A Look at Wikipedia's Annual Appeal

December 29, 2008

Posted in Fundraising.

Wikipedia is “the largest encyclopedia in history, written by volunteers.” They don’t do advertising. They don’t charge membership fees. They’re a not-for-profit, paid for by a foundation started by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

For several weeks, they’ve been running a fundraising appeal most notably through the huge banner at the top of their articles:


See the huge banner? There’s a “collapse” link in the upper right corner so you can make it go away.

Clicking through gets you to an appeal letter by Jimmy Wales. It’s concise and mission-driven. And since you likely got there from an article, it’s relevant. After all, you were just a beneficiary of Wikipedia.

A few key things that work well in this approach:

1. The banner isn’t a static appeal – sometimes it shows donor comments or progress on the campaign. The banner text changes to quotes from real donors and how much they gave. As I’ve found myself jumping from one article to the next on Wikipedia, these banners vary the message and can grab my attention again and again.

2. There’s a solid mission statement baked right into the letter:

But Wikipedia is more than a website. We share a common cause: Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s our commitment.

3. The Wikimedia foundation is transparent with the money, the campaign, and the organization as a whole. At the bottom of the letter are links to how revenue is spent, what the specific goals are, etc. Further links take you into their donation section where one can easily find the annual report and other important info.

4. They’re tracking and measuring the campaign itself. In the link from the banner:


There are variables that measure where the user came from, which banner the user clicked on, and which campaign it belongs to. Some smart fundraiser is probably pulling the banners that don’t work and tweaking the frequency of the ones that work best. With millions of visitors each day, it pays to do this in realtime and test like crazy.

There you have it. They’re well on their way to meeting their $6 million goal. It’s a number they could easily make with advertising, but as a non-profit Wikimedia Foundation has chosen the hard route—a route that will continue to pay off for the rest of the world.

If you’d like to give to Wikimedia Foundation, you can visit their donate page.

Want to comment? Send me a note on Twitter or email me.