A memo to Wikimedia community, friends, staff, and other stakeholders.
On Monday, November 15, we will launch the 2010 annual fundraising drive for the Wikimedia
Foundation. As you know, our funding model relies on the support of our friends and
community members. Our average donation is about $25, and we have received more than
500,000 donations in the lifetime of the foundation. This year, we have to raise
$16,000,000. That’s our biggest target yet, but it’s still only a tiny fraction of what
the other top-ten websites spend on their operations. It’s critical that we reach our goal
to maintain the infrastructure necessary to keep Wikipedia and its sister sites running
We are a community that does great things, and does them routinely. As we begin to bring
this year's fundraiser to a close, we will launch our 10th Anniversary year! It's
hard to believe, isn't it? What would the world be like, if the wiki hadn't
launched? If we hadn't jumped in to grow it? If we hadn't financially supported
it? The world would be a far different -- and far more sad -- place, I think. This 10th
anniversary year provides an opportunity for reflection and introspection, but it also
provides a chance to refocus: to plan, to build, to grow. We've just completed the
strategic planning initiative, and emerged with a cohesive, defined plan for the future
growth and development of the Foundation, the projects, and the movement. Now is the
So let's get going.
Since August, a team of dedicated staff members and volunteers has worked to develop the
fundraiser for this year. We committed early to radical and full disclosure of all the
data we had, in keeping with the spirit of the transparent nature of the Wikimedia
movement. We quickly identified three major points in the donation process that were
"levers" we could pull to optimize the process: banner messaging, banner
design, and landing/donation pages.
Wikimedia fundraising has always been driven by site notices -- banners -- that run at
the top of project websites. We’ve known for years that different banner messages drive
different numbers of people to click through and donate. Therefore, this year we began the
fundraiser by inviting community members to propose new banner messages for us to test.
Almost 900 people were involved in the creation and discussion of potential banner
messages We tested dozens of iterations of banner designs, including both graphical and
text, and we will continue to do so.
Many of the new banners did well. Unfortunately, none of them came anywhere near the 3%
clickthrough rate of the winning banner from years past: “Please read: a personal appeal
from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.”
But we’re going to keep trying. Our research indicates that banner wins because it is
simple and direct with no attempt at marketing or manipulation. So we’re going to test, “A
personal appeal from Wikimedia editor _____” and later in this memo, I’m going to invite
you to be that editor and write an appeal for us to use in the fundraiser.
In our testing this year, we also quickly learned that graphical banners perform almost
100% better than text banners with the same message. Because of this, we will obviously be
using more graphic heavy banners than we have in past campaigns.
Once a user clicks a banner, they land on a page that asks for a donation and provides
payment options. We have spent a lot of time and energy optimizing those landing pages.
Optimization of donation forms is an art and a science that involves messaging, graphic
design, and usability research.
We will have iterated through roughly 40 different designs before landing on the ones that
we'll launch with. We are committed to encouraging people to beat us at our own game:
we invite chapters and affiliated groups, organizations, and Wikimedians to create their
own landing pages that they believe will work better than the ones we're running. If
we see some that are exciting, we'll test them, and run the ones that perform best!
In countries where there are Wikimedia chapters, the chapter has the option to create
their own landing page to test along side the default. We hope that chapters will beat the
default everywhere there is an attempt. In countries where there are no chapters, we’d
like active Wikimedians to contact us about doing the same thing.
As we proceed through the campaign, we'll be constantly testing. We'll test
messages, banners, and landing pages. We'll also test timing, and font size, and
hundreds of other small variations. But we're doing it all with an eye to integrity
in data analysis, and an understanding of not only what the data tells us, but what it
doesn't tell us. Our decisions are grounded in fact and well reasoned theories: not
hunches or educated guesses.
One thing is very different this year, though. Once we hit our goal - and we will hit our
goal - rather than immediately removing all banners, we're going to use some of the
banner space (with a reduced banner size, frequency, and using targeted appeals) to ask
people to contribute - not financially, but with their knowledge. We will target readers,
and encourage them to become editors. It seems logical to us that this reader conversion
effort should flow naturally from our fundraising campaign: both are forms of
contribution. We also believe that it will yield financial payoff in years to come by
embedding new people deeply into our community and instilling them with our key values and
an understanding of the greater mission.
This is an aggressive campaign. It's an entirely achievable goal, however. The only
way to have it work, though, is to have full buy-in from the community. Will you reach
out to the people near you (either physically or virtually) and ask them to get involved?
Tweet that you donated. Write a blog post about it. Deliver four donations from friends
with your own. Help new users who make their first edit as part of the contribution
Here are some key things to know:
1) On November 15, we will launch the fundraiser.
2) You will begin to see banners consistently on the sites beginning on Friday, November
12 as we do full scale functional testing.
3) This is a "contribution" campaign, celebrating all kinds of contribution.
4) Our numbers are reasonable and attainable, but still a stretch.
5) There will not be success without the full and active engagement of the community.
We've billed this as "the fundraiser you can edit", and it's true.
Community volunteers have been deeply embedded in our planning, including in all of our
testing. Community suggested messages were requested and tested. We truly think of this
as a fundraiser that is co-created by various parts of the community.
There are still ways that you can participate directly, right now. We’re going to test
appeal letters from Wikimedia editors. If you think you can write a letter that will beat
Jimmy’s, please go to the meta page
) and sign up so
we know to expect your letter. You can also just send one to me by email:
I'm honored to be leading the effort this year, and ask you to join with me in making
a contribution on the first day of the fundraiser.
If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them. Please tell me what you
think by writing to donate(a)wikimedia.org.
PS - for ease of linking, the full text of this memo is at
Head of Reader Relations
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Imagine a world in which every human being can freely share
in the sum of all knowledge. Help us make it a reality!