FAQ 2009

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Frequently Asked Questions 2009

Where does my money go?

To people and technology. Even though Wikipedia and its sister projects are in the top 5 visited websites in the world, we employ less than 30 people and some temporary staff; see our staff overview. Roughly half work on technology, a small team supports our public outreach and volunteer cultivation activities, and the remaining staff work on finance, fundraising, and administration. In addition, your support helps to pay for the technology infrastructure (servers and bandwidth) that keep Wikipedia running and growing.

Fundamentally, the Wikimedia Foundation exists to support and grow the enormous network of volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia and its sister projects -- more than 100,000 people around the world.

Where can I find more financial information?

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).

Our Annual Report explains our programs and key financial information in more detail. You can download a copy of the 07-08 Annual Report (3.7 MB PDF), and if you donate online, we will email you when our next Annual Report is released.

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 08-09 actuals vs. the 09-10 plan
  • 09-10 departmental budget breakdown
  • Summary of top spending increases in 09-10
  • Organizational chart
  • Hiring plan for 2009-10

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.

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Is the Wikimedia Foundation a charity?

Yes. The Wikimedia Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA. You can review our letter of tax-exemption and our financial reports and annual filings.

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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. We are a non-profit that depends on your financial 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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What are your plans? Where is this going?

As the organization's founder, Jimmy Wales, put it: "Imagine a world in which every single human being an freely share in the sum of all knowledge." That’s where it’s going — and we need your help to get there.

We're now serving more than 300 million unique visitors every month, providing access to knowledge free of charge and free of advertising. Information from Wikipedia and our other projects is also available on your mobile device, on DVD, and in many other forms. To expand and improve our offerings, we are:

  • making it much easier to contribute knowledge. We've recently launched a large-scale intiative to improve the user experience both for adding text and multimedia. You can find more information on the project website.
  • creating learning and training resources to recruit more contributors: teachers, professors, students, photographers, filmmakers, scientists, librarians, archivists, curators, hobbyists, and many others. We're working with a unique and growing network of 41 grass-roots Wikimedia chapter organizations around the world to reach out to these group. More information can be found on the project website.
  • consulting with our global community of editors as well as experts, volunteers and thinkers around the world to develop innovative strategies for reaching more people, with higher quality resources, and for increasing the number of volunteers. More information about our five-year strategy project can be found on the project website.

Finally, it is our mission to protect the work that has been done so far: to reduce the risk that disaster or technical failure could eliminate portions of our work, and to ensure that it is regularly copied in many places. We're not an excited start-up company that will fade away in two years -- we're in this for the long term.

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How do you balance keeping Wikipedia open with making it more reliable?

We believe increased participation makes Wikipedia better. At the same time, we must maintain the tough standards that have made Wikipedia respected by scientists, academics, journalists, and foundations. And we believe in transparency to the reader: making it clear at any given time whether the information you're receiving is brand-new and unreviewed, or whether it's been looked at by many trus

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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. Wikipedia was founded in January 2001 and the Wikimedia Foundation incorporated in June 2003. From the beginning, we have existed for one reason: the free and open sharing of knowledge. We don’t sell information and we don’t accept advertising. Your donations make our work possible. We bring the educational content from these projects to people in as many forms as possible. In particular, we help disadvantaged communities with limited connectivity to access and contribute free educational content.

We own more than 400 servers used to run our projects, along with all the associated domain names and trademarks. We support strategic software development on the MediaWiki software and related tools, which allow more people to participate and the existing volunteer community to work more effectively. This includes tools specifically related to ensuring high quality. 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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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 5,000,000 articles today. All Wikipedia languages combined contain more than 41,000,000 articles.

Besides Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation also supports:

Wikimedia Commons, a media repository containing more than 33,000,000 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 on Earth

We lead and support the development of MediaWiki, the open source wiki software behind 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 Wikimedia Foundation run?

The Wikimedia Foundation has a staff of 276, 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 projects. Wikimedia 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 Starling.

We have an 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 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. People make contributions year-round, and once a year the Wikimedia Foundation makes a formal request for donations.

We are 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. Click here for details on how to make a donation via PayPal, MoneyBookers or by postal mail. For all other types of donation, please contact us through donate@wikimedia.org.

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What is the Omidyar Network?

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment organization founded by Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, and his wife Pam. It is dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives.

Omidyar Network has generously offered to provide up to $500,000 to match individual donations between $100 and $9,999 made during the Wikimedia Foundation's 2009-10 fundraising drive. The funds will help grow Wikimedia's essential base of support at the Community Gifts level. The Wikimedia Foundation depends on hundreds of thousands of individual donations every year both to ensure financial sustainability, as well as continue to grow and achieve a positive, far-reaching social impact through Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

The matching funds are part of a grant of up to two million dollars over two years from Omidyar Network to the Wikimedia Foundation in support of its core objectives.

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How much money are you hoping to raise?

For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2010, we have budgeted $9.4 million in expenses, and an annual operating reserve of $1.2 million. We are hoping to raise $10.6 million throughout the fiscal year, and at least $7.5 million through our campaign.

We hope to raise the remaining revenue through our other fundraising activities throughout the fiscal year (including major gifts and foundation support) and business development (such as licensing the Wikipedia name and logo for commercial uses). More details about our finances can be found in our financial reports.

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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 Benefactors page.

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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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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
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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Where do I send forms, letters or other materials to the Wikimedia Foundation?

Please send all correspondence, including Payroll Deduction applications and Matching Gifts forms, to our secure lockbox address:

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

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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. Tell them what Wikipedia means to you. Ask them if they use it and if so, what it means to them. Put buttons and banners on your blog. Use this text as the signature file on the bottom of your emails:

We’ve created the greatest collection of shared knowledge in history. Help protect Wikipedia. Donate now: 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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