What I love about the annual Wikimedia Foundation Fundraiser is that it proves all the cynics wrong. By traffic, we’re the #5 web property in the world, serving 422 million people last month — 12 billion times. But we are funded entirely by voluntary donations. No government grants, no corporate sponsors, no ads. Each year, we ask our readers to pitch in “$5, $10 or $20 to keep Wikipedia free” and, so far, they’ve always met the need. When we reach the goal, we stop asking.I wish more top websites did this. So many new kinds of sites have woven themselves into our lives and communities, isn’t it sad that they must work to expose us to as much advertising as possible and sell our personal information to stay in business? Why is it that only one top website, Wikipedia, is supported directly and voluntarily by its users? I would love to see our funding model become an realistic option for future start ups hoping to embed themselves in daily life.This blog is where the Wikimedia Fundraising team and our friends and collaborators will discuss how we actually run the fundraiser. Every day brings new — often surprising — lessons that will be of interest to fundraising professionals and marketers. Another thing I love about our fundraiser is how frequently it overturns various marketing and fundraising dogmas and uncovers exceptions to iron laws of human nature preached by pop social science. Maybe Wikimedia donors are just different. Or maybe the approaches we’re free to experiment with in our unique context are revealing that there’s a better way to engage one’s audience.

Our fundraiser officially begins in November, but we’ve been testing new approaches each week for the past few months — form designs, banners, and new appeals from Wikimedia volunteers and staff. We’ve also been having great adventures in revamping our open source technical infrastructure and preparing to accept hopefully hundreds of new global payment methods and currencies.

We’ve got a lot to report on already. Please stay tuned and help us succeed this year with comments, suggestions and your own experiences in fundraising.

Zack Exley,
Chief Community Officer, Wikimedia Foundation