7 reasons you should donate to Wikipedia

Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

People give to Wikipedia for many different reasons. The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia, ensures that every donation we receive is invested back into serving Wikipedia, Wikimedia projects, and our free knowledge mission.

While many visit Wikipedia on a daily basis, it’s not always obvious what it takes to make that visit possible. Here are 7 reasons to donate to the Foundation that also clarify who we are, what we do, and why your donations matter:

1. We’re a nonprofit, and readers and donors around the world keep us independent.

Many people are surprised to learn that Wikipedia is hosted by a nonprofit organization. It is actually the only website in the top-ten most-visited global websites to be run by a nonprofit. That’s important because we are not funded by advertising, we don’t charge a subscription fee, and we don’t sell your data. The majority of our funding comes from donations ($15 is the average) from people who read Wikipedia. Many see fundraising banners on Wikipedia and give through those. This model preserves our independence by reducing the ability of any one organization or person to influence the content on Wikipedia.

“The majority of our funding comes from donations ($15 is the average) from people who read Wikipedia.”

We’ve long-followed industry best practices for nonprofits and have consistently received the highest ratings by nonprofit rating agencies like Charity Navigator for financial efficiency and transparency. We also publish annual reports about our finances and fundraising that are open for anyone to review.

2. Wikipedia serves millions of readers and runs at a fraction of the cost of other top websites.

Wikipedia is viewed more than 16 billion times every month. We have the same (if not higher) levels of global traffic as many other for-profit internet companies at a fraction of the budget and staffing.

“Wikipedia is viewed more than 16 billion times every month.”

Around 700 people work at the Wikimedia Foundation. The majority work in product and technology ensuring quick load times, secure connections, and better reading and editing experiences on our sites. They maintain the software and infrastructure on which we operate some of the world’s most multilingual sites with knowledge available in over 300 languages. While our mission and work are unique, by comparison, Google’s translation tool currently supports 133 languages; Meta has more than 70,000 employees; and Reddit has over 1,400 employees.

3. Reader donations support the technology that makes Wikipedia possible and improvements to how people read, edit, and share knowledge on Wikipedia.

Powering free knowledge projects requires technology to keep the sites running and relevant, dedicated support to volunteers, and policy efforts that protect users and keep knowledge free.

About 43 percent of our budget goes to direct support in maintaining Wikipedia and Wikimedia sites. This includes support of technical infrastructure that allows billions of visits to Wikipedia monthly, as well as about 160 technical Wikimedia staff who contribute to the maintenance of our systems, including site reliability engineering, software engineering, security, and other roles.

Because Wikipedia is available in 300 languages, it needs top-notch multilingual technology to ensure readers and editors can view and contribute knowledge in their preferred language. Funding also helps with improvements to the user experience on Wikipedia and supporting the growth of global volunteer editor communities, so that when people come to Wikipedia, they find knowledge that is relevant, accurate, and useful.

4. We’ve evolved to meet new needs in a changing technology landscape and respond to new global threats.

The internet and the technological world around us are constantly changing. Over the years, we have increased our investment to keep pace with growing online traffic, new threats to our mission, and changing user preferences.

If you regularly visited Wikipedia in our first decade, there was a good chance that you’d get an error message on Wikipedia at some point. Because of our steady investments in technology, that’s no longer the case. New investments allow Wikipedia to handle record-breaking spikes in traffic with ease, preventing any disruption to the reading or editing experience.

We’ve also adapted to meet new challenges, including sophisticated disinformation tactics and government censorship, as well as cybersecurity attacks and laws regulating companies that host websites. New security protocols limit the potential for attackers to take advantage of our sites, while our legal staff help to protect our free knowledge mission.

“We have increased our investment to keep pace with growing online traffic, new threats to our mission, and changing user preferences.”

More than half of our traffic now comes from mobile devices. Voice-activated devices and websites increasingly leverage Wikipedia to serve their users’ knowledge needs. We continue to evolve to meet these preferences.

5. We manage our finances responsibly and balance Wikipedia’s immediate needs with long-term sustainability.

You probably don’t use your checking account in the same way you use a savings account. One is probably for more day-to-day expenses, and the other is likely for emergencies, like if your car suddenly breaks down, or for long-term financial goals, like retirement.

It’s similar for nonprofits. We have two accounts that act like savings accounts for us.

Our reserve is like a rainy day fund for emergencies, such as an economic crisis. Our endowment is a long-term permanent fund. The investment income from the endowment supports the future of Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects. These funds are set aside for particular long-term purposes. However, we use the vast majority of the donations we receive from Wikipedia readers to support the current work we are doing that year.

Sustaining healthy financial reserves and having a working capital policy is considered a best practice for organizations of all types. The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Directors recently defined our working capital policy that is designed to sustain our work and provide support to affiliates and volunteers in the event of unplanned expenses, emergencies, or revenue shortfalls. It also enables us to have sufficient cash flow to cover our expenses throughout the year.

6. Supporting Wikipedia means you’re helping it become more representative of all the world’s knowledge.

The Wikimedia Foundation supports individuals and organizations around the world with funding to increase the diversity, reach, quality, and quantity of free knowledge. Compared to two years ago, we have increased direct financial support to our volunteer movement by 140 percent. Recently, we made changes to the way we allocate our revenue to be more inclusive to newer and smaller Wikimedia affiliates.

While we recognize there are still big gaps to fill, knowledge on Wikipedia has become more globally representative of the world, as have the editors that contribute to the site. This is because of steady programmatic efforts led by Wikimedia volunteers, affiliates, and others many of whom have received funding, trainings, and other support from the Foundation.

Compared to 2019, in 2021, our community of volunteer editors had grown by 58 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa; 21 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean; and 14 percent in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific.

“While we recognize there are still big gaps to fill, knowledge on Wikipedia has become more globally representative of the world, as have the editors that contribute to the site.”

Why does global representation of Wikipedia volunteer editors matter? It matters because Wikipedia is a reflection of the people who contribute to it. Diverse perspectives create higher quality, more representative, and relevant knowledge for all of us.

7. Contributions from readers keep us going.

The humans who give back to Wikipedia — whether through donations, words of support, edits, or through the many other ways people contribute — inspire us every day. All of us here at the Wikimedia Foundation want to take this opportunity to thank them. We’d like to share some of our favorite messages from donors over the years. We hope they move you as much as they have moved us:

“I am astonished at the capabilities of Wikipedia! As I read scientific and medical articles on one monitor, I always have Wikipedia open on the other to check the meaning and background of the increasingly obscure terminology in these areas. Wikipedia is not only the largest collaborative project in human history, it’s the best!” — Donor from the US

“Please accept my heartfelt thanks for keeping Wikipedia going, for not letting it be anyone’s personal property, for maintaining its integrity, quality, and its sanctity, for making it accessible to anyone and everyone across the geography. I understand how difficult it can be to not compromise and keep going especially in today’s profit-seeking digital world.” — Donor from India

We hope that we helped to deepen your understanding of how important reader donations are to Wikipedia. If you have any questions, please check out our FAQ.

If you are in a position to give, you can make a donation to the Wikimedia Foundation at donate.wikimedia.org.

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Lisa Seitz Gruwell

Lisa Seitz Gruwell

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Lisa Seitz Gruwell is the Deputy to the CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation.