[Foundation-l] Fundraiser 2010: A memo to the community

Philippe Beaudette pbeaudette at wikimedia.org
Fri Nov 5 00:37:56 UTC 2010

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 smoothly. 

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 time.

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.   

Banner messaging:
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.

Banner design:
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.

Landing/donation pages:
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 campaign.

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 (http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fundraising_2010/TwoAsks/Write_An_Appeal) and sign up so we know to expect your letter.  You can also just send one to me by email:  donate at wikimedia.org.

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 at wikimedia.org. 

Best wishes,


PS - for ease of linking, the full text of this memo is at http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fundraising_2010/Updates#4_November:_The_Schedule
Philippe Beaudette
Head of Reader Relations
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

pbeaudette at wikimedia.org

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