challenging inequalities of treatment in the world post this pandemic. I am deeply humbled." / Donor in South Africa

"We are seniors, both in late 80’s. [...] Coronavirus made us stay home. FREE Wikipedia leads the way for old and young, rich and poor. Wikipedia keeps us informed, entertained, and well occupied. We want to thank you very much." / Donor in the US

It’s still too early to determine the revenue impact the pandemic will have on the Wikimedia Foundation's ability to fundraise. We are preparing to adapt to various scenarios to continue to provide the resources needed for the Wikimedia movement to thrive. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who supports us, especially at this time. We understand that for many people, it is not possible to donate right now. We recognize this, wholeheartedly, and are grateful that people continue to use Wikipedia as their go-to resource for information.

In March 2020, we shared a message of commitment from our Executive Director, Katherine Maher, to assure Wikipedia readers everywhere that we will keep Wikipedia free and available. To learn more about the Wikimedia Foundation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Foundation website.

Online Fundraising Email

The Wikimedia Foundation email program continues to play a vital role in the Wikimedia Foundation’s revenue model, representing more than 25 percent of the total revenue received from the online fundraising program for the Fiscal Year.

Respecting our donors’ inbox remained a top priority for us. This year again, we sent a maximum of three fundraising emails to current and former donors. Over the years, we have learned that readers appreciate a genuine message from Wikimedia Foundation leaders. We worked with our Executive Director, Katherine Maher, to write new messages to donors again this year. The updated first email appeal of the campaign was a success and increased donations by 36% on the first round of email we sent to past donors. We saw a similar reaction to this message across multiple countries and languages. We emphasized our values in this heartfelt and highly mission-driven email.

"We’re a non-profit. That means we aren’t selling the articles that millions of people read on Wikipedia each day. We don’t profit from the knowledge you seek. In fact, we firmly believe that knowledge should exist outside of the realm of supply and demand. But that's hardly a given nowadays; so much of the world's digital knowledge is driven by profit in order to survive." - Katherine Maher, Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation

For the second consecutive year, we found new opportunities to strengthen the ways we customize and test email messages to ensure they are meaningful to a wide variety of past, current, and potential donors. This new strategy highlighted that many of our new donors were interested in learning more about the Wikimedia Foundation. For example, many donors do not know that a non-profit organization runs Wikipedia without shareholders or ad revenue. We look forward to testing more mission awareness concepts and helping our donors better understand that, through their generous gifts, they have the power to sustain knowledge for everyone.

Major Gifts and Foundations

More than 2,000 people and institutions made gifts of $1,000 USD or more in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. More than 6,000 others contributed through donor-advised funds and other methods that also fall under Major Gifts. These donations totaled $14.9 million, including $2.5 million from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to boost security for our sites; $1.4 million from; $1 million from an anonymous donor; and $250,000 from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin [3]. This year also marked the second year of a three-year grant from the Siegel Family Endowment, supporting Wikimedia Research.

Major gifts help the Wikimedia Foundation diversify our revenue stream and allow high-capacity donors to critically impact our mission. Many of our major gift donors choose to be recognized on our Benefactors page.

Matching Gifts

More than 36,000 gifts were made through corporate philanthropic programs this past year. In these matching gifts and payroll deduction programs, employers match employees’ individual gifts to the Wikimedia Foundation, doubling or even tripling the original donation amount.

These gifts totaled $1.5 million USD and included employee-generated gifts totaling $490,028 from Google, $154,637 from Apple, and $181,074 from Microsoft. Revenue through the program increased by over 11 percent during the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Wikimedia Endowment

We launched the Wikimedia Endowment in January 2016 as a permanent, independent funding source for Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia free knowledge projects. The Endowment aims to help ensure access to knowledge over the long term.

To date, the endowment holds $62 million toward an initial goal of $100 million over ten years. This past fiscal year, we raised $16.2 million, and we are on track to reach our original goal ahead of schedule.[4]

More than 150 people and institutions made gifts of $1,000 or more to the Endowment, and more than 870,000 other donors contributed gifts with an average size of $12.75. This also included two $1 million gifts from the Musk Foundation, $1 million from Amazon, $1 million from, and $500,000 from the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

During the year, 390 donors made legacy gift commitments. Legacy giving is a way of collecting pledges for future donations, most commonly through gifts in wills and beneficiary designations. We’ve partnered with FreeWill, a free online tool to create a legal will in the United States, to make it easy for those who wish to make a legacy gift to the Endowment.

Many of our Endowment donors and legacy donors choose to be recognized on the Endowment website’s Benefactors page or as members of the Wikipedia Legacy Society.

From Our Supporters

During the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the Donor Services team responded to over 160,000 donor inquiries in 40 languages from donors worldwide. A large portion of these donors reached out to us to express their gratitude for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects and tell us more about why they decided to support our mission. We are glad to share some of their comments below:

"I feel so fortunate to be alive at a time when the entire collective knowledge of the human race is available to anyone who has a smartphone or other Internet access. Wikipedia is always my go-to starting point when I need to research, explore, or learn something new. I love what you do and the way you do it!" / Donor in the US

"Knowledge is not to be monetized, nor sold. It is the one thing we have in the world that we have, even when we do not have anything else. Libraries are public spaces for a reason; Wikipedia does not contain advertisement for a reason. For there to be a platform that doesn’t aim to profit off of the knowledge it shares, in the world we live in today, is special, and I hope we manage to uphold it. Thank you for all the hard work sharing knowledge with the world. Keep it up!" / Donor in the Netherlands

"You have democratized knowledge - an extraordinary achievement!!! We are all very fortunate people. The survival of Wikipedia is crucial; it is a lynchpin of the future of this planet. Thank you." / Donor in the UK

"I am a volunteer in prison and we train inmates in office suites (like Libre Office) and for a few months we have been using an offline version of Wikipedia: you cannot imagine how much this access to Wikipedia pleases these boys who have lost everything… with their freedom. A little window into the world they can no longer see! Thank you for them!" / Donor in France

"I think Wikipedia is a kind of modern miracle - endless information, free, to everyone. THIS is what we all hoped the internet would be. You folks do great work. You should be proud." / Donor in Canada

"I always donate what I can to Wikipedia, because it helped me research my rare disease that has disabled me. In this way, it has improved my day-to-day quality of life. How lucky for people like me that Wikipedia exists!" / Donor in US

"The very presence and continual growth of Wikipedia is a refutation of “the tragedy of the commons.” Wikipedia is a living proof that the community can envisage the common good of the project, and continue to work together, constructively and co-operatively. Wikipedia is an iconic lighthouse of knowledge in a confused and often disoriented world. It is a reference point to counteract uncertainty." / Donor in Australia

"Wikipedia is a sensational step forward for civilization. I can't thank you enough for giving this wonderful gift to Humankind, and for giving me the chance to say, 'I helped.'" / Donor in the US

"I've used Wikipedia for a long time and I'm using it even more now I'm locked down [...] in Italy trying to avoid Coronavirus. I find it incredibly helpful and informative." / Donor in Italy

"Hello, I wanted to tell you that this donation of 10 euros is actually an idea of my 13 year old daughter who loves Wikipedia. So I told her we could donate together and suggested that we give 5 euros each. To my surprise she told me that it was a great idea and got up immediately to get 5 euros in her piggy bank and give them to me :-)" / Donor in France

"I'm a tour guide in Italy and of course, I need sometimes to check (and often in a hurry, you know) names, dates, exact definitions and your pages always give a short but trustworthy and so interesting info. I often use Wikipedia to have a general idea about an artist or an artwork to start a research or simply, because I get curious about something or someone. So my gift would only be a little contribute to Wiki and to say to your staff: 'keep going'!" / Donor in Italy

"I wish I could donate more, but as a student in Norway I live on a pretty strict budget. Hope wiki gets the funding it deserves. I reckon I'm not the only one grabbing my phone in the middle of a discussion in order to clarify things that might otherwise cause a hefty debate with the wrong conclusions." / Donor in Norway

Report Talk Page

Thank you for reading our annual fundraising report. Please visit the talk page for any questions or leave comments about the report. 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. “Other” may include donations from the Wikipedia sidebar, Wikimedia Foundation “Ways to Give” page, Wikipedia app, portal banners, social media platforms, and also some checks, anonymous, spontaneous (e.g., visiting directly), and offline donations.
  2. The figures represented from prior years may exclude canceled 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.
  3. Major Gifts’ fundraising total is $14.9 million when it includes donations under $1,000 that still fall under Major Gifts, such as donor-advised funds.
  4. The Endowment reimbursed $597,920 to the Wikimedia Foundation for payment processing fees related to contribution transactions.