Wikipedia Has Millions in the Bank–Why Beg for More?

Yearly, Wikipedia flies a large banner advert throughout the highest of its web site. It is an attraction from Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, asking for donations to maintain the web site working.

Supposedly, Wikipedia wants your assist to persevering with working because it does. However does it actually?

In June 2021, Wikimedia handed the $100 million mark on the Wikimedia Endowment, which wasn’t anticipated to be reached till 2026. Even excluding this nest egg, the Wikimedia Basis noticed an increase in property of over $50 million during the 2020-2021 fiscal yr.

What Does Wikipedia Want the Cash for?

A Screenshot of Wikipedia's Landing Page

Like several web site, Wikipedia has server prices, administration prices, workers prices, and extra. For a web site the scale of Wikipedia, these prices are super.

According to Statista, it claimed over 5.5 distinctive guests and over 40 billion page views each month all through 2021. In 2014, Wales calculated that elevating $48 million over the course of the yr pays for “lower than a penny per individual [visiting the site] per 30 days.”

The Wikimedia Foundation’s 2021-2022 Annual Plan clarifies that the full working funds requires $150 million in spending, together with $15.6 million in spending allotted for grants.

This can be a vital improve in grants spent in rising the group and content material, though it does not state the precise locations that this cash is spent.


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The majority of this expenditure goes in the direction of what Wikimedia refers to as Programmatic ratio. This contains all features of the platform’s growth similar to technical infrastructure, platform evolution, and model consciousness.

Virtually 1 / 4 of this funds goes in the direction of what Wikimedia calls Thriving Motion. Thriving Motion is the method by which Wikimedia needs to extend Wikipedia’s utilization in underserved communities. This contains higher translation assist, in addition to Wikipedia within the Classroom trainers for these communities.

Wikipedia is clear in saying it exceeded the deliberate income targets in earlier years and expects to do the identical this yr. After all, this has meant Wikipedia has loads of reserves already.

In keeping with its 2020-2021 full year financial statement this presently stands at $86.8 million in money and $137.4 million in brief and long-term investments. The muse explains this as a choice to have a minimal of six to 18 months price of complete spending, in case of emergency.

All the things May Not Be As Clear As It Appears

What Wales says can create the image that web internet hosting is the key price. However the Wikimedia Basis spends solely about 8% of its complete funds on it. That is much less cash devoted to its infrastructure than to the Thriving Motion.

“There may be additionally an enormous bucket for ‘different working bills’ totaling almost $12.5 million — a few of which actually pays for costly downtown workplace house in San Francisco,” wrote Gregory Kohs, editor of Wikipediocracy, in 2014.

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Critics of Wikipedia usually level to how a lot cash is spent on “motion entities”, that are organizers who prepare for workshops and occasions to rejoice Wikipedia. On supply to the attending writers is simply soda and pizza, Kohs says.

In the event you suppose Wikipedia ought to spend extra money on the individuals who make and handle the content material, you are not alone. Sue Gardner, the previous govt director of the Wikimedia Basis, raised some “significant concerns” final yr earlier than she left the group:

I consider that presently, too massive a proportion of the motion’s cash is being spent by the chapters. The worth within the Wikimedia tasks is primarily created by particular person editors: people create the worth for readers, which leads to these readers donating cash to the motion… I’m not positive that the extra worth created by motion entities similar to chapters justifies the monetary price, and I wonder if it’d make extra sense for the motion to focus a bigger quantity of spending on direct monetary assist for people working within the tasks.

Gardner additionally referred to as for extra accountability of those motion entities who request funds, to obviously outline success or failure.

The Case For Donating To Wikipedia

Two Hands Holding Coins and a Note That Reads

So, why do you have to donate to Wikipedia when it could possibly be chopping prices and tightening its belt?

Wales reasons that it is essential to spend money on engineering and innovation, which ends up in issues like the higher translation assist, grants funding, and upcoming Parsoid rendering for speak pages.

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Most individuals love Wikipedia due to how straightforward it’s to study new issues. Wired journalist Emily Dreyfuss wrote about her reasons to donate, which echo the frustration felt by many readers after they see Wikipedia begging for cash, but additionally why it is a good suggestion to donate nonetheless:

Wikipedia is the most effective approximation of an entire account of information we have ever seen. It is also probably the most sturdy. Probably the most simply accessed. And the most secure. It exists on servers world wide so, not like the library at Alexandria, it might probably’t be burned down.

Nevertheless it could possibly be cached. It could possibly be left to stagnate, uncared for and forgotten. Worse, it may change into the rarefied area of the monied elite, like a lot info earlier than it. I might hate to see that, and hate it much more if I might been a part of it. So, high quality, Jimmy Wales. I’ll do my half.

NYMag additionally interviewed four people who donated to Wikipedia, to search out out why they did it regardless of realizing they may nonetheless use the positioning.

After which there are folks like Jim Pacha, who donated his entire estate to the Wikimedia Basis.

The Case In opposition to Donating To Wikipedia

There are sufficient individuals who consider Wikipedia does not want your donations anymore.


The money reserves apart, it is argued that the positioning’s potential to generate income hasn’t been tapped. Whereas Wikipedia is staunchly in opposition to promoting (for the potential battle of curiosity within the authenticity of its content material), there are different income fashions that could possibly be explored.

Wikipediocracy’s Kohs makes a case for licensing content material to websites like Google, which use Wikipedia’s materials in its search outcomes–and makes cash off it by promoting. Equally, you possibly can even make your individual books from Wikipedia, a service that the muse may supply at a small worth.

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Not everyone seems to be in opposition to the concept of adverts, although. ZDNet’s Stephen Chapman is fine with seeing ads, or arising with another income mannequin that’s sustainable. His logic, at its core, is compelling:

You understand… whereas Wikipedia is actually one thing particular, it is not so particular that it might probably’t be simply replicated by somebody who may do it higher and make a killing doing so. If Wikipedia fails to satisfy its financial necessities, then the concept of Wikipedia and the data therein is all on the market, simply ready for another person to return alongside and do all of it once more in a special, extra simply sustainable method.

Gardner’s want to spend extra money on the contributors has resonated with many individuals. One in every of them is Newsline’s Mark Devlin, who urges readers to not donate as a result of “your cash goes to a gaggle of incompetent programmers and a administration group that jets world wide for ‘outreach’.”

Is It Time to Donate to Wikipedia?

Yearly, Wikipedia asks for donations, and yearly, Wikipedia receives them. In the event you consider that Wikipedia requires additional donations, then the positioning are receiving them at In the event you’re unconvinced by Wikipedia’s stance and would quite assist different charities, then there are different charities you possibly can textual content to donate.

No matter what you determine, being knowledgeable is an important factor that you may be. If nothing else, Wikipedia helps to just do that.

Picture credit score: Pixabay/OpenClips and Fabrice Florin

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