Wikipedia Edits Fundraising Strategy

Photograph by Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

As part of Wikipedia's revised fundraising efforts, gone are the awkwardly placed photos of co-founder Jimmy Wales.

Wikipedia’s leaders have a new tactic for finding donors: Appeal to those who rely on the site most.

For Wikipedia’s current campaign, not every visitor to the world’s largest crowdsourced encyclopedia is being greeted with a plea for donations. The 16-day effort is only targeting eight of the nations where Wikipedia has the biggest user base, said Sue Gardner, chief executive officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, which manages website’s finances. People in those countries tend to give more, she said.

Later, Wikipedia will run shorter experiments in other countries to determine the most effective campaigns. Eventually, the organization may ask for donations year-round,  Gardner said in an interview yesterday at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters.

The targeted fundraising program is a departure from the website’s strategy last year, when everyone in the world who visited a Wikipedia entry during the 42-day fundraising period was shown a photo of co-founder Jimmy Wales pleading for donations. After the awkward placement of Wales’s headshot on the page became the butt of some bloggers’ jokes, Wikipedia has dropped the photo and uses yellow-highlighted text to stand out.

“This year, the information is up front and center, and everyone can see that we’re a nonprofit,” Gardner said. “It’s being annoying for dollars.”

The campaign, which started late last month and will pick up again in a couple weeks after a break, is taking place in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and Switzerland. People in these countries should be used to nonprofits soliciting for donations around the holidays.

Some of the money raised will go toward developing Wikipedia’s footprint in the Middle East and Brazil, Gardner said. During the 12-month period ending in June, the Wikimedia Foundation reported revenue of $34.8 million, helped by the ability to accept donations in about 80 currencies thanks to a new payment processor, according to a financial report. The organization forecasts revenue to increase 32 percent to $46 million by the end of its next fiscal year.

Gardner is pushing to do fundraising throughout the year, not just near the end. She said the change would help increase the stability and predictability of the organization’s revenue — and keep traditional advertising off the site.

“We’re never going to take advertising 100 percent off the table, but we firmly aspire not to do it,” Gardner said. “The beauty of our model is it aligns with our readers.”

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