[Wikimedia-l] deliberately lowered fundraising growth rate (was: Fundraising updates?)

Matthew Walker mwalker at wikimedia.org
Sat Dec 22 06:55:27 UTC 2012


the Chief Revenue Officer reported that "significant" increases in
> fundraising would be very difficult

I cannot speak for what Zack was thinking -- but I can tell you - as a
member of the fundraising technology team - that I was shocked, utterly
amazed, and astounded at how successful this years fundraiser was. There's
a couple of reasons for this.

One -- banner impressions were down! Yes the report card says page views
went up; but did you know that when looking at only at the number of HTML
pages served to the top five deskop browsers that they actually went down a
couple percent from the same time last year? See [1] but you'll have to do
the maths yourself. This also serves the point that next year we do need to
get fundraising working on mobile devices.

Two -- The tests that Zack and Megan did in the months up to the official
launch showed that our old 'Sad Jimmy' banners were not pulling in anywhere
as near as much money as they used to. There's a reason the test results
page [2] is titled "We need a breakthrough". We were persistent and lucky
and got one. I strongly feel that it was extremely prudent to not gamble on
an unknown.

Three -- let's take a look at the numbers ceteris paribus. I'm going to
assume that fundraising numbers taken straight from [3] can be modeled as
an exponential because it'll make a bigger number, I've not normalized my
data for the length of the fundraisers (which was 50 days last year), nor
accounted for the state of the economy, nor taken out big donations, nor
for the loss in number of desktop browsers all of which will reduce the
number in actuality. Doing so I get ~50M raised from fundraising this year.
As an engineer I was trained to over-engineer to about 20% -- that turns
that number into ~40M. As you state, expected revenue from the plan would
be 46.1M -- that falls in the middle of my two numbers. If Zack did reduce
the expected revenue number it would be because he took a similar back of
the hand model and said "look how unrealistic that is -- that's just
silly". Which is what I would expect from someone using reasonable

> Why should donors who believed they were giving to fund the Strategic
> Plan in line with the growth of the actual utilization of Foundation
> services not feel betrayed by this?

I could be wrong because I wasn't a member of the foundation last year and
didn't read all the banners - but I did donate my 20$ and thought I was
helping support the site's programmers and servers. I was not, I recall
with some clarity, donating because I'd read the strategic plan and agreed
with it. I don't feel betrayed at all.

Why should donors who expect the Foundation to prepare for contingency
> not feel betrayed by the abandonment of fundraising in the last week
> of December, which has over the past several years produced two to
> four times as much funding per day than a typical fundraising day?

My opinion would be that - it's laudable the board looked at what they a
considered reasonable sustainable growth curve and then held themselves too
it. Anything else would be corporate greed.

> On one hand, we have anecdotal reports of a handful of opinion pieces
> complaining about fundraising.

That's a fair point and I thank you for holding me accountable to my
statement. I will inject here, however, that my point was not about current
sentiment but about a potential growth of the "vocal minority" causing the
majority to think again about donating in the future. In any case I
routinely perform the following experiment as a small part of what I
consider my job. I search google for 'wikimedia fundraising' and limit the
time period to a month. I did so again this evening. In the first 20 twenty
results I had 4 positive, 2 negative, and 4 neutral sites. (The other ten
were Foundation pages or by foundation employees.) In them, I had a small
majority of positive comments, but with some very loud naysayers in the
background, the rest were fairly neutral. Your results may vary. Mine do
over time -- it seems that yes people are happy with the current campaign.
Possibly because we bugged them less? But in the lead up to it my fuzzy
memory recalls seeing a lot more negativity. Once again, I simply state we
need to be careful with public sentiment -- it's not a resource to squander

~Matt Walker

[1] http://stats.wikimedia.org/wikimedia/squids/SquidReportRequests.htmnormalized
[2] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fundraising_2012/We_Need_A_Breakthrough
[3] http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Special:FundraiserStatistics see
also http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fundraising_2012/FundStatScraper.py to
get the raw numbers

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