Dear all,

Last weekend, an interview with Raju Narisetti, titled "Wikipedia is building trust with transparency", was published in the Indian Express, one of the major daily newspapers in India.

For your convenience, here is an archive link for the article:

The article quotes Raju as saying (my emphases),


More than 75% of the money we raise globally goes to two things. One is to give money back to the volunteer community so they can launch a new language. Two is about half of it goes to the infrastructure. You need to have databases and put it on the cloud and make sure it’s reliable,” he said. Although a lot of the money is raised in the more developed Western markets, most of it is actually flowing into the global south, where the growth will come in languages and users.


This diverged sharply from my understanding of WMF finances. So I looked at the records to try to fact-check these statements.

I found the Foundation raised $163 million in the 2020/2021 financial year.[1] But it actually only spent $112 million of it (69%).[1] If the WMF kept 31% of its revenue to itself, it obviously can't have spent "more than 75%" (i.e. over $120M) of the money it raised on anything. 

This is a trivial point. But I was even more astonished by the other statement in the article, that most of the money raised "is actually flowing into the global south". 

Raju was talking to an Indian audience. This article was timed to coincide with the start of the Indian fundraiser – Indians are currently faced with fundraising banners on Wikipedia as well as emails soliciting repeat donations.[2] So I appreciate it is a good soundbite that might motivate Indian citizens to reach for their purses and wallets. After all, few people in India feel it is their job to send financial aid to the US, right? 

But is this soundbite really true? 

To fact-check that claim, I looked at the official figures in the latest (2020) WMF Form 990 tax return detailing WMF spending outside the US. According to the Form 990 section "General Information on Activities Outside the United States", spending on activities outside the US amounted to a total of $20,076,181 in 2020.[3] This means well over 80% of WMF expenditure was in the US.

The Form 990 also provides a breakdown by global regions, detailing the precise amounts the WMF spent in each region. Again, I found this paints a very different picture to what the Indian public has been told in the Indian Express.

First I added up all the amounts (Program Services, p. 29, and Grantmaking, pp. 30–31) that were spent in Europe and North America (excluding the US). I arrived at a total of $14.8M – which means that 73.5% of the total spending on non-US activities was in these regions of the affluent north. 

This left only $5.3M, or about 3% of total WMF revenue in 2020/2021, for the entire rest of the world, which also includes countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, which are not usually included in the Global South. The actual money flowing into the Global South is thus even less than 3% – hardly "most" of the money raised.

Raju mentioned the volunteers. I thought, let's leave Program Services expenses (which presumably would include servers and caching centres abroad) out of the equation and look at Grantmaking alone (pages 30 and 31 of the Form 990). 

The Grantmaking total for activities outside the US given in the Form 990 is $3,475,062.

Almost exactly $1.2M (35%) of that went to Europe and North America (excluding the US). 

So total grantmaking in the entire rest of the world outside Europe and North America was $2.3M, or 1.4% of the money the WMF raised in 2020/2021. 

Again 1.4% is not "most of the money raised", by any stretch of the imagination. And the Global South only accounts for a part of that 1.4%.

Lastly, as Raju was speaking to the Indian public, I wanted to find out how much money the WMF actually spent on grantmaking in India. The Form 990 only gives grantmaking totals for "South Asia" – which along with India includes other major countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan. 

These totals are $75,198 (grants and other assistance to 22 individuals, certainly not rank-and-file Wikipedians, given the average amount) and $3,339 (grants to organisations). This yields a total of $78,537 for all of South Asia.

I make that 0.048% of the WMF's 2020/2021 revenue. Only a part of that may have been spent in India. 

Please verify these figures for yourselves; I have provided the sources below. If I have made a mistake somewhere, please tell me.

It occurred to me that perhaps some grantmaking figures in 2020 were particularly low because of the Covid pandemic, which began in the spring of that year. But Covid was a global pandemic affecting countries around the world. So all countries would have been affected equally. And Covid was not as serious in India in 2020 as it was in 2021. 

I also know the WMF increased its grantmaking budget for the current year. But even if grants to South Asia were to increase a hundredfold compared to 2020, they would still represent only 5% of WMF revenue. Such is the gap between what is said in the Indian Express and the reality on the ground.

Allow me to make an appeal to your conscience. 

The Wikipedia idea is to provide neutral and accurate information to the public. I would say that Wikimedians – especially Indian Wikimedians – who believe in that idea have a job to do here, because based on the above, what the Indian public has been told in the Indian Express simply does not match the reality. 

Look at it like a Wikipedia article. If you found an article making claims so wildly at variance with published facts, would you let them stand? Or would you at least start a discussion on the talk page, to try and find out why there is such an apparent discrepancy?

Let's have that discussion now, here and on social media.