[Foundation-l] fundraiser suggestion

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Sat Jan 1 23:50:18 UTC 2011

2011/1/1 Domas Mituzas <midom.lists at gmail.com>:
> It is not obvious how much money is "urgent", more urgent than the need to read the article.
> It is not obvious how much money is sooooo urgent that it needs to distract me from reading the article by blinking.
> It is not obvious how much money is urgent so we could entirely block people from reading the article until they donate.

Hi Domas,

happy new year to you and to everyone! :-)

Asking a reader to make a donation is by definition a distraction from
what they came to do. The question has always been, and continues to
be, how we want to balance this distraction away from the utility that
Wikimedia projects provide (i.e. instant access to information), with
the need to raise funds that will not only permit us to maintain, but
increase that utility.

I don't see anything wrong at all with messages that signal increased
urgency as the fundraiser draws to a close. Nor do I see a mildly
animated banner in the last 48 hours of the year (and the fundraiser)
which reminds people about tax-deductible donations and seeks to
energize a final push for the remaining funds towards the goal, as a
violation of the contract between us and our readers.

That being said, I don't want to dismiss or diminish concerns about
where that balance should be. Indeed, the size and graphical
visibility of the banners this year have certainly pushed my own pain
points as to what I consider an acceptable balance. At the same time,
I've had countless conversations in past years with people who didn't
even notice that we were fundraising. To a certain extent, touching
those pain points is necessary to even register with people who have
both the ability and desire to support us.

The fundraising team has continually applied judgment regarding this balance.

- For the first time, banners were completely disabled for registered
users later in the campaign, because there was simply no justification
for a continued aggressive ask from volunteers, who very likely had
already donated if they wanted to. This will likely become standard
practice in future, at least after some initial period in which
everyone sees the banners.

- In spite of the proven effectiveness of the Jimmy appeal, the team
switched away from it for extended periods of time, for example to run
appeals from individual Wikipedia editors, for no other reason than to
reduce "message fatigue" and annoyance, even though these banners
didn't perform as well. More graphic banners were also substituted
with less visually strong ones during parts of the campaign for the
same reason, and different variants were continually tested to
identify "the least annoying message that works".

- We needed to balance our desire to not overuse certain messages with
the goal to end the fundraiser as early as possible. As every year,
we've upheld our commitment to stop running fundraising banners the
moment we're confident that we've made our goal -- and we've done so
more quickly than ever in recent history, as can be seen on

Needless to say, certain ideas were off the table from the beginning
(including of course interstitials and the like).

To be sure, this year's campaign has certainly pushed the envelope to
meet its ambitious goal. Prior to this year, we didn't really have a
good sense exactly what the ceiling of the fundraiser would be,
because we'd never pushed it as hard was we could before we reached
our goal. This year's experience will help us to establish realistic
targets for next year, which clearly can't represent a similarly
ambitious increase.

And we'll have many long conversations to see which areas _other than_
more aggressive messaging will likely yield substantial increases in
revenue at this point. For example, while we've offered a standard
monthly payment mechanism this year, I haven't yet seen revenue
projections from this, as well as possible scenarios for expansion.
There are various matching gift models that we've never really tried
to scale. And we'll want to understand the successes and failures of
chapter-based fundraising better.

With all that said, I've seen organizations like public broadcasters
go down a road of increasingly aggressive fundraising, to the
detriment of the actual experience of the product. I think we would be
wise to take steps to avoid that, also with an eye to the fact that
management changes over time and principles that aren't stated are
easily ignored. So I am in favor of drawing a line as to what we
consider acceptable and unacceptable fundraising practices. Perhaps
that's a conversation that we can have with the Board, as an extension
of the first set of principles articulated here:

I also think for next year we can and should do more to actually track
annoyance: How many people spend less time on site, or close the page
they're visiting, because of a banner? How many people accidentally
click on the banners without meaning to? Etc. The more hard data we
have, the better we can optimize for a positive experience. There are
other long-standing ideas, such as making it easier to permanently
hide the banners at least after having made a donation, that we should
continue to look into.

> Now pageviews don't really grow much (the percentage of reach/pageviews is quite flat),
> we don't have more edits, number of active users is flat.

According to your own stats as processed by ErikZ, pageviews increased
from 8.9B to 13.7B from March 2008 to November 2010. Perhaps not
staggering relative growth as in the early years, but fairly dramatic
in absolute terms when you consider how many millions of additional
people served it represents. Reach among Internet users also continues
to grow not just in the US and Europe, but also in key growth regions.
For example, reach among Internet users in India has increased from
about 26% to 33.5% over the last year, according to comScore.

So, we are serving more users than ever (more than 410M a month
according to the latest comScore numbers, which if anything are likely
to underestimate the real number). We have a greater responsibility in
the world than ever. The reason to raise $16M is to meet that
responsibility. To meet it, for example, by making sure that we have
reliable, distributed backups of all key data; that we won't disappear
from the net for extended periods of time if Tampa goes down; that we
don't have to rely entirely on the goodwill of a talented database
engineer from Lithuania to deal with MySQL woes.

But Wikimedia Foundation isn't (and has never been) purely a
techno-organization, it's a global educational media organization and
world-wide movement for free knowledge, which critically depends on
technology to get its work done. WMF has to provide and improve that
technology (and recent threads about WYSIWYG and structured data show
the degree of interest that people have in WMF doing a lot more), but
supporting growing communities like the ones in India, networking with
global cultural and educational institutions, supporting Wikimedia
chapter work, providing legal safeguards, etc., are just as much part
of our mission. The 2010-11 budget represents an increase from 38% to
48% in technology spending, but it also represents significant
investments in other programmatic work. And that's a good thing.

I'm incredibly proud, for example, that for the first time in
Wikimedia's history, WMF has facilitated institutional relationships
with leading universities in the US (
) to improve article content as part of student assignments, with a
very substantial amount of content already added, and the foundation
for lasting relationships that will boost quality, credibility, and
Wikipedia's continued use in the classroom. ( See also
). And this is being funded with a grant, not the core operating
budget. Yes, it's a US-centric program, but it's a start and a model,
and to the extent that we'll invest in related activities out of core
funds, we'll do so with an eye to internationalizing.

I'm proud of our network of chapter organizations for building more
relationships with cultural institutions than ever before, as can be
nicely seen in the timeline on
<http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Partnerships>. I was
thrilled to see the report of the multi-university writing competition
organized with WMF financial support by Wikimedia Indonesia, which
greatly boosted editing activity on the Indonesian Wikipedia.
Similarly, I'm fascinated by the many photo competitions organized by
Wikimedia Czech Republic, including projects like photo-hunts for
scientific and other specialized media
These are just a few examples of chapter work, of course.

And I'm pleased that we can support chapters and other volunteers with
a growing network of outreach and training resources that can be used
at conferences, booths, workshops, seminars, etc., ranging from "First
steps" guides to a mini-syllabus and screencasts, video invitations to
edit, etc., all cataloged at http://bookshelf.wikimedia.org/ and
created using open source tools.

I'm able to hold in my hand perhaps the first-ever book of
expert-reviewed Wikipedia articles, as described in
Scaling third party review of Wikimedia content could dramatically
increase the utility of the projects.

On the technology front, in the last year we:
- deployed the first design change across Wikimedia projects in a
very, very long time, based on the first-ever systematic usability
studies of the Wikipedia experience. The changes deployed don't go
nearly far enough, but they are important foundations for future work.
- activated the mobile gateway as default for suitable smartphones,
now serving about 4% of total pageviews;
- developed a completely re-vamped media uploading UI, which is
currently in public testing on Commons;
- began experimentation with OpenWebAnalytics and actively supported
its development;
- deployed a small scale test of reader feedback tools and began
analyzing the results.

Again, that's just a selection, and it's leaving aside improvements to
testing/QA, recent joined efforts to clear the code review backlog,

All this represents growth in our ability to serve our mission; all
this represents opportunity; and all of it was unlikely to ever happen
with the Wikimedia of yesteryear that could barely keep the lights on.
We're learning and improving as we go along, but there's absolutely no
doubt in my mind that a well-funded free knowledge movement is good
for the planet. Nobody is interested in growing this movement at the
expense of the utility it provides. But grow it we must, and we will.

2010 has seen the Wikimedia movement truly achieve more than it ever
has in its history, and that's in very significant part thanks to its
ability to obtain public support. I'm incredibly grateful that
hundreds of thousands of people believe in the Wikimedia mission. As
David put it, they are becoming co-conspirators in our nefarious goal
to bring free knowledge to every single person.

To a successful and prosperous 2011,
Erik Möller
Deputy Director, Wikimedia Foundation

Support Free Knowledge: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Donate

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