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Questions and Answers

What is the Wikimedia Foundation?

The Wikimedia Foundation Inc. is the parent organization of various free-content projects, most notably Wikipedia, the award-winning online encyclopedia. We try to bring the educational content from these projects to people in as many forms as possible. In particular, we want to help disadvantaged communities with limited connectivity to access free educational content, and to contribute to it. We own more than 300 servers used to run our projects, along with all the associated domain names and trademarks. Our projects are free of charge and free of advertising. We support strategic software development work on the MediaWiki software and associated tools which allow more people to participate, or allow the existing volunteer community to work more effectively. This includes tools specifically related to quality assurance. We develop learning resources, support workshops and strive to think intelligently about other ways to bring in new contributors, and to grow Wikimedia as an international movement for free knowledge.

In all this, we are supported by local chapters organized in many different countries.

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Where can I learn more about your recent activities?

For the fiscal year 2007-08, please consult our Annual Report.

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Are you a charity?

Yes. Wikimedia is a non-profit charitable corporation organized under the laws of Florida, USA and physically located in San Francisco, California, USA. Fully audited, the Wikimedia Foundation is now listed as a charitable organization at Guidestar and its partner sites. The Wikimedia Foundation has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status in the United States.

The existence of the Wikimedia Foundation was officially announced by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on June 20, 2003. The bylaws of Wikimedia Foundation Inc. are available online.

Many chapters as well are charitable under the laws of their respective country, see here for details.

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Why should I donate to the Wikimedia Foundation?

The job of the Wikimedia Foundation is to provide easy access to information, for people all over the world - free of charge, and free of advertising. As a non-profit, it is dependent on your help to do that. Your donations directly support some of the most popular collaboratively-edited reference projects in the world, including Wikipedia, one of the world's top ten most popular websites and the largest encyclopedia ever compiled in human history.

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Which projects do you support?

The Wikimedia Foundation supports Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia and one of the 10 most visited websites world-wide. From the founding of Wikipedia in January 2001, and the incorporation of the Wikimedia Foundation in June 2003, our growth has been staggering. The English-language Wikipedia, our first project, has expanded to more than 4,500,000 articles today. All Wikipedia languages combined contain more than 33,000,000 articles.

Besides Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation also supports:

Wikimedia Commons, a media repository containing more than 22,000,000 freely usable images, videos, and sound files
Wikibooks, a project to create free textbooks
Wiktionary, a multilingual dictionary and thesaurus
Wikisource, a library of source documents
Wikinews, a citizen news website
Wikiversity, an interactive learning platform
Wikiquote, a collection of quotations
Wikispecies, a directory of life

We lead and support the development of MediaWiki, the open source wiki software behind almost all our public websites; we help to organize outreach and community events to encourage people to contribute to our projects, and we provide downloadble offline copies and database archives of Wikipedia content.

More information may be found on the page about our projects.

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How is the Foundation run?

The Wikimedia Foundation has a staff of 238, led by the Executive Director, Sue Gardner. The staff supports the work of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who contribute content to the Wikimedia communities. It is also supported by countless volunteers participating through committees, as interns, or on an ad hoc basis.

The Board of Trustees articulates the mission and vision of the Wikimedia Foundation, reviews and helps to develop long term plans, provides oversight, and supports the Wikimedia Foundation's fundraising efforts. It is the ultimate organizational authority of the Wikimedia Foundation as defined in its bylaws. See Meetings for published Board minutes and Resolutions for published Board resolutions. The Board is partially elected from the community of contributors to the Wikimedia projects. The Board is supported by an Advisory Board, chaired by Angela Beesley.

We have one office, located in San Francisco, California (USA), where most of our employees are working. All board members and remaining staff work remotely.

We strive to operate highly transparently, and have published key policies and financial information.

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How is the revenue spent?

Our Annual Report is our most important instrument of accountability to our donors. It explains our programs and includes a summary of key financial information. You can download a high resolution copy of the 07-08 Annual Report (3.7 MB PDF).

In the simplest possible terms:

  1. To support the continued operation of Wikipedia and our other free knowledge projects (by paying for servers, hosting, bandwidth, and operations staff);
  2. To continue the development of the open source software powering our projects;
  3. To respond to requests from our volunteer community;
  4. To support the growth and impact of our international volunteer community and the content in our projects through key events like Wikimania and Wikipedia Academies, through strategic partnerships, and through the cultivation of local chapters around the world;
  5. To pay for financial, administrative, legal, and fundraising expenses.

The primary instrument of accountability that we use to report our activities to our supporters is our Annual Report: Download a high resolution copy of the 07-08 Annual Report (3.7 MB PDF). If you donate online, we will send you our next Annual Report by e-mail when it is released. The Annual Report includes explanations of our core program activities, and it also summarizes the data from our 2007-2008 audited financial statements.

If you want to study our numbers in greater detail, we provide you with access to financial reporting and planning. To understand better how your donation is used, you can see a detailed explanation of our spending in the Annual Plan Presentation to the Board of Trustees (PDF). This includes:

  • Summary of strategic spending priorities
  • Comparison of the 07-08 actuals vs. the 08-09 plan
  • 08-09 departmental budget breakdown
  • Summary of top spending increases in 08-09
  • Organizational chart
  • Hiring plan for 2008-09

We've also written a Questions and Answers page related to the plan.

Additional financial information, including copies of our audited financial statements up to the most recent fiscal year (2007-2008), can be found on the financial reports page.

A simple breakdown of the 2008-2009 budget by department. See the Annual Plan 2008-2009 Presentation (PDF) and the associated Questions and Answers for detailed explanations of spending in different departments, and changes from the most recent fiscal year.


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How is the Wikimedia Foundation funded?

Wikimedia is funded primarily through donations by tens of thousands of individuals, but also through several grants and gifts of servers and hosting (see benefactors).

The Wikimedia Foundation receives donations from more than 50 countries around the world. Though individual donations are relatively small, their sheer numbers have ensured our success.

We are presently not considering advertising as a source of revenue.

The Wikimedia Foundation has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status in the United States. Donations made from other nations may also be tax deductible. See deductibility of donations for details. Please see our fundraising page for details of making donations via PayPal, MoneyBookers or by postal mail. For all other types of donation, please contact us through donate@wikimedia.org.

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[updated] How much money are you hoping to raise?

UPDATE: As of January 1st, 2009, the Wikimedia Foundation reached its $6 million goal. As Jimmy Wales writes: "Any donations beyond that are put in a reserve fund, which will help us to offset operating costs beyond the current fiscal year. Your continued support will also serve as a much-needed financial safety net if economic conditions continue to worsen globally." Rand Montoya 21:28, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2008 and ending June 30, 2009, we have budgeted $5.9 million in expenses, and an annual operating reserve of $1.36 million. We are hoping to raise $6 million through our annual campaign. We hope to raise the remaining revenue through our other fundraising activities throughout the fiscal year, and with business development (such as licensing the Wikipedia name and logo for commercial uses). More details about our finances can be found in our Finance report, in particular, the 2008-09 Annual Plan presentation.

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Who else is supporting you in this goal?

Donors and users like you make up the largest portion of our donations. Some individuals, private foundations, and corporations have generously given major gifts. They can be seen on our Donate/Benefactors/en page.

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What are the specific goals you want to accomplish in this fiscal year?

Our first and foremost programmatic objective is to keep Wikipedia and our other projects online, free of charge and free of advertising. Our traffic continues to increase rapidly every year: As of today, more than 250 million people visit us every month. We hope that it will be many more by this time next year. Your donation will help us to pay for server equipment, operations staff, bandwidth, and so forth. This year, we're also hoping to increase our storage capacity to allow greater usage of video and audio in Wikipedia.

We also employ several software developers to continually improve the Wikipedia experience for readers, and to allow our global volunteer community of more than 100,000 people to contribute more effectively. This includes the development of quality labeling tools, simplifications of the editing interface, improvements to the media uploading process, better handling of rich media, in-depth statistics, etc.

We want to make sure that everyone can get access to our content in some form. Did you know that you can download all of Wikipedia and use it for any purpose? We provide this service for free to help other organizations, such as the One Laptop Per Child project, create offline versions. We are also improving cell phone access, adding PDF export, and building strategic relationships to help people with no or limited Internet access.

Last but not least, the Wikimedia Foundation exists to support a global volunteer community advancing the cause of free knowledge. The organization is now supported by 41 international chapters – the two most recent additions are Brazil and Indonesia. These almost exclusively volunteer-run organizations represent a global "on the ground" presence. The Wikimedia Foundation supports chapters by reviewing organizational bylaws and processes, providing advice on fundraising and business development, sharing PR resources, creating templates for events and other program activities, and so on.

Chapters are key to inviting more and more people to join our cause. For example, we are supporting the Argentinian and Swedish chapters to organize "Wikipedia Academy" events in November: wiki conferences where people learn how to participate in Wikipedia. The Argentinian chapter will also organize Wikimania 2009 in Buenos Aires, an annual conference bringing together hundreds of people to discuss the future of free knowledge. And we're working with the German chapter to pilot "Wikipedia Trainer" workshops, where people learn how to teach others to contribute to Wikipedia.

Our commitment is to use your donation in ways that help us to achieve our overall vision: a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

Organizationally, these goals are expressed as follows:

  1. Achieve organizational maturity
  2. Achieve financial sustainability
  3. Encourage and broaden participation
  4. Increase quality and perception of quality
  5. Increase distribution beyond Wikipedia

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How will your plans be affected by the global economic crisis?

The conventional wisdom is that the subset of donations that's softest in a troubled economy is first-time major gifts. That's because if, year after year, a donor has given an organization $1M annually, it is tough to suddenly scale that back. But if a donor is poised to give for the first time, and would normally have been considering a gift of $1M, it is fairly easy to give less, because they haven't yet set any expectations.

That softness is bad news for us, since we have a very small pool of major donors, which we have recently hired Rebecca Handler to expand. It is not an easy time to be trying to do that.

It is also conventional wisdom that "small gifts" (the bulk of what comes in through our online fundraiser) remain fairly insensitive to economic turmoil until and unless the turmoil looks very bad, and looks like it will last a very long time. Foundation grants are considered fairly impervious to economic downturn; corporate grant-making programs semi-susceptible because the budgets of some are tied to the organization's own financial performance. It is also the case that in economic hard times, philanthropy shifts somewhat away from charities like museums and schools, towards those providing basic necessities such as food and housing.

So what will our response be, in the event donations soften? Basically, there's only two things to be done: cut spending, and find new ways to increase revenues.

Cutting spending is straightforward: if necessary, the Executive Director would institute a non-essential spending freeze. Freezes can range from "soft" - e.g., putting a hold on consultants and other discretionary spending, scaling back on travel, and deferring new hires such as the Chief Program Officer, to "strict" - e.g., deferring tech purchases, canceling planned spending for outreach events, etc. We would see what's necessary.

Our other piece of work would be to find new ways to increase revenues, for example by increasing our focus on grant-making institutions which, as noted above, are generally considered less susceptible to downturns. More information will help us here: For example, if big donations turn out to be impervious to the downturn, while small donations suffer, we would refocus towards major gifts.

At this point, the entire organization is re-prioritizing "making money" upwards. If we are weighing whether to put our energy behind Initiative A or Initiative B, and Initiative A will bring in money while B will not, A is a little higher on our priority list than it would have been two months ago.

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How do I donate?

To donate, please visit our fundraising page. You can donate using any major credit card (including VISA, Mastercard, Discover or American Express), PayPal, Moneybookers, bank transfer, or by sending a cheque to the Foundation. Our donation options support most (although not all) currencies.

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Where do I send checks?

Send checks to:

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 98204
Washington, DC 20090-8204
USA
Note: donations by check are processed directly at our centralized lockbox location which is in Washington, DC.

Our preference is for checks in U.S. dollars, drawn on U.S. bank accounts. Checks in currencies other than U.S. dollars, or from bank accounts outside the U.S., can be very expensive for us to process, which reduces the value of your gift. If you do not have a U.S. bank account, you can maximize the value of your donation by giving via Paypal or wire transfer.

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Can I make a stock donation to the Wikimedia Foundation?

The Wikimedia Foundation accepts stock donations. You can make a donation by transferring stock from your brokerage to ours by providing your broker with our name, investment account number and DTCC clearing number.

Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Smith Barney
Investment a/c number 546-0356C-14-782
DTCC Clearing a/c number #0418

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Are my donations tax-deductible?

Please refer to the list of countries for the details of tax-deductibility.

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If I make a donation, how do I get my tax receipt?

Anyone who donates by PayPal or credit card will receive an email tax receipt as long as their email address was included with the donation. Donations by check over $50 will receive a tax receipt by mail if a return address for the donation is known. You may also request a tax receipt for your donation by writing us at giving@wikimedia.org (please include your contact information, the method you used to donate, and the amount of your donation).

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Can I give you a targeted or restricted donation to be used for something very specific?

Charities based in the United States, including the Wikimedia Foundation, are required to honor restrictions requested by donors. This means that if you specify your donation needs to be restricted for a specific use, we will either honor your request or return your donation. But before you decide to do that, please consider that unrestricted donations are much more useful for us. Every restriction imposes administrative overhead and planning costs, and increases internal complexity.

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Why is there a minimum donation?

While we want everyone to be able to give and contribute to the Wikimedia Foundation, the donation processing has certain fees and processing costs attached. The minimum donation covers those costs and allows the donation to get where the donor wants it most: to supporting free and open global knowledge.

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What can I do to help you spread the word?

Spread the word any way you can! Tell your friends and family. Put buttons and banners on your blog. Use this text as the sig file on the bottom of your e-mails: Your donations keep Wikipedia running! Support the Wikimedia Foundation today: http://www.wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate

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What is your donor privacy policy?

We are serious about protecting the privacy rights of our donors. Please see our Donor Privacy Policy for our full details. In short, we do not share, sell, or trade your email address with anyone.

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How can I contact the Foundation?

See the Contact us page for details.

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